Is it permissible for us to recite the chapter of Fatiha during engagement ceremony or it is an innovation?
Some scholars are of the opinion that the Fatiha should be avoided during the Khitba as this practice has become common in some countries and has reached the level of being "part" of the Khitba (engagement ceremony). However, it is to my understanding that Fatiha in accordance to the sunnah is not "part" of the Khitba and is a "cultural" practice. Should a person avoid reading Fatiha during the Khitba to avoid falling into something that is not permissible in Islam according to some scholars?
It is legally permissible to read Al-Fatiha on the following occasions:
- When beginning or ending du'a` [supplication].
- For fulfilling needs.
- When commencing reconciliation gatherings.
- When conducting marriage contracts and the like.
This is based on general legal evidences recommending reading the Qur`an on the one hand and the numerous legal evidences denoting the special importance of Al-Fatiha for achieving goals, fulfilling needs and facilitating matters on the other.
General evidences from primary texts
Allah Almighty says,
Those who recite the Book of Allah, establish regular prayers, and spend (in charity) out of what we have provided for them, secretly and openly, hope for a commerce that will never fail. [Fatir, 29]
Abu Umama al-Bahli (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet said, "Read the Qur`an for verily it will come on the Day of Judgment as an intercessor for its reciters" [Muslim].
It is established in Usul al-Fiqh [principles of Islamic Jurisprudence] that commands which are mutlaq [unconditional] demand their general applicability with regards to people, circumstances, times and places. This means that, when Allah Almighty legislates a matter in a general ['amm] or unconditional fashion, it must be applied as such; it is not permissible to restrict or specify it in any manner without evidence from Islamic law. Restricting matters that Allah and His Messenger have left open and capacious leads to innovation in religion.
The Prophet's observance of certain parts of general comprehensive rulings ['umum shumuli] or general rulings denoting specificity ['umum badali] does not specify the general nor restrict the unconditional as long as he did not prohibit otherwise. Legal theorists have explained this through the legal axiom "Abstention is not proof." Meaning, the fact that the Prophet refrained from performing certain acts is not proof to their prohibition. Muslim scholars from among the predecessors and successors have unanimously agreed on this.
Applying the legal axiom
Despite his thorough understanding of the concept of offensive bid'a, the Hanbali scholar, Ibn Taymiyya fathomed this legal axiom and applied it to his acts of worship by making Al-Fatiha part of his wird [daily portion of recitations]. Ibn Taymiyya's student, Abu Hafs al-Bazzar, wrote in his book Al-'Alam Al-'Aliya fi Manaqib Ibn Taymiya that his teacher [Ibn Taymiya] would read Al-Fatiha repeatedly after fajr [dawn] prayer until sunrise. If the Prophet's abstention from reading Al-Fatiha in this manner evidences its impermissibility, then Ibn Taymiyya's practice would have been considered a bid'a that contradicts the Sunnah. However, since dhikr [making remembrance of Allah] and Qur`anic recitations are unrestricted and are only determined by what a Muslim finds in his heart, Ibn Taymiyya's act is legally permissible.
In general, Al-Fatiha is a part of the Qur`an and a kind of dhikr. It is permissible to recite it under any conditions in the absence of restrictive evidence, such as the prohibition of reciting the Qur`an while in a state of janaba [major ritual impurity].
The virtues of Al-Fatiha
Legal evidences have established that Al-Fatiha, in particular, excels over other Qur`anic chapters with regards to achieving goals, fulfilling needs, facilitating matters and answering the du'a`.
Allah Almighty says, And We have bestowed upon you [Mohammad] the seven oft-repeated (verses) and the great Qur'an. [Al-Hijr, 87]
- Abu Sa'id Ibn al-Mu'alla (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet said, " 'All praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds' [i.e. Al-Fatiha] is the seven oft-repeated verses and the great Qur`an which I was given" [Bukhari].
- The Prophet told Jabir Ibn 'Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with them), "O Jabir, shall I inform you of the best Surah in the Qur`an?" Jabir replied, "Yes, O Messenger of Allah." The Prophet said, "The Opening of the Book." Jabir, the narrator of the hadith, said, "I think the Prophet added "It [Al-Fatiha] is a cure for every disease" [Recorded by Al-Baihaqi in Shu'ab Al-Iman].
- 'Ubada Ibn As-Samit (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet said, "The Mother of the Qur`an [i.e. Al-Fatiha] is a substitute for other Surahs while other Surahs do not substitute it" [Recorded by Ad-Darqutni and al-Hakim].
Status of Al-Fatiha in the Shari'ah
• Rukn [integral] of prayer
The majority of scholars have agreed that reciting Al-Fatiha in every rak'a [unit of prayer] of prescribed and voluntary prayers is obligatory for its validity. It is also legally established to recite it in the funeral prayer.
The special virtues of Al-Fatiha, is what led Abu Sa'id Al-Khudri to recite it as a ruqya without prior permission from the Prophet and without being informed by him that it comprises healing words. When Abu Sa'id told the Prophet of what he did, the Prophet did not censure him or consider his action a bid'a but approved and deemed it valid and asked him, "How did you know it was the words which cure?" [Bukhari and Muslim]. [In another narration], the Prophet told the Companions, "You were right" [Bukhari].
• A protection from evil
Although there were no legal texts specifying the recitation of Al-Fatiha on certain occasions, it was reported that the Companions exhorted the people to recite it. Asma` bint Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with them both) said, "Whoever reads Al-Fatiha, Al- Ikhlas, Al-Falaq and An-Nas after performing Jumu'ah [Friday] prayer, will be protected [from evils] until the next Friday" [Recorded by Ibn Abu Shaybah in his Musanaf ].
• A means to bring blessings
Commencing any matter with Al-Fatiha is patterned after its order in the noble Qur`an. The word fatiha means beginning and this is [precisely] the reason why the surah was so called since it occurs at the beginning of the Qur`an. Therefore, reciting it at the inception of any matter is by way of seeking Allah's guidance and support.
In his book Zad al-Mi'ad, the Hanbali scholar, Ibn al-Qayyim wrote on the virtues of Al-Fatiha: "[The attributes of Surat Al-Fatiha]—Fatihat al-Kitab [Opening of the Book], Um al-Qur`an [the mother of the Qur`an], As-Sab' al-Mathani [the seven oft-repeated verses], ash-Shifa` At-Tam [perfect cure], Ad-Dawa` al-Nafi' [useful treatment], Ar-Ruqya At-Tama [perfect healing], Muftah al-Ghina wa al-Falah [key to richness and success], Hafizat al-Quwah [protective shield] and Dafi'at al-Ham wa al-Gham wa al-Khawf wa al-Huzn [relief from distress, fear and sorrow] are only actualized for a person who realizes its status, gives it its due right, is aware of the manner of its application for illness and seeking its treatment and knows the secret of its potency. When some of the Companions realized these secrets, one of them read it over a person who was stung [by a scorpion] and he immediately recovered. The Prophet asked them, "How did you know that it is a cure?"
A person who is granted success and insight will understand the mysteries of this surah and what it comprises. It affirms monotheism; knowing of the essence of Allah, His Names, Attributes, and actions/decrees; establishes religious law; includes an acknowledgment of Allah's right to being worshipped to the exception of everything else and His exclusive Lordship; absolute reliance on Allah and relegating all affairs to Him, the Disposer of all affairs to Whom belongs all praise and all that is good; professing our need for His help in guiding us which is the core of happiness both in this life and in the next; knowing the relevancy of its meanings to the fulfillment of our interests and for warding off evils of this world and the next; and knowing that the prosperous and perfect outcome of our lives and blessings are contingent upon following its meanings. This surah is a remedy for the ailments of mind and spirit, opens up the gates to abundant blessings and wards off evil. To realize this, a person must develop a sublime disposition and the faculty of reflection and must foster his faith."
A means to fulfilling needs
Scholars have based their opinion on the permissibility of reading Al-Fatiha for fulfilling needs on the hadith narrated by Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) in which the Prophet said, "Allah Almighty says: 'I have divided the prayer into two halves between Me and My slave and My slave shall have what he asks for.' When the slave of Allah says, 'Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds', Allah Almighty says, 'My slave has praised Me.' When the slave says, 'The All-Merciful, the Compassionate', Allah says, 'My slave has spoken well of Me'. When the slave says, 'Owner of the Day of Judgment', Allah says, 'My slave has glorified Me' [and in another narration 'My slave has submitted to Me']. When the slave says, 'You alone we worship and You alone we ask for help', Allah says, 'This is between Me and My slave, and for My slave is what he asks for.' When the slave says, 'Guide us to the straight Path, the Path of those whom You have blessed, not of those with whom You are angry, nor those who are in error,' Allah says, 'This is for My slave, and for My slave is what he asks for" [Muslim and others].
The righteous predecessors followed this without censure. In his book Ath-Thawab, Abu al-Sheikh reported that 'Atta` (may Allah have mercy on him) said, "If you have a need, read Al-Fatiha in full and you will have [your need] fulfilled by the will of Allah."
In his book Al-Asrar Al-Marfu'a, Mulla 'Ali al-Qari said, "This is the basis for the custom of reciting Al-Fatiha for fulfilling needs and achieving goals."
Established opinions of the four followed schools of fiqh
The Hanafi scholars
Hanafi scholars have maintained the recommendation of reading Al-Fatiha when sitting down for meals. In his book Bariqa Mahmuddiya , under the section on food etiquette, al-Khadimi wrote: "As for reading Al-Fatiha, some scholars have reported the opinion of Ali al-Qari in his book Sharh Mukhtasar al-Ihya' in which he said: "The common practice of reciting Al-Fatiha, is recommended because it includes praising Allah and asking Him for guidance to the straight path."
According to the dominant opinion of the Hanafis, it is permissible to read Al-Fatiha after obligatory prayers. In his book Bariqa Mahmuddiya (vol.1, p.98), al-Khadimi said: "There is a scholarly contention on reciting Al-Fatiha after obligatory prayers."
- In Mi'raj Ad-Diraya, it is considered a bid'a though it is recommended because it has become a custom. It is therefore impermissible to prevent it.
- In Burhan Ad-Deen's collection of Fatawa, it is disliked to read Al-Fatiha, silently or audibly, after obligatory prayers.
- In al-Sa'di's collection of Fatawa, it is desirable [to read Al-Fatiha after obligatory prayers].
- In the collection of Fatawa Tatarkhaniya, al-Quniya and al-Ashbah: "Reciting Al-Fatiha after obligatory prayers takes precedence over reciting traditional invocations made at their prescribed times. Among these are the numerous invocations which the master of mankind, may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him, is reported to have made at the conclusion of obligatory prayers."
- In Fusul al-Asrushani: "Reading Al-Fatiha takes precedence over the traditional invocations at their prescribed times."
Based on these citations, the preponderant opinion is its permissibility due to the great number of scholars who maintained it. An offensive bid'a is that which is not based on evidence. Al-Fatiha teaches us the manner of supplicating Allah and asking Him for help—it was revealed to show the best manner of making du'a`. The best du'a` is that which is made at the best times from among which are after obligatory prayers. Thus, its permissibility is indisputable."
The Maliki scholars
The Malikis have maintained the permissibility of reciting Al-Fatiha when seeing someone off on a journey. In his commentary on Ash-Sharh As-Saghir , As-Sawi said: "Sheikh Abd al-Rahman At-Tajuri objected to reading Al-Fatiha when seeing someone off on a journey on the basis that it was not mentioned in the Sunnah. In response, Al-Ajhuri commented that it was mentioned in some Sunnah texts and is therefore permissible."
The Shafi'i scholars
In his collection of Fatawa , Al-Shihab al-Ramli reported the following fatwa:
"What is the ruling for ending the du'a` after obligatory prayers with Al-Fatiha? Is there a basis for it in the Sunnah or is it a bid'a that was not followed by early Muslims? And if it is bid'a, is it good or offensive? If it is undesirable, will its reciter be rewarded?
There is a basis in the Sunnah for reciting Al-Fatiha after the du'a` made at the end of some prayers due to the numerous virtues it entails. The Prophet said, "The Opening of the Book is suspended to the Throne of Allah with no barrier between them."
It is a Surah like no other. Scholars have said that it comprises the meanings of the entire Qur`an. It is made up of 25 words which encompass the Qur`anic sciences since it includes praising Allah Most High through His Attributes of Perfection and Beauty; exhorting sincere observance of acts of worship; admitting one's incapability of performing acts of worship except with the help of Allah; it includes supplications for guidance to the straight path and establishes the end of those who go astray.
The virtues of Al-Fatiha include the following: It is divided between Allah and His servant; prayers are invalid without it and the reward of its recitation outweighs that of any other good deed. This is why it is known as Umm al-Qur`an. It also has many names and this multiplicity is an indication of its importance. These names include: the Surah of Du'a`[supplication], Munaja [secret talk to Allah], At-Tafweed [referring affairs to Allah], Ar-Raqiya [healing], Ash-Shifaa`[the cure] as per the words of the Prophet: "It [Al-Fatiha] is a cure for every disease." Scholars said, 'If one is ill, he is to recite Al-Fatiha because it is a cure.'
In his collection of Al-Fatawa Al-Fiqhiya Al-Kubra , Ibn Hajar al-Haitami mentioned: "It is recommended to read Al-Fatiha when afflicted with the plague since it is a cure for every disease."
The Hanbali scholars
Imam Ahmed Ibn Hanbal used Al-Fatiha in writing permissible amulets. Ibn Muflih wrote in Al-Adab Al-Shari'ya : "Al-Maruzi said: 'A woman who was living alone complained to Abu Abdullah of loneliness. Thereupon, he wrote the name of Allah, Al-Fatiha, Al-Ikhlas, Al-Falaq, An-Nas and Ayat al-Kursi [the verse of the Throne] on a piece of paper [and gave it to her]."
It was previously mentioned that Ibn Taymiyya (may Allah have mercy on him) made Al-Fatiha his morning wird. His student, Ibn al-Qayyim, recommended that a mufti is to recite it before issuing fatawa [legal verdicts]. He reported this opinion from some of the predecessors although the Sunnah does not mention anything in this regard. In his book 'Ilam Al-Muwaq'een 'An Rab Al-'Alameen , Ibn al-Qayyim said: "It is only fitting that a mufti make the [following] du'a` in abundance: 'O Allah, Lord of Jibril, Mika'il and Israfil, Originator of the heavens and earth and Knower of the seen and the unseen! You adjudicate between Your servants regarding their differences, so by Your leave, direct me to the truth of that which they differ on. Verily, You guide whom You will to the straight path." Before issuing a fatwa, some of the predecessors would say: "Glory be to You! We have knowledge only of what You have taught us. You are the All Knowing and All Wise." Some of them would recite Al-Fatiha and we [Hanafi scholars] tried it with the best results."
The predecessors and successors followed this practice. The Hanbali scholar, Yusuf Ibn 'Abdul Hadi, who was known as Ibn al-Mibrad authored a treatise on the virtues of Al-Fatiha, entitled Al-Isti'ana bi Al-Fatiha 'ala Nagah Al-`Umur in which he quoted and commented on Imam Ibn al-Qayyim's previous words in Zad al-Mi'ad. In his book, he said: "[Ibn al-Qayyim's] words are praiseworthy; however, when compared to the virtues of Al-Fatiha, they are merely tantamount to the dip of the bird's beak in the sea or to a drop of water that it drinks from it. Our Sheikh Abu al-Farag Ibn al-Hibal depended heavily on Al-Fatiha for fulfilling needs and resolving matters successfully. When making amulets, he would commence by writing Al-Fatiha, recite it over them and then recite it once more when folding them up. And whenever he would write a letter to anyone, he would recite it over the letter. I testify to its great virtue as a means of fulfilling needs. I read it for matters of both this world and the Hereafter and they prospered. How many times has its recitation successfully resolved difficult and unattainable matters and yielded better results? It is [indeed] a great surah and you—may Allah bless you—should recite it in abundance for the prosperity of all matters, needs, treatments and every aspect of life. Reflect on this and you will find its virtues manifest. It has many virtues and countless secrets that only manifest themselves to those who discern. Allah is the Ever-Supporter and Giver of success."
Contesting opinions that crop up every so often concerning the matter of dhikr, which the predecessors and successors practiced, and which prevent people from practicing it in their homes, gatherings and at their times of joy, are but attributes of innovation and misguidance irrespective of their purport. It is indeed fatal to call for eliminating Muslims' customs that have been established by Islamic civilization throughout its history and which have fashioned the behavior and traditions of Muslims under the pretext of following and applying the teachings of the Shari'ah. Advocates of this false claim are unaware or heedless to the fact that such a call may forfeit the religious essence of public ceremonies and eliminate dhikr from social life and cultural system which is precisely the call of materialists and atheists. Hence, such ignorant folk who talk about what they do not know must be mindful of Allah and leave the matter of fatwa to the prudent scholars who are versed in the reality of the times and understand the consequences of rulings.
Allah Almighty knows best.