THE CONTROVERSY OVER RECITING THE QUR'AN WITH TONES (AL-QIR'AH BI’L-ALHAN )

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Christopher Melchert

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Abstract

Whether it is acceptable to recite the Qur'an with tones (al-qira'ah bi'l-alhan) touches on two larger issues, the acceptability of music and the distinctiveness of Islam from Christianity and Judaism. Various hadith reports apparently caused difficulty for traditionalists who rejected recitation with tones. The reports themselves were evidently too well established to be rejected. Sometimes they were nullified by more or less strained interpretation, sometimes by paraphrase. Early Hanbali literature is strongly opposed to recitation of the Qur'an with tones. Maliki literature also rejects it, but the Hanafi school seems to have been divided. By contrast, the earliest Shafi'i literature is permissive.

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