A question was posed to me as regards the correct adab related to praying behind one who neither performs fard and sunnah parts of the prayer correctly nor recites Qur'Än correctly.
In particular, there is a problem with the sunnah of what is said when rising from rukÅ«` back to qiyÄm. Al-FÄtihah, SÅ«rah al-IkhlÄs and SÅ«rah an-NÄs are the only Qur'Än the imam in question knows at this time, having learnt them on his own in transliteration. Words are consistently mispronounced, possibly resulting in a different meaning.
As stated by an-NafrÄwÄ«, the famous commentator of “Ar-RisÄlah”, it is not allowed for one to follow in prayer a person who is ignorant of recitation of the Qur’Än and the fiqh of salÄt.
As for someone who knows the minimum recitation of the Qur’Än but commits mistakes, we must bear in mind that, as stressed by Abu’l-Hasan b. al-QassÄr, a noteworthy Iraqi MÄlikÄ«, the imam shoulders the recitation on behalf of the one who follows him, and if falling short of what is required of it breaches some aspect of the recitation, that shouldering is no longer valid.
A number of scholars have taken the view that it is disliked (makrÅ«h) to start the prayer behind an imam who makes mistakes in his recitation, although repetition of such prayer is not obligatory. Ibn Rushd the Grandfather said so. That is so because the reciter does not intend to make those errors, but rather believes that his recitation is as correct as that of the person immune from those defects. The author of “Al-WÄdihah”, Ibn Habib, too, held that view.
Ad-DusÅ«qÄ« wrote in his Gloss on “Ash-Sharh al-KabÄ«r”:
“The crux of the mas’alah is that if the inaccurate reciter intentionally makes mistakes, his prayer and that of the person behind him is invalid by unanimous agreement.
If he was simply forgetful in his errors (i.e. he knows how to recite correctly but contingently forgot the right way), it is valid by unanimous agreement.
If he is naturally incapable of reciting correctly and his defectiveness cannot be cured by learning, his prayer and that of the person behind him is valid by unanimous agreement, as he is equated to a stuttering person.
If, instead – and that is the scenario related to our question –, he is ignorant, does not know in other words how to recite properly, and he is susceptible of learning, that is the locus of scholarly disagreement, whether or not he is capable of learning and whether or not he is capable of praying behind someone who does not pray incorrectly.
The most preponderant of those conflicting views is the validity of the salÄt of the person praying behind him” (There is in fact little doubt that his own prayer is valid according to most views in the madhhab. The question, however, revolves around the validity of the salÄt of the ma’mÅ«m, not that of the imam).
What is the scholarly disagreement mentioned by ad-DusÅ«qÄ« on the ruling to be assigned to the salÄt of the ma’mÅ«m praying behind a defective reciter (lÄhin)?
There are four positions in the school, each one founded on interesting rational proofs:
- Praying behind the defective reciter is invalid, even if his errors concern other than Umm al-Qur’Än. Shaykh Abu’l-Hasan b. al-QassÄr held that view;
- The salÄt behind him is valid if his inaccuracy concerns other than the FÄtihah. This is the opinion of Ibn al-LabbÄd, shared by Ibn AbÄ« Zayd al-QayrawÄnÄ«;
- The prayer behind him is valid if he does not change the meaning of what is being recited so long as he is not making an intentional mistake. If it does, by e.g. reciting iyyÄki na`budu or an`amtu ‘alayhim, the salÄt is invalid. Judge ‘Abdu’l-WahhÄb al-BaghdÄdÄ« endorsed this position;
- The salÄt behind him is valid absolutely. Al-LakhmÄ« mentioned this ruling, though its source is uncertain.
The basis of the disagreement ultimately reverts to this: Does the inaccuracy in recitation (lahn) remove the word pronounced in the salÄt from its status as Qur'Än and make it fall under human speech or not?
Those who, like Judge ‘Abdu’l-WahhÄb, distinguished between a mistake/mispronunciation that alters the meaning and one that does not, takes the view that the alteration of the meaning subtracts the word thus altered from its status as i`rÄb, intelligible variation; the i`rÄb caused the word to switch from one meaning to another, and if the meaning differs, the words becomes as if other than what it was, i.e. intelligibly declined (mu`rabah).
As for those who distinguished between Umm al-Qur’Än and other than it, e.g. Ibn al-LabbÄd and Ibn AbÄ« Zayd al-QayrawÄnÄ«, it is as if they considered that the imam shoulders the recitation on behalf of the ma’mÅ«m, and, since there is no salÄt without the FÄtihah, such an imam could not shoulder the burden for him. He could not shoulder it even if, by altering a word in the FÄtihah, he did not actually alter the meaning, by using a synonym, such as afdalta ‘alayhim # an`amta ‘alayhim. His imamate would be invalid even if he guarded the meaning, and the same should apply for them to one who changes the i`rÄb even if he satisfied the meaning.
It is unclear, from the picture depicted in the question that was posed to me whether all the people in the congregation are equally guilty of reciting inaccurately, though circumstantial evidence (use of the plural in the original text of the question and reference to more than one person learning on their own in transliteration) seems to suggest that.
We saw that, for Ibn al-LabbÄd, we must distinguish between inaccuracy in reciting the FÄtihah (which according to him invalidates the salÄt) and defectiveness in reciting other than it (which ensures its validity). When Ibn YÅ«nus mentioned Ibn al-LabbÄd’s view, which as we saw distinguishes between inaccuracy in reciting the FÄtihah (invalidating the salÄt according to him) and defectiveness in reciting other than it (thereby ensuring its validity), he added: “He meant it would be so if their state is not the same”, i.e. if some can recite properly and others cannot, as opposed to the scenario when they all make mistakes in recitation. Ibn AbÄ« Zayd al-QayrawÄnÄ«, who shared Ibn al-LabbÄd’s position as mentioned earlier, said in fact that a person who prays behind an imam reciting Umm al-Qur’Än incorrectly does not repeat the salÄt if their condition is the same. They would then become as if ummiyyÅ«n, that is, all incapable of reciting Qur’Än to begin with, who lead each other in prayer.
If there is someone in the congregation who recites accurately, he must obviously be accorded precedence.
In the Mudawwanah it is stated that the one who recites inaccurately is worse than the one who leaves out the recitation. It is as if the defective reciter (lÄhin) was equated to someone using human speech in the prayer, although a different interpretation of said statement is that the inaccurate reciter commences the salÄt in an impermissible mode, whereas the one who omits the recitation is merely prey to contingent forgetfulness after opening the salÄt in a permissible manner; and Allah knows best.