Sunday, November 30, 2008

Reciting of Al-Fatihah in Solāh

Reciting of Al-Fātihah in Solāh

A New Muslim asked the following: I am a native English speaker trying to learn Arabic, Insya' Allāh. When I Al-Hamdu lillāh embraced Islam, I memorized Surah Al-Fātihah from a transliteration of the Arabic. This fall I began to study more about solāh and in a book of fiqh I read that if a person omits or mispronounces one letter or vowel of Al-Fātihah in solāh, his recitation is invalid. When I read this I became so worried, because although I am studying Arabic, there are some Arabic letters I still cannot pronounce at all, and some I cannot pronounce well. I started to listen to a taped recitation of Al-Fātihah and I love to hear it recited, but I feel discouraged because my recitation is so poor compared to the Qari's. Since I read that ruling, I have become so nervous in my recitation of Al-Fātihah in salah that instead of focusing on the meaning, I think about how poor my pronunciation is. When I hear myself mispronouncing letters, I go back over the ayat, trying to correctly pronounce them again. But what happens is that I either make the same mistakes again or make new ones! Often I end up reciting Al-Fātihah more than once or a certain ayah because I feel so worried that my prayers are not being accepted because I can't pronounce some of the letters. I have become so nervous that sometimes I even mispronounce letters I usually can pronounce during my recitation. What should I do? May Allāh reward you for any help you can give me.

In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-`ālameen. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam is His Messenger.

The Surah Al-Fãtihah (the Opener)

1. Reciting Surah Al-Fātihah is a Pillar of the Solāh

According to the consensus view of the Fuqaha that it is obligatory upon the imām who leads the solāh, the ma'mum one who performs solāh following an imām and the one who perform Solāh on his own to recite Al-Fātihah.

In fact a hadith narrated from Abu Hurayrah (radiyallāhu`anhu) said that the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) said: “Whoever performs any solāh in which he did not read Ummul Qur`ān, then his solāh is incomplete.” He said it thrice. [Muslim]

In another hadith it was said to Abu Hurayrah, “(What if) we are behind the imām?” He said: Recite it to yourself, for I heard the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) said:

“Allāh said: I have divided prayer between Myself and My slave into two halves and My slave shall have what he has asked for. When the slave says: Al-hamdu lillahi rabbi l-ālamīn (All the praises and thanks be to Allāh, the Lord of al-`Ālamīn (mankind, jinn and all that exists), Allāh says: My slave has praised Me.

And when he says: Ar-Rahmān ir-Raheem (The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful), Allāh (mighty and sublime be He) says: My slave has extolled Me.

and when he says: Māliki yawm id-deen (The Only Owner (and the Only Ruling Judge) of the Day of Recompense (i.e. the Day of Resurrection), Allāh says: My slave has glorified Me - and on one occasion He said: My slave has submitted to My power.

And when he says: Iyyāka na’budu wa iyyāka nasta`īen (You (Alone) we worship, and You (Alone) we ask for help (for each and everything), He says: This is between Me and My slave, and My slave shall have what he is asking for.

And when he says: Ihdinas-Sirātal-Mustaqeem, Sirāt alladzīna an`amta alaihim ghayril-maghdubi alayhim wa ladh-dhãlleen (Guide us to the Straight Way. The way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger, nor of those who went astray), He says: This is for My slave, and My slave shall have what he has asked for.”

[Recorded by An-Nasā`ie, Muslim ; both Muslim and An-Nasa`ie recorded with the following wording, "A half of it is for Me and a half for My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he asked for.'']

So the worshipper must recite it properly in Arabic, because we are commanded to read and recite the Qur`ān as it was revealed.

2. Whoever is unable to pronounce it properly because of some defect in his tongue or because he is not an Arabic-speaker must learn to correct his pronunciation as much as he can.

If he cannot, then he is relieved of this obligation, because Allāh does not burden people with more than they are able to bear.

Allāh says: “Allāh burdens not a person beyond his scope” [Al-Baqarah, 2:286]

3. If a person is unable to recite Al-Fātihah at all or is unable to learn it, or he has just become Muslim and the time for prayer has come and there is not enough time for him to learn it, then he is given a way out in the following hadith.

It was narrated that `Abdallāh ibn Abi Awfa (radiyallāhu`anhu) said: A man came to the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam and said: “O Messenger of Allāh, teach me something of the Qur`an that will suffice me, for I cannot read.” He said, “Say: Subhān-Allāh wal-hamdu Lillāh wa lā ilāha ill-Allāh wa Allāhu akbar wa lā hawla wa la quwwata illa Billāh (Glory be to Allāh, praise be to Allāh, there is no god except Allāh and Allāh is Most great, there is no god except Allāh and there is no power and no strength except with Allāh).” The man made a grabbing gesture with his hand (indicating that he had learned a lot) and said, “This is for my Lord, what is there for me?” He said, “Say: Allāhumma ighfir li warhamni wahdini warzuqni wa `āfini (O Allāh, forgive me, have mercy on me, guide me, and grant me provision and good health).” He made another grabbing gesture with his other hand and stood up.

[Narrated by al-Nasā`ie, 924; Abu Dawūd, 832. Its isnād was classified as jayyid by al-Mundhiri in Al-Targhib Wal-Tarheb, 2/430. Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar indicated that it is hasan in Al-Talkhis Al-Habir, 1/236]

Ibn Qudāmah (rahimahullāh) said:

If a person does not know any Qur`ān, and he cannot learn it before the time for prayer is over, then he must say: Subhān-Allāh wal-hamdu Lillāh wa lā ilāha ill-Allāh wa Allāhu akbar wa lā hawla wa la quwwata illa Billāh (Glory be to Allāh, praise be to Allāh, there is no god except Allāh, Allāh is Most great and there is no power and no strength except with Allāh), because Abu Dawūd narrated that a man came to the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) and said, “I am not able to learn anything of the Qur`ān, so teach me something that will suffice me.” He said, “Say: Subhān-Allāh wal-hamdu Lillāh wa lā ilāha ill-Allāh wa Allāhu akbar wa lā hawla wa la quwwata illa Billāh.” The man said, “This is for my Lord, what is there for me?” He said, “Say: Allāhumma ighfir li warhamni warzuqni wahdini wa `āfini (O Allāh, forgive me, have mercy on me, grant me provision, guide me, and give me good health).” But he does not have to do more than say the first five phrases, because the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) only said that, and he only told him more when he asked for more. [Ibn Qudāmah]

But if a person is able to recite part of Al-Fātihah only, he should recite that which he is able to recite. And he has to repeat what he can recite well (i.e., so that the total number of what he recites will be seven verses, equivalent to the number of verses in Al-Fātihah).

Ibn Qudāmah (rahimullāh) said:

It may be sufficient for him to say Alhamdu-Lillāh (praise be to Allāh), lā ilāha ill-Allāh (there is no god but Allāh) and Allāhu akbar (Allāh is most great), because the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) said: “Whatever you know of Qur`ān, recite it, otherwise praise Allāh, proclaim His Oneness and magnify Him.” [Narrated by Abu Dawud]

[Al-Mughni, 1/289, 290]

What you have read about the Solāh being invalid if the worshipper mispronounces a single letter of Al-Fātihah cannot be taken as general in meaning. Not every mistake in Al-Fātihah invalidates the Solāh; rather it cannot be invalidated unless something is omitted from Al-Fātihah, or the pronunciation is changed in a way that distorts the meaning. Moreover, this ruling on the prayer becoming invalid applies to those who are able to recite Al-Fātihah correctly or who are able to learn it but do not.

As for those who are unable to do so, they should recite it as best as they can and that does not affect them, because Allāh does not burden a soul beyond its scope. One of the basic principles established by the scholars is that nothing is obligatory when a person is unable to do it. [Al-Mughni, 2/154].

In this case a person should recite Al-Fātihah as best as he is able, and then glorify Allāh, praise Him, magnify Him and proclaim His Oneness (by saying Subhān-Allāh wa’l-hamdu Lillāh wa Allāhu akbar wa lāilāha ill-Allāh), so that this will make up for whatever he has missed out of Al-Fātihah.

[See Al-Majmu’, 3/375].

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taimiyyah (rahimahullāh) was asked: Is the Solāh of one who mispronounces Al-Fātihah valid or not?

He replied:  If a person mispronounces Al-Fātihah in a way that does not distort the meaning, his prayer is valid, whether he is leading others in Solāh or is praying alone.

But with regard to the kind of mispronunciation that distorts the meaning, if the person knows the meaning, such as if he says Sirāt allādzīna an`amtu `alaihim [meaning “The way of those on whom I have bestowed my grace”, instead of the correct version an`amta (The way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace)], and he knows that this verbal form is wrong, then the prayer is not valid. But if he does not know that he is distorting the meaning, and he thinks that this form is second person singular rather than first person, and then there is a difference of scholarly opinion on this point. And Allāh knows best.

[Majmu’ Al-Fatawa 22/443]

He was also asked about when a person ends a word with –i that should end in –a when praying (or renders it genitive when it should be accusative).

He replied:  If he is aware of what he is doing and he does it deliberately, then his prayer is invalid, because he is playing about in his Solāh. But if he is unaware of that, then his prayer is not invalid, according to one of the two scholarly views.

[Majmu’ Al-Fatawa, 22/444]

So you must try hard and keep practising it. You can do this by reciting it to another Muslim sister who can recite it well, and by listening to surahs recited by skilled reciters on tapes or broadcasts.

There is no need to feel nervous and anxious, because Allāh knows what is in people’s hearts, and He knows who is trying hard and making the effort, and who is lazy and heedless.

The difficulty that you find in reciting Qur`ān will increase your hasanāt (good deeds) and rewards. It was narrated that `Aishah (radiyallāhu`anha) said:
The Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) said: “The one who is skilled in reciting Qur`ān will be with the noble and obedient scribes (i.e., the angels?) And the one who reads the Qur`ān and struggles with it because it is difficult for him will have two rewards.” [Narrated by Muslim, 798]

Imām Al-Nawawi (rahimahullāh) said:

The one who struggles with it is the one who is hesitant in his recitation because he is not able to memorize it well. He will have two rewards: the reward for reciting it and the reward for his efforts in reciting it.

There is no need to repeat verses more than once, because this is not what the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) did or taught. Rather that opens the door to waswās (whispers from the Shaytān), detracts from the prayer, makes you lose your focus, distracts you from pondering the meaning of the verses and makes the shaytān happy, because from that he can find a way to make you suffer so that you will ultimately give up praying. But Allāh is Most Gracious and Most Merciful, and He is more merciful towards us than we are to ourselves, and He does not burden us with more than we can bear.

[Via Islam Q&A]