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How to Pray for the One Who Has Not Yet Learnt Sūrah al-Fātiḥah

Imām Muḥammad ibn Ṣāliḥ al-ʿUthaymīn

Proof for the necessity of reciting Sūrah al-Fātiḥah during ṣalāh, or the tasbīḥ if one does not yet know it, as well as various issues relating to the attainment of learning Sūrah al-Fātiḥah.

[Q]: If a person does not know Sūrah al-Fātiḥah, is it obligatory for him to learn it?

[A]: Yes, he must learn it because reciting it in the ṣalāh is obligatory. All actions required to complete an obligatory act are considered obligatory as well [i.e., reciting Qurʾān is an obligatory aspect of performing ṣalāh, so learning to recite is just as obligatory as performing the ṣalāh itself]. For example, it is obligatory upon the person who does not have water to seek it out, or purchase it for wuḍūʾ or ghusl if it is being sold. This seeking of water or purchasing becomes obligatory because the act for which it is being performed is similarly obligatory [i.e. ṣalāh].

Note here that reciting Fātihah in ṣalāh does not become obligatory only after a person has learnt it. Rather, reciting Fātiḥah is an obligatory aspect of the ṣalāh regardless. It is therefore obligatory for him to learn this sūrah. If the time before the next ṣalāh is brief such that he is unable to learn it before the time for prayer, he may recite anything from the Qurʾān he knows besides it with which he finds ease. This is evidenced by the general statement made by the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم): “Recite from the Qurʾān that which is easy for you”.1 If he has not memorised anything from the Qurʾān, then he may say the tasbīḥ: “Subḥānallah, al-ḥamdullilāh, lā ilāha illá Allāh, wa-Allāhu Akbar, wa-lā ḥawla wa-lā quwwata illá billāh”.2 These are five statements.

[Q]: How can these five statements take the place of al-Fātiḥah which comprises seven verses?

[A]: It is not incumbent for a replacement to be completely equal to that which is being replaced. For example, in the expiative action for a broken oath, a person may clothe ten poor persons or feed them despite the amount of wealth spent being largely disparate between these two actions. The money spent in these actions is also unequal to the sum spent to free a slave.3 Thus, it is not stipulated that a replacement completely reflects that which is being replaced in every way. However, our jurists (رحمهم الله) also say: If this person has memorised anything from the Qurʾān besides al-Fātiḥah, he should recite it but suffice with an amount equal to that of Sūrah al-Fātiḥah. Here, they differentiate between this and merely saying dhikr as if a person is unable to recite al-Fātiḥah but can still recite some of the Qurʾān, he should do so in a way that mirrors what he was unable to accomplish as much as possible. This is different to that which represents a complete replacement [i.e., dhikr] which does not have to resemble what it has replaced.

In summary, this issue has several levels. The first is reciting al-Fātiḥah. If one is unable, then he should recite whatever is easy for him from the Qurʾān besides it. If he is unable to do this, then he should say the tasbīḥ [Subḥānallah], taḥmīd [Al-ḥamdullilāh], tahlīl [Lā ilāha illá Allāh], and the hawqalah [Lā ḥawla wa-lā quwwata illá billāh].

[Q]: If I cannot find anyone to teach me for free, is it obligatory for me to pay a teacher [to teach me what I require to pray]?

[A]: Yes. Just as if a person can only access water by purchasing it, it becomes obligatory for him to buy it such that he may perform wuḍūʾ.

[Q]: Following on from this last query, is it permissible for a person to seek payment in return for teaching the people Qurʾān?

[A]: The correct opinion in this issue is permissibility. This may be evidenced by the saying of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم): “Indeed, the most deserving payment is that which is taken in return for the Book of Allāh”.4 This person who seeks payment has sought it in return for that which is done for the benefit of another which is the act of teaching. This is quite different to a person who seeks payment in return for merely reciting which is impermissible. For example, he says: I will recite Sūrah al-Baqarah for such-and-such amount. We reply to him: This is ḥarām. If, instead he was to say: I will teach this sūrah to you for this amount, then this is permissible. For this reason, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) once facilitated the marriage of a man to a woman using only the Qurʾān he had memorised, in which he agreed to teach her as a dowry, since he did not have anything besides it to give.5

Endnotes:
[1] Authentic: narrated by al-Bukhārī: 757 and Muslim: 397.
[2] Ḥasan: narrated by Abū Dāwūd: 832 and graded authentic by Shaykh al-Albānī in Ṣaḥīḥ Sunan Abī Dāwūd: 785.
[3] Referencing the verse in Sūrah al-Māʾidah 5:89:

لَا يُؤَاخِذُكُمُ اللَّهُ بِاللَّغْوِ فِي أَيْمَانِكُمْ وَلَٰكِن يُؤَاخِذُكُم بِمَا عَقَّدتُّمُ الْأَيْمَانَ ۖ فَكَفَّارَتُهُ إِطْعَامُ عَشَرَةِ مَسَاكِينَ مِنْ أَوْسَطِ مَا تُطْعِمُونَ أَهْلِيكُمْ أَوْ كِسْوَتُهُمْ أَوْ تَحْرِيرُ رَقَبَةٍ

“Allah will not punish you for what is unintentional in your oaths, but He will punish you for your deliberate oaths; for its expiation (a deliberate oath) feed ten Masākīn (poor persons), on a scale of the average of that with which you feed your own families; or clothe them; or manumit a slave.”

[4] Authentic: narrated by al-Bukhārī: 5737.
[5] Authentic: narrated by al-Bukhārī: 2310.

Source: Al-Sharḥ al-Mumtiʿ 3: 66-71
Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: June 22, 2024
Edited: June 22, 2024

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