Praying Behind One Who’s Tajweed Is Poor


The meaning of Ummee is one whose recitation in prayer is poor regardless of which part of the Quraan it may be. According to Shaafi’ee and Hanbalees, it means the one who cannot recite the whole of Al-Faatihah well, he leaves out a word or letter or makes grammatical mistakes such that the meaning is altered.

There is no doubt that the one who can recite well is more privileged than the one who cannot, especially in the case of leading prayer. It is obligatory that only the one who can recite well be allowed to lead the people in prayer, as the Prophet (saw) said:

Let the most proficient of the people in reciting the Book of Allaah lead them [in prayer].” [Saheeh Muslim]

But if someone whose recitation of the obligatory part of the prayer was poor were to lead the prayer, what would be the ruling of the prayer of those who prayed behind him with respect to its validity and having to repeat it? The jurists differed about this, expressing four opinions:

The First Opinion: The prayer is not valid behind him and whoever has been led has to repeat the prayer. This was the opinion of Aboo Haneefah, Maalik, Ash-Shaafi’ee and Ahmad.

The proof lay in his (saw) saying:

There is no prayer for the one who has not recited the Opening Chapter of the Book (Al-Faatihah).” [Bukhaaree & Muslim]

This hadeeth proves that is obligatory to recite Soorah Al-Faatihah. Whoever is deficient in his recitation of it is not considered to have recited in a complete way and, therefore, whoever prayed behind him has to repeat his prayer.

The Second Opinion: Prayer behind him is permissible. Since it is permissible, it is not necessary to repeat one’s prayer. This is the opinion of ‘Ataa Ibn Abee Rabaah, Qataadah, Al-Muzanee, Aboo Thawr and Ibn Al-Mundhir.

They reasoned that he is not able to fulfil a pillar of the prayer and it is permissible to pray behind him just as in the case where the follower prays behind an Imaam who cannot stand.

The Third Opinion: It is permissible for the reciter of the Quraan to pray behind one who cannot recite correctly in those prayers that are prayed silently but not in those that are prayed aloud. This is a reported opinion of the Shaafi’ee and Hanbalee schools.

They reasoned that (in the silent prayer) everyone is commanded to recite for themselves and, therefore, their prayer is valid and there is no need to repeat it.

The Fourth Opinion: If the one who cannot recite correctly was to lead those who cannot recite correctly, their prayer is valid. This is the chosen opinion of the Hanbalee school. If the one who cannot recite correctly were to lead a mixture of those who can and cannot recite, then the prayer of those who cannot recite is valid, but the prayer of those who can recite is not valid and needs to be repeated. If one person who cannot recite correctly were to lead another who can, the prayer of both of them is not valid and needs to be repeated. This is because the one who could not recite correctly intended to lead while, in fact, he prayed by himself.

The Strongest Opinion: The strongest opinion is the fourth opinion but some conditions need to be met:

1) It is not permissible for the one who cannot recite be appointed as the permanent Imaam when there is a person in the congregation who can recite.

2) It is not permissible for the reciter to start his prayer while being led by one who cannot recite correctly.

3) If the one who can recite is led by one who cannot recite while not knowing his condition, his prayer is valid due to the generality of his saying:

Pray behind whoever says, ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allaah’.

[Taken from “The Congregational Prayer” by Shaykh Saalih As-Sadlaan, Pp.144-146. Translated by Ustaadh Aboo Rumaysah]

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