The Quiet and Loud Recitation in Solāt
Question: What is the reason why Qur’ān is recited out loud in Maghrib and ‘Ishā’ solat? And what is the reason why it is recited aloud only in the first two raka’at of ‘Ishā’ and not in all four raka’at?
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks are due to Allāh, the Lord of the al-ā’lamīn. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu alayhi wa sallam, is His Messenger.
Firstly: The Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) recited it out loud and silently in some solāt is one of the Sunnahs of the solāt, not obligatory conditions. It would be better for the worshipper to follow rather than going against the Sunnah of the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam).
It is better to adhere to the Sunnah; although it is not obligatory to recite out loud when it should be done accordingly. Likewise if a person recites silently in a solāt in which it is prescribed to recite out loud, his solāt is valid but it is definitely lacking; deficient. The Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: “There is no solāh for one who does not recite the Essence of the Book (al-Fātihah).” [Bukhāri, Muslim, Abu `Awānah Ibn Hibbān and Baihaqi; Irwā' (302)] Rasūlullāh (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) did not specify whether this recitation is to be out loud or silent. So if a person recites what he is required to recite, silently or out loudly, then he has fulfilled his duty. But it is better to recite out loud in the solāt where doing so is the Sunnah, as in Maghrib, Isha’, Fajar and Jumu’ah solāt.
If a person deliberately does not recite out loud when he is leading the solāt, his solāt is valid but it is lacking. If a person is observing solāt alone, he has the choice between reciting out loud or silently. He should look at what is more likely to increase his focus and humility in solāt, and do exactly that.
[Majmū’ Fatāwa Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, 13/73]
The basic principle is that a Muslim is obliged to adhere to the laws of Allāh, without making that dependent on whether one knows the reason or wisdom behind it: “Sami’na wa ata’na (We hear and we obey.)” [Al-Baqarah, 2:285]. It does not mean that one should not try to find out the wisdom behind it, after following the command and adhering to the guidance.
The scholars of the Standing Committee said: We do so by following the example of the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam). We recite silently in the solāt in which he recited silently, and we recite out loud in the solāt in which he recited out loud, because Allāh says: “Indeed in the Messenger of Allāh (Muhammad) you have a good example to follow for him who hopes for (the Meeting with) Allāh and the Last Day, and remembers Allāh much” [al-Ahzāb 33:21]
Islām is based on great wisdom, but this wisdom may be known to us or we may be unaware of it, or we may know some of it and not the rest of it.
Muslim is required to follow the Prophet’s (Sallallāhu alayhi wa sallam) examples, whether he knows the reason behind a ruling or not. Rasūlullāh (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: “Pray as you have seen me praying.” [Narrated by al- Bukhāri]
[Fatāwa al-Lajnah al-Dā’imah, 6/394, 395]
Secondly: Some of the scholars have pondered the reason why Qur’ān is recited out loud at night solāt and silently in the day salāt; the summation is that at night is a time when people are quiet, alone and more focused, so it is prescribed to recite Qur’ān out loud at that time so as to make manifest the pleasure of a person’s conversing with his Lord, and so that the heart, tongue and ears will be involved in the recitation.
This meaning is suggested by the verse in which Allāh says: “Verily, the rising by night (for Tahajjud prayer) is very hard and most potent and good for governing oneself, and most suitable for (understanding) the Word (of Allāh). Verily, there is for you by day prolonged occupation with ordinary duties” [Al-Muzzammil 74:6-7]
Ibn Kathīr (rahimahullāh) said: “The point is that this rising may be at any time of night. What is meant here is that when praying at night, both the heart and the tongue are focused on the recitation, hence Allāh says : “is very hard and most potent and good for governing oneself, and most suitable for (understanding) the Word (of Allāh)” i.e., the mind will be more focused when reciting and will understand the words more than during the day, which is a time when people move about and there is a great deal of noise, and it is the time of seeking provision.”
Al-Qurtubi (19/40) said: “What is meant is that the heart, sight, hearing and tongue work together in harmony when reciting Qur’ān, because voices and movements are stilled.”
Al-Sa’adi (rahimahullāh) said (p. 1058): “Verily, the rising by night (for Tahajjud prayer) is very hard and most potent and good for governing oneself, and most suitable for (understanding) the Word (of Allāh)” i.e., it is more likely to achieve the purpose of the Qur’ān, where both heart and tongue are focused, because there are fewer distractions, one can understand what one recites, and does the prayer properly. This is unlike the day, when these purposes cannot be achieved. Hence Allāh says “Verily, there is for you by day prolonged occupation with ordinary duties” – i.e., going about to attend to your needs and living, which means that the heart is distracted and cannot, focus fully.”
It says: There remains the wisdom behind reciting out loud – what is it? It may be that it is because night is the time when one is alone and people get together for lighthearted talk. So it is prescribed to recite Qur’ān out loud at that time so as to make manifest the pleasure of a person’s conversing with his Lord. This applies only in the first two raka’at because the worshipper has more energy then. Because the day is the time of distractions and mixing with people, it is required to recite silently, because the daytime is not the best time to focus fully on conversing with Allāh. The Fajar prayer is joined to the night prayers because its time is not usually a time when there are distractions, like Friday.
The distinction between the night and the day solāh
Ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullāh) said: With regard to the distinction between the night and the day prayers, in terms of reciting out loud and reciting silently, there is great wisdom in that, because the night is a time when voices and movements are stilled, and hearts are focused and have renewed energy. The day is the time when people are busy with their day-to-day occupations, and the night is the time when a person can focus with his heart on what he is saying with his tongue.
Hence the Sunnah is to make the recitations in Fajar Solah longer than in other prayers. The Messenger of Allāh (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) used to recite between sixty and one hundred verses in them, and Abu Bakar As-Siddiq (radiallāhu`anhu) used to recite al-Baqārah in them, and ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (radiallāhu`anhu) used to recite al-Nahl, Hood, Bani Isrā’īl, Yūnus and similar sūrahs, because the heart is more free of distractions when it has just been wakened from sleep. If the first thing that a person hears is the word of Allāh in which there is all goodness, then these words will come to his heart which is free from any distraction, and will thus have a great impact on him.
As for the day, the opposite is the case, so Qur’ān is recited silently unless there is a reason, such as the large gatherings on Eid and Jumu’ah (Friday), and when offering prayers for rain and the eclipse prayer. On those occasions it is better to recite out loud and that is more likely to achieve the objective and is more beneficial, and because this serves to convey the words of Allāh when there is a large gathering.
[Majmū’ I’lām al-Muwaqqi’een (2/91)]
Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azīz ibn Bāz (rahimahullāh) in replying to the question as to why is it prescribed to recite out loud in Maghrib, ‘Ishā’ and Fajar, and not in the other obligatory prayers, said only Allāh knows best its reasons. But the most likely reason is that at night and at the time of Fajar prayer, people are more likely to benefit from recitation that is done out loud, as there are less distractions around them than at the time of Zuhur and ‘Asar.
[Majmū’ Fatāwa al-Shaykh Ibn Bāz (11/122)]
Reason for reciting loud in Solāt al-Jumu’ah.
Firstly, so as to unite the people behind one imām, because if they are united behind one imām and listening attentively to him, that is a better form of unity than if each one of them were to recite to himself. In order to achieve this, the people must all be gathered in one place, except in cases of necessity.
The second reason is that the imām’s recitation out loud during the prayer is a completion of the two khutbahs. Hence the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) used to recite in Solāt al-Jumu’ah, sūrahs that were appropriate, either al-Jumu’ah and al-Munāfiqeen, because the former mentions Jumu’ah and encourages us to attend the prayer, and the latter describes hypocrisy and denounces its people; or he would recite al-A’la and al-Ghāshiyah, because the former mentions the beginning of creation and describes various creatures and the beginning of divine laws, and the latter describes the Resurrection and rewards and punishments.
The third reason is so as to distinguish between Zuhur and Jumu’ah. The fourth reason is so that it will be similar to Eid prayer, because Jumu’ah is the weekly “Eid”.
[Majmū’ Fatāwa Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, 16/112]
Quiet and Loud Recitation in Tahajjud
`Abdul Haqq said : "As for voluntary prayers during the day, there is nothing authentic from him (sallallāhu `alaihi wa sallam) regarding either quiet or loud recitation, but it would seem that he used to recite quietly during them. It is reported from him (sallallāhu `alaihi wa sallam) that once, during the daytime, he passed by `Abdullāh ibn Hudhāfah (radiallāhu`anhu) who was praying and reciting loudly, so he (sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam) said to him: O `Abdullāh, let Allāh hear, not us. But this hadīth is not strong." [Tahajjud (90/1]
As for Qiyamulail (night prayer), Rasūlullāh (sallallāhu `alaihi wa sallam) would sometimes recite quietly and sometimes loudly [Muslim and Bukhāri in Af`āl al-`Ibād.], and "he (sallallāhu `alaihi wa sallam) used to recite in his house such that he could be heard in the courtyard." [Abu Dāwūd and Tirmidzi in Shamā'il with a hasan isnād. The hadīth means that he (sallallāhu `alaihi wa sallam) used to moderate between quietness and loudness.] "Occasionally he (sallallāhu `alaihi wa sallam) would raise his voice more than that until someone lying in bed could hear him" [Nasā'i, Tirmidzi in Shamā'il and Baihaqi in Dalā'il with a hasan isnād] (i.e. from outside the courtyard).
Rasūlullāh (sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) ordered Abu Bakar As-Siddiq and 'Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (radiallāhu`anhum) likewise, when:
"He (sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) came out at night to find Abu Bakar (radiallāhu`anhu) praying in a low voice, and he passed by 'Umar ibn al-Khattāb (radiallāhu`anhu) who was praying in a loud voice. Later, when they gathered around the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) said: O Abu Bakar, I passed by you and you were praying in a low voice? He said: "I let Him whom I was consulting hear, O Messenger of Allāh." He (sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) said to 'Umar: I passed by you and you were praying raising your voice? So he said: "O Messenger of Allāh, I repel drowsiness and keep the devil away." The Prophet (sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) said: O Abu Bakar, raise your voice a little bit and to 'Umar: lower your voice a little bit. [Abu Dāwūd and Hākim, who declared it sahīh, and Dhahabi agreed.]
Rasūlullāh (sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) used to say: The one who recites the Qur'ān loudly is like the one who gives charity loudly, and the one who recites the Qur'ān quietly is like the one who gives charity quietly. [Abu Dāwūd and Hākim, who declared it sahīh, and Dhahabi agreed.]
[The Solāh of the Prophet (sallallāhu‘alayhi wa sallam) By Al-Albāni]
[Excerpted from Description of the Solāh: The Recitation via the Qur'an and Sunnah Society and from Islam Q&A and TurntoIslam]