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Conditions for accepting various recitation styles of the Qur’ân

Published: 27/08/2011 11:59:00 AM GMT
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Is it a condition for the acceptability of a recitation style that it reaches us by a mutawâtir chain of transmission? Regarding the seven modes of recitation – as well as the three others that bring the number to ten – is it true that they are all mutawâtir? Some scholars, al-Shawkânî for instance, claim that not all of those styles are mutawâtir. He further claims that an individual-narrator (âhâd) transmission of a recitation style is sufficient for it to be acceptable, as long as that chain of transmission is authentic. What is the truth of the matter?


Answered by

Sheikh `Abd al-Rahmân al-`Ajlân, lecturer at the Grand Mosque in Mecca

There can be no doubt that the Qur’ân has indeed reached us by way of a mutawâtir line of transmission (a transmission of the general masses). The Companions learned the Qur’ân from the Prophet (peace be upon him). The Successors, in turn, learned the Qur’ân from the Companions. The Qur’ân has continued to be passed on from generation to generation in exactly the same manner until it has reached us today perfectly intact with nothing altered or omitted.

There has been unanimous consensus among Muslims throughout the ages that the text of the Qur’ân is of certain, indisputable authenticity (qat`î al-thubût). No one has ever rejected one letter of the Qur’ân that is before us today.

There is agreement that the seven modes of recitation are authentic. They have been received with acceptance by all of the Muslims. This is because they have been conveyed to us by way of authentic chains of transmission, they are all in complete harmony with the dictates of the Arabic language, and they all conform to the Uthmanî manuscript that the Companions had unanimously agreed upon.

These are the recitation styles that have been transmitted to us from `Asim b. Abî al-Nujûd, Hamzah b. Habîb al-Zayyât, `Alî b. Hamzah al-Kisâ`î – who were all from Kufah – Abû `Amr b. al-`Ulâ’ of Basra, `Abd Allah b. `Amir al-Yahsubî of Yemen, Nâfi` b. `Abd al-Rahmân b. Abî Nu`aym of Madinah, and `Abd Allah b. Kathîr of Mecca.

There are three conditions that must be met by any recitation style for it to be acceptable:

1. It must reach us by way of an authentic chain of transmission.

2. It must be in conformity with the dictates of the Arabic language, at least in some way.

3. It must be able to be accommodated by the written text of the Uthmânî manuscript.

Scholars have differed as to whether the line of transmission by which a recitation style has reached us must be not only authentic, but mutawâtir. The majority of scholars hold this view. However, Ibn al-Jazirî, Abû Shâmah, and some others did not impose such a condition.

In any event, those who do not see it necessary for a recitation style to have a mutawâtir chain of transmission still uphold the three conditions mentioned above. Moreover, none of these scholars question the authenticity of any of the seven modes of recitation. Therefore, the disagreement on this matter is of little practical relevance.

It may be of some relevance, however, in addressing the question of other recitation styles that fulfill the three conditions, like the three that bring the number of acceptable styles from seven to ten. The answer to this question – and Allah knows best – is that we can accept any mode of recitation that has reached us by way of an authentic chain of transmission, is in accordance with the Arabic language, and is accommodated by the Uthmânî manuscript, as long as there is no defect in its transmission that brings it into question or some clear and obvious irregularity. It is well known that scholars of hadîth have rejected many otherwise authentic hadîth on the basis of such defects and irregularities.

And Allah knows best.

Source: Islam Today




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