Question # 108: Should one recite Soorah Al-Fatihah with the Imam, or listen to the recitation of the imam in congregational prayer of audible prayers?

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: The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “There is no prayer for the one who does not recite al-Fatihah.” However, it is not permissible for the one who is led in the audible prayer to recite anything other than al-Fatihah based on the hadith of Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم). The scholars who use the ayah: “So, when the Qur’an is recited, listen to it, and be silent that you may receive mercy” says that al-Fatihah should be recited after the imam has finished reciting it and before he starts to recite another soorah, or that it should be recited when the imam pauses during al-Fatihah. However, if the imam does not pause, then the one praying behind him should recite al-Fatihah even if the imam is reciting (the other soorah), according to more correct opinion. 

Long Answer: Reciting al-Fatihah is one of the essential parts of the prayer, and is to be recited in each rak’ah both by the imam and by those who are being led by him, because the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “There is no prayer for the one who does not recite the Opening of the Book [i.e., al-Fatihah]” (Narrated by al-Bukhari). With regard to one who is following an imam reciting al-Fatihah behind the imam in a prayer where Qur’an is to be recited out loud, there are two scholarly opinions:

  • The first opinion is that it is obligatory, the evidence for that being the general meaning of the hadith of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم): “There is no prayer for the one who does not recite the Opening of the Book [i.e., al-Fatihah].” And because when the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) taught the one who had not prayed properly, he told him to recite al-Fatihah.

It was narrated in a sahih report that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) used to recite it in every rak’ah. Al-Haafiz ibn Hajar said in Fath al-Bari: “It was proven that permission was given to the one who is praying behind an imam to recite al-Fatihah in prayers in which Qur’an is to be recited out loud, without any exceptions. That is what was narrated by al-Bukhari in Juz’ al-Qiraa’ah, and by al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Hibban and others, from Makhool from Mahmood ibn al-Rabee’ from ‘Ubaadah, that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) stumbled in his recitation in Fajr, and when he finished he said, “Perhaps you recite behind your imam?” They said, “Yes,” He said, “Do not do that, except for the Opening of the Book (al-Faaithah), for there is no prayer for the one who does not recite it.”

  • The second opinion is that the recitation of the imam is also the recitation of the one who is praying behind him. The evidence for that is the aayah: “So, when the Qur’an is recited, listen to it, and be silent that you may receive mercy” (Soorah al-A’raf, 7:204)

However, answering a similar question, the Standing Committee answered: “…the hadith “The recitation of the imam is the recitation of the one who is praying behind him” is da’eef (weak). It is not correct to say that the Ameen of the congregation to the imam’s recitation of al-Fatihah takes the place of their own recitation…”

Ibn Hajar said: “Those who say that (the one who is praying behind an imam) does not have to recite it in prayers where Qur’an is to be recited out loud, such as the Malikis, quote as evidence the hadith, ‘When he recites then listen attentively.’ This is a sahih hadith which was narrated by Muslim from Abu Moosa al-‘Ash’ari.”

Those who say that it is obligatory say that it should be recited after the imam has finished reciting al-Fatihah and before he starts to recite another soorah, or that it should be recited when the imam pauses. Ibn Hajar said: “He should listen when the imam is reciting, and recite it when he is silent.”

Shaykh Ibn Baaz said, “What is meant by when the imam pauses is when he pauses during al-Fatihah or after reciting it, or in the soorah that he recites after it. If the imam does not pause, then the one who is praying behind him has to recite al-Fatihah even if the imam is reciting (the other soorah), according to the more correct of the two scholarly opinions.” (Fataawa al-Shaykh Ibn Baaz)

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “The pause between the recitation of al-Fatihah and another soorah was not narrated from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم), despite the view of some of the fuqaha’, that the imam should pause so as to allow those praying behind him to recite al-Fatihah. Rather it is a brief pause that is intended for one to catch one’s breath on the one hand, and to allow the one who is praying behind the imam, on the other hand, to start to recite (al-Fatihah) and he should complete it, even if the imam is reciting, because it is a brief pause, not a long one.” He also said: “…he should recite al-Fatihah when the imam is still reciting, because the Sahaabah used to recite al-Fatihah with the Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم)…” (Fataawa Arkaan al-Islam)

(The above reply is based on various answers provided by Islamqa.info on the topic)

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