1. It is essential to recite the Qur'an correctly, distinguishing carefully between various alphabetical sounds like those of etc. If a person is not able to do so in spite of effort, he may be regarded as excusable, but not so if he shows negligence in this regard.
2. Al Fatihah is an essential part of the recitation and has to be recited in all the rak'ahs of all kinds of Prayer - Fard, Wajib, Sunnat and Nafl.
3. It is essential to recite an additional surah or a passage containing one long verse or three short verses, after al Fateha in the first two rak'ahs of a Fard Prayer, and in all the rak'ahs of the Witr, Sunnat and Nafl prayers. In the third and fourth rak'ahs of the Fard Prayer, however, only al Fateha is to be recited.
4. Al Fateha has to precede the additional surah or a passage and not vice versa, otherwise the Prayer will not be valid.
5. It is essential for the Imam to recite the Qur'an audibly in the Fajr, Friday and Eid prayers and in the first two rak'ahs of the Maghrib and Isha prayers. During Ramadan, he has to recite the Qur'an audibly in the Taravih and Witr prayers if he neglects this forgetfully, he has to perform sajdah sahv, but if intentionally he has to repeat the Prayer.
6. In the Zuhr and Asr prayers, both the Imam and the individual praying alone, have to recite the Qur'an inaudibly. The individual has to recite inaudibly in the Witr Prayer as well.
7. The person offering the Fajr, Maghrib and Isha prayers alone should, as far as possible, recite the Qur'an inaudibly.
8. The Imam should recite the Qur'an aloud even when he is leading a missed Prayer of Fajr, Maghrib or Isha.
9. Though admissible, it is better not to repeat in the second rak'ah the surah or passage that one has recited in the first rak'ah.
10. For the Prayer to be valid, one has to pronounce words of the Qur'an with the tongue and not only in the mind, even for those prayers in which recitation has to be done inaudibly.(1)
11. It is highly undesirable to bend down in ruku before finishing the recitation of a passage and to complete it in the position of ruku.
12. In the Fard Prayer, it is a undesirable to recite an additional surah or passage in various rak'ahs intentionally against the sequence in which they occur in the Qur'an. However, if a person does so unintentionally in the Fard Prayer or even intentionally in the Nafl Prayer there is no harm.
13. It is undesirable to recite two surahs, one after the other, omitting in between a short surah containing three verses, or recite a few verses of a surah in the first rak'ah and then omitting one or two verses in between, recite the next verses and the second rak'ah. This is applicable only to the Fard Prayer.
14. It is also undesirable to recite two surahs, one after the other, in the same rak'ah, omitting in between one or more intermediary surahs. But this is applicable to the Fard Prayer only.
15. If for instance a newly converted Muslim, or a person who has just started offering his prayers, does not know any surah or verse of the Qur'an by heart, he should commit to memory some portion of the Qur'an as soon as possible, without showing any negligence and in the meantime recite only Subhan-Allah or al hamdu li Allah.
Recitation in the Prayer - the Holy Prophet's Practice
1. While on a journey one may recite any surah after al Fateha, but while at home both the Imam and the individual praying alone have been enjoined to recite surahs of a particular length. For example:
(a) In the Fajr and Asr prayers one will be following the Sunnah the Holy Prophet, if one recites any surah from Surah Hujurat (49) to Surah Buraj (85). This group of surahs is called Tawal Mufassal.2. It is against the Shari'ah to fix one particular surah for a particular Prayer unless it is in accordance with the practice of the Holy Prophet. Such surahs are as follows:
(a) In the Sunnat rak'ahs of the Fajr Prayer, the Holy Prophet used to recite Surah Al Kafirun (109) in the first rak'ah and Surah Al Ikhlas (112) in the second rak'ah.3. In the Friday Prayer, the Holy Prophet usually recited Surah Al A'ala (87) and Al Ghashiyah (88), or Surah Al Jum'ah (62) and Surah Al Munafiqun (63). According to Hadrat ibn Abbas, he recited Surah As Sajdah (32) and Surah Ad Dahr (76) in the Fajr Prayer on Friday, and Surah Al Jum'ah (62) and Surah Al Munafiqun (63) in the Friday Prayer.
4. The practice of the Holy Prophet was that he recited a longer surah or passage in the first rak'ah of the Fard Prayer than the one that he recited in the second
5. In the Fajr Prayer, the recitation should be the longest of all, for Fajr is a time of peace and tranquillity and the recital is witnessed by angels at dawn and in the evening. The passage recited in the first rak'ah should be about one and a half times longer than the one recited in the second rak'ah. (Shami)
Sajdah Tilawat is the sajdah that one has to perform as a duty when one reads and recites or hears being recited (in the Prayer or outside it), some specific words or verses containing those words, occurring at fourteen places in the Qur'an.(2)
Regulations Concerning Recitation Behind the Imam
It is undesirable to recite the Qur'an aloud, behind the Imam, because it obstructs the Imam in his recitation. Once, after the Fajr Prayer, the Holy Prophet asked his Companions: "Was one of you reciting the Qur'an behind me?" When a Companion replied: "Yes sir, I did." The Holy Prophet said: "I ask you, why do you dispute with me in the matter of reciting the Qur'an?"
Reciting the Qur'an inaudibly behind the Imam is not necessary, the reason being that the recitation done by the Imam suffices for the whole congregation. According to Hadrat Jabir bin 'Abdullah, the Holy Prophet said: "The recitation of the Imam in a congregational Prayer is in fact the recitation of the one following him."(3)
Reciting al Fateha Behind the Imam
It is undesirable for the follower to recite al Fateha behind the Imam when he recites it aloud in the Maghrib, Isha, Fajr and other prayers, but when he recites al Fateha inaudibly as in the Zuhr or Asr prayers, it is is desirable for the follower to recite it too. Imam Mohammad has held the same view as confirmed by the author of Hedayah (Vol. I, p. 202).(4)
3. Imam Muhammad has reported this Hadith in his Muwatta on the authority of two authentic narrators: Imam Abu Hanifah and Musa Ibn Abi A'isha. Allama Ibn Hummam is of the opinion that this Hadith is authentic because it fills the conditions laid down by Imams Bukhari and Muslim. Allama 'Aini has also supported this and said that besides Imam Abu Hanifah, Musa Ibn Abi A'isha also has been a righteous and trustworthy person, and both Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim have accepted Hadith on his authority.
4. According to Imam Malik also, al Fateha should be recited by the follower and all those prayers in which the Imam recites the Qur'an inaudibly. Imam Shafi'i and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal however have held that recitation of al Fateha is obligatory for the follower whether the Imam recites the Qur'an audibly or inaudibly and the al Hadith follow this practice. ('Ilm al Fiqh, Vol II, pp. 59, 110)
Everyday Fiqh (Vol.1) by Abdul Aziz Kamal ©1986 published by Islamic Publications (Pvt.) Ltd., 13-E Shah Alam Market, Lahore, Pakistan