Ignorance or Rightful Correction?

Arabic Letter Dwaad


If there is any letter in the Arabic language which has received the most study, examination, practice, and unfortunately, the most attack, it would have to be the letter ض, and this is actually not very alarming.  The Arabic language is often times referred to as the “language of ض” because it is the only language which contains the letter ض, a sound unique to both the tongue and ears.  It is no surprise then that one of the attacks upon the Qur’an involve confusing the people regarding its pronunciation.  If the letter ض can be obscured for the people, then Arabic, the language of ض can also be attacked, and one of the pillars of the Qur’an falls.  It is a carefully thought out plan by the Disbelievers to attack Allah’s book in an intellectual, theoretical, and academic way.

Although the Qurra’ had accurately passed down the Qur’anic pronunciation of ض, unfortunately there were some who resorted to research and took knowledge from others outside the field of Qur’anic recitation, sometimes even resorting to other Arabic dialects, to bring to the public a more defined version of the pronunciation of ض which lead them to rejecting the original way in favor of a pronunciation which was more in line with their research, logic, or dialect.   This shouldn’t have happened actually, but it was the will of Allah to put people to the test, that perhaps they will fully understand how Allah preserves His book which reflects His outstanding and everlasting wisdom.  It was also a way for the Qurra’ to be sifted through, separated into two groups:  those who take the recitation of the Qur’an through an authentic, oral transmission traced back to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and those who take the recitation from books and research.

To kick off this series on the explanation of the pronunciation of the letter ض, we present the following video which illustrates just how prominent this conflict is.

As can be seen from the video, this young man is asked to recite from three different locations in the Qur’an, and all three locations contain at least one word containing the letter ض.  At each of these words, he was stopped and corrected by the judges.  There is no doubt, however, that the true pronunciation of ض was that uttered by the judges (and this will be proven in future posts on this blog), but what is alarming are the reactions of the Qurra’ to this video which fall into two camps:  one camp says that the young man was ignorant of the letter ض’s true pronunciation, while the second camp points the finger at the judges, saying that they were in fact the ones who were ignorant!

As for the first camp, there is no doubt that the way this young man pronounced the letter ض was specifically taught to him–the history and origin of which we will get to shortly in this series, by the leave of Allah.  But as for the second camp, who unfairly blame the judges for their “ignorance”, we make the following points:

  1. The Qur’an is defined as the following:  the Arabic speech of Allah, revealed to His Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم, which was preserved in the Musaahif and has reached us through Tawaatur chains of transmission and is a challenge to mankind to produce something similar to it.  The key word here in this discussion is the word “Tawaatur”.  If a way of recitation is considered Tawaatur, then it is not allowed for anyone to reject this way of recital, especially judges of a major Qur’an competition, and especially not ALL three judges.  If this way of pronouncing ض was valid and accepted, even in an “uncommon” way, it would have been known and accepted by these judges.   Therefore, this is not about the “ignorance” of the judges, and only the most qualified are chosen for the task.  It is rather an issue of whether or not this type of pronunciation is accepted and known by the scholars.  If it was known and accepted, this young man would not have been corrected so severely.
  2. Let’s move beyond these judges.  Not a single scholar who is known by the people and accepted by his contemporaries as a scholar in the field of the Qur’anic recitation, has EVER mentioned this additional way of pronouncing the letter ض.  To claim that all of a sudden, you have discovered a “new” way which remained hidden all these centuries and was unknown to the majority of the Muslims until you discovered it is a far fetched claim.  The ramifications of this claim lead all the way to casting doubt on Allah’s ability to preserve His book, even to the last letter, a task Allah alone has taken upon Himself, and we seek refuge in Allah from such claims.
  3. At the very least, these judges would have known how the letter ض should NOT sound, since this is a way many scholars who have written books on the Qiraa’aat go on to explain the pronunciation of ض, by its opposite or mistakes reciters should avoid making when articulating this letter.
  4. The impression these sorts of labels give is that students will go on to learn not to trust traditional scholars and thus avoid learning from them, because they were taught by other teachers that these scholars are ignorant, have not done proper research, and teach “wrong” opinions, when this is certainly not the case, and a gross accusation.
  5. It is unfair to smack a label on these judges for being “ignorant” especially when they are the respected scholars in our communities.  By saying such things, we accuse the best of this Ummah, about whome the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said: خيركم من تعلم القرآن وعلمه “The best of who are those who learn the Qur’an and then teach it,” of ignorance, and this is one way to discredit the Qur’an: by attacking its people.
  6. Given the last point, it is important that in the course of the discussion neither side resorts to personal attacks.  It is of absolute importance that the discussion remains on topic, zero-ing on the precise issues and not labeling either side with ignorance or disrespect.  Shaikh Uthaimeen, may Allaah have mercy on him, said:

“When we differ amongst ourselves, especially the students of knowledge, it is obligatory on us to sit down for deliberation and calm discussion through which we aim to come to the truth, and when the truth becomes clear to a person he must follow it and it is not permissible for him to defend someone for his opinion.”

Tafsir Surah al-Quraish, p. 328

By the will of Allah, all of these points and more will be further elaborated upon in future posts.

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