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’). In the context of the Qur’an, Tajweed means to give every letter of the Qur’an its rights and dues while pronouncing them. Apart from the essential characteristics of letters, the rules that apply to them in different situations should also be observed.
The Qur’an was revealed with Tajweed rules applied to it. Angel Jibreel recited the words of Allah to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He recited and showed the Prophet (peace be upon him) the ways in which it was permissible to recite the Qur’an. So it is upon us to observe those rules and 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 talked with what is now known as Tajweed. It was natural for them. When the Arabs started mixing with the non-Arabs as Islam spread, mistakes in Qur’an’s recitation started appearing, so the scholars had to record the rules. Today the common Arabic that Arabs speak has changed so much from the classical Arabic in which the Qur’an was revealed that even Arabs have to study Tajweed.
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’an, 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’an upon the way of the Prophet (peace be upon him) who received it from Jibreel who received it from Allah Almighty.
Categories of mistakes
Scholars have divided the types of mistakes one might fall into when reciting the Qur’an into two categories:
1. Clear mistakes
Mistakes in words which are clear and inconspicuous, usually changing the meaning. Mistakes related to correct pronunciation of letters so that letters are not mixed up. Examples of clear mistakes:
• Changing one letter into another. For instance, reading Qaaf as Kaaf.
• Changing a short vowel (harakah) into another. For instance, changing Fathah into Damma
• 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.
• Elongating a normal harakah as if it were a Madd.
• Stopping or starting at an incorrect place so that the meaning is spoilt. Like stopping at ‘Laa ilaaha’ (There is no god), without completing ‘illAllah’ (except Allah).
Majority of the scholars agree that learning Tajweed rules to avoid clear mistakes is an obligation on every Muslim (Fard ‘Ayn).
2. Obscure (hidden) mistakes
Mistakes that have to do with perfecting pronunciation. They are not obvious and are known only to those who have studied Tajweed rules or are experts in this field. Common Muslims may not be able to identify them. Examples of hidden mistakes:
• Not being exact in the elongation of letters For instance, reciting the Madd shorter or longer by a 1/2 or even 1/4 degree.
• Not observing the attributes of each letter perfectly. For instance, slightly rolling the Raa or exaggerating the ‘N’ sound in Noon.
• Not observing the rules of pronunciation of some letters when they are next to each other. The rule of Idghaam, for instance.
• Pronouncing light letters heavy and heavy letters light. However, by doing this, if one changes a letter into another, it will become an obvious mistake.
Learning these rules to avoid the not-so-obvious mistakes is a collective responsibility on the Muslim Ummah (Fard Kifayah) and not necessary on every Muslim. There must be students of knowledge who have learnt it. This is because the Qur’an was revealed with these 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 reciting the Qur’an with complete Tajweed rules is an established Sunnah.
“And recite the Qur’an (aloud) in a slow, (pleasant tone and) style.” (Qur’an, 73:4)
Tips to learn Tajweed
• Find a Qur’an teacher who has studied Tajweed to teach it you. He or she will listen to your recitation and correct you. Tajweed cannot be learnt from books, because the movements of your mouth as well as the sounds are important. Only a teacher can correct you and make sure you are applying the rules correctly. Most local mosques run Tajweed and Hifz classes. Qur’an recitation is a science that is being passed down from generation to generation through teachers, not just books, with a direct chain to the Prophet (peace be upon him), even till date.
• 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’an tapes of reciters who recite very clearly, at a medium or slow speed like Sheikh Hudhaify or Sheikh Muhammad Hosary. Listen to how they apply 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 are reciting changes.
• You can get a new Mushaf (copy of the Qur’an), called Mushaf At-Tajweed, which has the rules of Tajweed incorporated in the text of the Qur’an in colour coding. This is very helpful as it prompts you as you go along. There is also a computer program you can buy which highlights Tajweed rules with recitation.
Ref: Qawaa’id At-Tajweed by Dr. Abdul Azeez Abdul Fattah Al-Qari, a teacher at the Islamic University in Madina.
By Fatima Barakatullah