9th century Qur’an
” …And recite the Qur’an in slow, measured rhythmic tones”
One meaning of Qur’an is “recitation”, the Qur’an itself outlining the general method of how it is to be recited: slowly and in rhythmic tones. Tajwid is the term for techniques of recitation, and assessed in terms of how accessible the recitation is to those intent on concentrating on the words.
There are several schools of Qur’anic recitation, all of which teach possible pronunciations of the Uthmanic rasm: Seven reliable, three permissible and (at least) four uncanonical – in 8 sub-traditions each – making for 80 recitation variants altogether. A canonical recitation must satisfy three conditions:
1. It must match the rasm, letter for letter.
2. It must conform with the syntactic rules of the Arabic language.
3. It must have a continuous isnad to Muhammad through tawatur, meaning that it has to be related by a large group of people to another down the isnad chain.
These recitations differ in the vocalization (tashkil) of a few words, which in turn gives a complementary meaning to the word in question according to the rules of Arabic grammar. For example, the vocalization of a verb can change its active and passive voice. It can also change its stem formation, implying intensity for example. Vowels may be elongated or shortened, and glottal stops (hamzas) may be added or dropped, according to the respective rules of the particular recitation. For example, the name of archangel Gabriel is pronounced differently in different recitations: Jibrīl, Jabrīl, Jibra’īl, and Jibra’il. The name “Qur’an” is pronounced without the glottal stop in one recitation, and Abraham’s name is pronounced Ibrāhām in another.
The more widely used narrations are those of Hafss (حفص عن عاصم), Warsh (ورش عن نافع), Qaloon (قالون عن نافع) and Al-Duri according to Abu `Amr (الدوري عن أبي عمرو). Muslims firmly believe that all canonical recitations were recited by Muhammad himself, citing the respective isnad chain of narration, and accept them as valid for worshipping and as a reference for rules of Sharia. The uncanonical recitations are called “explanatory” for their role in giving a different perspective for a given verse or ayah. Today several dozen persons hold the title “Memorizer of the Ten Recitations.”
The presence of these different recitations is attributed to many hadith. Malik Ibn Anas has reported:
Abd al-Rahman Ibn Abd al-Qari narrated: “Umar Ibn Khattab said before me: I heard Hisham Ibn Hakim Ibn Hizam reading Surah Furqan in a different way from the one I used to read it, and the Prophet (peace be upon him) 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 (peace be upon him). I said to him: “I have heard this person [Hisham Ibn Hakim Ibn Hizam] reading Surah Furqan in a different way from the one you had read it out to me.” The Prophet (peace be upon him) 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 (peace be upon him) said: “It was revealed thus.” Then the Prophet (peace be upon him) asked me to read it out. So I read it out. [At this], he said: “It was revealed thus; this Qur’an has been revealed in Seven Ahruf. You can read it in any of them you find easy from among them.