Question # 478: If the Qirat of Imam is not accurate, will the prayer of the Muktadi be valid?
bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,
Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).
First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.
Shorter Answer: First of all, one should know that the recitation of the imams and their prayers are valid in principle, and there is no need to have doubts in this regard. However, if one is certain that the imam makes mistakes in recitation, there are two situations:
- If the mistake is made in reciting Al-Faatihah by dropping or mispronouncing a letter that changes the meaning of the word/ayah, then praying behind such a person is not valid. However, only under the conditions that he is unable to correct because his tongue does not permit him to do so, or that he is able to correct but there is not enough time for him to learn, and there is no one better in recitation than him among the Mussaleen, then being led by him is valid.
- If the mistake is made in reciting a chapter other than Al-Faatihah, or the mistake is in Al-Faatihah but such mistake that does not change the meaning, then the prayer behind such a person is valid unless the mistake is intentional.
Lastly, in such a situation, one should act with prudence in a way that does not cause fitnah (tribulation/dissension) among the worshipers and provided the imam is advised accordingly.
Long Answer: First of all, you should know that the recitation of the imams and their prayers are valid in principle, and there is no need to have doubts in this regard. [However, if you are certain that the imam] makes mistakes in his recitation…, then some details have to be mentioned about his ruling:
- If he makes mistakes in Al-Faatihah (the Opening Chapter of the Qur’an) in a way that he drops a letter from it, for example, or he makes a mistake that changes the meaning, then the prayer behind such a person is not valid for those who can recite it properly, [because al-Faatihah is one of the pillars or essential parts of the prayer]. An-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said in Sharh al-Muhaththab, “It is obligatory to recite Al-Faatihah in prayer with all its letters and double letters [the Arabic Shaddah], which [double letters] are fourteen; and if he drops a letter from them or does not pronounce the double letter as it should be pronounced [i.e. with Shaddah] or that he changes a letter with another letter while he can recite properly, then the prayer behind him is not valid.”
Also, the Kuwaiti Fiqh Encyclopedia reads, “It is not valid for an ummi imam (who cannot recite Al-Faatihah properly) to lead a person who can recite properly; and it is not valid for a dumb person to lead a person who can recite or an ummi person in prayer because the recitation is an intended pillar in prayer, so it is not valid for a person who can fulfill this pillar to be led by someone who is unable to fulfill it, and (this is so) because the imam bears responsibility for recitation on behalf of the people led in prayer, and this cannot be done by an ummi person.”
The Fiqh Encyclopedia reads: “The Shafi‘i School, in their new opinion, and most scholars of the Hanbali School are of the view that it is not valid to be led in prayer by a person who omits one letter from the letters of Al-Faatihah or replaces the letter with another letter; this is also the standard view of the Hanafi School… These jurists are of the view that such a person who omits one letter or replaces it with another letter, if he is able to correct his tongue (i.e. pronounce in a correct way) and he does not correct himself and correct the mistake, then his prayer for himself is invalid and it is not valid to pray behind him. In case he is unable to correct himself, like if his tongue does not permit him to do so, or due to time constraints, and he was not able to correct before that, then his prayer for himself is valid. If a person who is like him is led by him in prayer, then him praying behind him is valid because he is like him, so his prayer is valid.
The Maaliki School and some Hanafi scholars, as well as Abu Thawr, ‘Ataa’, and Qataadah are of the view that it is valid to be led by a person who omits one letter or replaces it with another letter; this is the view chosen by Al-Muzani, but he conditioned the validity of being led by such a person on that his tongue does not allow him to pronounce it in a correct manner, or that he is able to correct but there is not enough time for him to learn; otherwise, being led by him is not valid.”
Ibn Qudamah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “If an illiterate man leads another illiterate man and a literate man in prayer, the literate man has to repeat his prayer” – the illiterate man is one who cannot recite al-Faatihah or part of it properly, or he mispronounces one letter of it, even if he recites the rest of it well. It is not permissible for one who can recite it well to be led by him in prayer, but it is permissible for others like him to be led by him.
Then he said: Whoever omits one of the letters of al-Faatihah because he is unable to pronounce it, or he substitutes another letter for it, such as the person with a speech defect who substitutes ghayn for ra’, or who contracts one letter into another, or who recites with grammatical mistakes that alter the meaning, like the one who uses the wrong vowel in the word iyaaka and says iyyaaki instead, or says an’amtu instead of an’amta, and cannot correct it – such a one is like an illiterate person, and it is not permissible for a literate person to be led by him in prayer, but it is permissible for any of them to lead another like him in prayer, because they are both illiterate, so it is permissible for one of them to be led by the other, like two who do not do a thing well. But if he is able to correct any of that but he does not do so, then his prayer is not valid and neither is the prayer of one who is led by him.” (al-Mughni)
Ad-Dusooqi said in his commentary on Ash-Sharh Al-Kabeer in the Maaliki Fiqh: “To conclude, the person who makes mistakes that alter the meaning is one of the following:
- If he made the mistake intentionally, his prayer along with the prayer of the people led by him is invalid according to the agreement of the scholars.
- If he made the mistake out of forgetfulness, his prayer is valid according to the agreement of the scholars.
- If he is unable by nature and he is unable to learn, then the ruling is the same (valid) because he cannot speak properly.
- If he is ignorant and he is willing to learn, then there is a difference of opinion on him, whether or not he is able to learn, and whether or not he can be led in prayer by someone who does not make mistakes.
The most valid opinion about him is that the prayer of the people led by him is valid, and so is his prayer as agreed by Al-Lakhmi and Ibn Rushd, and there is no difference between a mistake that alters the meaning and a mistake that does not alter the meaning in all that we have mentioned.”
- If the mistake is made in reciting a chapter other than Al-Faatihah, or the mistake is in Al-Faatihah but it is a mistake that does not change the meaning, then the prayer behind such a person is valid.
Ibn Qudamah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “It is makrooh [(disliked)] for one who makes grammatical mistakes when reciting but does not alter the meaning to lead the prayer. This was stated by Ahmad, but it is valid for him to lead one who does not make mistakes when reciting because he has fulfilled the obligation of reciting. If he alters the meaning in something other than al-Faatihah that does not mean that his prayer is not valid and that he should not lead others in prayer, unless he does it deliberately, in which case the prayer of both is invalidated.
If his mistakes do not change the meaning of the verses, then it is permissible to pray behind him, but it is obligatory to teach him how to recite properly. If his mistake is in something other than al-Faatihah, it detracts from his prayer but does not invalidate it, but it is undoubtedly better to pray behind one who recites properly, and it is not permissible for those in authority to appoint such ignorant people to lead the people in prayer otherwise they will have a share of the sin with them.” (al-Mughni)
Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Baaz (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “If his mistakes do not alter the meaning, there is nothing wrong with praying behind him… But if his mistakes change the meaning, then people should not pray behind him if he does not benefit from prompting… But if he accepts being taught and corrects his recitation when corrected, then it is valid to pray behind him. What is prescribed in all cases is for the Muslim to teach his brother both in prayer and otherwise because the Muslim is the brother of his fellow-Muslim and he guides him if he makes a mistake and teaches him if he is ignorant and corrects him if he makes a mistake when reciting the Qur’an. (Majmoo’ Fataawa Ibn Baaz)
[Therefore, one should] do whatever [he] deems appropriate and beneficial in a way that does not cause fitnah (tribulation/dissension) among the worshipers and provided that [he] advises this imam and tries to teach him the right way of recitation.
(The above reply is based on various answers on similar topics provided by:
- Islamweb.net, a web site belonging to the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in the State of Qatar; and
Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.