Selections from the Introduction
of Tafsir al-Qurtubi
(to be published by Dar al-Taqwa, insha'llah)
In the Name of Allah, the All-Merciful, Most Merciful
The meaning of the words of the Prophet, "The Qur'an was revealed in seven ahruf (dialects/modes)."
In the Sahih of Muslim, Ubayy ibn Ka'b reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, was with the Banu Ghifar when Jibril came to him and said, "Allah commands you to recite the Qur'an to your Com-munity in one mode." He said, "I ask Allah for His pardon and forgiveness. My Community will not be able to do that." Then he came a second time and said, "Allah commands you to recite the Qur'an to your Community in two modes." He said, "I ask Allah for His pardon and forgiveness. My Community will not be able to do that." He came a third time and said, "Allah commands you to recite the Qur'an to your Community in three modes." He replied, "I ask Allah for His pardon and forgiveness. My Community will not be able to do that." He came a fourth time and said, "Allah commands you to recite the Qur'an to your community in seven modes. Whichever mode they recite, it is correct." At-Tirmidhi reported that Ubayy said, "The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, met Jibril and said, 'Jibril, I was sent to an illiterate community. Some of them are old women and old men, boys and girls, and men who do not read at all.' He said to him, 'Muhammad, the Qur'an was revealed in seven modes." (sahih) This story is confirmed in the main authorities: al-Bukhari, Muslim, the Muwatta', Abu Dawud, an-Nasa'i and other books in the form of the story about Hisham ibn Hakim with 'Umar which we will mention later.
Scholars disagree about what is meant by the seven modes, and there are thirty-five things mentioned by al-Busti. We will mention five of them here:
-This is the position of most of the people of knowledge, such as Sufyan ibn 'Uyayna, 'Abdullah ibn Wahb, at-Tabari, at-Tahawi and others. What is meant are the seven manners of synonyms with different expressions, like aqbala, ta'ala and halluma (all of which mean "come here"). At-Tahawi said, "The clearest elucidation of that is what is mentioned in the hadith of Abu Bakra, 'Jibril came to the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and said, "Recite in one mode." Mika'il said, "Increase it." He said, "Recite it in two modes." Mika'il said, "Increase it," until it was seven modes. He said, "Recite it. Each is adequate unless you confuse an ayat of mercy for an ayat of punishment or an ayat of punishment with an ayat of mercy."' That is like halluma, ta'ala, aqbala, adhhaba, asra'a and 'ajjala. It is related from Ibn 'Abbas that Ubayy ibn Ka'b used to recite "wait for us" (57:13) "undhuruna" as "umhuluna", "akhkhiruna", and "arqubuna". With the same isnad, it is reported that Ubayy recited in 2:19 "marru" instead of "mashaw" and "sa'aw" (they walk). In al-Bukhari, az-Zuhri said, "These modes are about the same matter. They do not differ in respect of the halal and haram."
At-Tahawi said, "There was scope for people in the letters since they were unable to take the Qur'an in other than their dialects because they were illiterate and only a few of them could write. It was hard for someone with a dialect to change to another. If he wanted to do that, it would have entailed great hardship and so they were given scope regarding different expressions as long as the meaning was the same. They remained like that until many of them could write and the dialects reverted to that of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. Then they were able to memorise those words and they no longer had the allowance to recite differently." Ibn 'Abdu'l-Barr said, "It is clear that scope for the seven modes was at a particular time out of necessity. When that necessity was removed, the ruling of the seven was removed, and the Qur'an was recited in one mode."
- Some people say that the seven dialects in the Qur'an are the seven dialects of all the Arabs, both Yamani and Nizar, because the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was not ignorant of any of them. He was "given all the words". It does not mean that the one mode has seven aspects, but these seven dialects are in different parts of the Qur'an. Some of it is in the dialect of Quraysh, some in that of Hudhayl, some in Hawazin, and some in Yamani. Al-Khattabi said, "That is how the Qur'an is recited in seven ways." This is the meaning of the Qur'an being revealed in seven modes. Al-Qasim ibn Sallam believed that and Ibn 'Atiyya preferred it. Some tribes used writing more than others. Anas mentioned that when 'Uthman told them copy out the Qur'an, he said, "When you and Zayd differ, then write in the dialect of Quraysh. It was revealed in their dialect." (al-Bukhari)
Qadi Ibn at-Tayyib [al-Baqillani] said, "The meaning of 'Uthman's words that it was revealed in the dialect of Quraysh, means most of it. It is not a definitive proof that it is all in the dialect of Quraysh since there are words and letters which differ from the dialect of Quraysh. This indicates that it was revealed in all the language of the Arabs, and no one can say that it was just Quraysh or one part of the Arabs rather than others. Ibn 'Abdu'l-Barr said that this meant that most of it was revealed in the dialect of Quraysh because other than the dialect of Quraysh exists in sound readings with the use of the hamzas and the like. Quraysh did not use the hamza. Ibn 'Atiyya said that the meaning of the "seven modes" is that the expressions of the seven tribes are in it.
- These seven dialects are all from the tribes of Mudar. Some people said that. They used as evidence what 'Uthman said, "The Qur'an was revealed in the language of Mudar." They said, "It is possible that part of it is that of Quraysh, part Kinana, part Asad, part Hudhayl, part Taym, part Daba, and part Qays. They said these tribes of Mudar contain the seven dialects in these ranks. Ibn Mas'ud used to like those who copied out the Qur'ans to be from Mudar. Others objected to the idea that it was all from Mudar and said that there are rare usages in Mudar with which it is not permitted to write the Qur'an.
- What is related from some scholars is exemplified by Qadi Ibn at-Tayyib who said, "I have reflected on the aspects of the differences in recitation and have found them to be seven. Some involve changes of voweling while the meaning and form remain, like atharu and athara in 11:78; some do not change their form but change their meaning through inflection, as in 36:19, reading ba'id or ba'ida; some retain their form and change their meaning with different letters; some change the form while the meaning remains as in 101:5 where both 'ahn and suf mean wool; some change their form and meaning; some entail a change of order; and some consist of addition or reduction.
- What is meant by the seven modes are meanings in the Book of Allah: command and prohibition, promise and threat, stories, arguments and parables. Ibn 'Atiyya says that this is weak because that is not called ahruf. Furthermore there is consensus that it does not occur in making the lawful lawful or changing any of the meanings. Qadi Ibn at-Tayyib mentioned a hadith along these lines from the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and then said, "This is not part of what it is allowed for them to recite." Harf in this means 'manner' as Allah says, 'one who worships Allah on an edge.' (22:11). That is the meaning of the hadith about the seven means of allowing and forbidding and the like.
It is also said that what is meant by the seven ahruf are the seven readings that we have because all of that is sound as the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, stated. This, however, is not correct, as we will now explain.
Section on the seven readings
Most scholars, like ad-Dawudi, Ibn Abi Sufra and others said that these seven readings which are ascribed to the seven readers are not the seven ahruf for which the Companions had allowance to recite. They refer merely to one harf of those seven, which is what 'Uthman collected in the copy of the Qur'an which he authorised. Ibn an-Nahhas and others mentioned that. These seven famous readings (qira'at) are the selections of those Imams of recitation. That is because each of them chose what he related and the aspect he knew of the recitations which he considered to be the best and most appropriate. Each held to a path, related and recited it, and became famous for it. He is known for it and it is ascribed to him, like the mode of Nafi' and the mode of Ibn Kathir. One of them did not forbid choosing another nor object to it. He allowed it. Each of those seven has two or more choices related from him. All are sound.
Muslims at this time have agreed to rely on what is sound from these imams. That which they related of the readings and wrote in books. The consensus remains that they are correct, and the preservation of the Book which Allah promised has been secured. This is the position of the earlier imams and excellent reliable men like Qadi Abu Bakr ibn at-Tayyib, at-Tabari and others. Ibn 'Atiyya said, "These seven readings have lasted through different times and places and the prayer is performed using them as their soundness is established by consensus. As for the rare (shadhdh) readings, the prayer is not performed using them because there is no consensus on that. As for what is related from the Companions and the Followers about that, it can only be believed that they transmitted that. As for what is related from Abu's-Sammal and those connected to him, one does not rely on it."
Someone else said, "As for the rare (shadhdh) readings of the copies of the transmitted Qur'an, they are not considered to be the Qur'an, and are not acted on as if they were part of it. It is most probable that they are clarification of the interpretation of the position of the one to whom they are ascribed, like the reading of Ibn Mas'ud. If the transmitter is explicit about having heard it from the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, then scholars have two positions about acting on it: negative or positive . The negative position is based on the fact that the transmitter did not relate it as a hadith, but as Qur'an, and it is not affirmed as such and so is not confirmed. The positive position is that even if it is not affirmed as Qur'an, it is affirmed as sunna, and that obliges action, just as the case with all single ahadith.
Section: The hadith of 'Umar and Hisham
Ibn 'Atiyya said, "Allah allowed these seven modes to His Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and Jibril brought them to him in a way which ensured inimitability and precise cohesion. His words, 'Recite what is easy of it,' did not permit any of the Companions to change any expression in one of these dialects as he wished. If that had been the case, then the Qur'an would not have been inimitable, as people would have changed this and that and then it would have become other than what was revealed from Allah. The permission was for the seven modes of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, in order to give ample scope to his Community. Once he recited to Ubayy what Jibril brought him, and once to Ibn Mas'ud what had been presented to him.
This was the crux of the difference between 'Umar ibn al-Khattab's reading of Surat al-Furqan and that of Hisham ibn Hakim. Otherwise how was it proper for the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, to say about the recitation of each of them which differed, 'That was how Jibril recited it to me.' Was it only that he recited it once like that and once like this? This is the meaning of what Anas said when he recited 'aswab' instead of 'aqwam' in Surat al-Muzzammil (73:5) meaning "more conducive". He was told, 'We recite it "aqwam".' He replied, '"Aswab", "aqwam" and "ahya'" are all the same." This is the sense of what is reported from the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. If anyone had been permitted to do that, that would have invalidated the words of Allah, 'It is We who have sent down the Reminder and We will preserve it.' (15:9)."
Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others related that 'Umar ibn al-Khattab said, "I heard Hisham ibn Hakim reciting Surat al-Furqan in a different way from how I read it, and the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, himself had recited it to me. I almost grabbed him, but I waited until he had finished. Then I got him by his cloak and took him to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. I said, 'Messenger of Allah, I heard this one reciting Surat al-Furqan differently to how you recited it to me!' The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, 'Let him recite.' He recited it as I had heard him recite it. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, 'That is how it was revealed.' Then he told me, 'Recite.' I recited it and he said, 'That is how it was revealed. This Qur'an was revealed in seven modes, so recite whatever you find easy of it.'"
Similar to this hadith is what Muslim transmitted from Ubayy ibn Ka'b. He said, "I was in the mosque when a man came in to pray. He recited a reading to which I objected. Then another man entered and recited a different recitation to that of his companion. When they finished the prayer, we all went to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and I said, 'This one recited a reading to which I objected and the other entered and used a different recitation to that of his companion.' The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, commanded them to recite, and the Prophet commended what they done. Then doubt entered my heart such as had not even affected me in the Jahiliyya. When the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, saw what had overpowered me, he struck my chest and I started to sweat, feeling alarm as if I had been looking at Allah. He said to me, 'Ubayy, I was sent a message to recite the Qur'an in one mode and I replied that I wanted it to be made easy for my community. A second message commanded me to recite it in two modes, and I replied that I wanted it to be made easy for my community. Then I was told the third time, "Recite it in seven modes. You can ask for something for each time you returned to ask." I said, "O Allah, forgive my Community! O Allah, forgive my Community!" I delayed the third until a Day when all creation even Ibrahim, peace be upon him, will ask of me.'"
Ubayy meant that he felt confusion and astonishment, in other words he had an impulse from Shaytan which sullied his state and muddied his mind at that moment. The difference of the readings seemed terrible to him while it was not in itself terrible. Otherwise what would entail denial of the difference in the recitations, when that is not necessary? Praise be to Allah who abrogated what is greater than a reading! When the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, saw the thought that occurred to him, he woke him up by striking his chest. The result of that was the expansion of his breast and inward illumination so that the unveiling and expansion took him to a state of vision. When the ugliness of that thought was clear to him, he feared Allah and sweated profusely out of shame before Allah. This thought is the type of thing about which the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, spoke when they said to him, "We find things in ourselves which one of us finds too terrible to speak about." He asked, "Do you experience that?" "Yes," they replied. He said, "That is clear faith." (Muslim from Abu Hurayra)
The collection of the Qur'an and the reason 'Uthman had copies of the Qur'an copied out and burned the rest. The memorisation of the Qur'an by the Companions in the time of the Prophet
In the time of the Prophet, the Qur'an was scattered in the breasts of men. People wrote some of it in on pages, on skins and on white stones and flat stones, scraps and other things. Then a great number of the reciters were killed in Battle of Yamama in the time of Abu Bakr. Something like 700 of them were killed in a single day and 'Umar ibn al-Khattab suggested to Abu Bakr to collect the Qur'an out of fear that the shaykhs of the reciters such as Ubayy, Ibn Mas'ud and Zayd would all die. Zayd ibn Thabit recommended that, and so after great effort. he collected it together without putting the suras in order.
Al-Bukhari reports that Zayd ibn Thabit said, "After the slaughter in the war of Yamama, Abu Bakr sent for me, and 'Umar was with him. Abu Bakr said, ''Umar has come to me and said, "Many people were killed in the Battle of Yamama, and I fear that many Qur'an reciters will be killed in other places and so much of the Qur'an will be lost unless you collect it. I think that you should collect the Qur'an together."' Abu Bakr said, 'I said to 'Umar, "How can I do something which the Messenger of Allah did not do?" 'Umar said, "By Allah, it is better." 'Umar kept on at me about it until Allah opened my breast to it. I think what 'Umar thinks.'" Zayd ibn Thabit continued, "'Umar was sitting with him, not speaking. Abu Bakr said, 'You are an intelligent young man and we have no doubts about you. You used to write down the revelation for the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. Therefore you are to search out the Qur'an and collect it.' By Allah, if he had obliged me to move one of the mountains, that would not have been weightier for me than his command to me to collect together the Qur'an. I replied, 'How can the two of you do something which the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, did not do?' Abu Bakr said, 'By Allah, it is better.' He continued to keep on at me until Allah opened my breast to that which Allah had opened the breasts of Abu Bakr and 'Umar. So I began to search out the Qur'an and collect it from the parchments, shoulder-blades, palm fronds and the breasts of men until I found two ayats of Surat at-Tawba with Khuzayma al-Ansari that I did not find with anyone else: 'A Messenger has come to you from among yourselves...' (9:128) The copy of the Qur'an in which the Qur'an was collected remained in the possession of Abu Bakr until Allah took him, and then it was with 'Umar until Allah took him, and then it was with Hafsa bint 'Umar."
If it is asked what was the point of 'Uthman unifying people under a single copy of the Qur'an when Abu Bakr had already achieved that, then the response is that the aim of 'Uthman was not to gather people in order to compile the Qur'an. Do you not see that he sent to Hafsa to ask her to give him the copy of the Qur'an so that it could be copied out and then returned to her? 'Uthman did that because people were disagreeing about the various recitations owing to the fact that the Companions had spread to different areas and had begun to strongly disagree, such as the conflict which took place between the people of Iraq and the people of Syria according to Hudhayfa.
They joined an expedition to Armenia and each group recited what had been transmitted to them. They disagreed and quarrelled and some of them called the others unbelievers, renouncing them completely, cursing one another. Hudhayfa was alarmed at what he saw. As soon as he arrived back to Madina, according to al-Bukhari and at-Tirmidhi, before returning to his house he went to 'Uthman and said, "This Community has reached the stage where it will be destroyed!" "Why?' asked 'Uthman. He said, "It is about the Book of Allah. I was on this expedition and some of the people of Iraq, Syria and the Hijaz came together." Then he described what had happened and said, "I fear that they will differ about their Book as the Jews and Christians differed."
This is evidence of the falseness of those who say that the seven ahruf are the seven present readings because there is no disagreement about them. Suwayd ibn Ghafala reported from 'Ali ibn Abi Talib that 'Uthman said, "What do you think about the copies of the Qur'an? The people have disagreed about the reciters until a man says, 'My reading is better than your reading. My reading is more excellent than your reading.' This is equivalent to disbelief." He replied, "What is your view, Amir al-Mu'minin?" He said, 'I think that we people should agree on one reading. If you differ today, those after you will disagree more strongly." 'Ali said, "The correct opinion is yours, Amir al-Mu'minin." So 'Uthman sent a message to Hafsa saying, "Send us the pages in your possession and we will copy them and then return them to you." She sent them to him and he ordered Zayd ibn Thabit, 'Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr, Sa'id ibn al-'As, and 'Abdu'r-Rahman ibn al-Harith ibn Hisham to make copies of them. 'Uthman told the group of Qurayshis, "When you and Zayd ibn Thabit disagree about any of the Qur'an, write it in the dialect of Quraysh. It was revealed in their language." They did that. When they had copied it out, 'Uthman returned the pages to Hafsa and he sent a copy of what they had copied out to every region and commanded that every sheet or copy which had any other form of the Qur'an should be burned. 'Uthman did this after gathering the Muhajirun and Ansar and a group of Muslims and consulting them about it. They agreed to collect what was sound and firm of the well-known readings from the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and discard anything else. They thought that what he decided was right and correct. May Allah have mercy on him and all of them."
Ibn Shihab said that he was told by 'Ubaydullah ibn 'Abdullah that 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud disliked Zayd ibn Thabit copying out the Qur'an and said, "Company of Muslims, withdraw from making copies and entrusting it to one man. By Allah, I became Muslim while he was in the loins of an unbelieving father!" meaning Zayd ibn Thabit. That is why 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud said, "People of Iraq, conceal the copies of the Qur'an you have and conceal them. Allah says, 'Those who misappropriate will arrive on the Day of Rising with what they have misappropriated.' (3:161). Meet Allah with the copies of the Qur'an." (at-Tirmidhi)
Abu Bakr al-Anbari said, "The fact that Abu Bakr, 'Umar and 'Uthman chose Zayd in the matter of collecting the Qur'an does not mean that they were putting him over 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud. 'Abdullah was better than Zayd, older in Islam, had attended more battles and possessed more virtues. Zayd, however, knew more of the Qur'an than 'Abdullah since he had memorised it all during the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, whereas 'Abdullah had only memorised about seventy suras while the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was alive and learned the rest after his death. The one who knew the entire Qur'an and memorised it while the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was alive was more entitled to compile the Qur'an and to be preferred and chosen to do so. No ignorant person should suppose that this is an attack on 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud since the fact that Zayd had the better memory of the Qur'an of the two does not mean that he should be preferred to him in general terms because Zayd also knew more Qur'an than Abu Bakr and 'Umar, and he was certainly not better than them or equal to them in virtue."
Abu Bakr al-Anbari said, "The objection which 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud made was done in anger and is not acted upon or accepted. There is no doubt that once he was no longer angry he was satisfied with the excellence of the decision of 'Uthman and the Companions of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and concurred with their agreement and abandoned his opposition to them."
One scholar said that 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud died before learning all the Qur'an. Yazid ibn Harun said, "The two suras of refuge have the same status as al-Baqara and Al 'Imran. Anyone who claims that they are not part of the Qur'an has rejected Allah Almighty." He was asked, 'What about what 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud says about them?" He replied, "There is no disagreement among the Muslims that 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud died before memorising all of the Qur'an." This requires some investigation, as will come.
Hammad said I think quoting Anas ibn Malik "They disagreed about an ayat and would say, 'The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, recited it to so-and-so.' He might be three days from Madina and he would be sent for and would be asked, 'How did the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, recite such-and-such an ayat to you?' and they would write it as he said." Ibn Shihab said, "One day they disagreed about tabut. Zayd said tabuh. Ibn az-Zubayr and Sa'id ibn al-'As said, tabut. The disagreement was taken to 'Uthman who said, 'Write it with ta'. It was revealed in the language of Quraysh." (al-Bukhari and at-Tirmidhi)
'Uthman had several copies of the Qur'an made. Some say there were seven while the majority say that there were four. They were sent to various areas. Matrix copies were sent to Iraq, Syria and Egypt, and the reciters of the cities relied on them and none of them differed from the original copy in the manner in which it was conveyed. There is not found among the seven reciters any real difference in the words, neither more nor less. That is because they all relied on what was conveyed in 'Uthman's copy.
Al-Anbari quoted Suwayd ibn Ghafala in Kitab ar-Radd, "I heard 'Ali ibn Abi Talib say, 'Company of people! Fear Allah and beware of excess about 'Uthman and calling him "The burner of Qur'ans". By Allah, he only burned them on the basis of the advice of a council of us, the Companions of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.'" It is also reported that 'Ali said, "If I had been ruler at the time of 'Uthman, I would have done to the copies of the Qur'an the same thing that 'Uthman did."
Our scholars say that what 'Uthman did refutes the Hululis and Hashwites who say that the letters and sounds are eternal and that recitation and reading are eternal and that faith is eternal and the ruh is eternal. The Community and all groups of the Christians, Jews and Brahmans believe and indeed, every theist and unitarian that that which is eternal is unaffected by any event, and no one's power can affect it by any aspect or means. Non-existence is not possible for the eternal and the eternal does not become temporal and the temporal does not become eternal. As for the eternal, there is no beginning to its existence whereas the temporal is that which exists after it was not.
The Rafidites attack the Qur'an and say, "One person is sufficient to confirm the transmission of an ayat and mode just as you have done. You confirmed the statement of a single man, Khuzayma ibn Thabit, in reporting about the end of Surat al-Tawba and the ayat in Surat al-Ahzab 'Among the believers are menÉ' (33:23)." The reply to them is that when Khuzayma mentioned these words, many of the Companions remembered them and Zayd himself recognised them. That is why he said, "The last two ayats of Surat at-Tawba were missing." If he had not already known them, he would not have known that anything was missing. So the ayat was in fact established by consensus, not by Khuzayma alone. The second answer is that it was established by the testimony of Khuzayma alone and the evidence of its soundness is found in the description of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and so has no need for another witness, which is not the case of the ayat in al-Ahzab. That is established by the testimony of Zayd and Abu Khuzayma who heard it from the Prophet. It is mentioned that Abu Khuzayma is not the same Khuzayma with whom the ayat of at-Tawba found and he was known among the Ansar. Anas knew him. The one with whom the ayat of al-Ahzab was found was Khuzayma ibn Thabit. There is no confusion in the story.
In Muslim and al-Bukhari, Anas ibn Malik said, "The Qur'an was gathered together in the time of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, by four, all of whom were from the Ansar: Ubayy, Mu'adh ibn Jabal, Zayd ibn Thabit, and Abu Zayd." Anas was asked, "Who is Abu Zayd?" and he replied, "One of my paternal uncles." Also in al-Bukhari, Anas said, "When the Prophet died, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, only four knew all the Qur'an: Abu'd-Darda', Mu'adh, ibn Jabal, Zayd and Abu Zayd."
Ibn at-Tayyib said, "These traditions do not indicate that the Qur'an was not memorised in the time of the Prophet and that only four of the Ansar knew it by heart as Anas stated. It is confirmed by multiple paths of transmission that the entire Qur'an was also known by 'Uthman, 'Ali, Tamim ad-Dari, 'Ubada ibn as-Samit, and 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr ibn al-'As." Anas' words mean that only these four took it directly from the mouth of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. Most of them learned it from one another.
The Qadi did not mention 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud and Salim, the client of Abu Hudhayfa, although they were among those who knew the entire Qur'an. It is reported that 'Umar ibn al-Khattab said, "I was with the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and with him were Abu Bakr and whomever Allah wished. We passed 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud who was praying. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, asked, 'Who is reciting the Qur'an?' He was told, ''Abdullah ibn Umm 'Abd.' He said, ''Abdullah recites the Qur'an fresh as it was revealed.'"
One scholar said that this meant that he recited the first harf in which the Qur'an was revealed rather than the other seven which the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was allowed after the Messenger of Allah, Jibril, recited the Qur'an to him in Ramadan. It is related that Abu Æubyan said, "'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas asked me, 'Which of the recitations do you recite?' I replied, 'The first recitation, that of Ibn Umm 'Abd.' He told me, 'Rather it was the last. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, used to present the Qur'an to Jibril once a year. In the year that he died, the Messenger of Allah read it to him twice. 'Abdullah was present and knew what was abrogated and changed in that.'" In Muslim, 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr stated that he heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, "Take the Qur'an from four: Ibn Umm 'Abd and he began with him Mu'adh ibn Jabal, Ubayy ibn Ka'b and Salim, the client of Abu Hudhayfa."
These reports indicate that 'Abdullah knew all the Qur'an in the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah, contrary to what was said, and Allah knows best. In Kitab ar-Radd, al-Anbari transmitted that 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud said, "I learned 72 (or 73) suras from the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and I read to him from al-Baqara as far as 'Allah loves those who repent' (2:222)." Abu Ishaq says that he learned the rest of the Qur'an from Mujammi' ibn Jariya al-Ansari. If this is true, the consensus which Yazid ibn Harun mentioned is true and that is why Qadi Ibn at-Tayyib did not mention him among those who knew the Qur'an by heart in the time of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. Allah knows best.
Part of what will indicate the soundness of Ibn Mas'ud's knowledge of the Qur'an is that the people with the readings among the people of the Hijaz, Syria and Iraq all traced their readings which they chose back to one of the Companions who read it to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. 'Asim traced his reading to 'Ali and Ibn Mas'ud, Ibn Kathir to Ubayy as did Abu 'Amr ibn al-'Ala', and 'Abdullah ibn 'Amir traced his to 'Uthman. All of them said that they had read it to the Messenger of Allah. The isnads of these readings are continuous and the transmitters are reliable, as al-Khattabi stated.
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