Question # 292: Is Bismillah part of Soorah Fatihah, that is it counted as the first verse of al-Fatihah? Should be recited loud or silently in salah?

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).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: According to scholars from Madinah, Basra. Syria and Hanafi school, the phrase ‘bi-smillahi r-raḥmani r-raḥim’ is an ayah in Soorah an-Naml and it is not an ayah in the beginning of Soorah Fatihah; hence, the first verse is ‘Al-hamdu lillahi rabbil ‘alamin’ and ‘bi-smillahi r-raḥmani r-raḥim’ is merely a blessing phrase. However, according to scholars from Makkah, al-Kufah and the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools, the first verse of Soorah Fatihah is ‘bi-smillahi r-raḥmani r-raḥim’, which is the most common in use (i.e., aka Kufan recitation).  Nevertheless, according to scholars, it does not matter whether Basmalah is regarded as a verse in some recitations and not others. This information is only for knowledge purposes and not to create any differences among ummah.

According to authentic ahadith, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) did not pronounce the basmalah out loud in al-Faatihah in the prayer; rather he recited it quietly. This is the view of the Hanafis and Hanbalis. The Shafi‘is differed from them and said that it is Sunnah to recite it out loud. Nevertheless, there is nothing wrong for an imam from Shafi’i madhhab to recite it out loud, even if it requires turning from that which is preferable to that which is permissible in the interests of softening the hearts and uniting people.

Long Answer: Shaykh Muhammad al-Ameen ash-Shanqeeti (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “The scholars differed concerning the Basmalah: is it a verse at the beginning of each soorah, or only at the beginning of al-Faatihah, or is it not a verse at all? As for the words of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى): “Verily! It is from Sulaiman (Solomon), and verily! It (reads): In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful” (Soorah an-Naml, 27:30), this is a verse of the Qur’an according to scholarly consensus.

With regard to Soorah Baraa’ah (at-Tawbah), the Basmalah is not a verse thereof, according to scholarly consensus. But there is a difference of scholarly opinion concerning other cases. Some of these scholars of Usool stated that the Basmalah is not part of the Qur’an, and some said that it is part of it in al-Faatihah only. And it was said that it is a verse at the beginning of every soorah. This is the view of ash-Shafi‘i (may Allah have mercy on him).

One of the best things that have been said concerning this matter, to reconcile between all the opinions, is that in some recitations, such as the recitation of Ibn Katheer, the Basmalah is a verse of the Qur’an, and in some other recitations it is not a verse, and there is nothing strange about that… [hence,] it does not matter whether Basmalah is regarded as a verse in some recitations and not others. The scholars are agreed on this point.” (al-Madhkarah fi Usool al-Fiqh)

As for saying the basmalah out loud in al-Faatihah in the prayer, it is permissible; it is not a bid‘ah (innovation) or haraam. But most of the time in his prayer, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) did not pronounce it out loud; rather he recited it quietly. it was narrated from Anas (رضي الله عنه) that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم), and Abu Bakr and ‘Umar (رضي الله عنهما) began the prayer with the words “Al-hamdu Lillahi Rabbi l-‘Aalameen (Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds).” (Narrated by al-Bukhari)

According to a report narrated by Ahmad, “They did not recite out loud the words ‘Bismillah ir-Rahmaan ir-Raheem (In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful).’”

This is the view of the Hanafis and Hanbalis. The Shafi‘is differed from them and said that it is Sunnah to recite it out loud, even though the proven Sunnah is not to recite the basmalah out loud. But there is nothing wrong with reciting it out loud, especially if their madhhab is that it is to be recited out loud, so as to soften their hearts.

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “… Nevertheless the correct view is that it is not to be recited out loud, although it is prescribed to recite it out loud if that serves a definite interest. Hence it is prescribed for the imam to do that – sometimes – for example, to teach the people who are praying behind him. It is permissible for the worshippers to recite a few words out loud sometimes, and it is also permissible for a man to forego something that is preferable, in order to soften hearts and unite people, lest they be put off from what is in their best interests. For example, the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) decided not to rebuild the Ka‘bah on the foundations of Ibrahim (عليه السلام), because Quraysh had only recently left Jaahiliyyah behind (and were new in Islam), and he was worried that they may be put off by that. He thought that the issue of uniting people and softening their hearts took precedence over the issue of rebuilding the Ka‘bah on the foundations of Ibrahim (عليه السلام)… Hence the imams or leading scholars, such as Ahmad and others, stated that the same applies in the case of the basmalah… and other issues in which one may turn from that which is preferable to that which is permissible in the interests of softening the hearts or the obligation of teaching them the Sunnah, and so on.” (Majmoo‘ al-Fataawa)

(The above reply is based on various answers provided by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid on the topic)

According to Shaykh Yasir Qadhi: “The Basmalah is part of the Qur’an with a doubt as it appears in the Soorah an-Naml [(as mentioned above)]. The question [that is it an ayah of Soorah al-Faatihah], the scholars of Islam differed over and this is the only difference of opinion in the whole Qur’an about an ayah; some scholars say it is an ayah or some say it is not. The both opinions have their evidences – according to the scholars from Makkah and al-Kufah (note: the common recitation is Kufan recitation), the first verse, when we open any Mushhaf (copy of Qur’an), is ‘bi-smillahi r-raḥmani r-raḥim’. However, scholars (Sahabah and Tabi’un) from other cities like Madinah, Basra, say that the phrase ‘bi-smillahi r-raḥmani r-raḥim’ is an ayah in Soorah an-Naml and it is not an ayah in the beginning of Soorah Fatihah. So, if we open a mushhaf from North Africa (e.g., Morocco), the first verse is ‘Al-hamdu lillahi rabbil ‘alamin’ and ‘bi-smillahi r-raḥmani r-raḥim’ is merely a blessing phrase, which one says between the soorahs. Based on these, there are two opinions in the ummah, namely, the first verse of Soorah Fatihah is ‘Al-hamdu lillahi rabbil ‘alamin’ which is the position even in the Shafi’i and the Hanbali schools that ‘bi-smillahi r-raḥmani r-raḥim’ is an ayah in Soorah Fatihah and the other opinion is that ‘bi-smillahi r-raḥmani r-raḥim’ is not an ayah in Soorah Fatihah. Based upon this there is a slight fiqhi difference, whereby the only school which recites ‘bi-smillahi r-raḥmani r-raḥim’ loud in the salah is Shafi’i, predominantly in Arab lands like Syria and Egypt. As for Hanbali school of thought, although bismillah is part of the Soorah Fatihah, it is to be recited silently in the salah. As for Hanafi (predominant in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey) and Maliki schools, bismillah is not a part of the Soorah Fatihah and is not to be recited loudly in the salah…” (paraphrased – Video Lecture, Tafsir Surat Al Fatihah – Bismillah part of Fatiha? Silent or loud? by Shaykh Yasir Qadhi)

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.

Wassalaam