The Glorious Qur’an is the literal words of Allaah that He revealed as an infallible source of legislation for mankind to live an organised life by. It contains regulations and recommendations about all aspects of life and references to the Hereafter. Being so important, the Qur’an must be read, written, and recited correctly and clearly, so as not to create any sort of ambiguity or misunderstanding whatsoever. Allaah Almighty addressed His Messenger Muhammad sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention ) in the Qur’an, Saying (what means):
“…And recite the Qur’an with measured recitation.” [Qur’an 73:4]
Listening to the Qur’an being recited correctly is enough to soften even the hardest of hearts. Muslims and non-Muslims alike find it a deeply moving experience, even if they do not understand what is being said. Every Muslim has to recite Qur’an in prayers, but many of us do not realise that reciting the Qur’an correctly while 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’an.
What is Tajweed?
The Arabic word Tajweed linguistically means ‘proficiency’ or ‘doing something well’. It comes from the same root letters as the word Jayyid, which means ‘good’. When applied to the Qur’an, it means giving every letter of the Qur’an its rights and dues of characteristics when we recite the Qur’an, 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. 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’an was revealed with Tajweed rules applied to it. In other words, when the angel Jibreel (Gabriel) may Allaah exalt his mention recited the words of Allaah to the Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention ) he recited them in a certain way and he showed the Prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention ) the ways in which it was permissible to recite the Qur’an. So it is obligatory upon us to observe those rules so that we recite it in the way it was revealed.
At the time of the Prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention ) there was no need for people to study Tajweed because they talked with what is now known as Tajweed, so it was natural for them. When the Arabs started mixing with the non-Arabs and as Islam spread, mistakes in the Qur’anic recitation began to appear, 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’an was revealed, even the Arabs have to study Tajweed.
The Purpose of Tajweed
The Qur’an is the word of Allaah, and its every syllable is from Allaah. 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’an, observing the correct pronunciation of every letter with the rulings and characteristics which apply to it, without any exaggeration or deficiency. Through this, the reciter can recite the Qur’an according to the way of the Prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention ) who received it from Jibreel who received it from Almighty Allaah in the Classical Arabic language.
Each Arabic letter has a Makhraj (an exit or articulation point from which it originates) and Sifaat (attributes or characteristics). 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, he may change the meaning of the words in Qur’an recitation. Observing the rules of Tajweed in reciting prevents the reciter from making mistakes in reciting the Qur’an.
The Ruling of Reading with Tajweed
Imaam Muhammad Ibn Al-Jazari may Allaah have mercy upon him who was a great Qur’an and Hadeeth scholar of the 9th Hijri century, stated in his famous poem that details 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.”
Hence, applying the rules of Tajweed is an obligation to keep away from the major mistakes in reciting the Qur’an.
The scholars have divided the types of mistakes one might fall into when reciting the Qur’an into two:
- Clear mistakes: which usually change obvious things and change the meaning.
- Hidden mistakes: for which one may need to study Tajweed rules.
The majority of scholars agree that applying the Tajweed rules of the Qur’an such that the clear mistakes are avoided is an individual obligation (Fardh ‘Ayn) upon every Muslim who has memorised part or all of the Qur’an, while applying the rules of Tajweed to avoid the hidden mistakes is a collective obligation (Fardh Kifaayah) upon Muslims. That is, there must be some students of knowledge who have knowledge of that. This is because the Qur’an was revealed with the Tajweed rules applied to it, and the Prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention ) recited it back to Jibreel in that way and the companions of the Prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention ) read it in that way, so it is an established Sunnah (Prophetic tradition or practice).
The list below shows the type of mistakes under each category:
Mistakes related to correct pronunciation of letters so that letters are not mixed up in a way that changes their meaning. Scholars and ordinary Muslims alike should avoid these.
Examples of Clear Mistakes:
- Changing one letter into another or a short vowel (Harakah) into another (e.g. changing Fat-hah into Dhammah or the letter Qaaf into Kaaf, etc)
- Not observing the elongations (Madd) at all. Reciting them quickly as if there is no Madd so that they turn into the length of a vowel.
- Making a Madd letter which out of a normal Harakah.
- Stopping or starting at an incorrect place so that the meaning is spoilt, like stopping at ‘Laa ilaaha’ (i.e., there is nothing worthy of worship), without completing ‘illallaah’ (except Allaah).
Mistakes which have to do with perfecting pronunciation and are not obvious. These are known only by those who have studied Tajweed rules or are experts in this field. Ordinary Muslims may not know such mistakes or perceive them to be so.
Examples of Hidden Mistakes:
- Not being totally exact with the elongation of letters: (Making the Madd shorter or longer by a 1/2 or even 1/4 degree, etc.)
- Not observing the attributes of each letter perfectly: (Slightly rolling the Raa’, or exaggerating the ‘N’ sound in Noon etc.)
- 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 (Idghaam) and not clearly pronouncing those which should be clearly pronounced (Ith-haar) etc.)
- Making light letters sound heavy and heavy letters sound light (except if by doing this one changes a letter into another; in which case it would be an obvious mistake.)
Among the proofs that the scholars bring to show the obligation of Tajweed and its being an established Sunnah is that Almighty Allaah Says in the Qur’an (what mean):
“…And recite the Qur’an with measured recitation.” [Qur’an 73:4]
There are various Prophetic narrations also showing us the importance of Tajweed. Umm Salamah may Allaah be pleased with her was asked about the recitation of the Prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention ) and she described it as a recitation: “Clearly-distinguished, letter by letter”.