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Reading from the Mushaf During Salat: A Hanafi Persective

By Mawlana Abu Asim Badrul Islam

During the blessed month of Ramaḍān, it is observed in many masājid[1] that some of those who pray behind the imām hold the muṣḥaf[2] in their hands. They do this in order to follow the recitation of the imām. With the global transmission today of live footage of the beautiful and mesmerising tarāwīḥ prayers from Al-Masjid al-Ḥarām in Makkah and Al-Masjid al-Nabawī in Madīnah most Muslims in the developed countries are aware of such following of recitation during the congregational prayers. In imitation there are now Muslims here in the western world who also hold the muṣḥaf in their hands during ṣalāh. This normally involves holding the muṣḥaf with one hand and turning the pages with the other, during ṣalāh. When such a person goes down to prostration, he normally places the muṣḥaf on the ground. There are several ills in this practice, some of which are obvious. This paper will seek to analyse the permissibility or otherwise of the practice of holding the muṣḥaf during ṣalāh from the perspective of the ḥanafī school of sacred law.

The evidence from ḥadīth that seems to allow reading from a muṣḥaf whilst in ṣalāh is that which Imām Al-Bukhārī (d. 256/870[3]) has mentioned in his Ṣaḥīḥ in the form of taʿlīq in the chapter entitled Bāb imāmat al-ʿabd wa ‘l-mawlā (Chapter: The imāmat of a slave and a freed slave) before ḥadīth 692 in Kitāb al-Adhān (The book of adhān). He reports:

‘ʿĀʾishah’s slave, Dhakwān, used to lead her in ṣalāh, reading from the muṣḥaf.’

This has been explained by Shams al-Aʾimmah Imām Al-Sarakhsī[4] (d. 490/1097), Imām Badr al-Dīn al-ʿAynī[5] (d. 855/1451), Imām Sayyid Anwar Shāh Kashmīrī[6] (d. 1352/1933), Shaykh al-Islām Mawlānā Ẓafar Aḥmad ʿUthmānī Thānwī[7] (d. 1394/1974), as well as others, in such a way that the impermissibility of reading from a muṣḥaf remains. For instance, the above report of Imām Al-Bukhārī could mean that:

–       Dhakwān used to memorise from the muṣḥaf during the day and recite that memorised portion of the Holy Qurʾān when leading our mother ʿĀʾishah (may Allāh be pleased with her) in ṣalāh during the night.

–       Dhakwān used to read just a portion of the Holy Qurʾān when leading our mother ʿĀʾishah in ṣalāh during the night, and not the entire Qurʾān. That is, he did not complete a full khatm as that is not absolutely necessary.

–       Dhakwān did not have another ḥāfiẓ[8] of the Holy Qurʾān assisting him during ṣalāh in Ramaḍān. Therefore, he used the muṣḥaf as an assistant which he used to look at during the sittings (tarwīḥah) after every four rakaʿāt. People would normally call this ‘imāmat from the muṣḥaf’.

–       Dhakwān used to look into the muṣḥaf before commencing his ṣalāh.

–       Dhakwān used to look into the muṣḥaf after completing every two rakaʿāt and refresh his memory for the next two. The narrator thought he was reading from the muṣḥaf whilst still in ṣalāh (when, in fact, this was not the case).

Imām Sayyid Anwar Shāh Kashmīrī states in his Fayḍ al-Bārī (without any exception) that ‘according to us [- the Ḥanafiyyah -] reading from the muṣḥaf renders the ṣalāh invalid.’ He, as well as others, notes that ‘to read from the muṣḥaf whilst in prayer is a practise of the Ahl al-Kitab (Christians and Jews) as they are incapable of reading [their holy books] from memory.’He also states that reading from the muṣḥaf is ‘contrary to the practise that has been passed on from one generation of Muslims to the next.’

Imām Shaykh al-Ḥadīth Mawlānā Muḥammad Zakariyya Kāndhlawī (d. 1402/1982), in his Lāmiʿ al-Darārī, after giving a detailed account of all the madhāhib[9] and opinions of the imams on this issue, seems to incline toward impermissibility. He states that Imām Shāh Walī Allāh (d. 1176/1762), in his Al-Abwāb wa ‘l-Tarājim, adopted such an explanation for the reading of Dhakwān from the muṣḥaf that it does not allow permissibility for it. Imām Kāndhlawī says:

‘According to Imām Abū Ḥanīfah to recitethe Qurʾān from the muṣḥaf [whilst in ṣalāh] invalidates ṣalāh. There is nothing wrong in doing so according to the Shāfiʿiyyah.’

Shaykh al-Islām Mawlānā Ẓafar Aḥmad ʿUthmānī Thānwī has a chapter in his Iʿlāʾ al-Sunan entitled Bāb fasād al-ṣalāh bi ‘l-qirāʾati min al-muṣḥaf (Chapter on the annulment of ṣalāh due to reciting from the muṣḥaf) in which he emphatically argues, with evidences from ḥadīth and fiqh, that reading from the muṣḥaf, be it in one’s hand or on a stand, renders the ṣalāh invalid. His arguments are logical and convincing. If reading from the muṣḥaf were permissible, the Messenger of Allāh (may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) would not have instructed those Muslims who were unable to read anything from the Qurʾān from their memory to say words such as ‘subḥānallāh, wa ‘l-ḥamdu lillāh, wa lā ilāha illallāhu, wa Allāhu Akbar…’ in lieu of the normally required recitation from the Qurʾān whilst praying.

‘In arguing for Imām Abū Ḥanīfah, Imām Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn Faḍl used to say: “We all agree that if a man is able to read from the muṣḥaf but is unable to read from memory, it would be valid if he prayed without any recitation from the Qurʾān. Had recitation from the muṣḥaf been permissible, ṣalāh without recitation [in the case of one who is incapable of reciting from memory] would not have been permissible.”’

After outlining Imām Abū Ḥanīfah’s (d. 150/767) arguments, Imām Al-Sarakhsī states:

‘The most correct view is that [to read from the muṣḥaf, even if it be on a stand] is talaqqun[10]. Thus, it would be as if he had learnt from a teacher [who is outside his ṣalāh], and this invalidates ṣalāh.’

Imām Ibn ʿĀbidīn[11] (d. 1252/1836) mentions in his Radd al-Muḥtār under Imām al-Ḥaṣkafī’s (d. 1088/1677) text:

‘[…] and his reading from a muṣḥaf [renders his ṣalāh invalid].’

that the latter Imām has left the masʾalah general so that it also includes text on a masjid’s miḥrāb (in front of the one engaged in ṣalāh), for, if he reads the text of the Qurʾān written on the miḥrāb wall, his ṣalāh is rendered invalid.

Reading from the muṣḥaf renders the ṣalāh invalid without exception according to Imām Abū Ḥanīfah because it is considered taʿallum[12] (Al-Durr al-Mukhtār), and doing so whilst in ṣalāh renders it invalid. Imām Abū Ḥanīfah’s argument is that reading from the muṣḥaf is not free from any one of the following:

(i)                 The muṣḥaf has to be held/carried and/or one has to look into it and turn the pages. All this is considered ʿamal kathīr[13], and this renders the ṣalāh invalid.

(ii)               Reading from the muṣḥaf is considered talaqqun. Therefore, it would be similar to doing talaqqun from a person or any other object other than the muṣḥaf.

According to Imām Abū Ḥanīfah’s second argument above (ii) there would be no difference in the ruling (i.e. that of impermissibility) irrespective of whether the muṣḥaf is being held/carried or is placed on a stand etc. It is stated in Al-Kāfī that the second argument (i.e. that of impermissibility) is the more correct one. The same opinion was held by Imām Al-Sarakhsī. ImāmAkmal al-Dīn al-Bābartī (d. 787/1385), in his Al-ʿInāyah[14], as well as others, also mentions the above arguments.

In contrast, Imām Abū Yūsuf (d. 182/798) and Imām Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan (d. 189/805) maintained that reading from a muṣḥaf does not render the ṣalāh invalid. Their reasoning was that looking into a muṣḥaf is in itself a form of ʿibādah. By reading from a muṣḥaf the one engaged in ṣalāh is merely combining one form of ʿibādah with another. There is no reason why this should invalidate the ʿibādah (ṣalāh).

Imām Ibn Nujaym (d. 970/1563), in his Al-Baḥr al-Rāʾiq[15], discusses this in considerable detail and outlines both sides of the argument – that of permissibility and impermissibility. He mentions that the author of Al-Kāfī and Imām Al-Sarakhsī were of the opinion that it is impermissible. Imām Ibn Nujaym says:

‘One may argue for Imām Abū Ḥanīfah, as ʿAllāmah Al-Ḥalabī has mentioned, with the narration that has been reported by Ibn Abī Dāwūd from Ibn ʿAbbās (may Allāh be pleased with him) that he said: “Amīr al-Muʾminīn prohibited us from leading people in ṣalāh [by reading] from the muṣḥaf.” Prohibition would normally imply fasād (invalidity). By “the muṣḥaf” Ibn ʿAbbās intended anything that has any Qurʾānic text written on it, for, the correct opinion is that if one were to read from the [wall of] the miḥrāb, it would render his ṣalāh invalid.’

Commenting on the absence of proper sanad[16] for this report, Shaykh al-Islām Mawlānā Ẓafar Aḥmad ʿUthmānī Thānwī states that even though he could not find a sanad, the prohibition of “Amīr al-Muʾminīn” is substantiated by sound qiyās (analogical deduction in jurisprudence).

A later ḥanafī faqīh and muḥaddith who is renowned for his mastery in all the Islāmic sciences – Imām Abu ‘l-Ḥasanāt Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Ḥayy Lucknowī[17] (d. 1304/1886) – wrote a book on the impermissibility of reading from a muṣḥaf during ṣalāh. Entitled Al-Qawl al-Ashraf fī al-Fatḥ min al-Muṣḥaf, Imām Lucknowī mentions at the opening of his book the reason why he wrote it. He says that when he arrived at Hyderābād[18], he witnessed a most unusual practice. In congregational ṣalāh, a muqtadī[19] would stand behind the imām with an open muṣḥaf. When the imām erred in his recitation or forgot, the muqtadī would look in the muṣḥaf and read aloud the correct words. When some people enquired about the permissibility of this, Imām Lucknowī wrote this detailed treatise[20].

In conclusion, we may say that based on the very logical argument of Imām Abū Ḥanīfah, which was adopted by later jurists (fuqahāʾ) of the Ḥanafī school of sacred law, the details of which have been looked at in this paper, it will be impermissible for one engaged in ṣalāh to read from a muṣḥaf, and doing so will render his ṣalāh invalid. Although, there are arguments on both sides (for and against permissibility), the fact that the likes of Shams al-Aʾimmah Imām Al-Sarakhsī, Imām ʿAbd al-Ḥayy Lucknowī, Imām Sayyid Anwar Shāh Kashmīrī, Shaykh al-Islām Mawlānā Ẓafar Aḥmad ʿUthmānī Thānwī and Imām Shaykh al-Ḥadīth Mawlānā Muḥammad Zakariyya Kāndhlawī give precedence to the argument of impermissibility is sufficient to deem impermissible such a reading during ṣalāh.



  • Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn Abī Sahl ‘Shams al-Aʾimmah’ al-Sarakhsī, Al-Mabsūṭ (Beirut: Dār al-Maʿrifah, no date).
  • Akmal al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Bābartī, Al-ʿInāyah Sharḥ al-Hidāyah (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 1995).
  • Badr al-Dīn Abū Muḥammad Maḥmūd ibn Aḥmad al-ʿAynī, Al-Bināyah Sharḥ al-Hidāyah, 2nd edn (Beirut: Dār al-Fikr, 1990).
  • Badr al-Dīn Abū Muḥammad Maḥmūd ibn Aḥmad al-ʿAynī, ʿUmdat al-Qārī Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī (Beirut:  Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, no date).
  • Burhān al-Dīn Abu ‘l-Maʿālī Maḥmūd ibn Ṣadr al-Sharīʿah ibn Māzah al-Bukhārī, Al-Muḥīṭ al-Burhānī, 2:249 – mas’alah: 1676 (Karachi: Idārat al-Qurʾān, 2004).
  • Kamāl al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wāḥid ‘Ibn al-Humām’, Fatḥ al-Qadīr, 1:412(Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 1995).
  • MuḥammadAmīn ‘Ibn ʿĀbidīn’, Radd al-Muḥtār ʿalā al-Durr al-Mukhtār Sharḥ Tanwīr al-Abṣār,2:383 (Beirut:  Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, no date).
  • Muḥammad Zakariyyā ibn Muḥammad Yaḥyā al-Kāndhlawī, Lāmiʿ al-Darārī ʿalā Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, 1:264 (Karachi: HM Saʿīd, no date).
  • Sayyid Anwar Shāh ibn Muʿaẓẓam Shāh al-Kashmīrī, Fayḍ al-Bārī ʿalā Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, 2:276 (Beirut:  Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 2005).
  • Walī al-Dīn al-Nadwī, Al-Imām ʿAbd al-Ḥayy al-Laknawī – ʿAllāmat al-Hind wa Imām al-Muḥaddithīn wa ‘l-Fuqahāʾ (Damascus: Dār al-Qalam, 1995).
  • Ẓafar Aḥmad al-ʿUthmānī al-Thānwī, Iʿlāʾ al-Sunan (Beirut: Dār al-Fikr, 2001).
  • Zayn al-Dīn ibn Ibrāhīm ibn Muḥammad ‘Ibn Nujaym’, Al-Baḥr al-Rāʾiq (Beirut:  Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, no date).




[1] Plural of masjid.

[2] The Holy Qurʾān in its printed book form.

[3] Throughout this paper, where dates are mentioned, the first is the Islāmic hijrī date followed by the Gregorian date.

[4] See: Al-Mabsūṭ, 1:202.

[5] See: Al-Bināyah Sharḥ al-Hidāyah and ʿUmdat al-Qārī Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, 5:328.

[6] See: Fayḍ al-Bārī, 2:276.

[7] See: Iʿlāʾ al-Sunan, 4:1555.

[8] One who has committed the entire Holy Qurʾān to memory and is able to recite it verbatim.

[9] Plural of ‘madhhab’ – a legal school of sacred law (usually used to refer to the four established schools of the Ḥanafiyyah, Shāfiʿiyyah, Mālikiyyah and Ḥanābilah).

[10] Taking words, or learning, from another.

[11] Popularly known as ʿAllāmah Shāmī, he authored the highly authoritative multi-volume Radd al-Muḥtār ʿalā Al-Durr al-Mukhtār (also known as Ḥāshiyah Ibn ʿĀbidīn or Fatāwā Shāmī), which is considered the prime manual for every ḥanafī muftī.

[12] Learning.

[13] Excessive movement in ṣalāh.

[14] A commentary of Imām Burhān al-Dīn ʿAlī al-Marghīnānī’s Al-Hidāyah. See: Al-ʿInāyah Sharḥ al-Hidāyah, 1:412.

[15] See: Al-Baḥr al-Rāʾiq, 2:17.

[16] Chain of narrators.

[17] Popularly known in the Indian subcontinent as Mawlānā Lucknowī.

[18] This may have been Hyderābād Deccan in India.

[19] A person praying behind an imām.

[20] See: Irshād al-Fuḥūl bi Wafāt Nāʾib al-Rasūl by Mawlānā Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Bāqī (p.40).

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