The Historical Spread of the Qiraa’aat: 300AH to Present

In part of his master’s thesis on the different qiraa’aat and their effects on religious rulings, Dr. Waleed Al-Maneese included the following chapter regarding the historical spread of the qiraa’aat in different regions of the Muslim world, with particular focus on the year 300 onwards. For more information on the earlier period of the qiraa’aat, see The Early History of the Qiraa’aat: al-Suyooti.

السرد التاريخي لانتشار القراءات في وانحسارها في البلدان
A Collection of Points on the Historical Spread and Decline of the Different Qiraa’aat in the Various Lands

والذي توصلت إليه من خلال النقول التي تجمعت لديّ حول السرد التاريخي لانتشار القراءات في الأمصار وانحسارها منها ما يلي : ـ

What follows is material that I have gathered from various reports related to the historical spread of the different qiraa’aat in the various lands and their subsequent declines in popularity. It goes as follows:

١) إلى عصر الإمام ابن مجاهد الملقب بـ ( مُسبّع السبعة ) والذي ألف كتابه سنة 300 هـ كانت القراءات السبع يقرأ بها في الأمصار ، ولكن كان الغالب على أهل المدينة قراءة نافع ، وعلى أهل مكة قراءة ابن كثير ، وعلى أهل الشام قراءة ابن عامر ، وعلى أهل البصرة قراءة أبي عمرو ويعقوب ، وعلى أهل الكوفة قراءة عاصم وحمزة . ـ

1) From the time of the Prophet up through the time of Imam ibn Mujahid (also known as “The Selecter of the Seven” who wrote his book on the qiraa’aat in the year 300AH), the seven qiraa’aat were recited in the major cities, however what was predominant was:

  • the qiraa’ah of Nafi’ among the people of al-Madinah
  • the qiraa’ah of ibn Kathir among the people of Mecca
  • the qiraa’ah of ibn ‘Aamir among the people of Syria
  • the qiraa’ahs of Abu ‘Amr and Ya’qub among the people of al-Basrah
  • the qiraa’ahs of ‘Aasim and Hamzah among the people of al-Kufah

قال مكي بن أبي طالب: وكان الناس على رأس المائتين بالبصرة على قراءة أبي عمرو ويعقوب ، وبالكوفة على قراءة حمزة وعاصم ، وبالشام على قراءة ابن عامر ، وبمكة على قراءة ابن كثير ، وبالمدينة على قراءة نافع ، واستمروا على ذلك فلما كان على رأس الثلاثمائة أثبت ابن مجاهد اسم الكسائي وحذف يعقوب. اهـ

Makki ibn Abi Taalib said:

Continue reading

How the Qur’an Uses Contrasting Pairs and Repetition: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah describes His Book in surah al-Zumar by saying:

اللَّـهُ نَزَّلَ أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ كِتَابًا مُّتَشَابِهًا مَّثَانِيَ

Allah has sent down the best speech: a mutashaabih and mathaani Book. [39:23]

The word “mathaani” [مَثَانِي] is often translated into English as “oft-repeated” or sometimes as “paired”. Also, when used in conjunction with “mathaani“, the word “mutashaabih” [مُتَشَابِه] is it is often translated as “consistent”. But as often happens in translation, the translated terms do not sufficiently convey the meaning of the original. In what follows, the great scholar of tafsir al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir provides some clarification and examples of these terms which can help the reader to better understand these two recurring features of the Qur’an.

Even before reaching surah al-Zumar, ibn Kathir draws the reader’s attention these features at their first occurrence in the mushaf under his commentary of 2:25 by writing:

لما ذكر تعالى ما أعده لأعدائه من الأشقياء الكافرين به وبرسله من العذاب والنكال ، عطف بذكر حال أوليائه من السعداء المؤمنين به وبرسله ، الذين صدقوا إيمانهم بأعمالهم الصالحة ، وهذا معنى تسمية القرآن مثاني على أصح أقوال العلماء ، كما سنبسطه في موضعه ، وهو أن يذكر الإيمان ويتبعه بذكر الكفر ، أو عكسه ، أو حال السعداء ثم الأشقياء ، أو عكسه . وحاصله ذكر الشيء ومقابله . وأما ذكر الشيء ونظيره فذاك التشابه ، كما سنوضحه إن شاء الله ؛ فلهذا قال تعالى : ( وبشر الذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات أن لهم جنات تجري من تحتها الأنهار ) ـ

After having mentioned the pain and punishment that He has promised to those miserable enemies of His who disbelieve in Him and His Messengers, Allah then immediately follows that up by mentioning the condition of His joyful allies who believe in Him and His Messengers – those who actualize their eemaan with righteous good deeds. This is the essence of what the Qur’an refers to as Mathaani according to the strongest position of the scholars, a topic which we will discuss in more detail in its proper place. Essentially, Mathaani is to mention eemaan and then to follow that up by discussing kufr, or vice versa, or to mention the state of the people of ultimate joy and then the people of ultimate misery, or vice versa. In short, it is mentioning one thing and then contrasting it with its opposite.

Now as for mentioning something alongside a close corollary, that would be al-Tashaabah [i.e. their “mutashaabih-ness”], which is another topic that we will clarify in further detail, inshaAllaah.

So that is why [after having finished discussing the punishment of the disbelievers], Allah says: Continue reading

How to Approach Reciting the Qur’an: Ibn Qudamah

Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi included the following beautiful words in his part of his discussion on recitation of the Qur’an:

ينبغى لتالي القرآن العظيم أن ينظر كيف لطف الله تعالى بخلقه بى إيصال معاني كلامه إلى أفهامهم، وأن يعلم أن ما يقرأه ليس من كلام البشر، وأن يستحضر عظمة المتكلم سبحانه ويتدبر كلامه، فإن التدبر هو المقصود من القراءة، وإن لم يحصل التدبر إلا بترداد الآية، فليرددها، فقد روى أبو ذر رضى الله عنه عن النبى صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم أنه قام ليلة بآية  يرددها [إن تعذبهم فإنهم عبادك] الاية وقام تميم الداري رضي الله عنه بأية وهى قوله تعالى : { أم حسب الذين اجترحوا السيئات أن نجعلهم كالذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات } [ الجاثية : 21 ] وكذلك قام بها الربيع بن خثيم رحمة الله عليه ليلة . ـ

A person reciting the Qur’an ought to look at how kind Allah is to His creation by making the meanings of His Speech comprehensible to them, and the reciter ought to realize that what he is reciting is not the speech of any human being. He should therefore have a sense of awe at the Speaker and contemplate His Words, for contemplation is the true goal of recitation. One should contemplate even if he can only do so by repeating an ayah over and over again. Abu Dharr narrated that the Prophet stood in prayer one night repeating

إِن تُعَذِّبْهُمْ فَإِنَّهُمْ عِبَادُكَ ۖ وَإِن تَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ فَإِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

If You should punish them – indeed they are Your servants; but if You forgive them – indeed it is You who is the Exalted in Might, the Wise. [5:118]

and Tameem al-Dari stood at night repeating a single ayah, which was

أَمْ حَسِبَ الَّذِينَ اجْتَرَحُوا السَّيِّئَاتِ أَن نَّجْعَلَهُمْ كَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ 

Or do those who commit evils think We will make them like those who have believed and done righteous deeds [45:21]

as did al-Rabee’ ibn Khuthaym repeating the same ayah for the entire night.

وينبغى للتالي أن يستوضح من كل آية ما يليق بها، ويتفهم ذلك، فإذا تلا قوله تعالى : { خلق السموات والأرض } [ الأنعام : 1 ] فليعلم عظمته ويتلمح قدرته في كل ما يراه . ـ

And the reciter ought to ask for explanation of every ayah which needs an explanation and to ponder over them. So if he recites Allah’s statement:

خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ

He created the heavens and the earth [6:1]

then he ought to recognize Allah’s greatness and and know that every thing he sees points to Allah’s incredible power.

وإذا تلا : { أفرأيتم ما تمنون } [ الواقعة : 58 ] فليتفكر في نطفة متشابهة الأجزاء، كيف تنقسم إلى لحم وعظم، وعرق وعصب، وأشكال مختلفة من رأس ويد، ورجل، ثم إلى ما ظهر فيها من الصفات الشريفة كالسمع، والبصر، والعقل، وغير ذلك، فيتأمل هذه العجائب . ـ

And if he recites:

أَفَرَأَيْتُم مَّا تُمْنُونَ

Have you seen that which you emit? [56:58]

then he ought to think about the sperm, all of whose parts seem to be the same. So then how do they divide to become flesh, bones, veins, nerves and all the various parts of the head, arms and legs? And it then further develops to manifest those noble qualities such as hearing, vision, intellect and so on. So the reciter should reflect on these amazing things.

وإذا تلا أحوال المكذبين فليستشعر الخوف من السطوة إن غفل عن امتثال الأمر . ـ

And when he recites the ayaat mentioning the conditions of those who denied the messengers, then he should feel fear of being similarly afflicted if he were to become lax or heedless in fulfilling what Allah has commanded.

وليتخلى التالي من موانع الفهم، مثل أن يخيل الشيطان إليه أنه ما حقق تلاوة الحرف ولا أخرجه من مخرجه، فيكرره التال، فيصرف همته عن فهم المعنى . ـ

And the reciter ought to rid himself of those factors which prevent him from understanding the Qur’an. For example, the shaytaan might cause him to think that he did not correctly pronounce the letters or articulate them in the proper way and so the reciter would repeat them again, however now his concern has turned away from understanding the meanings of the ayaat to instead focusing only on the pronunciation.

ومن ذلك أن يكون التالي مصراً على ذنب، أو متصفاً بكبر، أو مبتلى بهوى مطاع، فإن ذلك سبب ظلمة القلب وصداه، فهو كالجرب على المرآة، يمنع من تجلى الحق، فالقلب مثل المرآة، والشهوات مثل الصدأ، ومعاني القرآن مثل الصور التي تتراءى في المرآة، والرياضة للقلب بإماطة الشهوات مثل الجلاء للمرآة . ـ

Other factors which prevent one from understanding the Qur’an are if the reciter habitually persists in a sin, or if he has a prideful character, or if he is tried with some lowly desires which he obeys. All of these things cause darkness in one’s heart and close it off. This is like a stain or a mark on a mirror, preventing it from displaying the truth. For a heart is like a mirror, lowly desires are like rust or corrosion, the messages of the Qur’an are like image which appears in the mirror, and maintaining the heart by removing these lowly desires is like polishing the mirror.

وينبغى لتالي القرآن أن يعلم أنه مقصود بخطاب القرآن ووعيد، وأن القصص لم يرد بها السمر (13) بل العبر، فليتنبه لذلك، فحينئذ يتلو تلاوة عبد كاتبه سيده بمقصود . وليتأمل الكتاب ويعمل بمقتضاه، فإن مثل العاصي إذا قرأ القرآن وكرره، كمثل من كرر كتاب الملك وأعرض عن عمارة مملكته وما أمر به في الكتاب فهو مقتصر على دراسته، مخالف أوامره، فلو ترك الدراسة مع المخالفة كان أبعد من الاستهزاء واستحقاق المقت . ـ

The reciter of the Qur’an ought to know that he is the one being addressed by the Qur’an and its threats, and that the stories of the Qur’an are not just some idle talk to pass the time but rather are cautionary tales, so let him be alert to them! So, in light of this, he ought to read with the recitation of a slave whose master has sent him a letter concerning an important matter! So one should contemplate the book and act in accordance with it. For a sinful person who recites the Qur’an over and over is like someone who reads a letter from the king over and over but then refuses to service his king’s kingdom or do what he was commanded to do in the letter. In this case, he is lacking in his study of the letter and also contravening his king’s orders. Giving up studying the book altogether while still contravening would be less of a blatant flouting of the law and less likely to open him up to Allah’s wrath.

وينبغى أن يتبرأ من حوله وقوته، وأن لا يلتفت إلى نفسه بعين الرضى والتزكية فإن من رأى نفسه بصورة التقصير، كان ذلك سبب قربه . ـ

One ought to consider himself free of having any might or power to change matters, and he should not view himself through a rosy lens or think himself pure. For if one views himself as lacking and deficient, then that is cause for him coming closer to Allah.

[Mukhtasar Minhaj al-Qasideen 1/44-45]

See also: The Beauty of Reciting the Qur’an Properly: ibn al-Jazari

See also: What the Memorizer of the Qur’an Ought to Know: Makki ibn Abi Taalib

See also: How to Contemplate the Qur’an: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

See also: The Great Merits of Reciting the Qur’an with Contemplation: ibn al-Qayyim

Points of Contrast Between Surah al-Falaq and Surah al-Nas

One of the valuable books of Badr al-Deen ibn Jamaa’ah (d. 733AH) was Kashf al-Ma’aani fee al-Mutashaabih min al-Mathaani, which focused on providing explanations for the slight differences in otherwise similar ayaat. In his discussion of surah al-Nas, ibn Jamaa’ah included the following notes:

مسألة: قوله تعالى: (بِرَبِّ النَّاسِ * مَلِكِ النَّاسِ * إِلَهِ النَّاسِ ) إلى آخر السورة. المستعان به في هذه ثلاث صفات، والمستعاذ منه شر واحد وهو: الوسوسة. وفى سورة الفلق: المستعاذ به بصفة واحدة، والمستعاذ منه أربعة أشياء؟ . ـ

Question: Allah’s statement:

بِرَبِّ النَّاسِ * مَلِكِ النَّاسِ * إِلَـٰهِ النَّاسِ

… in the Lord of mankind * the Master of mankind * the God of mankind [114:1-3]

until the end of the surah.

Here, there are three characteristics through which aid is sought and one evil against which protection is sought, which is the whispering of the shaytaan. But in surah al-Falaq, it is only one characteristic through which protection is sought but four things against which protection is sought. What is the significance of this? Continue reading

Six Basic Guidelines for Understanding the Qur’an: Imam al-Sa’di

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di authored books in a number of fields, with his book of tafsir, Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman, becoming especially widespread and well-known. In addition to that work, he once mentioned that a number of people had asked him to write an even more condensed and abridged book of tafsir. Although he began this work, it appears that he did not complete it and it was left in manuscript form until only the first few pages of it were published for the first time in a 35 volume collection of the sheikh’s works. The sections published were limited to a short author’s introduction, two pages on important principles for understanding the Qur’an and the first half of surah al-Fatihah. This amounts to less than 5 pages in total, though perhaps further sections of this work will be found in the future. Below you can read Imam al-Sa’di’s brief words of advice for those who desire to correctly understand the Qur’an, advice that he wrote to go accompany that incomplete condensed tafsir.

مقدمة في ضوابط النافعة
Introduction to Some Beneficial Principles

ـ • ينبغي لمن أراد فهم كلام الله فهما صحيحا أن يتدبرا صادقا ويتفهم ما دل عليه من المعاني ويطبقها على الواقع فلا يراعى خصوص الاسباب التي نزلت الايات بسببها أو قيل : إنها نزلت بسببها ، بل يراعى عموم معنى الكلام ويعلم أن السبب إذا ثبت فإنه جزء وفرد من أفراد ذلك المعنى الذي دل عليه الكلام ، وكذلك الأقوال التي يقولها المفسرين إذا تعددت فإن البصير بإمكانه أن يجعل جميعها داخلة في المعنى ومراده منه حيث احتملها اللفظ ولا ينبغي له أن يحملها على التباين والتخالف فكم ذكر في كثير من الآيات أقوال متعددة ومرجعها في الحقيقة كلها إلى المعني العام . ـ

• Whoever wants to understand the Qur’an correctly should earnestly contemplate it, work to comprehend the messages it presents and implement them in his life. He should not become consumed with the specific circumstances under which or because of which the ayaat were revealed or say, “It was revealed due to such-and-such reason”. Rather, he should focus his attention on the general meaning of the ayah and know that the reason for revelation – even if authentic – is just one piece and one portion of the meaning which this ayah conveys.

Continue reading

Allusions to the Battle of Badr in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

The main discussion of the Battle of Badr in the Qur’an occurs throughout surah al-Anfal, to the extent that al-Suyooti mentioned:

وأخرج سعيد بن منصور والبخاري ، وابن المنذر وأبو الشيخ ، وابن مرديه عن سعيد بن جبير قال : قلت لابن عباس : سورة “الأنفال” قال : نزلت في بدر، وفي لفظ : تلك سورة بدر . ـ

Sa’eed ibn Mansoor, al-Bukhari, ibn al-Mundhir, Abu al-Sheikh, and ibn Mardawayh all reported that Sa’eed ibn Jubayr said:

I said to ibn ‘Abbaas, “Surah al-Anfal,” and he said, “It was revealed about the Battle of Badr.”

and in the wording of one narration, he said, “That is the surah of Badr.”

[al-Durr al-Manthoor 7/5]

However, there are a number of places outside of surah al-Anfal that some of the mufassiroon say that this seminal battle has also been mentioned. In a short aside in an excellent discussion of the last ayah in surah al-Furqan, sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee discussed the topic by writing:

وقال جماعة من أهل العلم : إن المراد بالعذاب اللازم لهم المعبر عن لزومه لهم ، بقوله : فسوف يكون لزاما ، أنه ما وقع من العذاب يوم بدر ، لأنهم قتل منهم سبعون وأسر سبعون ، والذين قتلوا منهم أصابهم عذاب القتل ، واتصل به عذاب البرزخ والآخرة فهو ملازم لا يفارقهم بحال ، وكون اللزام المذكور في هذه الآية العذاب الواقع يوم بدر ، نقله ابن كثير عن عبد الله بن مسعود ، وأبي بن كعب ، ومحمد بن كعب القرظي ، ومجاهد ، والضحاك ، وقتادة ، والسدي ، وغيرهم ، ثم قال : وقال الحسن البصري : فسوف يكون لزاما ، أي : يوم القيامة ولا منافاة بينهما ، انتهى من ابن كثير ، ونقله صاحب ” الدر المنثور ” عن أكثر المذكورين وغيرهم . ـ

A number of scholars have said that the punishment attached to the disbelievers – meaning the punishment which has been latched on to them – mentioned in His statement Continue reading

The Need for Safety and Security: Tafsir al-Shawkani

Allah recounts the following incident from the life of Ibrahim in surah al-Baqarah:

وَإِذْ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ رَبِّ اجْعَلْ هَـٰذَا بَلَدًا آمِنًا وَارْزُقْ أَهْلَهُ مِنَ الثَّمَرَاتِ مَنْ آمَنَ مِنْهُم بِاللَّـهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ ۖ قَالَ وَمَن كَفَرَ فَأُمَتِّعُهُ قَلِيلًا ثُمَّ أَضْطَرُّهُ إِلَىٰ عَذَابِ النَّارِ ۖ وَبِئْسَ الْمَصِيرُ

And when Ibrahim said, “O Lord make this city safe and secure, and provide its people with fruits – those of them who believe in Allah and the Last Day.” Allah said, “And those who disbelieve. I will grant him enjoyment for a short time and then I will force Him to the punishment of the Hellfire. What an awful end destination that it.” [2:126]

In his book of tafsir, Imam Muhammad al-Shawkaani commented on the first part of Ibrahim’s supplication by saying:

الْمُرَادُ بِالْبَلَدِ هُنَا مَكَّةُ : دَعَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ رَبَّهُ أَنْ يَجْعَلَهُ آمِنًا : أَيْ ذَا أَمْنٍ ، وَقَدَّمَ طَلَبَ الْأَمْنِ عَلَى سَائِرِ الْمَطَالِبِ الْمَذْكُورَةِ بَعْدَهُ ، لِأَنَّهُ إِذَا انْتَفَى الْأَمْنُ لَمْ يَفْرَغِ الْإِنْسَانُ لِشَيْءٍ آخَرَ مِنْ أُمُورِ الدِّينِ وَالدُّنْيَا

The city being referred to here is Mecca. Ibrahim supplicated to his Lord to make it safe and secure – meaning that it would have safety.

Ibrahim prioritized requesting this safety and security before all the other requests that he went on to make. That is because if there is no safety, people will not be able to attend to any other issues, neither religious nor worldly. Continue reading

Tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah 40-46: al-Tafsir al-Muyassar

This is the fourth installment of our translation of al-Tafsir al-Muyassar‘s explanation of surah al-Baqarah, covering ayaat 40-46. This passage is comprised of an address to Banu Israa’eel – the Children of Israel. See the series guide here for more information.

يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ اذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتِيَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَأَوْفُوا بِعَهْدِي أُوفِ بِعَهْدِكُمْ وَإِيَّايَ فَارْهَبُونِ

O Children of Israel, remember My blessing which I bestowed upon you and fulfill My covenant so that I fulfill your covenant and fear none but Me [2:40]

يا ذرية يعقوب اذكروا نعمي الكثيرة عليكم، واشكروا لي، وأتموا وصيتي لكم: بأن تؤمنوا بكتبي ورسلي جميعًا، وتعملوا بشرائعي. فإن فعلتم ذلك أُتمم لكم ما وعدتكم به من الرحمة في الدنيا، والنجاة في الآخرة. وإيَّايَ- وحدي- فخافوني، واحذروا نقمتي إن نقضتم العهد، وكفرتم بي. ـ

40. O offspring of Ya’cub, remember My many blessings upon you, be grateful to Me, and fulfill My commandment to you: that you would believe in all of My scriptures and messengers and act according to My divine laws. Then, if you do that, I will fulfill the promise that I made to you of mercy in this life and salvation in the next. And it is only Me alone that you should fear. And beware of my punishment if you should break the covenant and disbelieve in Me. Continue reading

More Astray Than Cattle: Ibn al-Qayyim

Allah presents the following description of the disbelievers by way of comparison in surah al-Furqan:

أَمْ تَحْسَبُ أَنَّ أَكْثَرَهُمْ يَسْمَعُونَ أَوْ يَعْقِلُونَ ۚ إِنْ هُمْ إِلَّا كَالْأَنْعَامِ ۖ بَلْ هُمْ أَضَلُّ سَبِيلًا

Or do you think that most of them hear or reason? They are nothing more than like cattle. In fact, they are even more astray from the path. [25:44]

Commenting on this ayah, the great scholar ibn al-Qayyim wrote:

فشبه أكثر الناس بالأنعام والجامع بين النوعين التساوي في عدم قبول الهدى والانقياد له

Allah has compared most of mankind to cattle here, and the characteristic that both groups have in common is their lack of accepting the truth and conforming to it.

وجعل الأكثرين أضل سبيلا من الأنعام لأن البهيمة يهديها سائقها فتهتدي وتتبع الطريق فلا تحيد عنها يمينا ولا شمالا والأكثرون يدعوهم الرسل ويهدونهم السبيل فلا يستجيبون ولا يهتدون ولا يفرقون بين ما يضرهم وبين ما ينفعهم والأنعام تفرق بين ما يضرها من النبات والطريق فتتجنبه وما ينفعها فتؤثره

And He stated that most people are even more astray from the path than cattle. That is because a herder drives the livestock, resulting in them being guided and following the path without deviating to the right or left. However, for most people, despite the messengers calling them and guiding them, they do not respond to the call nor do they adopt their guidance, nor do they even distinguish between what is harmful or beneficial to them. Meanwhile cattle do distinguish between what harms them, such as certain plants and paths which they thus avoid, and what benefits them, which they then take an interest in. Continue reading