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Qiraa’a‘ means the recitation of something. The word ‘qir’aat‘ is the plural of ‘qiraa’a‘, which comes from the root Q-R-A meaning, ‘to read, to recite’.


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Islamic meaning

In Qur’anic sciences, it refers to the various ways and manners of reciting the Qur’an. As Imaam az-Zarkashee stated, the Qur’aan is the revelation that was given to Muhammad (PBUH), and the qira’aat are the variations in the words and pronunciations of this revelation. Thus the qira’aat are the verbalization of the Qur’aan. Each qiraa’a has its own rules of recitation (tajweed) and variations in words and letters, and is names after the reciter (Qaaree) who was famous for that particular qiraa’a.


History of Qira’a

One of the primary method of transmission of the Qur’aan has always been oral. Each generation of Muslims learns the Qur’aan from the generation before it, and this chain continues backwards until the time of the Companions, who learnt it from the Prophet (S) himself. As ‘Umar ibn al-Khaattaab(R) stated, “The recitation of the Qur’aan is a Sunnah; the latter generations must take it from the earlier ones. This is the fundamental principal in the preservation of the Qur’aan.


Likewise, during his caliphate, ‘Uthmaan(R) also realised the importance of the proper recitation of the Qur’aan, and sent reciters of the Qur’aan all over the Muslim lands, each with a copy of his official mus-haf. The Companions, in turn, recited and taught these variations to the Successors (Tabi’oon), who taught them to the next generation (tabi’oon), and so on. Each generation had in its rank those who were famous for their knowledge of the recitation of the Qur’aan.


Thus, among the Companions, there were many who were famous as having heard from the Prophet (S). Included in this category are ‘Uthmaan ibn ‘Affaan(R), ‘Alee ibn Abee Taalib(R), ‘Ubay ibn Ka’ab(R), ‘Abdullaah ibn Mas’ood(R), Zayd ibn Thaabit(R), Aboo ad-Dardaa(R), and Aboo Moosaa al-Ash’aree(R) etc. These Companions taught those Companions who were younger or had not had as much exposure to the Prophet’s (S) recitation, such as Aboo Hurayrah(R) and Ibn ‘Abbaas(R), who both learnt from Ubay bin Kab(R). Some learnt from more than one Companion, as, for example, Ibn ‘Abbaas also learnt from Zayd ibn Thaabit.


Those famous among the Successors for the recitation of the Qur’aan are: in Madeenah,Sa’eed ibn al-Musayyib (d. 90 A.H.), ‘Urwah ibn az-Zubayr (d. 94 A.H.), Saalim (d. 106 A.H.), and ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-Azeez (d. 103 A.H.); in Makkah, ‘Ubayd ibn ‘Umayr (d. 72 A.H.), ‘Ataa ibn Abee Rabah (d. 114 A.H.), Taawoos (d. 106 A.H.), Mujaahid (d. 103 A.H.) and ‘Ikrimah (d. 104 A.H.); in Koofah, ‘Alqamah ibn Qays (d. 60 A.H.), Aboo ‘Abd al-Rahmaan as-Sulamee (d. 70 A.H.), Ibraaheem al-Nakhaa’ee (d. 96 A.H.) and ash-Sha’bee (d. 100 A.H.); in Basrah, Aboo al-Aaliyah (d. 90 A.H.), Nasr ibn ‘Aasim (d. 89 A.H.), Qataadah (d. 110 A.H.), Ibn Sireen (d. 110 A.H.) and Yahya ibn Ya’mar (d. 100 A.H.); and in Syria, al-Mugheerah ibn Abee Shihaab and Khaleefah ibn Sa’ad.[1]



Gabriel taught me to recite in one style. I replied to him and kept asking him to give more (styles), till he reached seven modes (of recitation). Ibn Shibab said: It has reached me that these seven styles are essentially one, not differing about what is permitted and what is forbidden. Sahih Muslim 819 (Book 4, Hadith 1785)


The Qur'an was sent down in seven recite it in the way that is easiest for you.’” Sahih al Bukhari, 2287; Sahih Muslim, 818


Famous Reciters or Qaari

The seven readers or reciters were: 

  1. Naafi’ al-Madani
  2. Ibn Katheer al-Makki
  3. ‘Aasim al-Kufi
  4. Hamzah al-Zayaat al-Kufi
  5. Al-Kisaa’i al-Kufi
  6. Abu ‘Amr ibn al-‘Ala’ al-Basri
  7. ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Aamir al-Shaami 

The ones who have the strongest isnaad in recitation are Naafi’ and ‘Aasim. [2]


See Also

Qur’an; Sahaba in Islam; History of the preservation of the Qur'an;






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