Answered by: Molana Jamal Ahmed
In Surah Fatihah, I have been exposed to two variants of the word
1. meem-aleef laam kaaf: http://tanzil.net/#1:4
2. meem laam kaaf: https://quran.com/1/4-14
Could you please give an authoritative, comprehensive explanation to
this geared towards the layman – which includes possible associated
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Wa alikum salaam
The prophet peace and blessings be upon him said “verily this Quran has been revealed in seven styles so recite it in a way that is easy for you from out of these.” Bukhari and muslim as stated in Mishkat vol.1, pg.414, hadith no.2211. darul kutub al ilmiyah.
It is clear from the above hadith that there are more than one way of reading the quran. This was requested by the prophet from Allah so as to make it easy for the different tribes of Arabia to recite it in their own dialect. (Mirqat vol.4, pg. 1507, darul fikr.)
However it is important to remember that you should only read one way at a time, you cannot mix them up. Furthermore, you can only read in a certain manner after you have learnt it from a scholar of Quranic recitation.
As for your question about the word Malik in surah fatihah, you can read it both ways, however if you are reading in the manner of Imam hafs (one of the seven famous scholars of qirat) then you should only read it with an alif after the meem i.e. Maalik, unless you have learnt the other ways too.
As for the meaning, the one with an alif after the meem, means the owner of all matters, whilst the one without the alif means the king. (tafseerul jalalain pg.1, Darul ghad al jaded. And umdatut tafaseer (abridged form of ibn katheer,) pg. 63, vol.1, dar ibn hazm
Only Allah knows best.
Written by Molana Jamal Ahmed
Checked and approved by Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah
Darul Ifta Birmingham