By Chaplain Marc Manley who writes on www.marcmanley.com

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.

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, aqari’ [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 mutawatirhad two students [the next group].
  2. Riwayah [رواية]: it is that which relates to one of the narrators, arawin [راو]. These narrators took the recitation from the above group and dispersed it. Such examples might be Hafs ‘an ‘Asimor 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 [الطالب عن شيخه].
  3. Tariq []: these are in a sense the students of the rawaya [روايا أو راويون] narrators. An example of this might be a mushaf[physical copy of the Qur’an] which was the title of Khalaf ‘an Hamzah ‘ala Tariq al-Shatibiyyah, or Khalaf, the student of Imam Hamzah 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 Reciters are:

* 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:

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 eithermash’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 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 أويعلمون) so long as the other conditions are met.