(Q. 12:2) We have sent it down as an Arabic Qurʾān:Praying behind the Lisper

in Islamic Law and Society
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Muslims are required to recite the Qurʾān properly according to the complex rules of Qurʾānic recitation. This is especially the case during liturgical practices such as ritual prayers. The leader (imām) of congregational prayers (ṣalāt al-jamāʿah) is expected to be more learned in the Qurʾān than the individuals he is leading, and a better reciter. The case of the lisper (al-althagh) poses a challenge: An imām who lisps would be reciting the Qurʾān incorrectly and, in many cases, might change the meaning of the verses. In this article I discuss the problem of the lisper and the situations in which he is allowed to serve, or is forbidden from serving, as an imām for a group of individuals. I also discuss and analyse the positions of several jurists from different schools of law after first providing background on lisping, speech disorders and the general requirements of imāmah.

(Q. 12:2) We have sent it down as an Arabic Qurʾān:Praying behind the Lisper

in Islamic Law and Society




 DhahabīMaʿrifat al-qurrāʾ1:160–1. Cf. Mustafa Shah “Exploring the Genesis of Early Arabic Linguistic Thought: Qurʾanic Readers and Grammarians of the Kūfan Tradition (Part I)” Journal of Qurʾanic Studies 5:1 (2003): 47–78 at 66–7.


 DhahabīMaʿrifat al-qurrāʾ1:161.


 Shady Hekmat NasserThe Transmission of the Variant Readings of the Qurʾān: The Problem of tawātur and the Emergence of shawādhdh (Leiden: Brill2013) 98–100.




 JāḥiẓBayān1:37–8 40.


 Ibn QudāmahMughnī3:5–8; Mardāwī Inṣāf 2:244–8; Ṭaḥṭāwī and Shurunbulālī Marāqī 111–14; Ibn ʿĀbidīn Ḥāshiyat Ibn ʿĀbidīn 2:294–8; Nawawī Majmū 4:176–80; Māwardī Ḥāwī 2:351–5; Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr Kāfī 46–7; Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad (or Maḥammad) b. Aḥmad Mayyārah al-Fāsī (d. 1072/1662) al-Durr al-thamīn wa’l-mawrid al-maʿīn 2 vols. (Cairo: al-Bābī al-ḥalabī 1954) 2:58. Other unusual criteria for determining the best imām include being the richest among the group and having the best wife (al-aḥsan zawjatan). A bizarre criterion suggested by some Ḥanafī scholars is having a big head but small body (al-akbar ra⁠ʾsan wa’l-aṣghar ʿuḍwan). Some have interpreted “al-aṣghar ʿuḍwan” as having a small penis a view rejected by Abū l-Suʿūd (d. 1172/1758). See Muḥammad b. ʿAlī Iskandar Abū l-Suʿūd al-Ḥanafī al-Miṣrī (d. 1172/1758) Fatḥ Allāh al-muʿīn ʿalā sharḥ al-Kanz li’l-ʿallāmah Mullā Miskīn 3 vols. (Karachi: Maṭbaʿat al-Muwayliḥī 1870) 1:207; cf. Ibn ʿĀbidīn Ḥāshiyat Ibn ʿĀbidīn 2:296.


 Jazīrīal-Fiqh ʿalā l-madhāhib al-arbaʿah1:375.




 Cf. Travis E. ZadehThe Vernacular Qurʾan: Translation and the Rise of Persian Exegesis (Oxford: Oxford University Press2012) 69–81.




 ShāfiʿīUmm2:233 51.


 Ibn ʿAbd al-BarrKāfī46.


 NawawīRawḍat al-ṭālibīn156.


 MāwardīḤāwī2:330. The dawn sunset and evening prayers are audible whereas the noon and afternoon prayers are inaudible. The distinction is based upon practices attributed to the Prophet who reportedly recited the Qurʾānic passages audibly (jahr) or inaudibly (sirr) during each prayer. See Bayhaqī Sunan 2:275–8.


 ShirbīnīMughnī1:364; Nawawī Rawḍat al-ṭālibīn 156 58; Rāfiʿī al-Sharḥ al-kabīr 2:158; Māwardī Ḥāwī 2:331. The audible and inaudible recitation of the Qurʾān during prayer is disputed among jurists. Also the different opinions attributed to al-Shāfiʿī in his qadīm and jadīd positions are difficult to assess based on this one example and should be evaluated with more examples in which the qadīm and jadīd positions contradict each other. On the old and new positions of al-Shāfiʿī why and how they differ see further Nājī al-Qadīm wa’l-jadīd 2:252–304.


 Rāfiʿīal-Sharḥ al-kabīr2:159; Nawawī Rawḍat al-ṭālibīn 156.


 IsnawīMuhimmāt3:307; Nawawī Majmū 4:165.


 NawawīRawḍat al-ṭālibīn156; cf. Māwardī Ḥāwī 2:330.


 Ibn QudāmahMughnī3:29–30.


 Ibn QudāmahMughnī3:31–2.


 MardāwīInṣāf2:271; cf. Manṣūr b. Yūnus al-Buhūtī (d. 1051/1641) Kashshāf al-qināʿ ʿan matn al-Iqnāʿ ed. Ibrāhīm Aḥmad ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd 10 vols. (Riyad: Dār ʿālam al-kutub 2003) 1:568–9; Ibn Mufliḥ Furūʿ 3:30–3.


 Ibn ʿĀbidīnḤāshiyat Ibn ʿĀbidīn2:329.


 ZadehThe Vernacular Qurʾan54.


 Ibn al-ḤājibJāmiʿ al-ummahāt109–10.


 Ibn ʿAbd al-BarrKāfī46.


 Ibn ʿĀbidīnḤāshiyat Ibn ʿĀbidīn2:327; cf. Nasser Transmission 107; Isnawī Muhimmāt 3:52.


 MāwardīḤāwī2:325–6; Rūyānī Baḥr 2:416; Ghazālī Wasīṭ 2:227.


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    Whether or not one may pray behind the lisper according to al-Shāfiʿī


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