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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 Mâlik – Allâh be pleased with him] in this manner and he detested it.
Abû Bakr Al-Khallâl, Al-Amr bil-Ma’rûf wa Al-Nahî ‘an Al-Munkar, p110.
It is reported that Sâlim [b. 'Abdillâh b. 'Umar b. Al-Khattâb] – Allâh 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-Jawzî, Al-Qussâs wa Al-Mudhakkirîn article 183.
It is reported that there was a man who used to lead the prayer in Al-Madînah. One night, he became euphoric (got carried away by emotion). [2]Al-Qâsim b. Muhammad 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-Fudayl b. ‘Ayyâd – Allâh have mercy on him – was asked about reciting the Qurân with melodies,
[1] to which he replied:
This is something they took from singing.
Ibid. article 182
Ibn Dâwûd ['Abdullâh b. Dâwûd b. 'Âmir Al-Khuraybî] – Allâh have mercy on him – was once asked by Bishr b. Al-Hârith:
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 Dâwûd said, “He has shown his bid’ah, do not sit with him.”
Ibid article 186.
Hanbal reports:
Abû ‘Abdillâh (Imâm Ahmad) used to detest this innovated recitation which is called Al-Alhân (melodious, musical recitation).
Ibid. article 187.
And it is reported that Imâm Ahmad said:
“This innovated recitation which is called Al-Alhân, I detest it.” He was very strict against it. He said, “I believe it resembles singing, and the Qurân is to be preserved from this.”
Ibid. article 188.
There are numerous narrations from Imâm Ahmad 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 Abû Mûsâ [Al-Ash'arî – Allâh be pleased with him].
When asked about reciting with alhân another time, he replied:
No. [It is allowed] if that is his natural voice, like the voice of Abû Mûsâ. 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, “Allâhul-musta’ân (‘Allâh 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.
‘Abdullâh b. Yazîd Al-’Anbarî reports:
A man once asked Ahmad b. Hanbal:
“What do you say about reciting with alhân?” Abu ‘Abdillâh said, “What is your name?” The man replied, “Muhammad.” Imâm Ahmad said, “So would you like to be called Moohammad?”
Al-Khallâl, op. cit., p99+.
Imâm Mâlik – Allâh 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 Qurân 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 Allâh’s Messenger – peace and blessings be upon him – used to recite?
Al-Qayrawânî, Kitâb Al-Jâmi’ p166.
[1] Arabic: Alhân. This refers to reciting in a melodious, song-like tone. See notes.
[2] Arabic: Al-tarb. This refers to a state of emotional intensity which may bring about physical expression. See notes.
After relating some of these traditions, Ibn Al-Jawzî states:
Know that melodious musical recitation (Al-Alhân) 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 (tashdîd) just in order to preserve the melody. Also, this kind of recitation causes people to get emotionally carried away (al-tarb) and it distracts people from pondering the Quran. [3]
Explaining the type of recitation that is praiseworthy and the type that is detestable, Ibn Kathîr states:
What is sought in the Sharî’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-Jawzî, Al-Qussâs wa Al-Mudhakkirîn p335.
[4] Ibn Kathîr, Fadâ`il Al-Qurân p198.

Taken from


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