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Reciting the Fatiha Behind the Imam: Ruling & Maintaining Concentration

Answered by Ustadh Faraz A. Khan

Question: 1, I know the Qur’an is not recited in the loud prayers, but is it also not recited in the third and fourth cycles of loud prayers and in the silent prayers? How do we prevent our thoughts from wandering? 2. What about the narrations that says, “there is no prayer for the one that does not recite fatiha”?

: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah

The follower in any congregational prayer, whether loud or silent, does not recite Qur’an; rather, he listens attentively to the recitation if it a loud raka, or stays silent if a silent raka. This applies to the third and fourth rakas of loud prayers as well. [Haskafi, Durr al-Mukhtar; Ala al-Din `Abidin, Hadiyya `Ala’iyya]

With regards to preventing one’s thoughts from wandering, this is a common concern for many people when they first learn this ruling or if they become Hanafi after having followed another school of thought beforehand. Having said that, many of them find more presence and concentration in the prayer later over time by not having to recite as followers. At first the matter seems difficult, but over time one often finds that not having to recite allows for more presence of mind and heart.

One should focus on Allah’s blessings, His generosity, and His kindness. One should express gratitude and love of Allah with the heart. One can, for example, thank Allah in the heart specifically for the blessing of that very prayer, as Allah alone guides us to worship Him, Most High. One should beseech Allah with the heart, asking for His help and expressing one’s lowliness and need for the Divine. One should realize one’s slavehood, and appreciate Allah’s Lordship. InshaAllah, focusing on such matters will strengthen one’s personal relationship with Allah and lead to increased concentration in the prayer.

Understanding the Narration Regarding the Fatiha

With respect to the hadith you mention, “There is no prayer for one who does not recite the Fatiha,” the Hanafi jurists did not overlook it, but rather interpreted it in light of other evidence from the Qur’an and Sunna when deriving the legal ruling of the follower not reciting behind the imam. There are many rigorously-authenticated (sahih) narrations in which several Companions (sahaba) and Followers (tabi`in) explicitly state that the imam’s recitation is sufficient for the follower, as well as that the follower is prohibited from reciting behind the imam. Hence, the above hadith was interpreted by the Hanafis to be directed toward the imam and the one praying alone, but not the follower in congregation.

Imam Badr al-Din al-`Ayni mentions in his commentary of Sahih al-Bukhari that it was the opinion of approximately 80 Companions that the follower in congregation should not recite behind the imam. [Umdat al-Qari]

To further illustrate this point, one can note the following statement by the Companion Jabir (Allah be well pleased with him), who said, “If one performs a raka without reciting Fatiha therein, it is as though he had not performed it, unless he was praying behind the imam.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhi]

For an excellent and detailed discussion of this and similar issues, in which the Hanafi opinion would seem to contradict a hadith yet in fact does not, please see the book “Fiqh al-Imam” by Mufti Abdur Rahman ibn Yusuf, published by White Thread Press.

Lastly, I would also suggest taking a reliable Hanafi fiqh course on worship, which based on your questions could prove very beneficial, insha’Allah.

And Allah alone gives success.

Faraz A. Khan

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Faraz A. Khan has lived in Amman, Jordan, for several years studying and teaching traditional Islamic sciences, with a focus on Hanafi jurisprudence, hadith studies, theology, logic, and Arabic grammar. He translated and annotated the classical Hanafi primer “Ascent to Felicity” (Maraqi ‘l-Sa`adat) by Imam Shurunbulali, recently published by White Thread Press.

This answer was collected from Seekersguidance.org. It’s an online learning platform overseen by Sheikh Faraz Rabbani. All courses are free. They also have in-person classes in Canada.