The Valid Qiraa’aat are not Limited to Seven: ibn Taymiyah

In part of his letter regarding the qiraa’aat – variant recitations of the Qur’an -, sheikh al-Islam ibn Taymiyah first addressed the issues of distinguishing the ahruf and qiraa’aat, the lack of contradiction among the valid qiraa’aat and stated that the seven well-known qiraa’aat are all part of just one harf. He then began to clarify that the valid qiraa’aat are not limited to only the seven well-known qiraa’aat, as you can read below:

ولذلك لم يتنازع علماء الإسلام المتبوعين من السلف والأئمة في أنه لا يتعين أن يقرأ بهذه القراءات المعينة في جميع أمصار المسلمين ; بل من ثبت عنده قراءة الأعمش شيخ حمزة أو قراءة يعقوب بن إسحاق الحضرمي ونحوهما كما ثبت عنده قراءة حمزة والكسائي فله أن يقرأ [ ص: 393 ] بها بلا نزاع بين العلماء المعتبرين المعدودين من أهل الإجماع والخلاف ; بل أكثر العلماء الأئمة الذين أدركوا قراءة حمزة كسفيان بن عيينة وأحمد بن حنبل وبشر بن الحارث وغيرهم يختارون قراءة أبي جعفر بن القعقاع وشيبة بن نصاح المدنيين وقراءة البصريين كشيوخ يعقوب بن إسحاق وغيرهم على قراء حمزة والكسائي . ـ

Following from that, there is no difference of opinion among the scholars of the earliest generations or the later imams that it is not mandatory to only recite with the seven well-known qiraa’aat in all of the Muslim lands. On the contrary, those who consider the qiraa’ah of al-‘Amash – the teacher of Hamzah – or the qiraa’ah or Ya’qub ibn Ishaaq al-Hadhrami or others like these to be reliably transmitted, just as others affirm the validity of the qiraa’ah of Hamzah or of al-Kisaa’i, then he can recite with those qiraa’aat. 

There is no difference of opinion on this among the scholars whose views deserve consideration and are counted as authorities of the highest level. In fact, most of the great scholars who were exposed to the qiraa’ah of Hamzah – such as Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Bishar ibn al-Haarith, etc. – preferred the qiraa’aat of Abu Ja’far ibn al-Qa’qa’ and Shaybah ibn Nisaah among the reciters of al-Madinah or the qiraa’aat of Ya’qub ibn Ishaaq or other sheikhs of the people of al-Basrah more than the qiraa’aat of Hamzah and al-Kisaa’i.

وللعلماء الأئمة في ذلك من الكلام ما هو معروف عند العلماء ; ولهذا كان أئمة أهل العراق الذين ثبتت عندهم قراءات العشرة أو الأحد عشر كثبوت هذه السبعة يجمعون ذلك في الكتب ويقرءونه في الصلاة وخارج الصلاة وذلك متفق عليه بين العلماء لم ينكره أحد منهم . ـ

The statements of the leading scholars on this topic are well-known among the scholars. In line with this, there were some Iraqi scholars of the qiraa’aat who affirmed ten or eleven qiraa’aat as having the same level of authenticity and validity as the well-known seven qiraa’aat. These positions were widely held among the Iraqi scholars in their writings and they would recite with those qiraa’aat both during the prayer and outside of it. This matter is a point of agreement among the scholars, and not a single scholars criticized the scholars of Iraqi for using these other recitations.

وأما الذي ذكره القاضي عياض ومن نقل من كلامه من الإنكار على ابن شنبوذ الذي كان يقرأ بالشواذ في الصلاة في أثناء المائة الرابعة وجرت له قصة مشهورة فإنما كان ذلك في القراءات الشاذة الخارجة عن المصحف كما سنبينه . ـ

Now, as for what took place around the 5th century with al-Qaadhi ‘Iyaadh and those who transmit his words of criticism towards ibn Shanabudh said about him reciting with shadh qiraa’aat in the salaah – and this story has become well-known -, then this criticism was only in regards to those shadh qiraa’aat that differ from the text of the official ‘Uthmani mushaf, as we shall explain.[1]

ولم ينكر أحد من العلماء قراءة العشرة ولكن من [ لم ] يكن عالما بها أو لم تثبت عنده كمن يكون في بلد من بلاد الإسلام بالمغرب أو غيره ولم يتصل به بعض هذه القراءات فليس له أن يقرأ بما لا يعلمه فإن [ ص: 394 ] القراءة كما قال زيد بن ثابت سنة يأخذها الآخر عن الأول كما أن ما ثبت عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم من أنواع الاستفتاحات في الصلاة ومن أنواع صفة الأذان والإقامة وصفة صلاة الخوف وغير ذلك كله حسن يشرع العمل به لمن علمه وأما من علم نوعا ولم يعلم غيره فليس له أن يعدل عما علمه إلى ما لم يعلمه وليس له أن ينكر على من علم ما لم يعلمه من ذلك ولا أن يخالفه كما قال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم { لا تختلفوا فإن من كان قبلكم اختلفوا فهلكوا } ” . ـ

Not a single scholar disapproves of the qiraa’aat in the well-known list of ten. However, those who are not familiar with them or do not know of them – for example, such a person living in the Muslim lands of North Africa or some other distant place where some of the qiraa’aat have not reached him -, then he should not recite with a qiraa’ah which he has not been taught. For the recitation of the Qur’an, as Zayd ibn Thabit said, is a Sunnah which is passed down from teacher to student.

The different qiraa’aat are like the different types of opening supplication in the salaah, or the different ways to make the adhaan and iqaamah, or the various ways to perform the fear prayer, or other similar things for which multiple ways of performing them have been authentically transmitted from the Prophet. All of these ways are fine and it is legislated for those who have learned them to enact them and practice them. But it is not appropriate for someone who only knows of one way and has never been taught any other ways to turn away from what he knows to instead do what he has not been taught.

At the same time, it is also not appropriate for such a person to disapprove of those who know these authentic ways which he has not yet learned, nor is it appropriate for him to argue with them. This is as the Prophet said, “Do not fall into disputing with one another, for those before you fell into disputing with one another and so they were destroyed.”

[Majmoo’ al-Fataawaa 13/393-394]

[1] Translator’s Note: I asked Dr. Yusuf al-Raddadi, assistant professor of Qiraa’aat at the Islamic University of al-Madinah, about the story of ibn Shanabudh referenced here and he replied:

كان ابن شنبوذ من أئمة عصره في القراءات، وكان يرى جواز القراءة بالشاذ مما خالف المصحف، وأنكر عليه علماء عصره ذلك، وعلى رأسهم مسبع السبعة ابن مجاهد، وجرت له في ذلك أمور يطول المقام بذكرها. يُرجع لكتاب غاية النهاية 2/52 وغيره ومسألة اختيار ابن شنبوذ لم تأخذ حقها من الدراسة والتحليل.

Ibn Shanabudh was one of the leading scholars of the qiraa’aat during his time. He considered it permissible to recite with shadh qiraa’aat that differed from the text of the ‘Uthmani Mushaf. This was a view that the scholars of his age criticized him for, with “the Selector of the Seven” Abu Bakr ibn Mujahid being at the forefront of them. There were a number of events related to this controversy which would be too long to mention here. Refer to the book Ghayah al-Nihayah 2/52 and elsewhere. And this issue of ibn Shanabudh’s position has not received its due coverage in academic studies and analysis.

[I posed this question to Dr. Yusuf al-Raddadi via the Quranic Consultations Twitter channel here on October 21st, 2019]

For more excerpts from the same letter see:

See also: Qiraa’aat Article Index

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

4 thoughts on “The Valid Qiraa’aat are not Limited to Seven: ibn Taymiyah

  1. Pingback: Where Do the Differences in the Qiraa’aat Come From?: ibn Taymiyah | Tulayhah

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

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

  4. Pingback: The Seven Qiraa’aat are all Part of One Harf: ibn Taymiyah | Tulayhah

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