Commenting On Some Arguments For Reciting Behind The Imam

Answered according to Hanafi Fiqh by

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

It is Not the Madhhab: Commenting On Some Arguments For Reciting Behind The Imam

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Walaikum assalam,

>Not reciting Surah al Fatihah behind the Imam in any salah is the view of Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Abu Yusuf, Ibn Abi Layla, Sufyan al Thawri, Hasan bin Hayy, and their followers. This is the most famous verdict in the Hanafi fiqh and it is also one of the narrations from Imam Muhammad bin Hasan al Shaibani.<

Rather, it is the established position of Imam Muhammad. Imam Kamal ibn al-Humam (in his Fath al-Qadeer) and others show that the narration from him that one may recite in quiet prayer is an aberrant narration, as the position explicitly mentioned in all the major works of Imam Muhammad (which are still available) is that it is absolutely impermissible for the follower to recite behind the imam, in all prayers.

>A number of Hanafi ulama have also held the view that, although not obligatory, it is better to recite Surah al Fatihah behind the Imam in silent salah such as Dhuhr and Asr. (If done, it should be so quietly and in such a manner that it does not confuse others or clash<

This goes against:

1. The position authentically reported from all three of our Imams, including Muhammad ibn al-Hasan;
2. This goes against all the major mutun of the madhhab;
3. This goes against all the major commentaries of the madhhab;
4. This goes against what the greatest of the Hanafi hadith experts, such as Imam al-Tahawi, Imam Abu Bakr al-Razi, Imam al-Sarakhsi, and (most notably, among the later hadith masters) Imam Kamal ibn al-Humam and Imam Badr al-Din al-`Ayni affirmed. These men were all mujtahids.
5. This goes against what the greatest of the early fuqaha of the madhhab affirmed;
6. This goes against what the greatest of the later fuqaha of the madhhab confirmed, such as the abovementioned Ibn al-Humam, Qasim ibn Qutlubugha, Ibn Amir Haajj, al-`Ayni, al-Zayla`I, Ibn Nujaym, Ibrahim al-Halabi, al-Tumurtashi, al-Haskafi, al-Shurunbulali, al-Hamawi, Abu al-Su`ud al-Masri, al-Tahtawi, Ibn Abidin, Ala’ al-Din Abidin, and others.

>with their recitation, especially the Imam’s.) The desirability of reciting Surah al Fatihah behind the Imam in silent salah has also been narrated from Imam Abu Hanifah as mentioned by Zahidi in al Mujtabaa*, and more famously from Imam Muhammad bin Hasan al Shaibani <

Al-Zahidi’s works, though very useful, are noted by the fuqaha (as Ibn Abidin mentions) are weak in transmitting the positions of the school. As such, they state that when something is only mentioned by him, it is of no consequence.

>as quoted by many authors. This was also the view of many later Hanafi ulama including Imam Abu Hafs al Kabeer (one of the students of Imam Muhammad, d. 264 AH), Shaikh al Tasleem (d. 737 AH), Mulla Ali al Qari (d. 1014 AH), Shaikh Ahmad Mulla Jeewan (d. 1130 AH), Shah Abdul Raheem Dihlawi and his son Shah Waliullah Dihlawi (d. 1176 AH), and Allamah Abdul Hayy Luckhnawi (d. 1304 AH). Many others including Allamah Abdul Hayy Luckhnawi (d. 1304 AH) and Shaikh Ahmad Mulla Jeewan have actually ascribed the above opinion to a large group of Hanafi ulama and not just a select few.<

Mulla Ali al-Qari, though a mujaddid, is not someone who is considered one of mujtahids of the madhhab such that if his position could be followed when he goes against the position of the madhhab, as here.

Mulla Jeewan is primarily known as a master of usul al-fiqh. The same can be said of him, a fortiori, as was said of Mulla Ali al-Qari.

The Dihlawis, especially Shah Waliullah, were ‘free thinkers’ and did not limit themselves to the principles or particular methodology of the Hanafi madhhab. As such, such positions are not surprising from them.

Imam Abd al-Hayy al-Lakhnawi had ijtihadic tendencies, and differed on many usuli points from the methodology of the Hanafi school (as he himself notes). As such, though a great hadith expert and faqih, he is not a Hanafi authority when he goes against the established positions of the school.

Allama Qasim ibn Qutlubugha, who is acknowledged to have been a mujtahid himself, for his mastery of fiqh, usul, and (especially) hadith, said of his own teacher, Imam Kamal ibn al-Humam, who is the greatest Hanafi faqih in the last 600 years, as the Hanafi fuqaha affirm,

“The investigations of our shaykh are of no consideration.”

That is, those investigations of his shaykh (Ibn al-Humam) that go against the established position of the Hanafi school, are of no consideration.

None of those quoted in support of reciting behind the imam come anywhere close to Imam Kamal Ibn al-Humam’s rank in the madhhab.

>Allamah Abdul Hayy Luckhnawi has a comprehensive work exclusively on the subject titled Imam al Kalam fi ma Yatallaq bi al Qiraat Khalf al Imam in which, after extensive research, he concludes that the above view (the desirability of reciting Surah al Fatihah behind the Imam in silent salah) is the most correct. Maulana Dhafar Ahmad Thanvi Uthmani also dedicated a book, Fatihah al Kalam fi al Qiraat Khalf al Imam to the topic in which he confirms that it is permissible for the congregation to recite Surah al Fatihah behind the Imam in silent salah.<

I asked Sayyidi Shaykh Mahmoud Ashraf Usmani, one of the top living fuqaha and hadith scholars of Pakistan, about this matter. He said, “We respect our elders unconditionally. However, we do not leave the established positions of the madhhab for their investigations.” He confirmed that the position of the overwhelming majority of the Indian Hanafi fuqaha and hadith scholars is in line with the relied upon position of the Hanafi school, namely that it is prohibitively disliked (makruh tahriman) for the follower to recite in any prayer behind the imam, whether the latter is reciting out loud or quietly. He said that the positions of Imam Lakhnawi and Allama Zafar Usmani are their own investigations, and not the position of the madhhab.

I close with what Allama Ibn Abidin pointed out in his Sharh Uqud Rasm al-Mufti:

“Understanding evidences (dalil) is only (truly) possible for someone at the level of ijtihad (mujtahid), for it depends on knowing that the evidence is free of that which opposes it, which depends on having complete awareness of the primary sources, which is not possible for other than a mujtahid. As for merely knowing that a given mujtahid took a given ruling from a given set of evidences, it is of little consequence…” (Sharh Uqud Rasm al-Mufti, in Rasa’il Ibn Abidin, 1: 30)

And Allah knows best.

Faraz Rabbani

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