The Qur’ān was revealed on Seven Ahruf
There are certain narratives which say that the Qur’ān was revealed on seven ahruf. A typical narrative reads: حَدَّثَنِي يَحْيَى عَنْ مَالِك عَنْ ابْنِ شِهَابٍ عَنْ عُرْوَةَ بْنِ الزُّبَيْرِ عَنْ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنِ عَبْدٍ الْقَارِيِّ أَنَّهُ قَالَ سَمِعْتُ عُمَرَ بْنَ الْخَطَّابِ يَقُولُ سَمِعْتُ هِشَامَ بْنَ حَكِيمِ بْنِ حِزَامٍ يَقْرَأُ سُورَةَ الْفُرْقَانِ عَلَى غَيْرِ مَا أَقْرَؤُهَا وَكَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَقْرَأَنِيهَا فَكِدْتُ أَنْ أَعْجَلَ عَلَيْهِ ثُمَّ أَمْهَلْتُهُ حَتَّى انْصَرَفَ ثُمَّ لَبَّبْتُهُ بِرِدَائِهِ فَجِئْتُ بِهِ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِنِّي سَمِعْتُ هَذَا يَقْرَأُ سُورَةَ الْفُرْقَانِ عَلَى غَيْرِ مَا أَقْرَأْتَنِيهَا فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَرْسِلْهُ ثُمَّ قَالَ اقْرَأْ يَا هِشَامُ فَقَرَأَ الْقِرَاءَةَ الَّتِي سَمِعْتُهُ يَقْرَأُ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ هَكَذَا أُنْزِلَتْ ثُمَّ قَالَ لِي اقْرَأْ فَقَرَأْتُهَا فَقَالَ هَكَذَا أُنْزِلَتْ إِنَّ هَذَا الْقُرْآنَ أُنْزِلَ عَلَى سَبْعَةِ أَحْرُفٍ فَاقْرَءُوا مَا تَيَسَّرَ مِنْهُ ‘Abd al-Rahmān ibn ‘Abd al-Qārī narrated: “ ‘Umar ibn al-Khattāb said before me: ‘I heard Hishām ibn Hakīm ibn Hizām reading Sūrah Furqān in a different way from the one I used to read it, and the Prophet (sws) himself had read out this sūrah to me. Consequently, as soon as I heard him, I wanted to get hold of him. However, I gave him respite until he had finished the prayer. Then I got hold of his cloak and dragged him to the Prophet (sws). I said to him: “I have heard this person [Hishām ibn Hakīm ibn Hizām] reading Sūrah Furqān in a different way from the one you had read it out to me.” The Prophet (sws) said: “Leave him alone [O ‘Umar].” Then he said to Hishām: “Read [it].” [‘Umar said:] “He read it out in the same way as he had done before me.” [At this,] the Prophet (sws) said: “It was revealed thus.” Then the Prophet (sws) asked me to read it out. So I read it out. [At this], he said: “It was revealed thus; this Qur’ān has been revealed on Seven Ahruf. You can read it in any of them you find easy from among them.” ’ ” While critically analyzing this narrative, Ghāmidī writes: If the following points about this narrative are kept in contemplation, it becomes evident that it is an absolutely meaningless narrative which should not be considered of any worth in this regard: Firstly, even though this narrative has been recorded in the basic books of Hadīth literature, no one in history has ever been able to offer a convincing explanation of it rendering it totally ambiguous. Al-Suyūtī has recorded about forty interpretations of this narrative, and then while acknowledging the weakness of each of these has confessed that this narrative should be regarded among the mutashābihāt, whose meaning is only known to God: وأرجحها عندي قول من قال : إن هذا من المتشابه الذي لايدري تأويله And to me the best opinion in this regard is that of the people who say that this Hadīth is from among matters of mutashābihāt, the meaning of which cannot be understood. Secondly, the only plausible interpretation of the word ahruf is that it connotes pronunciation of words the Arabs were used to. However, in this case, the text of the H~adīth itself negates this meaning. It is known that both ‘Umar (rta) and Hishām (rta) belonged to the same tribe: the Quraysh. Obviously, people of the same tribe could not have had different pronunciations. Thirdly, even if it is accepted that this difference was of pronunciation between various tribes and as a result they were allowed to read it variously, the verb unzila (was revealed) is very inappropriate. The Qur’ān has specified that it was revealed in the language of the Prophet’s tribe: the Quraysh (See for example: 19:97, 44:58). After this, it can be accepted that the various tribes were allowed to read it according to their own accents, but how can this be accepted that the Almighty Himself revealed the various dialects and pronunciations. Fourthly, it is known that Hishām had accepted Islam on the day Makkah was conquered. If this Hadīth is accepted, it would mean that even after the conquest of Makkah senior Companions and even a close associate like ‘Umar (rta) was unaware of the fact that the Prophet (sws) secretly taught the Qur’ān in some other form and reading from the one openly heard from the Prophet (sws) and preserved in writing and in memory. Every person can realize how grave this claim is and how far reaching are its effects.
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