Question # 396: What should one do if he forgets to recite another surah after surah fatiha in the prayer?
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: Reciting Qur’an (another Soorah) after al-Fatihah in prayer is sunnah and not obligatory, either in a fard (obligatory) prayer or a naafil (supererogatory) prayer, whether the prayer is one in which Qur’an is recited out loud or one in which it is recited silently, whether one is joining the prayer late or otherwise. Hence, if a person forgets to recite another soorah after al-Fatihah, he does not have to do anything further. Also please refer to Question # 385: Forgetting to Recite Soorah Al-Fatihah in Salah (Prayer).
Long Answer: It was narrated that ‘Ata’ said: Abu Hurayrah said: In every prayer there is recitation. What we heard the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) say, we tell you, and what he did not tell us about we cannot tell you. Whoever recites Umm al-Kitaab (i.e., Soorat al-Fatihah) has done enough, and whoever does more than that, that is better. (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Al-Nawawi said: “The phrase, “Whoever recites Umm al-Kitaab (i.e., Soorat al-Fatihah) has done enough, and whoever does more than that, that is better” indicates that reciting al-Fatihah is obligatory, and that nothing else will do.
It also indicates that reciting a soorah after al-Fatihah is mustahabb (recommended). There is scholarly consensus on this point with regard to Fajr, Jumu’ah and the first two rak’ahs of every prayer, and this is Sunnah according to all scholars. Al-Qaadi ‘Iyaad narrated that some of the companions of Maalik said that reciting a second soorah is obligatory, but this is an odd view which is to be rejected.
With regard to reciting an additional soorah in the third and fourth rak’ahs, there was a difference of opinion among the scholars as to whether it is mustahabb or not. Maalik (may Allah have mercy on him) regarded it as makrooh. Al-Shafi’i (may Allah be pleased with him) regarded it as mustahabb in his new opinion but not in his old opinion; the old opinion in this case is more correct.” (Sharh Muslim)
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said: According to the majority of scholars, reciting another soorah (after al-Fatihah) is Sunnah and is not obligatory, because it is obligatory to recite only al-Fatihah. (Al-Sharh al-Mumti’)
It is permissible for a worshipper to recite another soorah after al-Fatihah in the third and fourth rak’ahs, but he should do that only sometimes; it was narrated that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) did this according to a hadith narrated by Muslim.
The scholars of the Standing Committee for Issuing Fatwas stated: If a person forgets the soorah after al-Fatihah, he does not have to do anything further, whether he is leading the prayer, praying behind an imam or praying on his own, and whether the prayer is obligatory or naafil. This is according to the more correct of the two scholarly opinions. (Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah)
(The above answer is based on various answers provided by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid 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.