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I have heard that there are probably as many as ten different (tajweed) systems that can be used to recite the Qur'an. I have also heard that in some systems in tajweed, some of the words used in Qur'an are replaced with different but similar meaning words. Please verify the validity of this, and if it is true, how is it justified to change the words of Qur'an? May Allah reward you for teaching us.


May Allah reward you for asking questions that benefit all in learning about the Qur’an and tajweed. 

We never thought of them as ten different tajweed systems, but do find the phrase partly correct.  First, let’s explain what the qira’aat are.  Each qiraa’ah, or way of recitation, is authentically and in a chain of transmission going back reciter by reciter, name by name, the way the Prophet, recited.  The Qur’an was reveal in seven dialects, each of them dialects of the Arabs.  The following hadeeth is related by Bukhari in The Book of the Virtues of the Qur’an, Hadeeth number 513.  The Messenger of Allah , said, Jibreel recited the Qur’an to me in one way.  Then I requested him [to read it in another way], and continued asking him to recite it in other ways, and he recited it in several ways until he reached seven ways.” 

Another hadeeth related by Bukhari, number 514 of the same chapter, isn’t as short, but worth including in the reply here, for it shows us the companions reaction to the same issue. 

‘Umar bin Al-Khattab, may Allah be please with him, said, “I heard Hishaam bin Haakim reciting surah Al-Furqan during the lifetime of the Allah’s Messenger, , and I listened to his recitation and noticed that he recited in several different ways which Allah’s Messenger, , had not taught me.  I was about to jump over him during his prayer, but I controlled my temper, and when he had completed his prayer, I put his upper garment around his neck and seized him by it and said, “Who taught you this surah which I heard you reciting?”  He replied, “Allah’s Messenger, , taught it to me.”  I said, “You have told a lie, for Allah’s Messenger,  taught it to me in a different way from yours.”  So I dragged him to the Messenger of Allah and said, “I heard this person reciting surah al-Furqan in a way which you haven’t taught me!”  Then the Messenger of Allah, , said, “Release him!  Recite, O Hishaam.”  Then he recited in the same way as I heard him reciting.  Then Allah’s Messenger, , said, “It was revealed in this way.”  Then he said, Recite O ‘Umar.”  I then recited it as he had taught me.  Allah’s Messenger, , then said, “It was revealed in this way.  This Qur’an has been revealed to be recited in seven different ways (ahruf), so recite of it which ever is easier for you.”’

From these two hadeeth we can see that first of all, here was not only one way of recitation in the revelation, but there were seven "ahruf", which literally means letters.  They are not seven different Qur’ans, but seven ways of recitation.  In some aayaat there are is no difference at all, in other aayaat the difference is in how an long a medd is lengthened, an idghaam is done, or a breathless pause on a saakin before a hamzah is heard, or imaalah of an alif is done.  More rare, but present is different ways of pronouncing the same word, one way has a shaddah on a letter in a certain word, the other does not have this shaddah in that same word, voweling may be slightly different, etc. 

The first and foremost thing to realize is this is all part of the revelation.  The chains of transmission of the recitation of the Qur’an are specific, authenticated, and examined.  Any weak chain of transmission of a certain way is not included in the recitations that are studied widely throughout the world. 

The second thing to understand is each way of recitation is self contained and cannot be mixed with another way.  For example, we cannot recite part of an aayah with the way of Warsh ‘an Naafi’   ( ), then switch to Hafs ‘an Aasim   ( ) for the rest of the aayah.  When a student of the qira’aat is practicing the different ways, he/she will read the aayah or phrase several ways, keeping each way separate from the other, unless of course they all recite it in the same way. 

The third point is the answer to the question that probably remains in your mind.  We mentioned seven ways of recitation, how is it that there are ten known ways of recitation?  Each of the seven ways had internal intricacies of difference, each part of the revelation, mind you, and each of these small intricate ways inside the main way were passed down authentically from the Prophet, , to his companions, to the followers, etc.  These chains of transmission are well documented and a student of the Qur'an receiving an ijaazah, or permit to transmit and teach the way he has learned, receives with the ijaazah the chain of transmission going from the Prophet, , name by name, back down to the student’s sheikh.  Some of the seven ways may have become extinct over time due to the Muslims lack of fever for learning the different ways of recitation.  What we have left may or may not be less than the original seven ways, but we have the intricate ways within some of the main ways of recitation with them.  We (the Muslims of today) do not know the exact meaning of the hadeeth of the seven "letters" (ahruf), and it is not for us to guess what it exactly means.   What we do know is that we now have ten authentic ways of recitation that are well known, seven of them authenticated then documented and by Imam Ash-Shatabiyy in his work “Hirz al-amaani wa wajha at-tahaanee” famously known as “Ash-Shatibiyyah”, and three of the them documented by Imam Al-Jazariyy, in his word known as “Ad-Durrah Al-Mudhiyyah”.  There are also many other documented ways within these ten (again small intricacies of difference) documented by Imam Al-Jazariyy in his work “Tayyibah An-Nashr.” 

And Allah knows best.