The Qur’an is not established except by Tawaatur. This is the madhhab of the vast majority and even those who did not put Tawaatur as a condition, stipulated that the chains of narration should at least be on the next level under Tawaatur, that of Istifaadah (widespread) and Shuhrah (famous) (الاستفاضة والشهرة). The Qur’an is not established with an Aahaad narration, even if the chain is intact all the way to the Prophet صلى الله عليه ،سلم.
Firstly: Definition of Tawaatur
Tawaatur is the agreement of a group of people on a matter in such a way that it is impossible for them to all have agreed upon a lie.
A Mutawaatir report is that which has been transmitted from a group for whom it is impossible to gather upon a lie, or to report a lie even by coincidence, to another group with the same conditions, and this continues to the end of the chain. Any knowledge passed down must be based on the senses. These conditions must be present from the beginning of the chain till the end. If at any point any of the conditions are lost, the chain will no longer be considered Mutawaatir.
Secondly: Definition of the Noble Qur’an
al-Ghazali رحمه الله mentioned, “The Qur’an is what has reached us between the two covers of the mushaf via Tawaatur chains.”
al-Bazdawi mentioned in his Usool, “al-Kitab (the book), it is the Qur’an which has been revealed to the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم and has been transmitted from him صلى الله عليه وسلم via Tawaatur transmission.”
al-‘Allaamah Abu Shaama in his explanation of Shaatibiyyah has said, “The Qur’an is the speech of Allah, transmitted via Tawaatur transmission from the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم, to whom it was revealed, and it has not ceased to be transmitted through every time and generation by countless groups.”
al-Haafidh al-Suyuti said, in his book, الإتقان, “Indeed, all of what is part of the Qur’an must be Mutawaatir in its origin and in its parts.”
Thirdly: The Accepted Recital and the Rejected Recital
Sheikh Abdul Fattah al-Qaadhi mentioned in his book, القراءات الشاذة:
The Scholars of Qiraa’aat have mentioned a principle by which an accepted recital is known and distinguished from other than it of the shaadh (irregular) rejected recitals, and this principle is: any recital that is in accordance with the original Arabic Language, and is in accordance with any of the Uthmanic scripts and is established by Tawaatur.
…Any recital which has these three conditions present in it – agreement with the original Arabic Language, agreement with any of the Uthmanic scripts and establishment via Tawaatur – is a recital which is obligatory to accept and which is not permissible to reject, and is part of the Seven Ahruf (The Seven Modes of Recital) that the Qur’an was revealed in, and whenever any of these conditions are not met whether in part or in whole in a recital, then this recital is a shaadh (irregular), rejected recital.
…And it must be known that the most important of these pillars is the third one (i.e. Tawaatur) and the first two pillars are necessitated by it since whenever the Tawaatur of a recital is established, then by necessity it will be in agreement with the Arabic Language and one of the Uthmanic Scripts, so ‘The Pillar’ is Tawaatur.”
It is of utmost importance to establish or seek out this pillar for any kind of recitation. A common issue encountered by many students of the Qur’an are specific teachings of the recitation passed down to them from their teachers which might be unknown or strange to other teachers. Sometimes students feel as if they have to change how they recite with one teacher in order to be in line with what another teacher has taught. If this is the case, a student must carefully examine what is being taught and/or his own recitation because a Mutawaatir recitation is one which is agreed upon by all the scholars of the Qur’an. It is not permissible to reject a valid, authentic by Tawaatur, recitation. Therefore, either the student has not delivered his recitation accurately, or the teacher is teaching something that is not considered Tawaatur.
What is a student to do when they encounter a rule that one teacher has taught, which no one has taught before? The answer is as explained above: it must be accompanied by Tawaatur. If no one has taught this rule before then this rule is not considered part of a Mutawaatir report and will be rejected.
It is upon the student to ask his/her teacher the source of any rule. If the source of the rule was the teacher’s teachers, from their teachers, from their teachers, and is also taught by other reliable specialists in the field of Qur’an (i.e. the Qurra’) today, and traceable back to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, then the student can rest assured that this recitation is via Tawaatur. However, if the teacher responds with their evidence from books, logic, or scholars other than the Qurra’ (such as Arabic grammarians, phonologists, linguists, or even doctors), then it can be established that this recitation was not part of the original chain going back to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and was a result of research or ijtihaad.** In this latter case, it is not obligatory for the student to pass on this way of recitation, and in fact, it should be abandoned. This is, without doubt, a rejected recital.
This is also the case when a student finds out later that his teacher has made a mistake in his transmission of some aspect of the recitation and an Ijazah was given to the student. All the student has to do is to follow that which is authentic and correct, and his Ijazah will remain valid.
Ultimately, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم has made it clear to us, in very simple terms, the guidelines we should follow when taking a Qiraa’ah:
«اقرؤوا كما علمتم »
Recite as you have been taught.
These words make the job a lot easier. If a student recites as he/she has been taught, it follows also that the teacher must do the same. The obligation on both therefore is to recite only that which was taught, and this is the only accepted recital, and Allah knows best.
**The correct way is to understand the textual evidence in light of what has been taught and transmitted orally (Talaqqi and Mushaafaha)