Al-Qāsim b. Muhammad

Reciting the Quran like a Song

It is reported that a person recited in a melodious [1] way in front of Al-A’mash. He said:

A man once recited in front of Anas [ibn Mālik – Allāh be pleased with him] in this manner and he detested it.

Abū Bakr Al-Khallāl, Al-Amr bil-Ma’rūf wa Al-Nahī ‘an Al-Munkar, p110.

It is reported that Sālim [b. ‘Abdillāh b. ‘Umar b. Al-Khattāb] – Allāh have mercy on him – was asked to listen to someone leading the prayer. When he heard the recitation he turned back exclaiming:

Singing! Singing!

Ibn Al-Jawzī, Al-Qussāṣ wa Al-Mudhakkirīn article 183.

It is reported that there was a man who used to lead the prayer in Al-Madīnah. One night, he became euphoric (got carried away by emotion). [2] Al-Qāsim b. Muḥammad recited:

Quran Surah Fussilat: 41,42

Verily it is a mighty and noble Book. Falsehood does not approach it, neither before it nor behind. It is a revelation from the Most Wise, Most Praiseworthy. [Al-Quran, Fussilat: 41, 42]

And he detested [the behavior of the reciter].

Ibid. article 184.

It is reported that Al-Fuḍayl b. ‘Ayyāḍ – Allāh have mercy on him – was asked about reciting the Qurān with melodies,
[1] to which he replied:

This is something they took from singing.

Ibid. article 182

Ibn Dāwūd [‘Abdullāh b. Dāwūd b. ‘Āmir Al-Khuraybī] – Allāh have mercy on him – was once asked by Bishr b. Al-Ḥārith:

If I pass by a man reciting, should I sit and listen? He asked, “Does he become euphoric [2] (because of emotional recitation)?” Bishr replied, “Yes.” Ibn Dāwūd said, “He has shown his bid’ah, do not sit with him.”

Ibid article 186.

Ḥanbal reports:

Abū ‘Abdillāh (Imām Aḥmad) used to detest this innovated recitation which is called Al-Alḥān (melodious, musical recitation).

Ibid. article 187.

And it is reported that Imām Aḥmad said:

“This innovated recitation which is called Al-Alḥān, I detest it.” He was very strict against it. He said, “I believe it resembles singing, and the Qurān is to be preserved from this.”

Ibid. article 188.

There are numerous narrations from Imām Aḥmad about this, amongst them:

When asked about it once he said:

It is something innovated. But [to recite in a beautiful voice is fine] if it is naturally his voice, as was Abū Mūsā [Al-Ash’arī – Allāh be pleased with him].

When asked about reciting with alḥān another time, he replied:

No. [It is allowed] if that is his natural voice, like the voice of Abū Mūsā. As for learning how to recite like this, then no.

He was asked about recitation with melodies and harmonies, to which he replied:

“It is a bid’ah.” It was said to him, ‘They gather to listen to it.” He said, “Allāhul-musta’ān (‘Allāh is the one whose aid is sought’; a statement of sorrow and disapproval.)”

Also, he said:

It is a bid’ah, not to be listened to.

‘Abdullāh b. Yazīd Al-‘Anbarī reports:

A man once asked Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal:

“What do you say about reciting with alḥān?” Abu ‘Abdillāh said, “What is your name?” The man replied, “Muḥammad.” Imām Aḥmad said, “So would you like to be called Mooḥammad?”

Al-Khallāl, op. cit., p99+.

Imām Mālik – Allāh have mercy on him – said:

I do not like reciting in melodies, neither in Ramadan nor at other times, because it resembles singing, and it causes the Qurān to be laughed at. It is said ‘this person is a better reciter than that person (the Quran becomes the subject of rivalry and entertainment).

It has reached me that the slave-girls are taught to recite like this as they are taught how to sing. Do you think this was the way Allāh’s Messenger – peace and blessings be upon him – used to recite?

Al-Qayrawānī, Kitāb Al-Jāmi’ p166.

[1] Arabic: Alḥān. This refers to reciting in a melodious, song-like tone. See notes.

[2] Arabic: Al-ṭarb. This refers to a state of emotional intensity which may bring about physical expression. See notes.

Notes

After relating some of these traditions, Ibn Al-Jawzī states:

Know that melodious musical recitation (Al-Alḥān) is detested for a number of reasons, amongst others: [its reciters] merge letters that are not supposed to be merged, they extend vowels (madd) where there should be no extension, and they omit the hamzah and the doubling of consonants (tashdīd) just in order to preserve the melody. Also, this kind of recitation causes people to get emotionally carried away (al-ṭarb) and it distracts people from pondering the Quran. [3]

Explaining the type of recitation that is praiseworthy and the type that is detestable, Ibn Kathīr states:

What is sought in the Sharī’ah (teachings of Islam) is the type of beautification of the voice that leads to pondering the Quran and seeking to understand it, to submission, humility and compliance with the obedience [of Allah].

As for using voices with novel melodies, composed on distracting and entertaining rhythms and musical rules, then the Quran is far removed from this and is too respected and esteemed to have this approach taken in its delivery.[4]

[3] Ibn Al-Jawzī, Al-Qussāṣ wa Al-Mudhakkirīn p335.

[4] Ibn Kathīr, Faḍā`il Al-Qurān p198.

Actions speak louder

Al-Qāsim b. Muhammad, the grandson of Abū Bakr – Allah have mercy on him – said:

In my time the people were not impressed by speech, they were impressed by actions. Anyone can say whatever he wants.

Abū Dāwūd, Kitāb Al-Zuhd p354.