Nāfiʿ ibn ʿAbdur-Raḥmān ibn Abī Naʿīm al-Laythī, born in 70 A.H. and died in 169 A.H. aged 99, he was born of Persian decent, his family were originally from Isfaḥān and later settled in Madīnah al-Munawwarah. He was of the most respected scholars or Qirāʾah during his era.
Imām Nāfiʿ learnt Qurʾān from several Tābiʿīn, among the most famous of them was Abū Jaʿfar Yazīd ibn al-Qaʿqaʿ who died in 130 A.H. who in turn took Qurʾān from Abū Hurayrah who took Qurʾān from Ubay ibn Kaʿb who learnt directly from the Prophet (Ṣalallāhu ʿAlayhi wa Sallam) After at- Tābiʿīn Imām Nāfiʿ was considered to be the leading reciter of al-Madīnah. His recitation spread so much from there that scholars began preferring his recitation, such as Imām Aḥmad who said, “I prefer the recitation of Nāfiʿ and if that is not possible then Ibn Kathīr”
Among the students of Nāfiʿ are, Imām Mālik ibn Anas who died in 179 A.H. who once said, “Indeed the qirāʾah of Nāfiʿ is the Sunnah.” (al-Hāshimī)
The two students famous for the recitation of Imām Nāfiʿ are:
I. ʿĪsā ibn Mīna az-Zarqī known as Qālūn who was born in 120 A.H. and died in 220 A.H., he was the step son of Nāfiʿ and spent his life in al-Madīnah and held the position of chief Qārī after Nāfiʿ passed away.
II. Abū Saʿīd ʿUthmān ibn Saʿīd al-Miṣrī who was born in 110 A.H. and died in 197 A.H. who lived predominantly in Egypt but travelled to al-Madīnah to study under Nāfiʿ in 155 A.H. His recitation is famously known as Warsh a nickname given to him by Imām Nāfiʿ. He recited the entire Qurʾān to Nāfiʿ many times giving him a level of certification and reliance through constant checking and examination. He later returned to Egypt where he spent the rest of his life and was the leading Qārī of Egypt.
While to some this knowledge may seem random and purely historical, it is in fact vital. Vital for our personal development and attachment to our faith and those who have been the bodily means through which Allāh has preserved this Dīn.
None of these people received revelation, nor were they carried by angels or fed from the rivers of paradise. Each and every single one of them attained the level perfection in recitation and preservation of memorisation through hard work, late nights and tearful eyes when making duʿāʾ. Due to their sincerity and hard work Allāh allowed for the fruits of their efforts to remain until today, sacrifice and zeal for gaining religious knowledge has not diminished in our times. The scholars and learned men and women are still out there for those who wish to learn, but just as Imām Nāfiʿ, Imām Qālūn and Imām Warsh gave up a portion of Dunya for their Ākhirah so will we.
It is upon us to take on our duty of learning about our faith, about or Holy Book and about our Noble Messenger (Ṣalallāhu ʿAlayhi wa Sallam) it can no longer be a case that we mention the short fall of our parents or grandparents when asked about religious knowledge.