How Do Differences in the Qiraa’aat Affect the Tafsir?

The following Q&A took place with sheikh ‘Abdullah al-‘Awaaji, former professor of Tafsir at the Islamic University of al-Madinah, on Twitter on February 10th, 2020:

هل اختلاف اللفظ في القراءات يغير تفسير الكلمة في القرآن الكريم

Question: Does a difference in wording among the qiraa’aat change the explanation of that word in the Qur’an?

الاختلاف في القراءات بالنسبة للمعنى نوعان١-ما لا أثر له في التفسير، الاختلاف في وجوه الأداء،كالتسهيل والإمالة والمدود.٢-ما له أثر في التفسير،وأثره نوعان: ـ

Answer: There are two types of differences among the qiraa’aat when it comes to the meaning of a word:

1) Differences which do not have any effect on the explanation of the word. These are differences in the way that a word in articulated, such as lightening, imalah, and the mudood.

2) Differences which do have an effect on the explanation. These effects can be furthered divided into two categories:

ـ ١-تفسيري (بياني للمعنى)ولايكاد يوجد في غير القراءات الشاذة كالتي تسمى تفسيرية

2a) Tafsiri, or those which clarify the meaning. These are almost exclusively found among the shadh (non-canonical) qiraa’aat which are referred to as the al-qiraa’aat al-tafsiriyyah – explanatory qiraa’aat.

ـ ٢-وأثر أعظم وهو إثرائي للمعاني المستقلة وقاعدته أن تَعَدُّدُ القراءات بمنزلة تعدد الآيات.فالقراءتين كالآيتين أو كالآيات.فقد قرئت (وأرجلَكم) فيما تواتر بالنصب وفيها دلالة على أن حُكم الرِّجْل الغَسْلُ، وقرئت فيما تواتر بالجرِّ وفيها دلالة على مشروعية المسح على الخفين عند وجود ما يقتضيه. ـ

2b) These have a great effect, which is to enrich the text by adding a new and independent meaning. A principle in this topic is that additional qiraa’aat function like additional ayaat, so two different qiraa’aat are actually like two unique ayaat or separate ayaat. For example, the following ayah can be recited as:

فَاغْسِلُوا وُجُوهَكُمْ وَأَيْدِيَكُمْ إِلَى الْمَرَافِقِ وَامْسَحُوا بِرُءُوسِكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُمْ إِلَى الْكَعْبَيْنِ

… then wash your faces and hands up to the elbow and wipe your heads and [wash] your feet up to the ankle [5:6]

with an accusative case ending to mark it as an object, as has been relayed through multiple authentic chains of narration, which would indicate that the feet should be washed. It can also be recited as:

فَاغْسِلُوا وُجُوهَكُمْ وَأَيْدِيَكُمْ إِلَى الْمَرَافِقِ وَامْسَحُوا بِرُءُوسِكُمْ وَأَرْجُلِكُمْ إِلَى الْكَعْبَيْنِ

… then wash your faces and hands up to the elbow and wipe your heads and [wipe] your feet up to the ankle [5:6]

with a genitive case ending to mark it as an object of the preposition, as has also been relayed through multiple authentic chains of narration, which would indicate that it is permitted to wipe over the socks when the correct conditions are met.

وعلى الأول تطبق قاعدة:”القراءات يبين بعضها بعضًا “وتطبيقات هذه القاعدة غالبة في القراءات الشاذة. كقراءة”حافظوا على الصلوات والصلاة الوسطى صلاة العصر”. وقراءة ابن مسعود “والسارقون والسارقات فاقطعوا أيمانهم. وقراءة ابن عباس: لا جناح أن تبتغوا فضلاً من ربكم في مواسم الحج

For category 2a, the principle that “the qiraa’aat explain and clarify one another” applies. This principle is mostly used in reference to the shadh [non-canonical] qiraa’aat. Take, for example, the qiraa’ah of:

حافظوا على الصلوات والصلاة الوسطى صلاة العصر

Be diligent over the prayers and especially the middle prayer – the ‘Asr prayer [compare to 2:238]

or the qiraa’ah of ibn Mas’ood:

والسارقون والسارقات فاقطعوا أيمانهم

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

or the qiraa’ah of ibn ‘Abbaas:

لا جناح أن تبتغوا فضلاً من ربكم في مواسم الحج

There is no harm if you seek the bounty of your Lord during the Hajj season [compare to 2:198]

[As found on the Qur’anic Consultations Twitter account on February 10th, 2020]

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

For more information about the qiraa’aat, explore our Qiraa’aat Article Index

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