#449: Looking at the Mushaf in Prayer


Assalamualaikum ustaz. What is the ruling of looking at the mushaf of the Quran when one is praying, whether it is for obligatory or sunnah prayer? Is it only permissible for the imam to look at the mushaf, or the makmum is also permissible to do so? Hope for an explanation.


Waalaikumussalam wrt. wbt.,

Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude to Allah SWT for His countless blessings for us all. Praise and salutations to our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions, and all those who follow his footsteps until the Final day.

Prayer is one of the main worships in the daily lives of the Muslim ummah. We are sanctioned to recite the verses of the Quran in prayer. This is stated in the statement of Allah SWT:

فَاقْرَءُوا مَا تَيَسَّرَ مِنْهُ وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ

“So, recite what is easy from it and establish prayer,” [1]

In performing prayer, we should know that it has its own sunnah that completes and perfects the prayer. It is divided into several parts. Among the sunnah is performed before performing the prayer. There is also sunnah performed in the prayer and after the prayer is completed.

As for the sunnah matters in prayer, they are divided into two.

  • First, sunnah ab’adh is all sunnah matters that if performed one will be rewarded, but if it is left, it wouldn’t invalidate the prayer. However, if it is left, it is sunnah to perform sahwi prostration at the end of a prayer.
  • Second, sunnah hai’at is sunnah matters where if one performs it then he’ll be rewarded and if it is left then it wouldn’t invalidate prayer, Likewise, it isn’t necessary to perform sahwi prostration if sunnah haiat is left.

Among the example of sunnah haiat is to recite surah or any verse of the Quran after the recitation of al-Fatihah. This is based on the atahr from ‘atha’ that is narrayed by Ibnu Juraij, he said:

أَخْبَرَنِي عَطَاءٌ أَنَّهُ سَمِعَ أَبَا هُرَيْرَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ يَقُولُ فِي كُلِّ صَلَاةٍ يُقْرَأُ فَمَا أَسْمَعَنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَسْمَعْنَاكُمْ وَمَا أَخْفَى عَنَّا أَخْفَيْنَا عَنْكُمْ وَإِنْ لَمْ تَزِدْ عَلَى أُمِّ الْقُرْآنِ أَجْزَأَتْ وَإِنْ زِدْتَ فَهُوَ خَيْرٌ

“’Atha’ informed me that Abu Hurairah said: The Qur’an is recited in every prayer and in those prayers in which Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) recited aloud for us, we recite aloud in the same prayers for you; and the prayers in which the Prophet (ﷺ) recited quietly, we recite quietly. If you recite “Al-Fatiha” only it is sufficient but if you recite something else in addition, it is better.” [2]

Al-Khatib al-Syarbini said that it is sunnah to recite surah after the recitation of al-Fatihah even if it is short. It is sunnah to recite a surah in the first two rakaat of prayer. Regardless of whether it is the prayer in jahriyyah or sirriyyah recitation. As for the makmum it is not sunnah to recite a surah rather it is encouraged to listen to the surah recitation of the imam. [3]

The ruling of an imam looking at the mushaf of the Quran in prayer

Scholars have differing opinions as to the ruling of an imam looking at the mushaf al-Quran in prayer, they are divided into several opinions, among them are:

First opinion: An imam who looks at the mushaf in prayer, then his prayer is invalid, regardless of whether it is an obligatory or sunnah prayer. This is the opinion of madhhab Imam Abu Hanifah. [4]

The arguments presented for the first opinion are”

  1. Holding the Quran, leafing through the mushaf, looking at it and reflecting on its contents is considered a lot of actions and they can damage the prayer.
  2. For a worship (looking at the mushaf) depends on another worship (prayer).
  3. Analogical deduction (qias) of looking at the mushaf is the same as a person learning the mushaf. This situation is as though one is learning from a teacher in prayer. This act invalidates prayer.

Second opinion: It is permissible to look and recite the quran from a mushaf in obligatory and sunnah prayers, moreover, it is obligatory to look at a mushaf if one doesn’t memorize surah al-Fatihah. This is the opinion of madhhab Imam al-Syafi’e and Imam Ahmad. [5]

The supporting evidences for the second opinion are:

  1. Aisyah RA once was the makmum to her slave, Zakwan who she freed while he was reciting the Quran in prayer from the mushaf.

Imam al-Bukhari narrated through mu’allaq at the beginning of the chapter (إمامة العبد والمولى) in sahih al-Bukhari (1/140). Imam al-Nawawi evaluated the sanad is sahih. [6] Ibn Abi Syaibah and al-Baihaqi also narrated such matter in Musannaf Ibn Abi Syaibah (2/123) and al-Sunan al-Kubra (2/253).

Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar said: “This hadith is evidence of the permissibility of a praying person to recite the Quran by looking at the mushaf.” [7]

This incident is a clear evidence that Zakwan prayed by looking at the mushaf and ‘Aisyah RA didn’t contradict the matter. If it is impermissible, surely, ‘Aisyah RA will prohibit him from doing so.

  1. Imam al-Zuhri was once asked regarding a man who recites al-Quran by looking at a mushaf in prayer, he then answered: “They are the chosen and best from among us who recite al-Quran by looking at the mushaf in prayer during Ramadhan.” [8]
  2. The Prophet PBUH held his grandchild, Umamah RA when he was praying as narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari (516) and Sahih Muslim (543). If there isn’t anything stopping Rasullullah PBUH from holding Umamah RA in prayer, the same applies where there isn’t anything that prevents a person from holding a mushaf and reciting it in prayer. It also helps to prolong the duration of standing in prayer and increase the khusyuk as stated by Allah: (قُومُواْ لِلّهِ قَانِتِينَ)

Third opinion: It is makruh to look at a mushaf for obligatory prayer, as for the looking at the mushaf in sunnah prayer, it is permissible. This is the opinion in madhhab Imam Malik. [9]

The evidences for the third opinion:

  1. The hadith of ‘Aisyah RA became the makmum to Zakwan the same as the evidence for the first and second opinions.

This hadith shows that Zakwan became the imam and recite al-Quran by looking at the mushaf. ‘Aisyah RA followed him as his makmum and didn’t contradict it. However, it is makruh to do so because there is concern that people will stop trying to memorize the Quran and they would be inclined to just read from the mushaf of al-Quran and not memorise it.

  1. Looking at the mushaf is a form of worship, reciting al-Quran is a worship, combining a worship with another worship doesn’t damage the worship but it is makruh.
  2. It resembles the People of the Book who read their book when they are worshipping.

The ruling of a makmum to look at the Quran in prayer

Regarding the situation of a makmum, let us look at the commentary given by scholars on the statement of Allah SWT:

وَإِذَا قُرِئَ الْقُرْآنُ فَاسْتَمِعُوا لَهُ وَأَنْصِتُوا لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ

“So, when the Qur’an is recited, then listen to it and pay attention that you may receive mercy.” [10]

Imam Ibn Kathir in Tafsir al-Quran al-‘Azim (3/536), interpreted this verse by saying: “Allah SWT has commanded to stay quiet when the Quranic verses are recited out of respect for the Quran as stated in His statement in surah al-Fussilat verse 26. This matter is emphasized if the imam recited it in obligatory prayer as mentioned in the hadith narrated by Imam Muslim in his Sahih book:

إِنَّمَا جُعِلَ الْإِمَامُ لِيُؤْتَمَّ بِهِ، فَإِذَا كَبَّرَ فَكَبِّرُوا، وَإِذَا قَرَأَ فَأَنْصِتُوا

“Indeed, the imam is to be followed, when the imam makes his takbir, the makmum should follow and do the takbir, and if the imam recites the verses of the Quran, the makmum should keep quiet.” [11]

Imam Ibn Jarir al-Tabari said: “Commentary scholars have differing opinions regarding the situation commanded by Allah to stay quiet and listen to the recitation of the Quran when the Quran is recited; some of them are of the opinion the commandment is when the makmum listens to the imam in prayer and the verse is revealed because of this.” [12]

The companions once performed the Subuh prayer behind Rasullullah PBUH where the Rasullullah PBUH recited the verses of the Quran in prayer with a long recitation and the companions followed his recitation, the Prophet PBUH said:

لا تَفعَلوا إلَّا بفاتحةِ الكتابِ؛ فإنَّه لا صلاةَ لمَن لم يَقرَأْ بها

“Do not do so except when it is (Surat) Fatiha al-Kitab, for the Salat (prayer) of the one who does not recite it, is not accepted.” [13]

Syeikh Abdul Karim al-Khudair said: “Whoever holds the Quran in Terawih prayer to follow the recitation of the imam, it contradicts with the obligation of the makmum who is supposed to stay quiet and listen attentively to the recitation of the imam and shouldn’t be distracted with other matters, hence, this shouldn’t be done by the makmum. As for an imam who doesn’t memorize the Quran and looks at the mushaf, then it is permissible for him, insyaAllah.” [14]


In our opinion, it is permissible to recite the Quran by looking at the mushaf for an imam and those who are praying alone, regardless of whether it is the obligatory or sunnah prayer and if by looking at the mushaf he is able to prolong the duration he is standing in prayer and helps to improve his khusyuk in prayer.

However, we are also of the opinion that it is best to recite the memorized verses of the Quran without looking at the mushaf if there isn’t an urgent need to do so.

Here, we cite what has been stated by Imam al-Khatib al-Syarbini: “However, reciting the verses of the Quran by looking at the mushaf and leafing through the mushaf pages when praying is permissible on the condition that it isn’t done thrice consecutively and it is done out of necessity. If it is done purposely without any need, then it is makruh.” [15]

In our opinion, it is better for the makmum to not look at the mushaf when following the imam. The reason is the act of holding the mushaf or others such as a handphone will cause the makmum to miss performing several sunnah matters that are prioritized in prayer such as focusing one’s line of sight to the place of prostration, placing one’s hands on one’s chest when standing and this may result in a lot of movement in prayer without any exigent need.

Hopefully, this brief explanation will help answer the question that plagued our society, especially in Ramadhan. May Allah SWT grant us all good and correct understanding in his shariah, ultimately giving us the strength to practise it. Amin.

Wallahu a’lam.


[1] Surah al-Muzammil: 20

[2] Narrated by al-Bukhari (772)

[3] See al-Iqna’ fi Hilli Alfaz Abi Syuja’, 1/142

[4] See al-Mabsut, 1/201-202 and Bada’i al-Sana’i fi Tartib al-Syara’i, 1/236

[5] See al-Majmu’ Syarh al-Muhazzab, 4/95; Raudhah at-Talibin wa ‘Umdat al-Muftin, 1/294; al-Mughni, 1/411 and Hasyiyah ar-Raudh al-Murbi’, 2/110

[6] See al-Khulasoh, 1/500

[7] See Fath al-Bari Syarh Sahih al-Bukhari, 2/185

[8] See Mathalib Uli an-Nuha Syarh Ghayat al-Muntaha, 1/484

[9] See al-Zakhirah, 2/408; al-Jami li Masail al-Mudawwanah, 3/1190

[10] Surah al-A’raf: 204

[11] Narrated by Muslim (404)

[12]  See Jami’ al-Bayan fi Ta’wil al-Qur’an, 13/345

[13] Narrated by Abu Daud (823) Sheikh Syu’aib ar-Arnauth evaluated this hadith sahih lighairihi. This hadith has syahid from hadith narrated by an unnamed companion and issued by Imam Ahmad (18070), the sanad of this hadith is sahih. Refer Takhrij Sunan Abi Daud (2/116)

[14] See Fatawa Nur ‘ala ad-Darb, fifth halaqah, fatwa no: 3712

[15] See Mughni al-Muhtaj Ila Ma’rifah Ma’ani Alfaz al-Minhaj, 1/419