Does Inaccurate Recitation Invalidate My Prayer?
Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah
A long time ago I read an answer to a question on a different site which has been causing problems I could not resolve until now. Therefore, I would like to base this question on the following content: https://islamqa.info/en/answers/50536/ruling-on-prayers-being-led-by-one-whose-pronunciation-is-defective.
The problem is very much summarized in one paragraph, which I would like to quote:
Al-Nawawi said in al-Majmu‘ (4/359): “It is essential to recite al-Fatiha in prayer with all its letters, including those which are doubled (letters with shaddah) … if a shaddah is omitted or one letter is substituted for another even though the person is able to pronounce it, then his recitation is not valid.”
Thus, it is to be understood that the established ruling regarding the matter of pronunciation mistakes differentiates between two cases, the first being in one who makes a mistake and fails to correct it despite his ability to do so, the second being in one who is intrinsically unable to produce the required letter and cannot learn to do so.
But what then about one who, despite being of Arabic tongue and able to pronounce all letters with ease, happens to frequently make mistakes in his speech? He certainly is capable of correcting his error since he can pronounce Arabic letters, but will this still be required of him? What is the minimum rate of mistakes for which an exemption could be made?
I understand that all the letters of the fara’id of the prayer must be present and none more, but merely being able to correct a mistake does not make it easy when they occur so often, especially in inconvenient situations like the takbir during transition or the taslim.
Please elaborate on this matter and explain how the general ruling, represented by the quote of al-Nawawi, applies to the described situation. This issue has seriously eroded me since I could not find an explanation for so long.
What has been quoted from al-Majmu‘ is correct, and your understanding of it is accurate, namely, that if a person makes mistakes in his recitation of the Fatihah and he is able to correct it, then he must do so, while a person who makes mistakes in it while genuinely unable to correct it due to a valid excuse, is exempted and his recitation valid.
Mistakes in the Fatiha
In regards your situation, you are able to recite the Fatiha and other integrals in Arabic with ease, but you commonly make mistakes. In this case, you would have to identify the reason(s) for making the mistakes, which you have not explained.
If the mistakes are changing letters, and it is due to lack of concentration or neglect of learning correct recitation while being able to, or similar, then this would mean that your recitation is not valid. If, however, you have a valid excuse, such as you are learning correct pronunciation and still sometimes make mistakes, or if you are a very new Muslim, then you would still need to correct what you notice as errors, but are excused otherwise.
If the mistakes are changing vowels (tashkil), then the recitation is invalid if the mistakes change the actual meaning of the word, and the mistake is due to neglect of learning or lack of concentration. If the change of vowels does not change the actual meaning, then the recitation is valid if unintentional, though it is better to correct it, while if done on purpose, the recitation is invalid. If the mistakes are due to a valid excuse, such as the ones given above, then the recitation is valid, even if it changes the meaning.
If the change of letters or vowels, which changes the meaning, are done intentionally and knowingly, the whole prayer is automatically nullified. All the above applies to native Arabic speakers and non-native Arabic speakers.
Generally, the same rules above apply to other spoken integrals of the prayer, such as the takbiratul ihram (The opening takbir). The takbir has conditions which also apply to the sunna takbirs during the prayer. In regards pronunciation, the following conditions must be met:
- That the Name of Allah proceeds the Akbar.
- That one says it loud enough that one could hear himself if the surrounding was silent.
- That it comprises of the words “Allah” and “Akbar.”
- That the takbir is said in Arabic if one is able.
- That one does not extend the hamza in the Divine Name “Allah.”
- That one does not extend the “ba” of “Akbar.”
- That one does not add a shadda, a double letter to the “Akbar” (i.e. Akabbar)
- That one does not add “و” before the Divine Name of “Allah.”
- That one does not add a “و” between the two words.
Lastly, be careful that you do not open the door to satan and waswasa, giving rise to frequent doubts about what you have recited. If this is the case, you should ignore the thoughts and continue to pray without hesitation.
- Pronunciation Errors in Prayer
- Should I Repeat Past Prayers in Which I Made Pronunciation Errors?
- Do Pronunciation Errors Invalidate Prayer?
I pray the above clarifies the matter for you.
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.