In Islam, Qira'at (literally "recitations" or "readings") refers to variants in the recitation of the Quran. There are ten different recognised schools of qira'at, each one deriving its name from a noted Quran reciter or "reader" (Qari). Each reciter recited to two narrators whose narrations are known as riwaya (transmissions) and named after its primary narrator. Each Rawi (singular of riwaya) has turuq (transmission lines) with more variants created by notable students of the master who recited them and named after the student of the master. Passed down from Turuq are wujuh: the wajh of so-and-so from the tariq of so-and-so. There are about twenty riwayat and eighty turuq.[1]

Various hadith — where Muhammad listens to recitations of various companions and approves of each of them,[2] or corrects Umar's berating another companion's recitation saying the "Quran has been revealed in seven Ahruf",[3] or claim Muhammad asked the angel Jibreel to teach him different styles of recitation until he had learned seven[4] — provide an Islamic basis for the different variants (Ahruf) of the Quran. (Both Ahruf and Qira'at are variations in recitation but Ahruf were discontinued by order of caliph Uthman sometime in the mid-7th century CE when "the Quran began to be read in only one harf (variation)",[5] while the seven readings of the Qira'at began to be passed down in the 8th century CE.)[6]

Differences between Qira'at are slight and include differences in stops,[Note 1] vowels,[Note 2] and sometimes letters.[Note 3] Recitation should be in accordance with rules of pronunciation, intonation, and caesuras established by Muhammad and first recorded during the eighth century CE. The maṣḥaf Quran that is in "general use" throughout almost all the Muslim world today, is a 1924 Egyptian edition based on the Qira'at reading of Ḥafṣ (the Rawi, "transmitter"), on the authority of `Asim (the Qari, "reader").[7] Each melodic passage centers on a single tone level, but the melodic contour and melodic passages are largely shaped by the reading rules (creating passages of different lengths, whose temporal expansion is defined with caesuras). Skilled readers may read professionally for urban mosques.

Basis for seven Ahruf in hadithEdit

Hadith literature differs on variants of the Quran. According to some hadith, the Quran was revealed in seven Ahruf (the plural of harf) or styles; Muhammad listens to their recitations and approves each of them. According to Saalih al-Munajjid, "the best of the scholarly opinions" defining Ahruf is wording which differs but has the same meaning.[2] The best-known hadith on Ahruf is reported in the Muwatta, compiled by Malik ibn Anas. According to Malik,[3]

Abd Al-Rahman Ibn Abd al-Qari narrated: "Umar Ibn al-Khattab said before me: I heard Hisham Ibn Hakim Ibn Hizam reading Surat Al-Furqan in a different way from the one I used to read it, and the Prophet himself had read out this surah to me. Consequently, as soon as I heard him, I wanted to get hold of him. However, I gave him respite until he had finished the prayer. Then I got hold of his cloak and dragged him to the Prophet. I said to him: "I have heard this person [Hisham Ibn Hakim Ibn Hizam] reading Surah Al Furqan in a different way from the one you had read it out to me." The Prophet said: "Leave him alone [O 'Umar]." Then he said to Hisham: "Read [it]." [Umar said:] "He read it out in the same way as he had done before me." [At this,] the Prophet said: "It was revealed thus." Then the Prophet asked me to read it out. So I read it out. [At this], he said: "It was revealed thus; this Quran has been revealed in seven Ahruf. You can read it in any of them you find easy from among them.

Saalih al-Munajjid cites a hadith of Abd Allah ibn Abbas, who narrated that Muhammad said that the angel Jibreel (Gabriel, who revealed the Quran to Muhammad) "taught me one style and I reviewed it until he taught me more, and I kept asking him for more and he gave me more until finally there were seven styles".[4][2]

Suyuti, a noted 15th-century Islamic theologian, concludes his discussion of this hadith:[8]

And to me the best opinion in this regard is that of the people who say that this Hadith is from among matters of mutashabihat, the meaning of which cannot be understood.

However, other reports contradict the presence of variant readings.[9] Abu Abd Al-Rahman al-Sulami writes, "The reading of Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Zayd ibn Thabit and that of all the Muhajirun and the Ansar was the same. They would read the Quran according to the Qira'at al-'ammah. This is the same reading which was read out twice by the Prophet to Gabriel in the year of his death. Zayd ibn Thabit was also present in this reading [called] the 'Ardah-i akhirah. It was this very reading that he taught the Quran to people till his death".[10] According to Ibn Sirin, "The reading on which the Quran was read out to the prophet in the year of his death is the same according to which people are reading the Quran today".[11]

Other hadithEdit

  • From Abu Hurairah: The Messenger of Allah said: "The Quran was sent down in seven ahruf. Disputation concerning the Qurʾan is unbelief" - he said this three times - "and you should put into practice what you know of it, and leave what you do not know of it to someone who does"[12] ... The Messenger of Allah said: "An All-knowing, Wise, Forgiving, Merciful sent down the Qur'an in seven ahruf."[12]
  • From ʿAbdallâh Ibn Masʿūd: The Messenger of Allah said: "The Quran was sent down in seven ahruf. Each of these ahruf has an outward aspect (zahr) and an inward aspect (batn); each of the ahruf has a border, and each border has a lookout."[12]

The meaning of this hadith is explained:[12] (p. 31)

As for the Prophet's words concerning the Quran, each of the ahruf has a border, it means that each of the seven aspects has a border which God has marked off and which no one may overstep. And as for his words Each of the ahruf has an outward aspect (zahr) and an inward aspect (batn), its outward aspect is the ostensive meaning of the recitation, and its inward aspect is its interpretation, which is concealed. And by his words each border ... has a lookout he means that for each of the borders which God marked off in the Quran - of the lawful and unlawful, and its other legal injunctions - there is a measure of God's reward and punishment which surveys it in the Hereafter, and inspects it ... at the Resurrection ...

  • Abdullah Ibn Masʿud said: The Messenger of Allah said: "The first Book came down from one gate according to one harf, but the Quran came down from seven gates according to seven ahruf: prohibiting and commanding, lawful and unlawful, clear and ambiguous, and parables. So, allow what it makes lawful, proscribe what it makes unlawful, do what it commands you to do, forbid what it prohibits, be warned by its parables, act on its clear passages, trust in its ambiguous passages." And they said: "We believe in it; it is all from our Lord."[12] (p. 39)
  • Abu Qilaba narrated: It has reached me that the Prophet said: "The Quran was sent down according to seven ahruf: command and prohibition, encouragement of good and discouragement of evil, dialectic, narrative, and parable."[12]

Difference between Qira'at and AhrufEdit

*Rasm (in black) was the only script found in the earliest surviving fragments of the Quran. Most variations of the Quran that had different rasm were found in Ahruf variants.[13]
*I‘jām or nuqat al-I'jam (examples in red) was added in later arabic (possibly around 700 CE)[14] so that consonants letters such as these five letters ـبـ ـتـ ـثـ ـنـ ـيـ could be distinguished.
*Ḥarakāt or nuqaṭ ali'rab (examples in blue) indicate short vowels which have been used in the Quran but not in most written arabic. Variations among Qira'at tend to involve only harakat.

Although both Qira'at and Ahruf refer to recitation of the Quran, they are not the same. Ahruf variants were more significant (involving differences in the consonants of the some words of the Quran) and Caliph 'Uthman is believed to have eliminated all but one.[14] The seven Qira'at readings which are currently notable were selected by Abu Bakr Ibn Mujahid (died 324 AH, 936 CE) from prominent reciters of his time, three from Kufa and one each from Mecca, Medina, and Basra and Damascus.[15]

Bilal Philips writes that the Quran continued to be read according to the seven ahruf until midway through Caliph 'Uthman's rule, when confusion developed in the outlying provinces about the Quran's recitation. Some Arab tribes boasted about the superiority of their ahruf, and rivalries began; new Muslims also began combining the forms of recitation out of ignorance. Caliph 'Uthman decided to make official copies of the Quran according to the writing conventions of the Quraysh and send them with the Quranic reciters to the Islamic centres. His decision was approved by Sahaabah, and all unofficial copies of the Quran were ordered destroyed; Uthman carried out the order. After the distribution of the official copies, the other ahruf were dropped and the Quran began to be read in one harf. The Quran which is currently available worldwide is written and recited according to the harf of Quraysh.[5]

Philips writes that Qira'at is primarily a method of pronunciation used in recitations of the Quran. These methods are different from the seven forms, or modes (ahruf), in which the Quran was revealed. The methods have been traced back to Muhammad through a number of Sahaabah (companions) who were noted for their Quranic recitations; they recited the Quran to Muhammad (or in his presence), and received his approval. The Sahaabah included:

  • Ubayy Ibn K'ab
  • 'Alee Ibn Abi Taalib
  • Zayd Ibn Thaabit
  • 'Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud
  • Abu ad-Dardaa
  • Abu Musaa al-Ash'aree

Many of the other Sahaabah learned from them; master Quran commentator Ibn 'Abbaas learned from Ubayy and Zayd.[5] (pp. 29–30)

According to Philips, in the next generation of Muslims (referred to as Tabi'in) were many scholars who learned the methods of recitation from the Sahaabah and taught them to others. Centres of Quranic recitation developed in al-Madeenah, Makkah, Kufa, Basrah and Syria, leading to the development of Quranic recitation as a science. By the mid-eighth century CE, a large number of scholars were considered specialists in the field of recitation. Most of their methods were authenticated by chains of reliable narrators, ending with Muhammad. The methods which were supported by a large number of reliable narrators on each level of their chain were called mutawaatir, and were considered the most accurate. Methods in which the number of narrators were few (or only one) on any level of the chain were known as shaadhdh. Some scholars of the following period began the practice of designating a set number of individual scholars from the previous period as the most noteworthy and accurate. The number seven became popular by the mid-10th century, since it coincided with the number of dialects in which the Quran was revealed.[5] (p. 30)

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi writes about hadith in Muwatta[3] that if Ahruf are taken in the context of pronunciation (for which the words are lughat and lahjat), the content of the hadith rejects this meaning; Umar and Hisham belonged to the same tribe (the Quraysh), and members of the same tribe cannot use different pronunciations. Ghamidi questions the hadith which claim "variant readings", on the basis of Quranic verses ([Quran 87:6-7], [Quran 75:16-19]), the Quran was compiled during Muhammad's lifetime and questions the hadith which report its compilation during Uthman's reign.[9] Since most of these narrations are reported by Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri, Imam Layth Ibn Sa'd wrote to Imam Malik:[9][16]

And when we would meet Ibn Shihab, there would arise a difference of opinion in many issues. When any one of us would ask him in writing about some issue, he, in spite of being so learned, would give three very different answers, and he would not even be aware of what he had already said. It is because of this that I have left him – something which you did not like.

Abu 'Ubayd Qasim Ibn Sallam (died 224 AH) reportedly selected twenty-five readings in his book. The seven readings which are currently notable were selected by Abu Bakr Ibn Mujahid (died 324 AH, 936 CE) at the end of the third century. It is generally accepted that although their number cannot be ascertained, every reading is Quran which has been reported through a chain of narration and is linguistically correct. Some readings are regarded as mutawatir, but their chains of narration indicate that they are ahad (isolate) and their narrators are suspect in the eyes of rijal authorities.[9]

Quranic orthographyEdit

To ensure the correct reading of the Quran (particularly for those following the first generation of Muslims), gradual steps were taken to improve its orthography. This began with the introduction of dots to distinguish similarly-shaped consonants, followed by dots (to indicate different vowels) and nunation in different-coloured ink from the text. The work was done primarily by Abu'l Aswad ad-Du'alî (d. 69 AH/688 CE), Naṣr Ibn ʿĀṣim (d. 89 AH/707 CE) and Yaḥya Ibn Yaʿmur (d. 129 AH/746 CE). There was initial opposition to any additions to the Quran. Although Ibn ʿUmar (73/692) disliked the dotting, others welcomed it because it ensured the proper reading of the Quran as received from Muhammad; the latter view has been accepted by most Muslims throughout the Muslim world since the Tabi'un. The people of Madinah reportedly used red dots for vowels (tanwin, tashdid, takhfif, sukun, waṣl and madd) and yellow dots for hamzas. Naqt (dotting the rasm), became a separate subject of study.

The ten readers and their transmittersEdit

The seven readers and their transmitters
Qari (reader) Rawi (transmitter)
Name Born Died Full name Details Name Born Died Full name Details Current region
Nafi‘ al-Madani 70 AH 169 AH (785 CE)[6] Ibn 'Abd ar-Rahman Ibn Abi Na'im, Abu Ruwaym al-Laythi Persian with roots from Isfahan. Is commonly confused with Nafi' the mawla of Ibn Umar. Qalun 120 AH 220 AH (835 CE)[6] Abu Musa, 'Isa Ibn Mina al-Zarqi Client of Bani Zuhrah Libya, Tunisia, and parts of Al-Andalus and Qatar[17]
Warsh 110 AH 197 AH (812 CE)[6] 'Uthman Ibn Sa'id al-Qutbi Egyptian; client of Quraysh Al-Andalus, Algeria, Morocco, parts of Tunisia, West Africa and Sudan,[17] and parts of Libya
Ibn Kathir al-Makki 45 AH 120 AH (738 CE)[6] 'Abdullah, Abu Ma'bad al-'Attar al-Dari Persian Al-Bazzi 170 AH 250 AH (864 CE)[6] Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn 'Abdillah, Abu al-Hasan al-Buzzi Persian
Qunbul 195 AH 291 AH (904 CE)[6] Muhammad Ibn 'Abd ar-Rahman, al-Makhzumi, Abu 'Amr Meccan and Makhzumi (by loyalty)
Abu 'Amr Ibn al-'Ala' 68 AH 154 AH (770 CE)[6] Zuban Ibn al-'Ala' at-Tamimi al-Mazini, al-Basri Al-Duri 150 AH 246 AH (860 CE)[6] Abu 'Amr, Hafs Ibn 'Umar Ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Baghdadi Grammarian, blind Parts of Sudan and West Africa[17]
Al-Susi ? 261 AH (874 CE)[6] Abu Shu'ayb, Salih Ibn Ziyad Ibn 'Abdillah Ibn Isma'il Ibn al-Jarud ar-Riqqi
Ibn Amir ad-Dimashqi 8 AH 118 AH (736 CE)[6] 'Abdullah Ibn 'Amir Ibn Yazid Ibn Tamim Ibn Rabi'ah al-Yahsibi Hisham 153 AH 245 AH (859 CE)[6] Abu al-Walid, Hisham ibn 'Ammar Ibn Nusayr Ibn Maysarah al-Salami al-Dimashqi Parts of Yemen[17]
Ibn Dhakwan 173 AH 242 AH (856 CE)[6] Abu 'Amr, 'Abdullah Ibn Ahmad al-Qurayshi al-Dimashqi
Aasim ibn Abi al-Najud ? 127 AH (745 CE)[6] Abu Bakr, 'Aasim Ibn Abi al-Najud al-'Asadi Persian ('Asadi by loyalty) Shu'bah 95 AH 193 AH (809 CE)[6] Abu Bakr, Shu'bah Ibn 'Ayyash Ibn Salim al-Kufi an-Nahshali Nahshali (by loyalty)
Hafs 90 AH 180 AH (796 CE)[6] Abu 'Amr, Hafs Ibn Sulayman Ibn al-Mughirah Ibn Abi Dawud al-Asadi al-Kufi Muslim world generally[17]
Hamzah az-Zaiyyat 80 AH 156 AH (773 CE)[6] Abu 'Imarah, Hamzah Ibn Habib al-Zayyat al-Taymi Persian (Taymi by loyalty) Khalaf 150 AH 229 AH (844 CE)[6] Abu Muhammad al-Asadi al-Bazzar al-Baghdadi
Khallad ? 220 AH (835 CE)[6] Abu 'Isa, Khallad Ibn Khalid al-Baghdadi
Al-Kisa'i 119 AH 189 AH (804 CE)[6] Abu al-Hasan, 'Ali Ibn Hamzah al-Asadi Persian (Asadi by loyalty) Al-Layth ? 240 AH (854 CE)[6] Abu al-Harith, al-Layth Ibn Khalid al-Baghdadi
Al-Duri ? 246 AH (860 CE) Abu 'Amr, Hafs Ibn 'Umar Ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Baghdadi Transmitter of Abu 'Amr (see above)

In addition to the above, three readers are collected separately from the Seven:

The three readers and their transmitters
Qari (reader) Rawi (transmitter)
Name Born Died Full name Details Name Born Died Full name Details
Abu Ja'far ? 130 AH Yazid Ibn al-Qa'qa' al-Makhzumi al-Madani 'Isa Ibn Wardan ? 160 AH Abu al-Harith al-Madani Madani by style
Ibn Jummaz ? 170 AH Abu ar-Rabi', Sulayman Ibn Muslim Ibn Jummaz al-Madani
Ya'qub al-Yamani 117 AH 205 AH Abu Muhammad, Ya'qub Ibn Ishaq Ibn Zayd Ibn 'Abdillah Ibn Abi Ishaq al-Hadrami al-Basri Client of the Hadramis Ruways ? 238 AH Abu 'Abdillah, Muhammad Ibn al-Mutawakkil al-Basri
Rawh ? 234 AH Abu al-Hasan, Rawh Ibn 'Abd al-Mu'min, al-Basri al-Hudhali Hudhali by loyalty
Khalaf 150 AH 229 AH Abu Muhammad al-Asadi al-Bazzar al-Baghdadi Transmitter of Hamza (see above) Ishaq ? 286 AH Abu Ya'qub, Ishaq Ibn Ibrahim Ibn 'Uthman al-Maruzi al-Baghdadi
Idris 189 AH 292 AH Abu al-Hasan, Idris Ibn 'Abd al-Karim al-Haddad al-Baghdadi

The Qur'an in all 20 Qira'at can be downloaded and listened to for free on the webpage[18]

Variations among readingsEdit

There are many consonantal differences between the various readings – for example, between Al-Duri and Ḥafs:

Ḥafs Al-Duri Ḥafs Al-Duri
وَيُكَفِّرُ وَنُكَفِّرُ and He will remove and We will remove Al-Baqara 2:271 (2:270 in Al-Duri)

Examples of readings from Ḥafs and WarshEdit

رواية ورش عن نافع رواية حفص عن عاصم Ḥafs Warsh
يَعْمَلُونَ تَعْمَلُونَ you do they do Al-Baqara 2:85
مَا تَنَزَّلُ مَا نُنَزِّلُ we do not send down... they do not come down... Al-Ḥijr 15:8
قُل قَالَ he said Say! Al-Anbiyā' 21:4
كَثِيرًا كَبِيرًا mighty multitudinous Al-Aḥzāb 33:68
بِمَا فَبِمَا then it is what it is what Al-Shura 42:30
نُدْخِلْهُ يُدْخِلْهُ he makes him enter we make him enter Al-Fatḥ 48:17[19][20]

See alsoEdit


  • Habib Hassan Touma (1996). The Music of the Arabs, trans. Laurie Schwartz. Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. ISBN 0-931340-88-8.


  1. ^ for example, in Surat al-Baqara (1): "Dhalika'l-Kitabu la rayb" or "Dhalika'l-Kitabu la rayba fih" [1]
  2. ^ an example being "suddan" or "saddan"[1]
  3. ^ (due to different diacritical marks, for example, ya' or ta' (turja'una or yurja'una) or a word having a long consonant or not (a consonant will have a shadda making it long, or not have one).[1]


  1. ^ a b c d The Seven Qira'at of the Qur'an by Aisha Bewley
  2. ^ a b c Saalih al-Munajjid, Muhammad (28 July 2008). "The revelation of the Qur'aan in seven styles (ahruf, sing. harf). Question 5142". Islam Question and Answer. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Malik Ibn Anas, Muwatta, vol. 1 (Egypt: Dar Ahya al-Turath, n.d.), 201, (no. 473).
  4. ^ a b narrated by al-Bukhari (Sahih al-Bukhari), 3047; Muslim Sahih Muslim, 819
  5. ^ a b c d Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, Tafseer Soorah Al-Hujuraat, 1990, Tawheed Publications, Riyadh, p. 28-29
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Shady Hekmat Nasser, Ibn Mujahid and the Canonization of the Seven Readings, p. 129. Taken from The Transmission of the Variant Readings of the Qur'an: The Problem of Tawaatur and the Emergence of Shawaadhdh. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2012. ISBN 9789004240810
  7. ^ Böwering, "Recent Research on the Construction of the Quran", 2008: p.74
  8. ^ Suyuti, Tanwir al-Hawalik, 2nd ed. (Beirut: Dar al-Jayl, 1993), 199.
  9. ^ a b c d Javed Ahmad Ghamidi. Mizan, Principles of Understanding the Qu'ran Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, Al-Mawrid
  10. ^ Zarkashi, al-Burhan fi Ulum al-Qur'an, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1980), 237.
  11. ^ Suyuti, al-Itqan fi Ulum al-Qur'an, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Baydar: Manshurat al-Radi, 1343 AH), 177.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Abû Jacfar Muhammad bin Jarîr al-Tabarî (Translated & Abridged by J Cooper, W F Madelung and A Jones), Jamic al-Bayân 'an Tâ'wil ay al-Qur'an, 1987, Volume 1, Oxford University Press & Hakim Investment Holdings (M.E.) Limited, p. 16.
  13. ^ Cook, The Koran, 2000: p.72-3
  14. ^ a b Donner, "Quran in Recent Scholarship", 2008: p.35-6
  15. ^ Cook, The Koran, 2000: p.73
  16. ^ Ibn Qayyim, I'lam al-Muwaqqi'in, vol. 3 (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, n.d.), 96.
  17. ^ a b c d e Samuel Green, The Different Arabic Versions of the Qur'an. Retrieved 2008 Nov 17
  18. ^ القراءات العشر ten readings|
  19. ^ رواية ورش عن نافع - دار المعرفة - دمشق Warsh Reading, Dar Al Maarifah Damascus
  20. ^ رواية حفص عن عاصم - مجمع الملك فهد - المدينة Ḥafs Reading, King Fahd Complex Madinah


Further readingEdit

External linksEdit