If the Qiraa’ah or recitation of the Qur’an is ‘Sunnah’ (i.e. to be recited in a specific way) then how come there are differences of opinion in the recitation?
To answer this question one needs to understand that there is a difference between a Qaari’, Muqri’ and those who are merely famous. A Muqri’ is a person who is specialised in the field of Qur’an recitation and follows the mainstream methodology and opinions, and is accepted and known as a Muqri’ by other Maqaari’. A Qaari’ is a lesser degree. And not everyone who has recited to a teacher is even a Qaari’.
It is amongst the common masses that mistakes spread freely because they are not specialists in the field going to the right masters of the field. Today anybody can write a book on Tajweed whether they are qualified or not and whether they go to the right sources or not.
Some very common differences exist between the Arab Maqaari’ (specialists) and the Reciters of Subcontinent, even though their sanads (chains of narration) join up to the same Arab-side Shuyookh. An example of this is the application of the Ghunnah of Ikhfaa as one sound for each of the 15 letters of Ikhfaa. Another example is their altered version of the pronunciation of the ض letter. These two very common differences are most commonly found from the reciters of the Subcontinent.
Why is this especially prominent amongst the Subcontinent? As Sh. Ayman explains, it is because of them being far from natives and experts of the Arabic language from amongst the Arab scholars and teachers. Many concepts are not recited and taught with Itqaan (precision and perfection). However, this is not to say that all Reciters of the Subcontinent are this way.
It specifically started when some people started using logic and reasoning with regards to the recitation of the Qur’an around the beginning of the 11th century Hijri. And so we hear claims from them that “the Arabs have changed things”, were “neglectful”, or “messed things up” when they are unable to reconcile their reasoning with what is found in the Oral Sanad. Based on this, they changed what is found in the Oral Sanad to match their reasoning and logic.
This is especially prominent amongst the Reciters stemming from the Hanafi madhhab, because in the area of fiqh, this madhhab is famous for exercising the faculties of the mind and is genius at it. But in areas where logic and reasoning have no place such as issues of Aqeedah and the Qur’an, problems will arise if one applies the same methodology here also. This is prominent in places such as Turkey, where the Reciters have applied logic and reasoning based on the study of the classical texts alone. Using this incorrect method, they have changed many things such as the pronunciation of ط, ض etc. Their teachings stem from a Turkish man named al-Mar’ashi who studied in the field of logic and then applied these teachings to the recitation of the Qur’an, although he was not a specialist in this field and admitted that he did not have Sanad for the changes he brought.
But as we mentioned, the problem is that there is no place for reasoning and logic in the recitation of the Qur’an because in the science of Tajweed there is no room for personal opinion. Furthermore, every issue or concept of Tajweed that is narrated in the oral chains of the Maqaari’ is actually in agreement and in line with the classical texts and this can be seen clearly when the correct understanding is applied.
The correct way in dealing with this is that the oral chain is the most important pillar with regards to recitation. It and what has been written in the classical texts should go hand in hand, but never is the text given preference over the Oral Sanad. If someone for example finds a mistake being taught orally, they need a sanad for the correct way and cannot use texts alone to prove their point.
But above all Allah سبحانه وتعالى has promised to preserve His book and He has done so and continues to do so. So no one should ever think, let alone claim, that certain things have been “changed” or “messed up” and are no longer done correctly in the Oral Sanad, and then try to ‘re-correct’ things using texts alone. Nor should they follow those who use this type of thinking and methodology, for as you can see this is a very dangerous route to go.