Tajweed Definition in Details

- by Sheikh Mustafa

Nov 13 2017

Tajweed Definition in Details

والأخذ بالتجويد حتم لازم والأخذ بالتجويد حتم لازم من لم يصحح القرآن آثم

Tajweed, linguistically, means beautification/ betterment. It is from the Arabic verb: Jawwada/Yujawwidu:جَوَّدَ/ يُجَوِّدُ  :  meaning حَسَّنَ/يُحَسِّنُ (Hassana/Yuhassinu)That is: he made better or he beautified. Technically, هو علم يعرف به النطق الصحيح للحروف العربية، وذلك بمعرفة مخارجها، وصفاتها الذاتية والعرضية، وما ينشأ عنها من أحكام.

It is a science by which one gets to know the correct pronunciation of the Arabic letters and this is by way of knowing the articulation points of those letters and their permanent and temporary characteristics and the precepts annexed to them.In other words, it is the giving of the letter’s rights and dues with respect to its articulation point and characteristics.

Imaam ibn Al-Jazari’s definition:Imam ibn Al-Jazari  رحمه اللهhas given a very comprehensive definition of Tajweed; encompassing all the basic requisites for the protection of the tongue from mistakes and by highlighting the most common mistakes one may do while reciting the Qur’an.

In his definition, he has also highlighted the wrong concept of “recitation” of the Qur’an which is common in the contemporary reciters and is really an alarming issue. He first begins with expounding the right conceptualization of Tajweed and then gives a list of wrong concepts and practices of articulating the letters of the Arabic language.

The definition goes as under: ”ولا أعلم سببا لبلوغ نهاية الإتقان والتجويد، ووصول غاية التصحيح و التسديد مثل رياضة الألسن، والتكرار على اللفظ المتلقى من فم المحسن ، فليس التجويد بتمضيغ اللسان، ولا بتقعير الفم، ولا بتعويج الفك، ولا بترعيد الصوت، ولا بتمطيط الشد، ولا بتقطيع المد، ولا بتطنين الغنات، ولا بحصرمة الراءات، قراءة تنفر عنها الطباع، وتمجها القلوب و الأسماع، بل القراءة السهلة العذبة الحلوة اللطيفة: التي لا مضغ فيها ولا لوك، ولا تعسف ولا تكلف، ولا تصنع ولا تنطع، ولا تخرج عن طباع العرب وكلام الفصحاء، بوجه من وجوه القراءات والأداء.” This definition can be translated wholesomely (and not verbatim) as follows:  I do not know of a better option or means for attaining the height of mastery and betterment than oral drill and practice and repetition of the transmitted word in imitation of its master.

So, Tajweed is not about reading the letters in a way as though one is chewing something, or by unnecessarily pressurizing the throat so that each letter sounds like ‘Ain, or by reading the letters with Imaalah , where there is no Imaalah, or by reciting with a tremulous voice  as  if the reciter is pretentious of  being moved or influenced by the Qur’an, or by the elongation of the shaddah, or by  moving the letter ( following the melody or rhythm) from one level of sound to another within the same letter such that it leads to the creation of more than one letter: as it creates more alifs from a single alif ,or more yaas from a single yaa and more waws from a single waw, or by  making ghunnah with vibration or unnecessary pretension ( it is the same as تقطيع المد ), or by withholding or imprisoning the Raa’ so as to give it a complete imprisonment of sound; a recitation which is naturally disliked, and unpleasant to the hearts and ears, well, in fact, Tajweed  is to recite in a way which is easy-going, pleasant, appealing and delightful: that does not involve any chewing or fakeness or pretension and does not oppose the nature of Arabic language and the speech of the Linguists,  in conformity with the ways of recitation and performance.

In short, the core point of Ibn al-Jazari’s definition of Tajweed is that it must be without any pretension or stress or fakeness, rather it should be natural and pleasant to hear. This is how Tajweed definition in details.

What is Tarteel?

Tarteel means to read the letters of the Qur’an in way that they are well-pronounced, well-ordered and well-articulated. The word Tarteel is taken from the speech of the Arabs when they used to say ” فم رتل ”  (Famun Ratilun) which means a mouth in which the teeth are well-ordered and aligned and none of the teeth is standing on the other, rather, the teeth are straight and arranged. Similarly, Tarteel means to recite and articulate the letters of the Qur’an in a way that one letter is not deprived of its dues and rights at the stake of the other letter or in articulating in a manner as to merge one letter with the other or eating up the letters.The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ recited with Tarteel because he was commanded by Allah Almighty to recite with Tarteel as Allah Almighty says: “ورتل القرآن ترتيلا” which means: “…and recite the Qur’an slowly and distinctly.”.

Allah Almighty not only commanded the Prophet ﷺ to recite with Tarteel but also commanded the whole nation through him ﷺ and Allah Almighty not only commanded him to recite with Tarteel but also revealed it with Tarteel. Allah Almighty says: “……We have revealed it gradually (according to a scheme) in fragments.” Now a small question arises: Wasn’t it enough for obligating Tarteel, as the verb in the Ayah “ورتل” is Imperative Verb, to mention the word Tarteel once? Why was it mentioned again after the verb “ورتل”?

Grammatically, the word “Tarteel” is Ism Masdar. Arabs used to use the Ism Masdar for three main reasons:

  • To give emphasis توكيد
  • To describe the Type of a condition or thing بيان النوع
  • To describe the Number بيان العدد

Here are a few examples, illustrating the use of Ism Masdar in the Arabic Language: For describing the “Type”:1- جلست جلسة متربعة   that is “I sat on a square sitting.” Here, جلسة is Ism Masdar and has come to describe the type of sitting.2- مشيت مشية معتدلة that is “ I walked with a moderate walk/gait.” Here, مشية is Ism Masdar and has come to describe the type of walk.

For describing the “Number”: 1. أكلت أكلتين  that is “ I ate two meals”, here أكلتين is Ism Masdar and describes the number of meals that is two.2. نمت نوميتن that is “ I slept twice”, here نومتين is Ism Masdar and describe the number.Now, if the Masdar isn’t for “Number” or “Type”, then it is for “Emphasis”: So in the Ayah above, When Allah Almighty says: ورتل القران ترتيلا the Ism Masdar ترتيل is for emphasis on the obligation of reciting the Qur’an with Tarteel. So Qur’an deals with beautification, perfectness and excellence; thereby it’s evident that it should be regarded the way it is and should be recited to uphold its rights and dues of letters.

There are numerous narrations from the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ describing the virtues of the Qur’an and the virtues of reciting Qur’an with melody and rhythm, as well as the ahadith that describe the characteristics and virtues of the bearer of Qur’an. It is imperative to quote here the narrations that speak about reciting the Qur’an with “beautification and melody” and ahadith that expound the responsibilities of the reciter.

They are produced as under:

1- It’s narrated from Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn Al-‘Aas Radi Allahu ‘Anhu that the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “The one who was devoted to the Qur’an will be told on the Day of Resurrection: ‘Recite and ascend (in ranks) as you used to recite when you were in the World. Your rank will be the last Ayah you recite.’”

2- Narrated from Abu Hurairah Radi Allahu ‘Anhu, he said: I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ saying: “Allah does not listen so attentively to anything as He listens to the recitation of the Qur’an by a Prophet who recites well with a melodious and audible voice.”

3- Abu Lubaabah Bashir ibn ‘Abdul Mundhir Radi Allahu ‘Anhu reported that the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “He who does not recite the Qur’an in a pleasant tone is not of us.” 4-Al-Baraa’ Ibn ‘Aazib reported: I heard the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ reciting Surah Wat-Teen Waz-Zaitun (chapter 95) during Isha prayer.

I have never heard anyone reciting it in a more beautiful voice than his.” So these narrations are basically explaining the importance attached to adding to the beauty and splendor of the Qur’an with one’s voice.

A person’s voice, when used in the beautification and recitation of the Qur’an, is indeed a blessing from Allah ﷻ as in the following saying of Abu Bakr Al-Ajuri Rahimahu Allahu:” ينبغي لمن رزقه الله حسن الصوت بالقرآن  يعلم أن الله قد خصه بخير عظيم.” This means that it befits the one whom Allah has blessed with a good voice for the recitation of the Glorious Qur’an to acknowledge the fact that Allah has favored him and chosen him for great goodness and Khair.However, there are always two extremes of any matter.

The matter of Qur’an, in regard to its intonation, is no different in this. Whereas Allah’s Messenger ﷺ has encouraged intonation, He ﷺ has also warned us against intonations that resemble singing and distort the measure and count of the vowels and letters of the Qur’an, or cause vibration in recitation which leads to the addition of letters in Qur’an. Some of the narrations from the companions and scholars of knowledge regarding the beautification of the Qur’an with intonation are worth-reading. They are enlisted as under:

1- Narrated Ali ibn Abi Taalib RadiAllahu ‘Anhu, he said: “Allah orders you that you recite the Qur’an, the way you were taught to.” So Allah did not order us to recite the Qur’an in a way that resembles the way of Ahl-ul-Fisq (corrupt people), rather He commanded us to recite the Qur’an in a way that softens the hardened hearts, consoles the desperate souls and soothes the troubled hearts.

2- It’s narrated that Muhammad ibn Al-Munkadir said: ” قراءة القرآن سنة، يأخذها الآخر عن الأول.”   This means that recitation of the Qur’an is a “Sunnah” and should be followed as it is narrated from the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and should not be altered by way of false intonations resembling singing and adding or deleting letters of the Qur’an. 

3- A very important saying from Abu ‘Ubaid Radi Allahu ‘Anhu , which highlights the gravity of reciting the Qur’an with intonations that have no connection with the Qur’an. He says:”قال أبو عبيد: وحدثني يحي بن سعيد: عن شعبة، قال: نهاني أيوب أن أحدث بهذا الحديث:” زينوا القرآن بأصواتكم”. قال أبو عبيد: وإنما كره أيوب فيما نرى أن يتأول الناس بهذا الحديث الرخصة من رسول الله في هذه الألحان المبتدعة فلهذا نهاه أن يحدث به.” This means that Abu ‘Ubaid Radi Allahu ‘Anhu feared that the people would “wrongly” interpret this hadith , which talks about beautifying the Qur’an with one’s voice, as an excuse to “innovate” intonations in the recitation of Qur’an which were never taught by our Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

So even though it was a hadith, he warned him not to narrate it, for the preservation of the Qur’an from distortion. Currently, this is the practice of most of the reciters in the world today, especially the youth. They learn the Qur’an and take it to their desires to elongate as much as they want to, or cut short whatever they want to, of the Qur’an. They have set their own principles regarding the Qur’an, the foremost being, “what is important is to recite and we are reciting”, and it matters little for them to follow the rules of Tajweed and recitation. Tajweed is a vast science related to the pronunciation of the words of Allah ﷻ with perfect transmission and without any mistake in the articulation.

It is a “Narrated Science” ((علم نقلي and has no room for any analogies or personal opinions. One recites with the narrations attributed to the Prophet of Allah ﷺwith perfect imitation. So in order to follow the Quran with such a blessed chain of narration, one must avoid mistakes in pronunciation of the letters of Qur’an. The mistake in recitation is termed in the Tajweed terminology as “Al-Lahn”. What is Al-Lahn in the recitation of the Qur’an?Al-Lahn  means, “A deviation from correctness when reading.” There are basically two types of mistakes one may commit while pronouncing the words of Qur’an. They are:

1. Apparent or clear mistake;2. Hidden/unclear/unapparent mistake Apparent mistake or Lahnun Jaliyyun, as the name implies, is a mistake which is clear on the face of it and can be pointed out by any ordinary person reciting the Qur’an and those versed in the Tajweed knowledge without any difficulty.

 Technically, it is a mistake that occurs in the pronunciation that affects the accuracy of the reading, even if the mistake occurs in the meaning or not.  It has the following cases:Changing of a letter with another letter: This mistake occurs when a reciter, unaware of the grammar and meaning of the Arabic language, changes a letter with another letter and thereby changes the entire meaning of the word, unknowingly.

This is illustrated as follows: الطلاق…………….التلاقعصى   …………..عسى القانطين …………القانتينالظالمين ………..الذالمينChanging of the vowel or giving vowel to an un-voweled letter: This mistake occurs when the reciter reads the letter with a particular vowel other than that of the original vowel and thereby may or may not change the meaning of the letter. This is illustrated as follows:الحمدُ ……….الحمدَ أنعمتُ ……..أنعمتَكنتُ ¬…….. كنتَلستَ ………. لستِ  المد والقصر: that is to elongate the vowels more than one count or to cut-short the timing of the madd letters, i.e., the letters which are required to be lengthened two counts.

الوقف والابتداء: this mistake occurs when the reciter of the Qur’an,  who is not an Arab speaker and is un-aware of the meanings of the Arabic language and punctuation rules, starts from a segment of the ayah which gives a wrong meaning of that ayah or likewise stops on a segment of an ayah of the Qur’an which changes the meaning. This is illustrated as follows:For example, the recitor begins from : قوله تعالى

{ ما أَغْنى عَنْهُ مالُهُ وَما كَسَبَ}المسد (آية 2)Similarly, beginning from قوله تعالى  :

وَإِذْ قَالَ اللَّهُ يَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ ءَأَنْتَ قُلْتَ لِلنَّاسِ اتَّخِذُونِي وَأُمِّيَ إِلَهَيْنِ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ قَالَ سُبْحَانَكَ } {…المائدة (من آية 116)Similarly, the recitor pauses at   قوله تعالى:{ يَا أَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ لاَ تَقْرَبُواْ ٱلصَّلاَةَ وَأَنْتُمْ سُكَارَىٰ…}النساء ( من آية 43)Or at قوله تعالى  :{… فَاعْلَمْ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لِذَنبِكَ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ ۗ }محمد (من آية 19)Hidden mistake or Lahnun Khafiyyun, as the name indicates, is a mistake which is not that apparent and easy to find except by those who are well-versed in the science of Tajweed.Technically, it is a mistake that takes place in the pronunciation that pierces the reading, heard by an accomplished reader, and is not a mistake in the meaning, or in the language or in the grammar. Only those who have knowledge of Qur’an reading, recognize these mistakes. That is, it only affects the beauty of the words and does not affect their meanings.

It can be in the following cases:Leaving precepts such as leaving Idgham, or Ikhfaa etc.: this mistake occurs when the reciter of the Qur’an, who does not know how to make Tarteel , drops  certain precepts which add to the glamour and splendor of the Qur’an, transmitted to us in that way.Leaving Tafkheem or Tarqeeq: there are particular letters in the Holy Qur’an which were recited by the Prophet ﷺ with Velarization i.e., heaviness and others were recited with Attenuation i.e., lightness. Therefore, when the reciter drops these characteristics, he commits Lahnun Khafiyyun and distorts the beauty of the words of Qur’an. For example, reading the Raa heavy when it is preceded by a dhammah or a fathah and reading it light when it is preceded by a kasrah.

Such heaviness and lightness given to Raa adds to its beauty and doesn’t change the meaning if not pronounced with it.مقدار المد والغنن: this mistake occurs when the reciter does not recite the words of Allah with a measured timing, as narrated from the Prophet ﷺ. Same is the case with the nasalization of noon and meem. The timings are recorded from authentic sources from the prophet ﷺ and add to the due-measure and consistency in recitation. Therefore, if a reciter sometimes makes a madd of four counts to the Madd al-Jaez al-Muttasil , and then in the same recitation, gives 5 counts to the same madd, it is a mistake in recitation. This is noticed by experts in recitation and not common reciters, and hence called Khafi i.e., hidden.  اتمام الحركات: this mistake occurs when the reciter does not pronounce the dhammah properly by protruding the lips forward and thus pronounces the dhammah as between a dhammah and a fathah. Similarly, he does not pronounce the kasrah properly by lowering the jaw and thus pronounces the kasrah as between a kasrah and a fathah.تغليظ اللام: this mistake occurs when a person while coming across a word which has a heavy letter followed by laam and due to this heavy letter, he mistakenly pronounces the letter laam heavy. This is not allowed and is a mistake in the recitation of Hafs ‘An ‘Aasim.

What is then the ruling on the adherence or compliance with the rules of Tajweed?

People, in this regard, are at two extremes: some people take it so seriously that they forbid anyone who recites wrongfully and abhor it whereas others take it so lightly that it leads to the elimination of the splendor and glamour of the Qur’an, as this passes on from one generation on to the other. Therefore, it is imperative to discuss this matter in detail and expound the true ruling on the rules of Tajweed, so that people not only love the Book of Allah ﷻ but also take care to protect it. The ruling is as follows:

1. Articulation points of the letters: As far as the articulation points of the letters are concerned, it is mandatory to follow rules of Tajweed and a deviation from them is Haram totally, regardless of the fact whether the reciter is reciting before a proficient Sheikh-who has a Sanad linked with the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ- or is reciting separately on his own as an individual reciter, because it may change the meaning. For example, a person changes the letter حاء in the word الرحمن with a خاء or هاء.

2. Characteristics of the letters: As far as the characteristics of the letters are concerned, it can be discussed under two categories:

3. Characteristics the avoidance of which disrupts the letter from its point: Negligence in the practice of these characteristics may change the meaning, as these characteristics are a vital part of the letters. For example, the reciter doesn’t give proper Tafkheem or heaviness to the letter صاد in the word عصى or does not give proper Tarqeeq or thinness to the letter سين in the word عسى, similarly, he doesn’t give Tafkheem to the letter طاء   in the word الطلاق  or doesn’t give Tarqeeq to the letter تاء in the word التلاق. The reciter in this case, changes one letter to another just by not complying with its characteristics. Therefore, it is mandatory to follow the rules of Tajweed in this case and to neglect it is forbidden totally.

4 Characteristics that add to the splendor and beauty of the Qur’an: There are few characteristics, the leaving of which does not change the meaning but they are a part of the glamour and splendor of the Qur’an and thus distorts the brilliance and refinement of the letters of the Qur’an. For example, leaving the Tafkheem of the letter Raa’ when it is having a fathah or a dhammah , or leaving the secondary madd, or not giving the proper hams and tafashshee to the letters , or any other thing which the scholars termed as Lahnun Khafiyyun. The ruling in this regard can be categorized under two headings:

Reciting from a proficient sheikh having a Sanad: That is, the reciter is reciting before a Sheikh who has a Sanad linked with the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and imitates him in the recitation. It is mandatory on the sheikh and the reciter to practice and comply with these characteristics or else it will be a lie or dishonesty in narrating or transmitting the Riwaayah.

A person reciting individually on a normal-routine base:  This can be dealt with in two regards: if a person is a proficient reciter himself and knows all the rules of Tajweed, but is reckless in practicing the due characteristics, then it is inglorious and faulty on his part and is something which is not to be expected from him. On the other hand, if the reciter is a normal average Muslim, and is not aware of the rules in depth, then there is no harm but he has left the refinement and completeness of letters of the Qur’an.