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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). When applied to the Quran, it means giving every letter of the Holy Quran its rights and dues of characteristics when we recite the Koran and observing the rules that apply to those letters in different situations. We give the letters their rights by looking 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 holy quran was revealed with Tajweed rules applied to it. In other words, when the angel Jibreel (AS) recited the words of Allah to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) he recited them in a certain way and he showed the Prophet (SAW) the ways in which it was permissible to recite the Quran. 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 (SAW) 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 as Islam spread, mistakes in Quran 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'an was revealed, even Arabs have to study Tajweed.

  Principles of Tajweed:  

One who wishes to learn a science needs to know its principles so that he will gain insight into the sought science.  There are several principles in the science of tajweed that should be understood:

1.  Its definition

By linguistic definition: Betterment
Applied definition: Articulating every letter from its articulation point and giving the letter its rights and dues of characteristics.

Rights of the letters are its required characteristics that never leave it.  The dues of the letters are its presented characteristics that are present in it some of the time, and not present at other times. 

2.  Its formation

The words of the Glorious Quran and some said Honorable Hadith also.

3. Its fruits

It is preserving the tongue from mistakes in pronunciation of the Glorious Qur'an during reading.

4.  Its precedence

It is one of the most honored of sciences and one of the best of them due to its relation to Allah’s words.

5.  Its place within the sciences

It is one of the Islamic Law sciences that are related to the Glorious Quran.

6.  Its founder

The rule setter from the practical point of view is the Messenger of Allah because the Qur'an was revealed to him from Allah, the most High, with tajweed, and he, was instructed on it from the Trustworthy, Jibreel, peace be upon him, and taught it to his companions, who then taught it to their followers and so on until it came to us by these chains.  The rule setters from the scientific point of view are the scholars of Quranic sciences, such as Abu Ubaid Al-Qasim bin Salaam.

7.  Its precept

Knowledge of tajweed is fardh kifayaah, meaning some of the Muslim community must know it, and its application is fardh ‘ain, required by all Muslims (men and women) who have the complete Qur'an or part of it memorized, even if only one surah.

8.  Reasons for its rules

Guarding the Glorious Qur'an and preserving it from distortion.  The Arabs mixed with non-Arabs after the spread of Islam, and the Muslims feared that the Arab tongue would become corrupted with this intermixing.  It then became mandatory for rules to be put down that would preserve the recitation of the Qur'an from mistakes, and guarantee the reader of the Qur'an integrity of pronunciation.

9.  Its principles

The knowledge of tajweed is contingent on four matters:

1. Knowledge of the articulation points of the letters
2. Knowledge of the characteristics of the letters
3. Knowledge of what rules change in the letters due to the order of letters
4. Exercising the tongue and a lot of repetition.

  Common Tajweed Errors

The two most common tajweed mistakes made by non-Arabs are the timings of the vowels, and medd letters, and in the articulation points of the letters. The first type of mistake has been addressed in the first of what will be, Insha Allah many tidbits; please see the tidbit lesson link. The second type of mistake, that in the letters themselves, is a major problem that needs to be addressed by all non-Arabs, whether they are Westerners, Europeans, Africans, from the Indo Pakistani subcontinent, or from Eastern Asia. At the outset, the letters that occur in Arabic that are not common in other languages would be what one would imagine to be a problem, but in fact, there are letters in Arabic that are similar to other languages, but do not share the same articulation points with their counterparts.

The ra’ and lam are two letters that non-Arabs have some difficulty in pronouncing correctly. The ra’ uses the tip of the tongue and the top of the tip and the gums of the two top incisors, but the trick to the ra’ is actually hitting the gum. Many Muslims try to pronounce the ra’ without touching the tongue to the gum. Some mistakenly use the throat, like the French do in the French “r”. The Arabic lam has the widest use of the tongue of any other letters, but uses only the end of the sides of the tongue until it ends at the tip, which then hits the gums of the front upper eight teeth.

The above are just brief summaries of the letters, and as stated before, insha’ Allah soon a tidbit lesson will be posted with all the articulation points discussed in detail.

A third mistake incurred by Arabs and non-Arabs alike is in making proper stops and starts. There is more than one aspect to this mistake. The first aspect is that the proper way to stop on a word is by putting a sukoon, or absence of a vowel on the last letter of the word. It is not allowed to stop using the harakah, or vowel on the last letter of the word. The second aspect of stopping is that of stopping at a place that doesn’t contradict the meaning intended by Allah, the Exalted. The same mistake can occur when starting up after stopping and taking a breath. One cannot just start on the next word arbitrarily, instead the meaning needs to be considered, and the start should be on a word that portrays the correct and complete meaning, even if the reciter needs to go back two or three words. The stop and start will be explained in detail, insha’ Allah in future tidbit lessons.

One note that is of utmost importance. It is vital that the Muslim learn the Arabic letters and vowels and recite the Qur’an using them, NOT a transliteration. Transliterations do not take into account the various letters that sound similar to the untrained ear, but are very different in pronunciation. The Qur’an is the word of Allah, revealed to man as a guidance, and we have to be extremely careful to read it, as best we can, with proper pronunciation. Reading a transliteration can lead to changing the meaning of the Arabic Qur’an by mispronouncing letters.

  How can you learn tajweed?

Tajweed and its application can only be learned with a qualified quran tutor.

Learn Quran rules themselves can be studied independently, but their correct application can only be done by listening to, reciting to, and being corrected by, a qualified teacher of the Qur'an.

Do all Arabs know how to recite the Quran with proper tajweed?

Unfortunately many do not know proper tajweed.  In the days of the Prophet, peace and blessing upon him, there was no need for the study of tajweed because they talked with what is now known as tajweed; in other words, it was natural for them.  Now, over 14 centuries later, colloquial Arabic has changed radically from the classical Arabic with which the Qur'an was revealed, and Arabs have to study tajweed, just in the same way that non-Arabs do.

I want to learn to recite the Quran with proper tajweed, but don't know where to start.

The first step is finding a qualified Quran teacher who will listen to you and point out your mistakes, and help you practice fixing them.  You will need to learn the Arabic letters and vowels too.

What if there aren't any qualified teachers where I live?

Then your task is going to be a little harder, but certainly not impossible.  You need to work with tapes of good reciters, for example, Sheikh Abdullah Basfar, or Sheikh Mohammed Hosary.  There are sets available on the Internet and in Islamic stores that are called "mu'alm".  In these sets, the reciter reads a phrase, and then there is a blank space on the tape, allowing the student to repeat what the reciter has just read.


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