Attention Teachers of Qur’an | Part 4: What if the Recitation was Lost?

Basmalah

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 5 | Conclusion

147657402_70640fdc54_zSo far, we’ve discussed the importance of maintaining the integrity of one’s Sanad and only teaching that which was orally transmitted via the recitation and the ways that one’s Sanad can become polluted. There are two scenarios (when preferring the oral recitation over that which is found in books) that cause some confusion.  We examined the first scenario in the last post, and today, we discuss Scenario 2.

Scenario 2: A specific way of recitation is no longer recited today and can only be derived from books where it is described in detail

This scenario is mainly related to the Qiraa’aat, i.e. the different recitations of the Qur’an. In this scenario, it is important to clarify a clear misunderstanding regarding the preservation of the Qur’an.  Firstly, there is no doubt that Allah سبحانه وتعالى has made it unequivocally clear that He, and only He, is in charge of the preservation of His book.

15:9
Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its guardian
[Surat al-Hijr, verse 9]

Secondly, if there is a way of recitation that is no longer recited today, it does not mean that the recitation was not preserved. As for what it does mean, then this actually goes back to two main differences of opinion about “the Last Recital” of the Qur’an known as العرضة الأخيرة. Every Ramadan Jibreel عليه السلام would revise the Qur’an with the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, and in the last Ramadan before he passed away, Jibreel revised the Qur’an with him twice. This last revision is known as the Last Recital. The two main differences of opinion about this are whether this Last Recital abrogated other previous recitations of the Qur’an or not. This difference seemed to stem even amongst the Sahabah, and this was the driving force behind the action that was taken during the time of Uthman رضي الله عنه when the fitnah related to the Qur’an arose.

Those who are of the opinion that the Last Recital abrogated, explain that Uthman رضي الله عنه made copies of the Mus-haf based on what was taught in the Last Recital, and other recitations which were not part of this Last Recital were naturally left out because they were abrogated. This goes back to deep-rooted principles about how the Qur’an is defined (i.e. the 3 pillars of a recitation) that must all be intact in order for that recitation to be a valid recitation of Qu’ran, that is allowed to be recited in Salah, traceable to what happened in Uthman’s time too. These 3 pillars are:

  1. The recitation must be in the Arabic Language.
  2. The recitation must be in accordance with the Uthmanic script.
  3. The recitation must have an authentic sanad (oral chain of narration going back to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم).

Any recitation that has any of these pillars missing, is not defined as a recitation of Qur’an, rather it is ruled as شاذ (irregular). Recitations that are no longer recited, are due to their missing one of these 3 pillars. This is because when it comes to the Qur’an, we only  accept absolute certainty.  It also doesn’t mean that this particular recitation was “lost” in any way, because according to this opinion it was “abrogated” and so no longer used in the Qur’an.

Those who are of the opinion that the Last Recital did not abrogate, explain that what Uthman رضي الله عنه did was in the best interest of the Ummah.  He applied certain controls and regulations to make sure everyone was reciting the Qur’an and nothing more or less (no mistakes), and that was done by restricting them to what was taught in the Last Recital as everyone agreed that this was the Qur’an (whether they agreed the other recitations were still valid or not).

However, regardless of which opinion is correct,  just because a way of recitation is no longer recited today, it does not mean that the Ummah is now sinful for not reciting this way.  This is because of the following two Hadeeth:

أنَّ النبيَّ صلَّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّمَ كان عند أَضاةِ بني غِفارٍ فأتاه جبريلُ صلَّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّمَ فقال إنَّ اللهَ عزَّ وجلَّ يأمرك أن تُقرئَ أمتَك على حرفٍ قال أسأل اللهُ معافاتِه ومغفرتَه إنَّ أمتي لا تُطيقُ ذلك ثم أتاه ثانيةً فذكر نحو هذا حتى بلغ سبعةَأَحرُفٍ قال إنَّ اللهَ يأمرُك أن تُقرِئَ أُمَّتَك على سبعةِ أحرُفٍ فأيُّما حرفٍ قَرءوا عليه فقد أصابُوا
…that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم was at the swamp of Bani Ghifar and Jibreel عليه السلام came to him and said, “Verily, Allah commands you to teach your Ummah the Qur’an according to one Harf.”  The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم replied, “I ask Allah His pardon and forgiveness!  Verily, my Ummah does not have the ability to do so.”  Then Jibreel عليه السلام came to him a second time and mentioned the same thing until he reached 7 Ahruf.  Then he (Jibreel عليه السلام) said, “Verily, Allah commands you to teach your Ummah the Qur’an according to seven Ahruf, and any Harf they choose to recite, they will be correct.
[Narrated by Ubayy bin Ka’b as found in Sunan Abi Dawood]

يا أُبَيُّ إنه أُنْزِلَ القرآنُ على سَبْعَةِ أَحْرُفٍ ، كُلُّهم شافٍ كافٍ
O Ubayy! Verily, the Qur’an was revealed upon 7 Ahruf; they are all a cure (for diseases) and sufficient.
[Narrated by Ubayy bin Ka’b as found in Jaami’ al-Saheeh]

According to this Hadeeth, the people are to select the way of recitation that they find the easiest to recite, and each and every one of them is sufficient on its own.  The Muslim will not be sinful for choosing one recitation over others for his/her own convenience.  The different ways of recitation have been revealed specifically for the ease of the Ummah, and not for them to preserve.  The role of preserving the Book is a role which belongs to Allah alone.

Once again, the condition for transmission is still in place: you must only transmit what your teacher has approved of from your oral recitation to him/her, even if another way of recitation exists which is equally valid.  This is because, as narrated by Zayd bin Thaabit رضي الله عنه:

القراءة سنة فاقرؤوه كما تجدونه
Recitation (of the Qur’an) is Sunnah so recite it in the way that you find it.

Many teachers deceive themselves into thinking that they themselves are the manifestations of this preservation.  They claim that because they are specialized in “research” of the Qur’an, and they have discovered ways of recitation or opinions (via books or their minds) that were unknown before, they have somehow become tools of the preservation of the Qur’an.  This is clear misguidance and an extremely dangerous path to tread.

Throughout history, many such individuals have cropped up with different claims and every single time they have been refuted and the rightful Qiraa’ah was established.  This is because Allah will preserve His book, even from its own people (the people of Qur’an).

Therefore, you are not responsible for reviving any Qiraa’ah.  Your role is not the preservation of the Qur’an.

Ibn al-Jazari mentions in his book النشر في القراءات العشر, page 11:

And Allah, the Most High, has singled out this Ummah with regard its book for this specific revelation sent down upon their Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, something which was not given to any other Ummah of the previous nations with regard to their revealed books.  This is because Allah, the Most High, has taken responsibility for its preservation unlike all the other books and He has not entrusted its preservation to us.  Allah, the Most High, says:

15:9
Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its guardian
[Surat al-Hijr, verse 9]

Your only role is to recite the Qur’an in the manner in which it was revealed, in a way which is easy for you and to act upon its injunctions.  And if you are a teacher, then your role is not just the above, but to also only convey what you learned through a sound oral chain, and nothing else.

And Allah knows best.

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