One of the earliest manuscripts of Tuhfat ul Atfal, from the al-Azhar Library Collection 385/29810.

One of the earliest manuscripts of Tuhfat ul Atfal, from the al-Azhar Library Collection 385/29810.

A Closer Look at the Historical Transmission of this Popular Text

pdfdThe poem Tuḥfat al-Aṭfāl, authored by the Egyptian scholar Sulaymān Ḥusayn al-Jamzūrī [died circa 1198AH/1783-4CE], has been memorized, taught and kept alive by countless individuals since its authorship more than two centuries ago, making it the single most utilized resource for learning Tajweed to this day. Since that time, it has continued to be transmitted in the traditional manner, in the line of great classical works of Islamic learning, complete with formal authorization (ijāzah) and chains of transmission (isnād) tracing the line of one’s teachers back to the author. These documents exist across the Muslim world in various shapes and forms, handwritten, transcribed and sometimes even oral; at times free-standing and sometimes as part of larger written works.

Despite its great popularity as a traditional text, however, the chain of transmission of Tuḥfat al-Aṭfāl to the author remains problematic for a variety of reasons. Continue reading

Teaching the Qur’ān is the Greatest Service

It is related from Abū ‘Abdu’l-Raḥmān al-Sulamī on the authority of ‘Uthmān b. ‘Affān that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The best of you are those who learn the Qur’ān and teach it to others.” Abū ‘Abdu’l-Raḥmān said, “This statement is what made me sit in this place of mine.”

[Bukhārī 4639, 4640, Abū Dāwūd 1240, al-Tirmidhī 2832, 2833, al-Dārimī 3204, Ibn Mājah 207, 208, Aḥmad 382, 389, 469]

This concise but crucial ḥadīth contains within its chain of narrators some of the most influential personalities related to the Holy Qur’ān and within its text the statement that inspired them so.

To begin with, the proclamation comes from the mouth of the very man, the Messenger, whose primary mission it was to deliver this Book to the world and show them how to live it. His entire life was tirelessly devoted to this Qur’ānic mission and inspiring others to do the same. Continue reading

8 Reasons for the Prevalence of the Ḥafṣ Reading

Question: I would like to ask a question about the Riwāyah of Ḥafṣ from Imām ʿĀṣim. Is this the first Qirāʾah (Reading) of the Qurʾān? Why is it more prevalent in the world than the other Readings? Is it the most grammatically eloquent of the Readings, or is it the easiest? Is this the Reading that was recited by the Companions the most? Why is the Riwāyah of Shuʿbah not as prevalent, since he was also a transmitter from Imām ʿĀṣim?

Answer by Shaykh Muḥammad al-ʿArīfī:

All praise is for Allah, the Noble and Graceful One, the One who showers blessings and excellence, the One Merciful to His friends, Who brings them out of darkness into light and guides them to the even way. Blessings are invoked for the one who was sent as a mercy to the worlds, and upon his family, companions and those who followed his guidance and practiced his way until the Day of Judgment. To proceed:

Every generation has witnessed a group of people concerned with memorizing the Noble Qurʾān and transmitting its reading. However, when disputes arose in the ummah surrounding the various ways the ʿUthmānic muṣḥafs were being read, from matters such as the vowels, the imālah pronunciation, the assimilation of certain letters, differences regarding the hamzah letter and other features of the different modes of reading, the people of knowledge agreed to choose from each region a well-known scholar of the Qurʾān who was known for his trustworthiness, reliability and precision, so that the people could take the Qurʾān from them, so long as these Readings were transmitted in a multiplicitous manner (tawātur), conformed with the ʿUthmānic script and were broadly consistent with the principles of Arabic grammar.

Continue reading

Shaykh Waleed Atif Back in the US !

I have the pleasure and honor of spending this Ramadan with my teacher in Tajweed Shaykh Waleed Atif of Alexandria. For those who don’t know, Shaykh Waleed was the inspiration behind my Tajweed book Childrens Bequest, which is based primarily on his lessons. After nearly a decade, Shaykh Waleed, master of Quranic readings, returns to the US to lead Taraweeh prayer in al-Minhaal Center in South Plainfield, NJ. Exhausted from his flight a few hours earlier, he led prayers flawlessly, delivering a recitation characterized by power, precision and sweetness. This video is from Ramadan 2, August 2 2011. Please visit my youtube channel for the nightly recordings.

Weekend of Ulum al Qur’an

I had the honor of cosponsoring, through the Qur’an Literacy Institute, an amazing weekend devoted to Ulum al-Qur’an. What a weekend filled with knowledge! Our guest was Shaykh Uthman Khan of the Jazriyya Institute ( Here is the Friday night lecture to a packed house at MCMC NJ. Powerpoint Slides for the Saturday seminar may be downloaded here.

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.