This post is Part 2 of The Usool of Qiraa’aat VS Arabic Grammar | Part 1 and in this post we will In shaa Allaah conclude this topic.
During the time of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم
In our last post we spoke about the origin of language and speech being from Allah and that He taught Adam (AH). So the Arabic Language was from Allah. We will now deal with what happened during the time of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and the revelation of the Qur’an In shaa Allaah.
As with any language, there are patterns that occur or in other words ‘rules’. However, during this time, as of yet, the language had not been codified, i.e. its grammar, rules, pronunciation and letters hadn’t been documented. There was no need for this as the Arabs at that time were literally isolated in the Arabian Peninsula where they took great pride in speaking pure eloquent Arabic, especially the bedouins living in the desert.
They were the natives of their language and experts in poetry and eloquence. Having excellent memories they would memorise 100s of 1000s of verses of poetry in which they would talk about everything from their geneology to their hobbies and pastimes, and even the geneology of their camels and horses, passing these on, and preserving their culture and history in this manner. So the isolated bedouin Arabs spoke pure Arabic and were the experts of their language.
What exists before the codification of a science?
For this next bit it is easier to take an example and understand this by analogy. Let’s take Botany which is the science of plant biology. In this science one studies the names of different plants, their parts, mechanisms etc. This science developed slowly over time originally starting from the need to identify edible, medicinal and poisonous plants.
But the question is, before this science existed, before the names, terms and definitions came into use for this study, were the plants themselves not in existence before that? Of course! Plants were always there long before this science came into being. But the terms and definitions used were not there yet because this science had not yet developed and been codified.
In the same way, the Arabic Language was already being spoken and used but the Language had not been officially documented or codified yet. Terms and definitions for different concepts or ‘rules’ had not yet been codified even though they were there in practice i.e. they were being applied practically only.
There was no need to document the language when there was no fear of it being lost, the bedouin Arabs being isolated and untouched, naturally spoke and passed on the pure Language to their progeny without any external pollution.
Another way to make this clearer is to think about learning a new language. There are two ways to do this. One is the direct method where one exposes themselves to the language and picks it up – this is the way a child learns their first language. And the second way is to officially learn the language systematically with its grammar, rules etc. The second way can only be used when the language, its grammar, rules and vocabulary have all been documented and codified. If the language is not codified the only way to learn it is directly and practically, i.e. expose yourself to it and speak it. Bear this point in mind as we will bring this up again later In shaa Allaah.
A Science is born
The Qur’an was revealed in Arabic during this time before the Language was officially documented and codified, and therefore the recitation of the Qur’an was done and taught practically without using terms and definitions for the concepts or ‘rules’ of Arabic Language being used in it.
But later when Islam spread and with it came the mixing of Arabs with non Arabs, there arose the fear of losing the original Arabic Language as it was spoken at the time of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم (as happens naturally when there is mixing of different cultures and languages).
This meant that learning and reciting the Qur’an would become more difficult, since learning something where one understands the concepts of how the words and sentences are structured (i.e. its ‘rules’), is much easier to retain and recall than learning something which one does not understand the ‘rules’ behind.
This led to the documentation and codification of the Arabic Language. Terms and definitions were developed for its ‘rules’ , its ‘rules’ were documented, and…a science is born.
Answering the objections of the Other Side
Now let’s take a closer look at some of the questions of those who believe Usool are derived from Arabic Grammar & those who dismiss them altogether:
- One of their main concerns is that there are no ahaadeeth explaining or mentioning the Usool.
- If we look back at what we explained about the Arabic Language not being codified till afterwards, after the Qur’an had been revealed, we can see why there are no ahaadeeth mentioning the Usool or ‘rules’ of recitation. It is because the terms and definitions for these ‘rules’ were not codified yet and thus were not in use in this manner at that time.
- We can also look at this conversely and ask “Why don’t we have ahaadeeth which state we can recite Quran according to our knowledge of Arabic grammar?” There are none.
- Instead we have ahaadeeth which state “AlQira’ah Sunnah (The recitation should be done the way the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم taught)” and “Iqra’oo kama ‘ullimtum (Recite as you have been taught)” etc. These were addressing the Arabs of the day, the ones who knew their language better than anybody! This shows it was not enough to know Arabic, you still had to follow the way it was done by the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم.
- Even the Qiraa’aat themselves have not been explained in ahaadeeth. We only have general ahaadeeth telling us that they exist and are correct: ahaadeeth on 7 ahruf. But these ‘ahruf’ have not been explained. This is not because they don’t exist but because since the Language had not been codified yet, there was no concept of using technical terms to explain them, as these terms’ use like this didn’t exist yet. The only way of teaching was just doing it i.e. oral demonstration and this is how it was done. Everything was taught practically by demonstration.
- Another point that is brought up is that the Usool resemble or match Arabic grammar so this must mean that they are derived from Arabic grammar.
- Going back to the codification of the Arabic Language, we saw that there was no codification of the Language or of anything to do with recitation of Qur’an until later. So the only way to say that one of these is derived from the other is by looking at which was there first. Since Arabic was already being spoken before the Qur’an was revealed, they use this to say that Usool used in recitation of Qur’an were derived from the Arabic. But where did this Arabic come from? We explained in our part 1 to this post the origin of all languages being from Allah. The Qur’an is also from Allah. So the fact these match is simply because Allah revealed the Qur’an in Arabic Language and the source of the Arabic spoken by these people at that time and also the source of the Qur’an is One i.e. Allah سبحانه وتعالى. This is why we see resemblances because the source of both of these is One. Similarly we find resemblances between our Sharee’ah and the other Sharee’ahs before us, because their source is One. But this does not mean we can then derive our Sharee’ah from theirs! In the same way we cannot say that the Usool are derived from Arabic Grammar.
- Even the two famous schools of grammar the Basriyyoon and the Koofiyyoon from Basra and Kufa respectively do not agree grammatically with everything of the Qiraa’aat that matches grammar. If the Usool were grammatical, then the Qiraa’aat chains coming from those who lived in Basra should match the Basra school of thought for grammar and those from Kufa match the Kufa school respectively. But they don’t. For example Abu Amr who was from Basra and a scholar in grammar himself, used to do idghaam of laam into raa as well as raa into laam, but Seebawayh the grammarian of Basra disagrees with idghaam being both ways here from a grammatical perspective. Another example is that al-Kisaa’i who was from Kufa used to recite a word in a way which was grammatically weak, and yet he was a scholar of grammar in Kufa. Furthermore, there are those concepts in Usool which are not from grammar at all such as sakta.
- Allah is the One who revealed the Qur’an and He is the One Who chose what way it would be recited in. There is no room for personal opinion in this as these words including the manner in which they should be recited are from Him.
- How were the Usool taught since nothing is ‘mentioned’ of them?
- They were taught by practical demonstration by necessity since nothing had been codified at that point yet. There was no other way of teaching them. This way of teaching and learning is known as the way of الرواية.
- The hadeeth of Ibn Mas’ood (RA) where a man recited to him without stretching (doing madd in) the word للفقراء. Ibn Mas’ood (RA) did not tell him to do ‘madd’, rather he demonstrated to him practically, how to do it. And like this the whole Qur’an has been transmitted in the oral chains.
- The oral chains of narration of the Qur’an that have reached us today are proof of this.
- If Usool are from Allah too, then how come the scholars distinguish between lahn jalee and lahn khafee (major and hidden mistakes) in recitation?
- In their very nature Usool rules are those parts of the 7 ahruf which conform to ‘a pattern’ which means the same rule recurs when the same circumstances are present. This is the reason why they came to be called “Usool”. They are not called “Usool” because they are from the rules of Arabic grammar, they are called “Usool” because they conform to some sort of pattern in the Qiraa’aat.
- The Qur’an being the word of Allah, the Scholars of Tajweed distinguish types of mistakes in recitation based on whether they distort the meaning of what is being recited or not. In this way changes that change the words themselves affect the meaning and so are major mistakes which are haram, whereas changes which do not affect meaning (such as accent changes, and many Usool rules), are considered hidden mistakes because they are not noticeable right off (since the message is still being conveyed).
- Despite this however, many Scholars of Tajweed are still very strict about even lahn khafee because the way the Qur’an is recited is from Allah. In fact the word “Qur’an” itself means “Recitation”.
The Middle Way
The middle way, the opinion of the Salaf, and the opinion of the mainstream scholars of Tajweed and Qiraa’aat is according to the following narration from Zaid bin Thabit:
القراءة سنة فاقرءوه كما تجدونه
Recitation (of the Qur’an) is Sunnah so recite it in the way that you find it.
The recitation of the Qur’an is Sunnah, i.e. the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم has specifically taught us how to recite it, with madd, ghunnah, etc etc, so we should recite it as it has been taught to us via the oral chains from him, and not derive its rulings from grammar. And as Ibn Mas’ood said, this is enough:
اتبعوا ولا تبتدعوا فقد كفيتم
Follow (the recitation) and do not innovate because you have been sufficed (from doing so).
These narrations were addressing the Arabs, who were the masters of their Language at that time, meaning that there was no room for them to recite according to what they knew of their Language despite being experts. This shows that the Qur’an including its manner of recitation is all from Allah, because if anyone had been allowed to recite it according to Arabic grammar it would have been the Arabs themselves. Furthermore, there are no ahaadeeth or narrations from the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم or the Sahaba that state that the Qur’an is recited according to Arabic Grammar.
And Allah سبحانه وتعالى knows best.