Could you please give information about “Qiraah” (reading/reciting the Quran)?

Details of the Question
Could you please give information about “Qiraah” (reading/reciting the Quran)?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

To read. In prayer (salah), qiraah means (for a person) to read some verses from the Quran by pronouncing the words audibly enough to hear himself. Qiraah is fard as a pillar of the prayer. If a person cannot hear what he reads even himself, it is not regarded qiraah. However, a person who follows the imam is excepted.

Qiraah is fard in all rak’ahs of supererogatory prayers and witr prayer, and in any two rak’ahs of fard prayers. The following is stated in the Quran: "Read ye, therefore, as much of the Qur'an as may be easy (for you)" (al-Muzammil, 73/20). The order here indicates obligation. The Prophet said, "No prayer without qiraah." (Muslim, Salat, 42; Abu Dawud, Salat, 132, 167)

The amount of reading that is fard must be as long as a verse with at least six letters according to Abu Hanifa; for instance, the verses like, "Thumma nazara (Then he looked round)" (al-Muddaththir, 74/21) and "Lam yalid (He begetteth not)" (al-Ikhlas, 112/3). Since the origin of the latter is "Lam lawlid", the number of the letters amount to six. According to Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad ash-Shaybani and another narration from Abu Hanifa, qiraah in the prayer is at least three short verses or one longer verse as long as three short verses in each verse. That is more suitable for prudence. (al-Kasani, Badayiu's-Sanayi', Beirut 1328/1910, I, 110; Ibnu'l-Humam, Fathu'l-Qadir, Cairo, n.d., I, 193, 205, 222, ff; az-Zaylai, Tabyinu'l Haqaiq, l, 104, ff; Ibn Abidin, Raddu'l-Mukhtar, Egypt, nd, I, 415).

Qiraah is not fard but wajib in the first two rak’ahs of four-rak’ah prayers. It is reported that Hazrat Ali (d 40/660) said, "The qiraah in the first two rak’ahs is enough for the last two rak’ahs, too. Abdullah b. Mas'ud (d 32, 652) and Hazrat Aisha (d. 57/676) said a person could read some verses from the Quran or could glorify Allah in the last two rak’ahs. It is the same as reading al-Fatiha, another chapter or three verses. (az-Zuhayli, al-Fiqhu'l-Islami wa Adillatuh, Damascus 1405/1985, I. 646).

According to Hanafi scholars, it is fard not wajib to read the chapter al-Fatiha in prayers. It does not matter whether it is a prayer in which reading is carried out silently or aloud, whether the imam or the followers read it. While explaining a companion who performed the prayer wrongly how to pray, the Messenger of Allah said, "Then, read as much of the Qur'an as may be easy for you." (Bukhari, Husumat, 4, Isti'dhan, 18, Istitaba, 9, Ayman, 15; Muslim, Salat, 45; Abu Dawud, Salat, 144, Tatawwu', 17, Witr, 22; Tirmidhi, Salat, 110, the Qur'ân, 9; Nasai, Iftitah, 7, 37, Tatbiq, 77; Ibn Majah, Iqama, 72; Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, I, 40, 43, II, 437).

Most of the scholars of Islam regard the qiraah of al-Fatiha as fard. They interpret the verse “Read ye, therefore, as much of the Qur'an as may be easy (for you)” as al-Fatiha because the following is stated in hadiths: "No prayer is valid without reading al-Fatiha." (Muslim, Salat, 42; Abu Dawud, Salat, 132, 167; Tirmidhi, Salat, 116; Ahmed b. Hanbal, II, 307, 428, 443), "The prayer of a person who does not read Ummu'l-Qur'an (al-Fatiha) is not sufficient." (Tirmidhi, Mawaqit, 29, 116), "Perform the prayer as I do." (Bukhari, Adhan, 18, Adab, 27, Ahad, 1)

Hanafis base their views regarding the issue on the following evidence:

a. The order of reading what is easy from the Quran for a person is absolute. That order is fulfilled when the minimum reading from any place in the Quran is performed. On the other hand, it is definite by consensus (ijma) that it is not fard to read the Quran outside the prayer. Thus, it becomes certain that qiraah is fard in the prayer.

b. The hadiths that inform us to read al-Fatiha in the prayer are ahad (narrated by only one narrator). It is not permissible to add something based on ahad hadith to an issue that is definitely fard based on Quranic evidence. Thus, the qiraah of al-Fatiha becomes wajib. It is makruh tahrimi (strictly abominable) to abandon it. A person who abandons it by mistake or delays it must perform prostration of forgetfulness (sajda as-sahw).

c. Hazrat Prophet said to a companion who performed a prayer wrongly, "When you want to perform a prayer, make ablution properly, turn to the qiblah, say Allahu akbar and read as much of the Qur'an as may be easy (for you)" (Bukhari, Husumat, 4, Isti'dhan, 18, Istitaba, 9, Ayman, 15; Muslim, Salat, 45; Abu Dawud, Salat, 144, Tirmidhi, Salat, 110, the Qur'ân, 9; Nasai, Iftitah, 7, 37). If the qiraah of al-Fatiha were fard or a pillar of the prayer, Hazrat Prophet would have informed the companion who performed the prayer wrongly about it. 

d. The hadith reported from Ubada b. As-Samit (may Allah be pleased with him) (d 34/654); "No prayer is valid without qiraah." (Muslim, Salat, 42; Abu Dawud, Salat, 132, 167 Tirmidhi, Salat, 116) means the lack of virtue. It does not mean that the prayer is not valid. As a matter of fact, in the following hadith: "The prayer of a person who lives close to the mosque is not valid unless he prays it in the mosque”, it is meant that the virtue of the prayer is missing (az-Zaylai, Nasbu'r-Raya, I, 365, 366; az-Zuhayli, ibid, I, 647). However, this hadith, which is reported by Daraqutni is weak.

According to Hanafis, the basmala at the beginning of the chapter al-Fatiha and other chapters are not verses. Only the basmala in the thirtieth verse of the chapter an-Naml is a verse. The following was reported from Anas (d. 91/717) (may Allah be pleased with him): "I prayed together with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), Hazrat Abu Bakr (d.13/634), Umar (d.23/643) and Uthman (d. 35/655). I did not hear any of them say basmala in the prayer" (Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, III, 264, 273, 275, 278).

A person who prays alone reads audhu basmala silently after Subhanaka and repeats the basmala before al-Fatiha in each rak’ah. When al-Fatiha ends, he says, "amin". Its meaning: O our Lord, accept our prayer (az-Zuhayli, ibid, I, 646, 647).

Qiraah of the people who follow (muqtadi) the imam:

According to Hanafis, the people who follow the imam do not perform qiraah. The evidence that they base their views on is as follows:

a. The Book (the Quran). The following is stated in a verse: "When the Qur'an is read, listen to it with attention, and hold your peace: that ye may receive Mercy" (al-A'raf, 7/204). Ahmed b. Hanbal states that scholars unanimously agree that this verse is related to the prayer. The verse orders people “to listen” and “to be quiet”. The former is related to the prayers in which qiraah is performed aloud like morning, evening and night prayers. Keeping quiet is related to all of the prayers whether the qiraah is performed aloud or silently. Accordingly, it is wajib for the followers of the imam to listen when the qiraah is performed aloud and to be quiet when the qiraah is performed silently. It is makruh tahrimi not to act in accordance with this principle.

b. The Sunnah. The following is stated in a hadith: "The qiraah of a person who follows the imam is the qiraah of the imam. (Ibn Majah, Iqama, 13). This hadith includes all of the prayers whether the reading is carried out silently or aloud. In another hadith, the following is stated: "The imam stands at the front so that he will be followed. When he makes takbir, you make takbir too. When he reads, be quiet." (Bukhari, Salat, 18, Adhan, 51, 74, 82, 128, Taqsiru's-Salat, 17; Muslim, Salat, 77 , 82).

While Hazrat Prophet was leading the afternoon prayer one day, a man behind started to read the chapter beginning with, "Sabbihi'sma Rabbikal-a'la". The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) turned toward the congregation after the prayer and asked who had read that chapter. When a man said he did, Hazrat Prophet said, "I thought some of you were arguing with me." (Muslim, Salat, 48). This hadith shows that it is necessary for the followers of the imam not to read in the prayers in which the imam reads silently. Since this is the case in the prayers in which the imam reads silently, it must definitely be so in the prayers in which the imam reads aloud.

c. Qiyas (Analogy). If it were necessary for the followers of the imam to read in the prayer, the masbuq (a person who has not caught up with the imam in the first rak’ah) who caught up with the imam during ruku’ (bowing down) would be regarded responsible for qiraah. However, a person who catches up with the imam during ruku’ is regarded to have performed that rak’ah. Thus, the qiraah of the followers of the imam is compared to the qiraah of the masbuq. (al-Kasani, ibid, l, 110 ff.; az-Zuhayli, ibid, l, 648)

According to the majority of the scholars other than Hanafis, it is necessary to read al-Fatiha in the prayer. The following hadiths are the evidence for it. "The prayer of a person who does not read al-Fatiha is not valid.", "A prayer in which al-Fatiha is not read is not sufficient.", "Perform the prayer as I do." (see Ibn Rushd, Bidayatu'l-Mujtahid, Egypt, nd, I, 119 ff.; Ibn Qudama, al-Mughni, 3rd impression, Cairo, nd., I, 376-491, 562-568; ash-Shirazi, al-Muhadhdhab, Matbaatu'l-Babi al-Halabi, I, 72). It is sunnah to read a chapter after al-Fatiha in the first two rak’ahs of every prayer. A person who follows the imam reads al-Fatiha and a chapter in a prayer in which the imam reads silently. According to Malikis and Hanbalis, a person who follows the imam does not read anything in a prayer in which the imam reads aloud. According to Shafiis, a person who follows the imam reads only al-Fatiha in a prayer in which the imam reads aloud. According to the view of Ahmad b. Hanbal which has become apparent, the followers read the first half of al-Fatiha when the imam keeps silent for the first time and the other half when the imam keeps silent for the second time. Between those two readings, they listen to the qiraah of the imam. (az-Zuhayli, ibid, I, 649).

Islamic scholars unanimously agree that the qiraah in any other language than Arabic in the prayer is not valid because the language of the Quran is Arabic. The following is stated in the verses: "Thus have we sent this down― Arabic Qur'an." (Taha, 20/113), "We know indeed that they say, ‘It is a man that teaches him.’ The tongue of him they wickedly point to is notably foreign, while this is Arabic pure and clear." (an-Nahl, 16/103). The Quran is a miracle with its words and meaning. If the words are changed through translation, the Quran will lose its poetic quality. Therefore, the translation of the Quran is not like the Quran. However, the translation can be regarded as its interpretation. On the other hand, according to some Hanafis, a person who cannot read al-Fatiha in Arabic can read its translation temporarily until he learns to read al-Fatiha in Arabic. (al-Kasani, ibid, I, 112).

Hamdi DÖNDÜREN

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