The Early History of the Qiraa’aat: al-Suyooti

In his famous handbook to the Qur’anic sciences, al-Itqaan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an, Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti included the following discussion in his chapter, “Knowing the Memorizers and Transmitters of the Qur’an”. In this excerpt, al-Suyooti gives a brief history of how the qiraa’aat that are widely-used today were meticulously passed down from teacher to student with chains of transmission going back to the Prophet until they became the list of the seven well-known qiraa’aat around the beginning of the fourth century after the Hijrah:

المشتهرون بإقراء القرآن من الصحابة سبعة : عثمان ، وعلي ، وأبي ، وزيد بن ثابت ، وابن مسعود ، وأبو الدرداء ، وأبو موسى الأشعري . كذا ذكرهم الذهبي في طبقات القراء . قال : وقد قرأ على أبي جماعة من الصحابة منهم أبو هريرة ، وابن عباس ، وعبد الله بن السائب وأخذ ابن عباس عن زيد أيضا وأخذ عنهم خلق من التابعين . ـ

The Sahabah most well-known for reciting the Qur’an were seven:

  • ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan
  • ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib
  • Ubay ibn Ka’b
  • Zayd ibn Thabit
  • ibn Mas’ood
  • Abu al-Dardaa’
  • Abu Moosaa al-Ash’ari

al-Dhahabi also mentioned these seven in his book, Tabaqaat al-Qurraa’.* He further said:

A number of the Sahabah also learned from Ubay, including Abu Hurayrah, ibn ‘Abbaas, and ‘Abdullah ibn al-Saa’ib. Ibn ‘Abbaas also learned from Zayd, and then a number of the Taabi’oon also learned from them.

فممن كان بالمدينة : ابن المسيب وعروة وسالم وعمر بن عبد العزيز وسليمان وعطاء بن يسار ، ومعاذ بن الحارث المعروف بمعاذ القارئ ، وعبد الرحمن بن هرمز الأعرج ، وابن شهاب الزهري ، ومسلم بن جندب ، وزيد بن أسلم . ـ

○ In al-Madinah, these Taabi’oon included: ibn al-Musayyib, ‘Urwah, Saalim, ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, the brothers Sulayman and ‘Ataa’ ibn Yasaar, Mu’adh ibn al-Haarith – more commonly known as Mu’adh the reciter -, ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Hurmuz al-A’raj, ibn Shihab al-Zuhri, Muslim ibn Jundub, and Zayd ibn Aslam.

وبمكة : عبيد بن عمير ، وعطاء بن أبي رباح ، وطاوس ، ومجاهد ، وعكرمة ، وابن أبي مليكة . ـ

○ In Mecca: ‘Ubayd ibn ‘Umayr, ‘Ataa’ ibn Abi Rabaah, Taawoos, Mujahid, ‘Ikrimah, and ibn Abi Mulaykah.

وبالكوفة : علقمة والأسود ومسروق وعبيدة وعمرو بن شرحبيل والحارث بن قيس والربيع بن خثيم ، وعمرو بن ميمون ، وأبو عبد الرحمن السلمي ، وزر بن حبيش ، وعبيد بن نضيلة ، وسعيد بن جبير ، والنخعي والشعبي . ـ

○ In al-Kufah: ‘Alqamah, al-Aswad, Masrooq, ‘Ubaydah, ‘Amr ibn Shurahbeel, al-Haarith ibn Qays, al-Rabee’ ibn Khuthaym, ‘Amr ibn Maymoon, Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami, Zurr ibn Hubaysh, ‘Ubayd ibn Nudhaylah, Sa’eed ibn Jubayr, al-Nakha’ee, and al-Sha’bee.

وبالبصرة : أبو العالية وأبو رجاء ونصر بن عاصم ويحيى بن يعمر والحسن وابن سيرين ، وقتادة . ـ

○ In al-Basrah: Abu’l-Aaliyah, Abu Rajaa’, Nasr ibn ‘Aasim, Yahya ibn Ya’mur, al-Hasan, ibn Sireen, and Qatadah.

وبالشام : المغيرة بن أبي شهاب المخزومي صاحب عثمان ، وخليفة بن سعد صاحب أبي الدرداء . ـ

○ In al-Sham [Greater Syria]: al-Mugheerah ibn Abi Shihab al-Makhzoomi – the companion of ‘Uthman -, and Khaleefah ibn Sa’d – the companion of Abu al-Dardaa’.

ـ [ ص: 252 ] ثم تجرد قوم ، واعتنوا بضبط القراءة أتم عناية ، حتى صاروا أئمة يقتدى بهم ويرحل إليهم . ـ

And then al-Dhahabi proceeded to go into further detail about the people, giving the utmost attention to the precision and verification of their recitations, and he continued with this until he reached the great leading figures of recitation who were taken as models and to whom people would travel to study.

فكان بالمدينة : أبو جعفر يزيد بن القعقاع ، ثم شيبة بن نصاح ، ثم نافع بن أبي نعيم . ـ

○ In al-Madinah there was: Abu Ja’far Yazid ibn al-Qa’qa’a, then Shaybah ibn Nisaah, and then Naafi’ ibn Abi Nu’aym.

وبمكة : عبد الله بن كثير وحميد بن قيس الأعرج ، ومحمد بن أبي محيصن . ـ

○ In Mecca there was: ‘Abdullah ibn Kathir, Humayd ibn Qays al-A’raj, and Muhammad ibn Abi Muhaysin.

وبالكوفة : يحيى بن وثاب وعاصم بن أبي النجود ، وسليمان الأعمش ، ثم حمزة ، ثم الكسائي . ـ

○ In al-Kufah there was: Yahyah ibn Thaab, ‘Aasim ibn Abi’l-Nujood, Sulayman al-A’mash, and then Hamzah, and then al-Kisaa’i.

وبالبصرة : عبد الله بن أبي إسحاق ، وعيسى بن عمر وأبو عمرو بن العلاء وعاصم الجحدري ، ثم يعقوب الحضرمي . ـ

○ In al-Basrah there was: ‘Abdullah ibn Abi Ishaaq, ‘Eesaa ibn ‘Umar, Abu ‘Amr ibn al-‘Alaa’, and ‘Aasim al-Jahdari. And then there was Ya’qub al-Hadhrami.

وبالشام : عبد الله بن عامر ، وعطية بن قيس الكلابي ، وإسماعيل بن عبد الله بن المهاجر ، ثم يحيى بن الحارث الذماري ، ثم شريح بن يزيد الحضرمي . ـ

○ In al-Sham there was: ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Aamir, ‘Atiyyah ibn Qays al-Kilaabi, Ismaa’eel ibn ‘Abdullah ibn al-Muhajir. And then there was was Yahya ibn al-Haarith al-Dhimaari, and then Shurayh ibn Yazid al-Hadhrami.

واشتهر من هؤلاء في الآفاق الأئمة السبعة : نافع : وقد أخذ عن سبعين من التابعين ، منهم أبو جعفر . وابن كثير ، وأخذ عن عبد الله بن السائب الصحابي . وأبو عمرو : وأخذ عن التابعين . وابن عامر : وأخذ عن أبي الدرداء ، وأصحاب عثمان . وعاصم : وأخذ عن التابعين . وحمزة : وأخذ عن عاصم والأعمش والسبيعي ومنصور بن المعتمر وغيره . والكسائي : وأخذ عن حمزة وأبي بكر بن عياش . ـ

And out of all these, seven leaders rose to prominence across the various regions:

Naafi’: He had learned from seventy of the Taabi’oon, including Abu Ja’far.

ibn Kathir: He had learned from the Companion ‘Abdullah ibn al-Saa’ib.

Abu ‘Amr: He had learned from the Taabi’oon.

Ibn ‘Aamir: He had learned from Abu al-Dardaa’ and the companions of ‘Uthman.

‘Aasim: He had learned from the Taabi’oon.

Hamzah: He had learned from ‘Aasim, al-A’mash, al-Sabee’i, and Mansoor ibn al-Mu’tamir, among others.

al-Kisaa’i: He had learned from Hamzah and Abu Bakr ibn ‘Ayyaash [also known as al-Shu’bah].

ثم انتشرت القراءات في الأقطار ، وتفرقوا أمما بعد أمم ، واشتهر من رواة كل طريق من طرق السبعة راويان : فعن نافع : قالون وورش ، عنه . وعن ابن كثير : قنبل والبزي ، عن أصحابه عنه . وعن أبي عمرو : الدوري والسوسي ، عن اليزيدي ، عنه . وعن ابن عامر : هشام وابن ذكوان ، عن أصحابه ، عنه . وعن عاصم : أبو بكر بن عياش ، وحفص ، عنه . وعن حمزة : خلف وخلاد ، عن سليم ، عنه . وعن الكسائي : الدوري ، وابن الحارث . ـ

Then the different qiraa’aat spread in the various regions and each community became distinct.

And as for the transmitters of these qiraa’aat, each chain of transmission for these seven ways had two main transmitters:

○ For Naafi’, there was Qaaloon and Warsh, who both transmitted directly from him.

○ For ibn Kathir, there was Qanbal and al-Buzay, who transmitted via ibn Kathir’s students.

○ For Abu ‘Amr, there was al-Dowri and al-Sousi, who transmitted via al-Yazidi.

○ For ibn ‘Aamir, there was Hisham and ibn Dhakwan, who transmitted via ibn ‘Aamir’s students.

○ For ‘Aasim, there was Abu Bakr ibn ‘Ayyaash [also known as Shu’bah] and Hafs, who both transmitted directly from him.

○ For Hamzah, there was Khalaf and Khalaad, who both transmitted via Sulaym.

○ For al-Kisaa’i, there was al-Dowri and ibn al-Haarith.

ثم لما اتسع الخرق وكاد الباطل يلتبس بالحق ، قام جهابذة الأمة ، وبالغوا في الاجتهاد ، [ ص: 253 ] وجمعوا الحروف والقراءات ، وعزوا الوجوه والروايات ، وميزوا الصحيح والمشهور والشاذ بأصول أصلوها ، وأركان فصلوها . ـ

Then, when the gaps in knowledge widened and falsehood threatened to overcome the truth, the brilliant minds of this Ummah set to work and exerted themselves in scholarly efforts to gather up all the different huroof and various qiraa’aat and give proper attribution to each way and each chain of transmission in order to clearly distinguish between the authentic, well-known, and non-canonical recitations according to a set of foundational principles and conditions which they established and spelled out.

فأول من صنف في القراءات أبو عبيد القاسم بن سلام ، ثم أحمد بن جبير الكوفي ، ثم إسماعيل بن إسحاق المالكي صاحب قالون ، ثم أبو جعفر بن جرير الطبري ، ثم أبو بكر محمد بن أحمد بن عمر الداجوني ، ثم أبو بكر بن مجاهد ، ثم قام الناس في عصره وبعده بالتأليف في أنواعها جامعا ومفردا ، وموجزا ومسهبا ، وأئمة القراءات لا تحصى . ـ

Then the first person to put forward a list of qiraa’aat was Abu ‘Ubayd al-Qaasim ibn Salaam. After him there was Ahmad ibn Jubayr al-Kufi. After him there was Ismaa’eel ibn Ishaaq al-Maaliki, who was the student of Qaaloon. After him there was Abu Ja’far ibn Jarir al-Tabari. After him there was Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Umar al-Daajooni. Then, after him, there was Abu Bakr ibn Mujahid. And then during his time and since then people have set to authoring all sorts of different works, both compendiums and singular specialized works, both brief epistles and long-winded tomes. And the leading reciters are so great in number that they cannot be enumerated.

وقد صنف طبقاتهم حافظ الإسلام أبو عبد الله الذهبي ، ثم حافظ القراء أبو الخير بن الجزري . ـ

And Haafidh al-Islaam Abu ‘Abdullah al-Dhahabi has written a biographical dictionary of the reciters. And after him Haafidh al-Qurraa’ Abu’l-Khair ibn al-Jazari did so as well.

[al-Itqaan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an 1/251-253]

*Translator’s Note: After providing biographical notes for these seven, Imam al-Dhahabi then noted:

فهؤلاء الذين بلغنا أنهم حفظوا القرآن في حياة النبي -صلى الله عليه وسلم، وأخذ عنهم عرضا، وعليهم دارت أسانيد قراءة الأئمة العشرة
وقد جمع القرآن غيرهم من الصحابة كمعاذ بن جبل وأبي زيد وسالم مولى أبي حذيفة، وعبد الله بن عمر وعتبة بن عامر، ولكن لم تتصل بنا قراءتهم فلهذا اقتصرت على هؤلاء السبعة -رضي الله عنهم، واختصرت أخبارهم، فلو سقتها كلها لبلغت خمسين كراسا . ـ

So these were the ones whom we know to memorized the entire Qur’an during the lifetime of the Prophet and subsequently that people learned and recited the Qur’an back to them under their tutelage. And the chains of the transmission of the ten imams of the qiraa’aat all go back to these seven Sahabah.

And a number of other Sahabah also memorized the entire Qur’an, such as Mu’adh ibn Jabal, Abu Zayd, Salim Mawlaa Abi Hudhayfah, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar, and ‘Utbah ibn ‘Aamir. However, none of their qiraa’aat have been transmitted to us. That is why I decided to limit myself to these seven Sahabah (may Allah be pleased with them) and even abbreviated my remarks on them, for if I had discussed all of these reciters I would have ended up filling fifty volumes.

[Tabaqaat al-Qurraa’ 1/19]

See also: : Clarification on the Ahruf and Qiraa’aat of the Qur’an: ibn Hajr

See also: Clarifying some Misconceptions about the Seven Qiraa’aat: Ibn Taymiyah

See also: Qiraa’aat and their Conditions for Acceptance: Sheikh Muqbil

See also: A Note on the Different Qiraa’aat: Sheikh bin Baaz

See also: The Sahabah and Tabi’oon known for their Tafsir: al-Suyooti

See also: Why do the Qiraa’aat Differ?: Makki ibn Abi Taalib

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4 thoughts on “The Early History of the Qiraa’aat: al-Suyooti

  1. Pingback: Clarifying some Misconceptions about the Seven Qiraa’aat: Ibn Taymiyah | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: The Sahabah and Tabi’oon known for their Tafsir: al-Suyooti | Tulayhah

  3. Pingback: Clarification on the Ahruf and Qiraa’aat of the Qur’an: ibn Hajr | Tulayhah

  4. Pingback: Why do the Qiraa’aat Differ?: Makki ibn Abi Taalib | Tulayhah

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