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:

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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. Continue reading

Clarification on the Qiraa’aat and the Ahruf: al-Qurtubi

In the introduction to his famous book of tafsir, Imam al-Qurtubi dedicated one section to discussing the meaning of the Prophet’s statement that the Qur’an was revealed in seven ahruf. He concluded that section and segued into the next by writing:

وقد قيل : إن المراد بقوله عليه السلام : أنزل القرآن على سبعة أحرف القراءات السبع التي قرأ بها القراء السبعة ; لأنها كلها صحت عن رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – ، وهذا ليس بشيء لظهور بطلانه على ما يأتي . ـ

And some have said that the meaning of the Prophet’s statement, “The Qur’an was sent down in seven ahruf” is that it is referring to the seven qiraa’aat which were recited by the seven famous reciters because all of these can be authentically traced back to Allah’s Messenger. But this position is not worth consideration due to its clear falsity, as we will see.

فصل في القراءات ونسبتها
Regarding the Qiraa’aat and their Attribution

قال كثير من علمائنا كالداودي وابن أبي صفرة وغيرهما : هذه القراءات السبع التي تنسب لهؤلاء القراء السبعة ، ليست هي الأحرف السبعة التي اتسعت الصحابة في القراءة بها ، وإنما هي راجعة إلى حرف واحد من تلك السبعة ، وهو الذي جمع عليه عثمان المصحف ، ذكره ابن النحاس وغيره . وهذه القراءات المشهورة هي اختيارات أولئك الأئمة القراء ، وذلك أن كل واحد منهم اختار فيما روى وعلم وجهه من القراءات ما هو الأحسن عنده والأولى ، فالتزمه طريقة ورواه وأقرأ به واشتهر عنه ، وعرف به ونسب إليه ، فقيل : حرف نافع ، وحرف ابن كثير ; ولم يمنع واحد منهم اختيار الآخر ولا أنكره بل سوغه وجوزه وكل واحد من هؤلاء السبعة روي عنه اختياران أو أكثر ، وكل صحيح . وقد أجمع المسلمون في هذه الأعصار على الاعتماد على ما صح عن هؤلاء الأئمة مما رووه ورأوه من القراءات وكتبوا في ذلك مصنفات ، فاستمر الإجماع على الصواب ، وحصل ما وعد الله به من حفظ الكتاب ، وعلى هذه الأئمة المتقدمون والفضلاء المحققون كالقاضي أبي بكر بن الطيب والطبري وغيرهما . ـ

Many of our scholars, such as al-Dawudi and ibn Abi Sufrah have said that these seven qiraa’aat which are ascribed to these seven famous reciters are not the seven ahruf which the Sahabah were permitted to recite with, but that these seven qiraa’aat all go back to one single harf out of those seven, which is the one that ‘Uthman collected in the official ‘Uthmani mushaf. That was mentioned by ibn al-Nahaas and others.

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Using a Non-Canonical Recitation as Evidence: Tafsir ibn Kathir

In surah al-Ma’idah, Allah describes the expiation of a broken oath as follows:

 فَكَفَّارَتُهُ إِطْعَامُ عَشَرَةِ مَسَاكِينَ مِنْ أَوْسَطِ مَا تُطْعِمُونَ أَهْلِيكُمْ أَوْ كِسْوَتُهُمْ أَوْ تَحْرِيرُ رَقَبَةٍ ۖ فَمَن لَّمْ يَجِدْ فَصِيَامُ ثَلَاثَةِ أَيَّامٍ

… So its expiation is the feeding of ten needy people from the average of that which you feed your families or clothing them or the freeing of a slave. But whoever does not find the means – then a fast of three days. … [5:89]

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir addressed the ayah at length in his tafsir. In the midst of his discussion, he turns to a question regarding the fast:

واختلف العلماء : هل يجب فيها التتابع أو يستحب ولا يجب ويجزئ التفريق؟ على قولين : أحدهما أنه لا يجب التتابع ، هذا منصوص الشافعي في كتاب ” الأيمان ” ، وهو قول مالك لإطلاق قوله : ( فصيام ثلاثة أيام ) وهو صادق على المجموعة والمفرقة ، كما في قضاء رمضان ; لقوله : ( فعدة من أيام أخر ) [ البقرة : 184 ] . ـ

The scholars have differed as to whether the days of fasting for this expiation must be done consecutively or if that is only recommended without reaching the level of obligation, thus making it permissible to fast them non-consecutively. They fall into two camps:

The first position holds that it is not required to fast them consecutively. This the opinion of Imam al-Shafi’ee as is mentioned in the book al-Ayman, as well as being the position of Imam Malik. This was based off the general nature of Allah’s statement:

فَصِيَامُ ثَلَاثَةِ أَيَّامٍ

then a fast of three days

which could apply to both fasting them consecutively or non-consecutively, just as is the case when making up any missed days of Ramadan according to Allah’s statement: Continue reading

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’]: Continue reading

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

Makki ibn Abi Taalib, one of the great scholars of the Qur’anic sciences among the earlier generations, posed the following question and answer in his book al-Ibaanah dealing with some foundational issues around the qiraa’aat, or multiple recitations of the Qur’an. What follows is one chapter from this work:

باب: “سبب اختلاف القراءة فيما يحتمله خط المصحف” ـ
Chapter: The Reason Why the Qiraa’aat Differ Within the Bounds of the Text of the Official ‘Uthmani Mushaf

فإن سأل سائل فقال: ما السبب الذي أوجب أن تختلف القراءة، فيما يحتمله خط المصحف، فقرءوا بألفاظ مختلفة في السمع والمعنى واحد. نحو: جُذوة وجِذوة، وجَذوة. وقرءوا بألفاظ مختلفة في السمع وفي المعنى نحو: يُسَيِّركم، ويَنْشُرُكم. وكل ذلك لا يخالف الخط في رأي العين؟ ـ

If someone were to ask: What is it that causes the qiraa’aat to differ within the bounds the text of the official ‘Uthmani mushaf?

The reciters may recite variant wordings in how they are pronounced while the meaning is one, such as

لَّعَلِّي آتِيكُم مِّنْهَا بِخَبَرٍ أَوْ جُذْوَةٍ مِّنَ النَّارِ

… perhaps I may bring to you from there some information, or a judwah … [28:29 according to the qiraa’ah of Hamzah and Khalaf]

لَّعَلِّي آتِيكُم مِّنْهَا بِخَبَرٍ أَوْ جِذْوَةٍ مِّنَ النَّارِ

… perhaps I may bring to you from there some information, or a jidwah … [28:29 according to the qiraa’ah of Naafi’, ibn Kathir, Abu ‘Amr, and ibn ‘Aamir]

لَّعَلِّي آتِيكُم مِّنْهَا بِخَبَرٍ أَوْ جَذْوَةٍ مِّنَ النَّارِ

… perhaps I may bring to you from there some information, or a jadwah … [28:29 according to the qiraa’ah of ‘Aasim]

And sometimes they recite variant wordings in terms of both their pronunciation and meanings, such as:

هُوَ الَّذِي يُسَيِّرُكُمْ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ

It is He Who enables you to travel through the land and the sea … [10:22]

هُوَ الَّذِي يُنْشِرُكُمْ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ

It is He who disperses you throughout the land and the sea … [10:22 according to the qiraa’ah of ibn ‘Aamir]

And all the while none of these are in conflict with the text of the official ‘Uthmani mushaf in terms of its appearance (i.e. the form of the words without dots of tashkeel). Continue reading

What about the Qiraa’ah of ibn Mas’ood?: Makki ibn Abi Taalib

Makki ibn Abi Taalib, one of the great scholars of the Qur’anic sciences among the earlier generations, posed and responded to the following question in part of a larger work addressing a number of questions surrounding the multiple recitations of the Qur’an, or qiraa’aat:

فإن قيل: قد روي عن النبي “صلى الله عليه وسلم”، أنه قال: “من أراد أن يقرأ القرآن غضا، فليقرأه بقراءة ابن أم عبد”، يعني ابن مسعود. وعنه أنه قال: “من أراد أن يسمع كلام الله غضا، كما أنزل فليسمعه من في ابن أم عبد”. وقد تركت قراءة ابن مسعود اليوم، ومنع مالك وغيره أن يقرأ بالقراءة، التي تنسب إلى ابن مسعود. ـ

If one were to ask: It has been transmitted that the Prophet said:

Whoever wants to recite the Qur’an fresh, then let him recite with the recitation of ibn Umm ‘Abd

– meaning ibn Mas’ood. And he also said:

Whoever wants to hear Allah’s speech fresh just as it was sent down, then let him listen to ibn Umm ‘Abd.

But the qiraa’ah of ibn Mas’ood has been abandoned today, and imam Maalik and others forbade reciting with the qiraa’ah that has been attributed to ibn Mas’ood.

فالجواب: أن ما قاله الحسين بن علي الجعفي قال: إن معنى ذلك أن ابن مسعود كان يرتل القرآن، فحض النبي الناس على ترتيل القرآن بهذا القول. دليله قوله في الحديث الآخر: فليسمعه من في ابن مسعود، فحض على سماع ترتيل القرآن. وكذلك الجواب عن الحديث الذي روى عنه “صلى الله عليه وسلم”، أنه قال: “من أراد أن يقرا القرآن غضا كما أنزل، فليقرأه كما يقرأ ابن مسعود”. ـ

The response would be what al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali al-Ja’fi said: that the meaning of all that is that ibn Mas’ood used to recite the Qur’an at a slow and measured pace, so the Prophet was encouraging the people to also recite in a slow and measured pace with these statements.

The support for this comes in the latter of the two hadith, “…then let him listen to ibn Mas’ood.” So he was encouraging the people to listen to this slow and measured recitation of the Qur’an. And this would also be the response to another hadith that the Prophet said:

Whoever wants to recite the Qur’an fresh as it was sent down, then let him recite it as ibn Mas’ood recites it. Continue reading

How the Prophet Would Recite the Qur’an

Sheikh Muhammad Moosaa Aal Nasr, one of the salafi scholars of recent times who specialized in the qiraa’aat and Qur’anic sciences, compiled this beneficial discussion of how the Prophet would recite the Qur’an. Sheikh Muhammad Moosaa was also a long-term student of sheikh al-Albani and limited himself to only using authentic hadith narrations throughout this chapter:

صفة قراءة النبي للقرآن الكريم
How the Prophet Would Recite the Qur’an

قال ابن القيم في [ زاد المعاد (١/٣٣٧) ] : وكان صلى الله عليه وسلم يقطع قراءته ، ويقف عند كل آية فيقول : ( الحمد لله رب العالمين ، ويقف ، الرحمن الرحيم ، ويقف : مالك يوم الدين ) وذكر الزهري أن قراءة رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم كانت آية آية ، وهذا هو الأفضل ، الوقوف على رءوس الآيات وإن تعلقت بما بعدها .  ـ

وذهب بعض القراء إلى تتبع الأغراض والمقاصد ، والوقوف عند انتهائها ، واتباع هدي النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم وسنته أولى . وممن ذكر ذلك البيهقي في “شعب الإيمان” وغيره ، ورجح الوقوف على رءوس الآي وإن تعلقت بما بعدها . أ.هـــ.

Ibn al-Qayyim wrote in Zaad al-Ma’aad (1/338):

The Prophet used to pause while reciting, stopping at every ayah. So he would say

الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

and then pause

الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

and pause

مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ

al-Zuhri mentioned that the recitation of Allah’s Messenger went one ayah at a time, and this is what is best – pausing before the beginning of each new ayah, even if the meaning of the preceding ayah is linked to it. Continue reading

“Allah commanded me to recite to you”: Sharh al-Nawawi

It is reported in both al-Bukhari and Muslim on the authority of Qatadah that Anas ibn Malik said:

عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ لأُبَىٍّ ‏”‏ إِنَّ اللَّهَ أَمَرَنِي أَنْ أَقْرَأَ عَلَيْكَ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ آللَّهُ سَمَّانِي لَكَ قَالَ ‏”‏ اللَّهُ سَمَّاكَ لِي ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ فَجَعَلَ أُبَىٌّ يَبْكِي ‏.‏

The Prophet said to Ubay, “Allah has commanded me to recite to you.” Ubay said, “Did Allah mention me by name to you?” The Prophet replied, “Allah mentioned you by name to me.” Anas said: That caused Ubay to cry.

[Muslim #799]

And in the narration of al-Bukhari, there is an addition to the end of the hadith from one of the subnarrators:

قَالَ قَتَادَةُ فَأُنْبِئْتُ أَنَّهُ قَرَأَ عَلَيْهِ ‏{‏لَمْ يَكُنِ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ‏}

Qatadah said: I was told that the Prophet recited surah al-Bayyinah (97) to him.

[al-Bukhari #4960]

In his commentary on Saheeh Muslim, Imam Abu Zakariyyah Yahya al-Nawawi mentioned the following commentary on this hadith:

وفي الحديث فوائد كثيرة . منها : استحباب قراءة القرآن على الحذاق فيه وأهل العلم به والفضل ، وإن كان القارئ أفضل من المقروء عليه ، ومنها : المنقبة الشريفة لأبي بقراءة النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – عليه ، ولا يعلم أحد من الناس شاركه في هذا ، ومنها : منقبة أخرى له بذكر الله تعالى له ، ونصه عليه في هذه المنزلة الرفيعة ، ومنها : البكاء للسرور والفرح مما يبشر الإنسان به ويعطاه من معالي الأمور . ـ

There are a number of benefits to be found in this hadith.

One benefit is the encouragement to recite the Qur’an to someone who is skilled in it, a person of knowledge and virtue. That is the case even if the one reciting is more virtuous than the one to whom he is reciting. Continue reading

A Discussion of the People of Jannah: Tafsir al-Qurtubi & Tafsir al-Sa’di

In surah al-Tur, Allah describes the situation of the believers in Jannah by saying:

وَأَقْبَلَ بَعْضُهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ يَتَسَاءَلُونَ * قَالُوا إِنَّا كُنَّا قَبْلُ فِي أَهْلِنَا مُشْفِقِينَ * فَمَنَّ اللَّـهُ عَلَيْنَا وَوَقَانَا عَذَابَ السَّمُومِ * إِنَّا كُنَّا مِن قَبْلُ نَدْعُوهُ ۖ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْبَرُّ الرَّحِيمُ

And they will approach one another, inquiring of each other. * They will say, “Indeed, we were previously among our people, fearful. * So Allah conferred favor upon us and protected us from the punishment of al-samoom. * Indeed, we used to supplicate Him before. Indeed, it is He who is al-Barr, al-Raheem.” [52:25-28]

Commenting on this in his book of tafsir, Imam al-Qurtubi wrote:

قوله تعالى : وأقبل بعضهم على بعض يتساءلون قال ابن عباس : إذا بعثوا من قبورهم سأل بعضهم بعضا . وقيل : في الجنة يتساءلون أي يتذاكرون ما كانوا فيه في الدنيا من التعب والخوف من العاقبة ، ويحمدون الله تعالى على زوال الخوف عنهم . وقيل : يقول بعضهم لبعض بم صرت في هذه المنزلة الرفيعة ؟ قالوا إنا كنا قبل في أهلنا مشفقين أي قال كل مسئول منهم لسائله : إنا كنا قبل أي في الدنيا خائفين وجلين من عذاب الله . ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَأَقْبَلَ بَعْضُهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ يَتَسَاءَلُونَ

And they will approach one another, inquiring of each other

ibn ‘Abbaas said: when they are raised from their graves they will ask one another.

But others explained it to mean that they will ask one another in Jannah, meaning they will discuss the hard work and fear of the ultimate outcomes that they had during the worldly life and they will praise Allah for removing that fear from them.

Still others said: They will say to one another, “How did you get to this elevated station?” They will say, Continue reading