In order to reflect upon the Qur’ān, it is vital to recite calmly and wholeheartedly.
Recite with tartīl
When reciting the Qur’ān, the Prophet ﷺ was instructed by Allah to recite with ‘tartīl’ (73:4).
Tartīl refers to reciting slowly and calmly, making each word distinct, and not exceeding the limits. Reciting like this ensures that the tongue, heart and the limbs and organs are in perfect harmony with each other. To recite with tartīl, an effort must be made to learn tajwīd. Reciting with tartīl will also help you do ‘tadabbur’(reflect on the Qur’ān).
Qatādah (raḥimahullāh) narrated that Anas b. Mālik (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) was asked, “How was the recitation of the Prophet ﷺ?” He replied, “It was elongated. He then recited بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ , elongating بسم الله, elongating الرحمن and elongating الرحيم” (Bukhārī).
Pausing at the end of each āyah is essential as it gives you sufficient time to ponder the words you are reciting. Umm Salamah (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhā) said that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ would break down his recitation of Sūrah al-Fātiḥah and would pause at the end of each āyah (Abū Dāwūd).
Ḥafṣah (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhā) said, “I never saw the Messenger of Allah ﷺ praying voluntary prayers (nawāfil) sitting, until a year before his death. He would pray his voluntary prayers sitting. He would recite the sūrah slowly and distinctly until it would seem to be longer than other sūrahs which were actually longer than it” (Muslim).
Sometimes we recite very fast to complete a sūrah. Similarly, we may witness ‘super high speeds’ in the tarāwīḥ prayers during Ramaḍān. However, this is contrary to the sunnah and does not help attain the objectives of the Qur’ān. Slow recitation is vital for absorbing the message of the Qur’ān and for reflecting on what Allah is saying.
Repeating certain āyāt is critical if you want to strengthen your īmān through the Qur’ān. This, however, is impossible if your aim is just to reach the end of a sūrah, juz or even the whole of the Qur’ān.
A man came to ʿAbdullāh b. Masʿūd (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) and said, “I recite all the mufaṣṣal sūrahs in one rakʿah.” Upon this ʿAbdullāh said, “(Do you recite it) hastily like the recitation of poetry? Indeed, there are people who recite the Qur’ān, but it does not go down beyond their collar bones. However, it benefits when it enters the heart and becomes deeply-rooted in it.
The best of (the actions) in ṣalāh are bowing and prostration. I am quite aware of the similar sūrahs which the Messenger of Allah ﷺ used to combine together: two sūrahs in every rakʿah” (Muslim).
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “There will emerge people from my ummah who will drink the Qur’ān as they drink milk.”(Ṭabarānī)
Explaining this ḥadīth, al-Munāwī (raḥimahullāh) wrote, “They recite it quickly with their tongues, without pondering on its meanings, nor reflecting on its commands. Rather, it passes over their tongues just as when milk is drunk, it quickly passes over their tongues.”
Beautify your voice
Strive to beautify your voice whilst reciting the Qur’ān, as the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Beautify the Qur’ān with your voices” (Abū Dāwūd). He ﷺ also said, “He who does not recite the Qur’ān melodiously is not one of us” (Abū Dāwūd).
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to hear the Prophet ﷺ recite the Qur’ān? His companion al-Barā’ b. ʿĀzib (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ reciting والتين والزيتون in ʿIshā’ and I have never heard anyone who had a better voice or recitation than his” (Bukhārī).
The spiritual intensity of his recitation is indicated in the following ḥadīth: “Allah does not listen to anything as He listens to the recitation of the Qur’ān by a Prophet who recites the Qur’ān audibly and melodiously” (Bukhārī).
Moreover, the spiritual intensity of his recitation is indicated in the following ḥadīth: “Allah does not listen to anything as He listens to the recitation of the Qur’ān by a Prophet who recites the Qur’ān audibly and melodiously” (Bukhārī).
Numerous accounts from the companions give us a glimpse into their relationship with the Qur’ān and their beautiful recitation of it.
Once the Prophet ﷺ said to Abū Mūsā al-Ashʿarī (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu), “If you were to see me, as I was listening to your recitation last night (you would have felt delighted). You have certainly been given a ‘flute’ from the flutes of the family of Dāwūḍ (ʿalayhis-salām) [i.e. a great melodious voice]” (Muslim).
Cry Whilst Reciting
The purpose of melodious recitation is not merely to ensure that the recitation of the Qur’ān sounds good; instead, it is to ensure that the recitation is beautiful, with complete focus and khushūʿ.
Such a recitation would inevitably result in the heart being moved. It should increase your fear of Allah and provide peace. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Of those who recite the Qur’ān with the best voice is the one who, when you hear him recite, you think that he fears Allah” (Ibn Mājah).
When reciting the Qur’ān, try to cry as this was the practice of the pious people of the past. Allah (ʿazza wa jall) says,
إِذَا تُتْلَىٰ عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتُ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ خَرُّوا سُجَّدًا وَبُكِيًّا
“When the āyāṭ of the Most Merciful were recited before them, they used to fall down in prostration, weeping” (19:58).
The Prophet ﷺ said, “Indeed, this Qur’ān has descended with sadness. So, when you recite it, cry. If you cannot cry, then try hard to do so. And recite it melodiously, for he who does not recite it melodiously is not one of us” (Ibn Mājah).
Imām al-Nawawī (raḥimahullāh) says that crying during the recitation of the Qur’ān is, “A quality of those who have a deep awareness of Allah (maʿrifah) and it is a distinguishing feature of the pious servants of Allah… It has been reported that ʿUmar b al-Khaṭṭāb led the congregation in the morning prayer, and recited Sūrah Yusuf. He wept until his tears flowed over his collarbone. Another narration of the report mentions that this occurred during ʿIshā’, indicating that this happened repeatedly. Another narration mentions that he cried until the people in the rows behind him heard his weeping.”
It is mustaḥabb (recommended) to cry whilst reciting the Qur’ān, and when it is being recited. The way to achieve this is to evoke sadness in the heart by reflecting on the severe threats, warnings and promises; and then reflecting on one’s shortcomings regarding them. And if this does not evoke sadness and crying, as it does to the elite (worshippers), then he should cry over the lack of (being able to cry), as this is one of the greatest calamities.” (Imām al-Ghazālī (raḥimahullāh))
Rate Your Recitation:
Would the Prophet ﷺ stand and listen to you recite?
ʿĀ’ishah (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhā) said, “One night, at the time of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, I was late returning from ʿIshā’. When I came after some time, he ﷺ said, ‘Where were you?’
I said, ‘I was listening to the recitation of a man from your Companions (radiy Allāhu ʿanhum); I have never heard a recitation or a voice like his from anyone.’”
She says, “So he got up and I got up with him, to go and listen to him. Then he turned to me and said, ‘This is Sālim, the freed slave of Abū Ḥudhayfah. All praise is for Allah who has created such men amongst my ummah’” (Ibn Mājah).