Qira’ah means the recital of something. This topic deals with the different mannerisms/pronounciations of the Qur’aan. There exist 10 authentic qira’aat today (plural of Qira’ah) and there exists a consensus amongst the scholars that these originate from the prophet Muhammad SAW. Each of these 10 authentic qira’aat has special rules (Tajweed) that the reciter abides by.
Conditions for the validity of a Qira’ah
1) Must conform to Arabic Grammar
The Qur’aan is the best of speeches and therefore, is an exemplar in the field of grammar. It is the speech of Allaah. Although, there may exist differences of opinion with regards to grammar rules between the scholars of the Arabic language, this rule states that a Qira’ah should meet this condition even its merely by one manner (of Arabic grammar). However, some scholars say this condition is invalid if it meets the other conditions (listed below). Nevertheless, the speech of Allaah is flawless and immaculate. As Al-Qari states that no qira’ah has conflicted with this condition and any apparent confliction is merely down to our ignorance of grammar.
2) Must conform to one of the Masahif of ‘Uthman
As mentioned in the post outlined ‘Preservation of the Qur’aan’, ‘Uthman RA unified the Ummah upon 1 standard Mus-haf. Copies of this Mus-haf were sent down to various countries. It is essential to note that there were no tashkeel or dots placed to distinguish between vowel signs and different letters. Such was the ability of the Arabs of that time; there was not any need to distinguish between each letter/vowelling as they already had the ability to do so! It is only after many years, did the scholars add dots/diacritic symbols to make it easier for the masses to read the Qur’aan as they failed to replicate the mastery of the Sahabah. These Masahif that were sent out had small variations within them to reconcile between the differences of recitation. Therefore, an authentic qira’ah would be one that conforms to one of these Masahif.
3) The Qira’ah must have a chain of narration going back to the prophet Muhammad SAW.
The usage of ‘Isnaad’ or chain of narration in Islam is a testament to the great care given to preserve its authentic teachings. Each narrator within a chain of narration will have to meet strict conditions to classify himself as a ‘reliable narrator’. This is done for every individual in the Isnaad until, it reaches the prophet Muhammad SAW. This is a mechanism designed to detect any flaws or any discrepancies that may render a ‘teaching/narration’ attributed to Islam as invalid. Such a rigorous condition placed on a qira’ah will allow no one to cast aspersions on its authenticity. However, the lofty status of the Qur’aan required the scholars to go a step further and a stipulate a strict condition on the Isnaad itself. This is the stipulation of the Isnaad being ‘Mutawatir’. This is when the chain of narration in each stage is mentioned by such a large amount of narrators that it is impossible all of them could have corroborated a lie!