RLGC05H3 Study Guide - Tajwid, Cantillation, Textual Criticism

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20 Apr 2012
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Recitation and Aesthetic Reception P1
- the Qur’an is not only a much recited sacred text, it is also God’s ‘reciting’, his verbatim
speech, eternal, uncreated word
- it mediates the presence of God,j ust as it does his will and blessing
- it was given as an audiable text, ‘not a written parchment’(Q 6:7)
- the Qur’an has always been primarily recited, oral scripture and secondarily inscribed
written scripture, and thus its spiritual and aesthetic reception as the most beautiful of
all texts has been linked with its orality
- tradition ascribes to the Prophet the dictum: ‘You can return to God nothing better than
that which came from him, namely the recitation (al-Qur’an)’. Accordingly, every
generation has scrupulously memorized, recited, and transmitted the Qur’an as
scripture, Psalter, prayer book and liturgical text all in one.
Recitation as a Formal Discipline P2a
- The intrinsically oral/aural character of the Qur’an is evident in its own use of a verbal-
noun form, qur’an, ‘reciting, recitation, lection’ (from the verb quara’a, to read aloud,
recite’) to refer to itself as God’s culminating revelation
- Qira’a – term used for Qur’anic recitation – it is used to refer to (1) the reciting aloud of
the Qur’an (2) a particular ‘reading’ of any Qur’anic word or phrase
The Recitative Traditions
- the importance of the recited Qur’an does not obviate the importance of the written
Qur’an, but it reminds us that the written text is always secondary a support to the
orally transmitted text, not a determinant of it
- the written mushaf could never have sufficed without the accompanying mnemonic
recitative tradition
- the scholars who have prepared the accepted standard text of the Qur’an, the ‘Cairo’
official version of 1923-4, they did not depend upon collation of the earliest Qur’an
manuscripts and gragments for the base text. instead they relied on their extensive
knowledge of the most venerable traditions of variants (qira’at)and of accompanying
- this procedure went against many canons of Western text-critical scholarship, it yielded
a text widely recognized, even in non-Muslim scholarship, as the most authoritative
version available
Qira’at and qira’a
- Muslims based this acceptance of divergent oral readings on the enigmatic statement
ascribed to Muhammad(SAW), that ‘the Qur’an was sent down according to seven
- the variant riwayat that the expert must master are numerous, even though they
represent relatively minor actually textual variations and do not threaten the general
meaning of the sacred text
The Art of Tajwid
- within the gernal science of recitation, the study of the qira’at is, as indicated,
inextricable from the science or art of tajwid, the recitative cantillation of the Qur’an
- chanting the Qur’an is potentially an actualization (realization, making real) of the
revelatory act itself, and thus how the Qur’an is vocally rendered not only matters, but
matters ultimately
- among Muslims, Qur’an cantillation has its own forms that set it forever apart from all
other recitation and all musical forms
- tajwid (literally, ‘making beautiful’ the sacred text, and hence its artful cantillation)
- Some feel that only the melodic mujawwad styles render the beauty of the sacred text;
others think these slide dangerously close to secular music and hence prefer the less
embellished murattal form
- all require accurate memorization, knowledgeable technique, careful comprehension
and sensitive interpretation of the whole text
- Quran recitation is finally a devotional, spiritual act before it is a technical, artistic
- muslim tradition refuses to describe any Qur’an recitation as ‘music’ or as analogous to
secular singing. rather, the Qur’an is ‘inimitable’ and this miraculous quality inheres not
simply in its literal written wording, but also its vocal rendering
- by observable criteria and established tradition, it is in its oral recitation the Qur’an is
most clearly experienced as divine
- the ontological distinction between Qur’anic recitation and all other recitation reflect
the strong Muslim sense of the holiness of this text of texts
The Recitative Sciences in Muslim Piety and Practice
- from the foregoing, we can see that, alongside exegesis (tafsir), knowledge of both
tajwid and the qira’at has sustained the Qur’an as living scripture
- to understand the Qur’an place in Muslim societies, we must attend to both to these
traditional disciplines and to the living tradition of Qur’an recitation as it is found in
contemporary centres such as Cairo
- The work of Muslim textual scholars has never been isolated in the academy in the way
modern biblical studies sometimes has been in the West
This public recitation, whether in devotional or artistic performance (and the two are
never easily separated), is in turn only the most formal part of the larger, functional role
of the recited Qur’an in Muslim life more generally
- a pamphlet describes Muslims as having their sacred text ‘in their hearts while others
read them from sacred volumes’
- the formal disciplines of readings and cantillation could not have sustained as
vibrantly as they have been over the centuries had not Qur’an memorization (hifz) and
recitation (qira’a or tilawa) always been central to the daily seasonal round of life in
Islamic societies
Recitation in Worship (Salat)
- the Qur’an must be memorized and recited in the original to fulfil even the minimum
requirements of worship
- the functional distinction for purposes of valid worship between the Qur’an, and all
other religious texts, even the hadith, is striking
- the theological doctrine of ‘inimitability’ notwithstanding, it is practical, ritual function
of the Arabic Qur’an as recited word in worship that distinguishes it from all other texts:
recitation of the Qur’an is what one student of Muslim piety has called ‘the very heart of
the prayer-rite’
- Qur’an recitation in general is preferred form of religious devotion at any time in many
ways an extension of the salat unto other parts of the day for its practioners
The Sacrality of Recitation
- the acceptance of the Qur'an as God's word in the form of ‘an Arabic recitation' has
deterred Muslims from translating it from the original Arabic
- ‘the sons of the Prophet ought to have this word in their memory so that they can
repeat it often, These words are endowed with a special virtue . . . in translating we
might alter the meaning, and that would be a sacrilege’
- Here the inherent sacrality of the original Arabic sounds - and their meaning as well,
even if that meaning is not understood literally, word-for-word - is eloquently affirmed.
The sense of the holiness, or burolru (blessing'), of the sounded holy text seems to
penetrate into every corner of the Islamic world
- To dismiss the quotidian ubiquity of the Qur'an as superstition, merely background
noise', or only a taken-for-granted habit, is to miss the perceived power and genuine
spiritual function of such recitation quite apart from the understanding of every word of
the Arabic text
In Education
- Quran recitation is the backbone of Muslim education
- There is an enduring Muslim conviction that Muslims need to be able, as early as
possible, to recite from the Qur'an in its original form.‘
- in Islamic societies, ‘a firm discipline in the course of learning the Quran is culturally
regarded as an integral part of socialization . . . the discipline of Quranic memorisation
is an integral part of learning to be human and Muslim.'
- Memorization and recitation of the Qur'an have traditionally been matters of great
pride and status in Muslim communities
- One of the most cherished honorifics a Muslim can earn is that of hafiz
- such mastery of the Qur'an has been a prerequisite for becoming a scholar
- The alim has to be able to quote and recite the Qur'an at will even to begin to hold his
own among colleagues. Muslim scholarship reflects the acceptance of the prophet's
adage that ‘knowledge shall not perish so long as the Quran is recited'.
In Communal Life
- Qur’an recitation occupies a public place in Muslim societies and forms a significant part
of the auditory 'background' of everyday life
- They have taken to heart the hadith that says, 'the most excellent form of devotion
among my people is reciting the Qur’an’
- the recitation of the divine word is the most salient public activity of this special month,
and Muslims have delighted in finding different ways of making a complete recitation,
or khatma, of the Qur'an during Ramadan.
- another kind of maqra' is the nadwa, or ‘gathering', a listening session held often in
private homes and attended by cognoscenti of the recitative art