Question # 251: Asalaam Alleykum Wa-Rahmatullah… Is it wrong or permissible to lead a Congregational prayer, either Fajr, Maghrb or Isha, while reading directly from the Qur’an and not reciting from memory?

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: Although it is makrooh (disliked) for Imam to read from Mus-haf, this does not invalidate his prayer, whether he has memorized the Qur’an or not; in fact, it is obligatory for him to read from Mus-haf, if he has not memorized al-Faatihah. Hence, it is permissible if there is a need for it, just as it is permissible to read from the Mus-haf in Taraweeh for one who has not memorized the Qur’an. But it is prescribed for the Imam to strive to memorize the entire Qur’an, or at least memorize al-Mufassal (starting with Soorah Qaf up to the end of the Qur’an), so that he will not need to read from the Mus-haf. 

Long Answer: There is nothing wrong with reading Qur’an from the Mus-haf during a naafil prayer, such as qiyam al-layl.  But in the case of obligatory prayers, it is makrooh to do that, because in most cases there is no need for it. But if there is a need, then there is nothing wrong with reading from the Mus-haf in that case.

Ibn Qudaamah (may Allah have mercy on him) said in al-Mughni: “Ahmad said: There is nothing wrong will leading the people in praying qiyam whilst looking at the Mus-haf. It was said to him: What about obligatory prayers? He said: I have not heard anything concerning that. Al-Qaadi said: It is makrooh in obligatory prayers, but there is nothing wrong with it in voluntary prayers if one has not memorized (Qur’an), but if one has memorized Qur’an then it is also makrooh. He said: Ahmad was asked about leading the prayers whilst reading from the Mus-haf in Ramadan. He said: If that is necessary (it may be done) … and it was narrated from Ibn Haamid that it is equally permissible in both naafil and obligatory prayers.

The evidence for it being permissible is the report narrated by Abu Bakr al-Athram and Ibn Abi Dawood with their isnaads from ‘Aa’ishah, according to which she would be led in prayer by a slave of hers who read from the Mus-haf.

Al-Zuhri was asked about a man who read from the Mus-haf in Ramadan. He said: The best ones among us used to read from the Mus-hafs…

Reading from the Mus-haf has been permitted because of the need to listen to the Qur’an and recite it in night prayers (qiyam).

The ruling on it being makrooh applies only to those who have memorized Qur’an, because they will be needlessly distracted from proper focus in prayer (khushoo’) by that, and from looking at the place of prostration. And it is makrooh in obligatory prayers in general, because usually there is no need for it.

Al-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said in al-Majmoo’: “If a person reads Qur’an from the Mus-haf, this does not invalidate his prayer, whether he has memorized the Qur’an or not; in fact, that is obligatory if he has not memorized al-Faatihah. What we have mentioned, that reading from the Mus-haf does not invalidate the prayer, is our view and the view of Maalik, Abu Yoosuf, Muhammad and Ahmad.”

Shaykh Ibn Baaz (may Allah have mercy on him) was asked: Is it permissible for the imam to read from the Mus-haf during the five daily prayers, especially Fajr when lengthy reading is required and there is the fear of making mistakes or forgetting?

He replied: “That is permissible if there is a need for it, just as it is permissible to read from the Mus-haf in Taraweeh for one who has not memorized the Qur’an. Dhakwaan, the freed slave of ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنها) used to lead her in prayer in Ramadan, reading from the Mus-haf, as was narrated by al-Bukhari in his Saheeh in a mu’allaq majzoom report. It is Sunnah to recite at length in Fajr prayer, so if the imam has not memorized al-Mufassal or anything else from the rest of the Qur’an, it is permissible for him to recite from the Mus-haf. But it is prescribed for him to strive to memorize the Qur’an, or at least to memorize al-Mufassal, so that he will not need to read from the Mus-haf. Al-Mufassal refers to the portion of the Qur’an that starts with Soorat Qaf, up to the end of the Qur’an. Whoever strives to memorize, Allah will make it easy for him, as He says in the Qur’an:

  • “And whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty)” (Soorah al-Talaaq, 65:2)
  • “And We have indeed made the Qur’an easy to understand and remember; then is there anyone who will remember (or receive admonition)?” (Soorah al-Qamar, 54:17)

And Allah is the Source of strength.” (Majmoo’ Fataawa Ibn Baaz)

(The above reply is based on answer by Islamqa.info)

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