Mispronunciation of the Fatiha
Question: I am a non-Arab who has OCD. After learning that mistakes in the Fatiha can invalidate salah, prayer is a burden and I get waswasa to stop praying. I spend about 10 to 12 minutes to pray my fard. I repeat many words of the Fatiha. My letter `ayn is not very good, does this invalidate the prayer? If I mispronounce in the first rak`ah but realize it in the 3rd or 4th rak`ah, what should be done? Are the following points true? A: Interchanging the ﻕ and ﻙ does not nullify salat. B: Likewise for interchanging ﺱ and ﺹ. C: Reciting “iyaka na’budu” in place of iyyaaka na’budu does not nullify the prayer. D: Pronouncing the letter ﻆ like a ﺯ during the ruku` nullifies the prayer because it changes the meaning. (Radd-ul-mukhtar) E: If I mispronounce a letter of the Fatiha is it obligatory to go back and pronounce it correctly even though it wasn’t intentional? F: If I say arrrahman nirrrahim instead of what I am supposed to say, would it invalidate it?
Thank you for your question. I empathize with your frustration and distress and I pray that you can resolve this soon. Allah has not placed a burden on people to be perfect, but rather Muslims should learn their religion and do the best they can. It will not go unrewarded, by His grace. This is the upshot.
Here is the section on mistakes in the Fatiha, from the Reliance of the Traveller, to give you an overall idea of the ruling:
“If one omits one of the Fatiha’s letters (Ar. harf, a consonant or long vowel (A: mistakes in a short vowel (haraka) do not harm as long as they do not alter the meaning)), fails to double a letter that should be doubled, or substitutes a wrong letter for the right one, it invalidates (0: one’s recital of that particular word and one must recite the word again (dis: s3.3). But it does not invalidate one’s prayer unless it changes the meaning and was done deliberately)”[f18.8].
The letter `Ayn
Your pronunciation of this letter is acceptable according to your description and you should no longer worry about it. Don’t allow waswasa to make your decisions for you.
Interchanging the letters Qaf & Kaf and Sad & Sin
Your prayer remains valid if you have interchanged the letters above during the Fatiha, as long as the meaning hasn’t changed and you did not do it deliberately. If you do notice some errors, you should go back and fix them once, but you are excused otherwise because you are learning. Do sit with a tajweed teacher in order to learn how to pronounce them correctly and not overthink it.
Realizing a mistake later on
In your case, if you have made a mistake in the first rak`ah and realize in the third, I would attribute this to waswasa (baseless misgivings) and it should be ignored. As long as you are working on improving your pronunciation with a teacher, you don’t need to repeat prayers or rak` ahs.
Doubling the ya’
If you mispronounced ‘iyyaka‘, by not doubling the ya’, you should go back and pronounce it with a shadda, but not more than once. Don’t let waswasa take hold of you. This shadda will quickly become a habit and you won’t forget it again, by the grace of Allah.
As for your last point, it is obligatory to say the Basmala as it is considered one of the verses of the Fatiha: Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem. Also be sure to recite the Ta`awwudh before the Fatiha so the Devil doesn’t whisper to you about your pronunciation: A`udhu biLahi minash Shaytanir rajeem.
Please see this answer for more detailed answers to your question:
And finally, see below an excerpt from the Reliance of the Traveller about delusions and how they are seen by traditional scholars:
“s3.3 Others are so bedeviled by inner misgivings at their initial Allahu Akbar in the prayer that they may miss a rak’a with the imam. And like them are those with obsessive doubts about the proper pronunciation of the letters of the Fatiha and other spoken elements of the prayer. One of them may take precaution upon precaution in doubling the doubled letters, distinguishing ض from ظ, and so forth, beyond the necessary, until he is finally so concerned about it that he does not think about anything else, neglecting the meaning of the Koran and the lessons he should be taking from it. And this is among the ugliest forms of delusion, for people are not required to pronounce the letters when reciting the Koran with more precision than that with which classical Arabic is normally spoken. Such people are as if delivering a message to a ruler, the messenger fastidiously pronouncing each letter and repeating those he is unsatisfied with, having quite forgotten the purpose of the message and the dignity of the assembly before whom he is delivering it. How richly such a person deserves to be thrown out and taught a lesson.”
The Prophet, may Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “One who is skilled in the Qur’an is associated with the noble, upright recording angels, and he who falters when he recites the Qur’an and finds it difficult for him will have a double reward [Abu Dawud].
May Allah reward you for your efforts!
[Ustadha] Shazia Ahmad
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria for two years where she studied aqidah, fiqh, tajweed, tafseer, and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her Masters in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She recently moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.