Seven Ahruf Hadith: On Suggestions against Centrality of the Prophetic Precedent


Waqar Akbar Cheema


Whereas the bulk of hadith reports on seven ahruf are laden with proofs for the centrality of Prophetic precedent, specific odd narrations give an impression otherwise. The article is about critically examining such narrations. Highlighting their respective weakness in terms of isnad, a possible origin of those narrations has been suggested. In doing so, doubts about the centrality of the Prophetic precedent in the ahruf scheme have been removed.

1. Introduction

We have earlier known the proofs establishing the centrality of the Prophetic precedent in the ahruf scheme for multiple recitals (qira’at). We now turn to analyze suggestions otherwise.  Therefore, it is more of a mukhtalif al-hadith question for the present purpose.

In discussing the hadith reports, we shall first mention the narrations and highlight aspects critical to the following analysis.

2. Hadith of Abu Bakra

It is foremost the hadith of Abu Bakra, which has elements with the impression that the ahruf scheme was a license for people to use synonyms for revealed words as long as the meanings were not affected. The Kufan Abu Bakr Ibn Abi Shaiba (d. 235/850) recounts it as:

حدثنا زيد بن حباب ، عن حماد بن سلمة، عن علي بن زيد بن جدعان، عن عبد الرحمن بن أبي بكرة ، عن أبيه ، أن جبريل ، قال للنبي صلى الله عليه وسلم : اقرإ القرآن على حرف ، فقال له ميكائيل : استزده ، فقال : على حرفين ، ثم قال : استزده ، حتى بلغ سبعة أحرف ، كلها شاف كاف كقولك : هلم وتعال ، ما لم يختم آية رحمة بآية عذاب ، أو آية عذاب برحمة

Zaid b.  Hubab related to us, on the authority of Hammad b. Salama, on the authority of ‘Ali b. Zaid b.  Jud‘an, on the authority of ‘Abdul Rahman b.  Abi Bakra from his father (Abu Bakra): Jibril said to the Prophet (ﷺ); Recite the Qur’an on a harf.  Mika’il told [the Prophet] to ask for an increase.  Jibril said, ‘Recite on two harfs.’ Mika’il again asked to demand an increase until it reached seven ahruf.  [Jibril said] All of these are (equally) benefitting and sufficient.  It is like you saying, “advance!” (halumma) or “come!” (ta‘al) as long as one does not append a verse on mercy with a verse on punishment or a verse on punishment with that on mercy.[1]

The latter part of this narration gives the impression of seven ahruf being principle permission of recitation by meaning without it being predicated on the clear Prophetic precedent to the letter.

2.1 Isnad analysis

The hadith of Abu Bakra mostly comes through Hammad b.  Salama – ‘Ali b.  Zaid b.  Jud‘an link, on the authority of Abu Bakra’s son ‘Abdul Rahman.  In turn, from Hammad, at least five of his students report it.[2]  Other links include ‘Abdul Warith b.  Sa‘id and al-Hasan b.  Dinar narrating it from ‘Ali b.  Zaid b.  Jud‘an.[3]

a) Observations about ‘Ali b. Zaid b.  Jud‘an

Therefore, the common link in this hadith’s transmission is ‘Ali b.  Zaid b.  Jud‘an.  He has been criticized, with many authorities deeming him altogether weak due to poor memory.[4] Others, however, consider him generally reliable.  Several later critical hadith scholars opine that his reports are to be graded as hasan (plausible) if they are not at variance with those of more trustworthy narrators.[5] Nevertheless, one must juxtapose his narrations with others’ to sift potentially problematic aspects.  One of the specific observations is that he occasionally related the Companions’ statements as the Prophet’s (ﷺ).[6]

b) Marfu‘ or Mawquf: Variations in narrations

What confirms the relevance of this observation is the variation across narrations of students of Hammad b.  Salama.  Whereas some narrators from Hammad b.  Salama relate it as Abu Bakra describing the Jibril-Prophet interaction; narrations of others suggest that Abu Bakra told the description of the exchange from the Prophet (ﷺ) himself.  Significantly, the most careful of the narrators from Hammad b.  Salama, namely ‘Affan b.  Muslim always has the description of Jibril-Prophet interaction reported in third person; Jibril came to the Prophet and said so and so.[7]

True that reports from others from Hammad give the semblance of it being marfu‘, but experts of hadith tradition have termed ‘Affan the most reliable of the narrators from Hammad.[8] The same has been observed in comparing ‘Affan specifically to ‘Abdul Rahman b.  Mahdi[9] and Zaid b.  Hubab,[10] two of the stronger narrators from Hammad relating the words in first person from the Prophet (ﷺ).[11] What bolsters this observation is that Abu al-Fadl al-Razi (d. 454/1062) quotes from Abu Hatim al-Sijistani’s (d. 255/869) book the same narration, and notes that it was related as mawquf (i.e. saying of the Prophet’s companion – Abu Bakra).[12]

The above-noted observation about Ibn Jud‘an would make one consider the narration mawquf.[13]

We, however, know that the seven ahruf hadith comes through other companions as well, so the entire hadith of Abu Bakra could not be mawquf.  Therefore, we have to analyze the content of Abu Bakra’s hadith and compare it with other received information in light of the isnad analysis above.

2.2 Content Analysis

a) Segments of the hadith

To begin the content (matn) analysis, we find two main segments of this hadith.  The first one starts with the description of the Jibril-Prophet interaction ending with the mention of ahruf being seven in number and each of them being effective and sufficient.  The second is the one that follows and carries the impression of being a qualification of ahruf.  The second segment has two elements: the similitude of ahruf with synonymous words and the other about mixing verses of different imports.

Whereas the first segment is common across narrations of several companions, the second is altogether odd.  Recalling the observations in the isnad analysis above, we can argue that it does not come from the Prophet (ﷺ) but Abu Bakra or someone after him.  Interestingly, at least one narration of Abu Bakra’s hadith briefly gives the first segment alone.[14]

b) Tracing the origins of the latter segment of the hadith to Ibn Mas‘ud

If one believed that the last segment came not from the Prophet (ﷺ) but Abu Bakra, one would still consider its relevance.  Does it mean Abu Bakra understood the ahruf scheme as such or is there is something else to it?

A careful probe reveals that both the elements of the second segment of the hadith have roots in the sayings of another prominent companion ‘Abdullah b.  Mas‘ud. The Basran Muhammad ibn Sirin (d. 110/729) relates:

أن عبد الله بن مسعود قال نزل القرآن على سبعة أحرف كقولك هلم أقبل تعال

‘Abdullah b.  Mas‘ud said: The Qur’an has been revealed on seven ahruf which are like you saying, “advance!” (halumma), “move on” (aqbil) or “come!” (ta‘al).[15]

Moreover, the following narration recorded by ‘Abdul Razzaq al-San‘ani (d. 211/827) confirms the Ibn Mas‘ud link for the first element. It also trumps the impression against the Prophetic precedent.

عن الثوري , عن الأعمش , عن أبي وائل , قال: قال ابن مسعود وقد تسمعت القراء فسمعتهم متقاربين , فاقرءوا كما علمتم , وإياكم والتنطع والاختلاف , فإنما هو كقول أحدهم: هلم وتعال ” , ثم قرأ عبد الله {هيت لك} [يوسف: 23] قال: فقلت: يا أبا عبد الرحمن إن ناسا يقرءونها هيت لك: فقال: عبد الله «إني أقرؤها كما علمت أحب إلي»

Narrated on the authority of [Sufyan] al-Thawri, on the authority of al-A‘mash, on the authority of Abu Wa’il: Ibn Mas‘ud said, “I have listened to the [varying] reciters and found them reciting similar to one another.  Therefore, recite the Qur’an as you have been taught and avoid brawling and disputing about it.  It is just like one of you saying, “advance!” (halumma) or “come!” (ta‘al).  Then ‘Abdullah [ibn Mas‘ud] recited, ‘haita lak’ (come on!).  I [Abu Wa’il] said to him, ‘O Abu ‘Abdul Rahman, people recite it as ‘hita lak’.  At this, ‘Abdullah replied, ‘I recite it the way I have been taught, and it is dearer to me thus.’[16]

Here Ibn Mas‘ud used the exact words to highlight the proximity of variation borne of ahruf scheme; however, before and after it, he stressed the need to stick to the received precedent.

The second element of the second segment also comes from Ibn Mas‘ud. It is reported that;

قال عبد الله: “ليس الخطأ أن تقرأ بعض القرآن في بعض، ولا أن تختم آية {غفور رحيم} ب {عليم حكيم أو ب {عزيز حكيم} ولكن الخطأ أن تقرأ ما ليس فيه أو تختم آية رحمة بآية عذاب”

‘Abdullah [b.  Mas‘ud] said: It is not a mistake to recite one part of the Qur’an into another nor it is a mistake to end a verse with [any of the formulae such as] ‘All-Forgiving, Most Merciful’ or ‘All-Knowing, All-Wise’ or ‘Almighty, All-Wise’ but the mistake instead is that you recite words that are not from it or if you end a verse of mercy with a verse of punishment.[17]

Another narration puts it as;

قال عبد الله: ليس الخطأ أن تجعل خاتمة آية خاتمة آية أخرى

‘Abdullah said: It is not a mistake that you make the ending of one verse that of another.[18]

After mentioning the first of these narrations, Muhammad b. al-Hasan al-Shaibani (d. 189/804) writes, “This is our opinion, and Abu Hanifa said the same.”[19] Later Hanafi manuals also mention that even in ritual prayers (salah), if a person jumps from one verse (or a part of it) to another verse of the Qur’an, it does not nullify the prayers except when such a jump changes the meanings altogether.[20] Abu ‘Ubaid (d. 224/838) also explained it was not right to take exception to the utterance of proven attributes of Allah even if their use was mistaken in being against the sequence and context of a specific revelation.[21] Al-Baihaqi (d. 458/1066) aptly noted that since it was all about reciting the revealed verses of the Qur’an, albeit in a mistaken sequence, it was not a mistake that incurred sin (laisa al-khata’ al-ma’thumu bihi al-mukhti’uhu).[22]

Nevertheless, the report does not suggest the permissibility of ignoring the Prophetic precedent. Neither does it imply permission for recitation by meaning. On the contrary, it is about reciting the revealed verses of the Qur’an, even if in a sequence other than the prescribed.

c) The Basran connection

It is striking to note that with al-Tabari, we find a mursal report from Muhammad b.  Sirin, which is quite similar to that of Abu Bakra and includes the mention of Jibril-Prophet interaction and the synonyms, “advance!” (halumma) and “come!” (ta‘al).[23]

Against this, let’s recall some basic facts on the key narrators’ domiciles.  While Ibn Mas‘ud settled in Kufa, Abu Bakra lived and died in Basra.  Muhammad b.  Sirin, who narrated a vital element of the second segment of the hadith from Ibn Mas‘ud, was also from Basra.  ‘Ali b.  Zaid b. Jud‘an too was a Basran. Abu Bakra, Ibn Sirin, and ‘Ali b.  Zaid were all not only from Basra but also very well related.  Ibn Sirin was a student of Abu Bakra and a teacher of ‘Ali.  The admix of Ibn Mas‘ud statements with Abu Bakra’s narration of seven ahruf hadith thus seems a very Basran affair.  Not just the proponents of the traditional narrative, but some of those with revisionist leanings also acknowledge this.[24]

2.3 Conclusion

With these observations, we can be sure that the hadith of Abu Bakra is not all the saying of the Prophet (ﷺ).  The latter part is mawquf coming, at best, from Abu Bakra.[25] Its inspiration comes from ‘Abdullah bin Mas‘ud who had made the observations not to explain seven ahruf or to qualify allowance by way of it but to make a point about the nature of seven ahruf and highlight a scenario of ignorable mistake in the recitation of Qur’an.

3. Hadith of Ubayy b. Ka‘b

Another report of the kind has been related in the name of Ubayy b.  Ka‘b. Interestingly, some scholars who otherwise considered the hadith of Abu Bakra to be weak because of ‘Ali b.  Zaid b.  Jud‘an thought it was worth consideration because of the corroboration from the following report from Ubayy[26] recorded, among others, by Abu Dawud (d. 275/889);

حدَّثنا أبو الوليد الطَّيالسي، حدَّثنا هَمامُ بنُ يحيى، عن قتادة، عن يحيي بن يَعمَر، عن سُليمانَ بن صُرَدٍ الخزاعي عن أبي بن كعب، قال: قال النبي – صلَّى الله عليه وسلم -: “يا أبيُّ، إني أُقرئتُ القرآن فقيل لي: على حرفِ أو حرفين؟ فقال المَلَكُ الذي معي: قل: على حرفين، قلت: على حرفين، فقيل لي: على حرفين أو ثلاثة؟ فقال المَلَكُ الذي معي: قل: على ثلاثةٍ، قلت: على ثلاثة، حتى بلغ سبعةَ أحرفٍ، ثم قال: ليس منها إلا شافٍ كافٍ، إن قلت: سميعاً عليماً عزيزاً حكيماً، ما لم تَختِم آيةَ عذابٍ برحمة، أو آيةَ رحمةٍ بعذاب”

Abu al-Walid al-Tayalisi related to us: Hamam b.  Yahya related to us, on the authority of Qatada, on the authority of Yahya b.  Ya‘mar, on the authority of Suleman b.  Surd al-Khuza‘i, on the authority of Ubayy b.  Ka‘b: The Prophet (ﷺ) said: O Ubayy! I was taught the recitation of the Qur’an (uqri’tu al-qur’an), and it was said to me: ‘In one harf or two?’ So the angel with me said: ‘Say: In two Harfs’ So I said: ‘in two harfs,’ I was again asked, ‘On two harfs or three?’ Thus the angel with me said: ‘Say, in three harfs,’ until we reached seven Ahruf.  He then said each harf is (equally) benefitting and sufficient.  It does not matter whether you say, ‘All-Hearing, All-Knowing,’ or ‘All-Powerful, All-Wise’ as long as you do not finish a verse on punishment with [attributes of] mercy, or a verse on mercy with [attributes of] punishment.”[27]

3.1 Isnad Analysis

Suleman b.  Surd was himself a companion of the Prophet (ﷺ).  From Suleman, three people narrate the report on seven ahruf; Abu Ishaq al-Hamadani, Suqair al-‘Abdi, and Yahya b.  Ya‘mar, and only through Yahya, we have this report as above.[28]  Narrations from the other two do not include the mention of verse endings.  Moreover, from Ubayy, the hadith on seven ahruf is related by at least six different narrators besides Suleman b.  Surd and these words are not reported by any of them.[29]

 These observations make the mention of verse endings with the seven ahruf hadith questionable.  It is significant to note that the two narrators after Suleman, i.e. Yahya b.  Ya‘mar and Qatada belonged to Basra, and there are substantial doubts about Qatada hearing directly from Yahya b.  Ya‘mar. [30]  Moreover, we learn that Qatada was a student of ‘Ali b.  Zaid b.  Jud‘an and Yahya b.  Ya‘mar, one of the teachers of ‘Ali b.  Zaid.[31] These observations show the trail for the odd addition in this narration of the hadith of Ubayy going back to the hadith of Abu Bakra.  Accordingly, this particular narration from Ubayy does not provide any corroboration to the hadith of Abu Bakra. Therefore, the mention of verse endings is an odd and undue, albeit inadvertent, appendix made by some Basran narrators.

3.2 Content Analysis

In terms of content too, the part on Allah’s attributes and verse endings goes against the initial part of the hadith wherein the Prophet (ﷺ) said that the Qur’an was taught to him in seven ahruf. That the Prophet (ﷺ), an individual, was taught the seven ahruf confirms that for the Muslim community at large to benefit and learn the ahruf they had to receive it from the Prophet (ﷺ) and that ahruf scheme did not mean anything without explicit Prophetic sanction to the letter.

3.3 Conclusion

The report is not entirely reliable for being internally discordant, its variance with other reports from Ubayy, and doubt concerning the Qatada-Yahya link. The sole plausible explanation involves combining the Ibn Mas‘ud opinion with the hadith of Ubayy at the hands of some Basran narrator(s).

4. Hadith of Abu Huraira

The hadith of Abu Huraira with impressions under consideration come through two links. One from Abu Salama b. ‘Abdul Rahman through his student Muhammad b. ‘Amr b. ‘Alqama and the other on the authority of Abu Sa‘id al-Maqburi through his student Muhammad b. ‘Ajlan.

4.1 The narration of Abu Salama and Muhammad b. ‘Amr

Ahmad b. Hanbal (d. 241/855), among others, relates:

حدثنا محمد بن بشر، حدثنا محمد بن عمرو، حدثنا أبو سلمة، عن أبي هريرة، قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: «أنزل القرآن على سبعة أحرف، عليما، حكيما، غفورا، رحيما»

Muhammad b. Bishr related to us: Muhammad b. ‘Amr related to us: Abu Salama related to us, on the authority of Abu Huraira who said; The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “The Qur’an was revealed in seven ahruf; [It is not a mistake if you recite one instead of other, the phrases], ‘All-Knowing, All-Wise,’ [and] ‘All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.’”[32]

The narration is not elaborate, and one has to assume and insert some connecting sense between the initial part about seven ahruf and the phrase with attributes of Allah.[33]

A variant of the same narration with al-Bazzar (d. 292/905) goes as, “The Qur’an was revealed in seven ahruf and disputation about it is disbelief.”[34] Thus, it does not have the part with the attributes of Allah. Accordingly, Ibn Hibban argued that the phrase, “‘All-Knowing, All-Wise,’ [and] ‘All-Forgiving, Most Merciful,’“ was not a part of the hadith but an addition by Muhammad b. ‘Amr b.  ‘Alqama.[35]

4.2 The narration from al-Maqburi and Muhammad b. ‘Ajlan

Al-Tabari (d. 310/923), the earliest one to record this narration, puts it as;

… عن محمد بن عجلان، عن المقبري، عن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه: أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: إنَّ هذا القرآن أنزل على سبعة أحرف، فاقرأوا ولا حرَج، ولكن لا تختموا ذكرَ رحمة بعذابٍ، ولا ذكر عذابٍ برحمة

… on the authority of Muhammad b. ‘Ajlan, on the authority of al-Maqburi, on the authority of Abu Huraira: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, ‘Verily the Qur’an was revealed in seven ahruf. Therefore, recite [it in any of these] for there is no restriction. But do not append (la takhtimu) the mention of mercy (dhikra rahmatin) with that of punishment or punishment with that of mercy.[36]

Al-Tahawi’s (d. 321/933) narration has “do not combine” (la jam‘au) the mention of punishment and mercy,[37] whereas Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr’s  (d. 463/1071) narration clarifies that it was about mixing one verse with another.[38]

The isnad here has been criticized on account of Muhammad b. ‘Ajlan’s confusion and perplexing about al-Maqburi’s reports from Abu Huraira.[39]

4.3 The narration from Abu Salama and Abu Hazim

Unlike the above narrations, one from Abu Salama and Abu Hazim warns against disputation and stresses the importance of precedence.

حدثنا أنس بن عياض، حدثني أبو حازم، عن أبي سلمة، لا أعلمه إلا عن أبي هريرة، أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: ” نزل القرآن على سبعة أحرف، المراء في القرآن كفر – ثلاث مرات – فما عرفتم منه فاعملوا، وما جهلتم منه فردوه إلى عالمه “

Anas b. ‘Iyad related to us: Abu Hazim related to us, on the authority of Abu Salama and said that he did not know this report except on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: The Qur’an was revealed in seven ahruf. Whereas disputation concerning the Qur’an is disbelief – he mentioned this thrice – you should recite what you know of it and leave what you do not know of it to the one who does.[40]

4.4 Observations on the narrations

Whereas the Abu Salama-Abu Hazim narration is free from any defect in its isnad and has no odd element in its content, the Abu Salama-Muhammad b. ‘Amr narration is incomplete and inconsistent across the sub-narrators. Al-Maqburi’s narration is also defective in its isnad. Moreover, if we take the al-Maqburi-Ibn ‘Ajlan narration as indicative against the imperative of sticking to the precedence, it would contradict the Abu Salama-Abu Hazim report besides the tidal wave of evidence for the precedent condition earlier discussed.

This observation leaves us with two options; either to discard al-Maqburi-Ibn ‘Ajlan report altogether and the final part of Abu Salama-Muhammad b. ‘Amr narration, or to dig further around them and see them in line with other relatable received information. Of the two approaches, the former, though sufficient in its own right, is too reductionist in this author’s opinion because it fails to explain the possible origin of these narrations, albeit borne of mistakes or inadvertence of narrators. Accordingly, we set to check if there are some leads following the latter approach.

4.5 Ibn Mas‘ud connection with the Abu Huraira report

None of these narrations includes an assurance about Abu Huraira hearing the hadith directly from the Prophet (ﷺ); neither in words denoting reception by listening in person nor in any context of him being with the Prophet (ﷺ). Therefore, while it surely does not impugn the authenticity of the narrations, it does have significance in the understanding of the larger context to it.

The above narrations are disjoint parts of a more extensive report. One of the narrations from Muhammad b. ‘Amr gives the phrases without any apparent link to the ahruf hadith reported therein. Another from Muhammad b. ‘Amr, recorded by al-Bazzar, adds to it a warning against disputation concerning Qur’an. Significantly, both the narrations come through Muhammad b. ‘Amr’s student Muhammad b. Bishr, making the relation all the more evident.[41]

In the narration from al-Maqburi, the assurance against any restriction in adopting ahruf goes with the warning against disputation. The same theme is more pronounced in the report from Abu Salama through Abu Hazim.

There is a relation in terms of isnad as well. While two narrations are expressly from Abu Salama, his connection with one from al-Maqburi through Muhammad b. ‘Ajlan can also not be ruled out. Yahya b. al-Qattan is reported to have heard Muhammad b. ‘Ajlan say that Sa‘id al-Maqburi related from Abu Huraira both on the authority of his father and some other narrator. And when it became unclear to him, he related all such reports as from Abu Huraira, i.e. omitting the confusing part.[42] Accordingly, here it is not clear if Sa‘id al-Maqburi related directly from Abu Huraira or if he related from his father or another narrator from Abu Huraira. Since Abu Salama was both a teacher of Sa‘id al-Maqburi and a student of Abu Huraira, it is possible that al-Maqburi-Ibn ‘Ajlan narration also came through Abu Salama.

Moreover, there are reports about the seven ahruf, including various instructions in etiquette with the Qur’an that have been reported from Abu Salama on the authority of ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud while it is known that Abu Salama never met Ibn Mas‘ud.[43] Not all narrations give the impression he received it from Ibn Mas‘ud. A report with al-Tabarani (d. 360/971) has that Abu Salama reported that it was thus mentioned to Ibn Mas‘ud (qala li ‘abdullah bin mas‘ud) without naming his source.[44] Instructively, Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 597/1201) preserves this narration through the same isnad up to Abu Salama except that it has Abu Salama relate on the authority of Abu Huraira who, in turn, says the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) had mentioned it all to Ibn Mas‘ud (qala li ibn mas‘ud).[45] Thus the isnad preserved by Ibn al-Jawzi not only tells us of the unrecorded link between Abu Salama and Ibn Mas‘ud,[46] but it also adds meanings to the lack of clarity on Abu Huraira listening directly from the Prophet (ﷺ) in narrations under consideration. Of the said narration, however, a significant portion is more likely a saying of Ibn Mas‘ud rather than the Prophet (ﷺ).[47] With these observations in the picture, it is plausible to believe that narrations from Abu Huraira are scattered accounts of what he related on the authority of Ibn Mas‘ud, not all of which is from the Prophet (ﷺ).

4.6 Conclusion

This collation of several narrations based on thematic resemblance and similarities in isnad is the only alternative to discarding them in isolation based on isnad considerations. But, more importantly, this takes us back to the Ibn Mas‘ud view already discussed.

5. Hadith of Abu Talha al-Ansari

Whereas the hadith of ‘Umar b. al-Khattab is famous and includes confirmation that the multiple recitations have the sanction through the Prophet’s (ﷺ) explicit precedent, an odd narration related by Abu Talha al-Ansari, another Companion of the Prophet (ﷺ), goes more like the reports discussed above. Ahmad b. Hanbal reports:

حدثنا عبد الصمد، حدثنا حرب بن ثابت كان يسكن بني سليم، قال: حدثنا إسحاق بن عبد الله بن أبي طلحة، عن أبيه، عن جده قال: قرأ رجل عند عمر فغير عليه فقال: قرأت على رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فلم يغير علي، قال: فاجتمعنا عند النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: فقرأ الرجل على النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فقال له: ” قد أحسنت “، قال: فكأن عمر وجد من ذلك، فقال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم: ” يا عمر، إن القرآن كله صواب ما لم يجعل عذاب مغفرة أو مغفرة عذابا “

‘Abd al-Samad related to us, Harb b. Thabit related to us: Ishaq b. ‘Abdullah b. Abu Talha related from his father on the authority of his grandfather: A man recited in the presence of ‘Umar upon which ‘Umar corrected him. The man replied, ‘I recited thus to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and he did not correct me.’ They both went to the Prophet (ﷺ) and the man recited to the Prophet (ﷺ) who said to him, ‘You recited correctly.’ Abu Talha said: It was as if ‘Umar felt uncomfortable with this. Therefore, the Prophet (ﷺ) said: Umar! The Qur’an is all valid as long as you do not confuse the [the mention of] punishment with mercy or [that of] mercy with punishment.[48]

5.1 Isnad analysis

There are a few issues here. Firstly, this is an odd report as the incident of ‘Umar’s dispute with another Companion and the Prophet’s (ﷺ) remarks thereupon is well preserved in the narrations of Miswar b. Makhrama and ‘Abdul Rahman b. ‘Abd al-Qari’ which do not mention mixing verses of different themes.[49] Moreover, as Ibn Hajar carefully notes, the same was reported from ‘Abdullah b. ‘Umar, but it too does not have this part.[50]

Not only is the part of the report about mixing mention of mercy and punishment odd, it invariably comes through Abu Thabit Harb b. Thabit alone. Moreover, al-Bukhari states there are doubts whether the narrator named Ishaq was from the children of Ibn Abi Talha and that ‘Abdul Samad erred in identifying him as such.[51] Accordingly, there are others besides ‘Abdul Samad who identify him differently.  Musa b. Isma‘il names him Ishaq al-Ansari. In Yazid b. Harun’s narration with al-Bukhari (d. 256/870), he is called Ishaq b. Jariya,[52] and with Abu al-Hasan Bahshal (d. 292/905) he is named Ishaq b. Jabir al-Ansari.[53] Bahshal’s narration also tells us that Harb b. Thabit did not know the person who narrated to him the whole thing and that a man from al-Ansar informed him that he was Ishaq b. al-Jabir.[54] Accordingly, there is no clarity as to the source of Harb b. Thabit. Moreover, not much is known about Harb himself. While there is no negative criticism against him, no one seems to have positively vouched for his reliability,[55] making his report rather doubtful.[56] Significantly, he too was from Basra,[57] which is striking considering the details of narrators involved in the hadith reports from Abu Bakra and Ubayy discussed above.

5.2 Content analysis

To take the caution about not mixing mention of mercy with punishment and vice versa as indicative of permission to recite without the specific precedent is unwitty because it is preceded with the proclamation that the Qur’an is all valid. There appears no real connection between the two. However, if we see it in line with the opinion of Ibn Mas‘ud discussed above, the relation can be appreciated; the recitation of the Qur’an is all valid except when its verses about mercy are mixed with those about wrath. Coming from a not so well-known Basran narrator also strengthens this view.

5.3 Conclusion

Given the isnad’s inadequate strength and that also originating in Basra, besides the oddness of the report in going against a significantly stronger account from ‘Umar b. al-Khattab himself, this narration cannot be taken at face value. The report, therefore, requires an interpretation (ta’wil), if not ignored altogether.

6. Scholars’ take on these reports

One might, however, pause and ask if any of the past scholars interpreted the under consideration elements of these narrations on the lines of the Ibn Mas‘ud opinion on the mistaken conflation of differently themed Qur’anic verses?

The answer is in the affirmative. The Egyptian Abu Ja‘far al-Nahhas (d. 338/950) brought the al-Maqburi-Ibn ‘Ajlan narration of the hadith of Abu Huraira and explained how it was a detailed instruction about pause and initiation in recitation that it must not lead to the conflation of verses of mercy and punishment.[58] A few decades later, Abu ‘Amr al-Dani (d. 444/1053) from Andalus made the same point except that he built the case by quoting the hadith of Abu Bakra and that of Ubayy discussed above.[59] Subsequently, ‘Alam al-Din al-Sakhawi (d. 643/1245) also adjusted and elaborated on al-Dani’s explanation of these reports.[60] Finally, Abu al-Hasan Al-Sindi (d. 1138/1726) made a similar comment about the hadith of Abu Talha involving ‘Umar b. al-Khattab.[61]

There is thus due precedent for understanding all these reports on lines similar to the opinion of ‘Abdullah b. Mas‘ud. Problems, albeit subtle, with the isnad of each of these reports and indications to the trail of all of these back to Ibn Mas‘ud make it a more plausible reading.

7. Summary and conclusion

All the reports have multiple issues putting their reliability to doubt; variance with widely known reports from the respective Companion Narrators, problems with chains of narrators with particular narrations, and even internal dissonance. Moreover, there are indications in terms of both the chain of narrators and content that help us trace the origins of odd elements in these reports back to the opinion of another prominent Companion, ‘Abdullah b. Mas‘ud, which got conflated with these narrations of the Seven Ahruf reports. We have argued that the preceding analysis is more plausible than a reductionist approach of discarding reports altogether for isnad issues.  Therefore, the likelihood of all of these being reflections of Ibn Mas‘ud’s view is not farfetched. The hadith of Abu Bakra bears signs in terms of both the isnad and error-prone Basran narrators mixing the things up. For the hadith of Ubayy and Abu Talha as well, envisioning inadvertent mixing by certain Basran narrators alone mitigates the weirdness of the narrations about conflating Qur’an verses of different themes. Collating the isnad of various narrations of the hadith of Abu Huraira shows how it too is relatable to the Ibn Mas‘ud phenomenon. Accordingly, there is no justification for seeing these narrations as suggesting recitation without specific Prophetic precedent.

References & Notes:

[1] Ibn Abi Shaiba, Abu Bakr, al-Musannaf, Ed. Muhammad ‘Awwama (Beirut: Dar Qurtuba, 2006) Hadith 30747; Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, Ed. Shu‘aib al-Arna’ut et al. (Beirut: al-Resalah Publishers, 2001) Hadith 20425, 20514; Al-Tahawi, Abu Ja‘far, Sharh Mushkil al-Athar, Ed. Shu‘aib al-Arna’ut (Beirut: Resalah Publishers, 1994) Vol. 8, 127 Hadith 3118; al-Qurtubi, Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, al-Tamhid lima fi al-Muwatta min al-Ma‘ani wa al-Asanid, (Morocco: Ministry of Auqaf and Religious Affairs, 1387 AH) Vol.8, 290; Al-Dani, Abu ‘Amr, al-Ahruf al-Sab‘a li al-Qur’an, Ed. ‘Abdul Muhaimin Tahhan (Makkah: Maktaba al-Manara, 1408 AH) Hadith 7; al-Dani, Abu ‘Amr, Jami‘ al-Bayan fi Qira’at al-Sab‘a, (Sharjah: Sharjah University, 2007) 101 Hadith 43; al-Radi, Abu al-Fadl, Ma‘ani al-Ahruf al-Sab‘a, (Qatar: Ministry of Auqaf and Religious Affairs, 2011) 262 Hadith 43

[2] Saleem, Dr Shehzad, History of the Qur’an: A Critical Study, (Lahore: al-Mawrid, 2019) 843-844

[3] Al-Busiri, Ahmad b. Abi Bakr, Itḥāf al-Khayyirah al-Muhrah bi-Zawāʼid al-Masānīd al-ʻAsharah, (Riyadh: Dar al-Watan, 1999) Vol.6, 317 Hadith 5927. Al-Busiri quotes it from now extinct Musnad of al-Musaddad (d. 228/842) of Basra who relates it directly from ‘Abdul Warith.

[4] Al-Dhahabi, Shams al-Din, Siyar al-A‘lam al-Nubala, (Beirut: al-Resalah Publishers, 1985) Vol.5, 206-207

[5] See al-‘Awni, Hatem Sharif, al-Mursal al-Khafi wa ‘Ilaqatuhu bi al-Tadlis, (Riyadh: Dar al-Hijra, 1997) 306-322; al-‘Awni (ed.), Ahadith al-Shuyukh al-Thiqat – Mashaikha Qadi Maristan, (Makkah: Dar ‘Alam al-Fawa’id, 1422 AH) Vol.2, 694.

[6] Ahmad b. Hanbal, Abu ‘Abdullah, al-‘Ilal wa Ma‘rifah al-Rijal, Ed. Wasi Ullah ‘Abbas, (Riyadh: Dar al-Khani, 2001) Vol.3, 225 No. 4978; al-Tirmidhi, Abu ‘Isa, al-Jami‘ al-Kabir, Ed. Shu‘aib al-Arna’ut (Beirut: Resalah Publishers, 2009) Vol.4, 614

[7] Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, Hadith 20514; Al-Tahawi, Abu Ja‘far, Sharh Mushkil al-Athar, Vol. 8, 127 Hadith 3118; al-Qurtubi, Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, al-Tamhid lima fi al-Muwatta min al-Ma‘ani wa al-Asanid, Vol.8, 290; Al-Dani, Abu ‘Amr, al-Ahruf al-Sab‘a li al-Qur’an, Hadith 7; al-Dani, Abu ‘Amr, Jami‘ al-Bayan fi Qira’at al-Sab‘a, 101 Hadith 43; al-Radi, Abu al-Fadl, Ma‘ani al-Ahruf al-Sab‘a, 262 Hadith 43

[8] Ahmad b. Hanbal, Abu ‘Abdullah, al-‘Ilal wa Ma‘rifah al-Rijal, Vol.3, 33 No. 4040; al-Mizzi, Jamal al-Din, Tahdhib al-Kamal fi Asma’ al-Rijal, Ed. Bashar ‘Awad Ma‘ruf, (Beirut: al-Resalah Publishers, 1980) Vol.20, 166-171

[9] Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-‘Ilal wa Ma‘rifah al-Rijal, Vol.3, 434 No. 5847; al-Baghdadi, al-Khatib, Tarikh Baghdad, Ed. Bashar ‘Awad Ma‘ruf (Beirut: Dar al-Gharb al-Islami, 2002) Vol.14, 201

[10] Ibn Ma‘in, Yahya, al-Tarikh (Riwayah al-Duri), (Makkah: Markaz al-Bahth al-‘llmi, 1979) Vol.4, 285 No. 4407

[11] From ‘Abdul Rahman b. Mahdi: Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, Hadith 20425;

From Zaid b. Hubab: al-BazzarAbu Bakr, al-Musnad, (Madina: Maktaba al-‘Ulum wa al-Hikam, 1997) Vol.9, 91 Hadith 3622; Al-Tabari, Abu Ja‘far,  Jami‘ al-Bayan ‘an Ta’wil ay al-Qur’an, Ed. Ahmad Muhammad Shakir (Beirut: Resalah Publishers, 2000) Vol.1, 43 Hadith 40. It may, however, be added not all reports through Zaid have it as such and there is at least one narration from Zaid b. Hubab that goes like the narration of ‘Affan b. Muslim. See the narration quoted above in section 2.

[12] al-Radi, Abu al-Fadl, Ma‘ani al-Ahruf al-Sab‘a, 263-264 Hadith 44; see also ibid., 183 for al-Razi’s isnad back to Abu Hatim.

[13] ‘Itr, Diya al-Din (editor)/al-Radi, Abu al-Fadl, Ma‘ani al-Ahruf al-Sab‘a, 263 n. 1

[14] al-Radi, Abu al-Fadl, Ma‘ani al-Ahruf al-Sab‘a, 261 Hadith 42

[15] Al-Dani, Abu ‘Amr, al-Ahruf al-Sab‘a li al-Qur’an, Hadith 9; al-Dani, Abu ‘Amr, Jami‘ al-Bayan fi Qira’at al-Sab‘a, 101-102 Hadith 44; whereas al-Dani has the report from Yazid b. Ibrahim al-Tustari (d. 163/779-780) narrating it from Ibn Sirin, al-Baqilani records  the same from another link to Ibn Sirin. See, al-Baqilani, Abu Bakr, al-Intisar li al-Qur’an, (Beirut: Dar Ibn Hazm, 2001) 353. Not only that Ibn Mas‘ud-Ibn Sirin link is deemed reliable despite the obvious break another source preserves the name of their intermediary; ‘Abaida al-Salmani. See, al-Baihaqi, Abu Bakr, Shu‘ab al-Iman, Ed. ‘Abdul ‘Aliy ‘Abdul Hamid Hamid (Riyadh: Maktaba al-Rushd, 2003) Vol.3, 534 Hadith 2073; graded as hasan.

[16] Al-San‘ani, ‘Abdul Razzaq, al-Tafsir, Ed. Mahmud Muhammad ‘Abdah (Beirut: DKI, 1419 AH) Vol.2, 210 No. 1293; For a corroboration of the isnad see, Al-Tabari, Abu Ja‘far, Jami‘ al-Bayan,  Vol.1, 50 No. 48, 18998; See also, Abu ‘Ubaid, Qasim b. Sallam, Fada’il al-Qur’an, (Beirut: Maktaba al-‘Asriyya, 2009) 127 No. 753; 134 No. 798; Sa‘id b. Mansur, Abu ‘Uthman, al-Tafsir min al-Sunan, Ed. Sa‘d b. ‘Abdullah Al Hamid (Riyadh: Dar a-Somaie, 1997) Hadith 34; al-Tabarani, Abu al-Qasim Mu‘jam al-Awsat, (Cairo: Dar al-Haramain, n.d.) Vol.2, 109 Hadith 1409; , al-Baihaqi, Shu‘ab al-Iman, Hadith Vol.3, 534 Hadith 2072.

Al-Tabari records another isnad for the latter half of the report. See, Al-Tabari, Abu Ja‘far, Jami‘ al-Bayan,  Vol.16, 31 No. 19000 which has the final part as كما أقرئت (kama uqri’tu) instead of كما علمت  assuring that the latter has to be read as “kama ‘ullimtu” (the way I have been taught) rather than “kama ‘alimtu” (the way I have learnt) which in turn confirms that the earlier part of the report  كما علمتم is to be read as “kama ‘ullimtum” (as you have been taught) rather than “kama ‘alimtum” (as you have learnt). Reading it as “kama ‘alimtu” (the way I have learnt) in fact renders the narration altogether pointless. Shorter versions of the narration also confirm the reading above; “We recite it as we were taught it” (naqra’uha kama ‘ullimnaha).See, al-Bukhari, Muhammad b. Isma‘il, al-Sahih, (Riyadh: Darussalam Publishers, 1997) Hadith 4692; al-Dani, Jami‘ al-Bayan fi Qira’at al-Sab‘a, 138-139 Hadith 125; “Reciting it as I was taught is dearer to me” (aqra’uha kama ‘ullimtu ahabbu ilayya). See, al-Sijistani, Abu Dawud, al-Sunan, (Beirut: al-Resalah Publishers, 2009) Hadith 4004-4005; “This is how we were taught” (hakadha ‘ullimna). See, al-Bazzar, al-Musnad, Hadith 1682

This frustrates a desperate attempt by certain revisionists to take out the Prophetic precedent notion from the report. See, al-Rajhi, Salih b. Suleman, al-Masa’il al-Kubra allati Khalafa fiha al-Qurra’ al-Muta’khirun Ijma‘ al-Mutaqaddimin min al-Qurra’, (Riyadh: Dar a-Somaie, 2021) 231-232

[17] Al-San‘ani, ‘Abdul Razzaq, al-Musannaf, (Dabhel: Majlis al-‘Ilmi, 1983) Hadith 5985; Abu ‘Ubaid, Qasim b. Sallam, Fada’il al-Qur’an, 131 No. 783; Abu Yusuf, Ya‘qub b. Ibrahim, Kitab al-Athar, Ed. Latif al-Rahman al-Bahra’iji (Beirut, Dar Ibn Hazm, 2021) 180-181 No. 223; al-Shaibani, Muhammad b. al-Hasan, Kitab al-Athar, Ed. Khalid al-‘Awwad, (Damascus: Dar al-Nawader, 2008) 281 No. 271, graded as jayyid (good); Al-Tabarani, Abu al-Qasim, Mu‘jam al-Kabir, (Cairo: Maktaba Ibn Taimiyya, 1994) Vol.9, 138 Hadith 8683, graded as sahih by al-Jazari. See, Al-Jazari, Shams al-Din, al-Nashr fi al-Qira’at al-‘Ashr, (Beirut: Dar al-Fekr, 2014) Vol.1, 28; al-Baihaqi, Shu‘ab al-Iman, Vol.3, 537 Hadith 2076, with al-Baihaqi the intermediary of Ibrahim al-Nakha‘I and Ibn Mas‘ud is also named – al-Hammam [b. al-Harith].

[18] Sa‘id b. Mansur, Abu ‘Uthman, al-Tafsir min al-Sunan, Hadith 139

[19] al-Shaibani, Muhammad b. al-Hasan, Kitab al-Athar, 282

[20] Al-Bukhari, Ibn Mazah, al-Muhit al-Burhani fi Fiqh al-Nu‘mani, (Beirut: DKI, 2004)  Vol.1, 326; Ibn Balaban, ‘Ala’ al-Din ‘Ali, Tanbih al-Khatir ‘ala Zallat al-Qari’ wa al-Dhakir, Ed. Dr. ‘Umar Yusuf ‘Abd al-Ghani Hamadan (Istanbul: Dar al-Lobab, 2019) 116-117, 122, 134-135; Nizam, al-Shaikh, Fatawa al-Alamgiriyya al-Ma‘rufa bi al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, Ed. Dr. Mahmud Matarji (Beirut: Dar al-Fekr, 2019) Vol.1, 138

[21] Abu ‘Ubaid, Fada’il al-Qur’an, 131; See also, Ibn Raslan, Abu al-‘Abbas, Sharh Sunan Abi Dawud, (Cairo: Dar al-Falah, 2016) Vol.7, 211-212

[22] al-Baihaqi, Shu‘ab al-Iman, Vol.3, 537

[23] Al-Tabari, Jami‘ al-Bayan,  Vol.1, 53-54 No. 58; see also, Abu ‘Ubaid, Fada’il al-Qur’an, 127 No. 754

[24] Jabal, Muhammad Hasan Hasan, Al-Qadiyya al-Qur’ania al-Kubra: Hadith Nuzul al-Qur’an ‘ala Sab‘a Ahruf, (Cairo: Maktaba al-Adab, 2014) 37

[25] Usmani, Muhammad Taqi, ‘Ulum al-Qur’an, (Karachi: Maktaba Darul Ulum, 2014) 151-152

[26] Al-Albani, Nasir al-Din, Silsala al-Ahadith al-Sahiha, (Riyadh: Maktaba al-Ma‘arif, 2006) Vol.6, 163

[27] al-Sijistani, Abu Dawud, al-Sunan, Hadith 1477; Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, Hadith 21149; Al-Tahawi, Abu Ja‘far, Sharh Mushkil al-Athar, Vol. 8, 122-123 Hadith 3112-3113;  Ibn Abi ‘Asim, al-Ahad wa al-Mathani, (Riyadh: Dar al-Rayah, 1991) Hadith 1853; al-Maqdasi, Diya, al-Ahadith al-Mukhtara, (Beirut: Dar al-Khadir, 2000) Hadith 1173-1175;  al-Baihaqi, Abu Bakr, al-Sunan al-Kubra, (Beirut: DKI, 2003) Hadith 3989; al-Baihaqi, Abu Bakr, al-Sunan al-Saghir, (Karachi: Jami‘a al-Dirasat al-Islamiya, 1989) Hadith 1009; al-Baghdadi, al-Khatib, al-Asma’ al-Mubhama fi Anba’ al-Muhkama, (Cairo: Maktaba al-Khanji, 1997) Vol.3, 166; al-Dani, Abu ‘Amr,  al-Muktafa fi al-Waqf wa al-Ibtida’, (Beirut: Al-Resalah Publishers, 1987) 131-132; al-Radi, Abu al-Fadl, Ma‘ani al-Ahruf al-Sab‘a, 217 Hadith 18;

[28] Saleem, Dr Shehzad, History of the Qur’an: A Critical Study, 763ff

[29] Saleem, Dr Shehzad, History of the Qur’an: A Critical Study, 763ff

[30] Ahmad b. Hanbal is reported to have mentioned that Qatada did not hear from Yahya b. Ya‘mar. See, al-Fasawi, Ya‘qub b. Sufyan, al-Ma‘rifah wa al-Tarikh, (Beirut: al-Resalah Publishers, 1981) Vol.2, 141; Ibn Abi Hatim, al-Marasil, (Beirut: al-Resalah Publishers, 1397 AH) 170 No. 625; see also, al-Baqilani, Abu Bakr, al-Intisar li al-Qur’an, Vol.2, 535.  Al-Tarifi, ‘Abdul ‘Aziz, al-Tahjil fi Takhrij ma lam Yukhraj min al-Ahadith wa al-Athar fi Irwa’ al-Ghalil, (Riyadh: Maktaba al-Rushd, 2001) 262; It may be pointed out that with al-Baihaqi Qatada is recorded as relating from Yahya b. Ya‘mar with words indicating direct transmission i.e. haddathani, however, it is clearly a mistake. No other source mentions the Qatada-Yahya link with “haddathani” rather they all have it with the uncategorical “‘an”. In fact certain secondary sources from seniors and peers of al-Baihaqi also preserve the Qatada-Yahya link without any suggestion of direct transmission. See, al-Baqilani, Abu Bakr, al-Intisar li al-Qur’an, Vol.1, 361; al-Qurtubi, Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, al-Tamhid lima fi al-Muwatta min al-Ma‘ani wa al-Asanid, Vol.8, 282;

[31] Ibn Abi Hatim, Abu Muhammad, al-Jarh wa al-Ta‘dil, (Beirut: Dar Ihya’ al-Turath al-‘Arabi, 1952) Vol.9, 196; see also, Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, Hadith 5856; ‘Abdullah Ramadan Musa, Mawthuqiyya al-Naql al-Qur’an min ‘Ahd Rasul Allah ila al-Yawm (Cairo: Dar al-Nuraniyya, 2012) 303-304

[32] Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, Hadith 8390, 9678; Ibn Abi Shaiba, al-Musannaf, Hadith 30743; Al-Tabari, Jami‘ al-Bayan,  Vol.1, 22 No. 8-9,

[33] It was precisely for this lack of connecting sense that an orientalist ended up translating this narration as; “An All-knowing, Wise, Forgiving, Merciful sent down the Qur’an in seven harfs.” See, Cooper, J., The Commentary on the Qur’an by Abu Ja‘far Muhammad b. Jarir al-Tabari, (Oxford University Press, 1989) Vol.1 16

[34] al-Bazzar, al-Musnad, Vol.14, 334 Hadith 8010;

[35] Al-Busti, Ibn Hibban, al-Sahih, Ed. Shu‘aib al-Arna’ut (Beirut: Resalah Publishers, 1988) Vol.3, 18 Hadith 743;

[36] Al-Tabari, Jami‘ al-Bayan,  Vol.1, 45-46 No. 45; al-Baihaqi, al-Sunan al-Saghir, Hadith 1008;

[37] Al-Tahawi, Sharh Mushkil al-Athar, Vol. 8, 113 Hadith 3101;

[38] al-Qurtubi, Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, al-Tamhid lima fi al-Muwatta min al-Ma‘ani wa al-Asanid, Vol.8, 288;

[39] Islam Mansur ‘Abd al-Hamid (ed.)/al-Tabari, Abu Ja‘far, Jami‘ al-Bayan ‘an Ta’wil ay al-Qur’an, (Cairo: Dar al-Hadith, 2010) Vol.1, 74 No. 45; al-Wa’ili al-San‘ani, Abu al-Fadl Hasan, Nuzhah al-Albab fi Qawl al-Tirmidhi ‘wa fil Bab’, (Dammam: Dar Ibn al-Jawzi, 1426 AH) Vol.6, 3456

[40]  Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, Hadith 7989; al-Bazzar, al-Musnad, Vol.15, 193 Hadith 8579; Al-Tabari, Jami‘ al-Bayan,  Vol.1, 21-22 No. 7; Al-Busti, Ibn Hibban, al-Sahih, Hadith 74; Al-Nasa’i, Abu ‘Abdul Rahman, al-Sunan al-Kubra, (Beirut: Resalah Publishers, 2001) Hadith 8039; al-Mawsali, Abu Ya‘la, al-Musnad, Ed. Hussain Salim Asad (Damascus: Dar al-Ma’mun, 1984) Hadith 6016; Al-Albani also graded it as sahih. See, al-Albani, Silsala al-Ahadith al-Sahiha, Hadith 1522.  The hadith has the words “fa-ma ‘araftum minhu fa‘amaluhu [bihi] …” (lit. what you know of it practice it …). However, the context being seven ahruf and for the nature of possible disputation as in other reports on the subject, it’s clear the action intended here includes, if not limited to, recitation; hence, this translation.

The phrase “I do not know except on the authority of Abu Huraira” is not an expression of doubt rather confirmation that he knew it from Abu Huraira but not from anyone else. See, al-Birmawi, Shams al-Din,  al-Lami‘ al-Sabih bi Sharh al-Jami‘ al-Sahih, (Damascus: Dar al-Nawader, 2012) Vol.4, 285; Vol.8, 351

[41] al-Wa’ili al-San‘ani, Nuzhah al-Albab fi Qawl al-Tirmidhi ‘wa fil Baab’, Vol.6, 3456

[42] Al-Bukhari, Muhammad b. Isma‘il, al-Tarikh al-Kabir, (Riyadh: al-Mutamayyiz, 2019) Vol.1, 533-534 No. 603

[43] Al-Tabari, Jami‘ al-Bayan,  Vol.1, 68 No. 67; Al-Tahawi, Sharh Mushkil al-Athar, Vol. 8, 115-116 Hadith 3102-03;  Al-Busti, Ibn Hibban, al-Sahih, Hadith 745; al-Hakim, Abu ‘Abdullah,  al-Mustadrak, (Beirut: DKI, 1990) Hadith 2031, 3144; other sources record it as a mursal report of Abu Salama without any mention of any of the Companions. See Abu ‘Ubaid, Qasim b. Sallam, Fada’il al-Qur’an, 26 No.88;

[44] Al-Tabarani, al-Mu‘jam al-Kabir, Vol.9, 26 Hadith 8296

[45] Ibn al-Jawzi, Abu al-Faraj, Funun al-Afnan fi ‘Uyun ‘Ulum al-Qur’an, Ed. Nur al-Din ‘Itr (Beirut: Dar al-Basha’ir al-Islamiyya, 1987) 200-202;

[46] This way of suggesting a missing link in isnad is nothing eccentric. Al-Albani attempted it for the same report concluding that it was Fulfala al-Ju‘fi. See, Al-Albani, Nasir al-Din, Silsala al-Ahadith al-Sahiha, Vol.2, 134. It’s just that he could not link it to the narrations with al-Tabarani and Ibn al-Jawzi.

[47] Al-Damishqi, Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-‘Azim, (Riyadh: Dar Taiba, 1999) Vol.1, 41; this is based on a narration through a different isnad from Ibn Mas‘ud. See, Al-Tabari, Jami‘ al-Bayan,  Vol.1, 69 No. 70

[48] Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, Hadith 16366; See also, al-Tabari, al-Jami‘ al-Bayan, Vol.1, 25-26 Hadith 16; al-Ruyani, Abu Bakr, al-Musnad, (Cairo: Mo’assasa Qurtuba, 1416 AH) Hadith 1492 ; Al-Bukhari, Muhammad b. Isma‘il, al-Tarikh al-Kabir, Vol.2, 106; Ibn Abi Khaithama, Abu Bakr, al-Tarikh al-Kabir, (Cairo: Dar al-Faruq al-Hadithiya, 2006) Vol.2, 691; Bahshal, Abu al-Hasan, Tarikh Wasit, (Beirut: ‘Alam al-Kutab, 1986) 107;

[49] Saleem, Dr Shehzad, History of the Qur’an: A Critical Study, 767ff

[50] al-Tabari, al-Jami‘ al-Bayan, Vol.1, 26 Hadith 17; Al-‘Asqalani, Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari bi Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, (Beirut: Dar al-Ma‘rifa, 1379 AH) Vol.9, 26

[51] Al-Bukhari, al-Tarikh al-Kabir, Vol.2, 106; Vol.3, 415;

[52] Al-Bukhari, al-Tarikh al-Kabir, Vol.2, 107

[53] Bahshal, Abu al-Hasan, Tarikh Wasit, 107;

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Waqar Akbar Cheema

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