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Dr. Abbakar Yalwa Muhammad.
Centre for Islamic Studies, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto.


The final Divine Scripture Al-Qurn, is today being recited by

Muslims in seven (7) and more different modes of recitation in Muslim
nations. These modes originated from Allah (S.W.T.) to the noble Prophet
Muhammad (S.A.W) through Angel Jibril (A.S.). This paper attempts to
highlight on their emergence and how they were spread across the Muslim
nations of the world. It would be followed by summaries of biographies of
the seven earlier most renowned reciters of the Qurn as outlined by
Abd-al-Fattah A. Q. in his book titled Tarikh Al-Qurra Al-Ashrah wa
Ruwwatihim (History of the ten reciters of the Qurn and their



Allah (S.W.T) raised Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) as his last

Messenger from among the Arabs. He also sent his last Divine scripture
(Al Qurn) in Arabic language for the Guidance of mankind. The Arabs
in whose language the Qurn was revealed have many different dialects.
In line with Divine justice and proper comprehension of the book, the
Glorious Qurn was revealed in seven different dialects. They were
called Al-Ahruf Al-Sabah. They were taught to the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) by
Angle Jibril (A.S) as reported by Abd Allah b. Abbas.
Abd Allah b. Abbas narrated that Allahs apostle
(P.B.U.H) said: Jibril (A.S.) recited the Qurn- to
me in one way. Then I requested him to read it in
another way and continued asking him to recite it
in other ways, and he recited it in seven different


It was also reported that Umar (R.A.) argued with Hisham (R.A) on
the recitation of Surah Al-Furqn (chapter 25) when Hisham (R.A)
recited it in another mode different from what he (Umar R.A.) heard
from the Prophet (P.B.U.H.). Umar (R.A.) got hold of Hisham (R. A.)
and dragged him to the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) who asked each one of them to
recite with his mode of recitation. After they recited, he confirmed the
recitation of everyone of them as correct. He further said that:
This Qurn has been revealed in seven different
ways, so recite it (in) whichever (way) is easier for
The above incident shows that had it been that the Quran was
revealed in only one dialect there would have been controversies among
the Arabs with regards to its recitation. Furthermore, had it been that
Allah (SWT) had made it compulsory for the Arabs to recite it in a
specific dialect that most of the Arabs are not familiar with, it would have
been a great difficulty on them and a negation of the simplicity of Islam3.
The seven modes of recitation refers to the seven dialects of the
Arabs. The dialects are Quraish, Hudhail, Thaqif, Hawazin, Kinnah,
Tamn and Yaman.4 In another version it was stated that the seven
different modes are the sub-divisions of the tribe of Mudar which are
evident in recitation of the Qurn. These sub divisions are the Qurraish,
Kinnah, Asad, Hudhail, Tamim Dabt, and Qais.5 IT is to be noted that
Quraish, Tamim Hudhail and Kinanah dialects are common among these
two views, while they differ in the presence or absence of Thaqif,
Hawzin Asad, Qais and Dabt.
The above mentioned modes of recitations were standardized
between the second and eighth centuries after Hijrah. Ibn Mujadid who
was a 9th century scholar wrote a book titled The seven readings in
which he outlined them as the most prevailing, the best and the most
reliably transmitted modes of recitation of the Qurn. At a later period
other views emerged which increased the number of the modes of
recitation to ten, or even fourteen.6 the present seven popularly accepted
modes of recitation originated from the seven dialects of the Arabs.
Expansion of Islam to other places made it possible for the Tabiun
(followers) to travel and settle in many parts of the Muslim world. They
devoted their lifetime to teaching proper recitation of the Qurn and
transmitting its various modes of recitations to their students, in addition


to teaching other Islamic sciences. This trend continued from that time
onwards, from one generation to another. Subsequently, the Qurn was
recited in several ways, some of which were not in accordance with the
accepted text and the correct transmitted readings from the Prophet
(P.B.U.H.) and the Sahbah (RA). This necessitated for vigorous
screening of different modes of recitation in order to sift the acceptable
from the unacceptable ones in accordance with the criteria set up by
scholars in the field. The criteria are that a recitation, before being
accepted, shall be;

In line with correct Arabic grammar,


In agreement with the original written standard copy

(text) of Khalifah Uthman (R A); and


Reliably traced back to the Prophet (P.B.U.H.).7

On the other hand, the criteria for preference in addition to (a)-(c)

enumerated above is that it must have been reported and preferred by
many transmitters of recitation. The above criteria have been outlined by
one of the famous scholars on Ulm Al-Qurn, Ab-Alkhair b. Al-jazri
where he stated that:
Every reading in accordance with Arabic
(grammar), even if (only) in some way, and in
accordance with one of the Mushaf of Uthman,
even if (only) probable, and with sound chain of
transmission is correct (Sahih) reading, it must not
be rejected and may not be denied. It belongs to the
seven (7) modes (Ahruf) according to which the
Qurn was revealed. The people are obliged to
accept it, no matter whether it is from the seven
Imms,-or the ten, or from other accepted Imms.
But when one of these three conditions is not
fulfilled it must be rejected as Weak (da'f)
exceptional (Shadh) or void (btil),
. no matter
whether it is from the seven or from one who is
older than them8.
In line with the above quotation, the modes of recitation of the Qurn
have been classified in order of preference, into the following categories;


(a) Sahih (sound). This is a mode of recitation that satisfies the

criteria of both acceptance and preference as outlined above.
To this class belong all the first seven modes of recitation
transmitted by Imms Nafi, Ibn Kathr, Ibn mir, Ab mr,
Hamzah and Al-Kisi. They are also called Mutawtir because
they were transmitted by many Tajwid scholars from one
generation to another.
(b) had (single). This is a mode of recitation transmitted by only
one Tabi as a transmitter, linking his chain back to the
Sahbah. Examples of this mode of recitation are those of
Imms Ab Jafar, Yaqub and Khalaf.
(c) Shadh (irregular). This is a mode of recitation whose chain of
transmission goes back to the Tabiun only, such as that of
Umar b. Abd Al-Aziz from Imm Abu Hanifah.9
(d) Daf (weak). This is a mode of recitation that could not satisfy
one or two of the criteria for acceptance.

Btil (void). This is a mode of recitation rejected on the basis

of non-fulfillment of any one of the conditions for acceptance.10

As a result of this scrutiny, the accepted modes of recitation were

named after the names of their transmitters. Thus, we have for example
Warsh and Qalun as modes of recitation transmitted from Imm Nfi b.
Abd Al-Rahman. Likewise we have Al-Bazzi and Qunbul from Imm Ibn
As a result of efforts made by these scholars, we now have ten (10)
popular reciters of the Glorious Qurn among the Tabi'un who founded
schools of recitation of the Qurn in different parts of the Muslim world.
Such schools were based at Madinah, Basrah, Makkah, Damascus, Kufah
and Baghdad. The list of the founders of the schools of recitation of the
Qurn and locations of their schools is shown in the table below.12



Nafiu b. Abd-Al-Rahman AlMadani (d. 169).

Ab Jafar Yazid Al-Makhzumi
(d. 10 A.H).





Abi Amrin Zabban b. At' (d.

148 A.H).
Yaqub b. Ishq Al-Basar (d.
Ibn Kathir Abd- Allah b.
Zadhni (d. 120 A.H).
Abd- Allah b. mir Al-Shmit
(d. 118).
sim b. Ab Al-Najt Al-Kfi
(d. 127 A.H).
Hamza b. Habb b. Ammrah
Al-Kufi (d. 156 A.H)
li b. Hamzah Al-Kisai AlKfi (d. 189 A.H).
Khalaf b. Hishm b. Thalab AlBaghddi (d. 229AA.H).13


Each of the Imms of recitation of the Qurn is called a Qri

(reciter, plural Qurr'u) and each one of them had a number of disciples
who learnt his mode of recitation and transmitted it to the Muslim Ummah
(generation). Each of these transmitters is called a Rw (Plural ruwt). In
the same vein, each Rw had a number of sub-transmitters called Turuq
(Singular Tarq) who learnt and taught the mode of recitation of their
masters. A Tajwid scholar summarized this trend by stating that any
difference in recitation of the Qurn among seven (or ten) Imms is
known as Riwayah and any mode of recitation received from a Rw is
called a Tariqah.14
The various modes of recitation of the Qurn
currently in use by Muslims all over the world
have reached us through transmissions from one
generation to another, through efforts of
transmitters of these modes of recitation. The
transmission will continue as long as time permits
through the same chain of transmission in
fulfillment of the promise of Allah (SWT) to
preserve the Qurn for ever.15





The seven most accepted reciters developed what are now called
schools of the Qurn. A brief biography of each of these propagators or
founders is provided here as part of the development of the recitation of
the Qurn.
1. IMM NAFIAL-MADANI (d. 169 A.H.).
His full names are Nafi b. Abd Al-Rahman b. Abi Naim. His
other names are Ab Ruwaim or Ab Al-Hasan. He was a freed slave of
Jawanah. He was dark in complexion. His grand parents came from
Asbahan. He was taught the recitation of Al-Qurn by over seventy (70)
scholars among the Tabiun. Among his teachers were Ab Jafar,
Shaibah b. Nusah, Muslim b. Jundab, Yazid b. Ruman, Muhammad b.
Shihab Al-Zuhri and Abd Al-Rahman Al-Araj.16
The chains of transmission of recitation of the Qurn of Imm
Nafis teachers was linked up to the Tabiun, Sahbah and the Prophet
(PBUH). Thus, his teacher Ab Jafar read from his freed slave Abd
Allah b. Iyash b. Abi Rabiah Al-Makhzumi who learnt from Abd Allah
b. Abbas and Ab Hurairah, who in turn learnt from Ubay b.Kaab. Ab
Hurairah and Abd Allah read from Zaid b. Thabit, while Zaid and Ubayy
learnt recitation of the Qurn from the Prophet (PBUH). The two were
among the scribes of the Prophet (PBUH). The second teacher of Imm
Nafi, Shaibah b. Nusah, read from Muslim b. Jundub and Yazid b.
Ruman b. Iyash b. Abi Rabiah who, as mentioned earlier, read from
Ubayy b. Kaab who was taught by the Prophet (PBUH).17
Imm Nfi was the leader in the recitation of the Qurn among the
people of Madinah during his lifetime. His mode of recitation gained wide
acceptance in Madinah and Syria (Shm). He pre-occupied himself with
teaching of the Qurn according to his mode of recitation as well as
religious sciences for over 70 years. He was equally learned in other
modes of recitation of the Qurn. His mode of recitation was highly
commended by Imm Malik b. Anas (R A). Many people, whose number
could not be counted, received and transmitted his mode of recitation.
Some of them came from different places like Syria and Egypt. Among
them were Imm Malik b. Muslim b. Jamaz, Ismal and Yqub b. Jafar.
His two most famous transmitters were Qln and Warsh.18



His full names are Abd Allah b. Khathr b. Abd Allah b. Zadhm
b. Fairz. He is also known as Ab Mabad. His nickname is Al-Dri. He
was born at Makkah. He was tall and fat, yellowish in complexion, very
quite and shy in behavior and intelligent in Arabic grammar. He is listed
among the first seven high ranking reciters of the Qurn. He was a Tabi
Among the Sahbah that he met at Makkah during his lifetime were Abd
Allah b. Jubayr, Ab Ayyub al Ansari, Anas b. Malik, Mujahid b. Jabr
and Dirbas, the freed slave of Abd Allah b. Abbas .19
Imm Ibn Khathr was appointed as a judge for the people of
Makkah. He was also their Imm (leader) in the recitation of the Qurn
during his lifetime. Among his students who learnt recitation of the
Qurn from him were Ismail b. Abd Allah Al-Qist, Ismail b. Muslim,
Hammad b. Salmah, Khalil b. Ahmad and Sulaiman b. Mughirah. Imm
Shafii ulpheld the Qurn (recitation) of Ibn Kathir which was then
popular among the people of Makkah. He died in the year 120 A.H. The
most popular of his disciples and transmitters of his mode of recitation
were Al-Bazzi and Qunbul.20


His full names are Zayyan b. Ata b. Ammar b. Abd Allah b.

Husain, b. Harith b. Jalham. Imm Ab Amr was one of the first seven
renowned reciters of the Qurn. He was born at Makkah, but he grew up
in Basrah. He studied in Makkah, Madinah and Kufah. He was adjudged
as the most knowledgeable in Qurn, Arabic language, and literature in
his time. He learnt recitation of the Qurn from Anas b. Malik and some
other Sahbah. He attained the status of a Thiqah (trustworthy or highly
reliable) in the science of Hadith. Among his teachers were Al-Hasan b.
Abi Hasan Al-Basri, Abi Al-Aliyah, Yazd b. Rman, sim b. Abi AlNjud, Abd Allah b. Khathir, Abd Allah b. Abi Ishaq Al-Hadhrami,
Ata b. Abi Rabah and many others. Imm Ab Amrin was very popular
and highly respected by the Arabs. Thus Arab Poets like Farazdaq praised
him in their poems. He died in Kufah at the age of 90 years. His two most
popular transmitters were Hafs Al-Duri and Susi.21




(d. 118 A.H.)

His full names are Abd Allah b. Amir b. Yazd b. Tamn b. Tamin
b. Rabiah b. mir Al-Yahsabi. He was a Tabi. His teachers of recitation
of the Qurn include Abi Hisham, Al-Mughrah, Abd Allah b. Amir b.
Mughirah Al-Makhzumi, Abi Darda and Uwaimir b. Yazid b. Qais. Imm
Ibn Amir had listened to Qiraah and Hadith from many Sahbah such
as Al-Numan b. Bashir, Mu wiyyah b. Ab Sufyan and Qadalah b.
Ubaid. 22
Ibn mir was the leader of Qurr' (in articles) in Syria (Shm). He
was also the Imm of the Umwi mosque during the caliphate of Umar b.
Abd al-Azz and was assigned additional responsibility of being a judge
at Damascus, the capital of the caliphate. He died in the year 118 A.H
(734 C.E). His two most popular transmitters were Hishm and Ibn


He is sim b. Ab Al- Najt. It was also said that his name is Abd
Allah. He was also a Tabi'. He was from the tribe of Banu Asad and was a
Kfan by origin. He was an authority in Hadith, Arabic language and
Fiqh (jurisprudence). He narrated ahadith from Abi Ramthati Rifaat AlTamimi and Harith b. Hasan Al-Bakri. Imm Asim read from Abi Abd
Al-Rahman Abd Allah b. Habib b. Rabiah Al-Aulami Al-Darir. He also
read from Abi Maryam Zirru b. Habsh b. Habsha Al-Asadi. Imm 'sim
was a leader of Qirah in Kufah, to whom many people rushed from
other major towns for learning. He was also a teacher of philosophy,
(Falsafah), Hadith, Nahw and Fiqh. He had a good voice while reciting
the Qurn and had committed the entire Qurn into memory. He died in
Kufah. Those who transmitted Qirah from him were Shubah and Hafs
(d. 193 A.H and 180 A.H respectively).24

IMM HAMZAH AL-KF (d. 156 A.H.)

His full names are Hamzah b. Habb b. Ammarah b. Ismil Al-Kf

Al-Taimyyah. His nickname is Al-Zayyt (the seller of oil) because he
used to take oil from Iraq to Halwan, and cheese from Halwan to Kufah.
He was one of the seven renowned reciters of the Qurn. He was closer
to the lifetime of the Sahbah and might have seen some of them, thus he


was a Tbi. Among his teachers were Abi Muhammad Sulaiman b.

Mahram Al-Amash, Ab Hamzah Hamran b. Uain, Ab Ishaq Umar b.
Abd Al-Rahman Abi Lilah, Talhah b. Musrif, Ab Abd Allah, Jafar AlSadiq b. Muhammad and Al-Baqr b. Zain Al-Abidin Ali b. Ab Talib
(RA). All the teachers of Imm Hamzah had numerous long and authentic
chains of transmission that linked them to the Sahbah and the Prophet
Imm Hamzah was leader of reciters during his lifetime in Kufah
after the death of Imm Asim. He was trustworthy, reliable, and
knowledgeable in Fiqh on distribution of inheritance, Arabic language
and had memorized so many ahadith. Imm Ab Hanifah said to Imm
Hamzah, you excelled us in two things which we cannot compete with
you, Al-Qurn and knowledge of inheritance. Sufyan Al-Thawri said
that Hamzah had not read a letter of the Qurn without having an
established base for it. One of his teachers Amash said that whenever he
saw Hamzah coming he used to say, here comes the ink of the Qurn".22
Imm Hamzah avoided worldly pleasures and did not receive any
payment for teaching Al-Qurn, instead he used to say that his hope was
to obtain the highest grade of paradise for doing so. Many people learnt
and transmitted recitation of the Qurn from him. Among them were
Ibrahim b. Adhama, Husain b. Ali Al-Jafi, Salim b. Isah, Sufyan AlThawri, Ali b. Hamzah and Al-Kisai. Imm Hamzah died at the age of
76 years in the town of Halwan in Iraq. His most prominent transmitters
were Khalaf (d. 766 A.H.) and Khallad (d. 220 A.H.) 26

IMM AL-KISAI (d. 189 A.H.)

His full names are Ali b. Hamzah b. Abd Allah b. Uthman. He was
born in Kufah. He, however, settled in Baghdad. He read the entire
Qurn four times directly from Imm Hamzah and relied on his mode of
recitation. He also read from Muhammad Ab Lailah, Isah b. mir AlHamdani, Ismail b. Jafar, Talha b. Musrif and Amash.27
Imm Al-Kisai was the leader of recitation in Kufah during his
lifetime. Ab Ubaidah said that Al-Kisai recited the Qurn in various
modes beside that of Imm-Hamzah, his teacher. He was, however,
careful to differentiate between the recitations he preferred. The
contemporary copies of the Qurn in Kufan script were printed based on
his mode of recitation. He was also knowledgeable in Arabic grammar
and literature. Many people gathered to learn recitation of the Qurn


from him. Among his students were Yahya b. Muin, Ahmad b. Jubayr,
Ahmad b. Mansur al-Baghddi, Hafs b. Amr al-Duri, Ab Al-Harith AlLaith b. Khalid, Abd Allah b. Ahmad b. Zakhwan, Mughira b. Shubah,
Khalaf bin Hisham Al-Bazzar and many others. He was the teacher of two
sons of his friend Khalifah Harun Al-Rashid, who were Muhammad AlAmin and Mamun. Imm al-Shafii commented positively on the
knowledge of Al-Kis i in Nahw (Arabic Grammar). He died at the age
of 70 and had only one transmitter, who was Laith b. khlid (d. 240
From the time of the foundation of the Schools of Tajwid the science
made inroad into the areas Islam penetrated in Europe, Asia and Africa.
This was made possible through Islamic scholarship that spread along
trade routes and settlements where scholars resided. Through efforts of
these Imms of various Qurnic recitation and their students, Muslims in
all parts of the globe in the contemporary period could recite the Qurn
in any mode of their choice, according to its prevalence within their
localities, even though some of the modes like those of Imms Hafs and
Warsh are more popular than others.

Imm Al-Bukhari, Sahih Al-Bukhari Vol. 6, Dar-Al-Arabia, Beirut,

Lebenon, Hadith No. 51, P. 481.


Ibid. Hadith No. 514.


Abd-al-Fattah, A. Q., Tarikh Al- Qurra, Al Ashrah wa

Ruwwatihim., Maktabah Al-Mashhad Al-Husain, Cairo, Egypt,


M. A. Zarqani, Manahil Al-Irfan fi Ulum Al-Qurn, Vol. 1 Dar-alFikr, Beirut, Lebanon, 1988.


Ibid. P. 182.


A, V. Denffer, Ulum-al-Qurn, The Islamic foundation, Leicester,

London, 1978.


Ibid. p. 119.


Ibid p. 121.



For details on this example see A. Mai-hankali, Irwau Al-Zaman,

Arabic and Islamic Education Board, Sokoto, Nigeria, 1996, p. 39.


A. V. Denffer, opcit., pp. 110 120.


Abd-al-Fattah A.Q. opcit. PP 1 2 A. V. Denffer, opcit. Pp. 118.

Other examples are Hafs Al-Duri and Al-Susi from Imm Ab
Imran, Hashim and Ibn Dhakhwan from Imm Abd Allah b. 'mir
Al- Shami. Etc.


There are basically seven modes of recitations and their seven

Imms. The other three were students of some of the seven Imms.
When added together they make ten (10). Some scholars added
another four (4) Imms, making a total of fourteen (14) Imms of
recitation of the Qurn.


Abd-al-Fattah A. Q. opcit.

14. For instance linking Basmallah between recitations of two chapters

of the Qurn is the Qiraah of Ibn Kathir, riwayah (transmission) OF
Qalun from Imm Nafiu and a Tariqah (sub-transmission) of Asbihani
from Warsh. For details see S. U. Husains Haq-al-Tilawah --- ala
riwayah Hafs an Asim, 7th edition, Maktabah al-Manar, Urdun, 1987 p.

Qurn Ch. 15 : 9.


Abd-al-Fattah, A. Q. opcit p. 9


Ibid p. 6






Ibid p. 13


Ibid pp. 15 17


Ibid p. 21


Ibid p. 22


Ibid pp. 25 28


Ibid pp. 28 29


Ibid pp. 29 32


Ibid pp. 33 4


ABD-AL- FATTAH, A. A, Tarikh-Al-Qurr- AL-Ashrah wa
Ruwwatihim, Maktabah AL-mashhad AL-Husaini, Cairo, Egypt,
___________ AL-Budur-al-Zahirah Fi Qira ah AL-Sabi, Maktabah AlMashhad AL-Husain, Cairo, Egypt, 1970.
Ali, A. Y., Text, Translation and Commentary of the Holy Qurn, The
Islamic Foundation, Leicester, U.K. 1968.
Al-Zarqani, M. A., Manahil Al-Irfan fi Ulum al-Qurn, Beirut,
Lebanon, 1988.
Bukhari, A., Sahih Al-Bukhari, Dar-al- Arabia, vol. 6, Beirut, Lebanon,
Denffer, A. V., Ulum-al-Qurn. The Islamic Foundation, Leicester, U.
K., 1983.
Maihankali, A.U., irwa Al-Zaman Fi Ulum Al-Qiraah, Arabic and
Islamic Education Board, Sokoto State , Nigeria, 1996.