Qira'at, in the context of Islam, means literally the readings, that is the method of recitation. Traditionally, there are 7 recognised schools of qira'at, and each one derives its name from the leader of the school of Qur'an recitation. However, some scholars question the presence of these readings on the basis of Quranic verses, and insists on one reading based on "Qira’at of Hafs" or in classical scholarship, it is called "Qira’at al-‘ammah".Javed Ahmad Ghamidi. Mizan, " [http://renaissance.com.pk/JanQur2y7.htm Principles of Understanding the Qu'ran] ", Al-Mawrid]

Revelation Of The Qur'an In Seven Ahrûf

According to hadith literature, Qur'an is revealed in seven ahruf (singular harf). The most of famous of those hadiths is reported in Muwatta, which is the first book of hadith compiled by Malik ibn Anas.

Malik Ibn Anas has reported:Malik Ibn Anas, Muwatta, vol. 1 (Egypt: Dar Ahya al-Turath, n.d.), 201, (no. 473).] :"Abd al-Rahman Ibn Abd al-Qari" narrated: “ Umar Ibn Khattab said before me: I heard "Hisham Ibn Hakim Ibn Hizam" reading Surah Furqan in a different way from the one I used to read it, and the Prophet (sws) himself had read out this surah to me. Consequently, as soon as I heard him, I wanted to get hold of him. However, I gave him respite until he had finished the prayer. Then I got hold of his cloak and dragged him to the Prophet (sws). I said to him: “I have heard this person [Hisham Ibn Hakim Ibn Hizam] reading Surah Furqan in a different way from the one you had read it out to me.” The Prophet (sws) said: “Leave him alone [O ‘Umar] .” Then he said to Hisham: “Read [it] .” [Umar said:] “He read it out in the same way as he had done before me.” [At this,] the Prophet (sws) said: “It was revealed thus.” Then the Prophet (sws) asked me to read it out. So I read it out. [At this] , he said: “It was revealed thus; this Qur’an has been revealed in Seven "Ahruf". You can read it in any of them you find easy from among them.

Suyuti, a famous 15th century Islamic theologian, writes after interpreting above hadith in 40 different ways: [Suyuti, Tanwir al-Hawalik, 2nd ed. (Beirut: Dar al-Jayl, 1993), 199.]

Many reports contradict presence of variant readings:
*"Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami" reports, "the reading of Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Zayd ibn Thabit and that of all the Muhajirun and the Ansar was the same. They would read the Qur’an according to the "Qira’at al-‘ammah". This is the same reading which was read out twice by the Prophet (sws) to Gabriel in the year of his death. Zayd ibn Thabit was also present in this reading [called] the "‘Ardah-i akhirah". It was this very reading that he taught the Qur’an to people till his death". [Zarkashi, al-Burhan fi Ulum al-Qur’an, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1980), 237.]
*Ibn Sirin writes, "the reading on which the Qur’an was read out to the prophet in the year of his death is the same according to which people are reading the Qur’an today". [Suyuti, al-Itqan fi Ulum al-Qur’an, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Baydar: Manshurat al-Radi, 1343 AH), 177.]

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi also purports that there is only one recitation of Qur'an, which is called "Qira’at of Hafs" or in classical scholarship, it is called "Qira’at al-‘ammah". The Qur’an has also specified that it was revealed in the language of the prophet's tribe: the Quraysh (quran-usc|19|97, quran-usc|44|58).

Other hadith

*From Abu Hurairah: The Messenger of God(P) said: "The Qur'an was sent down in seven ahruf. Disputation concerning the Qurʾan is unbelief" - he said this three times - "and you should put into practice what you know of it, and leave what you do not know of it to someone who does."Abû Jacfar Muhammad bin Jarîr al-Tabarî (Translated & Abridged by J Cooper, W F Madelung and A Jones), Jamic al-Bayân 'an Tâ'wil ay al-Qur'an, 1987, Volume 1, Oxford University Press & Hakim Investment Holdings (M.E.) Limited, p. 16.]

*From Abu Hurairah: The Messenger of God(P) said: "An All-knowing, Wise, Forgiving, Merciful sent down the Qur'an in seven ahruf."

*From ʿAbdallâh Ibn Masʿūd: The Messenger of God(P) said: "The Qur'an was sent down in seven ahruf. Each of these ahruf has an outward aspect (zahr) and an inward aspect (batn); each of the ahruf has a border, and each border has a lookout."

The meaning of this hadîth is explained as: (pp.31)

*Abdullâh Ibn Mascud said: The Messenger of God(P) said: "The first Book came down from one gate according to one harf, but the Qur'an came down from seven gates according to seven ahruf: prohibiting and commanding, lawful and unlawful, clear and ambiguous, and parables. So, allow what it makes lawful, proscribe what it makes unlawful, do what it commands you to do, forbid what it prohibits, be warned by its parables, act on its clear passages, trust in its ambiguous passages." And they said: "We believe in it; it is all from our Lord." (pp.39)

*Abû Qilaba narrated: It has reached me that the Prophet(P) said: "The Qur'an was sent down according to seven ahruf: command and prohibition, encouragement of good and discouragement of evil, dialectic, narrative, and parable."

Difference Between Ahruf & Qira'at

Bilal Philips writes that the Qur'an continued to be read according to the seven ahruf until midway through Caliph 'Uthman's rule when some confusion arose in the outlying provinces concerning the Qur'an's recitation. Some Arab tribes had began to boast about the superiority of their ahruf and a rivalry began to develop. At the same time, some new Muslims also began mixing the various forms of recitation out of ignorance. Caliph 'Uthman decided to make official copies of the Qur'an according to the dialect of the Quraysh and send them along with the Qur'anic reciters to the major centres of Islam. This decision was approved by Sahaabah and all unofficial copies of the Qur'an were destroyed. Uthman burned the unofficial copies of the Quran. Following the distribution of the official copies, all the other ahruf were dropped and the Qur'an began to be read in only one harf. Thus, the Qur'an which is available throughout the world today is written and recited only according to the harf of Quraysh.Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, Tafseer Soorah Al-Hujuraat, 1990, Tawheed Publications, Riyadh, p. 28-29]

On Qirâ'ât, Philips writes that it is for the most part a method of pronunciation used in the recitations of the Qur'an. These methods are different from the seven forms or modes (ahruf) in which the Qur'an was revealed. The seven modes were reduced to one, that of the Quraysh, during the era of Caliph 'Uthman, and all of the methods of recitation are based on this mode. The various methods have all been traced back to the Prophet(P) through a number of Sahaabah who were most noted for their Qur'anic recitations. That is, these Sahaabah recited the Qur'an to the Prophet(P) or in his presence and received his approval. Among them were the following: Ubayy Ibn K'ab, 'Alee Ibn Abi Taalib, Zayd Ibn Thaabit, 'Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud, Abu ad-Dardaa and Abu Musaa al-Ash'aree. Many of the other Sahaabah learned from these masters. For example, Ibn 'Abbaas, the master commentator of the Qur'an among the Sahaabah, learned from both Ubayy and Zayd. (pp. 29-30)

On transmission of Qur'an, Philips writes that among the next generation of Muslims referred to as Tabi'in, there arose many scholars who learned the various methods of recitation from the Sahaabah and taught them to others. Centres of Qur'anic recitation developed in al-Madeenah, Makkah, Kufa, Basrah and Syria, leading to the evolution of Qur'anic recitation into an independent science. By mid-eighth century CE, there existed a large number of outstanding scholars all of whom were considered specialists in the field of recitation. Most of their methods of recitations were authenticated by chains of reliable narrators ending with the Prophet(P). Those methods which were supported by a large number of reliable narrators on each level of their chain were called Mutawaatir and were considered to be the most accurate. Those methods in which the number of narrators were few or only one on any level of the chain were referred to as shaadhdh. Some of the scholars of the following period began the practice of designating a set number of individual scholars from the pervious period as being the most noteworthy and accurate. By the middle of the tenth century, the number seven became popular since it coincided with the number of dialects in which the Qur'an was revealed. (pp. 30)

Ghamidi on the other hand while commenting on hadith in Muwatta writes that if Ahruf are taken in the context of pronunciation (for which actual words are "lughat" and "lahjat"), then the content of the hadith rejects this meaning itself as it is known that Umar and Hisham belonged to the same tribe - Quraysh, and people from same tribe cannot have different pronunciation. Hence, he question those hadith which purport "variant readings". He also insists on the basis of Quranic verses (quran-usc-range|87|6|7, quran-usc-range|75|16|19) that Qur'an was compiled in the life of Muhammad, hence he questions those hadith which report compilation of Qur'an in Uthman's period. As most of these narrations are reported by Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri, Imam Layth Ibn Sa‘d in his letter to Imam Malik has written: [Ibn Qayyim, I‘lam al-Muwaqqi‘in, vol. 3 (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, n.d.), 96.]

It is said that Abu ‘Ubayd Qasim Ibn Sallam (d. 224 AH) selected twenty five readings in his book. The seven readings which are famous in current times were selected by Abu Bakr Ibn Mujahid (d. 324 AH) at the end of the third century hijrah. Thus it is generally accepted that their number cannot be ascertained but every reading is Qur’an which has been reported through a correct chain of narration, are found in any way in the masahif prepared by ‘Uthman (rta) and are correct from any aspect as far as the Arabic language is concerned. Some of these readings are regarded as mutawatir; however, a look at their chains of narration which are found in books leaves no doubt that they are ahad (isolate), most narrators of which are suspect in the eyes of the rijal authorities.

Quranic Orthography

To ensure correct reading of the written texts of the Qur'an, particularly for those coming after the first generation of Muslims, steps were taken gradually to improve the orthography. This started by introducing dots to indicate different vowels and nûnâtion and these were put in different coloured ink from that of the text. There were also dots to distinguish between consonants of similar shape. This work was carried out chiefly by three men: Abû-l-Aswad al-Du'alî (d. 69 / 688), Nasr Ibn cAsim (d. 89 / 707) and Yahya Ibn Yacmur (d.129 /746). Understandably there was some opposition at first to adding anything to the way the Qur'an was written. Ibn cUmar (73/692) disliked the dotting; others welcomed it, clearly because it was, in fact, doing no more than ensuring proper reading of the Qur'an as received from the Prophet(P), and this view was accepted by the majority of Muslims throughout the different parts of the Muslims world, from the time of the tâbicûn. The people of Madinah were reported to have used red dots for vowels - tanwîn, tashdîd, takhfîf, sukûn, wasl and madd and yellow dots for the hamzas in particular. Naqt (placing dots on words in the mushaf), became a separate subject of study with many books written on it.

Conditions For The Validity Of a Qirā'āt (Reading)

For any given recitation to be accepted as authentic (Sahih), it had to fulfill three conditions and if any of the conditions were missing such a recitation was classified as Shâdhdh (unusual).

The first condition was that the recitation has an authentic chain of narration in which the chain of narrators was continuous; the narrators were all known to be righteous and they were all known to possess good memories. It was also required that the recitation be conveyed by a large number of narrators on each level of the chain of narration below the level of Sahaabah (the condition of Tawaatur). Narrations which had authentic chains but lacked the condition of Tawaatur were accepted as explanations (Tafseer) of the Sahaabah but were not considered as methods of reciting the Qur'an. As for the narrations which did not even have an authentic chain of narration, they were classified as Baatil (false) and rejected totally.

The second condition was that the variations in recitations match known Arabic grammatical constructions. Unusual constructions could be verified by their existence in passages of pre-Islamic prose or poetry.

The third condition required the recitation to coincide with the script of one of the copies of the Qur'an distributed during the era of Caliph cUthmân. Hence differences which result from dot placement (i.e., ta'lamoon and ya'lamoon) are considered acceptable provided the other conditions are met. A recitation of a construction for which no evidence could be found would be classified Shaadhdh. This classification did not mean that all aspects of the recitation was considered Shaadhdh. it only meant that the unverified constructions were considered Shaadhdh.

The Ten Readers & Their Transmitters plus the four aberrant readings

The Chain Of Narration Of Different Qirâ'ât

In this section, the chain of narration or isnad of each Qirâʾât will be presented. It is worth noting that the chains of narration here are mutawâtir.

Qirâʾa from Madinah: The reading of Madinah known as the reading of Nâfiʿ Ibn Abî Naʿîm (more precisely Abû ʿAbd ar-Raḥmân Nâfiʿ Ibn ʿAbd ar-Raḥmân).

Nâfiʿ died in the year 169 H. He reported from Yazîd Ibn al-Qaʿqâʿ and ʿAbd ar-Raḥmân Ibn Hurmuz al-'Araj and Muslim Ibn Jundub al-Hudhalî and Yazîd Ibn Român and Shaybah Ibn Nisâʾ. All of them reported from Abû Hurayrah and Ibn ʿAbbâs and ʿAbdallâh Ibn 'Ayyâsh Ibn Abî Rabî'ah al-Makhzûmî and the last three reported from Ubayy Ibn Kaʿb from the Prophet(P). [14]

From Nâfiʿ, two major readings came to us: Warsh and Qâlûn.

Qirâʾa from Makkah: The reading of Ibn Kathîr (ʿAbdullâh Ibn Kathîr ad-Dârî):

Ibn Kathîr died in the year 120 H. He reported from ʿAbdillâh Ibn Assa'ib al-Makhzûmî who reported from Ubayy Ibn Kaʿb (The companion of the Prophet(P)).

Ibn Kathîr has also reported from Mujâhid Ibn Jabr who reported from his teacher Ibn ʿAbbâs who reported from Ubayy Ibn Kaʿb and Zayd Ibn Thâbit and both reported from the Prophet(P). [15]

Qirâʾa from Damascus: From ash-Shâm (Damascus), the reading is called after ʿAbdallâh Ibn ʿAamir.

He died in 118 H. He reported from Abû ad-Dardâ' and al-Mughîrah Ibn Abî Shihâb al-Makhzûmî from ʿUthmân. [16]

Qirâʾa from Basrah: The reading of Abû ʿAmr from Basrah:

(According to al-Sabcah, the book of Ibn Mujâhid page 79, Abû ʿAmr is called Zayyan Abû ʿAmr Ibn al-ʿAlâʾ. He was born in Makkah in the year 68 and grew up at Kûfah.) He died at 154 H. He reported from Mujâhid and Saʿîd Ibn Jubayr and ʿIkrimah Ibn Khâlid al-Makhzûmî and ʿAtâʾ Ibn Abî Rabâh and Muhammad Ibn ʿAbd ar-Rahmân Ibn al-Muhaysin and Humayd Ibn Qays al-ʿA'raj and all are from Makkah.

He also reported from Yazîd Ibn al-Qaʿqâʿ and Yazîd Ibn Rumân and Shaybah Ibn Nisâ' and all are from Madinah.

He also reported from al-'Assan and Yahyâ Ibn Yaʿmur and others from Basrah.

All these people took from the companions of the Prophet(P). [17]

From him came two readings called as-Sûsi and ad-Dûrî.

Qirâʾa from Basrah: From Basrah, the reading known as

Yaʿqûb Ibn Ishâq al-Hadramî the companion of Shuʿbah (again). He reported from Abû ʿAmr and others. [18]

Qirâ'a from Kûfah:The reading of ʿĀsim Ibn Abî an-Najûd (ʿAasim Ibn Bahdalah Ibn Abî an-Najûd):

He died in the year 127 or 128 H. He reported from Abû ʿAbd ar-Raḥmân as-Solammî and Zirr Ibn Hubaysh.

Abû ʿAbd ar-Rahmân reported from ʿUthmân and ʿAlî Ibn Abî Tâlib and 'Ubayy (Ibn Kacb) and Zayd (Ibn Thâbit).

And Zirr reported from Ibn Masʿud. [19]

Two readings were repoted from cAasim: The famous one is Hafs, the other one is Shucbah.

Qirâʾa from Kûfah: The reading of Hamzah Ibn Habîb (from Kûfah as well)

Hamzah was born in the year 80 H and died in the year 156 H. He reported from Muhammad Ibn cAbd ar-Rahmân Ibn Abî Laylâ (who reads the reading of ʿAlî Ibn Abî Tâlib (RA), according to the book of Ibn Mujâhid called al-Sabcah - The Seven - page 74) and Humrân Ibn A'yan and Abî Ishâq as-Sabî'y and Mansur Ibn al-Mu'tamir and al-Mughîrah Ibn Miqsam and Jacfar Ibn Muhammad Ibn cAlî Ibn Abî Tâlib from the Prophet(P). [20]

Qirâʾa from Kûfah: The reading of al-'Amash from Kûfah as well:

He reported from Yahyâ Ibn Waththâb from 'Alqamah and al-'Aswad and 'Ubayd Ibn Nadlah al-Khuzâ'y and Abû ʿAbd ar-Raḥmân as-Sulamî and Zirr ibn Hubaysh and all reported from Ibn Mascud. [21]

Qirâaa from Kûfah: The reading of cAli Ibn Hamzah al-Kisâ'i known as al-Kisâ'i from Kûfah.

He died in the year 189 H. He reported from Hamzah (the previous one) and cIesâ Ibn cUmar and Muhammad Ibn ʿAbd ar-Raḥmân Ibn Abî Laylâ and others. [22]

ee also



* [http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/Text/Qiraat/hafs.html#3]
* [http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/ABewley/Page6.html The seven Qira'at]
*cAlawi Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Bilfaqih, Al-Qirâ'ât al-cAshr al-Mutawâtir, 1994, Dâr al-Muhâjir
*Adrian Brockett, "The Value of Hafs And Warsh Transmissions For The Textual History Of The Qur'an" in Andrew Rippin's (Ed.), Approaches of The History of Interpretation of The Qur'an, 1988, Clarendon Press, Oxford, p. 33.

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