The Prayer of the Muwaswas who is also an 'Ajiz
By Shaykh Muhammad Afifi al-Akiti

In answer to the question:

Since about a month I have severe misgivings about the correctness of my pronunciation of the spoken integrals and sunnas in my prayer, but mainly about the spoken integrals (I never had a teacher in tajweed, and there is no one available where I live, and I don't have the money to search for a teacher. May Allahu ta'Ala grant me a teacher, amin.). I thought that I could manage it by myself, but now its already obsessive. It is that severe, that I began to pray almost all of my prayers at the end of their times instead at the beginning, astaghfiruLlah. But mainly in Zuhr and Asr, because they are wholly recited quietly, and I have fewer doubts when reciting aloud, for it sounds that different to me when I recite quietly, that most of the time I need fortyfive minutes for prayer, reciting al-Fatiha each time with obsessive doubts, for example again and again and again, ''ihdina ihdina ihdina ihdina ihdina....'' until there's a point at which I continue to recite normally, til the next doubts. So I ask for your advice what to do, please answer as soon as possible. Thank you very much, and may Allah, Subhanu wa ta'Ala, bless you. Amin.

Al-hamduliLlah alladhi ja'ala sh-shaytan 'aduwwan li-l-insan wa-hadana bi-ni'amihi wa-amarna bi-ittiba' siratihi al-mustaqim wa-nahana 'an ittiba' al-subul wa-sharafna bi-Muhammadin sallaLlahu 'alayhi wa-sallam wa ba'd.

The mustafti is *without doubt* classified as someone who is an 'ajiz 'an al-qira'a [disabled in his or her recitation; and the disability is due to one's inability, whether owing to something natural, or because of not being a native Arabic speaker, or perhaps merely in this case, because of bu'd 'an al-'ulama' [no access to scholars], therefore not having the means of being taught by a living teacher the Fard 'Ayn of Qira'a: the Fatiha and the Tashahhud]. If this is the case, and if it is not ONLY because of waswasa [obsessive doubts], the 'ajiz will have the valid excuse ['udhr] of a slow reciter [bati' al-qira'a] in the jama'a [group] prayer. The chances are, if the one who suffers from this problem is a new [mu'allaf / qurb min islamihi] or even a non-Arab [ajnabi] Muslim, then he or she will most definitely have a right to this special dispensation, so that even if his or her recitation is *actually* deficient or falls short of the expected standards, the recitation will be excused.

The prayer of an 'ajiz is valid, and it is sufficient only for the musalli himself or herself; and he can only become an Imam and lead others who are themselves 'ajiz (and those who consider themselves 'ajiz in their recitation) but not anyone else. [Nawawi al-Jawi, Nihayat, 61]. This is why there will be no need for the musalli to repeat the prayer, even if in the future he or she is no longer an 'ajiz, because his or her prayer is already valid in the first place. (That is unlike the case, for example, of a Salat li-Hurmat al-Waqt [the prayer, however incomplete (in its shurut [conditions]), is nevertheless performed in deference to the prayer time].) If the situation warrants itself, my advice is that it is better [Awla] in your particular case to defer the Imamship even if the jama'a is made up of the same flock as yours - as the 'illa [legal reasoning] in this case is that the preference for the Imamship will be for the one who is the least slow, as the longer the prayer becomes, the greater becomes the possibility of invalidating it.

However, if the excessive repetition of "ihdina ihdina ihdina ihdina ihdina...." was done deliberately, meaning that he or she did not intend this repetition to be a part (or rather, the process) of his or her qira'a, then the prayer is invalidated. This is made clear by Imam Ibn Hajar (may Allah be pleased with him!): [in the sigha of its recension in the Bughyat al-Mustarshidin:]

"If the obsessive reciter [muwaswas] who says "bis", "bis" [and so on; meaning, "bis" being a part of the first verse of the Fatiha, while "bis...bis" is certainly not a part of the Qur'an nor even any of the adhkar inside or outside the prayer] intended the recitation by that [repetition], it [the prayer] is not invalid. If not, it is invalidated." [Ba'alawi, Bughyat, 41; the original text is in Ibn Hajar, Fatawa, 1:164].

As for the other mas'ala [legal case] found in your question: To recite aloud whether the qira'as or the adhkars in the Sirriyya [inaudible] prayers is only Makruh [offensive] as long as doing so does not disturb others (whether it is another musalli or even someone who is sleeping) [Ibn Hajar, Minhaj, 60]. If not, it becomes Haram [prohibited] even when the prayer is itself valid.

Having said all of that however, and even when the minimum fiqhi ruling might be that the prayer of the muwaswas is still valid, it has to be said here that this is among the "ugliest forms of delusion" [aqbah anwa' al-ghurur] and something that is far removed from the way of Ihsan. Listen carefully to the advice of Imam al-Ghazali (may Allah be pleased with him!) for it should be enough to make us move:

"Another group [of the deluded like the group preceding this one who obsessively doubt about the intention of the prayer] are so bedevilled by obsessive doubts regarding their proper pronunciation [makharij] of the letters of the Fatiha and the rest of the adhkar [of the prayer such as the other integral [rukn], the Tashahhud]. He may take precaution upon precaution in doubling the doubled letters, distinguishing [the letter] DAd from ZA', and correcting the pronunciation of letters in the whole of his prayer - nothing else concerns him and nor does he think about anything else, while at the same time he neglects the meaning of the Qur'an and the lessons he should be taking from it and the directing of his attention to understanding its secrets.
   This is among the ugliest forms of delusion, for people are not expected when reciting the Qur'an to pronounce the letters with more precision than that with which they normally do when speaking [Arabic outside the prayer]. Such people are like someone delivering a message to an assembly of a ruler, who when the latter orders that [the messenger] convey it according to protocol [for reading in front of the ruler], fastidiously pronounces each letter and repeats it and then repeats it again many times [each that he is unsatisfied with], and while doing so forgets the purpose of the message and [worse still, has forgotten] the dignity required [of him in delivering it] in the presence of the assembly; how appropriate it is that he should be detained by the authority and sent to the asylum and declared to have lost [his] mind." [Ihya', 3:389-390].

Al-hamduliLlah, at least you seem to be free from doubts about the intention of the prayer! The poison that feeds your waswasa is the fear you have that your prayer might be invalidated because of your *deficient* recitation. The useful antidote [diryaq nafi'] for this deadly poison [summ naqi'] is to remember the following furu' ruling:
   that mistakes in reciting the Fatiha will not invalidate the prayer unless:
(1) they were done deliberately; and even then,
(2) only if they end up changing the meaning of the Fatiha.
(The detailed ruling is, and this is the Qawl Mu'tamad [Relied Upon Position] of the Shafi'is: if the mistake was done deliberately but does not change the meaning (for example: na'bidu instead of na'budu or SurAT instead of SirAT and the like), it is Haram for the musalli even when his prayer is still valid; and only when the mistake was deliberate and the meaning is changed or the word is rendered meaningless (for example: al-hamdu instead of al-Hamdu or al-lazIna instead of al-ladhIna and the like), will one have invalidated the prayer as well as sinned [Nawawi al-Jawi, Nihayat, 61]).
   I am sure that when you *think* you have made a mistake in your recitation, that mistake was not made deliberately; and this is precisely where Shaytan's house of cards will fall: you can only do so deliberately if you have knowledge of what is the correct recitation in the first place, or even better, you will only know that the meaning is affected only when you have knowledge regarding it; but does this not beg the question somewhat, since you said yourself that you have no knowledge in the first place and that "I never had a teacher in tajweed". If you have never been taught Tajwid, then on what basis do you allow yourself to doubt your own reading and then to stop reading?

What is the standard [mi'yar] which you rely upon to make you think that you are reading it wrongly in the first place? Of course, there is actually no such standard if you have no such knowledge. And it is this, due to your inability [i.e., your 'ajiz-ness status], namely the lack of knowledge, that is the real source for all of your troubles and the cause of waswasa. This is because we are most vulnerable to Iblis and his tools, who prey best on the solitary and on those are lost; for only when there is knowledge can one have certainty [yaqin], and only with certainty will doubts be impossible [mustahil]: something that is understood from one of the five legal principles upon which our school is said to be built, namely, al-yaqInu lA yuzAlu bi-sh-shakk [certainty is not removed by doubt].

The good news is you do not need to learn *formally* (by boarding at a Madrasa / Seminary) the science of Tajwid in order to read your Fatiha and Tashahhud correctly: all that is needed is to have someone who can read his Fatiha and Tashahhud correctly and for that person to sit and read with you.
   Our advice is for you to seek out immediately (or at least to continue having the intention [qasd] for the "talab", meaning, search - even if passively (such as hoping that your next guest at your house will be someone who can teach you) - and always look out for) someone to teach you to read your Fard 'Ayn of the Qur'an, so to speak, which is only the Fatiha and then next the Tashahhud of the prayer. Such a person does not have to be a maestro himself or possess an ijaza of the Qur'an, for example. The criterion will in fact be based on your own ijtihad [i.e., the personal judgement you make], and it will be sufficient as long as you think [zanni] the other person to be more knowledgeable than you in qira'a (and it will help especially if the other person is an Imam or a teacher or anyone who makes a claim to knowledge) - and this is yet another instance of a Muqallid making his own Ijtihad Zanni, comparable with the case of determining the Qibla [i.e., ijtihad al-qibla]. For this represents the maximum level of acquiring knowledge [aqsa tahsil al-'ilm] on your part and that "lA yukallifu LlAhu nafsan illA wus'ahA" [Allah does not burden any soul except with what it can bear] (al-Baqara, 2:286). Even if sometime later your knowledge is 'upgraded', so to speak, and you realize that your reading was deficient all the while, even then, as the rulings related above show, you are not required to repeat [i'ada] your prayers. For an individual is only held legally responsible [mukallaf] according to the possibility of his knowing it.

The circumstances of the difficulties which were described as: "there is no one available where I live, and I don't have the money to search for a teacher", leaves the impression that you are living in some isolated village (or if in our part of the world, in the middle of the jungle or for some others the desert!). If that in fact is not the case, and Friday prayers are actually held weekly in your place (assuming therefore that there are a minimum of forty permanent resident men [mustawtin] living in your town, and especially if there is a mosque, for example), then there is no question that you should [Wajib] read with someone whom you deem [zanni] to be more knowledgeable than you, such as your local Imam(s) (even if you think his reading is not beautiful or you think that his is not correct (remember, just as in fiqh, there are more than one madhhab for makharij and there is rahma in this for the umma); for someone who has the malady cannot cure others and only the one who has acquired knowledge can evaluate others' - and if one turns out to have had the possibility of knowledge and to have known of that possibility, it would have been inexcusable for him or her to lose time in correcting the Fatiha and the Tashahhud when he or she could have done so in the past). If it is indeed the case that you do not have a mosque and there is really no one to whom you can turn in your community, and that therefore you are far from the Jama'a, then if you are somewhere on the same island as Oxford, I might be persuaded to make a ziyara.

May Allah remove both the mani' of your talab and lift also your hijab so that you can keep the accursed Shaytan and his cursed weapons in check from ever harming and inflicting more pain on you!

My dear questioner, try to read the last Sura of the Qur'an at least once a day; and each time before you do so, you should say the following:

a'Udhu bi-kalimAti LlAhi t-tAmmAti min ghaDabihi wa-'iqAbihi wa-sharri 'ibAdihi wa-min hamazAti sh-shayTAni wa-an yaHDurUna
[I take refuge in the perfect words of Allah from His anger and His punishment and the evil of His slaves and from the temptations of the devil and [I also take refuge lest by some chance] they be present [in my mind]!]

a'Udhu bi-LlAhi s-samI'i l-'alImi mina sh-shayTAni r-rajImi min hamzihi wa-nafkhihi wanafthihi
[I take refuge in Allah, Who Hears and Knows, from the accursed devil, from his mischief [i.e., as the disturber of peace], his arrogance, and his poetry [wafting his sweet but delusional words into my mind]!]

and then bismiLlahi...

May this be of benefit.

From the one in need of protection himself,
Muhammad Afifi al-Akiti
16 Rabi' II 1425
5 VI 2004

Select Bibliography:

•  Ba'alawi, Abd al-Rahman. Bughyat al-Mustarshidin fi Talkhis Fatawa ba'd al-Muta'akhkhirin. Bulaq, 1309 H.

•  al-Ghazali. Ihya' 'Ulum al-Din. Edited by Badawi Ahmad Tabanah. 4 vols. Cairo: Dar Ihya' al-Kutub al-'Arabiyya, 1957. Ibn Hajar. al-Fatawa al-Kubra al-Fiqhiyya. 4 vols. Bulaq, 1308 H.

•  Ibn Hajar. al-Minhaj al-Qawim Sharh 'ala al-Muqaddima al-Hadramiyya fi Fiqh al-Sadat al-Shafi'iyya [by Sayyid Bafadl al-Hadrami]. Bulaq, 1305 H.

•  Nawawi al-Jawi. Nihayat al-Zayn fi Irshad al-Mubtadi'in Sharh 'ala Qurrat al-'Ayn bi-Muhimmat al-Din [by Imam al-Mallibari]. Cairo: Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi, 1938.

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