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

Makki ibn Abi Taalib, one of the great scholars of the Qur’anic sciences among the earlier generations, posed the following question and answer in his book al-Ibaanah dealing with some foundational issues around the qiraa’aat, or multiple recitations of the Qur’an. What follows is one chapter from this work:

باب: “سبب اختلاف القراءة فيما يحتمله خط المصحف” ـ
Chapter: The Reason Why the Qiraa’aat Differ Within the Bounds of the Text of the Official ‘Uthmani Mushaf

فإن سأل سائل فقال: ما السبب الذي أوجب أن تختلف القراءة، فيما يحتمله خط المصحف، فقرءوا بألفاظ مختلفة في السمع والمعنى واحد. نحو: جُذوة وجِذوة، وجَذوة. وقرءوا بألفاظ مختلفة في السمع وفي المعنى نحو: يُسَيِّركم، ويَنْشُرُكم. وكل ذلك لا يخالف الخط في رأي العين؟ ـ

If someone were to ask: What is it that causes the qiraa’aat to differ within the bounds the text of the official ‘Uthmani mushaf?

The reciters may recite variant wordings in how they are pronounced while the meaning is one, such as

لَّعَلِّي آتِيكُم مِّنْهَا بِخَبَرٍ أَوْ جُذْوَةٍ مِّنَ النَّارِ

… perhaps I may bring to you from there some information, or a judwah … [28:29 according to the qiraa’ah of Hamzah and Khalaf]

لَّعَلِّي آتِيكُم مِّنْهَا بِخَبَرٍ أَوْ جِذْوَةٍ مِّنَ النَّارِ

… perhaps I may bring to you from there some information, or a jidwah … [28:29 according to the qiraa’ah of Naafi’, ibn Kathir, Abu ‘Amr, and ibn ‘Aamir]

لَّعَلِّي آتِيكُم مِّنْهَا بِخَبَرٍ أَوْ جَذْوَةٍ مِّنَ النَّارِ

… perhaps I may bring to you from there some information, or a jadwah … [28:29 according to the qiraa’ah of ‘Aasim]

And sometimes they recite variant wordings in terms of both their pronunciation and meanings, such as:

هُوَ الَّذِي يُسَيِّرُكُمْ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ

It is He Who enables you to travel through the land and the sea … [10:22]

هُوَ الَّذِي يُنْشِرُكُمْ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ

It is He who disperses you throughout the land and the sea … [10:22 according to the qiraa’ah of ibn ‘Aamir]

And all the while none of these are in conflict with the text of the official ‘Uthmani mushaf in terms of its appearance (i.e. the form of the words without dots of tashkeel).

فالجواب عن ذلك: أن الصحابة “رضي الله عنهم”، كان قد تعارف بينهم من عهد النبي “صلى الله عليه وسلم”، ترك الإنكار على من خالفت قراءته قراءة الآخر،  لقول النبي “صلى الله عليه وسلم”: “أنزل القرآن على سبعة أحرف فاقرءوا بما شئتم”. ولقوله: “نزل القرآن على سبعة أحرف، كل شاف كاف”. ولإنكاره “صلى الله عليه وسلم” على من تمارى في القرآن. والأحاديث كثيرة، سأذكر منها طرفا في آخر هذا الكتاب إن شاء الله. ـ

The response to that would be that during the time of the Prophet the Sahabah generally knew not to reject or criticize someone else if their recitation differed from their own due to the statement of the Prophet:

The Qur’an was sent down in seven ahruf, so recite with whichever one you wish.

and due to his statement

The Qur’an was sent down in seven ahruf, all of them complete and sufficient.

and also due to the Prophet’s disapproval of arguing about the Qur’an. And there are many hadith narrations on this subject which I will bring towards the end of this book, inshaAllaah.

فكان كل واحد منهم يقرأ كما علم، وإن خالف قراءة صاحبه لقوله “صلى الله عليه وسلم”: “اقرءوا كما علمتم”. وحديث عمر مع هشام بن حكيم مشهور، إذ تخاصم معه إلى النبي “صلى الله عليه وسلم” في قراءة سمعه يقرؤها، فأنكرها عمر عليه، وقاده إلى النبي “صلى الله عليه وسلم” ملببا بردائه. فاستقرأ النبي “صلى الله عليه وسلم” كل واحد منها، فقال له: “أصبت”، ثم قال: “إن هذا القرآن أنزل على سبعة أحرف فاقرءوا بما شئتم”. ـ

So each of the Sahabah recited the Qur’an as he had learned it, even if it differed from the recitation of his neighbor, just as the Prophet said, “Recite it as you were taught.” And the hadith of ‘Umar and Hisham ibn Hakeem is well-known, when ‘Umar disputed with him in front of the Prophet about the way he had heard him recite it. ‘Umar disapproved of the way Hisham had recited, so he took him to the Prophet while holding him by his shawl. The Prophet asked each one of them to recite, and said to each of them, “You have recited it correctly,” before saying, “This Qur’an was sent down in seven ahruf, so recite whichever one of them you wish.”

فكانوا يقرءون بما تعلموا، ولا ينكر أحد على أحد قراءته، وكان النبي “صلى الله عليه وسلم”، قد وجه بعضهم إلى البلدان ليعلموا الناس القرآن والدين. ولما مات النبي “صلى الله عليه وسلم”، خرج جماعة من الصحابة في أيام أبي بكر وعمر إل ما افتتح من الأمصار، ليعلموا الناس القرآن والدين فعلم كل واحد منهم أهل مصره، على ما كان يقرأ على عهد النبي “صلى الله عليه وسلم”، فاختلفت قراءة أهل الأمصار على نحو ما اختلفت قراءة الصحابة الذين علموهم. ـ

So the Sahabah would recite the Qur’an as they had learned it, and none of them would disapprove of another’s recitation. The Prophet sent some of them to various different lands in order to teach the people the Qur’an and the religion. After the Prophet died, during the time of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar a number of Sahabah went to the major cities that had been recently conquered in order to teach the people the Qur’an and the religion, so each one of them would teach the people of his city according to how he had recited it during the time of the Prophet. So the recitations of the people of each city differed along the lines of the differences of recitations of the Sahabah who had taught them.

فلما كتب عثمان المصاحف، وجهها إلى الأمصار، وحملهم على ما فيها وأمرهم بترك ما خالفها، قرأ أهل كل مصر مصحفهم الذي وجه إليهم على ما كانوا يقرءون قبل وصول المصحف إليهم، مما يوافق خط المصحف، وتركوا من قراءتهم التي كانوا عليها، مما يخالف خط المصحف: فاختلفت قراءة أهل الأمصار لذلك بما لا يخالف الخط، وسقط من قراءتهم كلهم ما يخالف لخط. ـ

Then when ‘Uthman had the official mushafs written and sent them out to the major cities and he instructed them to adopt what they contained and leave off what differed from them, then the people of each major city recited the official mushaf which had been sent to them according to what matched both a) their way of reciting before the mushaf had come to them and b) the text of the official mushaf while leaving off whatever parts of the recitation they used to use which differed from the text of the official mushaf. As a result, the recitations of each city differed in ways that did not conflict with the text of the official mushaf, and they all dropped any part of their previous recitations which did conflict with the official text.

ونقل ذلك الآخر عن الأول في كل مصر، فاختلف النقل لذلك، حتى وصل النقل إلى هؤلاء الأئمة السبعة على ذلك، فاختلفوا فيما نقلوا على حسب اختلاف أهل الأمصار، لم يخرج واحد منهم عن خط المصحف فيما نقل، كما لم يخرج واحد من أهل الأمصار عن خط المصحف، الذي وجه إليهم. فلهذه العلة اختلفت رواية القراء فيما نقلوا، واختلفت أيضا قراءة من نقلوا عنه لذلك. ـ

So these recitations was passed down continuously from one generation to the next in every city, with the transmissions differing because of there aforementioned factors, until these lines of transmission reached the seven leading reciters in this manner. And so, these leading reciters differed in terms of what had been passed down to them according to the differences among the cities. But none of what these leading reciters transmitted falls outside of the text of the official mushaf just as none of what the reciters of the major cities before them transmitted falls outside of the text of the official mushaf which had been sent to them. And this is the reason why the transmitters of the recitations differed in what they transmitted, as well as the reason why the recitations of those who transmitted from them differed.

واحتاج كل واحد من هؤلاء القراء، أن يأخذ مما قرأ ويترك، فقد قال نافع: قرأت على سبعين من التابعين، فما اجتمع عليه اثنان أخذته، وما شك فيه واحد تركته، حتى اتبعت هذه القراءة. وقد قرأ الكسائي على حمزة، وهو يخالفه في نحو ثلاثمائة حرف؛ لأنه قرأ على غيره، فاختار من قراءة حمزة، ومن قراءة غيره قراءة، وترك منها كثيرا. وكذلك أبو عمرو قرأ على ابن كثير، وهو يخالفه في أكثر من ثلاثة آلاف حرف؛ لأنه قرأ على غيره، واختار من قراءته، ومن قراءة غيره قراءة. ـ

And each one of these leading reciters needed to accept or reject certain things from those under whom they studied. Naafi’ said, “I recited to seventy of the taabi’oon. Whatever two of them held in common, I took it, and whatever someone was uncertain about, I left it. I did this until I arrived at following this way of recitation.”

And al-Kisaa’i studied under Hamzah, although he differs from him in roughly 300 letters. That is because al-Kisaa’i also learned from others. So he chose his way of reciting from Hamzah and from others and ended up leaving a number of things from Hamzah. And this was also the case with Abu ‘Amr, who studied under ibn Kathir despite differing from him in about 3,000 letters. That is because he also studied under others and then selected some things from ibn Kathir’s recitation and some things from others.

فهذا سبب الاختلاف الذي سألت عنه. ـ

So this is the reason for the differing that you asked about.

[al-Ibaanah ‘an Ma’aani al-Qiraa’aat pg 46-51]

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

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: Benefits of the Multiple Qiraa’aat: al-Suyooti

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

See also: The Dots and Tashkeel in the Mushaf: ibn Taymiyah

See also: The Gathering of the Qur’an Series: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Learn more about Makki ibn Abi Taalib here

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5 thoughts on “Why do the Qiraa’aat Differ?: Makki ibn Abi Taalib

  1. Pingback: The Dispute Between ‘Umar and Hisham: Ibn Hajr | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: The Early History of the Qiraa’aat: al-Suyooti | Tulayhah

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

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

  5. Pingback: The Dots and Tashkeel in the Mushaf: ibn Taymiyah | Tulayhah

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