As-salamu `alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh 1) I've heard that there's a strong opinion in the Shafi`i school which states that as long as the imam's prayer is valid according to his own madhhab (as opposed to the follower's madhhab) then the Shafi`i follower may pray behind such an imam. Is this true? 2) If so, what if the imam makes mistakes in his Fatihah which would render his recitation in the Shafi`i madhhab invalid though not in the imam's madhhab? Would it still be valid to follow this imam in this case? Because as far as I know, Shafi`i scholars have stated that one may not follow an imam who mispronounces the Fatihah, which I presume to be a separate condition to the condition that the imam's salah must be valid according to the follower's madhhab (as per the mu`tamad view). Can you please clarify? Jazakum Allahu khayran

In Rawdah 1/347, Imam Nawawi discussed this issue. He said that if the difference is in furu' based on ijtihad, then in respects to a Shafi'i following one adhering to a madhhab mukhalif, there are two opinions.

According to al-Qaffal al-Marwazi, the prayer is valid. While according to Shaykh Abu Hamid, the prayer is invalid. This is also the majority view of the As-hab al-Awjuh; and perhaps here for reason of akthariyyah, Imam Nawawi makes tarjih of what Shaykh Abu Hamid said.

On the other hand, it should be noted that this view works the other way too. Meaning, if a Shafi'i prays behind one whose prayer is invalid according to that madhhab but valid according to the Shafi'i Madhhab, then the prayer would be invalid according to Qaffal (as the consideration is with the imam's school), but valid according to Shaykh Abu Hamid (as the consideration is with the follower's school).

For example:

- If a Hanafi imam leads the prayer after touching a woman without a new ablution, and a Shafi'i follows him, so it is valid according to Qaffal and invalid according to Shaykh Abu Hamid.

- Or, if a Hanafi imam leads the prayer after a nosebleed without a new ablution, and a Shafi'i follows him, so it is invalid according to Qaffal and valid according to Shaykh Abu Hamid.

Shaykh Abu Hamid's view considers that one knows the imam has done something of the sort. Otherwise, if one knows that the imam performed everything properly or doubts in regards, then the prayer is valid.

In regards to Surah al-Fatihah, this really depends on what is intended by mispronouncing. For example, when it comes to the case of pronouncing the dad like a za' in the last verse of Fatihah. Some of the Shafiyyah where more lenient on this particular issue. Imam al-Haramayn mentions this in Nihayat al-Matlab, relating it from Shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Juwayni. The reason is that to consistently distinguish between letters sharing the same makhraj is difficult on many people. The nearness of the places from which these letters are pronounced makes it hard to regularly pronounce them exactly, so some of the As-hab al-Ajwuh were lenient in this case. The aforementioned is not the mu'tamad opinion, but a strong view in the Madhhab. The asahh opinion in the School is that pronouncing letters in this way is problematic; see Tuhfat al-Muhtaj 1/355.

And Allah knows best.

Answered by Shaykh Yaqub Abdurrahman