The Common Parts of Prayer, Takbiratul ihram


Takbiratul ihram, or the statement of “Allahu Akbar” is the inaugural part of prayer. A prophetic hadith concludes, “The moment takbiratul ihram is uttered, paarayer enters a state of consecration, and the moment that state comes to an end is when the worshipper finishes reciting tasleem”, meaning that when the worshipper recites takbir, the prayer starts, and thus they should refrain from all that which may render prayer batil until all is done with the recitation of tasleem where and when the worshipper is considered having discharged their obligation.

For that reason takbiratul ihram, and not niyyah, has been treated as the first part of prayer. That is because niyyah alone does not set prayer rolling.

69.The Wording

“Allahu Akbar”, as we have already mentioned is the precise wording of takbiratul ihram. That is, no other wording, such as “al-Khaliqu Akbar”, or Allahul Adheem Akbar, is not admissible. Similarly, any equivalent in any other language is not permissible. Whomever is ignorant of this takbir has to learn it. Should there be not enough time, the worshipper has to be trained into learning how to utter it. If this also fails, they should recite it to best of their ability. If it is not feasible for non-Arabic speaking people to say it in its Arabic form, they should do their utmost to say it as close as possible to Arabic. Alternatively, they may utter what is equivalent to the Arabic phrase.

70. Insofar as its meaning is concerned, takbiratul ihram has to be recited independent of any other utterance, i.e. neither prior to it nor after it. Thus, it is not permissible for the worshipper to say it as part of, say, “Qaalal Mala’ikatu wa Ulul Ilm Allahu Akbar”, or, “Allahu Akbar Min Kulli Shay’”.

71.As an utterance, takbiratul ihram has to be initiated independently. That is, if the worshippers were talking prior to uttering the phrase, “Allahu Akbar”, they have to stop at the last letter in such a way that it forms a complete halt of the last sound to avoid encroaching on the sound of hamzah of the word “Allah”.

72. Those who could not utter takbiratul ihram could intend to do so in his heart or with sign language where possible, as a matter of al ahwatil awla( a kind of optional precaution).

73.Conditions: Takbiratul ihram must be recited from a standing position. Indeed, the worshipper has to be standing prior to uttering takbir to ensure that it be recited in that position. Just as it is obligatory to recite it standing, so is it obligatory to maintain a certain posture of the standing position. That is, the worshipper must be calm, collected, stable, and upright. This will be elaborated in para. (115) , Allah willing.

74.Number of Times: It is obligatory to utter takbiratul ihram once. However, it is recommended (mustahab) to recite “Allahu Akbar” six, four, or two times before the actual one which heralds the start of prayer. In all circumstances, it is preferable to make niyyah that the last of these takbirs is the obligatory one through which prayer is entered into.

75.During takbiratul ihram, it is mustahab for the worshippers to raise their hands close to their ears or face with the palms pointing towards the qiblah and the fingers tucked together.

76.Irregularities: Whomsoever skips takbiratul ihram, their prayer would not count. That is, irrespective of whether it was done deliberately and knowingly that it is obligatory, or inadvertently, including if they were ignorant of it being compulsory. He who abandons the standing position while reciting takbiratul ihram, preferring to do it from a sitting position should receive the same treatment.

The prayer of a person, uttered from a standing position that is neither a stable nor an upright one, can be sanctioned, provided they were ignorant of the fact that movement in the standing position cannot be tolerated. Conversely, the prayer be deemed batil.

Whomsoever recites a second takbir, it is considered as an extra one which might invalidate prayer, if it was done intentionally; should this be the case, they have to recite takbir anew to ensure that the prayer is valid. If the action has emanated from ignorance of what is obligatory or it has been done inadvertently, the prayer should stand.

77.Doubt: If the doubt, as to the utterance of takbiratul ihram has been done or not, arises prior to the obligatory recitation of suratul-Fatiha, the worshipper must utter it. If the doubt arises after the recitation of al-Fatiha has actually begun, they must continue with what they are doing.

However, should the worshippers be aware that they recited the takbir, yet they doubted whether it was sound, they must rule out such a doubt. That is, regardless where the doubt took place, i.e. after or before embarking on al-Fatiha.

2.Recitation During the First and the Second Ruka’

By recitation, we mean the recitation from the Holy Qur’an in prayer. Hadith has it, “No prayer will count, unless the Fatiha ,inaugural surah of the Qur’an, is recited in it”.

78.The obligatory part of recitation:

What is obligatory on the worshipper, after uttering takbiratul ihram, is to recite al-Fatiha and part of any other surah, albeit a whole one, after al-Fatiha is preferable as a matter of ihtiyat mustahab. All this goes for first as well as the second ruka’.

The recitation of the surah would not be complete unless it is done with Basmalah, i.e. Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim, wherever it is mentioned at the start of the surah in the Holy Qur’an. Basmalah is an integral part of all surahs in the Qur’an except at-Tawbah.

79.There can be no prayer without surah-al-Fatiha.As for the surahs which are recited after it, they are obligatory, except in the following cases:

a. It is not obligatory to recite other surahs ,besides al-Fatiha, in the daily supererogatory prayers and other voluntary ones, although it is preferable to recite those surahs, even it turned, by way of nadhr or the like, to be an obligatory one.

b. The recitation of other surahs can be forgone in the event the worshippers find it difficult to do so because of, say, sickness, or being in a hurry to attend a business of his.

c. When time does not allow for reciting both al-Fatiha and another surah, abandoning the recitation of the second surah becomes paramount for the sake of ensuring that the entire prayer in hand, or at least a greater part thereof, would be said within the given time.

There is though a fourth case which will be discussed in the rules governing congregational prayer, Inshallah.

Conditions Concerning the Recitation of the Second Surah

Although the Law-giver has left it to the worshippers to choose which surah, after al-Fatiha, they like to recite, the following conditions have to be observed.

80.a.The worshippers are free to recite a long or a short surah from the Holy Qur’an, provided that there is ample time to recite the longer surahs. Should they, despite the short time left, deliberately choose to recite a long surah, their prayer would be rendered batil. If this is done inadvertently, only to realize their mistake, they must switch to reciting a shorter surah, time permitting. Should they remain unaware of their mistake until they finished prayer, their prayer would be deemed batil.That is, if they were not able to do at least one ruka’ inside the appointed time of that prayer . In such a case, they have to repeat it by way of qadha’’ as a matter of ihtiyat. Otherwise, the prayer is valid.

81. b. It is not permissible for the worshipper to recite any of the four surahs of Azaa’im, already mentioned in para 45 of the Chapter on Ghusl. The reason why it is forbidden to recite them is because they contain ayahs which, when recited, makes it incumbent on the worshipper to prostrate themselves; thus, they could be putting themselves in an untenable situation.

However, should this happen, they should perform the prostration as required by the ayah and repeat their prayer as a matter of ihtiyat. Should the worshipper not prostrate themselves, they would be considered guilty, yet their prayer would still be valid. That said, pointing to the place of sujood while reciting the ayah, i.e. notionally, cannot be ruled out, provided that prostration is performed after the prayer has finished as a matter of ihtiyat,

If the worshippers find themselves in that untenable situation, having inadvertently recited one of these ayahs, what should they do?

A. If they realize their mistake before reciting the ayah which requires them to prostrate themselves, they can switch to another surah; their prayer should be good enough. It should be alright also, even if they remembered after reciting the surah and performing the prostration because such an inadvertent addition in the prayer would not invalidate it.

What would the worshippers do if they heard the ayah which calls for prostration recited while they are in prayer?

A. If they heard it just by chance, i.e. without being attentive, they must carry on with their prayer, in which case it shall be deemed valid; they do not need to worry about anything else. Should they listen to it attentively, they can nod in the direction of the place of sujood, finish their prayer, which will be considered a valid one.

All what we have been discussing thus far, concerning the surahs of Azaa’im, is confined to the obligatory daily prayers. As for reciting them in any voluntary prayer, it is permissible, and there is no problem in carrying out the required sujood and carrying on with one’s prayer as normal.

82.It is not obligatory to decide on the name of the surah right at the start of basmalah. That is, you can recite the basmalah then recite any surah other than, say, the one you have intended, for this reason or the other, in that you do not need to repeat the basmalah.

83.Just as the worshippers are free to choose the surah they like to recite besides al-Fatiha, so are they free to switch to any other one, except in the following cases:

a. Should they be half way through the surah they are reciting, they are not allowed to make the switch.

b.Should they choose to recite al-Ikhlas or al-Kafiroun right at the outset, they are not permitted to switch to another surah, as a matter of obligatory precaution, even if they did not get as far as the half way mark.

c. The worshippers, in Juma’ prayer or dhuhr prayer on the day of Juma’, may choose to recite surah al-Juma’ in the first ruka’ and surah al-Munafiqoun in the second. Should they proceed with the recitation, it is not permissible for them to switch to other surahs.

84.The instances where switching to another surah is prohibited do not cover the following:

a. The situation where the worshippers are forced to do the switch, such as having started reciting, they forgot part thereof or there was not enough time to finish it. That is, irrespective of what surah it was or how long it was.

b. A worshipper performing a supererogatory prayer is free to do the switch as they please.

c. A worshipper performing Juma prayer or dhuhr that day inadvertently started reciting surahs other than the intended ones, i.e. al-Juma’ in the first ruka’ and al-Munafiqoun in the second. Such are free to make the switch to the intended surahs.

Suppose a worshipper intended to recite surah al-Qadr when he started the basmalah; however, he recited al-Ikhlas instead without actually intending to do so. There is no harm in his reverting his first niyyah by reciting al-Qadr. He would not be treated as though they have made the switch from al-Ikhlas.

Conditions for Recitation

85.a.The recitation of the second surah has to follow the recitation of al-Fatiha, i.e. it is not permissible to recite it before al-Fatiha.

86.b.The recitation has to be correct. This could be achieved through the following:

87.a/1. In identifying the Qur’anic text, one can rely on what is contained in the Holy Book, i.e. the print form, or on a recognized way of recitation dating back to the early days of Islam and the Imams (a.s.).This may include the seven official recitations. Accordingly, the worshipper is free to recite any variation of such as that found in surah al-Fatiha for the phrases, “Maaliki yawmiddin” and “Meliki yawmiddin”, “Siratal lathena” either with a ’Seen’ or with a ’Sad’, or that found in surah al-Ikhlas concerning the word, “Kufuwan”, “Kufwan”, “Kufu’an”, and “Kuf’an”. These variations are all acceptable because they have already been covered by the seven officially recognized recitations.

If the recitation is an odd one, i.e. not commonly known at the first era of Islam, it is not permissible to rely on in identifying the correct recitation of the ayahs of the Holy Qur’an. For example, some had recited, “Malaka yawmiddin” by making ’malaka’ as a past tense verb; this is very odd and therefore should not be recited on in prayer.

There is no harm if the worshippers recited in the Holy Qur’an or was made to repeat the ayahs after they have been recited by someone who is proficient in the recitation. This is particularly true when the worshippers have just embraced Islam [and may not have any knowledge of Arabic].

If this is not feasible, yet the worshipper can recite al-Fatiha and a part of a second surah, this would be sufficient, even with their ability to learn the surah in its entirety. Should the case be that the worshippers only know how to recite part of al-Fatiha, reciting this part would do. However, they should, as a matter of voluntary ihtiyat, make up the shortfall by whatever they know of other ayahs. In this case, what counts is not the number of missing ayahs of al-Fatiha, rather the quantity. That is, the compensatory ayah should not be shorter than the recited ayah of al-Fatiha that was not recited .

In case the worshippers are not in a position to recite anything, be it al-Fatiha or other ayahs, they have to resort to takbir, tasbih, and exaltation (the utterance of La illaha illal lah).As a matter of ihtiyat, the latter should be on a par with al-Fatiha, i.e. quantity wise.

88.a/2.The worshipper should observe the harakat (symbols appearing above or below the Arabic characters that denote and aid the proper pronunciation of the words), the words. However, when stopping at the last letter of a word, there is a choice of either pronouncing that harakah or not, i.e. by resorting to sukoon. This is also true when one decides to recite it as a run-on ayah.

89.a/3.The worshippers must ]do their best[ to achieve the proper pronunciation of each and every letter in the word as the Arabic speaking people do.

90.a/4.One has to be mindful of the proper pronunciation of the ’hamzah’ which is found, for example, above the ’alif’ of the word ’Allah’, or ’Iyyaka’. That is, if you start with it, you have to pronounce it; if it was part of a sentence and preceded by a word ending with a letter with harakah, like dhammah or kasrah, you have to drop the ’hamzah’, if it was ’hamzat wasl’,and keep it if it was ’hamzat qat’.

For example, if you were to read, “Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim” in one go, you have to drop the ’hamzah’ that appears above all the ’alifs’ of the words Allah, Arrahman, and Arrahim, as the ’hamzah’ here is that of ’wasl’.

As for the ’hamzat qat’, if you were to read, “Maaliki yawmiddin, Iyyaka na’budu, wa Iyyaka nasta’een”, you have to keep the ’hamzah’ above the first letter of the word Iyyaka.

91.a/5.’al’ ,which is equivalent to the definite article ’the’ in English, may be added to certain words, such as ’al-hamd’, ’ar-rahman’, ’ar-rahim’.At some instances you have to pronounce the ’l’ of ’al’ fully, at others you have to drop it, the latter is called idgham )amalgamation, or assimilation.

Idgham takes place with thirteen letters of the Arabic alphabet, such as ta’ , tha’, and dal. So, you should not pronounce the ’lam’ in the words, al-rahman, al-rahim, al-sirat, and al-dhalleen; ,instead the ’l’ sound replaced by the sound of the next letter thus: ar-rahman, ar-rahim, as-sirat, and adh-dhalleen.This is in contrast to pronouncing the ’l’ sound in such words as al-hamd, al-’alamin, and al-mustaqeem.

92.For a variety of reasons, there may be worshippers who are not proficient enough in Arabic; some may stammer, others may be non-Arabs… etc. They must do their best to learn Arabic. Should this not yield results, they are excused. Accordingly, the prayer they recite in any way possible shall be valid. They may also resort to praying behind another worshipper who is proficient in Arabic to make do with their recitation; this though is not obligatory.

93.Saying prayer to one’s best ability is applicable to the ignorant, who is willing to learn, although it is not obligatory on him to say his prayer behind an imam. The ignorant we are talking about is the one who cannot do both, i.e. learning and prayer, at that point in time. That is, he could take to being coached in reciting at some other time.

95.As for the ignorant, who is capable of learning before the time of prayer and is aware of his responsibility to seek learning, yet he did not bother, he has to seek to say his prayer behind another person where possible. Failing to so and ending in saying his prayer solo, his prayer would be deemed batil. If he kept procrastinating till it was late, and did not succeed in his bid to find an imam, it is obligatory on him to perform his prayer to the best of his ability; although such a prayer shall count, he would be considered guilty for being apathetic.

95. A worshipper in prayer became doubtful as to the correct pronunciation of a word. They have to seek guidance in this regard, even if it led them to cut short their prayer, i.e. time permitting. If this was not feasible, even on grounds of time, they have to resort to ihtiyat in pronouncing the word in both the possibilities; in so doing, they do not need to repeat their prayer. This is so because the ]doubtful pronunciation[ is not part of the ordinary man’s talk.

96.c.The worshipper has to pronounce each and every word in the usual manner, i.e. as is commonly recognized. That is, breaking the word into syllables is not acceptable. Should anything of this sort inadvertently happen, the word cannot be admissible; the worshipper has to repeat it as it should be pronounced. If the worshipper resorts to this intentionally at the outset, it would invalidate the entire prayer. However, should they do it while pronouncing the word, they have to repeat pronouncing it in a proper way; their prayer would be valid.

This also applies to playing with the other rules of Arabic syntax and grammar.

The worshipper has to maintain the order of the ayahs, be they those of al-Fatiha or the second surah, as they appear in the Holy Qur’an. They should also maintain an unbroken sequence between the ayahs, i.e. there should not be undue pauses between them as well as between any two sentences in one ayah. The criterion here should be judged against the established practice .However, halting the recitation for a cough or the like, albeit long, should not be a problem.

97.d.It is obligatory that the worshipper should recite [the surahs] audibly at times, and inaudibly ( at others.

Where should each mode of speech used?

It is obligatory on a man to recite al-Fatiha and the second surah in subh prayer, the first and second ruku’ of maghrib and isha’ audibly. He must inaudibly recite al-Fatiha and the second surah in the first and second ruku’ of both dhuhr and asr.

However, it is not obligatory to recite the basmalah inaudibly. It is mustahab that it be recited audibly in each and every prayer. Dhuhr prayer on a Friday can be said in either way. As for Juma’ prayer, the imam has to recite the surahs audibly.

Women have to observe inaudible recitation in the same way men do. As for cases of audible recitation, they have the choice between audible and inaudible recitation.

98.At any rate, the worshippers, be they men or women, should overdo neither. That is, audible reciting should not border on screaming and inaudible reciting should not border on mumbling.

As for utterances, other than al-Fatiha and the second surah, such as takbir, dhikr, tashahhud, etc. the worshipper is free to recite them either audibly or inaudibly.

99.e. Just as the worshippers are required to recite takbiratul ihram from a standing position, they are required to maintain a standing position while reciting al-Fatiha and the second surah. It is also obligatory on them to maintain a stable position while reciting. However, certain situations may arise where the worshippers are required to move sideways, forward or backward. Provided that they maintain facing the qiblah, they should abandon the recitation at the moment of making the move and resume it after that.

100.Lapses: If the worshippers deliberately do anything which may in any way detract from the recitation, ]of that which has so far been discussed[, their prayer shall be deemed batil.

However, if they have done so inadvertently or through ignorance, their prayer should be deemed valid. So, if they realized their oversight after they had finished their prayer, they need not worry. The same applies, if the realization occurs during prayer, but after the worshipper had performed ruku’ where the lapse in recitation took place. They may become aware of the error prior to actually bowing for ruku’. In such a case, they must take remedial action, unless they no longer maintained stability of the standing position, or audible/inaudible recitation where required, in that they are not required to repeat the recitation so long as the mistake was made either unintentionally or due to forgetfulness or ignorance.

The mukallafs may be vaguely aware of the requirements of the two modes of recitation, i.e. audibly or inaudibly. However, on embarking on a particular prayer, they were not sure what mode is actually required of them. Suppose that audible reciting was required, yet they did the reverse, only to discover their mistake, having finished their prayer. A prayer thus performed would still count, provided that, at the outset, they intended that Allah, the Exalted, would accept it as it was recited.

101.Doubt: The worshipper may harbor doubt about the soundness of their recitation of al-Fatiha and the second surah or part thereof. Should this happen, after they have finished the recitation, they do not have to worry.

If the doubt arises about whether the worshipper recited, say, the first ayah of al-Fatiha while they were reciting the second ayah, they should not worry.

If the doubt arises as to whether or not al-Fatiha was recited while the recitation of, say, al-Ikhlas was in progress, they need not worry.

However, it is obligatory to recite al-Fatiha and the second surah, if the worshippers found themselves, immediately after takbiratul ihram, speechless not knowing whether they recited them.

Should the worshippers resolve the doubt that they really did recite al-Fatiha, yet they are at a loss whether they recited the second surah, they must hasten to recite it.

Any doubt about any of the preceding situation which may arise after the worshipper had bowed for ruku’ must be ruled out.

102.Decorum: It is mustahab to say, “A’oudhu Billahi Minash Shaitanir Rajim”, I seek refuge with Allah from the accursed Satan, before the inauguration of recitation in the first ruku’.

A short pause is also mustahab after the recitation of al-Fatiha, just before reciting the second surah.

It is mustahab to say, “Alhamdu Lillahi Rabil A’lamin”, Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, upon finishing al-Fatiha; also saying, “Kathalikal Lahu Rabi”, That is My Lord, upon finishing al-Ikhlas.

It is mustahab that the worshippers recite, in their prayer, once a day at least al-Ikhlas.

Although it is recommended for the worshippers not to recite, after al-Fatiha, two complete surahs of the Holy Qur’an, there is no harm if they chose to do so.


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