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:
- There is nothing wrong with reading Qur`an from the Mushaf during a supererogatory prayer such as qiyam al-layl.
- In the case of obligatory prayers, it is disliked to do that because in most cases there is no need for it.
- If there is a need, then there is nothing wrong with reading from the Mushaf in that case.
Answering your question, the Fatwa Center at Islam Q and A, states:
Ibn Qudamah (may Allah have mercy on him) said in al-Mughni, 1/335:
Imam Ahmad said: There is nothing wrong will leading the people in praying qiyam whilst looking at the Mushaf. It was said to him: What about obligatory prayers? He said: I have not heard anything concerning that. Al-Qadi said: It is disliked in obligatory prayers, but there is nothing wrong with it in voluntary prayers if one has not memorized (Qur’an). But if one has memorized Qur’an, then it is also disliked. He said: Ahmad was asked about leading the prayers whilst reading from the Mushaf in Ramadan. He said: If that is necessary (it may be done)… and it was narrated from Ibn Hamid that it is equally permissible in both supererogatory and obligatory prayers.
The evidence for it being permissible is the report narrated by Abu Bakr al-Athram and Ibn Abi Dawud with their isnads from ‘A’ishah, according to which she would be led in prayer by a slave of hers who read from the Mushaf.
Al-Zuhri was asked about a man who read from the Mushaf in Ramadan. He said: The best ones among us used to read from the Mushaf.
Reading from the Mushaf has been permitted because of the need to listen to the Qur’an and recite it in night prayers (qiyam).
The ruling on it being disliked applies only to those who have memorized Qur’an, because they will be needlessly distracted from proper focus in prayer by that, and from looking at the place of prostration. And it is disliked in obligatory prayers in general, because usually there is no need for it.
Al-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said in al-Majmu` (4/27):
If a person reads Qur’an from the Mushaf, this does not invalidate his prayer, whether he has memorized the Qur’an or not; in fact that is obligatory if he has not memorized Al-Fatihah.
What we have mentioned, that reading from the Mushaf does not invalidate the prayer, is our view and the view of Malik, Abu Yusuf, Muhammad and Ahmad.
Sheikh Ibn Baz (may Allah have mercy on him) was asked: Is it permissible for the imam to read from the Mushaf during the five daily prayers, especially Fajr when lengthy reading is required and there is the fear of making mistakes or forgetting?
That is permissible if there is a need for it, just as it is permissible to read from the Mushaf in Tarawih for one who has not memorized the Qur’an. Dhakwan, the freed slave of ‘A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) used to lead her in prayer in Ramadan, reading from the Mushaf, as was narrated by Al-Bukhari in his Sahih. It is Sunnah to recite at length in Fajr prayer, so if the imam has not memorized al-Mufassal or anything else from the rest of the Qur’an, it is permissible for him to recite from the Mushaf. But it is prescribed for him to strive to memorize the Qur’an, or at least to memorize al-Mufassal, so that he will not need to read from the Mushaf. Al-Mufassal refers to the portion of the Qur’an that starts with Surat Qaf, up to the end of the Qur’an. Whoever strives to memorize, Allah will make it easy for him, as He says:
“And whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty)” (At-Talaq 65:2)
“And We have indeed made the Qur’aan easy to understand and remember; then is there any one who will remember (or receive admonition)?” (Al-Qamar 54:17) (Majmu` Fatawa Ibn Baz, 11/117)
Almighty Allah knows best.