Reading Al-Fatihah behind the Imam



Reading Al-Fatihah behind the Imam

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

The scholars differ in the issue of Al-Fatihah being recited behind the imam. There are basically 3 stances in this issue.

1: Al-Fatihah isn’t read behind the Imam at all.

2: Al-Fatihah is read behind the Imam during every prayer.

3: Al-Fathihah is read behind the Imam in Thur and Asr prayer, the last Rakah of Maghrib, and the last two Rakah of Isha.[1]

Reason for differing: There are various authentic texts which support all three positions. All the scholars consider Al-Fatihah to be a pillar of the prayer ,except Abu Hanifah. The Ulema agree Al-Fatihah is to be read by the Imam and by the person praying by himself. If a person comes late and finds the people in Ruku, is ignorant of how to read it, or forgets to read it,and then he is excused.[2]

1: Evidence that Al-Fatihah isn’t read behind the Imam during any prayer is the hadith

مَنْ كَانَ لَهُ إِمَامٌ ، فَإِنَّ قِرَاءَةَ الإِمَامِ لَهُ قِرَاءَةٌ.

“Whoever prays behind an Imam, then the Imam’s recitation is sufficient for his[3]


Although this hadith is clear cut in wording, why do the scholars differ? Ibn Taymiyyah said,” This hadith has been narrated Mursal and Musnad.[4] The majority of reliable narrators reported it in the Mursal state from Abdullah ibn Shadad on the Prophet (sallAllahu alayhi wa salam). So in this case they might consider the Musnad narrations as being Shath.[5] However in this case when we have  Mursal and Musnad narrations which are authentic the Musnad Hadith is a proof. And this hadith is graded as being Hasan by Shaykh Al-Albani.[6]

2: Evidence that Al-Fatihah is read behind the Imam during all prayers

لاَ صَلاَةَ لِمَنْ لَمْ يَقْرَأْ بِفَاتِحَةِ الْكِتَابِ

“The prayer in which Al-Fatihah is not read is invalid”[7]

3: Evidence that Al-Fathihah is read behind them Imam in the Thur and Asr prayer, the last Rakah of Maghrib, and the last two Rakah of Isha

وَإِذَا قُرِىءَ الْقُرْآنُ فَاسْتَمِعُواْ لَهُ وَأَنصِتُواْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ

When The Quran is recited , listen to it, and be silent so you may receive mercy[8]

It’s widely reported from the Salaf that this verse was revealed about reading during the prayer. And some say it was revealed for Jumu’ah. Imam Ahmed claimed there was an Ijma stating  that Al-Fathihah isn’t to be read from the followers of the imam when he reads out loud.

This verse’s meaning is general, but some say it’s specific to the prayer, outside the prayer, or includes the meaning for both. Nonetheless, the idea that this verse applies to outside of  the prayer is incorrect, because no Imam said: “It’s obligatory to listen to the Quran outside of the prayer.”

Listening to Quran of the Imam’s during congregational prayer is established through this verse. Furthermore there are Ahadeeth that support it as well.[9]

إِنَّمَا جُعِلَ الإِمَامُ لِيُؤْتَمَّ بِهِ ، فَإِذَا كَبَّرَ فَكَبِّرُوا ، وَإِذَا قَرَأَ فَأَنْصِتُوا ،

“The Imam is placed to be followed. When says, “ Allahu Akbar”, then say,” Allahu Akbar” and when he recites the Quran remain silent”[10]

أَبَا هُرَيْرَةَ يَقُولُ : صَلَّى رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى الله عَليْهِ وسَلَّمَ بِأَصْحَابِهِ صَلاَةً ، نَظُنُّ أَنَّهَا الصُّبْحُ ، فَقَالَ : هَلْ قَرَأَ مِنْكُمْ مِنْ أَحَدٍ ؟ قَالَ رَجُلٌ : أَنَا ، قَالَ : إِنِّي أَقُولُ مَا لِي أُنَازَعُ الْقُرْآنَ !


Abu Hurayrah(radi Allahu anhu) said The Prophet (sallAllahu alayhi wa salam) led his companions in a prayer; we think it was Subh. He asked:”Did anyone among you read?” A man said:”I did” He said: “ I was saying to myself , what is wrong with me that someone is fighting to wrest the Quran from me?” [11]


عن مالك عن نافع :أن عبد الله بن عمر كان إذا سئل هل يقرأ أحد خلف الإمام قال إذا صلى أحدكم خلف الإمام فحسبه قراءة الإمام وإذا صلى وحده فليقرأ قال وكان عبد الله بن عمر لا يقرأ خلف الإمام

Naf’I said Abdullah ibn Umar was asked “ Should a person read behind the Imam. He answered: Whenever one of you prays behind the Imam, the Imam’s recitation suffices, but if you pray alone then read Al-Fatihah. Abdullah ibn Umar didn’t recite Al-Fatihah behind the Imam . [12]


Other evidences of support for the 3rd position

  • There is a consensus that every Surah or verse read after Fathihah by the Imam must be listened to and not read. This proves that the recitation from the Imam is better than reading with him. In fact it confirms the follower is obligated to listen to Quran and not read with the Imam.


  • If reading Fatihah behind the Imam was a must it would mean that its read with him or when the Imam finishes, he must remain silent in order to give the Jama’ah time to read it. I don’t know any difference of opinion between the scholars which say the Imam must remain silent so Al-Fatihah can be read by his followers. Additionally, reading with the Imam has been prohibited from the Quran and Sunnah. It’s a fact that it’s not obligatory to read with the Imam when he reads in the audible prayers.


  • The Prophet (sallAllahu alayhi was salam) didn’t remain silent after Al-Fatihah, so the Jama’ah could read Al-Fatihah.[13]


A side issue related to the topic


If the followers of the Imam are required to remain silent and listen to the Imam, then they have to avoid everything that makes them active.

This includes:

1: Reading Quran

2: Thikr

3: Dua

Consequently, during the audible prayers the followers of their Imam don’t begin their prayer with the opening dua or seek refuge from Shaytaan.[14]

The Conclusion of Ibn Taymiyyah’s study

In conclusion Ibn Taymiyyah mentioned the 3 various views about this issue and leaned towards the 3rd position as being the strongest. He established in his fatwa how we can practice working with all of the authentic evidences presented, and take the middle path between the 2 positions. This kind of  stance is welcomed among the people of Fiqh and Usul. Whereas, we have two texts that appear to outwardly contradict each other, but in reality it’s possible to work according to both texts. This study is called Mushkal hadith and Mukhtalif hadith. [15]


Further reading for this subject:

Books which support “ Al-Fatihah is read behind the Imam as:(  a must, recommended, or permissible)


1: جزء القراءة ——– Imam Al-Bukhari

2: القراءة خلف الإمام — Imam Al-Bayhaqi

3: البرهان العجاب على فرضية أم الكتاب—Al-Alamah Bashir Ahmed

4:هداية المعتدي في القراءة المقتدي——-Shaykh Abdul Aziz Ar-Raheem Aa-ba-dee

5:تحقيق الكلام في وجوب القراءة خلف الإمام ——-Al-Alamah Abdur Rahman Mubarakfuri


Books which support “ Al-Fatihah isn’t to be read behind the Imam


1: كتاب الكرام   —–Abee Mat’ee Al-Balkhee 199H (companion of Abu Hanifah)

2:حرمة القراءة خلف الإمام —–Shaykh Muhammad ibn Abdullah At-Tamartashi

3: فصل الخطاب في مسألة أم الكتاب —–Shaykh Anwar Kashmiri.





Scholars  who support “ Al-Fatihah is read behind the Imam as a must  during the silent and audible prayers



2: Al-Bukhari

3: Ibn Hazam

4: Ash-Shawkani

5: Shaykh Abdul Aziz bin Baz

6: Shaykh Al-Uthaymeen

7: Shaykh Muqbil


Scholars  who support “ Al-Fatihah is read behind the Imam during the silent  prayers and not the audible prayers


1: Umar ibn Khattab

2: Abdullah ibn Umar

3: Ubay ibn Ka’b

4: Imam Malik

5: Imam Ahmed

6.:Ibn Taymiyyah

7: Al-Albani


Scholars  who support “ Al-Fatihah isn’t  read behind the Imam during the silent  and audible prayers


1: Al-Hanafeeyah.






Taken from Shaykhul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah,( Fataawa Al-Iraqiyyah ,Beirut: Al-Maktabul Islami ,1st edition 1425H) Vol 1/ page 37-45


Translated and arranged by :

Abu Aaliyah Abdullah ibn Dwight Battle

Doha, Qatar 1436©




[1]  Fatawa Al-Iraq , Ibn Taymiyyah  Vol1/pg 37

[2] Ash-Sharhul Mumtaz ala Sharutus Salah by Imam Abdul Aziz bin Baz, pg 99

[3]  Ibn Majah 850/ Ahmed 3/339. graded as being Hasan by Al-Albani

[4] Mursal: A hadith that a Tabee’e attributes to the Prophet. This hadeeth is among the categories or Dha’eef( refer to Sharh Al-feeyah hadith , by Al-Aynee 103

[5] Shath : A hadith that a trustworthy person narrates which contradicts those more reliable than him in number , memory and trustworthiness and accuracy in narration. Sharh Al-Alfeeya ,by Al-Aynee 119

[6]  Musnad: A hadith with a connected isnad up to the Prophet, Al-Aynee in Al-Alfeeyah page 94

[7] Al-Bukhari 723 Muslim 900

[8]  Quran: Surah 7 Al-A’raf / verse :204

[9] Ibn Taymiyyah pg 41-43

[10] Abu Dawud 604,An-Nisa’I 921, Ibn Majah 846 .Imam Muslim graded this hadith as being sahih although he left it out of his sahih  #932]

[11] Abu Dawud 826,At-Tirmithi 312, An-Nisa’I 919, Ibn Majah 849-At-Tirmithi graded this hadeeth as Hasan

[12] Al-Muwatta 192 – Isnad is authentic. It is  reported by way of  the golden chain Malik- Nafi- Ibn Umar

[13] Ibn Taymiyyah  page 45

[14]  Ibn Taymiyyah page 46

[15] Refer to Ikhtalaful Hadith, by Imam Ash-Shafi’, Ta’weel Mukhtaliful Hadith by Ibn Qutaybah and Mushal Al-Althar by Imam At-Tahawi, Tahtheeb Athar by ibn Jarir

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