Why do the Transmitters of a Single Qiraa’ah Differ?: Makki ibn Abi Taalib

In one of his writings, Makki ibn Abi Taalib, a great scholar of the qiraa’aat from the earlier generations, took up the question of why two transmitters of a single qiraa’ah would differ if they both learned from the same reciter. In his answer, he used the example of the most common recitations from his home of North Africa and al-Andalus as his primary examples:

باب: “العلة في كثرة اختلاف المروي عن الأئمة القراء” ـ
The Reason Why There are Many Differences Transmitted from the Leading Reciters

فإن سأل سائل، فقال: ما العلة التي من أجلها كثر الاختلاف عن هذه الأئمة، وكل واحد منهم قد انفرد بقراءة اختارها مما قرأ به على أئمته؟ ـ

If someone were to ask, “Why is it that there are many differences relayed from these leading reciters when each one of them has just one recitation which he chose and which he recited to his teachers?”

فالجواب: أن كل واحد من الأئمة قرأ على جماعة بقراءات مختلفة، فنقل ذلك على ما قرأ، فكانوا في برهة من أعمارهم يقرئون الناس بما قرءوا، فمن قرأ عليهم بأي حرف كان لم يرده عنه، إذا كان ذلك مما قرءوا به على أئمتهم. ـ

We could respond by saying that each one of the leading reciters used to recite a number of different qiraa’aat, and so they transmitted these different qiraa’aat to their students. At any particular moment in their lives, people were reciting to them with the recitation that was most familiar to them. So whoever recited in any of the acceptable ways, they would not reject that so long as it was something which they themselves had recited to their teachers.

ألا ترى أن نافعا قال: قرأت على سبعين من التابعين، فما اتفق عليه اثنان أخذته، وما شذ فيه واحد تركته؟. يريد، والله أعلم، مما خالف المصحف. فكان مما قرأ عليه بما اتفق فيه اثنان من أئمته لم ينكر عليه ذلك. ـ

Haven’t you seen what Naafi’ said? “I recited to seventy of the taabi’oon, so I took whatever two of them agreed on, and I left whatever was particular to just one.” Here, and Allah knows best, he was referring to the things which differed from the text of the official ‘Uthmani mushaf. So then, whoever recited to him with anything that two of his teachers had both held, he would not disapprove of that. Continue reading

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

As is well known, the qiraa’aat – recitations of the Qur’an – are commonly referred to by the names of certain transmitters and reciters, such as the qiraa’ah of Hafs ‘an ‘Asim or the qiraa’ah of Warsh ‘an Nafi’. However, some people then question why the qiraa’aat are attributed to these transmitters and reciters if they were all recited and taught by the Prophet. In part of a response to some doubts surrounding the qiraa’aat, Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool wrote the following important clarification on this topic:

اعلم أن نسبة القراءة إلى العلماء الذين اشتهرت عنهم إنما هي نسبة أداء ورواية واختيار لا نسبة اختراع وابتداع ؛ فإن القراءة تلقي واتباع لا اختراع وابتداع! ـ

You ought to know that the attribution of a certain qiraa’ah – a recitation of the Qur’an – to those scholars who were known for reciting in that way is merely an attribution that they did recited and transmitted and preferred that qiraa’ah, not attributing it to them as if they invented or created it! The qiraa’aat are something received and followed, not something that people can create or invent themselves! Continue reading

A Brief Introduction to the Qiraa’aat: Sheikh bin Baaz

Sheikh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz bin Baaz, the former Mufti of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, was once asked:

 أرجو أن تعطوني نبذة عن القراءات، ولماذا يوجد عشر قراءات رغم أن القرآن نزل على سبعة أحرف فقط؟  ـ

I hope that you could give me a brief summary of the Qiraa’aat [variant recitations], and why there are ten of them despite the Qur’an having been revealed in only seven dialects.

He responded by saying:

علم القراءات معلوم لدى القراء ولدى أهل العلم، والأصل أن الله جل وعلا أنزل القرآن على سبعة أحرف، وهي أحرف متقاربة، تارةً باختلاف اللفظ وتارة باختلاف المعنى لكن مع التقارب، ولما تنازع الناس في عهد عثمان رأى عثمان -رضي الله عنه- ومن كان في زمانه من الصحابة كعلي -رضي الله عنه- وطلحة والزبير وغيرهم من أعيان الصحابة فرأوا جمع القرآن على حرفٍ واحد، حتى لا تكون هناك منازعات، والقراء الذين اختلفوا في القراءات السبعة والعشرة إنما هي قراءات لا يختلف بها المعنى في الغالب، إلا اختلافاً يسيرا، إما زيادة حرف أو نقص حرف أو اختلاف في الحركات الرفع والنصب، فاختلاف القراءات السبع والعشر اختلاف يسير، لا يخرج عن كونه في حرف واحد مما نزل به القرآن. ـ

The science of the Qiraa’aat is well-known to the reciters and the people of knowledge. Its origin is that Allah revealed the Qur’an in seven dialects, and these dialects were very near to one another – sometimes they would differ in wording and sometimes they would differ in meaning while still being very close to one another.

Then when the people started to differ during the era of ‘Uthman, ‘Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him) and the Sahabah who were alive in his era such as ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him), Talhah, al-Zubayr and others prominent Sahabah decided to gather the Qur’an according to one single dialect so that there would be no more divisions among the people. Continue reading

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: Continue reading

‘Uthman’s Gathering the Qur’an According to One Harf: Sheikh bin Baaz

Former mufti of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia sheikh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz bin Baaz was asked the following question:

هل صحيح أن عثمان رضي الله عنه عندما جمع القرآن في مصحف واحد حذف بعض الأحرف أم أنه أثبت بعض القراءات دون بعض؟ ـ

Is it true that when ‘Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him) gathered the Qur’an into one single written collection he discarded some of the ahruf or that he established one of the qiraa’aat as official to the exclusion of the others?

He replied by saying:

 ثبت عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قوله: ((إن هذا القرآن أنزل على سبعة أحرف فاقرؤوا ما تيسر منه))[1]، وقال المحققون من أهل العلم: إنها متقاربة في المعنى مختلفة في الألفاظ. وعثمان رضي الله عنه لما بلغه اختلاف الناس وجاءه حذيفة رضي الله عنه وقال: (أدرك الناس) استشار الصحابة الموجودين في زمانه كعلي وطلحة والزبير وغيرهم فأشاروا بجمع القرآن على حرف واحد حتى لا يختلف الناس فجمعه رضي الله عنه، وكون لجنة رباعية لهذا، ويرأسهم زيد بن ثابت رضي الله عنه، فجمعوا القرآن على حرف واحد وكتبه ووزعه في الأقاليم حتى يعتمده الناس وحتى ينقطع النزاع، أما القراءات السبع أو القراءات العشر فهي موجودة في نفس ما جمعه عثمان رضي الله عنه في زيادة حرف أو نقص حرف، أو مد أو شكل للقرآن، كل هذا داخل في الحرف الواحد الذي جمعه عثمان رضي الله عنه، والمقصود من ذلك حفظ كلام الله ومنع الناس من الاختلاف الذي قد يضرهم ويسبب الفتنة بينهم، والله جل وعلا لم يوجب القراءة بالأحرف السبعة بل قال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم: ((فاقرأوا ما تيسر منه))[2] فجمع الناس على حرف واحد عمل طيب ويشكر عليه عثمان والصحابة رضي الله عنهم وأرضاهم لما فيه من التيسير والتسهيل وحسم مادة الخلاف بين المسلمين. ـ

It is reliably transmitted that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “This Qur’an has been revealed in seven ahruf, so recite whichever of them is easy for you.” And the expert scholars have said that these ahruf are very near in meaning but differ in wordings.

When news of the people differing reached ‘Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him) and Hudhaifah (may Allah be pleased with him) said to him, “Save the people!”, he consulted with the Sahabah who were alive during his era, such as ‘Ali, Talhah, al-Zubayr and others, and they advised him to collect the Qur’an according to one single harf so that the people would not differ. Continue reading

The Seven Qiraa’aat are all Part of One Harf: ibn Taymiyah

Sheikh al-Islaam ibn Taymiyah once received a letter with a series of questions about the qiraa’aat in it, including:

وسئل عن قول النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم ” { أنزل القرآن على سبعة أحرف } ” ما المراد بهذه السبعة ؟ وهل هذه القراءات المنسوبة إلى نافع وعاصم وغيرهما هي الأحرف السبعة أو واحد منها ؟ وما السبب الذي أوجب الاختلاف بين القراء فيما احتمله خط المصحف ؟ وهل تجوز القراءة برواية الأعمش وابن محيصن وغيرهما من القراءات الشاذة أم لا ؟ وإذا جازت القراءة بها فهل تجوز الصلاة بها أم لا ؟ أفتونا مأجورين . ـ

The sheikh was asked about the Prophet’s statement, “The Qur’an was sent down in seven ahruf

(a) what is meant by these seven?

(b) Are the qiraa’aat attributed to Naafi’ and ‘Asim and others the seven ahruf or just one of them?

(c) What is it that causes there to be differences among the reciters within the bounds of the text of the official ‘Uthmani Mushaf?

(d) Is is permissible to recite the recitation of al-A’mash or ibn Muhaysin or other such shadh [non-canonical] recitations? If so, is allowed to pray with them?

We would greatly appreciate if you could deliver some verdicts for us.

[Majmoo’ Fataawaa 13/389]

What follows is part of Ibn Taymiyah‘s response to these questions, touching on the fourth question (d) and the second question (b) while also addressing a number of related topics such as the collection of the Qur’an:

وأما القراءة الشاذة الخارجة عن رسم المصحف العثماني مثل قراءة ابن مسعود وأبي الدرداء رضي الله عنهما ( والليل إذا يغشى والنهار إذا تجلى والذكر والأنثى كما قد ثبت ذلك في الصحيحين . ـ

There are the shadh [non-canonical] qiraa’aat which do not match with the text of the official ‘Uthmani mushaf, such as the recitation of ibn Mas’ood and Abu al-Dardaa’ (may Allah be pleased with them both) of: Continue reading

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

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.

Continue reading

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