Because here at The Rightful Recital, the goal is to cater to students of the Qur’an from ALL levels, we wanted to present a new series for the advanced few. This series is a translation of Ustaadhah Amani bint Muhammad ‘Aashoor’s work: الأصول النيرات في القراءات on the Usool of the 10 Qiraa’aat. For students who are just getting exposed to the Qiraa’aat, this will provide a good introduction as well as opportunity to learn the Qiraa’aat at a reasonable pace, especially those who have not learned Arabic—yet :). This series presents the rules of recitation for all of the authentic Qiraa’aat, explanation of their history, common terms used, types of Qiraa’aat, their benefit, and much, much more. Even if you don’t know what the Qiraa’aat are, you’ll still benefit from this series since it will give you all the information you need to understand and learn the Qiraa’aat, in sha Allah.
Introduction: The Science of the Qiraa’aat
Its Definition: It is a science by which the similarities and differences of the transmitters of the Book of Allah is distinguished with regard to what is omitted and established, what can be recited with a Harakah or Sukoon, that which is written separately or connected, and other matters which deal with the way something is pronounced, converted, etc., which change how something sounds.
Ibn al-Jazari رحمه الله defined the Qiraa’aat as: It is the science by which the method of reciting the words of the Qur’an is determined and their variations, as attributed to their respective transmitters or narrators.
Its Subject: The words of the Qur’an whereby its different states are examined, such as the Madd, Qasr, and Naql.
Its Source: From the Sunnah as well as Ijmaa’ of the Scholars.
Its Benefit: Protection from any kind of corruption or change and numerous fruits. The Scholars are still extracting from each حرف* that is recited by a the reciter a meaning which is not found in any other حرف. The recitation is the primary evidence used by the Jurists in deriving rulings, their ultimate destination when seeking the right guidance, as well as ease and facilitation for the Ummah.
Its Goal: To know how and what every Imam from the Imams of the Qurra’ recites.
The Origin of the Qiraa’aat and its Development
The Qur’an was sent down upon 7 Ahruf to make the recitation of the Qur’an easy and not burdensome upon the Ummah, for verily the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم used to teach all the Qiraa’aat to his companions, رضي الله عنهم.
Imam Muslim narrates in his Saheeh, upon the authority of Ubayy bin Ka’b رضي الله عنه that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم…
was at the swamp of Bani Ghifar and Jibreel عليه السلام came to him and said, “Verily, Allah commands you to teach your Ummah the Qur’an according to one Harf.” The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم replied, “I ask Allah His pardon and forgiveness! Verily, my Ummah does not have the ability to do so.” Then Jibreel عليه السلام came to him a second time and said, “Verily, Allah commands you to teach your Ummah the Qur’an according to two Harfs.” The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم replied, “I ask Allah His pardon and forgiveness! Verily, my Ummah does not have the ability to do so.” Then Jibreel عليه السلام came to him a third time and said, “Verily, Allah commands you to teach your Ummah the Qur’an according to three Ahruf.” The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم replied, “I ask Allah His pardon and forgiveness! Verily, my Ummah does not have the ability to do so.” Then Jibreel عليه السلام came to him a fourth time and said, “Verily, Allah commands you to teach your Ummah the Qur’an according to seven Ahruf, and any Harf they choose to recite, they will be correct.”
Then the Companions رضي الله عنهم spread throughout the Muslim lands at that time, and every one of them taught the people of their respective cities the recitation that they themselves learned from the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم.
Makki bin Abi Talib رحمه الله said:
When the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم passed, a group of the Companions went out to the recently conquered lands during the caliphate of Abu Bakr رضي الله عنه so that they could teach the people there the Qur’an and the religion. Every companion taught the people of his respective city according to what he learned from the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم when he was alive. So the recitations of these territories differed according to the different recitations the Companions learned from the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم.”
During the caliphate of ‘Uthman رضي الله عنه, the differences in the recitation spread amongst the Muslims until Hudhayfah bin al-Yaman رضي الله عنه said to ‘Uthman, “Save this Ummah before it differs regarding its Book, like the Jews and Christians did before it.” He informed the Khalifah about the disagreements between the Muslims regarding the recitation. ‘Uthman رضي الله عنه became alarmed by this news and ordered that the Qur’an be compiled according to one Harf**; then he sent these Masaahif to different territories and had other Masahif besides these burned so that there would not be any opportunity for disagreement in the recitation from that point forward. He also ordered the reciters of these different territories to commit themselves to these exclusive Masaahif, and to teach the Muslims according to its Huroof. The Ummah obeyed him in this matter and they were reunited once again.
Then these narrators of the Qur’an spread throughout the territories, increased in number, until the Qiraa’aat needed to be documented thoroughly and officially codified. It was Imam Ibn Mujahid who was the first to write about them, choosing seven individuals amongst the Qurra’ in his book كتاب السبعة في القراءات, based on conditions available to him then.
Makki bin Abi Talib said:
The narrators (of the Qur’an) from amongst the Imams of the Qurra’ in the second and third centuries were great in number and had many differences. In the fourth century, the people wanted to restrict themselves to the Qiraa’aat which were in agreement with the Mushaf, to make the its memorization easy and establish the recitation according to it. They looked to a famous Imam, known for his trustworthiness and reliability in transmitting the recitation exactly, his practice of Islam, the extent of his knowledge. He became famous and the people of his city agreed upon his reliability with regard to what he narrated, trustworthiness with regard to what he recited, knowledge with regard to what he taught of the recitation. His recitation did not go beyond the writing of the Mushaf that was sent to them. So the people, from every territory Uthman رضي الله عنه intended an official copy of the Mushaf for, singled out this person’s description and recitation based on the Mushaf of that territory. Therefore, Abu ‘Amr was singled out in Basrah, while Hamzah, ‘Aasim, were singled out from amongst the people of Koofah, and al-Kisa’ee from al-‘Iraq, Ibn Katheer from Makkah, Ibn ‘Aamir from Shaam, Naafi’ from al-Madinah. All of them became famous for the trust they carried, and they spent their lives teaching the Qur’an. People traveled to learn from them from different countries. Even then, the people never left transmitting what the Imams were upon with regard to the differences or the recitation according to it. The first one to restrict himself to these seven was Abu Bakr bin Mujahid before 300AH, or around that time, and since then, many have followed in his footsteps until today.
*Referring to the 7 Ahruf.
**There are many different interpretations of what the seven Ahruf refer to exactly. Here, the author follows the opinion that the Qiraa’aat are based off of one of these Ahruf only. We will elaborate further on this issue in a future post, in sha Allah.