Monday, September 24, 2007

Seven recitaitons of the Quran

The Recitation, Memorization and Transmission of the Qur'an

There were a number of reciters engaged in learning and teaching the Qur'an in Medina. Anyone learning from one of them would transmit that individual's particular style of recitation when he transmitted it to others as a tradition. Various ways of recitation occur. One may attribute this, firstly, to the fact that the script used at the time was the kufic style and had no diacritical points; each word could be read in various ways'

Secondly, most people were illiterate and, when learning the Qur'an, had no alternative but to commit it to memory and transmit it orally. This method continued to be used for many generations.

The Different Groups of Reciters

The first group of reciters were those companions who were engaged in learning and teaching the Qur'an during the time of the Prophet. Among them was a group which mastered the whole Qur'an; one of this group was a woman by the name of Umm Waraqah bint 'Abd Allah ibn Harith.

Study was also undertaken by four of the Ansars (or helpers, that is Medinans who became Muslim and welcomed the Muslims from Mecca). They learned the whole Qur'an by heart but were not concerned with the ordering of the verses and chapters; other scholars were responsible for memorisation of the order.

Some traditions say that the position of each verse and chapter was defined at the orders of the Prophet himself but this is generally refuted by the rest of the traditions.

According to some later scholars, (namely al-Suyuti in his book al-Itqan, in the chapter dealing with the qualities of the men responsible for transmission), several of the qurra' became famous, among them 'Uthman, 'Ali, Ubayy ibn Ka'b, Zayd ibn Thabit, 'Abd Allah ibn Mas'ud and Abu Musa al-Ash'ari.

The second group of reciters were the students of the first group. They were generally tabi'un (followers of the compan- ions of the Prophet) and the more famous amongst them had centres of recitation and teaching in Mecca, Medina, Kufa, Basra and Sham. The 'Uthmanic volume was used in these five places.

In Mecca were 'Ubayd ibn 'Amir and 'Ata' ibn Abi Rabah, Ta'us, Mujahid, 'Ikrimah ibn Abi Mulaykah and others. In Medina were Ibn Musayyis, 'Urwah, Salim, 'Umar ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz, Sulayman ibn Yasar, 'Ata' ibn Yasar, Mu'adh al-Qari', 'Abd Allah ibn al-A'raj, Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri, Muslim ibn Jundub and Zayd ibn Aslam.

In Kufa were 'Alqamah, al-Aswad, Masruq, 'Ubaydah, 'Amr ibn Shurahbil, Harith ibn al-Qays, 'Amr ibn Maymun, Abu 'Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami, Zarr ibn Hubaysh, 'Ubayd ibn Naflah, Sa'id ibn Jubayr, al-Nakha'i, al-Sha'bi, Abu al-'Aliyah, Abu al-Raja' Nasr ibn al-'Asim, Yahya ibn Ya'mur, Hasan al-Basri, Ibn Sirin, Qatadah, Mughirah ibn Abi Shihab, 'Uthman, Khallfah ibn Said, Abu Darda'.

The third group lived during the first half of the second century after Hijrah; it included a number of Imams famous for their Qur'anic recitation who received this knowledge from the second group. In Mecca were 'Abd Allah ibn Kathir (one of the seven qurra), Humayd ibn Qays al-A'raj and Muhammad ibn Abi Muhaysin. In Medina were, Abu Ja'far Yazid ibn al-Qa'qa', Shaybah ibn Nassah and Nafi ibn Nu'aym (one of the seven qurra).

In Kufa were Yahya ibn Waththab, 'Asim ibn Abi al-Najjud (one of the seven qurra'), Sulayman al-A'mash, Hamzah (one of the seven qurra') and al-Kisa'i (also one of the seven reciters). In Basra were 'Abd Allah ibn Abi Ishaq, 'Isa ibn 'Umar, Abu 'Amr ibn al-'Ala' (one of the seven reciters), 'Asim al-Jahdari and Ya'qub al-Hadrami. In Sham 'Abd Allah ibn 'Amir (one of the seven reciters), 'Atiyah ibn Qays al-Kalla'i, Ismail ibn 'Abd Allah ibn Muhajir, Yahya ibn Harith and Shurayh ibn Yazid al-Hadrami.

The fourth group consisted of the students of the third group, like Ibn 'Ayyash, Hafs and Khalaf and many of the most famous may be classed in the next section.

The fifth group comprised those concerned with academic research and writing including Abu 'Ubayd Qasim ibn Salam, Ahmad ibn Jubayr al-Kufi and Isma'il ibn Ishaq al-Malih from the companions of Qalun al-Rawi. Included also are Abu Ja'far ibn Jarir al-Tabari and Mujahid. The field of researeh was widened after them by men like al- Dani and al-Shatibi who wrote a great number of books on poetry.

The Seven Reciters

Seven members of the third group achieved considerable celebrity; they became a focus of learning for others. Each of the reciters appointed two narrators who each propagated a particular style of recitation. The following is a list of these seven:

First Ibn al-Kathir, whose narrators were Qanbal and al-Bazzi, with only one intermediate relator in the chain from Ibn 'Abbas from the leader of the Faithful, 'Ali. The second was Nafi' and his narrators Qalun and Warsh. The third was 'Asim and his narrators were Abu Bakr Shu'bah ibn al-'Ayyash and Hafs; the Qur'an recitation which is in common use among Muslims today is according to the reading of 'Asim by a narration of Hafs. The fourth was Hamzah and his narrators were Khalaf and Khallad. The fifth was al-Kisa'is and his narrators were al-Dawri and Abu 'Ali al-Harith. The sixth was Abu 'Amr ibn al-'Ala'; and his narrators al-Dawri and al-Susi with one intermediate narra- tor. The seventh was Ibn 'Amir' and his narrators were Hisham and Ibn Dhakwan with one intermediary narrator. Following the seven famous recitations are the three recitations of Abu Ja'far, Ya'qub and Khalaf.

The majority of Scholars recognize the seven types of recitation as mutawatir, that is, as having been related in unbroken chains of transmissions. One group of narrators have equated the tradition that the Qur'an was revealed in seven harf (literally, "word" in Arabic) with the seven different recitations; this tradition is well known amongst Muslim scholars in general but is not recognised as being trustworthy.

Al-Zarkshi says in his book al-Burhan, "It is true that these seven recitations from the seven reciters have come to us via unbroken chain of transmission but their chain of trans- mission from the Prophet are open to inspection, since the chains of transmission of the seven reciters are all of the type of single transmission, that is, related by one single man to another single man."

Al-Makki says in his book, "Anyone who imagines that the recitation of such men as Nafi and 'Asim are the same seven 'harf mentioned in the saying of the Prophet is committing a grave mistake." Moreover, the implication of this saying is that recitations, other than these seven, are not correct; this also is a grave mistake since early Islamic Scholars like Abu 'Ubayd al- Qasim ibn Salam and Abu Hatim al-Sijistani, Abu Ja'far al-Tabari and Isma'il al-Qadi have recorded several other recitations besides these seven.

At the beginning of the second century A.H. the people of Basra used the recitation of Abu 'Amr and Ya'qub and in Kufa the recitations of Hamzah and 'Asim. In Sham they used that of Ibn 'Amir and in Mecca that of Ibn Kathir. In Medina that of Nafi' was used. This situation remained unchanged until the beginning of the third century A.H. when Ibn Mujahid removed the name of Ya'qub and put the name of al-Kisa'i in his place.

The reason why scholars paid so much attention to the seven reciters, despite there being many others of equal or better standing, was that the number of recitations had multiplied so cluickly that they lost interest in learning and recording all the traditions about recitation. Thus they decided to choose several of the recitations which complied with the orthography of the Qur'an and which were easier to learn and record.

Thus for the five copies of the Qur'an which 'Uthman had sent to the towns of Mecca, Medina, Kufa, Basra and Sham, five reciters were chosen from the five areas and their recitations were then used. Ibn Jubayr writes about these five recitations from the five forms. Ibn Mujahid records a tradition which asserts that 'Uthman sent two other copies to Yemen and Bahrain, that the number of 'Uthman copies thus numbered seven and that they chose seven narrators.

Since precise information about this tradition (which states that copies were sent to Yemen and Bahrain) was not available, they added two of the reciters of Kufa, to make up the number they had previously chosen, to seven. This number, which corresponds with the above-mentioned saying and affirmed that the Qur'an was revealed in seven recitations, was then used by others who had no knowledge of the matter. They mistakenly supposed that what was meant by the seven harf which the Prophet spoke of, was the seven recitations. The only trustworthy recitations are those whose text is sound and whose meaning corresponds to what is written in the Qur'an.

Al-Qurab says in his al-Shefi, "We should look for the seven recitations amongst the qurra' not from among others." This view is neither tradition nor sunnah but rather it originated from some of the later Scholars who collected the seven recitations.

These seven recitations became so well known that people imagined that other recitations should not be used. This however, has never been claimed.

1 comment:

Islam Reminders said...


woahhh such a nice page! where are your referrences..

what is different between 10 recitations, 7 reciters, qirraa and tareeq, and sab'a ahruf. ?