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Tarāwīh Part 1

August 13, 2011

TARĀWĪH PART 1: Reading from a mushaf


I once prayed Tarāwīh behind a person who had studied Mālikī jurisprudence and was leading members of his family in prayer. I was surprised by the fact he was reading the Qur’ān from a mushaf. I thought that was disallowed. Please clarify.
Also, was it in order for him to perform the Tarāwīh prayer at home instead of joining it at a communal mosque?


In the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Most Merciful.
May Allah’s prayer of blessing and mercy and the salutation of peace be on His beloved, the noblest of Prophets and the pick of Messengers, on the members of his family, and on all his companions without exception.

I - Reading from the mushaf

In the mother-book of the Mālikī madhhab, Al-Mudawwanah al-Kubrā, we found the following clarification given to Sahnūn by the Imām’s foremost student, the Egyptian Ibn al-Qāsim: “Mālik allowed an imām to lead people in prayer from the mushaf, in the course of the prayers offered in the nights of Ramadān (= Tarāwīh), whereas he disliked that to be done in the compulsory prayers”.

We can thus discern in this statement a first conditional requirement for the permissibility of leading the Tarāwīh prayer while reading from a mushaf: The absence, in that congregation, of a memorizer of the Qur’ān who is able to lead others without looking into a mushaf. In the compulsory prayer, in fact, that prerequisite is almost invariably satisfied, as there would most probably be someone who has memorized at least the shortest suwar of the Qur’ān. If, therefore, the person you prayed behind as per the description in your question was not a memorizer of Allah's Book in no need of recourse to a copy thereof, that condition would have been met.

In the Mudawwanah, the following is additionally mentioned on this topic: “If a person has begun a voluntary prayer without a mushaf spread out in front of him, it would not be befitting for him to take a mushaf and check it in the event that he is doubtful about the letter of a particular Qur’ānic word. He should rather complete his prayer and then verify the issue in the mushaf”.

This narration establishes therefore a qualification to the seemingly unrestricted permissibility of reading Tarāwīh from a mushaf: No excessive action extraneous to the prayer should result from resorting to the aid of a mushaf. From what I can gather from your question, the person behind whom you prayed read from a mushaf to start with, and that is in order.
Textual authorities corroborate the permissive ruling we have laid out at the beginning of our reply:
In the chapter of his Sahīh titled “the Imamate of the slave and the freed slave attached to one’s clan by the process of post-manumission affiliation” (from the Book of Prayer), al-Bukhārī provided the following exegetical gloss of his own (without, that is, offering a full transmission chain for it): “‘Ā’ishah used to be led in prayer by her slave Dhakwān, who read from a mushaf”. Thereafter, in his collection Al-Musannaf, the muhaddith Ibn Abī Shaybah supplied a complete narrative chain for such transmission, which he worded as follows: “He (= her slave Dhakwān) was accustomed to lead her in prayer in Ramadān from a mushaf”. That is undoubtedly a reference to the nocturnal prayer of Tarāwīh. The Yemeni muhaddith ‘Abdur-Razzāq (in his own Al-Musannaf) also reported the narration through a different full chain of transmission, thus: “He used to come to ‘Ā’ishah, in his father’s company, by a high spot on the valley, together with ‘Ubayd b. ‘Umayr, al-Miswar b. Makhramah [who was one of the virtuous experts in the Law among the Companions] and several other people, whereupon Abū ‘Amr, ‘Ā’ishah’s slave, who at that time was a young lad, would lead them in prayer. The abovementioned Abū ‘Amr was the patronymic of Dhakwān” [Refer also to Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalānī’s Fath al-Bārī, his famous commentary on al-Bukhārī’s sound compilation]. In addition, it has been established by reports that Anas b. Mālik used to pray while his young servant, behind him, would hold a mushaf. In the event that the two of them made a mistake in reciting an āyah, the servant would open up the mushaf for Anas.
The following topmost juristic authorities declared the lawfulness of reciting from a mushaf in the Tarāwīh prayer: The great Followers Muhammad b. Sīrīn, al-Hasan al-Basrī and ‘Atā’ b. Abī Rabāh, as well as the two most prominent disciples of Imām Abū Hanīfah, viz. Abū Yūsuf and Muhammad ash-Shaybānī. Those who disliked it (without therefore forbidding it) included: The Followers Sa`īd b. al-Musayyab, Ibrāhīm an-Nakha`ī and ash-Sha`bī, Imām ash-Shāfi`ī and Imām Ahmad b. Hanbal. The reason they offered for their dislike of such practice was that it resembled the way the People of the Book used to pray. There is then the view of Imām Abū Hanīfah to the effect that it is impermissible to read the prayer from the mushaf, regardless of whether it is done by the imām or by other than him. His position is that doing so intentionally invalidates the prayer. The rationale for his ruling is that the use of the mushaf entails engagement in excessive action which is extrinsic to the prayer, or else the fact that what is being read is “dictated” by other than the person reciting it. As we can see, he is alone among the Imams in taking such hard line. We have already observed that if one begins to read from the mushaf, there is no exorbitant action external to the prayer which one indulges in (unlike the scenario sketched in Al-Mudawwanah where one stops the prayer, consults a copy of the Qur’ān and then reverts to his recitation). As for the recitation being “instructed” by a third party, the analogy between reading from a mushaf gathering Allah’s Speech and the situation where the imām in front is prompted right through by one following him reading what the imām is missing out and unable to recite on his own, is in our humble opinion rather far-fetched.

There remains the issue of those led in prayer reading from the mushaf while the imām is leading the Tarāwīh, as we see many people doing by the Makkan Haram. We have stressed that the permissibility of reciting such prayer from a mushaf is conditional on the existence of a need: The need to engage in a recommended act of worship in a context where no memorizer of the Qur’ān is available. The arch-rule in the fiqh is that need is assessed in accordance with its extent and thus “fenced in” by such extent, without the option of trespassing it. Therefore, if there is one in front reciting from memory, or if, in the absence of any such memorizer of the Qur’ān, the congregation has put forward one of their members as the one tasked with the duty of looking at the mushaf and leading the others, there is no need for any one following him to use a mushaf as well. In addition, his doing that unnecessarily increases the musallī’s actions which are foreign to the prayer as such, and he ends up imitating the style of praying of the People of the Book as adopted by them in their churches and synagogues, which we saw a number of our enlightened savants abhor, and Allah knows best.



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