Abu 'Amr ibn al-'Ala'

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Abu ʻAmr ibn al-ʻAlāʼ al-Basri (Arabic: أبو عمرو بن العلاء‎; died 770 CE/154 AH[1]) was the Qur'an reciter of Basra, Iraq and an Arab linguist.[1] He was born in Mecca in 689/690CE (70AH).[2] Descended from a branch of the tribe of Banu Tamim,[3] Ibn al-ʻAlāʼ is one of the seven primary transmitters of the chain of narration for the Qur'an.[4] He is also considered the founder of the Basran school of Arabic grammar.[5] He was as well known as a grammarian as he was a reader, though his reading style was influenced by those of Nafi‘ al-Madani and Ibn Kathir al-Makki.[6] In between his study of Qur'an reading in his hometown of Mecca and in Basra, he also traveled to learn more about the practice in Kufa and Medina.[6]

He was a student of Ibn Abi Ishaq and a teacher of Al-Khalil ibn Ahmad al-Farahidi,[7][8] Yunus ibn Habib,[1][9] Al-Asma'i[5] and Harun ibn Musa.[10] According to Asma'i, he once asked his teacher one-thousand grammatical questions, and Ibn al-ʻAlāʼ answered every one of them with examples.[4] Ibn al-ʻAlāʼ's other student, Abu ʿUbaidah, claimed that he was the most learned of all men in philology, grammar, Arabic poetry and the Qur'an.[11] Although he never met Sibawayhi, the ethnic Persian considered the father of Arabic grammar, Sibawayhi quotes from Abu Amr 57 times in his infamous Kitab, mostly by transmission from Ibn Habib and al-Farahidi.[12]

The famous Qur'an reciter Al-Duri was also from Abu 'Amr's students, who preserved his recitation. In turn, al-Duri passed on Abu 'Amr's method of recitation to Niftawayh and Muhammad bin Dawud al-Zahiri.[13] Ibn al-ʻAlāʼ was a contemporary of many early Muslim notables; he remarked that in his experience, Hasan of Basra and Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf were the first and second most eloquent and pure speakers of the Arabic language.[14]

He died in Kufa in 770CE (154AH).[1] Having just come back from a visit to the governor of Syria, Ibn al-ʻAlāʼ experienced a series of fainting fits while in Kufa, where he was buried.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d Sībawayh, ʻAmr ibn ʻUthmān (1988), Hārūn, ʻAbd al-Salām Muḥammad (ed.), Al-Kitāb Kitāb Sībawayh Abī Bishr ʻAmr ibn ʻUthmān ibn Qanbar, Introduction (3rd ed.), Cairo: Maktabat al-Khānjī, p. 13
  2. ^ a b Ibn Khallikan's Biographical Dictionary, translated by William McGuckin de Slane. Paris: Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland. Sold by Institut de France and Royal Library of Belgium. Vol. 2, pg. 402.
  3. ^ Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, History of the Prophets and Kings, trans. G. Rex Smith. Vol. 14: The Conquest of Iran, pg. 71. Albany: SUNY Press, 1989.
  4. ^ a b Ibn Khallikan, vol. 2, pg. 399.
  5. ^ a b al-Aṣmaʿī at the Encyclopædia Britannica Online. ©2013 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.. Accessed 10 June 2013.
  6. ^ a b Peter G. Riddell, Early Malay Qur'anic exegetical activity, p. 164. Taken from Islam and the Malay-Indonesian World: Transmission and Responses. London: C. Hurst & Co., 2001. ISBN 9781850653363
  7. ^ Introduction to Early Medieval Arabic: Studies on Al-Khalīl Ibn Ahmad, pg. 2. Ed. Karin C. Ryding. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1998. ISBN 9780878406630
  8. ^ Eckhard Neubauer, "Al-Khalil Ibn Ahmad and Music." Taken from Early Medieval Arabic: Studies on Al-Khalīl Ibn Aḥmad, pg. 63. Ed. Karin C. Ryding. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1998. ISBN 9780878406630
  9. ^ Ibn Khallikan, Deaths of Eminent Men and History of the Sons of the Epoch, vol. 4, pg. 586. Trns. William McGuckin de Slane. London: Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland, 1871.
  10. ^ M.G. Carter, Sibawayh, pg. 21. Part of the Makers of Islamic Civilization series. London: I.B. Tauris, 2004. ISBN 9781850436713
  11. ^ Ibn Khallikan, vol. 2, pg. 400.
  12. ^ M.G. Carter, Sibawayh, pg. 19.
  13. ^ Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, trans. Franz Rosenthal. Vol. 1: General Introduction and From the Creation to the Flood, pg. 58.
  14. ^ Ibn Khallikan, vol. 1, pg. 370.

Further reading[edit]

  • Nik Hanan Mustapha, "To What Extent Did Abu 'Amr ibn al-'Ala and al-Kisa`i Adhere to Their Respective Schools of Grammar? An Analytical Study in the Light of the Qur'anic qira`at." Journal of Qur'anic Studies, vol. 10, #1, pg. 202. January 2008.