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The Ruling on Evoking the Name of Allāh Before Acts of Worship

Imām Muḥammad ibn Ṣāliḥ al-ʿUthaymīn

An explanation on the circumstances in which it is required, recommended, and not liked to say the ‘basmallah’.

The following is a collection of points regarding saying ‘Bismillāh’ before certain acts of worship:

  1. Evoking the Name of Allāh Before Performing Wuḍūʾ
  2. Forgetting to Say Bismillāh’
  3. Evoking the Name of Allāh Before Performing Ghusl
  4. Evoking the Name of Allāh Before Performing Tayammum
  5. Evoking the Name of Allāh Before Acts of Worship in General
  6. Forgetting to Evoke the Name of Allāh When Slaughtering and Hunting Animals
  7. Evoking the Name of Allāh before Eating
  8. Evoking the Name of Allāh before Calling the Adhān and Before Praying
  9. Evoking the Name of Allāh Before Beginning the Recitation of the Qurʾān

1. Evoking the Name of Allāh Before Performing Wuḍūʾ

It is obligatory to say ‘Bismillāh’ when performing wuḍūʾ if one remembers it [according to the Ḥanbalī madh`hab]. One should say this in the beginning. The evidence for this is his () saying: ‘There is no wuḍūʾ for the one who does not mention the name of Allāh [before performing it].’1 This proves that saying it is obligatory and that it must be said before commencement. This is the most well-known [place for it to be said] as saying “Bismillāh” when doing something is defined as saying it when beginning the action itself. An example of this is the saying of the Most High:

فَكُلُوا مِمَّا ذُكِرَ اسْمُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ

‘So eat of that [meat] upon which the name of Allāh has been mentioned’
[Al-Anʿām, 6:118]

Also, his ()’s saying: ‘Eat from the [animal] whose blood is allowed to flow and the name of Allāh has been mentioned.2 Saying ‘Bismillāh’ when slaughtering would be before commencing the act itself. This is the most well-known opinion from the (Ḥanbalī) madh`hab and is based on the rule: ‘anything negated [in the Qurʾān or Sunnah as in this ḥadīth: ‘There is no wuḍūʾ…’] refers primarily to absence of existence, then soundness, then completeness.’ Thus, if the negation of anything is related in a passage from the Qurʾān or the Sunnah, it would refer firstly to that article being non-existent. If the article in question is present, then it means that it has occurred but in an incorrect way. It is, therefore, negated from a purely judicial [sharʿī] standpoint. If, then, there exists an act of worship that is correct even in the presence of the specified article, then the [passage relaying its negation] refers to it not being executed in the most complete manner, not that the act itself is incorrect.

An example of negation referring to that which is non-existent [is to say]: ‘The universe has no Creator except for Allāh.’

An example of negation referring to that which is incorrect [but present]: ‘There is no ṣalāh for the one who does not recite the Mother of the Qurʾān. (i.e. al-Fātiḥah)3

An example of negation referring to a lack of perfection or incompletion: ‘None of you truly believe until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.4

If we were to apply the ḥadīth of saying ‘Bismillāh’ when performing wuḍūʾ to this rule, it would stipulate that saying ‘Bismillāh’ is a prerequisite for the soundness of wuḍūʾ, not just that it is obligatory. This is because negating wuḍūʾ for one who has not said ‘Bismillāh’ is negating that it has been performed correctly. Any time an act of worship ceases to be correct because of a missing article, that article, therefore, must be a prerequisite for it. However, [according to the Ḥanbalī madh`hab], saying ‘Bismillāh’ is obligatory, not simply a prerequisite. It is as if they inclined away from holding the opinion that it is a prerequisite for the soundness of wuḍūʿ because of the authenticity of the ḥadīth. The ḥadīth in question has some weaknesses. Due to this, Al-Muwaffaq (may Allāh have mercy on him) holds the opinion that it is Sunnah, not obligatory. As Imām Aḥmad (may Allāh have mercy on him) said: “There is nothing confirmed regarding this.” If there is nothing confirmed regarding this, we cannot use [the ḥadīth] as evidence.

Also, many of those who described the wuḍūʾ of the Prophet () did not mention his saying ‘Bismillah’ [before it]. If such a saying was obligatory such that wuḍūʿ itself would be incorrect in its absence, it would have been mentioned.

Also, when using the lavatory, Imām Aḥmad said: “If a man sneezes, let him praise Allāh [i.e. say ‘Alḥamdulillāh’] in his heart.’ We can glean from this narration that one should also say ‘Bismillāh’ in his heart (before beginning wuḍūʿ).

2. Forgetting to Say Bismillāh’

[According to the Ḥanbalī madh`hab], the obligatory ruling of saying ‘Bismillāh’ only applies if one remembers [to say it]. If one was to forget to say it in the beginning, should he say it [when he remembers] and continue [his wuḍūʿ]? Or should he start from the beginning ? There is a difference of opinion in this issue between ‘Al-Iqnāʿ’ and ‘Al-Muntahá’-which are both from the books of Ḥanbalī jurisprudence. The author of ‘Al-Muntahá’ says: He should restart. This is because he remembered before he finished his wuḍūʿ so he should go back and perform his wuḍūʾ in the correct way. While the author of ‘Al-Iqnāʿ’ said: He should continue. This is because the ruling of saying it ceases to be obligatory if one forgets and completes his wuḍūʿ. Here, it [not being obligatory] is even more befitting as he has already completed a portion of his wuḍūʾ.

The Ḥanbalī madh`hab—according to the contemporary jurists—is what has been related in ‘Al-Muntahá’ [i.e. that he should restart]. This is because should there exist a difference of opinion between these two books, the madh`hab will always follow what is mentioned in ‘Al-Muntahá.

3. Evoking the Name of Allāh Before Performing Ghusl

The jurists (may Allāh have mercy on all of them) say: Evoking the name of Allāh is also obligatory when performing ghusl. This is because it is one of the two forms of cleansing. If saying ‘Bismillāh’ is obligatory when performing wuḍūʾ, then it must also be obligatory when performing ghusl. Also, wuḍūʿ is the minor form of cleaning and occurs more frequently for a Muslim of answerable age. Thus, if saying ‘Bismillāh’ is obligatory in this minor form, it is more befitting to be obligatory when cleansing oneself from major impurity.

4. Evoking the Name of Allāh Before Performing Tayammum

They also say: It is obligatory when performing tayammum. This is because it acts as the replacement in the absence of water. That which replaces something should take on the same ruling of that which it has replaced. However, this can be disputed as tayammum does not take on the ruling of what it has replaced in terms of washing the limbs. Tayammum only involves two limbs: the face and hands, in both major and minor forms of impurity. Thus, it is wrong to say: whatever is obligatory when performing wudūʾ is also obligatory when performing tayammum. However, it is better to say ‘Bismillāh’ when performing tayammum as a precautionary measure.

Furthermore, the one who truly contemplates the ḥadīth of ʿAmmār ibn Yāsir (may Allāh be pleased with him) in which he () said: “It is enough for you to only move your hands like this [motioning for him to teach the method of performing tayammum],5 will realise from it that saying ‘Bismillāh’ is not obligatory before performing tayammum.

5. Evoking the Name of Allāh Before Acts of Worship in General

In accordance with Islamic legislation, saying ‘Bismillāh’ [before the performance of an act or worship] may be a prerequisite for that action to be deemed correct. Saying it may also be considered obligatory, Sunnah, or even an innovation. For example, it is considered a prerequisite when slaughtering or hunting an animal. There are no exceptions to its omission, whether this be: intentional omission, ignorance, or forgetfulness. If one slaughters or hunts an animal and forgets to say ‘Bismillāh’ before [either setting the hunting animal on the quarry or cutting the animal’s neck], then [that quarry or] slaughtered animal will be ḥarām [for consumption].

6. Forgetting to Evoke the Name of Allāh When Slaughtering and Hunting Animals

While according to the [Ḥanabalī] madh`hab, if one was to hunt an animal and forget to say ‘Bismillāh’ before it, the animal becomes ḥarām [for consumption]. However, if he slaughters an animal and omits the name of Allāh, the slaughtered animal is lawful [for consumption]. This [issue] is from among the stranger matters of [judicial] legislation! Indeed, the hunter is more deserving of being excused. How, then, have we excused the one who is slaughtering an animal, but we have not excused the hunter?! It is frequently the case that when [the hunter] sees his quarry, he rushes and may forget to evoke the name of Allāh prior [to shooting it or setting his animal upon it]. The evidence to [support the opinion] of the (Ḥanbalī) madh`hab is his () saying: ‘If you send your [hunting] dog [upon its quarry] and evoke the name of Allāh, then eat [from it].6 This [ḥadīth] would stipulate that if you were to set your dog but not evoke the name of Allāh, it would be impermissible for you to eat [the hunted animal].

So, we say [in answer to them], he () also said: ‘‘Eat from the [animal] whose blood is allowed to flow and of which the name of Allāh has been mentioned, [every part of the animal is fit for consumption] save for the teeth and nails.7 What is the difference between this [ḥadīth] and that [one]? There is absolutely no difference between the two. The permissibility of the slaughtered animal is attached to the prerequisites of allowing the blood to flow and evoking the name of Allāh just as the permissibility of the hunted animal is predicated upon sending the [hunting] animal and evoking the name of Allāh. Considering this, there is no justification for a differential ruling. It is the same as if someone were to slaughter an animal with an electric shock forgetting [that such a method of slaughtering is ḥarām as in the aforementioned ḥadīth], his slaughter would be considered maytah8 and thus ḥarām. In this vein, the slaughtered animal of one who forgets to evoke the name of Allāh is also ḥarām.

If it is then said: Did the Most High not say:

رَبَّنَا لَا تُؤَاخِذْنَا إِن نَّسِينَا أَوْ أَخْطَأْنَا

Our Lord, do not impose blame upon us if we have forgotten or erred.
[Al-Baqarah, 2:286]

We say [in response]: Certainly the one who forgets to evoke the name of Allāh when slaughtering is not sinful here, but the one who intentionally eats from the animal slaughtered in this way would be, because Allāh says:

وَلَا تَأْكُلُوا مِمَّا لَمْ يُذْكَرِ اسْمُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ

And do not eat of that upon which the name of Allāh has not been mentioned
[Al-Anʿām, 6:121]

Consumption is, therefore, forbidden. However, if someone was to eat from it while ignorant of its condition, then we say he is not sinful because the Most High said:

رَبَّنَا لَا تُؤَاخِذْنَا إِن نَّسِينَا أَوْ أَخْطَأْنَا

Our Lord, do not impose blame upon us if we have forgotten or erred.
[Al-Baqarah, 2:286]

This opinion was taken by Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah (may Allāh have mercy on him).

If it is said: This opinion would stipulate the destruction of a lot of the wealth of the Muslims. It may even be that the slaughtered animal is amongst the most opulent of livestock, like a prized she-camel. Should we then order the owner of such an animal to feed such expensive meat to his dogs just because he forgot to evoke the name of Allāh when slaughtering it?

We answer: If we prohibit him once because of his own forgetfulness, he most likely will not forget again. For evoking the name of Allāh is obligatory here, just as it is in wuḍūʾ.

7. Evoking the Name of Allāh before Eating

Evoking the name of Allāh may also be liked [mustaḥabb]9 such as before eating according to the majority opinion of the scholars.10 While other scholars say: It is obligatory, and this is the correct opinion [in this matter].

8. Evoking the Name of Allāh before Calling the Adhān and Before Praying

It may also be an innovation [bidʿah] like if someone says before beginning the adhān for example: ‘In the name of Allāh, the Most Merciful [to His creation], the Ever Merciful [to His believing servants]’, or if someone was to say it before beginning his ṣalāh.

9. Evoking the Name of Allāh Before Beginning the Recitation of the Qurʾān

As for reciting the Qurʾān, one should evoke the name of Allāh when beginning a sūrah. If starting in the middle of a sūrah, some scholars say: It is liked [mustaḥabb to say ‘Bismillāh’]. Other scholars have refuted this—and they are correct—saying that Allāh has only ordered us at the beginning of our recitation to say: ‘I seek refuge in Allāh from the accursed Shayṭān.’ So if you want to recite from the middle of a sūrah, do not evoke the name of Allāh.

Endnotes:

[1] Ḥasan: through its many different narrations that strengthen one another, narrated by Aḥmad 2: 418, Abū Dāwūd: 101, and Ibn Mājah: 399. Graded ḥasan by Ibn Taymiyyah in ‘Sharḥ al-ʿUmdah’ 1:170 and Ibn Kathīr in ‘Irshād al-Faqīh’ 1:36.
[2] Authentic: Narrated by Al-Bukhārī: 2488 and Muslim: 1968.
[3] Authentic: Narrated by Al-Bukhārī: 735 and Muslim: 632.
[4] Authentic: Narrated by Al-Bukhārī: 13.
[5] Authentic: Narrated by Al-Bukhārī: 347 and Muslim: 368.
[6] Authentic: Narrated by Al-Bukhārī: 5476 and Muslim: 1929.
[7] Authentic: Narrated by Al-Bukhārī: 2488 and Muslim: 1968.
[8] Maytah: an animal that is either slaughtered in an incorrect way or dies of natural causes which is unfit for consumption because its life was not taken in accordance with the mentioned ḥadīth. As such, the animal would not be considered ḥalāl.
[9] Mustaḥabb: an action that is deserving of reward for the one who does it, while the one who does not is not sinful.
Wājib: The one who does it is rewarded and the one who leaves it is sinful.
Mubāḥ: Actions which are neither deserving of reward or punishment; the one who does it and the one who leaves it are equal.
[10] Translator note: The consensus opinion is not always the correct one for a given issue as is the case here. The correct opinion in any judicial issue is always the one closest to the Qurʾān and the authentic Sunnah regardless of whether that opinion is adopted widely or by just a few scholars.

Source: Al-Sharḥ Al-Mumtiʿ, 1:158-163
Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: June 13, 2023
Edited: June 15, 2023

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