quran-beautiful-islamic-picturesListening to the Qur’aan being recited correctly is enough to soften even the hardest of hearts and Muslims and non-Muslims alike find it a deeply moving experience even if they do not understand what is being said. We feel this even more in Ramadhaan when we are in the Taraweeh prayers and we can really feel the difference if we go to a Masjid where the Tajweed rules of Qur’aan recitation are not being observed as they should. Every single Muslim has to recite Qur’aan in Salaah but many of us do not realise that reciting the Qur’aan correctly, observing the rules of recitation is not an advanced science for expert reciters alone, rather it is an obligation upon each and every one of us whenever we recite the Qur’aan.

What is Tajweed

The word Tajweed linguistically means ‘proficiency’ or ‘doing something well’. It comes from the same root letters as the word ‘Jayyid’ in Arabic (meaning ‘good’): Jeem, Waw and Daal. When applied to the Qur’aan, it means giving every letter of the Qur’aan its rights and dues of characteristics when we recite the Qur’aan and observing the rules that apply to those letters in different situations. We give the letters their rights by observing the essential characteristics of each letter that never leave it. And we give them their dues by observing the characteristics of each letter that are present in them some of the time and not present at other times.

The Qur’aan was revealed with Tajweed rules applied to it. In other words, when the angel Jibreel ('alyhis-salaam) recited the words of Allah to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) he recited them in a certain way and he showed the Prophet (peace be upon him) the ways in which it was permissible to recite the Qur’aan. So it is upon us to observe those rules so that we recite it in the way it was revealed.

At the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) there was no need for people to study Tajweed because they spoke with what is now known as Tajweed so it was natural for them. When the Arabs started mixing with the non-Arabs as Islaam spread, mistakes in Qur’aan recitation started appearing, so the scholars had to record the rules. Now, because the everyday Arabic that Arabs speak has changed so much from the Classical Arabic with which the Qur’aan was revealed, even Arabs have to study Tajweed.

The Purpose of Tajweed

The Qur’an is the word of Allah, and its every syllable is from Allah. Its recitation must be taken very seriously. The purpose of the Science of Tajweed in essence is to make the reciter proficient in reciting the Qur’aan, observing the correct pronunciation of every letter with the rulings and characteristics which apply to each letter, without any exaggeration or deficiency. And so through this the reciter can recite the Qur’aan upon the way of the Prophet (peace be upon him) who received it from Jibreel who received it from Allah (swt) in the Classical Arabic dialect that it came down in.

Arabic letters each have a Makhraj – an exit or articulation point - in the mouth or throat from which they originate and they also each have Sifaat – attributes, or characteristics - particular to them. Knowing the Makhraj and Sifaat of each letter is an important part of Tajweed. Sometimes two letters have very similar exits which makes mixing them up easy. So if a person does not know the attributes of each letter there is a danger that he will change the meaning of the words in Qur’an recitation. Observing the rules of Tajweed in reciting protects the reciter from making mistakes in reciting the Qur’an.

The Ruling of Reading with Tajweed

Muhammad bin Al-Jazaree the great Qur’aan and Hadeeth scholar of the 9th Century (Hijri) says in his famous poem, ‘Al-Muqaddimah feemaa ‘ala qaari’ihi an yu’allimahu’ detailing the rules of Tajweed:

“And applying Tajweed is an issue of absolute necessity,

Whoever doesn’t apply Tajweed to the Qur’an, then a sinner is he.”

So he regarded it as an obligation and he regarded leaving it as a sin. And the majority of scholars agree that applying the Tajweed rules of Qur’aan are an individual obligation (Fard ‘Ayn) upon every Muslim who has memorised part of or all of the Qur’aan. That is because the Qur’aan was revealed with the Tajweed rules applied to it and the Prophet (peace be upon him) recited it back to Jibreel in that way and the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) read it in that way, so it is an established Sunnah.

And of the proofs that the scholars bring to show the obligation of Tajweed is that Allah says in the Qur’aan, the meaning of which is:
‘And recite the Qur’an (aloud) in a (slow and melodious) style (tarteela)’ (Surah Muzzammil, aayah 4)

Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) said in the explanation of this aayah:

“At-Tarteel is Tajweed of the letters and knowing where to stop (correctly)”. [An-Nashr of Ibn Al-Jazaree 209:1]

And of the proofs also is that Allah says in the Qur’an, the meaning of which is: ‘Those who We have given the Book to, give it its right in recitation (recite it as it should be recited)’ (Surah al-Baqarah, Ayah 121)

And of the rights of reciting correctly is reciting it the way it was revealed. There are various ahadeeth also showing us the importance of Tajweed. Umm Salamah was asked about the recitation of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and she described it as a recitation:

‘Clearly-distinguished letter by letter’. [Tirmidhi]

Sa’eed bin Mansoor relates in his Sunan that a man was reciting the Qur’an to Abdullah bin Mas’ood and he recited “Innamas sadaqaatu lil fuqara-i wal masaakeen”, so Ibn mas’ood said:

“This was not how the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) recited it to me!”

So the man asked, “How did he read it to you oh Aba Abdir-Rahman?” So he said “Lil Fuqaraaaa-i wal masaakeen”, he elongated the word Fuqaraa and the knowledge of the different lengths of elongation (mudood) is also from the rules of Tajweed.

The scholars have divided the types of mistakes one might fall into when reciting the Qur’an into two types:

1. Clear mistakes and

2. Unobvious (hidden) mistakes.

The Clear mistakes must be avoided by all and to avoid them one must know the rules of Tajweed. If a person falls into the Clear Mistakes, this is considered a sin and Ibn Taymiyyah even regarded it undesirable for a Student of Knowledge (i.e. someone who knows Tajweed) to pray behind a person who makes Clear Mistakes in their Salaah. As for the Unobvious mistakes, then the ruling on them is lighter and the recitation of a person falling into this type of mistake is regarded as lacking in completeness and prayer behind such a person is sound.

The table below shows what type of mistakes fall under each category. As you can see, almost all areas of Tajweed are required to be applied by all Muslims.

Clear mistakes
Unobvious mistakes

Mistakes in words which are clear and inconspicuous, whether they change the meaning or not. Mistakes related to correct pronunciation. Scholars, and the ordinary Muslims should avoid these.

Examples of Clear mistakes:

• Changing one letter into another, or a short vowel (harakah) into another, (changing Fathah into Damma or the letter Qaaf into Kaaf etc)

• Not observing the elongations (Mudood) at all. Reciting them quickly.

• Not observing the rules with which to pronounce letters when they are next to each other (like not merging certain letters that should be merged and not clearly pronouncing those which should be clearly pronounced etc.)

•Making light letters sound heavy and heavy letters sound light

• Stopping or starting at an incorrect place so that the meaning is spoilt.

Mistakes which are associated with perfecting the pronunciation.

Known only by those who are experts in this field or study it in depth. Ordinary Muslims may not know these.

Examples of Unobvious mistakes:

• Not being totally exact with the elongation of letters: (Making the Madd shorter or longer by a ½ or even ¼ degree etc.)

• Not observing the attributes of each letter perfectly: (Slightly rolling the Raa’, or exaggerating the ‘N’ sound in Noon etc.)

Reciting the Qur’an melodiously

The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to recite the Qur’an in slow, measured, rhythmic tones as Allah had instructed him, not hurriedly, but rather

“He would recite a surah in such slow rhythmic tones that it would be longer than it would seem possible.” [Muslim, Muwatta]

He would stop at the end of each aayah [Abu Dawud]. He commanded people to recite in a beautiful voice in a pleasant melodious tone. He said, “Beautify the Qur’an with your voices [for a fine voice increases the Qur’an in beauty]” [Bukhaari] and he said, “He who does not recite the Qur’an in a pleasant tone is not of us.” [Abu Dawud]

Unfortunately all too often we find people reciting the Qur’aan quickly and without changing their tone and without any feeling. We should put all our efforts into reciting the Qur’aan with as much feeling as we can! Have you ever prayed behind an Imaam who read with feeling? Well the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Truly the one who has one of the finest voices among the people for reciting the Qur’aan is the one whom you think fears Allah when you hear him recite.”[Daarimi, Tabaraani]

And once when the Prophet (peace be upon him) complimented Abu Moosaa al-Ash’ari on the beauty of his recitation, Abu Moosaa said:

“Had I known you were there, I would have made my voice more pleasant and emotional for you.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

Let us remember, that the Qur’aan is the word of Allah. In it we find exhortations, warnings, glad-tidings, parables, stories of the past, commands and prohibitions. Aayaat to make us think, reflect, cry, fear, hope, love, fall down in prostration! How can we recite all of this without feeling!? When we recite an aayah of Qur’an we should imagine that we are trying to feel and convey the full message behind that aayah. Perhaps some of us don’t feel confident. I believe that this lack of confidence comes partly from not knowing the rules of Tajweed correctly and so fearing that we will make mistakes and partly from not understanding the meaning of what we are reciting. So let us work hard to remove these two obstacles by learning Tajweed and working towards learning Arabic.

Helpful Tips towards learning Tajweed

° You must find a Qur’aan teacher who has studied Tajweed to listen to your recitation and correct you. Tajweed cannot merely be learnt from books, because the movements of your mouth as well as the sounds are important and only a teacher can correct you and make sure you are applying the rules correctly. Sometimes local Masjids will run classes. Qur’aan recitation is a science which was passed down generation by generation through teachers not just books, with a direct line to the Prophet (peace be upon him).

° Find a book containing the rules of Tajweed and learn each rule little by little, applying it as you go along with the help of your teacher. There are many concise Arabic books and in English there are some books as well as tapes to help. Look for books with some drawings showing you how to pronounce each letter.

° Listen to Qur’aan tapes of reciters who recite very clearly, at a medium or slow speed (like Sheikh Hudhaify or Sheikh Muhammad Hosary) and try and notice them applying the different rules of Tajweed. Repeat after them while trying to apply the rules you’ve learnt. Try to copy their tone and melody as well and see how it changes as the meaning of what they’re reciting changes.

° Tajweed Poem: If you know Arabic you could memorise Ibn al-Jazaree’s poem which contains all the rules of Tajweed. You can get the poem on tape sung as a nasheed in Arab countries. You might find memorising the rules easy in this way.

° Try and apply the rules you learn to the Surahs you have already memorised and don’t become lazy about reciting correctly. You might have to revise the Surahs by looking back at them.

° Practice and repetition will make perfect inshaa' Allah: As Ibn al-Jazaree says in his poem about acquiring Tajweed:

‘And there is no obstacle between it (learning Tajweed) and leaving it,
Except that a person must exercise his mouth with it!’

May Allah help us all to give His Book its right when we recite it and make reciting it more beloved to our tongues than anything else. Aameen.