Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah
Question: Assalamu alaykum
I live in Hanafi community and I am secretly Shafi’i as I feel it could lead to problems for me. Sometimes I have to lead the prayer at the mosque.
Can I recite the basmalah quietly when leading the prayer to avoid discord?
Answer: In the Name of God, the Merciful and Compassionate
Thank you for your question. May Allah grant you the best of states and guide you to what is pleasing to Him.
As you know, the Shafi’is consider the Basmalah a verse of the Fatiha, and therefore reciting it takes on the same rulings as the other verses of the Fatiha. One of these rulings is that it is recommended to recite it loudly during audible prayers, and quietly during silent prayers. To do the opposite (loudly in silent prayers and quietly in audible prayers) is disliked, unless for a valid reason.
‘The Basmalah is a complete verse from it [the Fatiha], and [amongst] it’s requisites are that … All of its verses are recited, … [and] that it’s recitation is audible to the extent that the reciter himself can hear each letter of the Fatiha [he is reciting] … and it is recommended to recite aloud in the two cycles of Fajr and the first two cycles of the two evening prayers … and it is recommended to recite quietly in the other prayers … And if he recites quietly in an audible prayer, or does the opposite, without a valid reason, it is disliked.’ [Bushra al Karim]
Your reciting the Basmalah quietly to yourself would be deemed a valid reason to not recite it aloud in audible prayers, as the prevention of discord is far greater than fulfilling the individual sunnah of reciting the Basmalah loudly. Therefore, you may recite it quietly and this would be without dislike (kiraaha), in fact you may even be rewarded for forgoing your school’s position in order to keep the peace and maintain good relations with other worshipers. The only condition is that you hear the letters of the Basmalah yourself.
For future reference, other than the Basmalah and raising the hands during movements, other aspects of the Shafi’i prayers which are sunnah and can be omitted (without dislike in your situation, which is a valid excuse) are; maintaining the raised index finger at the end of the tashahhud, the sitting after the second prostration and before standing (jalsat al Istirahaaha), and the placing the hands above the navel.
However, do be aware that in the Shafi’i school, as a follower, if any part of your Takbirat al Ihram (the initial takbir when entering the prayer) overlaps with the Takbirat al Ihram of your imam, then your prayer is invalid, so you would have to wait until your (Hanafi) imam has completed his initial takbir completely.
As a final note, when it comes to our madhabs, we do not need to be set in stone or take a hard stance. We do our best to stick to the school of our following, but if circumstances require some flexibility, then we should assess the situation, and adjust to what is most appropriate and beneficial all round.
At the same, any long term situation that forces you to indefinitely leave off recommended acts in your school, or you feel like you are having to hide and be secretive, is not a healthy situation and does eventually need to be resolved, even if it comes about slowly and gradually. If possible, speak to someone you can trust and is wise enough to know how to deal with the situation. However, if there is no one that’s fits this description, then continue as you are and make du’a that Allah brings a solution to your current predicament, and opens the hearts and minds of our communities.
All praise is to God, who guides our youth and makes them among those who love Him. May Allah grant you tawfiq in all your affairs.
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah
Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.