A common scenario many students of Qur’an face is when their teacher teaches them to recite the Qur’an in a way which has been clearly documented and confirmed as wrong. It’s not so much that the correct way has been established which is the point of conflict, but rather what a student should do in this situation: you’re stuck between defying your teacher and accepting a mistake in the book of Allah.
First of all, there are a number of points that both parties should remember.
- Your ultimate loyalty is to the Book of Allah: both parties should strive to purify their intentions towards Allah’s book with regarding to learning its recitation as well as teaching it. If the intention of both parties is to recite the Qur’an and teach it as it was revealed, then accepting the truth should not be an issue. However, if the teacher is out to defend his own reputation by any means necessary and cannot bear the idea of being corrected or advised, then loyalty to this teacher is not expected from the student. Such a teacher will not help a student reach their goal, and in fact, should be abandoned.
- There is no one who is above the Book of Allah: regardless of the teacher’s rank, popularity, or fame, no one has the right to say about the Book of Allah that which is false, baseless, and unsupported by the right evidences. The prevalence of a recitation is not sufficient evidence because this recitation must be traced all the way back to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم through a number of chains, and not any one individual who was famous or well known and had many students.
- If you don’t know, you’re not responsible: if a student, regardless of his level, is unaware of the mistakes that his teacher is teaching him, has no access to the resources with which he can confirm or deny such information, or simply is unable to (doesn’t know Arabic for example), then this student is not held accountable for the incorrect way in which his teacher has taught him to recite. This is because Allah does not burden a soul more than it can bear, and one is responsible only for what he/she has the ability to do.
- Knowledge of the Qur’an is علم نقلي: if both parties understand that this knowledge about the Qur’an is the type that can only be obtained via sound transmission, then defending a mistake via logic or books alone is sufficient grounds for it to be rejected. A student does not need a lot of knowledge to identify this simple point.
The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said:اتَّقوا الحديثَ عنِّي إلَّا ما علِمتُمْ فمَن كذبَ عليَّ مُتعمِّدًا فليتَبوَّأْ مَقعدَهُ مِن النَّارِ ، ومَن قال في القرآنِ برأيِّهِ ، فليتَبوَّأْ مَقعدَهُ مِن النَّارِ“Beware of speaking on my behalf except that which you know for certain for whoever lies upon me purposely then let him take his seat in the hellfire. And whoever says regarding the Qur’an according to his opinion, then let him take his seat in the hellfire.” [Narrated by Ibn ‘Abbaas, graded as Hasan, narrated by al-Tirmidhi]
If a student understands that this knowledge is علم نقلي, and that Allah will preserve His book, then he has the grounds to filture out any mistakes. If the teacher maintains that they have recited such and such a way to their teacher, then the unaware student is no longer obligated to go beyond that, even if it is still a mistake which was traced back to only one individual. After this point, we would go back to point 3 above.
- There should be no compromise: under no circumstances should a clear mistake be recited in the book of Allah, unless, as we said above, there is no prior knowledge about it. This is not an area where compromise can take place and the respect of the teacher does not come before the rights of the recitation.
Having said that, we presented this matter to one of our teachers, Sh. Waleed Edrees al-Meneesey حفظه الله, and he gave the following reply:
فمعلم القرآن مثله مثل غيره من المسلمين ليس معصوما لا من الذنب ولا من السهو ولا من الخطأوبناء على ذلك فإن الطالب إذا لم يكن عنده مصدر للتلقي غير هذا المعلم فالأصل أنه يتبعه ويقلده لا يكلف الله نفسا إلا وسعهاأما إذا تعددت مصادر التلقي عند الطالب فسمع خلاف كلام معلمه من معلمين آخرين أو وجد خلاف كلام معلمه في الكتب التي هي مصدر علم القراءات وتلقاها علماء المسلمين بالقبول فكلهم يرجع إليها ويأخذ منها مثل الشاطبية والدرة والطيبة وشروحها القديمة المعتمدة والتيسير والتحبير والنشر على أن الكتب تحتاج إلى مراجعة فهمه لها مع معلم آخر ولا يكتفي بفهمه للكتب خاصة إذا كانت العبارة فيها غموض وتحتمل أكثر من معنىففي هذه الحالات الطالب يقارن بين كلام معلمه وكلام غيره ويتبع ما ترجح عنده صوابه ولا مانع أن يكون متبعا لمعلمه فيما تلقاه عنه من القرآن إلا مواضع يسيرة يرى أن معلمه أخطأ فيها فيتلقى هذه المواضع عن معلم ثان ويروي هذه المواضع خاصة عن معلمه الثانيوبصفة عامة فقد كان السلف يحبون تعدد المعلمين ولا يكتفون بتحمل القرآن عن واحد فقطفمثلا ابن عباس قرأ على أبي بن كعب وأيضا على زيد بن ثابت ونافع قرأ على سبعين شيخا وكان يتبع ما تفقوا عليهوكانوا دائما لا يحبون الانفرادات ويتجنبون ما نفرد بروايته واحد ويتبعون ما تعدد رواتهفدائما الأخطاء نجدها قد انفرد بها شيخ أو مجموعة طلاب كلهم تلقى عن نفس الشيخ وليست معروفة عند غيرهم
…the teacher of the Qur’an, his example is the example of those other than him from the Muslims: he is not immune from committing sins, nor forgetfulness, nor making mistakes. And based on that, then it is upon the student, if he doesn’t have a source for the oral recitation except this one teacher, then the default is to follow this teacher and imitate him, [for] Allah does not burden a soul except what it can handle.
As for if the student has numerous sources of the oral recitation and he hears something from one teacher which is different from the other teachers, or he found the opposite of what his teacher taught him in books, which are the source of knowledge for the Qiraa’aat which has been accepted by the scholars of the Muslims; therefore, all of them can go back to them (these books) and take [knowledge] from them, such as al-Shatibiyyah, al-Durrah, al-Tayyibah, and their old and numerous commentaries, [as well as] al-Tayseer, al-Tahbeer, and al-Nashr, upon the condition that these books require a review of his (the student’s) understanding by another teacher. And it is not sufficient for him to simply understand [the information in] the books specifically, [especially] when the expressions in them may be vague, or they possibly carry more than one meaning…
…then in these circumstances, the student compares between what his teacher has said and what others have said, and he follows that which he has found to be the most correct. And there is no problem for him to follow his teacher in the recitation of the Qur’an, except those places he sees that his teacher has made a mistake, and these specific parts of the recitation can be taken from a second teacher, and he goes on to narrate these specific aspects he learned from this second teacher [not the first].
And in general, the righteous generations used to love having multiple teachers, and they did not consider it sufficient to memorize the Qur’an under one person only. So for example, Ibn ‘Abbas recited to Ubayy bin Ka’b as well as Zayd bin Thaabit, and Naafi’ recited to 70 people and he used to follow what they agreed upon. And always, they used to dislike those aspects [of the recitation] which were isolated, and they used to stay away from those things which were narrated by only one individual; they used to follow that which was most frequently narrated.
For always the mistake, we find that it was always narrated or passed down by one individual, or a group of students, all of whom recited to the same shaykh, and it (this particular mistake) was not known by anyone else.
In Part 2, we examine some practical advice the student can implement to handle this conflict, in sha Allah.