Praying behind Imam Who Cannot Read the Quran: Is Prayer Valid?
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Praying behind Imam Who Cannot Read the Quran: Is Prayer Valid?

Questioner

Harun

Reply Date

Nov 27, 2017

Question

Can a person lead congregational prayer if he is not able to read the Quran properly?

Mufti

Answer


Praying behind Imam Who Cannot Read the Quran: Is Prayer Valid?

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger. 


In this fatwa:

1- All scholars agree on the ruling that one is not allowed to lead prayer if he is not able to read the Quran properly, especially if there are people in the congregation who know to do so.

2- If, however, all of the people in a congregation are deficient in their knowledge of the Quran, then the issue is different. Because of the rule of necessity, their prayer is considered valid.

3- If a person who is deficient in knowledge of the Quran imposes himself to lead prayer, he is guilty of a most heinous sin. He also carries on his shoulders the sins of all those who pray behind him.


Focusing more on the question you posed, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states: 

Reading from the Quran is an integral aspect of prayer. The Prophet (peace be on him) has clearly instructed us that when we choose a person to lead prayer, we must do so based primarily on his level of knowledge of the Quran.

Stipulating the credentials of people who are qualified to lead the prayer, the Prophet said, “The one who is most versed in the Quran shall lead the people in prayer. If all of them possess the same level of expertise in the knowledge of the Quran, then he who has the best understanding of the Sunnah shall lead…” (Muslim)

The Prophet’s own practice of appointing Imams was also consistent with the same principle: he would always choose persons who were most proficient in the Quran.

Now, this is not to be mistaken with the prevalent notion these days that a person who knows how to chant the Quran or who has memorized the Quran is the best to lead the prayer. What the Prophet meant here was that besides the ability to recite the Quran properly, the Imam should also possess sound knowledge of the Quran.

Based on the above, all scholars agree on the ruling that one is not allowed to lead prayer if he is not able to read the Quran properly, especially if there are people in the congregation who know to do so.

If such a person does lead under this circumstance, the prayer is considered invalid according to the rules of Islamic jurisprudence.

If, however, all of the people in a congregation are deficient in their knowledge of the Quran, then the issue is different. Because of the rule of necessity, their prayer is considered valid.

However, this does not absolve the person who is leading prayer from learning to improve his reading of the Quran. We must remember that the Quran contains the words of Allah and as such we should try to read it properly. When we read the Quran improperly, we end up distorting its meanings, which indeed is a grave offence.

In light of the above explanation, if a person who is deficient in knowledge of the Quran imposes himself to lead prayer, he is guilty of a most heinous sin. He also carries on his shoulders the sins of all those who pray behind him.

If, on the contrary, he has been put forward by the people to lead in spite of the fact that there are others who are qualified, then they incur the brunt of the sin. This, however, does not absolve the person who leads pryaer from his sin, especially if he has been told the gravity of the offence he is committing.

The Prophet (peace be on him) said, “One of the persons whose prayer will not ascend to Allah is that of one who leads prayer for people while they detest him.” (Abu Dawud)

According to Imam Al-Khattabi, the most obvious meaning of this Hadith is intended for a person who imposes himself as an Imam when he does not possess the necessary qualifications.

Almighty Allah knows best.

Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.




About Sheikh Ahmad Kutty

Sheikh Ahmad Kutty is a Senior Lecturer and an Islamic Scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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