Why does the imam not say the basmalah aloud before al-Fatihah when leading salat?


Someone from London wrote to Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa and asked that, since the basmalah is part of Surah al-Fatihah, why the imam starts the loud recitation of Surah al-Fatihah from ‘al-hamdu lillahi’ instead of starting it with the basmalah?

Huzoor-e-Anwaraa, in his letter dated 7 January 2022, provided the following answer to this question:

“The ahadith make it abundantly clear that the basmalah, i.e., the phrase ‘بسم اللّٰہ الرّحمٰن الرّحیم’, is a verse and an integral part of every surah of the Holy Quran […]. Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra provided a detailed explanation of this concept in his commentary [tafsir] of Surah al-Fatihah.

“In each rak‘ah of the prayer, we recite the basmalah before reciting Surah al-Fatihah or any other [complete] surah [apart from Surah At-Tawbah]. However, it should not be recited aloud, but rather in a quiet voice, as it is established from authentic Hadith sources that the Holy Prophetsa used to recite the basmalah quietly before reciting Surah al-Fatihah and other surahs during salat.

“Hence, it is narrated by Hazrat Anasra that, ‘Whenever the Holy Prophetsa, Hazrat Abu Bakrra and Hazrat Umarra would start the [loud recitation in] salat, they would begin with the phrase ‘al-hamdu lillahi rabbi l-‘alamin’’. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab as-azan, Bab ma yaqulu ba‘da t-takbir)

“In another account, Hazrat Anasra narrated that, ‘I prayed behind the Holy Prophetsa, Hazrat Abu Bakrra, Hazrat Umarra, and Hazrat Usmanra. I never heard any of them recite the basmalah aloud (before reciting a surah during salat).’ (Sunan an-Nasa’i, Kitab al-iftitah, Bab tarki l-jahri bi bisimillah)

“The Promised Messiahas also followed the same practice of not reciting the basmalah aloud. This practice has been continued by his khulafa, who do not recite the basmalah aloud either. The unity and uniformity of the Jamaat demand that the imams of congregational prayer adopt the same practice as demonstrated by the Holy Prophetsa, the Promised Messiahas, and their khulafa.

“However, it is true that if someone still recites the basmalah aloud during salat, we do not consider it invalid, as there are some ahadith that mention that, on some occasions, the Holy Prophetsa recited it aloud too. Hence, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Ira stated:

“‘It is permissible to recite the basmalah in both ways; aloud or quietly. Our Hazrat Maulvi Abdul Karim Sahib (may God forgive him and have mercy on his soul) was of an energetic nature. He used to recite the basmalah aloud. Hazrat Mirza Sahib [i.e., the Promised Messiahas] did not use to recite it aloud. I also recite it quietly. Among the Companionsra, there are two schools of thought in this regard. I advise you not to quarrel over how anyone recites it. The same is true of amin; it too is permissible in both ways. In some places, the Jews and Christians used to dislike the Muslims’ saying amin. So, the Companionsra used to say it very loudly. I enjoy both methods. One can recite it aloud or quietly.’ (Badr, No. 32, Vol. 11, 23 May 1912, p. 3)

“Hazrat Maulvi Abdul Karim Sahibra of Sialkot embraced Ahmadiyyat later in life. Before joining the Ahmadiyya Movement, he used to recite the basmalah aloud, as is also confirmed by the practice of the Holy Prophetsa. Therefore, the Promised Messiahas did not prohibit him from continuing this practice. However, it is also established through the narrations of many senior Companionsra, such as Hazrat Mian Abdullah Sahibra of Sanaur, Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiq Sahibra, Hazrat Qazi Muhammad Yusuf Sahibra of Peshawar, and Hazrat Sahibzada Mirza Bashir Ahmad Sahibra, that the Promised Messiah’sas own practice was in line with the most frequent sunnah of his lord and master, the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa, the chosen one.

“Thus, in order to maintain unity and uniformity in this matter, we should adopt the same approach that was most frequently chosen by the Holy Prophetsa and which was also followed by:

  • his rightly-guided caliphs, who assumed the throne of the Islamic caliphate during the first establishment of Islam,
  • the Promised Messiahas, who was sent as a spiritual heir and the ardent devotee of the Holy Prophetsa to bring about a revival of Faith during the Islamic Renaissance,
  • and by every manifestation, i.e., Khalifa of the true Islamic caliphate that was established through the Promised Messiahas.

“On one occasion, someone said to Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra that there were other books, besides Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, that did mention the Holy Prophetsa reciting the basmalah aloud. The person asked if there is no harm in reciting the basmalah loudly, should he continue to do so or abandon it? In order to preserve the aforementioned unity and uniformity, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra replied:“‘According to Bukhari and Muslim, the Holy Prophetsa did not recite the basmalah aloud. Do other books have greater authority than Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim?’ (Farmudat Musleh-e-Maud Darbarah Fiqhi Masa’il, pp. 56-57)”

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