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 Recitation of the Holy Qur’an (Qarā’at)

 At a time when the various styles of the art of the recitation of Qur’an were being developed in Medina, Mecca, Kufa, Basra, and Shām (Damascus) by the Qāris (reciters) during the 2nd and 3rd Hejira Centuries the such attempts eastern and western parts of the Islamic territories lagged behind and, thus, no particular style of recitation emerged from these regions . Notwithstanding the historical causes of this trend and without venturing any deeper into them it must be admitted that while the above-mentioned five cities were busy competing in the area of the recitation of the Holy Qur’an and coming up with their own styles, both, Iran and the other eastern Islamic territories such as Egypt stayed out of this competition. However, even during this period the Iranian people did manage to play a role in the history of the emergence of the various styles of recitation of Qur’an in the Islamic world. In this regard, firstly, mention must be made of an Iraqi qāri (reciter of the Holy Qor’an) of Iranian origin called “Soleimān A’mash” (d. 148 AH/765 AD) who came to gain fame as a Kufan qāri while, secondly, reference should be made to the Iranian scholars like Hosein bin ‘Ali Rāzi Qazvini (d. c. 300 AH/913 AD) who played a significant role in the transmission of various styles of recitation to other parts of the Islamic world. Many historical sources have made reference to the existing “Iqra’” centers in some Iranian cities like Rey and Neishābur in the early 4th Century AH/10th Century AD.

The most important role of the Iranians in the early history of the recitation of the Holy Qur’an was their active participation in the organization of such selected styles of recitation that were referred to as “Ekhtiyār”. This method of the organization of recitations that involved some sort of critical evaluation as well as Islamic jurisprudence attracted many Iranian scholars from among which reference can be made to such prominent personalities as Abu Obeid Qāsem bin Salām (d. 224 AH/838 AD), Mohammad bin Isā Esfahāni (d. 253 AH/867 AD), and Abu Hātam Sajestāni (d. 255 AH). It could perhaps be claimed that the Iranians had founded this method of giving importance to the art of reciting the Holy Qur’an, but it is important to note that the Iranians preferred to follow the selected styles of recitation that had been organized by Iranian scholars rather than a particular style of recitation from among the famous existing styles and the best evidence to support this argument is a report prepared in this regard by a scholar called “Moqaddasi” in the 4th Century AH/10the Century AD. 

Historical evidences indicate that the Iranians were among the pioneering Muslim scholars who began the process of organizing the various styles of recitation and writing books on the comparative study of these styles from towards the early 3rd Century AH/9th Century AD. As per historical reports, the first scholar to undertake such a task was Abu Obeid Qāsem bin Salām who recorded more than thirty styles of recitation in the form of a book. It was only after the efforts of Abu Obeid and other Iranian scholars like Abu Hātam Sajestāni, Abu Qotaybah Dinvari, and Fazl bin Shāzān Rāzi that some complementary efforts were made in this direction in the book, “Al-Jāme’”, of Tabari (d. 310 AH/02 AD).

Interestingly, towards the early 4th Century AH when Ibn Mojāhed (d. 324 AH/036 AD) tried to declare only seven particular styles of recitation as “official” in Baghdad and, in this way, intended to harm the credibility of the other styles, his move received strong criticism from some Iranian scholars like Mohammad bin Bahr Rahni (d. c. 330 AH/942 AD), the Imāmiyah Shiite scholar from Kermān. In the second part of this century, some Iranian scholars like Ibn Khāluyeh (d. 370 AH/980 AD) and Abu ‘Ali Fārsi (d. 377 AH) conducted some studies on the above-mentioned seven styles of recitation under the influence of the existing atmosphere in Iraq.

However, during the same period the eastern part of Iran was coming up with a new school as against the school founded by Ibn Mojāhed. Ibn Mehrān Neishāburi (d. 381 AH/991 AD) who should in fact be considered as the founder of this new school strongly opposed the idea of limiting the number of the recitation styles and believed that every style of recitation should be evaluated on the basis of certain criteria and in case of the fulfillment of those criteria, should be recognized as an accepted style.

This school was further developed and strengthened by a scholar named “Andarābi”, the author of the book, “Al-Izāh”, and its teachings were soon spread to Iraq and the territories situated on its west through some Iranian recitation teachers like Abu al-Karam Shahrzuri (d. 550 AH/1156 AD) and Abu al-‘Alā Hamadāni (d. 569 AH/1174 AD) as well as some visiting teachers like Abu al-Qāsem Hazli Maghrebi (d. 465 AH), who hailed from Morocco.

Following the Mongol invasion of Iran, the qerā’at teaching circles of Iran were almost destroyed and, thereafter, this field of Islamic knowledge became confined to the centers of religious teachings.

* source: Pakatchi , Ahmad " Iran Entry " The Great Islamic Encyclopedia . Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.10 , pp. 656

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