The opinion of the majority of the scholars, amongst them Maalik, ash-Shaafi’ee and Ahmad, is that it is obligatory to recite al-Fatihah in the prayer and that the prayer is not valid without it. Their opinion is based upon many proofs; from amongst them the sayings of the Prophet (Peace and Blessings be upon him),
“There is no prayer for the one who does not recite the Opening of the Book.” [Reported by Saheeh Bukhari [Eng. Trans. 1/404 no. 723], Saheeh Muslim [Eng. Trans. 1/214 no. 771]]
“Whosoever performs a prayer in which he does not recite the Mother of the Book then it is deficient, it is deficient, it is deficient, it is incomplete.” [Reported by Saheeh Muslim [Eng. Trans. 1/215 no. 775]]
“The prayer is not valid in which the Mother of the Qur’an is not recited.” [Reported by Saheeh Muslim [Eng. Trans. 1/215 no. 772]]
However according to Abu Haneefah, those of his companions who agreed with him, al-Awza’ee and ath-Thawree, it is not obligatory to recite al-Fatihah, rather any portion of the Qur’an would be sufficient. They based this upon the saying of Allah,
“And recite what is easy [for you] from the Qur’an.” [Surah Al-Muzzammil (73): 20]
And the saying of the Prophet (Peace and Blessings be upon him) to the man who prayed badly,
“When you stand for pray, say the takbeer and then recite what is easy for you from the Qur’an.” [Reported by Saheeh Bukhari [Eng. Trans. 1/404 no. 724]]
On top of this, according to ash-Shaafi’ee and a group of the People of Knowledge it is obligatory to recite al-Fatihah in every rak’ah of the prayer. However, another group were of the opinion that it is sufficient to recite it in the majority of the rak’ahs and yet another group, from amongst them al-Hasan and the majority of the scholars of Basrah, were of the opinion that it is sufficient just to recite it in one rak’ah. This latter group took to the literal sense of the hadeeth,
“There is no prayer for the one who does not recite the Opening of the Book.”
In the case where one is a follower in a congregational prayer then the scholars fell into three opinions with regards to the follower’s reciting al-Fatihah:
1. It is obligatory upon him to recite it in all prayers.
2. It is upon him not to recite it in all prayers.
3. He should recite it in those prayers in which the recitation is silent, but not in those prayers in which the recitation is loud.
The point here is not to discuss which is the strongest opinion but to show that al-Fatihah has specific rulings to it that are not shared by any other chapter of the Qur’an. Allah Knows best.
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