With regards to reciting the Qur’an, Allah, Exalted is He says, “When you wish to read [lit: have read] the Qur’an, seek refuge with Allah from the accursed Shaytan. Indeed he has no power over those who believe and put their trust only in their Lord. His power is only over those who follow him and join partners with Him.” (an-Nahl 16:99-100)
A group of the reciters and scholars, from amongst them Hamza, ibn Sirin, Ibrahim an-Nakhai and Dawud adh-Dhahiri, were of the opinion that one seeks refuge after the completion of recitation, taking to the literal sense of the verse. They also stated that the reason for doing so would be to repress self-astonishment at the completion of an action of worship.
A second opinion voiced is that one seeks refuge before and after the recitation. However the famous, well-known opinion, which is the opinion of the majority is that one seeks refuge before recitation in order to safeguard oneself from the whisperings of Shaytan. (ibn Kathir vol 1, p32-33) This group understood the meaning of the verse to be, ‘When you wish to read the Qur’an…’ in the same sense as the verse, “… When you intend to stand for prayer [lit: have stood for prayer], wash your faces and forearms…” (al-Maidah 5:6)
Abu Dawud records on the authority of Abu Said al-Khudri that,
“When the Messenger of Allah, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, stood at night [for prayer, he would commence the prayer] by saying the takbir and then saying, ‘Subhanak Allahumma wa bihamdika, wa tabarakasmuka, wa ta’ala jadduka, wa la ilaha ghayruk.” Then he would say, “La ilaha illAllah” three times, then he would say, “Allahu Akbar” three times and he he would say, “Audhu billahi as-Sami al-Alim min ash-Shaytani-r-rajim – min hamzihi wa nafkhihi wa nafthihi” (Abu Dawud 774)
Ash-Shafi and Abu Hanifah were of the opinion that the wording of the istiadhah should be, ‘Audhu billahi min-ash-Shayatni-r-rajim’ such that it conforms to the aforementioned verse in Surah an-Nahl. Ahmad said that it was most befitting to say, ‘Audhu billahi min-ash-Shayatni-r-rajim innahu huwa as-Sami’u-l-Alim’ such that the person combines the wording of the verse Suarh an-Nahl and Surah Fussilat. Some of the Shafi’s said that one should say ‘Audhu billahi-s-Sami’i Alim min-ash-Shayatni-r-rajim’ to conform to the hadith of Abu Dawud and also to combine the wording of both verses. (ar-Razi vol 1 p68) It is best to use the wordings as reported by the authentic hadith on this occasion. (ibn Kathir vol 1, p34)
The majority of scholars are of the opinion that istiadhah is recommended and not obligatory. However it is reported from Ata ibn Abi Rabah that it is obligatory to say it within the prayer and outside the prayer when one desires to recite the Book of Allah. Ar-Razi stated that the proof for this opinion was that the verse, “seek refuge with Allah” is mentioned in the imperative, that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, persisted in uttering it throughout his life, and that it serves as a protective barrier from Shaytan – therefore if an obligation can only be fulfilled by a particular means, that means also becomes an obligation. (ibn Kathir vol 1, p 34)
Istiadhah is for the recitation in prayer – this being the opinion of Abu Hanifah and Muhammad. As such it is to be said before one starts reciting al-Fatihah, and it is only said if one is reciting himself. In the eyes of others, such as Abu Yusuf, istiadhah is for the prayer, and hence according to this, the one praying would state it, even if he himself was not reciting. (ar-Razi vol 1, p68)
Shaykh Mashhur Hasan Salman said, “It is clear that istiadhah is legislated in every rakah [of prayer]. This is due to the generality of His saying, “When you wish to read the Qur’an then seek refuge with Allah from the accursed Shaytan.” This is the most correct opinion of the Shafi school and declared to be the strongest opinion by ibn Hazim.
The Spiritual Cure: An Explanation of Surah Al-Fatihah prepared and translated by Abu Rumaysah Pages 38-42