One of the things that both students and teachers get confused with is the difference between respect towards the teacher and loyalty towards him/her. There is obviously a huge difference between the two.
There is no doubt that when it comes to the recitation of the Qur’an, loyalty is only to the correct recitation, which is fulfilled by the three pillars of an accepted recital:
- The recitation is accompanied by multiple, authentic chains of narration traceable all the way back to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم.
- The recitation must be accommodated by the script of the Qur’an written during the reign of ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan رضي الله عنه.
- The recitation must be in accordance with the original, pure Arabic tongue.
Usually if the first pillar, Tawatur, is fulfilled, then the other two pillars fall into place automatically. That’s why the true litmus test for an authentic Qiraa’ah is its Tawatur chain. If a student of Qur’an is able to correctly internalize and understand these three pillars, and in particular the first one, it will be very easy for him/her to distinguish between what has been correctly passed down of the recitation, from what is being falsely taught today, even if he/she has no knowledge of the Arabic language or script. A student is to seek knowledge of the Qur’an from those individuals who teach the recitation in light of these three pillars and adheres strongly to them. What we find today is students will attach the knowledge to personalities instead of the true source (Tawatur). This happens when a student will blindly accept what his/her teacher teaches them even if it doesn’t fulfill the above three conditions, and most of the time, it doesn’t fulfill the condition of Tawatur.
And herein lies the fine line between respect and loyalty.
It is obligatory upon the student of the Qur’an to show respect to his/her teacher with regard to the knowledge that they are taking from them. This is a major part of the etiquette of the student-teacher relationship. At the same time, this does not and should not translate into loyalty where a student feels obliged to accept from the teacher that which is in clear error.
Some teachers will teach something related to the recitation of the Qur’an based on their own research, logic or understanding. Many times the conclusions they reach are in clear contradiction of what the majority of scholars of the Qur’an follow today. If a student reflects back on the above three pillars of an accepted recital, he/she will know immediately that these conclusions are not acceptable. That is because logic, research, or one’s understanding cannot replace even one pillar of Qur’an, especially the greatest pillar of the three, which is Tawatur.
So if you find yourself with a teacher teaching something that no one else has taught before, this is sufficient grounds for a student to leave this and stick to what is accepted and correct according to the majority of reciters today. This doesn’t require extensive research. The Qur’an, afterall, was revealed to the illiterate Arabs. They were able to master its recitation simply by following the Prophet’s صلى الله عليه وسلم priceless advice: اقرؤا كما علمتم or “Recite as you have been taught.”
عن عروة بن الزبير قال: إن قراءة القرآن سنّة من السُّنن، فاقرؤوه كما أقرئتموه
‘Urwah bin al-Zubayr رضي الله عنه said, “Verily the recitation of the Qur’an is a Sunnah amongst the Sunan so recite it the way you have been taught to recite it.”
عن علي بن أبي طالب: إن رسول الله يأمرُم أن تقرؤوا القرآن كما علمتم
‘Ali bin Abi Taalib رضي الله عنه said, “Verily, the Messenger of Allah orders you all to recite the Qur’an as you have been taught.”
عن ابن مسعود: إنّا نقرؤها كما علمناها
Ibn Mas’ood رضي الله عنه said, “Verily, we recite it (the Qur’an) as we had been taught to recite it.”
As for the teacher, then he/she should fear Allah in regards to knowledge, especially that which deals with the Book of Allah. Teachers should be careful to narrate only that which is sound and correct which fulfills the above three pillars. It is also not befitting for the teacher to lavish so much praise on their student such that the student feels obliged to remain loyal to them. It is only when a student and teacher give their unconditional loyalty to the pillars of the Qur’an, especially Tawatur, that their recitation will remain upon that which is true and correct; this is the only guaranteed way for the recitation to be passed down as it was revealed. A reliable teacher of the Qur’an is one who teaches based on the oral chain of transmission, and if he/she brings forth evidence for the recitation based on logic, research, or their understanding as their primary evidence then the conditions for an accepted recital have not been fulfilled. Textual evidence based on research can only be presented in light of Tawatur as the main evidence, not without.
In regards to respect, if a teacher considers the student following a different opinion than theirs as a sign of disrespect, then this is a sign that the teacher him/herself has attached the knowledge to their personality and they have not properly distinguished between loyalty and respect, and Allah knows best.
“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.”
[Sh. ‘Uthaymeen, رحمه الله, Tafsir Surah al-Quraish, p. 328]