Where’s your Proof?


مَا عِندَكُمْ يَنفَدُ ۖ وَمَا عِندَ اللَّهِ بَاقٍ
Whatever you have will end, but what Allah has is lasting.
[Surat al-Nahl, verse 96]

We explained in this post and this post the importance of taking a Qiraa’ah from the appropriate source: sound, complete and authentic oral chains of transmission traced all the way back to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم.  We mentioned also that textual evidence can only be used in light of this oral chain, not exclusively.  Let’s talk about why this is the case.

ThreePillarsFor most sciences in Islam, textual evidence is the primary way to prove something.  This is not the case, however, with the recitation of the Qur’an, as we have established earlier.  The reason textual evidence cannot be used as a primary source of information for a Qiraa’ah is because of the following:

Allah سبحانه وتعالى says:

بَلْ هُوَ آيَاتٌ بَيِّنَاتٌ فِي صُدُورِ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ ۚ وَمَا يَجْحَدُ بِآيَاتِنَا إِلَّا الظَّالِمُونَ
Rather, the Qur’an is distinct verses [preserved] within the breasts of those who have been given knowledge. And none reject Our verses except the wrongdoers.
[Surat al-‘Ankaboot, verse 49]
  1. This verse shows that the true knowledge of the verses of Allah is preserved in the hearts of those who have knowledge.  This means the Qur’an is preserved through its memorization, something which is heard and recited, not that which is derived from books.
  2. It is not and was not always necessary for a scholar to mention everything related to a Qiraa’ah in his books.  Therefore, textual evidence for a recitation may or may not actually exist.  This is because the oral recitation is much more inclusive and all-encompassing than that which is explained (or not) in books.
  3. If textual evidence may or may not have existed, this is surely less reliable than verbal evidence (the oral sanad) which is more constant and traceable.  Textual evidence of the Qur’anic recitation developed over time.  However, the oral chain existed since the time of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and did not undergo development to reach us today.  Therefore, it is more befitting for a student and teacher of the Qur’an to rely on that which is certain and constant, rather than that which may be uncertain and developed over time.
  4. Scholars of the past knew that the only way to capture a Qiraa’ah accurately was by listening to and reciting it.  Therefore, not everything that could be heard or recited could be put into writing.  So in this way also, textual evidence is inferior to the oral sanad.
  5. Doing research of the recitation by going back to the textual evidences is not an easy task for every student of Qur’an.  And surely, Allah would not require from His servants such a difficult task.  In order for His book to be preserved, it is sufficient to learn it accurately from an oral chain and pass it down likewise.  This is surely easier on the Ummah, than searching through books and history to pin down the most accurate Qiraa’ah.magnifying-glass
  6. In light of #5, the Qur’an was revealed to the illiterate Arabs who perfected the recitation of the Qur’an and accurately passed it down.  If this method of passing on the Qiraa’ah was sufficient for the best of generations, it should be the preferred method of students and teachers of the Qur’an today.
  7. Textual evidence is more subject to interpretation than an oral recitation.  A person can read one evidence from a book and reinterpret it in a completely different way than another scholar.   Therefore what is heard and recited directly is less subject to reinterpretation than what is read and understood from a book.  The importance of listening was elaborated upon in this post.
  8. When a scholar refrains from mentioning a textual proof for a Qiraa’ah, it does NOT mean that this textual proof doesn’t exist.  Our scholars understand very well that textual evidence may or may not exist, and even if it does, it is inferior and secondary to a traceable sanad for that reason.  They understood that the most reliable way to prove a Qiraa’ah was its oral chain and that is what people should stick to.
  9. Opening the doors to textual evidence and using this as  primary proof above the oral chain will lead to great fitnah and corruption with regard to the recitation of the Qur’an.  This is because if a person doesn’t find textual proof, they may reject or doubt what is authentically found in an oral chain.  This can also lead a person to introduce into the recitation, based on the supposed textual evidence that they found, that which does not belong to it.  And we seek refuge in Allah from being among those who apply any sort of change to His book, Ameen.
  10. It is important to note, that the oral chain of evidence used to prove a Qiraa’ah is rejected amongst the Orientalists.  They also know that textual proof is not always available, is subject to interpretation, and is not always applicable (cannot describe about a sound by writing about it, for example).  For them, the only way to discredit the Qur’an is to reject its oral chain.  That’s why falling into the trap of proving a recitation through textual evidence alone is faulty and unreliable.  It will only lead a person to rejecting that which is authentically found in an oral chain in support of textual evidence.  This is just a trap of the Orientalists that every Muslim should seek to avoid.

Therefore, textual evidence should ONLY be used in light of and secondary to the oral chain.  If the textual evidence exists, then this is all well and good.  However, if the textual evidence does NOT exist, this does NOT mean that the oral evidence is weak or fabricated.  The authentic, oral chain of a recitation is sufficient and established enough as a proof to the point where no other evidence is necessary, and Allah knows best.

مَا عِندَكُمْ يَنفَدُ ۖ وَمَا عِندَ اللَّهِ بَاقٍ
Whatever you have will end, but what Allah has is lasting.
[Surat al-Nahl, verse 96]

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