The Seven Modes of the Recitation of the Holy Quran

Heidi Mahmoud Kheyamy

08 May 2018

Ubayy Ibn Ka'b reported that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) was near the tank of Banu Ghifar that Jibril came to him and said: “Allah has commanded you to recite to your people the Qur'an in one dialect. Upon this he said: I ask from Allah pardon and forgiveness. My people are not capable of doing this. He then came for the second time and said: Allah has commanded you that you should recite the Qur'an to your people in two dialects. Upon this he (the Holy Prophet) again said: I seek pardon and forgiveness from Allah, my people would not be able to do so. He (Jibril) came for the third time and said: Allah has commanded you to recite the Qur'an to your people in three dialects. Upon this he said: I ask pardon and forgiveness from Allah. My people would not be able to do this. He then came to him for the fourth time and said: Allah has commanded you to recite the Qur'an to your people in seven dialects, and in whichever dialect they would recite, they would be right.” [Sahih Muslim 821 a, Book 6, Hadith 334]

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) realized that the Arabs cannot read the Holy Quran in one dialect because there are different dialects of the Arabic Language and it would be an arduous task for the Arabs to quit their own dialect and learn another one.

To make the Divined Book easier to be recited in Arabic, the Holy Quran was revealed in seven modes, and these seven modes do not contradict one another as the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:

“Jibril 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 a, Book 6, Hadith 330]

On the other hand, some people thought that the seven modes of reciting the Holy Quran are the seven methods of the Holy Quran recitation, which is not true. In point of fact, the Muslim scholars unanimously agreed that the seven modes which the Holy Quran was revealed in are not the seven methods of reciting the Holy Quran.

Unlike the seven modes, the seven methods are not mentioned in the Traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) or the Holy Quran but they were the work of bin Mujahid. The people assume that the seven modes are the seven methods because they have the same number, but the truth is the seven methods of reciting the Holy Quran are one mode of the seven modes that the Holy Quran was revealed in, and this specific mode is the mode which the Holy Quran was written in during the Othman bin Affan era.

 To make it clear, the Muslim scholars explained the modes as the following:

1-      A noun could be used in different ways according to its type. It could be singular, geminated or plural; or according to its gender be feminine or masculine.

2-      Using different tenses whether the present, past tense or the imperative.

3-      Using declension differently to change the pronunciation of the word, because of the short vowel-marks.

4-      A letter of a word could be added or deleted without changing the meaning of this word.

5-      Anastrophe could be used where it will not alter the meaning of the sentence.

6-      Replacing a letter of a word with another one without changing the word’s meaning.

7-      Assimilation, manifestation and elevation and lowering are used owing to the different dialects of the Arabic language.

The seven methods of reciting the Holy Quran, however, are related to the seven famous transmitters:

Nafi‘ al-Madani, Ibn Kathir al-Makki, ʿĀṣim al-Kūfī,  Hamzah az-Zaiyyat, ‘Ali Ibn Hamzah al-Asadi, Abu 'Amr Ibn al-‘Ala' al-Basri and Ibn Amir ad-Dimashqi.

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