Islamic Studies

A Question on Prayer and the Principle of "Shepherding Differences" in the Maliki School

The Question

“It is the dominant opinion in the Maliki madhhab that it is disliked to recite the Fatiha in the prayer by reciting the Basmalah [saying “With the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Merciful.” As the school teaches us, after the opening takbir, to read Sura al-Fatiha immediately.

Are you aware of any minor opinions within the Maliki school that state it is not disliked , or even that it is recommended or obligatory to do so? If so, where are those opinions sourced?”

The Answer

Asalamu alaykum,

In Fawakih al-Dawani, an important explanation on the Risalah of Abi Zaid, the author states, under the chapter on the disliked aspects of prayer: “saying I seek refuge in Allah from cursed devil and with the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Merciful after the opening takbir, are from the disliked acts according to the Maliki School.”

However, he notes two exceptions:

  1. If one is making taqlid of a scholar who holds it to be an obligation, then it is an obligation upon that person to follow the scholar’s opinion.
  2. If one is doing so with the intention of “Mura’at al-Khilaf” (shepherding differences) then the disliked nature of the act is raised to that of recommend.

Both of these points are conditioned that one does not do so thinking that it’s reading is obligatory, but their intention is conditioned to one of the two points above only.

This was alluded to by Shaikh al-Dardir, or Imam al-Sawi, in al-Sharh al-Kabir, but with greater brevity. I searched al-Dasuqi’s Hashiyah on the Matn of Khalil and found nothing there.

Allah knows best

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship. Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010.

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  • Assalamo alaikom,

    What does Shepherding differences actually mean?

    Also does the taqleed here refer to straight of taqleed in the standard dense of scholarly imitation, or is it just referring to following of the imam of the salah that you are praying?



  • I live in Morocco, a country where the Maliki madhab is the only madhab observed in all aspects of people’s religious life, and I once heard of the disliked basmalah issue, and therefore am still following that “fatwa” which I only heard in a mosque or somewhere. Now, when I hear imams leading prayers in mosques I notice that each imam does what he thinks is the right thing as to the basmala opening. In the same mosque here you can hear different imams doing different things in this regard.

    Fiqh and “Mura’at al-Khilaf” apart, I see things in the light of the following verse:

    “There shall be no sin ( imputed ) unto those who believe and do good works for what they may have eaten ( in the past ) . So be mindful of your duty ( to Allah ) , and do good works ; and again : be mindful of your duty , and believe ; and once again : be mindful of your duty , and do right . Allah loveth the good .” (Al-Maidah : 93)

    However, there are some who bring forth a counter-argument, such as the following interpretation (in Arabic):

    But I would still stick to my feeling above (Al-Maidah : 93) when I read:

    “As for those who strive in Us , We surely guide them to Our paths , and lo! Allah is with the good . ” (Al-Ankabut : 69)

    “While as for those who walk aright , He addeth to their guidance , and giveth them their protection ( against evil ) .” (Muhammad : 17)

    Then, don’t forget that God does not need our worshipping Him, but

    “If ye are thankless , yet Allah is Independent of you , though He is not pleased with thanklessness for His bondmen ; and if ye are thankful He is pleased therewith for you . No laden soul will bear another ‘ s load . Then unto your Lord is your return ; and He will tell you what ye used to do . Lo! He knoweth what is in the breasts ( of men ) . ” (Az-Zumar : 7)

    Consider this verse:

    “And the angels called to him as he stood praying in the sanctuary : Allah giveth thee glad tidings of ( a son whose name is ) John , ( who cometh ) to confirm a word from Allah , lordly , chaste , a Prophet of the righteous . ” (Al-i’Imran : 39)

    If Allah needed our worshipping Him, why didn’t the angels wait until Zakariya finished his prayer?

    “Then praise be to Allah , Lord of the heavens and Lords of the earth , the Lord of the Worlds . And unto Him ( alone ) belongeth majesty in the heavens and the earth , and He is the Mighty , the Wise .”

  • Jazak Allah khayr for this post.

    I think it went right over my head because I found it confusing.

    Is the issue as to whether we say ‘In the Name of Allah Most Gracious Most Merciful’ out loud before we say Surat Al-Fatiha?

    If you look at some Mushafs- ‘In the Name of Allah Most Gracious Most Merciful’ is actually the first verse of Surat Al-Fatiha, suggesting that it should be said out loud- I always feel more comfortable to say it out loud as I have always thought that it is part of Surat Al-Fatiha itself. Is this an incorrect understanding? Where is the proof that it is not part of the surah?

    Surat Al-Fatiha should be 7 verses long, and as far as I have seen some mushafs inlcude it as verse 1, and some split the last verse in to 2 verses and so do not include it in the surah

    Please could you clarify whay there is this difference in the masahif and whether ‘In the Name of Allah Most Gracious Most Merciful’ is the first ayah of Surat Al-Fatiha or not?

    Jazak Allah khayr

    Fi amaniLah

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