Assalamualaikum ustaz, I have a question. My friend would always recite bismillah whenever he is about to do something even when it was unbeneficial matter. Thus, my question is what is the ruling of reciting bismillah when doing useless and unbeneficial things such as when playing a musical instrument, game and others. Thank you.
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
The Definition of Basmalah
Basmalah lexically and terminologically is the phrase (بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ) and it is also known as “basmal” or “basmalah”. (See al-Mausu’ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, 8/83)
Imam al-Qurtubi in his commentary said some scholars said that indeed the basmalah is for every sanctioned action… In terms of the meaning of the basmalah is started to hope for taufiq and blessings from Allah SWT. Allah SWT taught His slaves to worship Him by stating the name of Allah SWT when a person is about to recite the Quran and others. (See Tafsir al-Qurtubi, 1/ 91-98)
Furthermore, the Prophet PBUH commanded his ummah to start everything with bamalah. This is in accordance with the statement of the Prophet PBUH:
كلُّ أمرٍ ذي بالٍ لا يُبدَأُ فيهِ ببسمِ اللهِ الرحمنِ الرحيم فهو أقْطَعُ
“Every important matter that does not start with praise of Allah, is devoid (of blessings).”
Sunan Ibn Majah (1894)
Imam al-Nawawi said in his book, the important matter in the above hadith, the meaning of devoid of blessings is lesser blessing in doing the act. Scholars stated that it is sunnah to start every writing, learning, teaching, khutbah, speech and other matters which is considered as important by praising Allah SWT.
(See al-Majmu’ Syarh al-Muhazzab, 1/73)
The Ruling of Reciting Basmalah
Coming back to the question asked, we presented the opinion of jurists regarding the ruling of reciting basmalah in every action including every permissible, makruh and unsanctioned matters.
In al-Mausu’ah al-Fiqhiyyah, it is stated that jurists agreed that it is sanctioned to recite basmalah for every deed performed even if it just closing the door of his house. (See al-Mausu’ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, 8/92)
This is in accordance with a hadith narrated by Jabir RA. The Prophet PBUH said:
وَأَغْلِقْ بَابَكَ، وَاذْكُرِ اسْمَ اللَّه
“Shut your door and make mention of Allah's name,”
Sahih al-Bukhari (3280)
Syeikh Abu bakar al-Dimyati in his book stated, the basmalah phrase is commanded to be recited for every matter in accordance with the shariah which includes the prohibition of doing anything that is prohibited, makruh or unbeneficial (of no value according to syarak). (See I’anah al-Tolibin, 1/9)
The same is explained by Imam al-Suyuti in his hasyiah, the opinion of Izz al-Din ibnu Abd al-Salam is cited, the deed of a slave is divided into three, the sunnah, not sunnah and makruh to recite basmalah. Imam al-Suyuti further said, for haram matters, then it is haram to recite basmalah for the purpose of reciting basmalah so that there will be blessings in the deed. And for haram matter there is absolutely no blessings in it. Likewise, for makruh matters, then it is makruh to recite basmalah to perform it. (See Hasyiah al-Suyuti ala Sunan al-Nasai, 1/61)
According to the question and evidences presented by scholars, we can conclude that it is makruh to recite the name of Allah SWT or the basmalah when doing unbeneficial or useless matters such as playing musical instrument and others.
The reason is the basmalah itself is something that brings about blessings in doing something that is sanctioned. Thus, in our opinion, leaving it is better.
May Allah SWT give us all sahih understanding His commandments as well as grant us taufiq and hidayah to perform worship sincerely for Him. Amin.