One of the greatest blessings that the internet has brought me is the chance to view videos of famous qurra the world over, past and present. There is nothing in this world that brings more peace and serenity than reading the Quran or listening to its recitation – even the Prophet salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam asked Ibn Mas`ud to recite the Quran to him. Ibn Mas`ud astonishingly asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah! Should I recite the Quran to you, and it has been revealed to you (one version adds: and you have taught it to me)?!’ To which the reply was given, ‘Yes, for I love to hear it being recited by others.’ (Reported in al-Bukhari, Muslim and Ahmed).
At first I was relying on YouTube to search for various old videos (this has got to be one of my favorite recitations – I grew up listening to his cassettes and it just brings back too many memories!). However, there are now some really good sites up that bring together these videos. The ones I use the most are QQuran.org, which concentrates on the ‘classical’ qurra of our times (check out their video section, and also their interviews with the famous qurra); and also a Turkish site that has quite a good selection.
Of course, there are dozens of superb sites that have audio only, one of the best is islamway.
I am always asked who my favorite qaris are; this is a matter of personal choice, and each person will undoubtedly have his or her preferences. But for me, the choice is crystal clear: the ‘classical’ mashayikh of this ancient art are far superior than any of the modern stars. For me, the single greatest Qari that stands heads and shoulders above the rest is Sh. Mahmud Khalil al-Hussari. He brings an elegance and purity to the recitation that is simply unmatched. He was the Shaykh al-Qurra of Egypt for almost two decades.
After him, my two favorites (in no specific order) are Sh. Muhammad Siddeeq al-Manshawi and Sh. Abd al-Basit Abd al-Samad. Both of them bring out the inner beauty of the Quran. Neadless to say, these three have absolutely perfect pronunciations of each and every syllable, letter, harakah, ghunnah, qalqalah, mudood, tafkheem, tarqeeq, and, most important of all, makharij. If ever in doubt, listen to any of these three recite and follow blindly :).
I really don’t fancy most of the modern qurra (as they say, to each his own – and in all honesty most of them are not masters of tajweed and make some small mistakes here and there), but I must admit Mishary Rashid al-Afasy appears to have been blessed with one of the flutes of Dawud. Abdullah al-Basfar also has perfect tajweed and pronunciation. A Qari that I personally love but is not that well-known is Abd al-Hadi Kanakiri; I like the simplicity and clarity of his recitation.
Feel free to post your own preferences and web-sites in the comments (especially to not-so-famous Qaris!)
I have a bit of a ‘hobby’ of listening to recitations of the Quran. From my own observation, I would state there are three primary ‘styles’ of recitation in the Muslim world, and three other ‘accents’ which try to imitate one of those three styles.
As for the ‘styles’ (not to be confused with the actual qira`aat which date back to the Prophet salla Allahu alahyi wa sallam, they are:
1) The Egyptian Style; characterized by a very strong emphasis on the pronunciation of very letter. Typically very slow, crystal clear. Has its unique fluctuations. Examples are Abd al-Basit, Manshawi, Nu`ayna, Taruti , Hindawi (you NEED to listen to these last three as well – I had the great pleasure of having Hindawi on my show when I taped some episodes of a Tajweed series in Egypt), and others.
2) The Khaleeji style; characterized (many times) by a strong nasality; a ‘musical’ type of rhythm; a lack of extra clear enunciation at the expense of vacillating tones (I am not implying that these qaris make mistakes in enunciation, although it is undeniable that many amongst them are not as precise as their Egyptian counterparts). Examples are Ghamidi, Afasy, Qahtani, Shatry, etc.
3) The Shami style; characterized by a sweetness of tone and intense euphonious voice. Examples are: Ahmad Jibreel; Dimashqiyyah; al-Tarabulsi, etc.
As for the three accents, I find that Qaris from Indonesia/Malaysia, Turkey, and India/Pakistan have slight accents, and try to follow one of the three styles (typically Egyptian).
Personally, I am never impressed with people who try to imitate other Qaris (where is your originality?!). There are dozens of wanna-be Abd al-Basits (this one really comes close!), including his own two sons, Yasir and Tariq (who actually have a very legitimate excuse to sound like their father!!) – but Abd al-Basit has established himself with his own style and voice. No one can re-do that style, and any imitation is just that: an imitation. The same goes for those who try to imitate Sudays or Shuraim or Ali Jaber or any other famous Qari.
By the way thanks for all the other links – can never get tired of listening to them!!