Khalaf from Hamzah - a look at the features of recitation of Al-Qur'an by Shahzada Husain bhaisaheb

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Shahzada Husain bhaisaheb recites Al-Qur'an prior to the daily sermon in Ashara Mubaraka, Karachi, 1439AH

28th September 2017, Karachi

The Prophet Mohammed SAW said: Beautify the Qur’an with your voices.

The enduring tradition of melodious recitation of Al-Qur’an started from then and during the Fatimi period in Egypt, Qur’an reciters used to sit before the Imams AS and the air would be filled with their mesmerizing recitation.

During Ashara Mubaraka it has now become the tradition that the wa’az mubarak is preceded by recitation of Al-Qur’an by al-Haafiz Shahzada Husain bhaisaheb Burhanuddin. This year he has chosen to deliver his recitations using the reading of Khalaf ‘an Hamzah (Khalaf as transmitted to him from Hamzah). Hamzah died in 156AH while Khalaf died in 229AH.

Among the several Qur’anic arts and sciences is the art and science of “readings” or “qirāʾāt”. Throughout its history, the corpus of the Qur’an passed through many scholars, and each has determined the authenticity of the narration by the repute of the teachers from whom it has been passed onto them, i.e. tawātur. There are seven mutawātir and three mash-hūr readings of the Qur’an. The differences among these readings are based on intonation, diction, inflection and voweling - none of which affect any change to the Qur’anic text per se. Intonation and inflection is related to dialectic tendencies while voweling and diction are bound by narrative transmission.

An example of intonation would be idgham where the letter nūn blends into the letter after it - either partially or fully like in: من يؤمن which would be pronounced as mai-yu’minu. On the other hand, inflection often includes the slanting of the letter alif into or towards the letter yaa - known as imālah. An example would be the word: majrāhā, which, if subjected to imālah becomes: majraehā. The science behind these readings runs deep and cannot be encompassed in a single paragraph.

With the passing of time, the art of recitation and the science of readings converged upon the kursi, chair, of the reciter. In order to beautify the Qur’an and sustain the interest of listeners in the art of recitation, the qurra (i.e. reciters) began to extensively employ different Qur’anic readings in their presentations. This served as a display of their own mastery over Qur’anic sciences and as a stimulant of interest for the audience.

Renowned reciters like Shaykh Mustafa Ismail, Shaykh Mahmoud Khalil al-Husary, Shaykh Abdul Basit Abdul Samad and Shaykh Muhammad Siddiq al-Minshawi have been known to transition through one reading into another, in and out, during their haflah recitations i.e. publicly delivered performances. Shaykh al-Husary, among others, has recorded the entire Qur’an in several readings which include Hafs ‘an ‘Aasim, Warsh ‘an Nafi, Qaloon ‘an Nafi and al-Duri ‘an Abu Amr.

The reading of Khalaf ‘an Hamzah is one of the mutawātir readings which holds weight among the scholars of Qur’anic sciences. The transmission of this reading goes back to its principal - Hamzah al-Zayyat, who was an oil merchant and one of the seven canonical transmitters of the Qirā’āt (readings). The chain of transmission of this reading adds to its significance since it includes Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq AS who oversaw Hamzah’s reading and authenticated it.

There are certain peculiarities in this reading which distinguish it from the more mainstream Hafs ‘an Aasim reading. For instance, Hamzah considered the Qur’an to be one single chapter and thus did not include the basmalah while transitioning from one surah to the next. He also preferred to elongate both instances of the madd al-wājib (munfaṣil and muttaṣil) to their full limit, that is, six harakāt (movements) as opposed to four in the regular Hafs narration.

Khalaf, the primary narrator of Hamzah’s reading, emphasises the intonation of the idghām kāmil (full idgham) for the letters wāw and yāʾ when they occur after a nūn sākin (still nun) or tanwīn (nunation - letters with double zabar, zayr or paysh that have an ‘n’ sound). The saktah, a short pause made by holding the breath with the intention of continuing the recitation, has been masterfully incorporated in this reading adding to its beauty and, furthermore, it serves to distinguish it clearly from other readings, especially, the narration of Hafs which employs the saktah in only four specified locations.

With regard to voweling and diction, this reading has several key distinguishing features. Unlike inflections and intonations which are made on the basis of fixed rules specific to this reading, voweling and diction are not entirely bound by such rules and mostly rely on the narrative transmission of Khalaf. For example, in the reading of Hafs, which is the primary reading, verse 19 of chapter 14 begins thus:

أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ بِالْحَقِّ ۚ

Alam tara anna Allā_ha khalaqas samā_wā_ti wal arda bil haqq(i)

However, in the narration of Khalaf, the vowels of the verb khalaqa change to khāliqu (active participle), thereby affecting the vowels of subsequent objects also. In this case, the verse in the reading of Khalaf ‘an Hamzah would appear as such:

أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ خَالِقُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ بِالْحَقِّ ۚ

Alam tara anna Allā_ha khāliqus samā_wā_ti wal ardi bil haqq(i)

‘Arda’ (object) has now become ‘ardi’ (possessive noun). However, the change in meaning is limited to grammatical application and does not encroach upon the core of the verse. The translation of the Hafs reading is: Do you not see that Allah created the heavens and the earth; while the Khalaf translation would be thus: Do you not see that Allah is the creator of the heavens and the earth.

This branch of Qur’anic sciences has enthralled many a scholar with its intricacies and subtleties and scores of books have been written on the subject. Among the major works in this regard is the Ḥirz al-Maʿānī better known as the Matn al-Shatibiyyah named after its author: Al-Qasim b. Firruh al-Shatibi (d. 590AH), and Matn al-Durrah al-Mudi’ah by Muhammad b. al-Jazari (d. 833AH). The former work lists the explanations of the seven mutawātir readings while the latter complements it by an additional three mash-hūr readings thereby completing the ten readings which are known as the ten minor successive readings (al-Qirāʾāt al-ʿAshr al-Sughrā al-Mutawātirah).

May Allah Ta’la inspire us to memorize the complete Qur’an in line with the wishes of Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS and may we be encouraged to reach the depths of knowledge through the knowledge of the Qur’an.