Where Do the Differences in the Qiraa’aat Come From?: ibn Taymiyah

Sheikh al-Islaam ibn Taymiyah once received a letter containing a series of questions related to the qiraa’aat [various recitations of the Qur’an]. What follows is part of his response:

وأما قول السائل : ما السبب الذي أوجب الاختلاف بين القراء فيما احتمله خط المصحف ؟ فهذا مرجعه إلى النقل واللغة العربية لتسويغ الشارع لهم القراءة بذلك كله إذ ليس لأحد أن يقرأ قراءة بمجرد رأيه ; بل القراءة سنة متبعة وهم إذا اتفقوا على اتباع القرآن المكتوب في المصحف الإمامي وقد قرأ بعضهم بالياء وبعضهم بالتاء لم يكن واحد منهما خارجا عن المصحف . ـ

Now we turn to the writer’s question, “What is it that causes there to be differences among the reciters within the bounds of the text of the official ‘Uthmani Mushaf?

These differences go back to the transmission of the qiraa’aat and to the Arabic language, for Allah allowed the people to recite the Qur’an in all of these ways as a means of ease for them. And none of these reciters recited the Qur’an merely according to his own opinion. On the contrary, the qiraa’aat are a sunnah of the Prophet to be followed. So then, the reciters are all united in following the Qur’an that is written in the official ‘Uthmani Mushaf, and then some of the reciters recite a word with the letter yaa’ while others recite the same world with the letter taa’, but none of them have gone outside the bounds of the official ‘Uthmani Mushaf.

ومما يوضح ذلك أنهم يتفقون في بعض المواضع على ياء أو تاء ويتنوعون في بعض كما اتفقوا في قوله تعالى { وما الله بغافل عما يعملون } في موضع وتنوعوا في موضعين وقد بينا أن القراءتين كالآيتين فزيادة القراءات كزيادة الآيات ; لكن إذا كان الخط واحدا واللفظ محتملا كان ذلك أخصر في الرسم . ـ

One of the things which clearly shows this is that in certain places all of the reciters recite with a yaa’ or in certain places all of them recite with a taa’, while in other places some will recite it one way while others recite it the other way. For example, all of the reciters are agreed in reciting this statement of Allah as such [i.e. with a yaa’ and not a taa’]:

وَمَا اللَّهُ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا يَعْمَلُونَ

and Allah is not unaware of what they do [2:144]

while in other places they differ. And we have already explained that the relationship of one qiraa’ah to another is like the relationship of one ayah to another. So additional information that comes from multiple qiraa’aat is like additional information that comes from multiple ayaat. The only difference between these two things is that in the case of multiple qiraa’aat the same written form of a word is used for each qiraa’ah while the word form allows for different pronunciations, and this is more elegant and efficient.

والاعتماد في نقل القرآن على حفظ القلوب لا على المصاحف كما في الحديث الصحيح عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أنه قال : ” { إن ربي قال لي أن قم في قريش فأنذرهم . فقلت : أي رب إذا يثلغوا رأسي – أي يشدخوا – فقال : إني مبتليك ومبتل بك ومنزل عليك كتابا لا يغسله الماء تقرؤه نائما ويقظانا فابعث جندا أبعث مثليهم وقاتل بمن أطاعك من عصاك وأنفق أنفق عليك } ” فأخبر أن كتابه لا يحتاج في حفظه إلى صحيفة تغسل بالماء ; بل يقرؤه في كل حال كما جاء في نعت أمته : ” أناجيلهم في صدورهم ” بخلاف أهل الكتاب الذين لا يحفظونه إلا في الكتب ولا يقرءونه كله إلا نظرا لا عن ظهر قلب . ـ

Memorization of the Qur’an in the hearts is what is relied on for transmission of the Qur’an, not the written mushafs. This is according to an authentic hadeeth that the Prophet said:

My Lord told me to go to the Quraish and warn them. I said, “Lord, what if they break my skull?” He responded, “I will test you and test others through you. I am sending a book to you which cannot be washed away with water. You will recite it both while sleeping and awake. Send forth a regiment and I will send forth two like it, and fight alongside those who obey you against those who disobey you. Spend, and I will spend on you.”

So Allah informed him that Allah’s Book is not in need of pages whose ink can be washed away with water in order to preserve it. Rather, the Prophet will recite it in every situation, as comes in the one description of this ummah that “Their gospel is in their hearts”. This is in contrast to the Jews and the Christians whose only preservation of their scriptures is in written form, and it is rare to find them reading it in its entirety- only from here and there, and not from memory.

وقد ثبت في الصحيح أنه جمع القرآن كله على عهد النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم جماعة من الصحابة كالأربعة الذين من الأنصار وكعبد الله بن عمرو فتبين بما ذكرناه أن القراءات المنسوبة إلى نافع [ ص: 401 ] وعاصم ليست هي الأحرف السبعة التي أنزل القرآن عليها وذلك باتفاق علماء السلف والخلف . ـ

And it is also well-established in authentic reports that the Qur’an was memorized during the time of the Prophet by a number of Sahabah, such as those four Ansar or ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr.

So what we have mentioned makes it clear that the qiraa’aat which are attributed to Naafi’ or ‘Aasim are not the seven ahruf in which the Qur’an was revealed – and that is the consensus of the scholars of both the early and later generations.

وكذلك ليست هذه القراءات السبعة هي مجموع حرف واحد من الأحرف السبعة التي انزل القرآن عليها باتفاق العلماء المعتبرين، بل القراءات الثابتة عن أئمة القراء كالأعمش ويعقوب وخلف وأبى جعفر يزيد بن القعقاع وشيبة بن نصاح ونحوهم هي بمنزلة القراءات الثابتة عن هؤلاء السبعة عند من ثبت ذلك عنده كما ثبت ذلك وهذا أيضاً مما لم يتنازع فيه الأئمة المتبوعون من أئمة الفقهاء والقراء وغيرهم. ـ

Likewise, those seven qiraa’aat are not the entirety of this one harf, which itself is one of the seven ahruf in which the Qur’an was revealed. This is a point of consensus among all the scholars whose views carry any weight.

In fact, the sound qiraa’aat which have been authentically transmitted from the scholars of the qiraa’aat – such as al-A’mash, Ya’qub, Khalaf, Abu Ja’far, Yazeed ibn al-Qa’qa’, Shaybah ibn Nisaah, etc. – are on the same level of veracity as those sound qiraa’aat which have been authentically transmitted from the seven reciters according to those who affirm this as it ought to be affirmed. This point is also something which none of the leading scholars of fiqh, qiraa’aat, or other fields differ about.

وإنما تنازع الناس من الخلف: في المصحف العثماني الإمام الذي أجمع عليه أصحاب رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم -، والتابعون لهم بإحسان والأمة بعدهم: هل هو بما فيه من القراءات السبعة، وتمام العشرة، وغير ذلك، هل هو حرف من الأحرف السبعة التي أنزل القرآن عليها؟ أو هو مجموع الأحرف السبعة ؟؟ على قولين مشهورين: والأول قول أئمة السلف والعلماء والثاني: قول طوائف من أهل الكلام والقراء وغيرهم. وهم متفقون على أن الأحرف السبعة لا يخالف بعضها بعضاً . وهم متفقون على أن الأحرف السبعة لا يخالف بعضها بعضاً خلافاً يتضاد فيه المعنى، ويتناقض؛ بل يصدق بعضها بعضاً؛ كما تصدق الآيات بعضها بعضاً. ـ

In fact, when it comes to the official ‘Uthmani Mushaf that the Companions of Allah’s Messenger, those who strove to follow their way and the rest of the ummah after them have all united under, it is only some people from the later generations who argued over whether:

a) are qiraa’aat which align with the text of official ‘Uthmani Mushaf – whether the seven, or the other three which collectively make ten, or others – are part of just one of the seven huroof in which the Qur’an was revealed,

b) or do they represent all of the seven huroof?

Those are the two well-known positions regarding this issue. The first position is that of the leaders of the salaf and the major scholars, while the second is the position of some of the Ahl al-Kalaam, certain experts in the qiraa’aat, and others. However, all are agreed that the seven huroof do not contradict one another in meaning. On the contrary, they affirm one another, just as the ayaat of the Qur’an all affirm and support one another.

وسبب تنوع القراءات فيما احتمله خط المصحف : هو تجويز الشارع وتسويغه ذلك لهم؛ إذ مرجع ذلك إلى السنة، والإتباع، لا إلى الرأي والابتداع. ـ

And the reason for the presence of differences among the qiraa’aat despite the fact that they all go back to the same official text is that this was something that Allah permitted in order to make things easy for the people. But all these differences go back to the what was transmitted from the Prophet and following him, not to people’s own opinions or any thing that they made up.

أما إذا قيل إن تلك هي الأحرف السبعة؛ فظاهر، وكذلك بطريق الأولى: إذا قيل إن ذلك حرف من الأحرف السبعة، فانه إذا كان قد سُوِّغَ لهم أن يقرؤوه على سبعة أحرف” كلها شافٍ كافٍ” مع تنوع الأحرف في الرسم؛ فلأن يسوغ ذلك مع اتفاق ذلك في الرسم، وتنوعه في اللفظ؛ أولى وأحرى، وهذا من أسباب تركهم المصاحف أول ما كُتِبَت غير مشكولة، ولا منقوطة؛ لكون صورة الرسم محتملة للأمرين؛ كالتاء والياء، والفتح والضم، وهم يضبطون باللفظ كِلاَ الأمرين، ويكون دلالة الخط الواحد على كِلاَ اللفظيين المنقولين المسموعين المتلوين: شبيهاً بدلالة اللفظ الواحد على كلا المعنيين المنقولين المعقولين المفهومين . ـ

Now, if one holds that the ‘Uthmani Mushaf contains all seven of the seven ahruf, then the reason for these differences among the qiraa’aat is of course clear. Similarly, if one holds that the ‘Uthmani Mushaf contains only one of the seven ahruf, then just as it had previously been completely fine for the Muslims to recite according to any of these seven ahruf – each of which was complete and sufficient in its own right, despite the variations that the written forms that these ahruf had – then likewise and even more so would the differences recitations within a single harf be permitted when their written forms are all the same, making the minor differences in wording even more easy to accept than was the case with the seven ahruf.

All of this was one of the reasons why the early generations left the early mushafs written without any vowel markings or dots – so that the forms of the official text could simultaneous accommodate two different readings such as a taa’ or a yaa’, or a fathah or a dhammah. In this way, they could pronounce the word in both ways. We could compare the case of a single written form of a word which can allow two different pronunciations which has both been aurally transmitted via recitation to the case of a single word which can carry two different meanings which have both been understood and transmitted.

[Majmoo’ Fataawaa 13/399-403]

Continue reading the section that immediately follow: Learning the Qur’an – Both Wordings and Meanings: ibn Taymiyah

See more material from the same letter:

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

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

The Seven Qiraa’aat are all Part of One Harf: ibn Taymiyah [Forthcoming, inshaAllaah]

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

For more on this topic, explore the Qiraa’aat Article Index

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

See also: Why do the Mufassiroon differ?: Ibn Taymiyah

5 thoughts on “Where Do the Differences in the Qiraa’aat Come From?: ibn Taymiyah

  1. Pingback: Learning the Qur’an – Both Wordings and Meanings: ibn Taymiyah | Tulayhah

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

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

  4. Pingback: Why do the Mufassiroon differ?: Ibn Taymiyah | Tulayhah

  5. Pingback: Clarification on the Qiraa’aat and the Ahruf: al-Qurtubi | Tulayhah

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