Question # 53: Can you please explain the manner of praying Sana before soorah Fatiha 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: The Prayer of Praise (al-thana’) is an emulation of the prophetic Sunnah according to the Shafi’is, the Hanafis and the Hanbalis; the most common view among the Malikis is that its use is undesirable, although some Malikis hold that it is recommended. As for the wording of this prayer, various views have been expressed. However, according to Imam Ahmad reciting any of these invocations will be good and permissible.

Long Answer:  The Prayer of Commencement (du’aa al-iftitah’) also known as the ‘Prayer of Praise’ (al-thana’) or invocation of laudation (Istiftah) is an emulation of the prophetic Sunnah. The following are opnions of various Madhahib in this respect:

Hanafi Madhhab

According to the Hanafis, the wording to be used for this prayer is as follows: subhanuk Allahumma wa bihamdika, wa tabaraka ismuk wa ta’ala jadduk wa la ilaha ghayruk (Glory be to You, 0 God, and praise! May Your name be blessed and Your majesty exalted! There is no god but You!) The Hanafis classify this prayer as a Sunnah-based practice in both obligatory and voluntary prayers for the imam, for those being led in prayer, and for those praying alone. The only exception to this is when someone is praying behind an imam and the imam has already gone on to the Qur’anic recitation; in this case the person following the imam should not utter this prayer. If, on the other hand, someone misses the first rak’ah but catches up with the imam in the second rak’ah, he or she should utter this prayer before the imam begins the Qur’anic recitation; once the imam has begun Qur’anic recitation, however, the worshiper should not utter this prayer, regardless of whether the imam is reciting aloud or silently. Lastly, if the worshiper joins communal prayer as the imam is bowing or prostrating and if he has reason to believe that he can finish uttering this prayer before the imam rises from his bow or his prostration, he should go ahead and recite it; otherwise, he should not.

Hadith: It was narrated that Abu Sa’eed (رضي الله عنه) said: “When the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) started to pray, he would say: ‘Subhanakallahumma… ghairuk” (Sunan an-Nasa’I, Graded Hasan)

Hadith: Aishah (رضي الله عنه) narrated: “When the Prophet opened the Salat he would say: (Subhanaka Allahummaghairuk)” (Jami` at-Tirmidhi, Graded Hasan)

Shafi’i Madhhab

The prayer of commencement used by the Shafi’is is as follows: Wajjahtu wajhi lilladhi fatara al-samawati wal-arda; hanifan musliman, wa ma ana min al-mushrikin. Inna salati wa naski wa mahyaya wa mamati lillahi rabb al-‘alamin, la sharika lah, wa bi dhalika umirtu wa ana min al-muslimin (I turn my face with a pure heart and in full surrender toward the One who created the heavens and the earth, and I am not among those who associate created beings with the Divine. My prayer, my devotion, my life and my death belong to God, the Sustainer of the worlds, who has no partner. Thus have I been commanded, and I am among those who surrender themselves to God) (The Hanafis hold that this particular prayer is to be uttered before or after one’s intention in obligatory prayers, and before or after takbirat al-ihram in voluntary prayers.) The Shafi’is stipulate five conditions for the use of this prayer: 1. That the prayer being performed not be the funeral prayer, in which case one should go directly to the prayer for divine protection (a’udhu billahi min al-shaytan ar-rajim). 2. That one not have reason to fear that the time for the performance of the prayer concerned is about to run out. For example, if there is just enough time left to perform one rak’ah without reciting this prayer, one should not recite it. 3. That someone being led in communal prayer not have reason to fear that he or she might miss part of the Fatihah. 4. That the person praying in community not have joined the imam while the imam was pausing in a standing position. 5. That one not have already begun reciting the prayer for protection and the Fatihah. Once one has begun one of these, whether intentionally or absentmindedly, he or she should not go back to recite the prayer of commencement. The hadith with respect to above du’aa appears in Sahih Muslim and Sunan an-Nasa’i (Sahih).

Hanbali Madhhab

The wording which the Hanbalis generally use for the prayer of commencement is the same as that adopted by the Hanafis; however, they hold that it is also acceptable to use the Shafi’is version. In fact, the Hanbalis hold that the ideal practice is to use the Hanafi version on some occasions, and the Shafi’i version on others.

Maliki Madhhab

As for the Malikis, the most widely held view among them is that it is undesirable to recite the prayer of commencement; they base this view on the fact that the Companions tended not to use it. Even though the ahadith quoted earlier in this connection are sound, they nevertheless hold to a saying passed down from Malik (may God be pleased with him), according to which its use is simply recommended rather than based on the Sunnah. As for the wording of the prayer of commencement, it consists of a combination of the Hanafi and Shafi’i versions. In sum, then, the Malikis tend to view the use of this prayer as undesirable, although some of them view its use as recommended. (‘Islamic Jurisprudence According to the Four Sunni Schools’ by ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Jaziri)

In any case, the above mentioned du’aas have been narrated as invocations said by the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) in this istiftah. Besides, there is a famous hadith narrated by Al-Bukhari and Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه), who said, “Whenever the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said takbir in prayer, he would keep quiet for a short while before reciting (AI-Fatihah). I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! You used to keep quiet (for a short while) between the takbir (at the very beginning of the prayer) and the recitation (of Al-Fatihah), so what do you say?’ He said, ‘I say, ‘O Allah! Set me apart from my sins as You have set apart the east from the west! O Allah! Clean me from my sins as a white garment is cleaned from dirt (after thorough washing)! 0 Allah! Wash my sins off me with snow, water, and hail!”

Ahmad commented on this matter, saying, “If a man said the invocation of istiftah using (any) of what has been narrated as invocations of istiftah said by the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم), that will be good and permissible.” (al-Mughni) (‘Al-Fiqhul-Muyassaru minal-Qur’ani was-Sunnah’ by Muhammad M. ‘Abdul-Fattah)

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.