Short Answer: Tajweed is the correct or right way of reciting the Qur’an. When Tajweed is applied to the Quran, it means giving every letter of the Quran its rights and dues of characteristics when recited, and observing rules that apply to those letters in different situations. Sometimes, two letters have very similar vocal exits which means they may be easily mixed up. 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 when reciting the Quran. Observing the rules of Tajweed in reciting protects the person from making mistakes when reciting the literal words of God.
Thank you for your question, as it is of vital importance to understand what Tajweed is and why it matters.
The Quran Has Rights On You
The Qur’an has five rights on each Muslim:
- To be read (regularly)
- To be read correctly (with Tajweed)
- To be understood
- To be memorised
- To be taught to others
It is only with Tajweed that we can pronounce each letter correctly and following the rules of Tajweed articulate the correct sounds.
When Jibril (on whom be peace) recited the Qur’an for Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him – pbuh) he recited it with Tajweed and the Prophet, peace be upon him, memorised it with Tajweed.
But What is Tajweed?
So, we may say that Tajweed is the correct or right way of reciting the Qur’an.
There are a few rules that need to be memorised in order to become fluent in the correct recitation. I am not going to expound on those here, but they are easy to learn about elsewhere.
When Tajweed is applied to the Quran, it means giving every letter of the Quran its rights and dues of characteristics when recited, and observing rules that apply to those letters in different situations.
We give letters their rights by observing 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.
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 means they may be easily mixed up.
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 when reciting the Quran.
Observing the rules of Tajweed in reciting protects the person from making mistakes.
Tajweed During the Prophet’s Lifetime
At the time of the Prophet, the Quraish knew these rules of Tajweed without having to formally learn them. It was part of their way of speaking Arabic.
But, as Islam spread to non-native Arabic speakers, so the correct pronunciation became more difficult.
If the correct pronunciation was not followed, mistakes in understanding could follow. So, the science of Tajweed developed.
One simple way to understand this is, how would we know what to emphasise in a given passage if we didn’t have the correct pronunciation?
This is even more obvious in translation – how do we know where the emphasis is if we do not know Arabic with Tajweed?
There is a difference between spoken Arabic and classical Arabic (particularly with the written form). Moroccan Arabic is probably the closest spoken Arabic today to classical Arabic.
The Arabic of the Qur’an sets the standard for classical Arabic and not the other way round. Arabic does NOT set the standard for the Qur’an.
Why Tajweed Matters: The Quran Is the Word of God
The Quran is the words of Allah, and its every syllable is from Allah. Its recitation must be taken very seriously.
The purpose of the Science of Tajweed is to minimise any unintentional mistakes when reciting the Qur’an.
We do this by 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 person reciting the Quran is following the example of the Prophet, who received it from Jibril, who received it from Allah (subhanahu wa ta’aala) in the Classical Arabic dialect that it came down in.
It was therefore necessary that Tajweed rules should be scientifically formulated on a uniform basis for Arabs and non-Arabs for preserving the same wording, sounds, accent, pronunciation and meanings.
It is necessary for everyone, both for Arabs and non Arabs, to learn Tajweed and apply the Tajweed Rules while reading Quran.
As a final comment, you may have heard the Qur’an recited beautifully, in a way which stirs the heart. This is recitation with Qirat and this can only be done by people who know Tajweed.
May Allah help all Muslims to memorise the Qur’an with Tajweed, Amin.
Many thanks for your question. It is of topical interest for all Muslims. May Allah bless you and please keep in touch.