In the name of Allah , The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful.
The scholars are of 3 opinions with regards to reciting Fatiha behind Imam in a prayer that is read aloud:
First: In a prayer that is read aloud, a person praying behind an Imam should not recite (neither Fatiha nor any other surah) if he is listening to the Imam. This is the view held by the majority of both earlier and later scholars; it is also the view of Abu Hanifa, Malik, Ahmad and one of Shafi’s narrations.
Second: It is compulsory for a person praying behind an Imam to recite Fatiha in a prayer that is read aloud just like how he is supposed to recite it in a prayer that is read silently. This is the view held by Shafi and Ibn Hazm from the Dhahiriyah school of thought.
Third: It is desirable for a person praying behind an Imam to recite Fatiha. This is the view held by a group of scholars among them al-Awzai.
What is apparent to me is that the fair opinion and nearer to what is correct is the first opinion which is held by the majority of scholars which says the person praying behind an Imam in a prayer read aloud does not recite Fatiha or any other surah as long as he is listening to the Imam’s recitation. This view is indicated by the sayings of most sahabah and conformed to by many hadiths. Furthermore, Allah commanded that people should listen when Imam is reciting in Prayer when he said:
“So, when the Quran is recited, listen to it, and be silent that you may receive Mercy. [i.e. during the compulsory congregational prayers when the Imâm (of a mosque) is leading the prayer, and also when He is delivering the Friday-prayer Khutbah]. [Tafsir At-Tabari, Vol.9, Pages 162-4]” [al-A’raf 7:204]
The evidence in this verse which necessitates listening to the Imam’s recitation is supported by a hadith narrated by Muslim on the authority of Abu Musa al-Ashari (may Allah be pleased with him) who said:
“Verily the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) addressed us and explained to us all its aspects and taught us how to observe prayer (properly). He (the Holy Prophet) said: When you pray make your rows straight and let anyone amongst you act as your Imam. Recite the takbir when he recites it and when he recites.” This is an excerpt from a long hadith. Other narrators added the wording (When he recites, keep silent).
Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Nasai and Ibn Majah narrated a similar hadith on the authority of Abu Huraira who said:
“The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said: 'The Imam is appointed to be followed, so when he says the takbir, say the takbir, and when he recites, be silent.”
Muslim was asked regarding this hadith which was reported by Abu Huraira and he replied: to me it is authentic.
What also indicates that a person praying behind an Imam in a prayer which is read aloud is prohibited from reciting is a hadith narrated by As-hab Sunan and others on the authority of Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) who said that:
“The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, finished a prayer in which he had recited aloud and asked "Did any of you recite with me just now?" One man said, "Yes, I did, Messenger of Allah." The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "I was saying to myself, 'Why am I distracted from the Qur'an?' “When the people heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say that, they refrained from reciting with the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, when he recited aloud.”
Many scholars spoke about this hadith regarding Akima who narrates from Abu Huraira, but this is not an issue because Yahya Ibn Saeed said that Akima is reliable and reliable narrators are many. This hadith was also contested by scholars like Bukhari, Al-Dhahli, Abu Dawud and others saying: “his wording: they refrained...” was inserted by Zuhri”
The reply to this is that; that does not take away the hadith from being considered as proof whether the wording was inserted by Abu Huraira or Zuhri.
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said in Majmu’ al-Fatawa (23/274):
“If this was from Zuhri then it is proof enough that the sahabah did not recite in a loud prayer when they prayed behind The Prophet (peace be on him), this is because Zuhri was the most knowledgeable on sunnah during his time. If recitation of sahaba behind The Prophet (peace be on him) was permissible, obligatory or desirable, the generality of sahabah would not know because it is part of general rules which are not known by the generality of companions, tabi’een. So Zuhri was the most knowledgeable among them, if they had not clarified it then he would have deduced that they did not do it. But in this case Zuhri is certain that the sahabah did not recite behind The Prophet (peace be on him) when they prayed behind him in a prayer that is read aloud.”
What is used to deduce that it is not obligatory for a person praying behind an Imam to recite in a prayer read aloud is the famous hadith:
“The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said: ‘Whoever has an Imam, the recitation of the Imam is his recitation.”
This hadith was narrated by a group of Imams in many narrations on the authority of a group of sahabah, like the hadith reported by Jabir despite being graded as weak and much criticism it faced. Nevertheless, shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said in Majmu’ al-Fatawa (18/271-272):
“this hadith was narrated as Mursal and Musnad but many reliable Imams narrated it as Mursal from Abdullah Ibn Shadad from The Prophet (peace be on him). Some narrators related it to The Prophet (peace be on him) and Ibn Majah narrated it as Musnad. The majority of scholars from the sahaba and tabi’een said this Mursal contradicts the literal meaning of Quran and Sunnah.
The four Imams and others are of the opinion that this Mursal can be used as proof.
The person who comprehensively dealt with this hadith and its chain of narrations is al-Dar Qutni (may Allah have mercy on him) in his book called Ilal. What we explained earlier clarifies that the hadith that was narrated by Bukhari, Muslim and others on the authority of Ubada Ibn al-Samit (may Allah be pleased with him) who said that The Prophet (peace be on him) said: - “Whoever does not recite Al-Fatiha in his prayer, his prayer is invalid.” – is not general but rather specific to other texts like what Muslim narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) who said that The Prophet (peace be on him) said: - “Whoever performs a prayer in which he does not recite Ummul Qur’an (the Mother of the Qur’an, i.e., Al- Fatihah), it is deficient; not complete.”
All these and similar hadith refer to the person who is not praying in a congregational prayer. What proves that the hadiths are not general is what Imam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) mentioned: “we haven’t heard any Muslim saying: if an Imam recites loud it will not suffice for the ones praying behind him if they do not recite it.
As for the hadith reported by Ubada Ibn al-Samit that:
“Allah's Messenger prayed the Subh prayer, and he had difficulty with the recitation. When turned (after finishing) he said: 'I think that you are reciting behind your Imam?'" He said: "We said: 'Yes, Messenger of Allah, by Allah!' He said: 'Do not do that, except for Umm Al-Kitab, for there is no Salat for one who does not recite it.” [narrated by Ahmad and As-hab al-Sunan except Ibn Majah]
In its chain of narrators is Muhammad Ibn Ishaq, Imam Ahamd said no one relates it to The Prophet (peace be on him) except Muhammad Ibn Ishaq. Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said in Majmu’ alfatawa (23/286): “This hadith is defective according to the Imams of Hadith in terms of many factors, Ahmad and other Imams graded it as weak.”
After mentioning people who graded it as authentic and sound he said (23/315): “in this hadith The Prophet (peace be on him) did not know if there were people reciting something behind him or not. It is well known that if recitation was obligatory upon the person praying behind an Imam, he (The prophet) would have instructed them to do that as it is not permissible to delay clarification / speech when it is needed. If he had clarified that for them they will all have done it, not just one or two of them, and there wasn’t going to be any need for questioning. So this is a proof that he did not make it compulsory for them to recite behind him in a prayer that is read aloud. And also if he had known that they were reciting he would have prohibited them to recite anything other than Fatiha. The difficulty mentioned occurs when they are reciting at the same time with him during a prayer read aloud whether it is Faatiha or another surah. The reason includes both cases, what causes distraction or difficulty is prohibited.
What is apparent to me is that it is not permissible for a person praying behind an Imam to recite in a prayer read aloud when the Imam is reciting according to evidence earlier mentioned and the meaning derived from the hadith of Ubadah Ibn al-Samit that denotes prohibition. But if a person praying behind an Imaam can be able to recite in between the Imam’s pauses, then this is what is required, if this is not possible then there is no problem if he does not recite basing on the prohibition instructed by The Prophet (peace be on him) when he said:
“Avoid that which I forbid you to do and do that which I command you to do to the best of your capacity.” [Narrated by Bukhari, Muslim and others on the authority of Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him)]
And Allah knows best.
Dr. Khalid al-Muslih
07 / 09 / 1424 AH