Benefits of the Multiple Qiraa’aat: al-Suyooti

In his famous handbook on the Qur’anic sciences, Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti devoted a section to issues related to the qiraa’aat [modes of recitation] of the Qur’an. For an introduction to the qiraa’aat, please see here or here. What follows is one excerpt from that section discussing the benefits that come from the differences in the qiraa’aat:

وقال بعض المتأخرين : لاختلاف القراءات وتنوعها فوائد : ـ

One of the latter-day scholars said that there are a number of benefits that come from the differences and variations in the qiraa’aat:

منها التهوين والتسهيل والتخفيف على الأمة . ـ

○ One benefit is that this makes reciting the Qur’an easier, simpler, and less onerous for this ummah.

ـ [ ص: 275 ] ومنها إظهار فضلها وشرفها على سائر الأمم ، إذ لم ينزل كتاب غيرهم إلا على وجه واحد . ـ

○ Another benefit is clearly demonstrating the virtue and honor of this ummah above other nations, for the scriptures of those nations were only revealed in one way.

ومنها : إعظام أجرها ، من حيث إنهم يفرغون جهدهم في تحقيق ذلك وضبطه لفظة لفظة ، حتى مقادير المدات وتفاوت الإمالات ، ثم في تتبع معاني ذلك واستنباط الحكم والأحكام من دلالة كل لفظ ، وإمعانهم الكشف عن التوجيه والتعليل والترجيح . ـ

○ Another benefit is the increased reward, since one could devote their efforts to perfecting their recitation and getting each word exactly correct, and even going into the lengths of the mudood and difference in the imaalaat.

Furthermore, there is the opportunity to look into the meanings of these different recitations and to derive benefits and legal rulings from what each wording indicates. Delving into these differences and examining them reveals what the ayah actually indicates, the reasoning for a ruling, and assists in weighing the merits of different interpretations.

ومنها : إظهار سر الله في كتابه ، وصيانته له عن التبديل والاختلاف ، مع كونه على هذه الأوجه الكثيرة . ـ

○ Another benefit is clearly showing Allah’s pleasure with His book, as well as His protection of it from any changes or contradictions despite it having come in these multiple ways.

ومنها : المبالغة في إعجازه بإيجازه ، إذ تنوع القراءات بمنزلة الآيات ، ولو جعلت دلالة كل لفظ آية على حدة لم يخف ما كان فيه من التطويل ، ولهذا كان قوله : وأرجلكم [ المائدة : 6 ] منزلا لغسل الرجل ، والمسح على الخف واللفظ واحد ، لكن باختلاف إعرابه . ـ

○ Another benefit is to give even more weight and impressiveness to the Qur’an’s miraculous inimitable nature by its brevity, as the variations in the qiraa’aat are treated as independent ayaat. For if the implications of each different wording were to be independent ayaat on their own, then it is no secret that this would considerably add to the length of the Qur’an. Along these lines is this example, that the word:

وأرجلكم

… and your feet [5:6]

takes both the meaning of 1) washing the feet and 2) wiping over the khuffayn. Both these meanings are conveyed with this one phrase, through differences in its i’raab (grammatical declension).

ومنها : أن بعض القراءات يبين ما لعله مجمل في القراءات الأخرى فقراءة يطهرن بالتشديد مبينة لمعنى قراءة التخفيف وقراءة ( فامضوا إلى ذكر الله ) تبين أن المراد بقراءة فاسعوا [ الجمعة : 9 ] الذهاب لا المشي السريع . ـ

○ And another benefit is that some of the qiraa’aat make something that might be left general in another qiraa’ah clear. For example, the qiraa’ah of

يَطَّهَّرْنَ

they purify themselves

with a shaddah clarifies the meaning of

يَطْهُرْنَ

they become purified [2:222]

without the shaddah.

And the qiraa’ah of

فَامْضُوا إِلَى ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ

proceed to the remembrance of Allah [a shadh (non-canonical) qiraa’ah of 62:9]

makes it clear that the intended meaning of the qiraa’ah of

فَاسْعَوْا إِلَى ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ

hasten to the remembrance of Allah [62:9]

is simply to go, not to walk quickly.

وقال أبو عبيد في ” فضائل القرآن ” : المقصد من القراءة الشاذة تفسير القراءة المشهورة وتبيين معانيها ، كقراءة عائشة وحفصة : ( والوسطى صلاة العصر ) . وقراءة ابن مسعود : ( فاقطعوا أيمانهما ) . وقراءة جابر : ( فإن الله من بعد إكراههن لهن غفور رحيم ) .ـ

In his book, Fadhaa’il al-Qur’an, Abu ‘Ubayd said:

One of the purposes of a shadh (non-canonical) qiraa’ah is to serve as an explanation of an accepted qiraa’ah and to clarify its meaning. This is like the qiraa’ah of ‘A’ishah and Hafsah:

حَافِظُوا عَلَى الصَّلَوَاتِ وَالصَّلَاةِ الْوُسْطَىٰ صلاة العصر

Strictly guard the prayers, especially the middle prayer – the ‘asr prayer [compare to 2:238]

And the recitation of ibn Mas’ood:

وَالسَّارِقُ وَالسَّارِقَةُ فَاقْطَعُوا أيمانهما

and the male and female thief – cut off their right hands [compare to 5:38]

And the recitation of Jaabir:

 فَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ مِن بَعْدِ إِكْرَاهِهِنَّ لهن غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

… then after such compulsion, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful towards them [compare to 24:33]

قال : فهذه الحروف وما شاكلها قد صارت مفسرة للقرآن ، وقد كان يروى مثل هذا عن التابعين في التفسير ، فيستحسن فكيف إذا روي عن كبار الصحابة ، ثم صار في نفس القراءة ! فهو أكثر من التفسير وأقوى ، فأدنى ما يستنبط من هذه الحروف معرفة صحة التأويل . انتهى .ـ

And he also wrote:

So these huroof and others like them have come to serve as tafsir of the Qur’an. And these type of recitations serving as tafsir have also been transmitted from the Taabi’oon, meaning that they approved of this method of explanation. So then, what about when it was transmitted from some of the major Sahabah? In fact, these type of explanations were interpolated right into these recitation of the ayaat! So this is something even weightier than if they had just explained the ayah. And the very least that can be made of these huroof is that they can be used to arrive at the correct interpretation of the ayah.

End of quote from Abu ‘Ubayd.

وقد اعتنيت في كتابي ” أسرار التنزيل ” ببيان كل قراءة أفادت معنى زائدا على القراءة المشهورة .ـ

And in my book, Asraar al-Tanzil*, I have given attention to explaining every qiraa’ah which gives extra meaning to the well-known qiraa’aat.

[al-Itqan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an 1/274-275]

*Translator’s Note: This book is currently published under the title Qatf al-Azhaar fee Kashf al-Asraar [قطف الأزهار في كشف الأسرار للسيوطي], as identified by Dr. Abdulhakeem Alanees in his introduction to his study of al-Suyooti’s book al-Ishaaraat fee Shawaa’idh al-Qiraa’aat.

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

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

See also: Tafsir of the Qur’an and its Connection to the Qiraa’aat: al-Suyooti

See also: What about the Qiraa’ah of ibn Mas’ood?: Makki ibn Abi Taalib

See also: Learning the Qur’an – Both Wordings and Meanings: ibn Taymiyah

See also: Non-Canonical Recitations Can Help Explain the Qur’an: al-Zarkashi

11 thoughts on “Benefits of the Multiple Qiraa’aat: al-Suyooti

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