Early in his prophethood, the Holy Prophet sas preached only to the Meccans and the Quran was revealed in one mode, the dialect of the Quraish. However, when Islam was accepted by tribes outside of Mecca who spoke in different dialects of Arabic and had different levels of understanding, the Holy Quran was then revealed to the Holy Prophet
They differed then with At-Tabut and At-Tabuh. The Quraish said: At-Tabut while Zaid said: At-Tabuh. Their disagreement was brought to Uthman, so he said: “Write it as At-Tabut, for it was revealed in the tongue of the Quraish.”(Sunan at-Tirmadhi, vol. 5, Book 44, Hadith 3,104)
The primary mode of recitation was the mode of the Holy Prophet
“Allah has commanded you to recite to your people the Quran in one mode.” Upon(Sahih Muslim, Book 6, Hadith 334)
thishe sassaid: “I ask from Allah pardon and forgiveness. My people are not capable of doing it.” He then came for the second time and said: “Allah has commanded you that you should recite the Quran to your people in two modes.” Upon thishe sasagain said: “I seek pardon and forgiveness from Allah, my people would not be able to do so.” He (Gabriel) came for the third time and said: “Allah has commanded you to recite the Quran to your people in three modes.” Upon thishe sassaid: “I ask pardon and forgiveness from Allah. My people would not be able to do it.” He then came to him for the fourth time and said: “Allah has commanded you to recite the Quran to your people in seven modes, and in whichever mode they would recite, they would be right.”
The number seven can be interpreted literally to mean the number “seven,” or metaphorically to mean “many,” according to Arabic idiom. It is possible that seven here means “many,” because there is no evidence that there were specifically seven dialects or variations in Arabic. Also, seven is used to refer to many, whereas the numbers five, six and eight are not. The number of
The secondary modes were revealed to accommodate the difficulties of his newer followers. They accommodated the different dialects of Arabic among the different tribes in Arabia to help in pronunciation, and they acted as a commentary on the primary mode to help in understanding its meanings. The Holy Prophet sas met Gabriel and said:
“O(Sunan at-Tirmadhi, vol. 5, Book 43, Hadith 2,944)
Gabriel! I have been sent to an illiterate nation among whom are the elderly woman, the old man, the boy and the girl, and the man who cannot read a book at all.” He said: “O Muhammad! Indeed the Quran was revealed in seven modes.”
In pronunciation, the differences between the primary mode and the secondary modes are in enunciation to facilitate recitation in different dialects. In meaning, the differences between the primary mode and secondary modes are in similar wording that expands the meaning of the message. The Holy Prophet sas said:
Ubay, I was asked to recite the Quran and I was asked: “In one mode or two modes?” The angel that accompanied me said: “Say, in two modes,” I said: “In two modes,” I was asked again: “In two or three modes.” The matter reached up to seven modes. He then said: “Each mode is sufficiently health-giving, whether you utter ‘all-hearing and all-knowing’ or instead ‘all-powerful and all-wise.’ This is valid until you finish the verse indicating punishment on mercy and finish the verse indicating mercy on punishment.”(Sunan Abi Dawud, Book 8, Hadith 1,472)
The purpose of the different modes was not just to accommodate dialects, it was also to make it easier to understand the meanings of the primary mode. This is why some companions who were from the Quraish, like Hadrat Hisham bin Hakim ra, were taught from the secondary modes.
The secondary modes were revealed towards the end of the prophethood of the Holy Prophet
When the companions of the Holy Prophet
introduced to these different dialects, it created misunderstandings between some of them because some thought that others were reciting the Holy Quran incorrectly. However, under the guidance of the Holy Prophet sas, these misunderstandings were removed. ‘Umar bin al-Khattab narrated:
I heard Hisham bin Hakim reciting Surah-al-Furqan during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet(Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 97, Hadith 175)
sas. I listened to his recitation and noticed that he was reciting in a way that the Holy Prophet sashad not taught me. I was about to jump over him while he was still in prayer, but I waited patiently and when he finished his prayer, I put my sheet round his neck (and pulled him) and said, “Who has taught you this Surah which I have heard you reciting?” Hisham said, “Allah’s Messenger sastaught it to me.” I said, “You are telling a lie, for he taught it to me in a way different from the way you have recited it!” Then I started leading (dragged) him to the Holy Prophet sasand said, “I have heard this man reciting Surah-al-Furqan in a way that you have not taught me.” The Holy Prophet sassaid: “(O ‘Umar) release him! Recite, O Hisham.” Hisham recited in the way I heard him reciting. The Holy Prophet sassaid, “It was revealed like this.” Then the Holy Prophet sassaid, “Recite, O ‘Umar!” I recited in the way he had taught me, whereupon he said, “It was revealed like this,” and added, “The Quran has been revealed to be recited in seven different modes, so recite of it whichever is easy for you.”
During most of the prophethood of the Holy Prophet
Tribes in Arabia had previously lived in
Hudhaifa bin al-Yaman came to Uthman at the time when the people of Sham and the people of Iraq were waging war to conquer Arminya and Adharbijan. Hudhaifa was afraid of their (the people of Sham and Iraq) differences in the recitation of the Quran, so he said to Uthman, “O chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book (Quran) as Jews and the Christians did before.” So Uthman sent a message to Hafsa saying, “Send us the manuscripts of the Quran so that we may compile the Quranic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you.” Hafsa sent it to Uthman. Uthman then ordered Zaid bin Thabit, ‘Abdullah bin Az-Zubair, Sa’id bin al-As and ‘Abdur-Rahman bin Harith bin Hisham to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies. Uthman said to the three Quraishi men, “In case you disagree with Zaid bin Thabit on any point in the Quran, then write it in the dialect of Quraish, the Quran was revealed in their tongue.” They did so, and when they had written many copies, Uthman returned the original manuscripts to Hafsa. Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had(Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 66, Hadith 9), (Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 61, Hadith 16).
copied,and ordered that all the other Quranic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt.
The secondary modes were not erased from history, they were simply removed from the mainstream to avoid being confused with the primary mode. This is similar to how the Holy Prophet
Do not write down anything from me, and he who wrote down anything from me except the Quran, he should efface that, and narrate from me, for there is no harm in it.(Sahih Muslim, Book 55, Hadith 92)
Afterward, the writing of ahadith was permitted when there was no longer a fear of their being mixed with the Quran. Similarly, Hadrat Uthman ra only forbade the use of the different modes for mainstream use and as textbooks. Otherwise, they continued to be preserved and many exist until today.
Just as individual misunderstandings arose among some companions during the life of the Holy Prophet
I heard the Holy Prophet(Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 66, Hadith 21)
sassaying, “Take (learn) the Quran from four: ‘Abdullah bin Mas‘ud, Salim, Mu’adh, and Ubay bin Ka‘ab.”
After the Holy Prophet
Our best Quran reciter is Ubay and our best judge is ‘Ali; and in spite of this, we leave some of the statements of Ubay because Ubay says, “I do not leave anything that I have heard from Allah’s Messenger(Surah al-Baqarah, 2:107; Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 65, Hadith 4,481)
sas, while Allah said: ‘Whatever Sign We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring one better than that or the like thereof.’”
Just as some misunderstandings had arisen during the life of the Holy Prophet
It should be remembered that the variations in the
qira’atof the Holy Quran has continued from earlier times. Some Muslims who are not completely acquainted with this subject worry sometimes and assume that if these narrations are true, then our claim that the Holy Quran is completely safeguarded from any alternation whatsoever may be incorrect. Forming such a conclusion is wrong. In fact, due to the differences in the languages or to expound on certain subject matters, Allah Ta‘ala has revealed the Holy Quran in “سبعة احرف” (seven dialects); meaning, it has seven forms of recitation. One should not become suspicious, that due to the diversity of recitations there is a form of contradiction in the Holy Quran. Rather, these should be understood as a natural consequence of the variety existing in the languages per se. At times, there is one word pronounced in a particular way by some people residing in one part of the country and which may be pronounced in a complete different way by others who live in another part of the same country. This difference in pronunciation, however, does not denote that the word itself or its meaning has changed. With minute alterations, the word and its meaning remain the same. The change only occurs due to the inability of a nation to pronounce the word in its original way, so they alter its pronunciation according to their own convenience. During the time of the Holy Prophet sas, the land of Arabia had a small population and the various tribes residing therein were at far distances from each other, hence their dialects and pronunciations would vary from each other significantly. Although their language was the same, butthe pronunciation of certain words was completely different. Every so often, one particular word would give a certain meaning in one tribe yet a different word was used to give the same meaning in another tribe. Considering these circumstances, Allah Ta‘ala permitted the Holy Prophet sasto use such and such words for those tribes which were not able to pronounce them properly. Thus, as long as Arabia did not develop into one nation, this very principle remained customary among them. Had they not been permitted to do so, only the residents of Mecca would be able to recite the Holy Quran and all others would have found it quite difficult. This would also cause the Holy Quran to not spread as quickly as it did. This is the reason why different recitations of the Holy Quran have been permitted.
However, once the society became developed reaching a certain standard which was governed by a central authority and everyone was fully acquainted with the language of Hijaz, Hadrat Uthman ra rightfully deduced that allowing these many recitations of the Holy Quran would now be only a cause of generating disagreements between the people. Thus, he decided to stop the general spread of these recitations, but they were still preserved in certain designated books. Thus out of a pious intention and in order to unite them under one recitation, he prohibited all other recitations apart from the original Hijazi one and allowed the use of only such copies of the Holy Quran for Arabs and non-Arabs alike that were according to the original recitation.(Tafsir-e-Kabir, vol. 9, p. 47–51)