#303: Makmum Reciting al-Fatihah When the Imam Is Reciting It

Question:

Assalamualaikum ustaz. During the congregational prayer, is it permissible for me to recite al-Fatihah when the imam is reciting it? This is so that I wouldn’t forget to recite it afterwards. Hope for an explanation.

Answer:

Waalaikumussalam wrt. wbt.,

Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude to Allah SWT for His countless blessings for us all. Praise and salutations to our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions, and all those who follow his footsteps until the Final day.

Basically, reciting al-Fatihah is one of the qauli requisites. The prayer is invalid if the Fatihah isn’t recited. This is based on the statement of the Prophet PBUH:

لاَ صَلاَةَ لِمَنْ لَمْ يَقْرَأْ فِيهَا بِفَاتِحَةِ الْكِتَابِ

“He who does not recite Fatihat al-Kitab* is not credited with having observed prayer.” [1]

In explaining this hadith, Imam al-Nawawi stated: “Reciting al-Fatihah for those who are able to do so is an obligation and requisite of which can be translated into a language other than Arabic and cannot be replaced with another recitation from the Quran. It is also obligatory to be recited in all prayers regardless of whether it is obligatory or sunnah.” [2]

This means that prayer is invalid if the Fatihah isn’t recited in prayer. If a person forgets to recite al-Fatihah, the obligation isn’t abrogated. This is agreed upon and concluded by jumhur scholars of madhhab Syafie. This is also stated by Imam al-Nawawi. [3]

Furthermore, there are three situations if a person forgets to recite the Fatihah:

  • If he forgets to recite al-Fatihah and remembered during rukuk (bowing) that he forgot to recite al-Fatihah, then he should stand up and recite the surah al-Fatihah again.
  • If he remembered when he stands up for his next rakaat, then his recitation of al-Fatihah at the time replaces the rakaat he forgot to recite al-Fatihah. Before salam, he must stand and add another rakaat and perform the sahwi prostration.
  • If he remembered after the salam after not too much time has passed, then he must stand and replace the rakaat he forgot to recite al-Fatihah followed by the sahwi prostration. If a long time has passed after salam then he remembered that he forgot to recite al-Fatihah, then in this situation, he should perform his prayer again. [4]

Coming back to the above question, if he is forgetful then it is permissible. This is explained in the book Fath al-Mu’in as the following: “If the makmum precedes the imam with the recitation of al-Fatihah or tasyahhud, where he finishes one or both of the recitations before the imam begins its recitation, then it doesn’t harm it.” [5]

However, the evidence which states that one must stay quiet when the imam is reciting it. This is based on the hadith from Abu Hurairah RA who said:


صَلَّى النَّبِىُّ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- بِأَصْحَابِهِ صَلاَةً نَظُنُّ أَنَّهَا الصُّبْحُ فَقَالَ : هَلْ قَرَأَ مِنْكُمْ مِنْ أَحَدٍ. قَالَ رَجُلٌ أَنَا. قَالَ : إِنِّى أَقُولُ مَا لِى أُنَازَعُ الْقُرْآنَ.

“The Prophet (ﷺ) led his Companions in a prayer; we think it was the Subh. He said: “Did anyone among you recite?” A man said: “I did.” He said: “I was saying to myself, what is wrong with me that someone is fighting to wrest the Qur’an from me?” [6]

Ibn Mas’ud RA said:

أَنْصِتْ لِلْقُرْآنِ فَإِنْ فِي الصَّلاةِ شُغْلا، وَسَيَكْفِيكَ ذَلِكَ الإِمَامُ

“Stay silent when the imam is reciting al-Quran for in prayer it is too busy. It is enough for you what is recited by the imam.” [7]

While Ibn ‘Umar R.Anhuma said:

يَنْصِتُ لِلْإِمَامِ فِيْمَا يَجْهَرُ بِهِ فِي الصَّلاَةِ وَلاَ يَقْرَأُ مَعَهُ

“Stay silent when the imam is reciting loudly in prayer. And dot recite together with him.” [8]

In another hadith, the Prophet PBUH said:

وَإِذَا قَرَأَ فَأَنْصِتُوا

“When he (imam) recites (the Qur’an), keep silent.” [9]

This is in line with the statement of Allah SWT:

وَإِذَا قُرِئَ الْقُرْآنُ فَاسْتَمِعُوا لَهُ وَأَنصِتُوا لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ

“When the Qur’an is recited, you should observe silence (focus and listen), so that you’ll attain blessings.” [10]

Imam al-Tabari in his commentary on the above verse said: “Focus your attention to it (listening to the recitation of al-Quran) so that you’ll understand and reflect on the reminders from them. And stay silent so that you can think and truly understand. Hopefully, your Lord will bless you for your reflection of His reminders.” [11]

He also said: “Commentary scholars have differing opinions regarding the situation Allah SWT commanded to stay silent and listen to the recitation of the Quran; some of them said it is a commandment when the makmum listens to the imam’s recitation in prayer and the verse is revealed for this.” [12]

Furthermore, Imam Ibnu Kathir cited the opinion of Ibnu Abbas RA who said the verse (وَإِذَا قُرِئَ الْقُرْآنُ فَاسْتَمِعُوا لَهُ وَأَنْصِتُوا) means during obligatory prayer. The same is narrated by Abdullah bin al-Mughaffal. [13]

However, scholars stated that if an imam is a person who recites al-Fatihah swiftly, for instance in tarawih prayer, while the makmum recites is slowly, then it is permissible to start the recitation earlier to avoid always getting left. Thus, it should be considered based on the situations one is in. This usually happens during tarawih prayers in our villages.

May Allah SWT grant us all understanding in performing all of His commandments. Amin.

Wallahu a’lam.

[1] Narrated by Ibnu Majah (828)

[2] See al-Majmu’ Syarh al-Muhazzab, 3/283

[3] See al-Majmu’, 3/288

[4] See al-Majmu’, 2/288

[5] See Fath al-Mu’in, 2/48. See juga Mughni al-Muhtaj, 1/255

[6] Narrated by Abu Daud (826), Ibn Majah (848), al-Nasa’ie (919) and al-Tirmizi (195)

[7] Narrated by al-Tabarani (9/264). Al-Haithami stated the narrators are thiqah. (See Majma’ al-Zawa’id, 2/113)

[8] Narrated by ‘Abd al-Razzaq in al-Musannaf (2/139). Al-Haithami stated the narrators are thiqah. (See Majma’ al-Zawa’id, 2/113)

[9] Narrated by Muslim (932)

[10] Surah al-A’raf: 204

[11] See Jami’ al-Bayan, 13/345

[12] See Jami’ al-Bayan, 13/345

[13] See Tafsir al-Quran al-‘Azim, 3/537

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