The Holy Qur'an

Sūrah al-Fātiḥah is Part of the Qur’an

Some people have expressed the opinion that Sūrah al-Fātiḥahis not part of the Holy Qur’an. In support of this opinion, they cite the fact that Ḥaḍrat ‘Abdullāh bin Mas‘ūdradid not include Sūrah al-Fātiḥahin his manuscript of the Qur’an. However, it must be kept in mind that Haḍrat ‘Abdullāh bin Mas‘ūdraexcluded three sūrahsin his manuscript of the Holy Qur’an: Sūrah al-Fātiḥahand the al-Mu‘awwidhatayn [namely,Sūrah al-Falaqand Sūrahan-Nās – the two chaptersof refuge[1]].He was of the opinion that since Sūrah al-Fātiḥahis recited in prayers before every other sūrah, it therefore serves as an introduction to all other chapters. It is probable that he also thought the same about the al-Mu‘awwidhatayn as their subject-matter comprises prayers for safeguarding oneself against different types of harms and evils. Therefore, despite being a part of the Holy Qur’an, they seemingly stand alone from the other Qur’anic text. Furthermore, it is likely that Haḍrat ‘Abdullāh bin Mas‘ūdwas of the opinion that the al-Mu‘awwidhatayn were related to every sūrah. His viewpoint on Sūrah al-Fātiḥahis proven from the ahadith[oral traditions of the Holy Prophetsa]. Abū Bakr al-Anbārī narrates a hadithfrom al-A‘mash who narrates from Ibrāhīm that when Haḍrat ‘Abdullāh bin Mas‘ūdrawas asked as to why he did not record Sūrah al-Fātiḥah in his manuscript of the Holy Qur’an, he responded by saying, لَوْكَـتَبْتُهَالَكَتَبْتُهَا مَعَ كُلِّ سُورَةٍ. That is: ‘If I had written Sūrah al-Fātiḥah [before Sūrah al-Baqarah], I would have had to write it before every chapter.’ In other words, this chapteris related to every other sūrahand, therefore, ‘Abdullāh bin Mas‘ūdrahad omitted it so that the misconception does not arise that Sūrah al-Fātiḥah was only linked to Sūrah al-Baqarah[2]. It seems that he also held the same opinion about the al-Mu‘awwidhatayn. Given this reason, how could it have been possible for ‘Abdullāh bin Mas‘ūdrato exclude Sūrah al-Fātiḥah from the Qur’an, as the Holy Prophetsahad himself clearly declared it to be the greatest chapter of the Holy Qur’an?[3]

It is essential to recite Sūrah al-Fātiḥahduring every formal prayer and rak‘ah [a single unit of formal prayer], except when one joins the congregational prayer in which the Imam has already led everyone intorukū‘[the bowing position when one places their hands on their knees]. In such cases, those who join the formal prayer late ought to just say Allāhu Akbar[Allah is the Greatest] and then follow the Imam into rukū‘. The recitation of the Imam therefore counts as the recitation of those who follow his lead. The emphasis on reciting Sūrah al-Fātiḥahduring formal prayer is found in various ahadith. In Sahih Muslim [a well-known and reputable collection of ahadith], we find that Ḥaḍrat Abū Hurairaranarrated that the Holy Prophetsasaid, 

مَنْ صَلَّى صَلَاةً لَمْ يَقْرَأْ فِيهَا بِأُمِّ الْقُرْآنِ فَهِيَ خِدَاجٌ[4]

‘If anyone observes prayer in which he does not recite the Mother of the Book, it is deficient.’

This means that a person who performs the formal prayer without reciting Sūrah al-Fātiḥahrenders that prayer incomplete. In Sahih Bukharī[5][the most reputable and well-known collections of ahadith] and Sahih Muslim[6], there is a narration of ‘Ubāda bin aṣ-Ṣāmit that the Holy Prophetsa stated:

لاَ صَلَاةَ لِمَنْ لَمْ يَقْرَأْ بِفَاتِحَةِ الْكِتَابِ 

This means that the prayer of a person who does not recite Fātiḥatul-Kitāb[the Opening Chapter of the Book and another name for Sūrah al-Fātiḥah] during formal prayer  will be void. There is a similar narration to this effect from Abū Hurairahrain Saḥiḥ Ibn Khuzaimah[7]and Saḥiḥ Ibn Ḥibbān[8],[9]. Moreover, in Abū Dāwūd, there is the following narration on the authority of Abū Hurairahra

أَمَرَنِي رَسُولُ اللَّهِ أَنْ أُنَادِيَ أَنَّهُ لا صَلاةَ إِلَّا بِقِرَاءَةِ فَاتِحَةِ الْكِتَابِ فَمَا زَادَ[10]

That is, the Holy Prophetsacommanded me to announce to the people that no formal prayer will be complete except with the recitation of Sūrah al-Fātiḥahalong with another portion of the Holy Qur’an. 

This belief is found in the Ahadith narrated by the companions of the Holy Prophetsaincluding Ḥaḍrat ‘Umarra, ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abbāsra, Abū Hurairahra, ‘Ubayy bin Ka‘bra, Abū Ayyūb al-Anṣārīra, ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin al-‘Āṣra, ‘Ubādah bin aṣ-Ṣāmitra, Abū Sa‘īd al-Khudrīra, ‘Uthmān bin Abī al-‘Āṣra, Khawwāt bin Jubairraand ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umarra[11].    

In Sunnan Ibn Mājah[12], there is the narration of Ḥaḍrat Abū Sa‘īd al-Khudrīrathat:

لا صَلاةَ لِمَنْ لَمْ يَقْرَأْ فِي كُلِّ رَكْعَةٍ بِالْحَمْدِ لِلَّهِ وَسُورَةٍ، في فَرِيضَةٍ أَوْ غَيْرِهَا[13]

Meaning, that the formal prayer is void for one who does not recite Sūrah al-Fātiḥahbefore another sūrahin every unit of prayer. This injunction is in relation to both obligatory and non-obligatory prayers. Some scholars have classified this narration as ‘weak’. However, since this is the collective practice of the companions, there is no doubt regarding its authenticity. In support of this, there is also another narration found in Abū Dāwūd in which ‘Ubādah bin aṣ-Ṣāmitra narrates to the effect that Nāfi‘ bin Maḥmūd bin al-Rabī‘ al-Anṣārī states, ‘Ḥaḍrat ‘Ubādah had been assigned as the Imam to lead the prayers somewhere. On one occasion he arrived late for the congregational prayer, at which Abū Na‘īm began to lead the prayer. I was also with ‘Ubādah when he joined the congregation and we stood in the rows for the prayer. When Abū Na‘īm started reciting Sūrah al-Fātiḥah, I also heard ‘Ubādah recite Sūrah al-Fātiḥahvery quietly. When the prayer finished, I asked ‘Ubādah, “While Abū Na‘īm was leading the prayers aloud, you were also reciting Sūrah al-Fātiḥah. What is the reason behind this?” He responded, “This is absolutely correct. Once, the Holy Prophetsaled us in prayer and upon its completion he sat down and then enquired from us, ‘When I recite the Qur’an aloud in prayer, do you also repeat the words quietly?’ Some answered in the affirmative, whilst others said ‘No’. Upon this, the Holy Prophetsasaid:

فَلا تَقْرَءُوا بِشَيْءٍ مِن الْقُرْآنِ إِذَا جَهَرْتُ إِلا بِأُمِّ الْقُرْآنِ[14]

‘When I recite the Holy Qur’an aloud during the congregational prayer, with the exception of Sūrah al-Fātiḥah, do not recite along with me any other chapter.’” In relation to this, there are many more ahadith. For instance, Dāru Quṭnī narrates on the authority of Yazīd bin Sharīk, declaring the chain of narrators to be authentic [isnād[15]]in this hadith:

سَأَلْتُ عُمَرَ عَنِ الْقِرَاءَةِ خَلْفَ الإِمَامِ فَأَمَرَنِى أَنْ أَقْرَأَ. قَالَ قُلْتُ وَإِنْ كُنْتَ أَنْتَ؟ قَالَ وَإِنْ كُنْتُ أَنَا. قُلْتُ: وَإِنْ جَهَرْتَ؟ قَالَ وَإِنْ جَهَرْتُ[16]

That is to say, ‘I asked Haḍrat Umarra, “Should I recite Sūrah al-Fātiḥahalong with the Imam?” He answered: “Yes.” I enquired, “Even if you are leading the prayers?” He answered, “Yes, even if I lead the prayer.” I asked, “Even if you recite Sūrah al-Fātiḥahaloud?” He responded, “Yes, even then.”’   

The edict of the Promised Messiahasis also that Sūrah al-Fātiḥahought to be recited along with the Imam even if the Imam is reciting it aloud, unless the worshipperjoins the prayer while the Imam is in rukū‘[bowing down position]. In such a situation, the latecomer ought to say Allāhu Akbar[Allah is the Greatest]and then follow the Imam. The Imam’s recitation of Sūrah al-Fātiḥahwould be considered a substitute for his own recitation.[17]  

This is an exception and an exception does not invalidate the rule. Similarly, another exception is when a person is unfamiliar with Sūrah al-Fātiḥah. For instance, the prayer of a new Muslim convert who is yet to learn the basics of prayer, or a child who is unable to recite the Holy Qur’an, would be accepted merely through expressing God’s greatness and praise, regardless of whether or not he recites any portion of the Holy Qur’an, including Sūrah al-Fātiḥah

[1]These refer to the last two chapters of the Holy Qur’an, namely Chapter al-Falaqand Chapter an-Nas. In these two chapters one seeks the protection and refuge of Allah from different evils, hence they have been referred to as the ‘Two Chapters of Refuge.’ [Publishers]

[2]Shams-ud-Dīn al-Qurṭub,Al-Jāmi‘ li Aḥkāmil-Qur’ān lil-Qurṭubī, vol. 1 (Cairo, Egypt: Dār-ul-Kutub-ul-Maṣriyyah, 1964), 115.  [Publishers]

[3]Bukharīon the authority of Sa‘īd bin al-Mu‘allā. [Author]

[4]Muslim, Kitābul-Ṣalāti, Bābu Wujūbi Qirā’atil-Fātiḥati fī kulli rak‘atin. [Publishers]

[5]Bukharī,Kitābul-Ṣalāti, Bābu Wujūbil-Qirā’ati Lil-Imāmi Wal-Ma’mūmi Fiṣ-Ṣalawāti Kullihā. [Publishers]

[6]Muslim, Kitābul-Ṣalāti, Bābu Wujūbi Qirā’atil-Fātiḥati fī kulli rak‘atin. [Publishers]

[7]This is a collection of ahadithcompiled by Imam Abu Bakr ibn Ishaq ibn Khuzaymah. [Publishers]

[8]This is a collection of ahadithcompiled by the Sunni scholar Ibn Hibban. [Publishers]

[9]Abū l-Fidā’ Ismāʿīl bin ‘Umar bin Kathīr, Tafsīr al-Qurʾān al-ʿAẓīm (Beirut, Lebanon: Dār Ibn Ḥazm, 2000), 58. [Publishers]

[10]AbūDāwūd, Kitābuṣ-Ṣalāh, Bābu Man Tarakal-Qirā’ata FīṢalātihi [Publishers]

[11]Shams-ud-Dīn al-Qurṭub,Al-Jāmi‘ li Aḥkāmil-Qur’ān lil-Qurṭubī, vol. 1 (Cairo, Egypt: Dār-ul-Kutub-ul-Maṣriyyah, 1964), 119. [Publishers]

[12]This refers to one of the six authentic books of ahadithas accepted by the Sunni school of thought, named after Imam Ibn Majah. [Publishers]

[13]Ibn Mājah, Kitābuṣ-Ṣalāh, Bābul-Qirā’ati Khalfal-Imām [Publishers]

[14]Abū Dāwūd, Kitābuṣ-Ṣalāh, Bābu Man Tarakal-Qirā’ata Fī Ṣalātihi. [Publishers]

[15]The science of hadithconsists of several disciplines used to evaluate the hadithby Muslim scholars. This science seeks to determine the authenticity of the ahadith, based on whether there are other identical reports from other narrators; the reliability of the narrators of the report; and the continuity of the chain of narrators. Here Isnadrefers to the line of narrators of a particular hadith. [Publishers]

[16]Dāraquṭnī, Kitābuṣ-Ṣalāh, Bābu Wujūbi Qirā‘ati Ummil-Kitābi Fiṣ-Ṣalāti. [Publishers]

[17]Haḍrat Mirza Ghulam AhmadasMalfuzat Volume 1, 448. [Publishers]

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