Imām Aḥmad

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.

The Sunni Sinner and the Devout Heretic

ʿAbdullāh the son of Al-Imām Ahmad reports that his father, Al-Imām Ahmad, said, “The graves of Ahl Al-Sunnah who committed major sins are gardens (from Paradise) whilst the graves of the heretics (adherents of Bid’ah) who were ascetics are pits (from the Fire). The sinners from Ahl Al-Sunnah are the beloved (awliyā`) of Allāh, whereas the ascetics of Ahl Al-Bid’ah are the enemies of Allāh.”

Ibn Abī Ya’lā, Tabaqāt Al-Hanābilah Vol. 1 p182.

No Bachelorhood in Islām

Imâm Ahmad – Allâh have mercy in him – said:

{Voluntary] bachelorhood has nothing to do with Islâm. The Prophet – Allâh’s peace and blessings be upon him – married fourteen women, and he died being married to nine of them. If Bishr b. Al-Hârith had married, his affairs would be complete. If people left marrying no one would go to battle or go on pilgrimage (Al-Hajj), and such-and-such wouldn’t happen.

He went on to say:

The Prophet – Allâh’s peace and blessings be upon him – would wake in the morning and his family would have nothing to eat and go to bed at night and they would have nothing to eat, [yet] he died married to nine wives, he chose marriage and encouraged others to marry.

Abû Bakr Al-Marrûdhî, Kitâb Al-Wara’ p116, 117.

Intentions First

The Prophet Muhammad – Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him – said:

Actions are but by intentions, and everyone will have what he intended. So whoever migrated to Allah and His Messenger, he migrated to Allah and His Messenger. But whoever migrated for some worldly benefit, or to take a woman in marriage, then his migration was only to what he migrated to.

Al-Bukhāri, Muslim and others.

Traditionally, Muslim scholars chose to begin their works by quoting this hadīth, or report, from the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad – Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him. Here is a brief commentary taken from Ibn Rajab’s Jāmi’ Al-‘Ulūm wa Al-Hikam, in which he explains the entire Forty Hadīth collection of Al-Nawawi:

Imām Al-Bukhārī (as Al-Nawawi later did in his Forty Hadīth) begins his Sahīh collection with this hadīth, reminding us that any deed through which Allah’s pleasure is not sought is futile; it will bear no fruits in this life or the hereafter.

ʿAbd Al-Rahmān b. Mahdī, the great scholar of hadīth, said, “If I were to compile a work in chapters, I would place this hadīth at the beginning of each one.” He also said, “Whoever wishes to author a book, he should begin with the hadīth about intentions.”

This hadīth forms a fundamental principle of Islām and an axis around which this way of life revolves.

It is reported that Imām Al-Shāfi’ī said, “This hadīth constitutes a third of all knowledge, and it relates to seventy areas of fiqh (correct understanding of the religion).”

It is reported from Imām Ahmad that he said, “The foundations of Islām are upon three hadīth: the one reported by ʿUmar – ‘Actions are but by intentions’, the one reported by ‘Āishah – ‘Whoever does a deed that does not conform to our commands will have it rejected’ and the one reported by Al-Nu’mān b. Bashīr – ‘The halāl and harām are clear…’”

This hadīth teaches us the principle that acceptance of our deeds and whether or not they are regarded as righteous depends primarily on what the intention behind them is. If the intention is good and pure – to receive Allah’s pleasure and reward, the deed is righteous. Otherwise the deed is futile and false. This is the first thing that needs to be dealt with.

The second condition which needs to be met for our deeds to be accepted by Allah is that they should be in conformity with Islām’s true teachings as taught to us by the Prophet – peace and blessing be upon him – and as understood and applied by the Righteous Predecessors. Hence, the Prophet stated:

Whoever does a deed that does not conform to our commands will have it rejected.

Al-Bukhārī and Muslim.