What is Tajwid?
In the context of the recitation of the Quran, Tajweed (تجويد tajwīd, ‘elocution’) is a set of rules for the correct pronunciation of the letters with all their qualities and applying the various traditional methods of recitation (Qira’at). In Arabic, the term tajwīd is derived from the triliteral root j-w-d (‘to improve’). Tajweed is a compulsory religious duty (fard) when reciting the Quran.
The Arabic alphabet has 28 basic letters, plus hamzah (ء).
ا ب ت ث ج ح خ د ذ ر ز س ش ص ض ط ظ ع غ ف ق ك ل م ن و ہ ي
The Arabic word for “the” is ال al- (i.e. the letter alif followed by lām). The lām in al- is pronounced if the letter after it is “qamarīyah” (“lunar”), but if the letter after it is “shamsīyah” (“solar”), the lām after it becomes part of the following letter (is assimilated). “Solar” and “lunar” became descriptions for these instances as the words for “the moon” and “the sun” (al-qamar and ash-shams, respectively) are examples of this rule.
Lunar letters: ا ب ج ح خ ع غ ف ق ك م هـ و ي
Solar letters: ت ث د ذ ر ز س ش ص ض ط ظ ل ن
There are 17 emission points (makhārij al-ḥurūf) of the letters, located in various regions of the throat, tongue, lips, nose, and the mouth as a whole for the prolonged (madd or mudd) letters.
The manner of articulation (ṣifat al-ḥurūf) refers to the different attributes of the letters. Some of the characteristics have opposites, while some are individual. An example of a characteristic would be the fricative consonant sound called ṣafīr, which is an attribute of air escaping from a tube.
Thickness and thinness
The emphatic consonants خصضطظغق, known as mufakhkham letters, are pronounced with a “heavy accent” (tafkhīm). This is done by either pharyngealization /ˤ/, i.e. pronounced while squeezing one’s voicebox, or by velarization /ˠ/. The remaining letters – the muraqqaq – have a “light accent” (tarqīq) as they are pronounced normally, without pharyngealization (except ع, which is often considered a pharyngeal sound).
ر (rāʼ ) is heavy when accompanied by a fatḥah or ḍammah and light when accompanied by a kasrah. If its vowel sound is cancelled, such as by a sukūn or the end of a sentence, then it is light when the first preceding voweled letter (without a sukun) has a kasrah. It is heavy if the first preceding voweled letter is accompanied by a fatḥah or ḍammah. For example, the ر at the end of the first word of the Sūrat “al-ʻAṣr” is heavy because the ع (ʻayn) has a fatḥah:
ل (lām) is only heavy in the word Allāh. If, however, the preceding vowel is a kasrah, then the ل in Allāh is light, such as in the Bismillah:
Prolongation refers to the number of morae (beats of time) that are pronounced when a voweled letter (fatḥah, ḍammah, kasrah) is followed by a madd letter (alif, yāʼ or wāw). The number of morae then becomes two. If these are at the end of the sentence, such as in all the verses in “al-Fatiha”, then the number of morae can be more than two, but must be consistent from verse to verse. Additionally, if there is a maddah sign over the madd letter, it is held for four or five morae when followed by a hamzah (ء) and six morae when followed by a shaddah. For example, the end of the last verse in “al-Fatiha” has a six-mora maddah due to the shaddah on the ل (lām).
صِرَٰطَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ ٱلمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ ٱلضَّآلِّين
Sākinah (vowelless) letters
Nūn sākinah and tanwīn
Nūn sākinah refers to instances where the letter nūn is accompanied by a tanwīn or sukun sign. There are then four ways it should be pronounced, depending on which letter immediately follows:
- iẓhār (“clarity”): the nūn sound is pronounced clearly without additional modifications when followed by “letters of the throat” (ء ه ع ح غ خ). Consider the nūn with a sukun pronounced regularly in the beginning of the last verse in “al-Fatiha”:
صِرَٰطَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ
- iqlāb (“conversion”): the nūn sound is converted to a /m/ sound if it is followed by a ب. Additionally, it is pronounced in a ghunnah (a nasalization held for two morae). Consider the nūn sound on the tanwīn on the letter jīm that is pronounced as a mīm instead in the chapter Al-Hajj:
وَأَنْبَتَتْ مِنْ كُلِّ زَوْجٍ بَهِيجٍ
- idghām (“merging”): the nūn sound is not pronounced when followed by a ل or ر. There is also a ghunnah if it is followed by و م ي or another ن . Idghām only applies between two words and not in the middle of a word. Consider for example the nūn that is not pronounced in the fifth line (the Shahada) in the Call to Prayer:
أَشْهَدُ أَن لَّا إِلٰهَ إِلَا ٱللهُ وَأَشْهَدُ أَنَّ مُحَمَّداً رَّسُولُ ٱللهِ
- ikhfāʼ (“concealment”): the nūn sound is not fully pronounced (i.e. the tongue does not make full contact with the roof of the mouth as in a regular /n/ sound) if it is followed by any letters other than those already listed, includes a ghunnah. Consider the nūn that is suppressed in the second verse of the chapter Al-Falaq:
مِنْ شَرِّ مَا خَلَقَ
The term mīm sākinah refers to instances where the letter mīm is accompanied by a sukun. There are then three ways it should be pronounced, depending on which letter immediately follows:
- idgham mutamathilayn (“labial merging”) when followed by another mīm (usually indicated by a shaddah): the mīm is then merged with the following mīm and includes a ghunnah;
- ikhfāʼ shafawī (“labial concealment”): the mīm is suppressed (i.e. lips not fully closed) and, when followed by a ب, includes a ghunnah; Consider the mīm that is suppressed in the second verse of the chapter Al-Fil:
- iẓhār shafawī (“labial clarity”): the mīm is pronounced clearly with no amendment when followed by any letters other than those already listed.
The five qalqalah letters are the consonants قطدج ب. Qalqalah is the addition of a slight “bounce” or reduced vowel sound /ə/ to the consonant whose vowel sound is otherwise cancelled, such as by a sukūn, shaddah, or the end of sentence. The “lesser bounce” occurs when the letter is in the middle of a word or at the end of the word but the reader joins it to the next word. A “medium bounce” is given when the letter is at the end of the word but is not accompanied by a shaddah, such as the end of the first verse of the Sūrat “al-Falaq”:
قُلْ أَعُوذُ بِرَبِّ ٱلْفَلَقِ
The biggest bounce is when the letter is at the end of the word and is accompanied by a shaddah, such as the end of the first verse of Sūrat “al-Masad”:
تَبَّتْ يدَاۤ اَبِی لَهَبٍ وَّتَبَّ
Waṣl is the rule of not pronouncing alif as a glottal stop /ʔ/, assimilating to its adjacent vowel. It is indicated with the diacritic waṣlah, a small ṣād on the letter alif (ٱ). In Arabic, words starting with alif not using a hamzah (ا) receive a waṣlah…
بِسْمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحْمٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
In most of cases the vowel that must be used before alif waṣlah is obvious (the short or long vowel before alif waṣlah); but if it is before a syllable ending on another ḥarakah plus sukūn, then these are the rules:
|Last syllable plus sukūn as last ḥarakah||Acquired value of sukūn after alif waṣlah||Example|
|Fatḥah /a/||Kasrah /i/||مَنِ ٱبْنُ فُلَانٍ؟
Who’s the son of so-and-so?
|Kasrah /i/||Fatḥah /a/||مِنَ ٱلْمَدْرَسَةِ
From the school.
|Ḍammah /u/||Ḍammah /u/||وَعَلَيْكُمُ ٱلسَّلَامُ
And Peace be upon you.
|Tanwin /-n/||Tanwin + kasrah /-ni/||مُحَمَّدٌ ٱلكَرِيمُ
Muhammad the generous.
In the case of Tanwin and alif waṣlah, the intrusive kasrah between them is not graphically represented.
Waqf is the Arabic pausa rule; all words whose last letter end on a harakah become mute (sukūn) when being the last word of a sentence.
|Last letter of a word with a ḥarakah||Inherited valor of the ending ḥarakah in pausa (waqf)||Examples|
|ء (أ إ ئ ؤ) ب ت ث ج ح خ د ذ ر ز س ش ص ض ط ظ ع غ ف ق ك ل م ن ه و ي
Ending on any ḥarakah
|Sukūn /∅/||بَيْتْ – بَيْتٌ house
اَلرَّبّْ – اَلرَّبُّ The Lord
|ـًا ـًى||ـَا ـَى||مُسْتَشْفَى – مُسْتَشْفًى hospital
شُكْرَا – شُكْرًا Thank you
Ending on any ḥarakah
|هْ||مَلِكَهْ – مَلِكَةٍ queen|
In the case of the proper name عمرو /ʕamrun/, it is pronounced /ʕamr/ in pausa, and the last letter و wāw has no phonetical valor. And in fact, عمرو is a triptote (something irregular in most proper nouns, since they are usually diptotes).
/ʕamr/ (a proper name)
|Pausal form (waqf)||عَمْرُوْ|
Manners of the heart
- Understanding the origin of the word.
- One should understand that the Qurʼan is not the word of man.
- The reader should throw away all other thoughts.
- One should understand the meaning.
- One should be humble.
- One should feel that every message in the Qurʼan is meant personally for himself or herself.
- One should be vigilant of the purity of body, clothes, and place.
- One is encouraged to face the Qiblah.
- One should stop at a verse of warning and seek protection with God.
- One should stop at a verse of mercy and ask God for mercy.
- One should use pure Literary Arabic pronunciation, in addition to pronouncing the letter ج (jīm) as [d͡ʒ], not as [ɡ].
- One should have wuḍūʼ (“purity”) and read only for the sake of God.