In Islam, Qira'at (literally "recitations" or "readings") refers to variants in the recitation of the Quran. There are ten different recognised schools of qira'at, each one deriving its name from a noted Quran recitator or "reader" (Qari). Each recitator recited to two narrators whose narrations are known as riwaya (transmissions) and named after its primary narrator. Each Rawi (singular of riwaya) has turuq (transmission lines) with more variants created by notable students of the master who recited them and named after the student of the master. Passed down from Turuq are wujuh: the wajh of so-and-so from the tariq of so-and-so. There are about twenty riwayat and eighty turuq.
Various hadith -- where Muhammad listens to recitations of various companions and approves of each of them, or corrects Umar's berating another companion's recitation saying the "Quran has been revealed in seven Ahruf", or claim Muhammad asked the angel Jibreel to teach him different styles of recitation until he had learned seven -- provide an Islamic basis for the different variants (Ahruf) of the Quran. (Both Ahruf and Qira'at are variations in recitation but Ahruf were discontinued by order of caliph Uthman sometime in the mid-7th century CE when "the Quran began to be read in only one harf (variation)", while the seven readings of the Qira'at began to be passed down in the 8th century CE.)
Differences between Qira'at are slight and include differences in stops,[Note 1] vowels,[Note 2] and sometimes letters.[Note 3] Recitation should be in accordance with rules of pronunciation, intonation, and caesuras established by Muhammad and first recorded during the eighth century CE. The maaf Quran that is in "general use" throughout almost all the Muslim world today, is a 1924 Egyptian edition based on the Qira'at reading of ?af? (the Rawi, "transmitter"), on the authority of `Asim (the Qari, "reader"). Each melodic passage centers on a single tone level, but the melodic contour and melodic passages are largely shaped by the reading rules (creating passages of different lengths, whose temporal expansion is defined with caesuras). Skilled readers may read professionally for urban mosques.
Hadith literature differs on variants of the Quran. According to some hadith, the Quran was revealed in seven Ahruf (the plural of harf) or styles; Muhammad listens to their recitations and approves each of them. According to Saalih al-Munajjid, "the best of the scholarly opinions" defining Ahruf is wording which differs but has the same meaning. The best-known hadith on Ahruf is reported in the Muwatta, compiled by Malik ibn Anas. According to Malik,
Abd Al-Rahman Ibn Abd al-Qari narrated: "Umar Ibn al-Khattab said before me: I heard Hisham Ibn Hakim Ibn Hizam reading Surat Al-Furqan in a different way from the one I used to read it, and the Prophet 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. I said to him: "I have heard this person [Hisham Ibn Hakim Ibn Hizam] reading Surah Al Furqan in a different way from the one you had read it out to me." The Prophet 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 said: "It was revealed thus." Then the Prophet asked me to read it out. So I read it out. [At this], he said: "It was revealed thus; this Quran has been revealed in seven Ahruf. You can read it in any of them you find easy from among them.
Saalih al-Munajjid cites a hadith of Abd Allah ibn Abbas, who narrated that Muhammad said that the angel Jibreel (Gabriel, who revealed the Quran to Muhammad) "taught me one style and I reviewed it until he taught me more, and I kept asking him for more and he gave me more until finally there were seven styles".
And to me the best opinion in this regard is that of the people who say that this Hadith is from among matters of mutashabihat, the meaning of which cannot be understood.
However, other reports contradict the presence of variant readings. Abu Abd Al-Rahman al-Sulami writes, "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 Quran according to the Qira'at al-'ammah. This is the same reading which was read out twice by the Prophet 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 Quran to people till his death". According to Ibn Sirin, "The reading on which the Quran was read out to the prophet in the year of his death is the same according to which people are reading the Quran today".
The meaning of this hadith is explained: (p. 31)
As for the Prophet's words concerning the Quran, each of the ahruf has a border, it means that each of the seven aspects has a border which God has marked off and which no one may overstep. And as for his words Each of the ahruf has an outward aspect (zahr) and an inward aspect (batn), its outward aspect is the ostensive meaning of the recitation, and its inward aspect is its interpretation, which is concealed. And by his words each border ... has a lookout he means that for each of the borders which God marked off in the Quran - of the lawful and unlawful, and its other legal injunctions - there is a measure of God's reward and punishment which surveys it in the Hereafter, and inspects it ... at the Resurrection ...
Although both Qira'at and Ahruf refer to recitation of the Quran, they are not the same. Ahruf variants were more significant (involving differences in the consonants of the some words of the Quran) and Caliph 'Uthman is believed to have eliminated all but one. The seven Qira'at readings which are currently notable were selected by Abu Bakr Ibn Mujahid (died 324 AH, 936 CE) from prominent reciters of his time, three from Kufa and one each from Mecca, Medina, and Basra and Damascus.
Bilal Philips writes that the Quran continued to be read according to the seven ahruf until midway through Caliph 'Uthman's rule, when confusion developed in the outlying provinces about the Quran's recitation. Some Arab tribes boasted about the superiority of their ahruf, and rivalries began; new Muslims also began combining the forms of recitation out of ignorance. Caliph 'Uthman decided to make official copies of the Quran according to the writing conventions of the Quraysh and send them with the Quranic reciters to the Islamic centres. His decision was approved by Sahaabah, and all unofficial copies of the Quran were ordered destroyed; Uthman carried out the order. After the distribution of the official copies, the other ahruf were dropped and the Quran began to be read in one harf. The Quran which is currently available worldwide is written and recited according to the harf of Quraysh.
Philips writes that Qira'at is primarily a method of pronunciation used in recitations of the Quran. These methods are different from the seven forms, or modes (ahruf), in which the Quran was revealed. The methods have been traced back to Muhammad through a number of Sahaabah (companions) who were noted for their Quranic recitations; they recited the Quran to Muhammad (or in his presence), and received his approval. The Sahaabah included:
Many of the other Sahaabah learned from them; master Quran commentator Ibn 'Abbaas learned from Ubayy and Zayd. (pp. 29-30)
According to Philips, in the next generation of Muslims (referred to as Tabi'in) were many scholars who learned the methods of recitation from the Sahaabah and taught them to others. Centres of Quranic recitation developed in al-Madeenah, Makkah, Kufa, Basrah and Syria, leading to the development of Quranic recitation as a science. By the mid-eighth century CE, a large number of scholars were considered specialists in the field of recitation. Most of their methods were authenticated by chains of reliable narrators, ending with Muhammad. The methods which were supported by a large number of reliable narrators on each level of their chain were called mutawaatir, and were considered the most accurate. Methods in which the number of narrators were few (or only one) on any level of the chain were known as shaadhdh. Some scholars of the following period began the practice of designating a set number of individual scholars from the previous period as the most noteworthy and accurate. The number seven became popular by the mid-10th century, since it coincided with the number of dialects in which the Quran was revealed. (p. 30)
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi writes about hadith in Muwatta that if Ahruf are taken in the context of pronunciation (for which the words are lughat and lahjat), the content of the hadith rejects this meaning; Umar and Hisham belonged to the same tribe (the Quraysh), and members of the same tribe cannot use different pronunciations. Ghamidi questions the hadith which claim "variant readings", on the basis of Quranic verses ([Quran 87:6-7], [Quran 75:16-19]), the Quran was compiled during Muhammad's lifetime and questions the hadith which report its compilation during Uthman's reign. Since most of these narrations are reported by Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri, Imam Layth Ibn Sa'd wrote to Imam Malik:
And when we would meet Ibn Shihab, there would arise a difference of opinion in many issues. When any one of us would ask him in writing about some issue, he, in spite of being so learned, would give three very different answers, and he would not even be aware of what he had already said. It is because of this that I have left him - something which you did not like.
Abu 'Ubayd Qasim Ibn Sallam (died 224 AH) reportedly selected twenty-five readings in his book. The seven readings which are currently notable were selected by Abu Bakr Ibn Mujahid (died 324 AH, 936 CE) at the end of the third century. It is generally accepted that although their number cannot be ascertained, every reading is Quran which has been reported through a chain of narration and is linguistically correct. Some readings are regarded as mutawatir, but their chains of narration indicate that they are ahad (isolate) and their narrators are suspect in the eyes of rijal authorities.
To ensure the correct reading of the Quran (particularly for those following the first generation of Muslims), gradual steps were taken to improve its orthography. This began with the introduction of dots to distinguish similarly-shaped consonants, followed by dots (to indicate different vowels) and nunation in different-coloured ink from the text. The work was done primarily by Abu'l Aswad ad-Du'alî (d. 69 AH/688 CE), Na?r Ibn im (d. 89 AH/707 CE) and Ya?ya Ibn Ya?mur (d. 129 AH/746 CE). There was initial opposition to any additions to the Quran. Although Ibn ?Umar (73/692) disliked the dotting, others welcomed it because it ensured the proper reading of the Quran as received from Muhammad; the latter view has been accepted by most Muslims throughout the Muslim world since the Tabi'un. The people of Madinah reportedly used red dots for vowels (tanwin]], tashdid, takhfif, sukun, wa?l and madd) and yellow dots for hamzas. Naqt (dotting the rasm), became a separate subject of study.
|Qari (reader)||Rawi (transmitter)|
|Name||Born||Died||Full name||Details||Name||Born||Died||Full name||Details||Current region|
|Nafi' al-Madani||70 AH||169 AH (785 CE)||Ibn 'Abd ar-Rahman Ibn Abi Na'im, Abu Ruwaym al-Laythi||Roots from Isfahan; commonly confused with the other Nafi', mawla of Ibn Umar||Qalun||120 AH||220 AH (835 CE)||Abu Musa, 'Isa Ibn Mina al-Zarqi||Client of Bani Zuhrah||Libya, Tunisia, and parts of Al-Andalus and Qatar|
|Warsh||110 AH||197 AH (812 CE)||'Uthman Ibn Sa'id al-Qutbi||Egyptian; client of Quraysh||Al-Andalus, Algeria, Morocco, parts of Tunisia, West Africa and Sudan, and parts of Libya|
|Ibn Kathir al-Makki||45 AH||120 AH (738 CE)||'Abdullah, Abu Ma'bad al-'Attar al-Dari||Persian||Al-Bazzi||170 AH||250 AH (864 CE)||Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn 'Abdillah, Abu al-Hasan al-Buzzi||Persian|
|Qunbul||195 AH||291 AH (904 CE)||Muhammad Ibn 'Abd ar-Rahman, al-Makhzumi, Abu 'Amr||Meccan and Makhzumi (by loyalty)|
|Abu 'Amr Ibn al-'Ala'||68 AH||154 AH (770 CE)||Zuban Ibn al-'Ala' at-Tamimi al-Mazini, al-Basri||Al-Duri||150 AH||246 AH (860 CE)||Abu 'Amr, Hafs Ibn 'Umar Ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Baghdadi||Grammarian, blind||Parts of Sudan and West Africa|
|Al-Susi||?||261 AH (874 CE)||Abu Shu'ayb, Salih Ibn Ziyad Ibn 'Abdillah Ibn Isma'il Ibn al-Jarud ar-Riqqi|
|Ibn Amir ad-Dimashqi||8 AH||118 AH (736 CE)||'Abdullah Ibn 'Amir Ibn Yazid Ibn Tamim Ibn Rabi'ah al-Yahsibi||Hisham||153 AH||245 AH (859 CE)||Abu al-Walid, Hisham ibn 'Ammar Ibn Nusayr Ibn Maysarah al-Salami al-Dimashqi||Parts of Yemen|
|Ibn Dhakwan||173 AH||242 AH (856 CE)||Abu 'Amr, 'Abdullah Ibn Ahmad al-Qurayshi al-Dimashqi|
|Aasim ibn Abi al-Najud||?||127 AH (745 CE)||Abu Bakr, 'Aasim Ibn Abi al-Najud al-'Asadi||'Asadi (by loyalty)||Shu'bah||95 AH||193 AH (809 CE)||Abu Bakr, Shu'bah Ibn 'Ayyash Ibn Salim al-Kufi an-Nahshali||Nahshali (by loyalty)|
|Hafs||90 AH||180 AH (796 CE)||Abu 'Amr, Hafs Ibn Sulayman Ibn al-Mughirah Ibn Abi Dawud al-Asadi al-Kufi||Muslim world generally|
|Hamzah az-Zaiyyat||80 AH||156 AH (773 CE)||Abu 'Imarah, Hamzah Ibn Habib al-Zayyat al-Taymi||Taymi (by loyalty)||Khalaf||150 AH||229 AH (844 CE)||Abu Muhammad al-Asadi al-Bazzar al-Baghdadi|
|Khallad||?||220 AH (835 CE)||Abu 'Isa, Khallad Ibn Khalid al-Baghdadi|
|Al-Kisa'i||119 AH||189 AH (804 CE)||Abu al-Hasan, 'Ali Ibn Hamzah al-Asadi||Asadi (by loyalty), Persian||Al-Layth||?||240 AH (854 CE)||Abu al-Harith, al-Layth Ibn Khalid al-Baghdadi|
|Al-Duri||?||246 AH (860 CE)||Abu 'Amr, Hafs Ibn 'Umar Ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Baghdadi||Transmitter of Abu 'Amr (see above)|
In addition to the above, three readers are collected separately from the Seven:
|Qari (reader)||Rawi (transmitter)|
|Name||Born||Died||Full name||Details||Name||Born||Died||Full name||Details|
|Abu Ja'far||?||130 AH||Yazid Ibn al-Qa'qa' al-Makhzumi al-Madani||'Isa Ibn Wardan||?||160 AH||Abu al-Harith al-Madani||Madani by style|
|Ibn Jummaz||?||170 AH||Abu ar-Rabi', Sulayman Ibn Muslim Ibn Jummaz al-Madani|
|Ya'qub al-Yamani||117 AH||205 AH||Abu Muhammad, Ya'qub Ibn Ishaq Ibn Zayd Ibn 'Abdillah Ibn Abi Ishaq al-Hadrami al-Basri||Client of the Hadramis||Ruways||?||238 AH||Abu 'Abdillah, Muhammad Ibn al-Mutawakkil al-Basri|
|Rawh||?||234 AH||Abu al-Hasan, Rawh Ibn 'Abd al-Mu'min, al-Basri al-Hudhali||Hudhali by loyalty|
|Khalaf||150 AH||229 AH||Abu Muhammad al-Asadi al-Bazzar al-Baghdadi||Transmitter of Hamza (see above)||Ishaq||?||286 AH||Abu Ya'qub, Ishaq Ibn Ibrahim Ibn 'Uthman al-Maruzi al-Baghdadi|
|Idris||189 AH||292 AH||Abu al-Hasan, Idris Ibn 'Abd al-Karim al-Haddad al-Baghdadi|
The Qur'an in all 20 Qira'at can be downloaded and listened to for free on the webpage islamweb.net.
There are many consonantal differences between the various readings - for example, between Al-Duri and ?afs:
|and He will remove||and We will remove||Al-Baqara 2:271 (2:270 in Al-Duri)|
|you do||they do||Al-Baqara 2:85|
|we do not send down...||they do not come down...||Al-?ijr 15:8|
|he said||Say!||Al-Anbiy?' 21:4|
|?||then it is what||it is what||Al-Shura 42:30|
|?||?||he makes him enter||we make him enter||Al-Fat? 48:17|