References in the Qirā’āt

TreeSo you want to learn the qirā’āt (the various modes of Qurʼān readings)? Here is a synopsis of the literature on the subject, based upon my ongoing study.

  • al-Sab‘ah fi’l-Qirā’āt of Ibn Mujāhid (d 324H): This leading Qurʼānic scholar traveled widely in the Muslim world and painstakingly documented the most authentic modes of reading in this seminal work— which coincidentally came out to seven in number. This work was met with global acclaim and catapulted these seven Imāms of recitation to fame. In fact, nearly all subsequent works were based upon this selection. The major criticism leveled against his work is twofold— firstly, that only seven readings were chosen, whereas the number of authentic readings is actually greater than that; and secondly, the selection of seven led to the confusion among the masses that these were synonymous with the seven aḥruf (“dialects”) referenced in the Prophetic narrations. The students of Ibn Mujāhid responded that he never intended such and happened by chance to uncover seven authentic readings from his research and study.
  • Kitāb al-Tadhkirah fi’l-Qirā’āt al-Thimān of Abu’l-Hasan al-Ḥalbī (d 399H)
  • Kitāb al-Muntahā fi’l-Qirā’āt al-‘Ashr of Abu’l-Faḍl Muḥammad b. Ja‘far al-Khuzā‘ī (d 408H)
  • Kitāb al-Tabṣirah of Makkī b. Abī Ṭālib (d 430H)
  • Kitāb al-Rawḍah fi’l- Qirā’āt al-‘Iḥdā ‘Ashr of Abū ‘Alī al-Ḥasan al-Baghdādī (d 438H)
  • al-Taysīr fi’l-Qirā’āt al-Sab‘ of Abū ‘Amrū al-Dānī (d 444H): this author presented Ibn Mujāhid’s seven modes of readings
  • Kitāb Jāmi‘ul-Bayān fi’l-Qirā’āt al-Sab‘ of Abū ‘Amrū al-Dānī (d 444H)
  • Kitāb al-Mustanīr fi’l-Qirā’āt al-‘Ashr of Abū Ṭahir al-Baghdādī (d 496H)
  • Ḥirz al-Amānī wa Wajh al-Tahānī (al-Shāṭibiyyah) of Imām al-Qāsim al-Shāṭibī (d 590H): versified al-Taysīr into 1173 lines, it remains the most widely studied text to this day on the modes of reading.
  • Kitāb Sharḥ al-Shāṭibiyyah of al-Sakhāwī (d 643H)
  • Kitāb Jamāl al-Qurrā’ wa Ikmāl al-Iqrā’ of al-Sakhāwī (d 643H)
  • Kitāb Mufarridah Ya‘qūb of Abū Muḥammad al-Ṣa‘īdī (d 655H)
  • al-Durrah al-Maḍḍyah of Ibn al-Jazarī (d 833H): Ibn al-Jazarī was the ground-breaking scholar of the Qurʼān who once and for all consolidated the knowledge of the readings in a comprehensive and complete manner. In al-Durrah, he composed a versified text, upon the pattern of al-Shāṭibiyyah in which he added three more authentic readings to the seven of Ibn Mujahid.
  • al-Nashr fi’l-Qirā’āt al-‘Ashr of Ibn al-Jazarī: This work is a comprehensive encyclopedic text that includes all authentic modes of recitation, including the three of his previous work and the seven of al-Shāṭibiyyah through additional chains not found in those works. This work is considered by many to be the greatest of all works in the  modes of Qurʼānic readings, and the absolute standard in this field.
  • Tayyibah al-Nashr fi’l-Qirā’āt al-‘Ashr of Ibn al-Jazarī: This is a smaller work that is presents the key features of al-Nashr in verse form. It is more widely used than al-Nashr.

Contemporary Works:

  • Variant Readings of the Qurʼān: A Critical Study of Their Historical and Linguistic Origins by Ahmad ‘Ali al-Imam: an excellent academic survey of the readings by a Muslim author, this is perhaps the only English work of this nature in circulation (excluding the works written by Orientalists, of course).

Remarks:

We can conclude that the authentic and acceptable readings are limited to the seven chosen by Ibn Mujāhid plus the three later added by Ibn al-Jazarī. All other readings found in the literature or among the people are considered to be irregular and inauthentic (shādh), whose origins are likely from the personal musḥaf collections of the Companions and early Muslims, who often included explanatory remarks and words by way of commentary and clarification. These irregular readings are not considered to be Qurʼān but still have a role in understanding Qurʼānic commentary and Arabic language.

The text of al-Shāṭibiyyah (which contains the seven authentic readings chosen by Ibn Mujāhid) and al-Durrah (which include an additional three authentic readings) complete the ten authentic readings, which are collectively referred to as al-Qirā’āt al-‘Ashr al-Ṣughrā (the Ten Lesser Readings).  Ibn al-Jazarī’s other independent texts— al-Nashr and Tayyibah al-Nashr, establish the ten authentic readings independently from the former texts and are referred to as al-Qirā’āt al-‘Ashr al-Kubrā (the Ten Greater Readings).

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