From the beginning of the final phase of prophethood, great stress was placed on the recitation of the Qur’aan. The very name “Qur’aan” means a “reading” or “recitation,” and the first verse of the Qur’aan to be revealed was,
“ Whoever reads a single letter from Allaah’s book will receive a blessing and each blessing is worth ten times its value.”
Aboo Umaamah reported that he said,
“Recite the Qur’aan, for verily on the Day of Resurrection it will act as an intercessor for its companions (those who read it often).”
In fact, the Messenger of Allaah (ﷺ) encouraged us to read all of it once per month. ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Amr reported that when Allaah’s Messenger (ﷺ) told him to read the whole Qur’aan in a month, he said, “Verily I have strength to do more.” The Prophet (ﷺ) then told him to do it in ten days, but he still insisted that he could do better, so the Prophet (ﷺ) told him to read it in no less than seven days.
“ Be regular in your reading of the Qur’aan. For by the One in whose hand lies the soul of Muhammad, it will run away more quickly than a camel from its restraining cord.”
Consequently, from the early days of Islaam in its final form, great care has been paid to the recitation of the Qur’aan. Care was taken to see that the Qur’aan was recited as closely to the way it was revealed as possible. Scholars who specialized in the recitation of the Qur’aan formulated rules of recitation based on the authentic recitations which they had learned.
These rules, in fact, formed the basic science of Arabic phonetics, outlining the correct method of pronunciation for the letters of the Arabic alphabet, individual words, and sentences. The science which evolved out of this concern over the correct recitation of the Qur’aan came to be known as the science of tajweed.
Tajweed was defined as the articulation of each Arabic sound correctly and distinctly and the pronunciation of each consonant, vowel, word, and sentence according to the standard of Arabic spoken by the Prophet’s generation. The scholars also insisted that this should take place without excessive embellishment and unnatural mannerisms. However, one should recite the Qur’aan in the best natural voice possible, based upon the Prophet’s recommendation,
“ Beautify the Qur’aan with your voices.”
It should be noted, however, that in spite of the great emphasis laid on the art of recitation, it is not a goal to be sought in itself. Recitation is only a means, a vehicle by which one may absorb the message so as to implement whatever the message entails.
Recitation is, generally speaking, superior to mere reading with the eyes because it also involves the organ of speech and sense of hearing, all of which serve to reinforce the message when recitation is done consciously and not ritualistically.