The Preferences of al-Kisāʾī : Grammar and Meaning in a Canonical Reading of the Qur’an


Abstract
The Qur’an has been transmitted as both a written text and an oral recital. This has led to the development of a reading tradition that permits numerous different vocalisations to be made upon the basic skeletal text of the established ʿUthmānī codex. Ibn al-Jazarī chose ten early readers whom he felt were most representative of this tradition and whose readings are treated as canonical up until this day. One of these, the Kufan linguist al-Kisāʾī has been characterised in the literature as more focused on the grammar of the Qur’an than his reader peers. This article explores al-Kisāʾī’s process of ikhtiyār when deciding between various possible readings. The sample for analysis consists of Kisāʾī’s tafarrudāt, the approximately fifty cases in which his reading differs from the other nine readers. By comparing his reading with the comments of early scholars of Qur’anic linguistics, especially his near-contemporary al-Farrāʾ, it is possible to construct a typology of the suspected principal reasons for al-Kisāʾī’s tafarrudāt. Not only are many of these based on grammatical preferences, but they demonstrate a significant degree of consistency. Furthermore, analysis of a cluster of readings with implications for the interpretation of the sharīʿa provides evidence for a subtle exegetical dimension to al-Kisāʾī’s work as a reader-grammarian.
Keywords Qur’an  Grammar  Qirāʾāt  Ikhtiyār  Al-Kisāʾī  Exegesis
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DOI 10.1007/s11196-016-9463-z
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Grammar and Exegesis. The Origins of Kufan Grammar and the Tafsīr Muqātil.Kees Versteegh - 1990 - Der Islam: Journal of the History and Culture of the Middle East 67 (2):206-242.
Orality, Literacy and the ‘Seven Aḥruf’ Ḥadīth.Yasin Dutton - 2012 - Journal of Islamic Studies 23 (1):1-49.

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