'Asim b. Abi l-Najud

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'Asim b. Abi l-Najud
One of Seven Reciters of Qur'an
Full Name Asim b. Bahdala Abi l-Najud al-Asadi al-Kufi
Kunya Abu Bakr
Religious Affiliation Shi'a
Lineage al-Asadi, al-Kufi
Birth between 41/661 to 60/680
Place of Residence Kufa
Death/Martyrdom 127/744-5 or 128/745-6
Era Umayyad Dynasty

ʿĀṣim b. Bahdala Abi l-Najūd al-Asadī al-Kūfī (Arabic:عاصم بن بهدلة أبي النَّجُود الأسدي الکوفي; b. ? - d. 127/744-5 or 128/745-6) was one of the Tabi'un and one of the Seven Reciters of the Quran. He learned the recital (qira'a) of the Quran from Abu 'Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami who had learned the recital of the Quran from Imam 'Ali (a). 'Asim presented his recital to Zarr b. Hubaysh who had learned the recital of the Quran from 'Abd Allah b. Mas'ud. Thus, 'Asim transmits the recital of Imam 'Ali (a) from al-Sulami. This is why it is said that his recital of the Quran is the most eloquent one, because it is the authentic reading of the Quran.

After the death of his teacher, Abu 'Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami, 'Asim became the head of the reciters of the Quran and was in charge of teaching the Quran in Kufa. Abu Bakr b. 'Ayyash and Hafs b. Sulayman transmitted his recital of the Quran. Hafs believed that 'Asim's recital was more accurate. 'Asim's recital is transmitted to us today by Hafs. Hafs's transmission of 'Asim's recital of the Quran is popular and prevalent in most Islamic countries. As almost all biographers and scholars maintain, 'Asim was a Shi'a.

Biography

According to some scholars, the name of 'Asim's father was Bahdala. Others believe that his father's name was 'Ubayd and his mother's name was Bahdala. He was born in the period of Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan's caliphate. Thus, he was probably born between 41/661-2 and 60/679-80. 'Asim died in Kufa in 127/744-5 or 128/745-6.

Abu Bakr b. 'Ayyash, one of the people who transmitted 'Asim's recital, told a story about the last moments of 'Asim's life:

"I went to 'Asim while he was in the last hours of his life. I heard that he was reciting a Quranic verse as though he was reciting it in the prayer, and the verse was: ‘they will be brought back to Allah their rightful Lord, and their invented falsehoods will leave them in the lurch'[Note 1]."

'Asim was blind, like his teacher, and he usually had a guide accompanying him.

'Asim's Shiism

According to almost all biographers, 4 out of the Seven Reciters were Shi'as (followers of Ahl al-Bayt (a)):

According to "al-Shaykh 'Abd al-Jalil al-Razi", most of the masters of the recital of the Quran were Shi'as. Most of the reciters from Mecca, Medina, Kufa, and Basra were 'Adliyya and Shi'as, rather than Mushabbiha (believers in anthropomorphism), Khawarij (the Rebels), and Jabri (predestinationist). And they transmitted their recitals of the Quran from Imam 'Ali (a).

Ibn Shahrashub and al-Shaykh Abu l-Futuh al-Razi referred to 'Asim as a Shiite leader.

In his book, al-Bayan, Ayatollah al-Khoei said about 'Asim:

"Abu Bakr 'Asim b. Abi l-Najud al-Asadi was an emancipated slave of the Asad family and was from Kufa. He was one of the Seven Reciters of the Quran and was a Shi'a. He recited the Quran for 'Abd Allah b. al-Rahman b. Habib al-Aslami, who was also a Shi'a and a follower of 'Ali (a), and also for Zarr b. Hubaysh and Abu 'Amr al-Shibani".

Qays Al Qays says:

"'Asim was one of the Tabi'un and a proponent of the Prophet's (s) household. He learned his recital from Shaykhayn, and from Abu 'Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami who had learned it from 'Ali (a)".

Qadi Nur Allah al-Shushtari, 'Abd al-Jalil al-Qazwini al-Razi, and Sayyid Hasan al-Sadr also believed that 'Asim was a Shi'a.

Scholarly and Religious Character

Shi'a and Sunni scholars view 'Asim as a prominent figure, a pious person, and a reliable scholar of the recitation of the Quran. They consider him to be a master of eloquence, accurate reading or recital of the Quran, and tajwid. He reportedly recited the Quran in a euphonious way.

In his book, Rawdat al-jannat, Muhammad Baqir al-Khwansari said about 'Asim that "he was one of the most pious reciters of the Quran; his view about the recitation of the Quran was the most accurate, and he was more studious and hardworking than other reciters with respect to the recitation of the Quran".

And according to Qadi Nur Allah al-Shushtari in his book, Majalis al-mu'minin: "he was a master of Arabic grammar and recitation of the Quran and was unique in his time … he recited the Quran euphoniously and was eloquent in the recital of the Quran".

Features of 'Asim's Recital of the Quran

'Asim had distinctive features that distinguish him from the rest of the Seven Reciters of the Quran. He was very accurate, careful and cautious about transmissions of the Quran. Thus, he did not accept recitals of the Quran from people other than Abu 'Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami who had learned it from 'Ali (a). He presented his recital to Zarr b. Hubaysh who had learned it from 'Abd Allah b. Mas'ud.

Abu Bakr b. 'Ayyash, 'Asim's student, said: "'Asim told me that 'no one other than 'Abd al-Rahman recited a word of the Quran to me and whenever I came back from him, I presented what I had heard from the Quran to Zarr b. Hubaysh. Abu 'Abd al-Rahman had learned his recital from 'Ali (a) and Zarr b. Hubaysh had learned it from 'Abd Allah b. Mas'ud'."

'Asim recited the Quran with a slow and continuous tartil (hymnody); it was harmonious and resonant, without being lethargic. 'Asim was careful about hamza (ʾ) and madd, he recited the Quran in a firm way, and had combined eloquence, accuracy, tahrir, and tajwid.

All Shi'a scholars take 'Asim's recital of the Quran to be the most eloquent one. In his ranking of the Seven Reciters, al-Jazari took 'Asim to be the most eloquent.

Transmitters of 'Asim's Recital of the Quran

A great number of people have transmitted 'Asim's recital of the Quran directly or indirectly, including: Aban b. Taghlib, Aban b. Yazid al-'Attar, Hafs b. Sulayman, Hammad b. Salama, Hammad b. Yazid, Sulayman b. Mihran al-A'mash, Abu Bakr b. 'Ayyash, Dahhak b. Maymun, Abu 'Amr b. 'Ala', Khalil b. Ahmad, and Hamza b. Habib. There are other people who have transmitted part or all of 'Asim's recital.

The most prominent transmitters of 'Asim's recital are Hafs and Abu Bakr b. 'Ayyash who have transmitted his recital directly.

Abu 'Umar Hafs b. Sulayman b. Mughira al-Bazzaz al-Asadi al-Kufi (b. 90/709 d. 180/796-7), known as Hafs, was 'Asim's stepson. It is said that Hafs learned 5 Quranic verses from 'Asim in every meeting. "According to Abu Bakr al-Khatib, "early scholars take Hafs to be superior to Abu Bakr b. 'Ayyash with respect to his memory, since he remembered all aspects of 'Asim's recital of the Quran … the most accurate transmission from 'Asim is that of Hafs".

Hafs taught the recital of the Quran to people of Mecca, Baghdad, and Kufa. Following his teacher, 'Asim, he was also a Shi'a. And like his teacher, Hafs is of a high ranking among the Seven Reciters. His recital of the Quran is popular among Muslims. The recital that 'Asim taught Hafs was the one he had learned from Abu 'Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami who had learned it, in turn, from Imam 'Ali (a).

Hafs was the best student of 'Asim and very knowledgeable about his recital. He is more reliable than Abu Bakr, the other transmitter of 'Asim's recital, and this is why, Hafs's recital of the Quran became popular among Muslims. According to al-Dhahabi: "Hafs did not have a good memory with respect to hadiths, but with respect to the recital of the Quran, he is very reliable. He said that he never opposed 'Asim's recital of the Quran except in one letter of a verse in Sura al-Rum: "It is Allah who created you from [a state of] weakness" [Note 2]. Hafs read the word "ضعف" as "du'f" (ضُعف) that means frailty, but 'Asim read it as "da'f" (ضَعف) that means weakness".

In fact, Hafs's recital of the Quran is the one widely received by Muslims, because he and his teacher, 'Asim, were strongly committed to the accurate and mutawatir (numerously reported) transmission of the Quranic recital among Muslims at their time. It was this recital that 'Asim had taught Hafs.

Abu Bakr Shu'ba b. 'Ayyash al-Asadi al-Kufi (b.95/713-4 d.193/808-9) recited the Quran in the presence of 'Asim three times, and presented it to 'Ata' b. Sa'ib, Aslam al-Minqari, and 'Umar. Abu Bakr was a Sunni leader. He quit teaching the recital of the Quran and examination of other people's recitals 7 years before his death. However, he was a great scholar.

'Asim's Recital in the View of Muslim Scholars

'Asim had distinctive features that distinguish him from other reciters of the Quran.

Ibrahim b. Muhammad Naftawayh (d. 323/935), who taught the recital of the Quran for 50 years, always began his courses with the recitation of 'Asim's reading of the Quran, and then examined other recitals.

Ahmad b. Hanbal preferred 'Asim's recital to other recitals of the Quran, since people of Kufa who were very knowledgeable had accepted 'Asim's recital. According to al-Dhahabi, "Ahmad b. Hanbal said that 'Asim was trusted, thus I preferred his recital".

He also said: "the best thing that happened to us was the discovery of the recital of the Quran through 'Asim". He then cites his chain of transmitters up to Hafs who had transmitted 'Asim's recital who had, in turn, transmitted Abu 'Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami's recital from Imam 'Ali (a). He also cited 'Asim's transmission of Zarr b. Hubaysh's recital from Ibn Mas'ud. Abd Allah b. Mas'ud and 'Ali (a) both had learned the recital of the Quran from the Prophet Muhammad (s) who had learned it from God through Jabra'il.

Prominent Imami scholars of fiqh (jurisprudence) have preferred 'Asim's recital as transmitted by Hafs, because they took it to be the best recital of the Quran in the eloquent dialect of Quraysh with which the Quran was revealed and on which all Arabs and Muslims agree.

In his book, al-Manaqib, Ibn Shahrashub says: "'Asim learned the recital of the Quran from Abu 'Abd al-Rahman who had learned it from 'Ali Amir al-Mu'minin (a)". He adds: "the most eloquent recital of the Quran is that of 'Asim, because he had learned it from the source, and whenever other reciters went astray, he went on the right path".

And al-'Allama al-Hilli says in his book, al-Muntaha: "the best recital of the Quran for me is that of 'Asim".

Related Topics

Notes

  1. وَ رُدُّواْ إِلىَ اللَّهِ مَوْلَئهُمُ الْحَقّ‏ِ وَ ضَلَّ عَنهُْم مَّا كاَنُواْ يَفْترَُونَ (Quran 10:30)
  2. اللَّهُ الَّذِى خَلَقَكُم مِّن ضَعْف (Quran 30:54)

References