“Peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be with you.. Peace and mercy of Allah be with you.” With these phrases that we all repeat at the end of each prayer, Sheiks Mahmud Khalil Al-Husary sealed his life on the eve of Monday’s 24th of November, 1980 immediately after he performed the `Isha’ (Night) Prayer. He was concluding a lifetime of achievements that exceeded 63 years which he spent in the service of the Glorious Qur’an. Between his life and birth, there was a long period of giving, which we will recognize in the following lines.
Shubra An-Namlah, a small village lies in Tanta Center, Al-Gharbiyyah Governorate, northern Egypt. It is distinguished with a remarkable purity and a special state of spirituality with which the Egyptian countryside is renowned. The Egyptian villagers are used to send their sons to memorize the Qur’an at tender ages, which markes the beginning of Sheikh Mahmud Khalil Al-Husary. He was born in the morning of the 1st of Dhul-Hijjah 1335 AH, corresponding to 17 September, 1917.
He was about 4 years old when his father took him to the Kuttab (a school for teaching the Qur’an and Arabic) to learn the Glorious Qur’an. He started learning it auditively before he learned writing and reading. Nevertheless, he didn’t take long to memorize the Qur’an as he completed it wholly at the age of 8.
Al-Hsary remained with his teacher in the Kuttab, where he learned Tajweed (rules of recitation). He used to go to the village’s mosque to recite some verses from the Qur’an. He was highly admired by people for his perfect recitation and beautiful voice. When he reached 12 he joined Al Azhar Tanta institute, and continued his study until he completed the secondary school. Then, he moved to learning the Qiraat (styles of recitation) and completed them. Al-Husary stayed in his village until he joined the radio in 1944. He ranked the first among the applicants for the radio exam, and was hired on the same day. His first time to recite live was on 16 November 1944.
Then, in 1948, a decision was made to appoint Sheikh Al-Husary as a muezzin of Sidi Hamza Mosque in the city of Tanta, but he asked to be appointed as a reciter of the Qur’an despite that the wages of the muezzin was bigger than that of the reciter, but it was his love for the Qur’an that drove him. He was appointed as a reciter and remained in this position until a ministerial decision was issued to assign to him the task of technical supervision on the recitation circles in the Gharbiyyah Governorate. Then, he was commissioned in 17 \ 4 \ 1949 to recite the Qur’an in Ahmad Al-Badawi Mosque in Tanta. He remained in this mosque until 1955 year, when he was transferred to Al-Hussein Mosque in Cairo. He thus moved to Cairo and stayed there until his death.
Al-Husary assumed a variety of positions, including the head of the Egyptian Maqari’ (circles of recitation) in 1960, then a technical consultant for the Qur’an affairs in the Ministry of Awqaf in the year 1963, then a head of the Egyptian Committee for the Revision of Mus-hafs (Arabic copies of the Qur’an) in Al-Azhar in 1963, and finally a technical consultant of the sciences of the Qur’an and Sunnah in 1967 in the Islamic Research Academy.
Al-Husary was the first to record the full audio Qur’an according to the narration of Hafs from `Aasim in 1961. The Qur’an radio in Egypt kept on broadcasting his recitation alone for 10 years. Then, he recorded the full Qur’an according to the narration of Warsh from Nafi` in 1964, then according to the narrations of Qalun and Ad-Duri in 1968. Also, in the same year, he recorded Al-Mus-haf Al-Mu`allim and was elected as a head for the federation of Islamic World Reciters. He was the first to call for the establishment of a union for the reciters of the Glorious Qur’an to look after their interests and guarantee them decent livelihoods. Also, he called for the need to establish schools for teaching the Glorious Qur’an in all the Egyptian cities and villages.
No one disagrees that Sheikh Mohammed Khalil Al-Husary is one of the most prominent reciters of the Qur’an in the contemporary world. He was known for his outstanding recitation throughout the whole world. He read the Qur’an in all the capitals of the world, whether Islamic or non-Islamic. He recited the Qur’an at the Royal Palace in London, the headquarters of the United Nations in New York, and the Congress. Undoubtedly, he is one of the most knowledgeable reciters of the Qur’an, especially the sciences of Tafsir (Exegesis of the Qur’an) and Hadith. He perfected the ten styles of recitations (Qiraat) and got a scientific degree in them from Al-Azhar in 1958. He was also familiar with these styles of recitation in terms of knowledge, understanding and memorization and with all their chains of transmissions (Isnads).
The recitation of Sheikh Al-Husary was distinguished with numerous advantages, including perfect performance, melodious voice, and clear pronunciation. He perfected this high performance with intensive training, carefulness with places of stopping and initiation, and paying great attention to the sciences of Tajwid that makes the Qur’an recitation an illustrative symphony that translates emotions and sounds and turns the words into living organisms. Sheikh Al-Husary was very influenced with the Qur’an, acting according to its commands, and observing righteousness and sincerity. Therefore, his voice was distinguished with exceptional reverence and impact in the souls of the listeners.
Sheikh Mahmoud Khalil Al-Husary said, as mentioned in a document of the Al-Ahram Center for Information: “Tartil (quite slow mode of recitation) embodies the words in living way, and thus captures the implications that the words drive at. If we feel ecstatic coming from the lyrical performance, Tartil puts us in the face of the Qur’anic text in a purely rational way that brings to the listener a sense of responsibility.”
In addition to his devotion to the Qur’an throughout his life, Sheikh Al-Husary was knowledgeable of Qiraat, the ways of their narrations and their chains of transmission. He lectured in many Egyptian, Arab and Islamic universities. He was a reviser of the Qur’an writing. He remained the head of the Islamic World Reciters for 20 years as well as being a member of the Islamic Research Academy at Al-Azhar Al-Sharif.
At the Congress
Sheikh Al-Husary was the first to be sent to visit the Muslims in India and Pakistan, and read the Qur’an in the First Islamic Conference of India in the presence of the Indian and Egyptian presidents and the leader of Muslims in India in 1960. In 1962, he was appointed as the deputy of the committee of revising and correcting the Mus-haf in Al-Azhar then he became its chairman after that.
In 1963, he confronted the attempts to distort the Glorious Qur’an, when he discovered during his visit to Kuwait the existence of copies of the Qur’an that have been distorted by the Jews. Moreover, God made him a reason to guide ten Frenchmen to Islam after they heard the words of God from him when he visited France in 1965 . He was chosen by the Union or Muslim Reciters as the head of the Islamic World Reciters in the conference “Recite” in Pakistan’s Karachi in 1966. Two years later, he was the first to record the Qur’an throughout the world by the narration of Qalun, Ad-Duri and Al-Basri.
In the year 1969, he was the first to record of Al-Mus-haf Al-Mu`allim in the world and he was the first to record the Qur’an in the way of Al-Mus-haf Al-Mufassar in 1975.
In addition to his rounds to all Arab and Islamic countries, Sheikh Al-Husary also traveled to Russia, China, Switzerland, Canada and most of the capitals of the world to proclaim the Qur’an without seeking any position or fame. He was always pleased with the honor of being a servant of the Qur’an. Perhaps, he is the only reciter who read the Qur’an in the White House, in the the presence of the American President Jimmy Carter.
God has bestowed on Sheikh Al-Husary deep insight in many of the issues related to creed. He recognized the seriousness of evangelization and Christianization campaigns in Africa, which began to distort the Qur’an. Thus, he managed to introduce the Qur’an recorded on cassette tapes or discs. He commenced this journey with the recording the Qur’an while many Sheikhs and reciters refused the idea completely. He was the fist to record the Qur’an on cds; an idea that was surprisingly applauded. President Nasser awarded Sheikh Al-Husary Medal of Science and Arts of the first layer in 1967 in honor of his recording the Qur’an. He also won the appreciation of kings and presidents in Arab and Muslim world.
Sheikh Al-Husary also authored several books, and so was the first reciter who composes books in different styles of recitations. He did so with the encouragement of his teacher Sheikh Ad-Dabba`, the former head of the Egyptian circles of recitation who inspired Al-Husary with this idea owing to Al-Husary’s great capacity for composing and writing. Sheikh Ad-Dabba` supported him and would review Sheikh Al-Husary’s writings. Sheikh Al-Husary wrote some books on the ten styles of recitation and would print them on his expense and distribute them for free. He gave these books to the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs for free, and it was distributed by the Council for a nominal fee.
In 1980, Sheikh Al-Hsary returned sick from his trip to Saudi Arabia, as the fatigue of travelling increased his illness. He was suffering from heart disease, which was intensified three days after his returning. Doctors advised to transfer him to the Heart Institute, but he rejected their advice echoing: “God is the Healer.” However, the rapid deterioration in his health necessitated his transfer, even against his will, to the Heart Institute. Then, his health improved and returned home again thinking that he was completely cured. He was totally occupied with the construction of a mosque, a religious institute and a school for teaching the Qur’an in his home village of Shubra An-Namlah. He suddenly passed away immediately after performing the `Isha’ (Night) Prayer on Monday 16 Muharram 1401 AH, corresponding to 11/24/1980 AD.
May Allah confer His Mercy upon Sheikh Al-Husary!
Listen to the recitation of the Qur’an by Sheikh Mahmud Khalil Al-Husary:
Source: Translated by the editorial team from an Arabic article titled “Al-Husary Qari’ fil-Congress” (Al-Husary, a Qur’an Reciter at the Congress) by Mohamed Abdul-Aziz Yunus.