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Ruling On Reciting Al-Faatihah behind the Imaam

Question: The opinions of the scholars have differed concerning the recitation of one who is being led (in prayer) behind the Imaam (prayer leader). So what is the correct position concerning this? Is it obligatory for him (the person being led) to recite Al-Faatihah? And when should he recite it if the Imaam does not observe silence to allow the followers to recite it? And is it legislated for the Imaam to observe silence after he recites the Faatihah to allow the followers an opportunity to recite the Faatihah?

Answer: The correct position is that it is obligatory for the followers to recite the Faatihah in all of their prayers, whether it is a silent prayer or a prayer said aloud. This is based upon the generality of the Prophet's (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) statement:

"There is no pryaer for whoever does not recite the Faatihah of the Book." (Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim)

This hadeeth is agreed upon as being authentic.

Also due to the Prophet's (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) statement: "Do you all recite behind your Imaam?" We (the companions) replied, "Yes." Then he (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said, "Do not do that except with the Faatihah of the Book. For verily there is no Salaah for the one who does not recite it."

This was reported by Imaam Ahmad with a Saheeh chain of narration.

The legislation concerning this is that one recites it (Al-Faatihah) during the time when the Imaam is silent. And if the Imaam does not observe a (period of) silence, then the person should recite even if the Imaam is reciting, then (after Faatihah) he should listen (to the Imaam's recital). This exception is due to the general evidences which show that it is obligatory to listen attentively to the recital of the Imaam. However, if the person being led forgets the Faatihah, or he leaves it out due to ignorance, or he believes it to be non-obligatory, then there is no sin upon him. According to the majority of the people of knowledge, the recitation of the Imaam will be sufficient for him.

Likewise is the situation when the person comes to join the prayer while the Imaam is bowing (in Rukoo'). He bows along with the Imaam and his unit of prayer is considered complete with the Imaam's. He also does not recite the Faatihah in this situation even though he did not catch the Imaam's recital of it. This is due to what has been confirmed in the hadeeth of Abee Bakrah Ath-Thaqafee (radhiyallaahu 'anhu), that he came to the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) while he was bowing (in prayer), so Abee Bakrah bowed outside of the row, then he entered the row (after having already bowed). So when the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) made the Tasleem to conclude the prayer, he said to Abee Bakrah, "May Allaah increase you in zeal, but do not do this again." And the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) did not command him to make up that Rak'ah. This was reported by Al-Bukhaaree in the Saheeh.

The meaning of the Prophet's (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) statement, "Do not do this again", is that you should not repeat the act of bowing outside of the row. From this it is known that the legislation for one who enters the Masjid while the Imaamis bowing, is that he does not bow (in Rukoo') before he reaches the prayer row. To the contrary, he should wait until he joins the row, even if he misses the bowing (Rukoo'). This is because of the Prophet's (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) statement:

"When you come to the prayer, come walking, and you should do so in a calm manner, and what you catch of the prayer, pray it. And whatever you missed, complete it." (Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim)

This hadeeth is agreed upon as being authentic.

Concerning the hadeeth:

"Whoever has an Imaam, then the Imaam's recitation is his recitation."

This is a weak hadeeth and the people of knowledge do not use it as a proof. Also, even if this hadeeth was authentic, verily the Faatihah is an exception from that, in combining the understanding of the two hadeeths.

Concerning the act of pausing for silence after the Faatihah, there is nothing authentic narrated concerning it, as far as I know. Yet, this a broad issue, if Allaah wills. Thus, whoever does this (pauses after the Faatihah) then there is no problem with that, and whoever does not pause, there is also no problem with that as well. Nothing has been confirmed from the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) concerning this matter, as far as I know. There are only two periods of silence confirmed as being observed by the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam). One of them is after the opening Takbeer, in which it is legislated that one says the supplications to begin the prayer. The second silence is after one completes the recitation and before he bows. This is a short period of silence that separates the recital and the Takbeer. And Allaah is the Giver of success.


Source: Fataawaa Muhimmah Tata'allaqu bis-Salaah, pg.59-61, Question #38


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