A Brief History of the Science of the Pronunciation of the Qur’aan
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A Brief History of the Science of the Pronunciation of the Qur’aan

A Brief History of the Science of the Pronunciation of the Qur’aan

In the first hundred years after the Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) Islamic knowledge spread very rapidly through the region and was taken up by many non-Arab speakers.

Those groups of scholars who had been taught the correct pronunciation going back to the companions (radiyallaahu ‘anhum ajma’een) realised that if they didn’t do something then the people would lose the knowledge of how the Qur’aan should be pronounced.
Some of these scholars were:

1. Aasim ibn Najuud: His kunya was Abu Bakr and he was the sheikh of recitation in Kuufa (Iraq). The chain of those instructing him in recitation went back to Abdullaah ibn Mas`uud, and Ali ibn Abi Taalib (radiyallaahu ‘anhum ajma’een). He also was in the company of other scholars who had similar lines of transmission in terms of reciting the Qur’aan. Bear in mind that the Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) taught the Muslims to recite Qur’aan as he recited it, and they took this very seriously indeed. He passed away rahimahullaah in the year 127 hijrii.
Following him was Hafs ibn Sulaymaan alAsadii from the tribe of bani Asad and his kunya was Abu `Amr. He was raised by Aasim.
This is the Hafs of whose scholarship/recitation we have in our hands today, in the printings from Egypt and Saudi.
He passed away in 180 hijrii.

2. Following HafS we have AshShaaTibii. He is from amongst the most famous of those who gathered the different recitations prevalent in the Muslim world.
He travelled to Balansia (Valencia) in AlAndalus and showed/suggested the book (Attayseer fii qiraa’aat assab`) “The making easy of the seven recitations” to Abuu `Amr adDaanii from memory.
He passed away in 590 hijrii.

Of course there are many other famous scholars in the recitation of the Qur’aan from this region and others. Their knowledge was entirely gained from learning the exact recitation of their teacher and these chains of transmission go back to the companions.

So what type of knowledge were they passing on?

In terms of pronunciation they taught the ffg.:

• Makhaarij and Sifaat alHuruuf, or exactly how the letters were pronounced.
• They taught the placement of the front, middle and back of the tongue, the 5 places where the sound was made in the mouth/throat, the position of the tip and edges of the tongue, the exact nature of the sound that was produced in terms of 5 main attributes and their opposites.
• The rules of pronunciation of the raa’ in terms of tafkheem and tarqeeq, which is the placement of the tongue in either the upper mouth or the front of the mouth depending on the surrounding letters. There are a number of rules such as if the raa’ is saakin and before it is a kasra aSlii (in the same word), and after it is one of the letters of isti`laa’ (Saad, Daad etc) which is not maksuur, then it is pronounced with tafkheem (the tip of the tongue further up inside the mouth, making more of a ‘hollow’ sound).
• The rules of pronunciation of the laam in terms of tafkheem and tarqeeq (see above)
• The pronunciation of meem mushaddada and nuun mushaddada were taught, in terms of ghunna (nasalisation)
• The pronunciation of meem saakina of which there are three variants, idhgaam asshafawii, ikhfaa’ asshafawii and idhhaar asshafawii
• The pronunciation of nuun assaakina and tanween in terms of idghaam, idhhaar, iqlaab and ikhfaa’.
• Ikhfaa is ‘hiding’ of the nuun, or pronouncing it near the point of
pronunciation of the following letter, with ghunna.
• Iqlaab is when the nuun is pronounced as a meem as a consequence of the following baa’.
• Idghaam (in respect to the nuun) is the assimilation of the nuun with the following letters, sometimes with ghunna and sometimes not.
• Idhhaar is clear pronunciation of the nuun and extra clarity should be used if followed by a waaw or faa’.
• The pronunciation of laam atta`reef in respect of Idhhaar and Idghaam
• The rules of pronunciation with laam alfi`l in terms of idhgaam and idhhaar.
• The pronunciation of idghaam in terms of the quality of the sound it makes (idghaam almutamaathil, idghaam almutajaanis, makhraj aTTaa’ wa attaa’ wa addaal wa Dhaa’ wa adhdhaal wa aththaa’ wa almeem wa albaa’, idhgaam almutaqaarib and mawaaDi`ahaa).
• The rules of madd, of which there are very many, categorised in qaSr, almadd alaSlii, almadd alfar`ii, madd waajib muttaSil, madd jaa`iz munfaSil, madd alladhee sababuhu lissukuun, (`aariD assukuun and almadd allaazim and almadd allaazim alkalamii and almadd allaazim alHarfii (muthaqqilan and mukhaffifan), almuduud almulHaq (madd aSSila, inc SilatalKubraa SilatuSSughraa) madd albadal (aSlii) and many more types.
• The seven types of alif
• The subtle stops
• Hamzatul waSl and qaT`
• Stopping and starting of which there are many types

The tajweed scholars of the period wrote books and long tracts of poetry that were memorized by all serious reciters of Qur’aan. The poems encapsulated all of the rules I have mentioned and also incorporated examples. This is how recitation was taught after the era of the scholars I mentioned.

Afterwards, scholars and scribes started trying to make it easier for the people by making diacritical marks around the Qur’aanic script that indicated when the above rules were to be applied. Of course, they could only show the most prominent rules, but these were a great help (I can assure you!).

Many people today know these signs as a small meem indicating iqlaab of the nuun and tanween, a staggered tanween to indicate ikhfaa, a shadda over the initial letter to indicate idghaam, various symbols for madd etc etc.

I hope this clarifies some aspects of tajweed and provides some sort of (albeit extremely brief) reference. And that in reading this brief historical account we are reminded of the importance of tajweed and the role of academic contribution and intellectual legacies of illustrious scholars of the past.

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