How the Seven Reciters were Chosen: al-Zarkashi

In part of his discussion on the history of the Qiraa’aat (recitations of the Qur’an) in his famous manual of the Qur’anic sciences, Sheikh Badr al-Deen Muhammad al-Zarkashi mentioned the following:

قال مكي : والسبب في اشتهار هؤلاء السبعة دون غيرهم أن عثمان – رضي الله عنه – لما كتب المصاحف ، ووجهها إلى الأمصار ، وكان القراء في العصر الثاني والثالث كثيري العدد ، فأراد الناس أن يقتصروا في العصر الرابع على ما وافق المصحف ، فنظروا إلى إمام مشهور بالفقه ، والأمانة في النقل ، وحسن الدين ، وكمال العلم ، قد طال عمره ، واشتهر أمره ، وأجمع أهل مصر على عدالته ، فأفردوا من كل مصر وجه إليه عثمان مصحفا إماما هذه صفة قراءته على مصحف ذلك المصر ، فكان أبو عمرو من أهل البصرة ، وحمزة وعاصم من أهل الكوفة وسوادها ، والكسائي من العراق ، وابن كثير من أهل مكة ، وابن عامر من أهل الشام ، ونافع من أهل المدينة ، كلهم ممن اشتهرت إمامتهم ، وطال عمرهم في الإقراء ، وارتحل الناس إليهم من البلدان . ـ

Makki [ibn Abi Taalib] said:

The reason that these particular seven recitations became so well-known rather than others is that ‘Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him) had the official copies of the Qur’an written and sent to the various cities, and there were many reciters during the second and third centuries, so then in the fourth century the people wanted to restrict the recitation only to what corresponded to the official ‘Uthmani mushaf. So, they looked for leading reciters who were known for their understanding of the religion, their trustworthiness in transmission, having sound religion, well-rounded knowledge, who had reached old age and had been well-known during their lifetimes, and who were held to be upright by all of the people of their respective locations. So, for each city to which ‘Uthman had sent a mushaf they selected one person matching this description whose recitation aligned with the mushaf of that city to serve as an exemplar:

There was

      • Abu ‘Amr from the people of al-Basra
      • Hamza and ‘Aasim from the people of al-Kufah and its surroundings
      • al-Kisaa’i from ‘Iraq
      • ibn Kathir from the people of Mecca
      • ibn ‘Aamir from the people of greater Syria
      • Naafi’ from the people of al-Madinah

All of them were figures whose role as a leader in the field of recitation was well-known, who had spent a lifetime teaching recitation to others, and a teacher to whom people would travel from their own lands to study under.

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Was Abu Bakr Compiling the Mushaf a “Good Innovation”?: Muhammad Bazmool

Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool, a professor at Umm al-Qura University in Mecca and current judge of Mecca, once posed and responded to the following question:

سؤال : هل يعتبر جمع أبي بكر رضي الله عنه للمصحف مكتوبا في محل واحد بدعة حسنة؟ ـ

Question: Does Abu Bakr’s compiling the entire Qur’an into a single written collection fall into the category of a “good innovation”?

الجواب : أولا : ليس هناك في الدين بدعة حسنة وبدعة غير حسنة، بل كل بدعة ضلالة. كما قال الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم. ـ

Response: Firstly, in Islam there are not “good innovations” and “bad innovations”. In reality, every innovation is misguidance, just as Allah’s Messenger said.

ثانيا : الذي فعله أبو بكر الصديق رضي الله عنه ، هو اتباع لما جاءت الإشارة إليه في القرآن العظيم كما في قوله تعالى: (ذلك الكتاب لا ريب فيه) ، فألإشارة إليه أصالة بأنه كتاب تشير إلى أن ألأصل فيه أن يجمع على هيئة كتاب، وإنما لم يفعل الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم ذلك لمانع منعه منه، وهو انتظار نزول القرآن، الذي استمر معه عليه الصلاة والسلام إلى وفاته. ـ

Secondly, Abu Bakr’s action was in keeping with what the Qur’an alluded to, as is found in Allah’s statement:

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How to Contemplate the Qur’an: Sheikh Muhammad al-Rabee’ah

Dr. Muhammad al-Rabee’ah is a professor at the University of al-Qassim who frequently writes and lectures on tadabbur – reflecting over the Qur’an. What follows is part of an interview conducted with the sheikh focusing on this very topic:

س3: أنزل اللهُ -تبارك وتعالى- القرآنَ وَأَمَرَنا بتدبّره، فما المراد بالتدبّر المأمور به؟ ـ

Question 3: Allah send down the Qur’an and commanded us to make tadabbur of it, so what is the meaning of this tadabbur that we have been commanded to do?

أ.د/ محمد بن عبد الله الربيعة: – التدبر المأمور به هو النظر لما يريد الله منّا في الآيات، فهو مرحلة ما بعد فَهْم المعنى العام للآيات. ـ

Dr. Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah al-Rabee’ah: The tadabbur that we have been commanded to do is considering what Allah wants from us in the ayaat. So this is a level after simply understanding the general meaning of the ayaat.

فالواجب بالنسبة للآية أمران: الأول: فَهْم المراد المتعلّق بالمعنى اللغوي والسياقي، وهو التفسير. الثاني: فهم مراد الله منّا في الآية الذي يشمل الإيمان والعمل، وهو التدبّر. ـ

So there are two things that we must do when it comes to an ayah:

Firstly: understanding the meaning as it relates to linguistics and the surrounding context. That is tafsir.

Secondly: understanding what Allah wants from us in the ayah as it relates to eemaan and actions. That is contemplation.

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The Story of Ibn Miqsam: al-Dhahabi

In part of his biographical encyclopedia of the famous reciters and transmitters of the Qur’an, Imam al-Dhahabi included the following section on Ibn Miqsam, a contemporary of Abu Bakr Ibn Mujahid:

٢٢٥ ابن مقسم ـ
225. Ibn Miqsam

محمد بن الحسن بن يعقوب بن الحسن بن مقسم الإمام أبو بكر البغدادي، المقرئ النحوي العطار

He was Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ibn Ya’qub ibn al-Hasan ibn Miqsam. He was an imam, known by the nickname Abu Bakr, hailing from Baghdad. He was an expert reciter, expert in grammar, and perfume salesman.

أخذ القراءة عرضا عن إدريس الحداد [صاحب خلف] ، وداود بن سليمان وصاحب نصير بن يوسف، وأبي قبيصة حاتم بن إسحاق الموصلي، وجماعة، وسمع أبا مسلم الكجي. ومحمد بن عثمان بن أبي شيبة، ومحمد بن يحيى المروزي، وموسى بن إسحاق الأنصاري، وغيرهم، وأكثر من الآداب على ثعلب، وعمر دهرا. ـ

He studied Qur’an under and recited it to:

  • Idris al-Haddad [a student of Khalaf]
  • Dawud ibn Sulayman, who was a student of Nusayr ibn Yusuf
  • Abu Qabisah Hatim ibn Ishaq al-Mowsali Continue reading

The Story of Ibn Shanabudh: al-Dhahabi

In his encyclopedic biography of the major reciters and transmitters of the Qur’an, al-haafidh al-Dhahabi provided the following entry on ibn Shanabudh, a contemporary of Abu Bakr ibn Mujahid and a notable figure in the qiraa’aat literature:

١٩٢ – أبو الحسن بن شنبوذ
192. Abu’l-Hasan ibn Shanabudh

هو محمد بن أحمد بن أيوب بن الصلت ومنهم من يقول ابن الصلت بن أيوب بن شنبوذ البغدادي

He is Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Ayyub ibn al-Salt – and some say that it was ibn al-Silt  – ibn Ayyub ibn Shanabudh, al-Baghdadi.

شيخ الإقراء بالعراق مع ابن مجاهد

He, alongside ibn Mujahid, was the leading scholar of recitation in Iraq.

قرأ القرآن على عدد كثير بالأمصار منهم قنبل وإسحاق الخزاعي والحسن بن العباس وإدريس بن عبد الكريم وهارون بن موسى الأخفش وإسماعيل بن عبد الله المصري وبكر بن سهل الدمياطي وقيل لم يتل عليه ومحمد بن شاذان والقاسم بن أحمد وأبي حسان العنزي وأحمد بن نصر بن شاكر صاحب الوليد بن عتبة وأحمد بن بشار الأنباري صاحب الدوري وإبراهيم الحربي والزبير بن محمد العمري المدني صاحب قالون ومحمد بن يحيى الكسائي الصغير وموسى بن جمهور وأحمد بن محمد الرشديني

He studied Qur’an under a great number of scholars from various cities, including:

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The Biography of ibn Mujahid: al-Dhahabi

In part of his biographical encyclopedia of the famous reciters and transmitters of the Qur’an, Imam al-Dhahabi included the following section on Abu Bakr ibn Mujahid who famously selected the seven qiraa’aat of the Qur’an that are commonly used until today:

١٨٦ ـ ابن مجاهد
186 – Ibn Mujahid

أحمد بن موسى بن العباس ابن مجاهد شيخ العصر أبو بكر البغدادي العطشي المقرىء الأستاذ مصنف كتاب القراءات السبعة . ـ

He was Ahmad ibn Moosaa ibn al-‘Abbaas ibn Mujahid, the recognized expert of his time, also known by Abu Bakr. He was from Baghdad, specifically from Souq al-Atshq. He was a master reciter of the Qur’an, a teacher, and the author of the book on the seven qiraa’aat.

ولد سنة خمس وأربعين ومئتين بسوق العطش محلة بغداد . ـ

He was born in the year 245AH in Souq al-Atshq, which is a part of Baghdad.

وسمع الحديث من سعدان بن نصر وأحمد بن منصور الرمادي ومحمد بن اسحاق الصغّاني ومحمد بن عبد الله المخرمي وعباس الدوري وخلق كثير. ـ

He took hadith from Sa’dan ibn Nasir, Ahmad ibn Mansur al-Rumadi, Muhammad ibn Ishaq al-Saghani, Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah al-Makhzumi, ‘Abbaas al-Duri, and a large number of others.

وقرأ القرآن على أبي الزعراء بن عبدوس وقنبل المكي وسمع القراءات من طائفة كبيرة مذكورين في صدر كتابه وتصدر للإقراء وازدحم عليه أهل الأداء ورجل إليه من الأقطار وبعد صيته

He recited Qur’an to his teachers Abu al-Za’ra’ ibn ‘Abdus and Qunbul al-Makki and heard the qiraa’aat of a large number of teachers who are mentioned in the beginning of his book. He was a leading figure for teaching the qiraa’aat. Students of the qiraa’aat flocked to him and traveled from many different regions to study under him, and his renown was widespread.

وقد وقع كلام في إكماله الختمة على قنبل . ـ

There has been some dispute as to whether he completed a full reading of the Qur’an with Qunbul.

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Were Some of the Famous Reciters Weak Narrators?: al-Dhahabi

Abu ‘Umar Hafs al-Duri (died 246AH) was one of the great reciters of his time and one of the transmitters of the seven qiraa’aat, both for the qiraa’ah of Abu ‘Amr (al-Duri ‘an Abi ‘Amr) and al-Kisaa’i (al-Duri ‘an al-Kisaa’i). He was also a hadith narrator and a contemporary of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, and Imam Ahmad relayed hadith from al-Duri. Despite this, the muhaddith al-Daraqutni graded al-Duri as dha’eef, or weak. In his biographical entry on al-Duri, Imam Shams al-Deen al-Dhahabi commented on this by writing:

وقول الدارقطني : ضعيف ، يريد في ضبط الآثار ، أما في القراءات فثبت إمام . وكذلك جماعة من القراء أثبات في القراءة دون الحديث ، كنافع ، والكسائي ، وحفص ; فإنهم نهضوا بأعباء الحروف وحرروها ، ولم يصنعوا ذلك في الحديث ، كما أن طائفة من الحفاظ أتقنوا الحديث ، ولم يحكموا القراءة . وكذا شأن كل من برز في فن ، ولم يعتن بما عداه . والله أعلم . ـ

When al-Daraqutni said that al-Duri was dha’eef, he was referring to his precision in hadith narrations. However when it came to the qiraa’aat, then he was reliable and a leading figure.

This was also the case for a number of the famous reciters, that they were reliable narrators of a qiraa’ah but not of hadith. Examples include Naafi’, al-Kisaa’i, and Hafs. That is because they devoted themselves to the heavy task of the Qur’anic words with great care and precision, while they did not expend that same level of exertion regarding the hadith.

Likewise, there are a segment of the hadith experts who excel in hadith while not perfecting their recitation.

This is the way for anyone who excels in one area without focusing on other areas. And Allah knows best.

[Siyar A’laam al-Nubalaa’ 11/543]

See also: Introduction to the Ten Reciters and Their Transmitters

See also: The Chains of the Seven Famous Reciters From Highest to Lowest

See also: Attributing the Qiraa’aat to the Seven Reciters: Muhammad Bazmool

Read more on these subjects in our Qiraa’aat Article Index

Introduction to the Ten Reciters and Their Transmitters

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs of the Kingdom of Morocco included this useful summary of the ten well-known quraa’ – plural form of qaari, reciter” – and the two ruwaat – plural form of raawi, “transmitter” – of the well-known qiraa’aat – plural form of qiraa’ah, “recitation” – of the Qur’an. Because of the prominence of the qiraa’ah of Naafi’ in North Africa, the section of Naafi’ received greater detail than others sections, but this discussion also touches on some of the important history of the qiraa’aat in the Western parts of the Islamic world and the formalization of this very list. What follows is the original Arabic article and our English translation:

ظهور القراءات السبع ودخولها إلى الأقطار المغربية
The Emergence of the Seven Qiraa’aat and Their Entrance into the Western Islamic Lands

والمقصود بالقراءات السبع قراءات سبعة قراء من أئمة أهل الأمصار الخمسة المشهورة، وهم:ـ

What is meant by “the seven qiraa’aat” are those seven qiraa’aat of the leading reciters of the five major cities. Those leading reciters were:

ـ 1- نافع بن أبي نُعَيْم المدني إمام أهل المدينة في القراءة، أصله من أصبهان ببلاد فارس، و ولد بالمدينة، وقرأ على قرائها بالمسجد النبوي. ولد سنة 70هـ ــ690م وتوفي سنة 169هـ ــ786م. ـ

1. Naafi’ ibn Abi Nu’aym al-Madani. He was the leader of the people of al-Madinah when it came to reciting. His origins go back to Isfahan in Persia, and he was born in al-Madinah where he studied under its leading reciters in the Prophet’s Masjid. He was born in 70AH/690CE and died in 169AH/786CE.

اشتهر من رواة قراءته عدد كثير، ومنهم في “العشر الصغير” كما سيأتي أربعة من الرواة، واشتهر في القراءات السبع من الطرق المشهورة عنه راويان وهما: ـ

His qiraa’ah had a number of transmitters who became well-known, four of which are mentioned in al-‘Ashr al-Sagheer as will be discussed later. As for the widely-known routes of transmission mentioned in the seven qiraa’aat, the there are two transmitters, who are:

أبو سعيد عثمان بن سعيد المصري الملقب بورش -بسكون الراء- رحل ورش إلى المدينة فعرض القراءة على نافع، وروى عنه عدد الآي على مذهب أهل المدينة، ورجع فتصدر في مدينة الفسطاط بمصر، ورحل إليه القراء من الآفاق، من المغرب والأندلس وغيرهما إلى أن توفي بمصر سنة 197هـ ــ813م ـ

a) Abu Sa’eed ‘Uthman ibn Sa’eed al-Misri, more commonly known as Warsh. Warsh traveled to al-Madinah and recited to Naafi’, and he transmitted the ayah numbering system of al-Madinah from Naafi’. He then returned to al-Fustat in Egypt and became a leading teacher and reciters from the various lands traveled to study under him – from the Maghreb, Andalusia and elsewhere. And so it continued until he passed away in Egypt in the year 197AH/813CE.

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How the Prophet Lived with His Wives: Tafsir ibn Kathir

In the midst of legal rulings related to marriage in surah al-Nisaa’, Allah commands the believing to treat their wives well by saying:

وَعَاشِرُوهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ

… and live with them honorably … [4:19]

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote a brief but beautiful commentary on this phrase in his tafsir:

وَقَوْلُهُ : ( وَعَاشِرُوهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ ) أَيْ : طَيِّبُوا أَقْوَالَكُمْ لَهُنَّ ، وَحَسِّنُوا أَفْعَالَكُمْ وَهَيْئَاتِكُمْ بِحَسَبِ قُدْرَتِكُمْ ، كَمَا تُحِبُّ ذَلِكَ مِنْهَا ، فَافْعَلْ أَنْتَ بِهَا مِثْلَهُ ، كَمَا قَالَ تَعَالَى : ( وَلَهُنَّ مِثْلُ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ ) [ الْبَقَرَةِ : 228 ] وَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : ” خَيْرُكُمْ خَيْرُكُمْ لِأَهْلِهِ ، وَأَنَا خَيْرُكُمْ لِأَهْلِي ” وَكَانَ مِنْ أَخْلَاقِهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَنَّهُ جَمِيلُ الْعِشْرَةِ دَائِمُ الْبِشْرِ ، يُدَاعِبُ أَهْلَهُ ، وَيَتَلَطَّفُ بِهِمْ ، ويُوسِعُهُمْ نَفَقَتَهُ ، وَيُضَاحِكُ نِسَاءَهُ ، حَتَّى إِنَّهُ كَانَ يُسَابِقُ عَائِشَةَ أُمَّ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَتَوَدَّدُ إِلَيْهَا بِذَلِكَ . قَالَتْ : سَابَقَنِي رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَسَبَقْتُهُ ، وَذَلِكَ قَبْلَ أَنْ أَحْمِلَ اللَّحْمَ ، ثُمَّ سَابَقْتُهُ بَعْدَ مَا حَمَلْتُ اللَّحْمَ فَسَبَقَنِي ، فَقَالَ : ” هَذِهِ بِتِلْكَ ” وَيَجْتَمِعُ نِسَاؤُهُ كُلَّ لَيْلَةٍ فِي بَيْتِ الَّتِي يَبِيتُ عِنْدَهَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ، فَيَأْكُلُ مَعَهُنَّ الْعَشَاءَ فِي بَعْضِ الْأَحْيَانِ ، ثُمَّ تَنْصَرِفُ كُلُّ وَاحِدَةٍ إِلَى مَنْزِلِهَا . وَكَانَ يَنَامُ مَعَ الْمَرْأَةِ مِنْ نِسَائِهِ فِي شِعَارٍ وَاحِدٍ ، يَضَعُ عَنْ كَتِفَيْهِ الرِّدَاءَ وَيَنَامُ بِالْإِزَارِ ، وَكَانَ إِذَا صَلَّى الْعِشَاءَ يَدْخُلُ مَنْزِلَهُ يَسْمُرُ مَعَ أَهْلِهِ قَلِيلًا قَبْلَ أَنْ يَنَامَ ، يُؤَانِسُهُمْ بِذَلِكَ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَقَدْ قَالَ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى : ( لَقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ ) [ الْأَحْزَابِ : 21 ] . وَأَحْكَامُ عِشْرَةِ النِّسَاءِ وَمَا يَتَعَلَّقُ بِتَفْصِيلِ ذَلِكَ مَوْضِعُهُ كِتَابُ ” الْأَحْكَامِ ” ، وَلِلَّهِ الْحَمْدُ . ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَعَاشِرُوهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ

… and live with them honorably …

that is: beautify your speech, actions and manners towards them to the best of your ability. Just as you would like for them to do that towards you, then do that towards them. This is as Allah said:

وَلَهُنَّ مِثْلُ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ

… and women have rights over their husbands similar to the rights their husbands have over them … [2:228]

and Allah’s Messenger said: Continue reading

Major Nifaq and Minor Nifaq in the Qur’an: Tafsir ibn Kathir

In his explanation of the beginning of surah al-Baqarah, the great expert in hadith, history and tafsir al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir transitioned from the ayaat describing the disbelievers to the ayaat describing the munafiqoon by writing:

لما تقدم وصف المؤمنين في صدر السورة بأربع آيات ، ثم عرف حال الكافرين بهاتين الآيتين ، شرع تعالى في بيان حال المنافقين الذين يظهرون الإيمان ويبطنون الكفر ، ولما كان أمرهم يشتبه على كثير من الناس أطنب في ذكرهم بصفات متعددة ، كل منها نفاق ، كما أنزل سورة ” براءة ” فيهم ، وسورة ” المنافقين ” فيهم ، وذكرهم في سورة ” النور ” وغيرها من السور ، تعريفا لأحوالهم لتجتنب ، ويجتنب من تلبس بها. ـ

After beginning with four ayaat describing the believers at the opening of this surah [2:2-5] and then acquainting us with the disbelievers’ condition in these two ayaat [2:6-7], Allah then moves on to explaining the situation of the munafiqoon – those who outwardly display eemaan while inwardly harboring disbelief [2:8-20]. Because of the difficulty that many people have in identifying their condition, Allah goes into detail by mentioning a number of their characteristics, all of which are nifaq. He also sent down surah al-Baraa’ah [09] and surah al-Munafiqoon [63] regarding them, as well as mentioning them in surah al-Nur [24] and elsewhere in order to acquaint us with their ways so that we could avoid their qualities and those who are characterized by them.

النفاق : هو إظهار الخير وإسرار الشر ، وهو أنواع : اعتقادي ، وهو الذي يخلد صاحبه في النار ، وعملي وهو من أكبر الذنوب ، كما سيأتي تفصيله في موضعه ، إن شاء الله تعالى ، وهذا كما قال ابن جريج : المنافق يخالف قوله فعله ، وسره علانيته ، ومدخله مخرجه ، ومشهده مغيبه . ـ

al-Nifaq is: outwardly displaying good while secretly harboring evil. And there are different varieties of nifaq:

there is Nifaq of Creed, which is the type which causes its perpetrator to spend eternity in the Hellfire,

and there is Nifaq of Deed which is one of the gravest sins.

And we shall discuss this in detail in the appropriate place, inshaAllaah.

All of this is just as ibn Jurayj said, “The munafiq‘s words and actions are at odds, his secrets and public face are at odds, his entering and exiting are at odds, and his public life and private life are at odds.” Continue reading