What is Qiraat?
Qiraat refers to the various methods of reciting the Quran. In Arabic, the term for these methods is Tilawah, which translates to “reading aloud from memory.” It is a tradition that goes back to the Prophet Muhammad, who received the revelation of the Quran in different dialects and modes to facilitate easier understanding and recitation by his followers.
The Significance of Qiraat in Islam
The significance of Qiraat lies in its diversity, which allows for a wider appreciation and engagement with the Quranic text. It is not simply about pronunciation or phonetics but encompasses a broader spectrum of linguistic and dialectical variations, which are considered divine accommodations for different Arabic tribes at the time of revelation.
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Difference Between Qiraat and Tajweed
While Qiraat focuses on the method of recitation, Tajweed refers to the rules governing the pronunciation during recitation. Tajweed is concerned with the proper enunciation of letters and the application of characteristics such as the elongation of vowels, intonation, and pausing, which are essential for a correct and beautiful recitation of the Quran ( Tajweed Rules ).
Historical Background of Qiraat
Transmission of Quranic Recitation
The recitation of the Quran, as we know it today, has been meticulously preserved and transmitted across generations. The historical transmission began with the Prophet Muhammad, who was taught the Quran by the Angel Jibreel (Gabriel). The Prophet, in turn, imparted this knowledge to his companions, ensuring a chain of transmission that has continued to this day. This oral tradition is a cornerstone of Islamic education and spirituality.
Hadith Reference to the Seven Styles
The concept of multiple Qiraat is rooted in Islamic tradition and is supported by several hadiths. One such hadith, narrated by Ibn Abbas, states that the Prophet Muhammad said, “Jibreel taught me one style and I reviewed it until he taught me more, and I kept asking him for more and he gave me more until finally there were seven styles” (narrated by al-Bukhaari, 3047; Muslim, 819). This hadith underscores the existence of seven distinct styles (ahruf) of recitation that were taught to the Prophet, accommodating the linguistic diversity of the Muslim community of that time.
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The Seven Mutawatir Qiraat
Overview of Mutawatir Qiraat
The term Mutawatir Qiraat refers to the recitations of the Quran that have been transmitted through numerous chains of narrators at each stage of their transmission, leaving no doubt as to their authenticity. These seven Qiraat have been widely accepted and practiced within the Islamic world due to their strong and continuous chains of narration back to the Prophet Muhammad.
The Seven Canonical Reciters
Here is a list of the seven reciters associated with the Mutawatir Qiraat, along with their respective death years in the Hijri calendar:
|Death Year (Hijri)
|Imam Nafi’ al-Madani
|Imam Ibn Kathir ad-Dimashqi
|Imam Abu ‘Amr ibn al-‘Ala’
|Imam Ibn ‘Amir ash-Shami
|Imam ‘Asim al-Kufi
|Imam Hamza az-Zaiyyat
|Imam Ali al-Kisa’i
Origins of the Qiraat
Each of these reciters came from different regions of the Muslim world, and their Qiraat reflected the linguistic nuances of their respective locales. They learned and taught these recitations in major centers of Islamic learning, ensuring their propagation throughout the Islamic empire. Their contributions have shaped the way the Quran is recited and memorized to this day.
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The Three Mashhur Qiraat
Understanding Mashhur Qiraat
Mashhur Qiraat are recitations of the Quran that have been transmitted through a smaller number of chains compared to the Mutawatir. Despite the lesser number of narrators, these recitations are still considered authentic and reliable, but they are not as widely practiced as the Mutawatir recitations. The Mashhur Qiraat includes the readings of three additional reciters who are recognized for their mastery and contribution to the Quranic recitations.
The Ten Qiraat
Scholarly Acceptance of the Ten Qiraat
In addition to the seven Mutawatir Qiraat, scholars have identified three other authentic Qiraat, making up a total of ten. These ten Qiraat are considered the most reliable methods of reciting the Quran, each with its own chain of transmission and unique linguistic characteristics. They have been thoroughly researched and authenticated by Islamic scholars through the ages.
Fixed and Complementary Readings
The ten Qiraat consist of seven fixed readings and three complementary readings. The fixed readings are those that have been established through stronger chains of transmission and are more widely recognized. The complementary readings, while authentic, are based on fewer chains and are often studied after the fixed readings. Each of the ten Qiraat has contributed to the rich diversity of Quranic recitation and has allowed for a broader understanding and appreciation of the Quran’s linguistic depth.
The Role of the Ten Qiraat in Islamic Tradition
The ten Qiraat are not just different styles of recitation but represent a comprehensive approach to understanding the divine message of the Quran. They embody the beauty of linguistic variation and serve as a means to connect with the Quranic text on a deeper level. Scholars and reciters of the Quran continue to study and teach these ten Qiraat, ensuring the preservation of this integral aspect of Islamic heritage.