In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
2- It is obligatory for every Muslim to learn such indispensable rules for his recitation to be correct.
3- It is, nonetheless, commendable to learn other tajwid rules, the lack of which do not violate the meaning of verses. So there is nothing wrong in neglecting such rules.
Responding to your question, Sheikh Faysal Mawlawi, Deputy Chairman of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, states:
Tajwid linguistically means perfection. Technically, it means pronouncing letters in a correct manner with precise articulation and exact intonation without exaggerating or neglecting some letters.
Learning the rules of tajwid is an individual duty, i.e. if it is performed by one, the whole members of the Islamic ummah will be exempted from it. Hence, learning and applying all the rules of tajwid may be performed by specialists only.
As for laymen and ordinary people, recent scholars have differentiated between two separate issues in relation to tajwid:
First, indispensable rules, the abandonment of which leads to changes in the meaning and distortion of the content. The learning of this part of tajwid is considered obligatory.
Second, rules that are needed for the perfection of recitation of the Quran. Such are considered commendable and not obligatory. Thus neglecting them does not incur sin.
Scholars of qiraat or modes of recitation consider tajwid a collective duty. Muhammad ibn al-Gazri said: learning the rules of tajwid is an obligation, and those who do not apply the rules of tajwid while reciting the Quran are all sinful.
Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Gazri explained his father’s view as meaning that it is obligatory on those who are able to learn it.
This view, which implies that those who do not apply the rules of tajwid are not sinful is supported by the Hadith in which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Such a person as recites the Quran and masters it by heart, will be with the noble righteous scribes (in Heaven). And such a person as exerts himself to learn the Quran by heart, and recites it with great difficulty, will have a double reward.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Reciting the Quran with difficulty means that the person who recites it has no knowledge of the rules of tajwid, even though he will have a double reward. This refutes the view that indicates that a person who has no knowledge of the rules of tajwid is sinful.
So, if you have a good command of Arabic language, then your prayer is valid, Allah willing. But you should strive to learn the rules of tajwid so as to improve your recitation of the Quran.
Almighty Allah knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.