In this post, we elaborated on the importance of listening to the Qur’an as an important routine for the student of Qur’an in order to gain mastery over its recitation. Here, we’d like to elaborate on this a bit further, explaining the proper way a student should begin his study.
When seeking knowledge, it is extremely critical to keep in mind that the proper steps need to be followed. For example, the righteous scholars of both today and the past began their journey seeking knowledge with the memorization of the Qur’an and mastery of the Arabic language. Once these two tasks were fulfilled, their study of any branch of the religion was facilitated and they excelled in their respective fields. Today, for whatever reason, memorization of the Qur’an and mastery of the Arabic language is one of the last tasks to be fulfilled, if at all, by many students of knowledge and this leads to a number of problems, the most obvious being that they end up having enormous gaps in their understanding and retention of that knowledge. Therefore, it’s important to follow the proper steps and not leave out a single one, carrying out each task in the order of its importance so that the foundations are solid, and a person’s mind is developed slowly for proper understanding and application.
The same goes for the study of the Qur’an. More specifically, when it comes to the recitation, a specific roadmap must be followed in order for a student to excel in this field. First and foremost, a student begins by purifying his intention for Allah alone, and then take the following steps:
- Listen to the Qur’an: As stated above, the journey begins with listening to the Qur’an, listening to it daily, as often as a student can make time for. This is because listening to the Qur’an has an enormous effect on a person’s pronunciation. There are no better examples of this than children who grow up listening to a language only to speak and articulate this language flawlessly over a short time. There are many examples of not just children, but even adults, who have no knowledge of the rules of Tajweed, yet they recite the Qur’an perfectly and this is because of the amount of time they spend listening to it.
- Training the Tongue: Although this is technically step 2, step 1 doesn’t necessarily end! Listening to the Qur’an should be something that every student does regularly; however, the student should then also accompany this listening with practice. There is no sure fire way to master a recitation except by practice and training of the tongue. This is also when it is absolutely essential for a student to have a tour guide on this journey who can correct his/her pronunciation, a teacher who has already mastered the recitation and can identify the wrong from the right. Training the tongue is one of the most neglected steps for the student of the Qur’an, for the rest of the steps from this point forward heavily depend on this one step and if it is neglected, then progress is slow, if at all, and often painful. The result is a student who proceeds in their progress, only to be pulled back to square one, having to start all over because the foundation was not strong to begin with. Anything which is built upon a weak foundation will fall. Having said that, a student must understand that there is no magic pill for mastering the recitation; no teacher, no matter how proficient in their teaching, can give the gift of a perfect recital to a student. The student must take it upon him/herself to do the work necessary to reach his/her goal.
- Learn the Rules: Once a student has learned to pronounce the letters and harakaat well, they may then learn the rules of recitation. There is no way to correctly apply these rules except when the pronunciation of the letters has been corrected. Often times, this step and step 2 are reversed, where students are taught the rules and given extensive lessons on theory which have very little benefit at this early stage in a student’s learning. This is the first gap to occur in a student’s knowledge and we have seen many examples of people who do not wish to train their tongues to pronounce the letters in the correct way, and jump right into learning the rules. Unfortunately, in this way they believe that if they “know” how the Qur’an should be recited by learning the rules, then they have done their job in regards to the recitation. However, this is an obvious delusion for knowing how to recite is not without its application.
Elaborating on this last point, it is well known that the Sahabah رضي الله عنهم were not aware of the “rules” of Tajweed; they simply recited with Tajweed because it came to them naturally–it was their language, after all. It was later on, when the Qur’an was being taught to non-Arabs, that the rules had to be derived from the recitation. And in this is the key point: the rules came after the recitation. If the source of these rules was the recitation itself, it follows that the only way to master these rules is through the recitation: listening to it and then practicing it. There is no shortage of verses in the Qur’an, nor aHaadeeth of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, which mention so frequently the act of listening and reciting the Qur’an (for a list of a few, refer to the comments section).
Many institutes and classes teaching Tajweed will, unfortunately, pay extra attention to the theory, rules, and specifics of the recitation, but very little time, if at all, is given to the act of teaching the recitation by having the students listen and then practice the recitation. This is done in haste, because either the teacher or the student, or both, are very impatient, or because this is a way to gain a following and attract students, as it is more “attractive” to know all the rules and study all the texts related to Tajweed, than spend hours training the tongue. This is not to say that teaching the rules should not be done; rather, equal, if not more, emphasis on application and practice should not be neglected. Rules can be learned in tandem with practice and in fact, students will retain the rules in a much more efficient way than learning the rules by themselves without the recitation, or with little time/emphasis placed on it. There are many examples of students who learn the rules, and in fact even study the Qiraa’aat, but their recitation is in need of some TLC 🙂 All this is a result of not giving the recitation its proper right: being sincere to Allah, giving the recitation time, effort and practice.