Wednesday, November 22, 2017 - 3 Rabi' al-Awwal 1439

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What is the status of ‘Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim’ at the beginning of each chapter of the Qur`an?

What is the status of ‘Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim’ at the beginning of each chapter of the Qur`an?

Answer

There has been a long-standing debate among scholars on the status of ‘Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Raheem’ with regard to its occurrence at the beginning of every surah (chapter) in the Qur`an except the ninth surah ‘At-Taubah’ [Repentance]. ‘Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Raheem’ means ‘In the name of God, the Merciful, the Beneficent.’ Many scholars consider it as a verse in its own right and part of the first surah ‘Al-Fatihah’ and others, while other scholars hold otherwise.

However, all scholars agree that it constitutes part of a verse in the twenty seventh surah, ‘Al-Naml’. This difference of opinion expresses itself in how it is recited in prayer, with the first group supporting the view that it should be recited aloud in audible prayers, while others prefer that it should be read silently to oneself.

There are ahadith supporting both views, all of which are authentic and related from good authority. When we reconcile these ahadith with each other, we conclude that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) sometimes recited ‘Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Raheem’ aloud and sometimes silently to himself when he recited a surah aloud. As it is difficult to say which he did more often, both methods are acceptable.

How the Prophet (peace be upon him) recited the last two surahs on a particular occasion is very difficult to say unless we have a hadith which gives us the necessary information. To the best of my knowledge, we do not have such a hadith. But lack of information does not prevent us from reading the two surahs as the Prophet (peace be upon him) guided us to do. Whether we recite ‘Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Raheem’ aloud or silently to ourselves does not make much difference; it should be read in any case. The two surahs should be separated with the recitation of ‘Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Raheem’ because they are two separate surahs and not two parts of a single surah.
 

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