Chaplain Chats – Intro to Reciting the Qur’an

The following are some loose notes from a talk I delivered at the University of Pennsylvania on March 12th, 2012, on the topic of qira’at al-Qur’an or the Recitations of the Qur’an. I will try to provide some succinct information on some of the terminology, also known as istilahat (اصطلاحات) as well as the various qurra’ (قراء) or reciters.

Listen to the audio from the Chaplain Chat here.

When we say there is a qira’ah of the Qur’an, what we mean is really three things:

  1. Qira’ah (قراءة): it is that which relates to one of the Ten Reciters, a qari’ (قاريء). These Ten are sometimes known as al-‘Ashr al-Ma’rifun (العشر المعرفون). For example, Imam ‘Asim and Imam Ibn Kathir are from this group. Each of the Seven Reciters (known for their chains of narration (sanad), which are mutawatir, had two students (the next group).
  2. Riwayah (رواية): it is that which relates to one of the narrators, a rawin (راو). These narrators took the recitation from the above group and dispersed it. Such examples might be Hafs ‘an ‘Asim or al-Susi ‘an Abi ‘Amru, with ‘Asim and Abu ‘Amru being the teachers of Imam Hafs and Imam al-Susi respectively. Think of it as student ‘an teacher (lit., Hafs the student of ‘Asim, Qunbul the student of Ibn Kathir, etc.) (الطالب عن شيخه).
  3. Tariq (طريق): these are in a sense the students of the rawaya (روايا أو راويون) or narrators. An example of this might be a mushaf (physical copy of the Qur’an) which has the title of Qunbul  ‘an Ibn Kathir min Tariq al-Shatibiyyah, or Qunbul, the student of Imam Ibn Kathir from the chain of al-Shatibiyyah. For time’s sake, we will not be delving into al-Azraq or al-Shatibiyyah but do know that there is this third component.

The Seven Mutawatir Reciters are:

  • Imam Nafi’: his two students were Warsh and Qalun. Therefore you have the recitation of Wash ‘an Nafi’ or Qalun ‘an Nafi’. Imam Nafi’ is from the Madinah school.
  • Imam Ibn Kathir: his two students were al-Bazzi and Qunbul (incidentally, these are sometimes also pronounced al-Buzzi and Qanbal). Their recitations are known as al-Bazzi ‘an Ibn Kathir and Qunbul ‘an Ibn Kathir. Ibn Kathir is from the Makkah school.
  • Imam Abu ‘Amru: his two students were al-Susi and al-Duri*. Their recitations are known as al-Susi ‘an Abi ‘Amru and al-Duri ‘an Abi ‘Amru. Abu ‘Amru is from the ‘Iraqi school (al-Kufah).
  • Imam Ibn ‘Amir: his two students were Hisham and Ibn Dhakwan. Their recitations are known as Hisham ‘an Ibn ‘Amir and Ibn Dhakwan ‘an Abi ‘Amir.
  • Imam ‘Asim: his two students were Hafs and Shu’bah. Their recitations are known as Hafs ‘an ‘Asim (the most commonly recited narration today) and Shu’bah ‘an ‘Asim. Imam ‘Asim is also from the Kufic school of ‘Iraq.
  • Imam Hamzah: his two students were Khalaf and Khallad. Their recitations are Khalaf ‘an Hamzah and Khallad ‘an Hamzah. Imam Hamzah is also from the Kufic ‘Iraqi school.
  • Imam al-Kisa’i: his two students were Abu al-Harith and al-Duri*. Their recitations are Abu al-Harith ‘an al-Kisa’i and al-Duri ‘an al-Kisa’i. Imam al-Kisa’i is also from the Kufic ‘Iraqi school.

* al-Duri is the only student to have taken narrations from two Master Reciters: Abu ‘Amru and al-Kisa’i.

The Three Mash’hur Reciters:

  • Abu Ja’far.
  • Ya’qub.
  • Khalaf.

Three major conditions for being classified as a qira’ah:

  1. Sound chain of narration: narrators were continuous, well known for their piety and were known to possess Sound memories. The recitation must also be dispersed by a large number of narrators after the Sahabah (this is the condition of mutawatir). Narrations which did not fit this stringent category were considered either mash’hur (as in the case of Abu Ja’far, etc.) or irregular (shaddh).
  2. The recitation had to match the grammatical rules and constructions of the Arabic language. This was acceptable even if they matched styles only found in the Jahiliyyah poetry (pre-Islamic poetry).
  3. The narration had to agree with the script of one of the copies of the Qur’an disseminated by Khalif ‘Uthman Ibn ‘Affan in the ‘Uthmani script (al-Rasm al-Uthmani/الرسم العثماي). This is why it is acceptable to have differences in the “dot placement” (تعلمون أو يعلمون) so long as the other conditions are met.

When time permits, I will try and upload more audio files of the various qira’at/riwayat of the Qur’an, in sha’Allah.

Epiphany of the Self-minded Soul

The following is an article that I wrote back in 2007 that I shelved for one reason or another. Having recenlty updated my web site as well as having consolidated the Manrilla Blog into the main fold, I thought I would share these thoughts. They apply as well in 2011 as they did four years ago.

It is not my customary approach to be preachy. On the whole, I despise self-aggrandizing rhetoric but I feel compelled to share the thoughts that came over me this morning. I had an experience today while going to take my final. Not exactly an epiphany but something significant none the less.

To give a little background, I have been re-reading Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr over again lately as well as some biographical material on the Prophet, sallahu alayhi wa sallam, as well as my general Qur’ānic readings for memorization. And as I was striding up to Temple to hand in my final paper, I lamented about having to drop a course this term. My initial reaction was, “Damn. One more class I gotta make up.” And as my mind started to crunch the data as to how far that might set me back a little light went off in my head…

It is so often that we humans think of things in both linear fashions as well as leaning towards individualistic tendencies. It’s normal, I suppose, though that should be no excuse to not combat those innate characteristics of our being that are less desirable. So to begin to bring this together, the Qur’ānic verse went off in my head [translation mine]: “Lā yukallifu Allahu nafsan illā wus’uhā”

لا يكلف الله نفسا إلا وسعها

God does not place a burden on a soul greater than it can bear.  [Qur’ān, The Cow: 2:286]

For the first time in my fifteen years (now nineteen as of this article’s date!) as a Muslim, I reexamined this verse (a trend I seem to be doing more as of late). What did it mean? Was it straightforward as it seemed or could there be something further, something more subtle or even more expansive. As this thought was bouncing around in my head another verse went off, from the sūrah I’m currently memorizing, Yunus [Jonah]: “Wa idhā massa al-Insāna ad-durru da’ānā li janbihi aw qā’idan aw qā’iman. Fa lammā kashafnā ‘anhu durrahu marra ka ‘in lam yada’unā ilā durrin massa, kadhālika zuyyina lilmusrifiyna mā kanuw ya’ lamuwn”

و إذا مس الإنسن الضر دعانا لجنبه أو قائدا أو قائمافلما كشفنا عنه ضره مر كإن لم يدعنا إلا ضر مسه كذلك زين للمسرفين ما كانوا يعملون

And when a calamity touches Mankind, he calls upon Us, laying on his side, sitting, or standing), “. [Qur’ān, Jonah: 10:12]

To complete the triumvant, the next two verses also chimed in, “Inna al-Insaana lirbbihi lakanuwd, wa innahu ‘alaa dthaalika lashahiyd”

إن الإنسن لربه لكنود و إنه على ذلك لشهيد

Without a doubt, Mankind is ungrateful to his Lord and He is a witness to it. [Qur’ān, The Steeds: 100:6-7]

Ingratitude? Arrogance? All in face of God’s bounty? That’s what started to piece together. It is so often that Man [and I lump myself in here] sees his calamity from his own perspective, judging it from his/mine/our limited scope or viewpoint. But God sees everything from all stances. Was it lamentable that I had to drop a course or could that in itself be the burden I was unable to bear? Sadly, at the time of dropping my course, not once did I give thought that this may be a rahmah [a mercy]. Ibn Kathīr points out two valid opinions on interpreting, “wa innahu ‘alaa dthaalika lashahiyd”? [and He (or he) is a witness to it], meaning that God is most certainly aware of Mankind’s ungracious attitude. But the second opinion is that Man himself is aware of this. Perhaps now, in hindsight, I have become aware of my ingratitude.

Again, I hope this will not be taken as grandstanding but as one brother who just wants to share some thoughts – God knows best.