Two Scholarly Views on Reciting the Qur’ān with the Maqāmāt

The following are two scholar views, based upon my own loose translation, on a hotly contested issue among the scholars of the Qur’ān—the validity of the knowledge of maqāmāt (melodies and rhythm) in the recitation of the Qur’ān.

Shaykh Waleed Idrees al-Munaysi (Abu Khalid al-Sulami):

The summary of what the people of knowledge have said concerning this matter is that learning the maqāmāt and their use in reciting the Qur’ān is clearly forbidden if it is accompanied by musical instruments. As for the utilization of maqāmāt without musical instruments then there are four basic views, ranging from recommended to permissible to disliked to forbidden.

I personally incline to the view that the recitation of Qur’ān with excessive melody and singing (alḥān) is disliked, and that every Muslim should avoid it and suffice oneself with making the voice beautiful and complying with the rules of tajweed without exaggeration, for at the very least, reciting in such a manner takes away from khushū‘ (the spiritual element behind recitation).

As for the scholars of Egypt, as is well known, they are in two groups concerning this matter:

  1. The professional reciters on radio and media stations, may Allah forgive them, for the most part perfect the science of musical maqāmāt and recite by its principles and dictates. Some of them even formally learn music as part of their training in various musical institutes. In fact, many of the Egyptian radio stations require exams in musical principles and only select those reciters that become certified through these examinations.
  2. The second group are the scholars of Qur’ān and qirā’āt (the modes of Qur’ān reading). I have observed that most of them do not learn maqāmāt nor recite by them. These scholars for the most part do not recite in radio stations, but teach in masājid, private institutes or homes.

As for me personally, Allah has protected me and made me averse to this knowledge of maqāmāt, but I have met many who have perfected this science, many of them praying behind me in tarāwīḥ prayer in Ramaḍān. Some of them have sat down with me after the prayer and informed me that I recited this particular portion of prayer with the maqām of Ṣibā or the maqām of Bayyātī, and that portion with that maqām, or that I recited these verses with this maqām and ended with another, etc.

The lesson here is that if a Muslim recites the Qur’ān with tajweed, exercises some form of melody and endeavors to beautify the voice as much as he can, he will wind up corresponding with the patterns of some of these maqāmāt, even if that was not intended. This is similar to poetry and rhymes, for the one who hasn’t formally learned poetry or its meters sometimes winds up corresponding to some known metrics, which are recognized by those familiar with this science, despite the fact that the person is not a poet nor intended such. This is the difference between someone who arrives at some of the maqāmāt naturally and spontaneously and those who exaggerate, molding their tongues with the verses to conform with the dictates of the maqāmāt.

Shaykh Mishary bin Rashid Alafasy:

Question: Some recitors of the Qur’an recite according to particular melodies (maqaamaat). What is the ruling on that?

All praise is due to Allah, and blessings and salutations are upon our leader Muhammad.

First of all, let no one think that I am in this gathering to issue rulings or edicts (fatawa), for the matter of religious rulings has its own qualifications and scholars. But I will attempt to give an answer based on what I know. I was asked this same question on my website in the past and answered that the particular melodies (maqaamaat) of the Qur’an are similar to the meters of Arabic poetry (buhoor al-shi‘r), which are approximately 16 in number. Anyone who composes or recites poetry in Arabic on any measured scale, will inevitably correspond to one of these meters. Likewise is the matter of the maqaamaat of the Qur’an. Anyone who recites the Qur’an with melodious recitation (taghanni), which we have been commanded to do, as the Prophet said, “He is not from us who does not recite the Qur’an with melody (taghanni);” so long as he observes the rules and does it in a beautiful way will inevitably wind up corresponding to one of the maqaamaat.

So anyone who composes any type of Arabic prose or poetry will wind up corresponding to one of the 16 known meters of Arabic poetry, while anyone who recites the Qur’an with any type of melody and rhythm will wind up corresponding to one of the maqaamaat of the Qur’an. And Allah knows best.

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12 thoughts on “Two Scholarly Views on Reciting the Qur’ān with the Maqāmāt

  1. assalamu’alaykum
    Jazaak Allah Khayran!
    What exactly are they referring to when they mean Maqaamaat? Are they to the set of musical scales known in Arabic http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic_maqam ? Or does it refer to musical scales in general (which are in the dozens)?

    If it’s the former, I agree that if someone uses melody it will eventually sound like some scale.
    But if it’s the latter, this sort of opens the door to people using Rock, Blues, Jazz, and Country scales. That would be awful.
    Have other scholars put limits saying that it shouldn’t sound too much like music?

    Atif

    P.S. I got your book a couple of weeks ago in the mail, and mashaAllah it’s so professional and well-done. I’ve started to memorize the poem, and I’m really enjoying it. I’m going to write a review on my blog one day, inshaAllah after I fix the technical issues on it.

    • I am by no means an expert on the maqaamaat, but they refer to some sort of “musical” scales/patterns of recitation that are used by some in the Muslim world to recite in a beautiful way. I believe the Quranic scales are somewhat different from the purely musical scales.

  2. I have found the book of Shayk Ismail Londt and Shayk Abdul Azeez Brown very informative regarding the allowance of maqamat in recitation.They also provide referances with opinions of classicals scholars.May Allah reward them for their efforts Inshallah.

  3. Assalaamu alaikum Abu Zayd … jazakumullah khair for a very balanced presentation … unfortunately in this issue balance is often times missing, and some from ahlul-Quran start putting on their boxing gloves and jumping in the ring with others from ahlul-Quran, without ever trying to understand the other side’s opinion or leaving room for respectful disagreement in gray areas.

    I’ve left you a rather long facebook msg … inshaAllah we can discuss this further 🙂

  4. Salam Akh Aby Zayd… Sheikjh Waleed’s last name is Al-Maneesu (with A not U)
    JazakAllahu Khairan for the well written post.

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  6. Pingback: The ‘maqamaat’ | JoyManifest's Blog

  7. Assalam
    Muqamat help if no violation of regular muslim tradition of quran recitation, yes good tune is more effective if done with fear of Allha

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