In a previous post we featured a series of videos where Qari Ismet Akcin beautifully demonstrated for us the main maqamat, from the ending of Surah al-Baqarah. At the end of the series, he added a short dua which he recommended you read before starting your Quranic recitation. A few of you asked for the dua to be written out so that you can learn it … so here it is:
Here’s the video where Qari Ismet recites the dua:
Oh Allah, with Truth You have sent it down (i.e. the Quran), and with Truth it was [indeed] sent down.
Oh Allah, increase my desire for the Quran, and make it a light for my sight and a cure for my chest (i.e. heart and what contains it).
Oh Allah beautify with it my tongue (i.e. what I say of words), and decorate my face with it (i.e. it’s beauty), and perfect my voice with it, and increase my body in strength with it.
And give us, as rizq, [the chance] to recite it with submission to You throughout the night and during parts of the day.
And resurrect us back (on the day of Judgment) with Your beloved Prophet Muhammad ‘alaihi salatu wassalaam and salawat on his beloved family.
Shaykh Abdullah Basfar is one of the preeminent reciters of Saudi Arabia who is well known for his excellence and precision in tajweed. Here, he shares a reminder that is extremely relevant to all Muslims, but even more so to students of the Quran and the art of recitation. He shares some advice about tadabbur al-Qur’an, which has to do with reflecting upon and pondering over the Quran. Basically, going beyond just paying lip-service to the Quran and just rattling off the verses with little to no emotional connection to the verses being recited.
Normally I try to share English content here (except Quran of course), but I’ve made an exception because of the importance of the Shaykh’s advice (hafidhahullah). What follows below the video is a translation, along with timestamps to help you follow along!
00:00 The Shaykh begins by recalling Allah’s saying in surah Muhammad: “Do they not reflect on the Quran, or are there locks upon their hearts?”. He mentions that the pondering over the Quran was the sunnah of Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wa sallam – he used to recite the Quran al-Kareem and ponder about the words of Allah subhanahu wa ta’alla.
01:14 He mentions the statement ibn Abbas (radiyallahu ‘anhuma): If I were to recite surah al-Baqarah with tadabbur, this would be more beloved to me than to recite the entire Quran (i.e. without tadabbur).
01:40 Shaykh Basfar then mentions a few things that lead towards or facilitate tadabbur: Firstly, reciting with tarteel, as Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said: “wa rattalnaahu tarteelaa” [Surat al-Furqan], and Allah said “wa rattil il-Qur’aana tarteelaa” [Surat al-Muzzammil].
01:56 He defines tarteel as reciting with reassurance, calmness … not speeding through it … because he who recites the Quran too quickly cannot ponder over and think about the meanings of the words of Allah. But reciting slowly is a way of having respect for the Quran, and leads towards pondering and have khushoo over which what he is reading.
02:29 He mentions that Huthayfa ibnul Yaman says (radiallahu anhu): I was praying behind the Prophet (‘alaihi salam) and he started with al-Fatiha, and he continued, until I thought to myself ‘maybe he will conclude at ayah 100 (of surat al-Baqarah), and he continued through Ali Imran, and Al-Nisaa. … and he was reciting with such care… he would not recite past an ayah of rahma/mercy without asking Allah for his mercy, or an ayah with punishment except that he asks Allah to protect him from Allah’s punishment, or an ayah which has tasbeeh to Allah except that he would do tasbeeh to Allah ‘Aza wa Jaal. And this is why Umm Salam (radiallahu anha) said: “The Prophet ‘alaihi salatu wasallam used to recite in a way which included the tafseer of the words; letter by letter.
03:28Secondly: reciting the Quran with a beautiful voice. A person might say “my voice is just not beautiful”. The scholars have said that (this person who complains) is asked to beautiful his voice to the best of his ability. The Prophet ‘alaihi salatu wasallam said: “laysa minna man lam yataghanna bil Quran”, i.e. he is not on our right path who doesn’t sing with the Quran. The scholars have interpreted this hadith to mean: “he is not of us who doesn’t beautify his voice with the recitation of the Quran”. When you read the Quran don’t read it as if you are reading from a book or novel. Read it with tajweed. And he then demonstrates as an example of what to not to do (just “talking” the words) and what to do (reciting beautifully). And if you learn tajweed, it will beautify your voice. And the Prophet said: “beautify the Quran with your voices.”
04:40 He mentions that the Prophet (‘alahi salatu wasallam) had the most beautiful voice of all people. And he mentions the narration regarding Abu Musa al-Ash’ari where the Prophet praised his beautiful recitation. And there is another benefit to beautifying our voice: if you put your effort in beautifying your voice than Allah the Most Gracious listen to you reciting the Quran in this voice. [He mentions a hadith about Allah’s attentiveness to listening to someone reciting the Quran]. The Prophet ‘alaihi salatu wasallam said: Verily the most beautiful of voices reciting the Quran, is the person who if you hear them reciting you regard them as one of those people who have khushoo/reverence towards Allah”. Such a recitation awakens the heart and softens it.
06:12Thirdly: understanding the meanings Quran al-Kareem. It is a must that this great Quran be understood. And Allah says: “Wa qaal ar-rasoolu yaa Rabbi inna qawm ittakhadhoo haadha al-Qurana mahjooraa” [al-Furqan 30]. The scholars have said: who doesn’t recite the Quran has left/isolated (himself from) the Quran, and he who reads the Quran and he doesn’t understand the Quran has (also) left the Quran, and he who recites the Quran, understands it, and doesn’t act by it has left the Quran. Hence all of these people have left the Quran. He mentions that Arabs understand the Quran, it being in Arabic, but the non-Arab should study/read tafseer, and alhamdulillah these sources are available readily these days, so it is only up to people to read the translations/explanations.
07:23Fourthly: crying while reciting, as it is of the sunnah of the Prophet (alaihi salatu wasalam). The Prophet one day told ibn Masoud: “Ibn Masoud, recite to me the Quran”, so ibn Masoud answers: “how can I recite it to you and it was sent to you?”, the Prophet (alaihi salatu wasallam) replied: It is because I love to hear it from other than me. So he recited to him from the beginning of Surat al-Nisa until he came to the ayah: “fa kayfa idha ji’na min kulli ummatin bi shaheedin wa ji’na bika ala haa’ulaa’i shahidaa”, and at this point the prophet ‘alahi salatu wasallam asked him to stop,and ibn Masoud looked at him and saw his eyes overflowing with tears. And Abou Bakr radiallahu anhu, when he used to recite al-Fatiha, would cry. And Omar radiallahu anhu was once leading fajr prayer, reciting surat Yusuf, and he was crying such that the sahaba heard his crying from the back rows.
09:09Fifthly: Repeating the ayahs (as the Prophet ‘alaihi salatu wasallam) used to do, is another thing which leads to tadabbur, and this is of course in the nawafil (i.e. not fard prayers). He would recite an ayah and repeat it until the morning. He used to cry while listening and reciting the ayahs of Allah… so the sahaba also used to repeat ayahs until morning. Once the Prophet while in qiyam repeated the ayah: “in tu’adhdhibhum fa’innahum ‘ibaaduk wa ‘in taghfir lahum fa’innaka ‘antal ‘azeezu’ hakeem [Al-Maidah] from qiyam until fajr.
10:23Sixthly: Another thing which helps in tadabbur is reciting the Quran in qiyam at night because the Quran at night is closer to tadabbur and khushoo, and closer to the attendance of the heart.
10:36 He mentions also “external” ettiquettes that help: performing wudu, using the miswak (i.e cleansing one’s mouth), reciting towards the qibla, and acting respectfully towards the Book of Allah. He mentions that once there is tadabbur, there is change, there is action … and this is what is asked of us: the last intent isn’t only to beautify our voices with the Quran, or only to understand it, but to act upon it. Aisha radiallahu anha when asked about the Prophet ‘alaihi salatu wasallam’s character, she said: “His character was the Quran”. So we should ask ourselves while reading the Quran: “This ayah that we are reading… are we implementing it in our lives?” If it is so, this is what is asked, alhamdulillah, if not, than we should manage our actions according and put ourselves through a self-judgment. The scholars say, perhaps there is a reciter of the Quran, and the Quran curses him. And we ask Allah to protect us from this state. The recitor recites: “ala la’natullahi ‘ala adh-dhalimeen” i.e. Allah’s curse is upon the oppressor.. and the reciter himself is an oppressor, so the curse goes to him as well! and may Allah protect us from this state, ameen. That is why we should put the effort to learn, understand, and reflect (do tadabbur) upon the words of Allah so we can act upon the sayings of this Book, and so that Allah brings harmony into our lives and the lives of our children.
He ends by sending salawat on the prophet, and we likewise say: Allahumma salli wa sallim ‘ala habeebina wa nabiyyina Muhammad, wa ‘ala aalihi wa sahbihi ajma’een.
***Special thanks to ReciteinTune student Sr. Khadija el-Berhoumi for her help in translating this video – may Allah reward her well***
My son’s 7 years old – what are important reminders to make him a great qari? How many hours practice minimum should he recite to help as a qari when he’s older?
I have a 4 year old brother – he’s young at the moment – but at what age should I start developing his voice to make it beautiful when he grows up? How long should I practice with him every day?
Here are a few quick points to think about:
The first thing to realize is that kids for the most part learn differently than adults – they’re able to pick things up a lot quicker, almost by osmosis/assimilation rather than formal learning. I touched on this previously, using the example of learning a language. If your child is exposed to a certain reciter a lot, inevitably he or she will internalize and pick up the tune of that reciter. So my first recommendation is to expose your child to a lot of one style of recitation, for example a lot of Sh. Abdulbasit/Sh. Minshawi, or a lot of Sh. Sudais/Sh.Shuraim, depending of course on your preferences. In addition, if your child has a good Quran teacher who recites beautifully him/herself, then this will aid your child as well.
Find ways to immerse your kids in the Quran. If you’re at home taking care of the cooking/cleaning with a small child around, play Quran audio rather than just leaving the TV running. In the car, you can play Quran CD’s/mp3’s instead of listening to the radio.
Instead of thinking about how many hours to practice with your child, think more in terms of how you can instill in your child a genuine love for the Quran. Help them to dream BIG – to really believe that they too can recite like their favourite Qari – and help them to follow that dream. At that point you won’t need to sit them down and get them to practice; rather they might drive their own practice by trying to push their voice and imitate their favourite reciter. (You’ll have to give your kids structure and goals in terms of learning to recite and memorize, but what I’m referring to here is in terms of developing the beauty in their voice.)
Obviously, confidence is huge. Your child will need lots of encouragement in order to have the confidence to practice out loud at home when others are around. If your child is ashamed of their voice due to some negative feedback from others (including siblings), or if they fear being judged when they recite out loud, then they’re not going to get the spontaneous practice they need. If your home is a place where creativity is stifled and talents are best left unexpressed – where kids are meant to be seen but not heard, then this won’t help either.
Lastly, and this may seem a bit way out of left field, but for really small kids, singing lullabies and nursery rhymes together will help your child develop and strengthen their ear for pitch recognition.
Parents: you have more experience than me here since I’m not yet a parent. Do you agree with what I’ve mentioned here? Disagree? Any further thoughts or tips you’d like to share with others? Comment below.
(This blog post is an excerpt from our ebook “The Overnight Qari.” To learn more tips and techniques on reciting beautifully, download the ebook.)
I’m sure you’ve watched videos of Qurra like Shaykh Abdul Basit, Shaykh al-Minshawi, and so on, where their breath never seems to run out, and thought to yourself, “Wow! I wish I could do that.” In fact, breath control is one the things that I’m most frequently asked about. In this section, I’ll give you a secret to breathing properly for those super long ayahs.
Let’s kick things off with this video, which I’ve called Iceberg Lungs:
It’s amazing how much further you can go when you learn to implement this technique and breathe with your “stomach” rather than with your “chest”.
To help you get a better feel for implementing this correctly, here are two exercises you can try:
Lie down on your back on a flat surface like the floor. Don’t lie on something soft like a bed or sofa. Now take a deep breath. Notice that naturally, without any effort, your stomach and abdominal area moves upward, while your shoulders stay in place. Now, take a deep breath once again but this time, fill up with a lot of air, pushing your stomach outwards – if you’re doing this correctly, you’ll also feel your back and side muscles expand in all directions.
Sit upright in a chair, so that your lower back is properly rested against the back of the chair. Take in a nice, deep breath, without letting your shoulders rise upwards. If you’re doing this correctly, your abdominal area will push outwards and you’ll feel your lower back pressing into the chair.
With both of these exercises, you should start to get a feel for what it really means to fill up your entire abdominal cavity with air. Instead of taking shallow breaths with your upper chest area, you really want to focus on filling your entire lower abdomen with air. Of course, these exercises are a tad bit extreme – while reciting obviously you shouldn’t need to fill yourself up with air to the point where you’re almost bursting.
If you can focus on learning this and get to know how it feels to breathe in a full breath, you’ll notice that your capacity for breathing will be greatly improved. This is way more important than trying to “hold” in your breath while reciting, or trying carefully to control the release of air. For the most part, doing these things can just result in tension in your body, and this tension will show up in your voice.
Once you’ve mastered this, there are other exercises we can cover later on to help you have even greater control over your diaphragm and the air you release. For now, focus on breathing a full breath, and this will inshaAllah help you on your way to smoothly reciting those super-long ayahs. Remember though that holding your breath for long isn’t a goal of recitation in and of itself. Holding your breath should not take precedence over stopping at the correct places. The rules of waqf should always be kept in mind.
(This blog post is an excerpt from our ebook “The Overnight Qari.” To learn more tips and techniques on reciting beautifully, download the ebook.)
Nasality is one of the most common vocal tone problems that many people face when reciting. This problem occurs when extra air gets directed up into the nasal cavity and comes out through the nose instead of coming out of the mouth.
In the video below, I offer a simple test to check how nasal your voice is and what you can do to fix it. I call it the Nose-pinch Test:
The study of maqamat is the study of at-taghanni bi’l Quran, or the study of beautifying the voice in recitation of the Quran. Beautifying the voice in recitation, as we previously mentioned, is something that our beloved Messenger sallallahu alaihi wa sallam commanded us to do, when he said “Beautify the Quran with your voices”, and when he said “He is not from us, who does not ‘yataghanna‘ (chant melodiously) the Quran”. The maqamat essentially describe the various patterns of melody (or tunes) that various qurra use in their recitation. This adds to (and shouldn’t take away from) the beauty of proper articulation and proper rhythm that one learns from studying the science of tajweed.
Let’s step back for a moment and think about the different sounds that can come from the human vocal cords, one of the most amazing gifts of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala that we often forget to be grateful for. You may have noticed that the sound of someone’s voice changes from situation to situation – a person might sound upbeat and cheerful when they’re happy, or they might sound gloomy and melancholy when sad or depressed. A person would sound a certain way in a moment of extreme pain or distress, and would sound a different way in a moment of excitement. Many aspects of the sound, such as the pace, degree of modulation, and so on, vary immensely between these different-sounding voices. On top of being able to articulate speech and convey meaning through words, Allah ‘azza wa jall has blessed us with the ability to convey mood and emotion through our voices … subhanallah!
Like these varied situations, the ayat of the Quran vary widely. There are ayat of rahmah (mercy), ayat describing Jannah and what it has in store for those who believe, ayat describing the fire of Hell and the punishment for those who turn away from Allah, ayat describing the majesty and grandeur of the Lord of the Worlds, ayat of qital (fighting), and so on. Not only do they vary in terms of the topics they discuss, but they also generate different feelings in the listener.
The theory of maqamat teaches us how to produce beautiful sounds without discord, so that they are pleasing to the ear, and can evoke certain moods and emotions that aid in delivering the message of the Quran directly to the hearts of both the reciter and the listener. The different maqamat have characteristic sounds – this is why for example among the murattal reciters, Sh. Abdurrahman as-Sudais sounds different from Sh. Sa’d al-Ghamidy, who sounds different from Sh. Ahmad al-Ajmy – they recite with different tunes. Amongst the mujawwad reciters, for example Sh. al-Minshawi or Sh. Abdul Basit, you’ll notice that they vary their tune during the course of their recitation – what they’re doing essentially is varying their tune to bring out the different emotions of the ayat they’re reciting.
There’s lots more to talk about, but we’ll leave it here for now. Please remember to come back, as we’ll be discussing this a lot more. Even better, sign up for email updates on the right and I’ll try my best to keep you on top of the activity here. Tomorrow inshaallah I’ll post some clips from Sh. Mishary al-Afasy reciting in various maqamat – stay tuned for that, and please keep me in your dua.
Before we part ways, here is a video compiling some of the maqamat/tunes used by Sh. al-Minshawi … enjoy!
In our discussion of voice and tune in the context of recitation, we can’t forget that a recitation that sounds good has to be strongly built upon the solid foundations of tajweed.
Why? Al-Hafidh Muhammad ibnul Jazaree explains in his Muqaddima:
لأنه به الإله انزلا وهكذا منه إلينا وصلا
وهو إيضاً حلية التلاوة وزينة الأداء والقراءة
“Because the Quran was revealed to us by Allah in this form, and like this (i.e. with tajweed) it has reached us. And it is also a beautification of tilawah, and an adornment of pronunciation and qira’ah.” (Matnul Jazariyyah, lines 28-29)
A lot of tajweed deals with proper articulation and clarity of pronunciation, so it’s pretty clear that knowing tajweed will help your recitation sound better. On the other hand, even if someone has a “good” voice (i.e. has the ability to carry a tune and/or modulate their voice), their recitation will not sound good if it’s built on a weak or shaky foundation.
Knowledge of tunes builds upon and adds to the knowledge of tajweed to further beautify recitation.
If you’re looking to improve your recitation but haven’t studied any tajweed at all, then that would be a good place to start. But if you’ve learnt some tajweed in the past or are doing so now, you can also work on beautifying the sound of your recitation as you work on your tajweed.
In order to help you learn maqam saba, I’ve posted here a few short examples of Quran recitations in maqam saba. In addition, there are a few more examples in this previous post, so you can listen to those as well. Like before, I’ve tried to pick out clips where the pattern is simple and easy to identify.
I won’t pretend that just listening to these clips will automatically give you the ability to recite in maqam saba. However, by ACTIVELY listening to the clips and ACTIVELY trying to identify and pick out the tune/maqam pattern that is common to all these clips, you will develop a greater sense and feel for the maqam.
So here goes:
Shaykh Muhammad Ayyoob, Surah al-Fatihah & al-Hashr
Shaykh Muhammad Siddiq al-Minshawi, Surah al-Hashr
Shaykh Khalid al-Qahtani, Surah ar-Rahman
Enjoy! and hope that helps you in learning to identify the pattern of maqam saba. For those who love the mujawwad style, you’ll notice I didn’t post too many mujawwad clips for now, because in the mujawwad recitations the patterns are sometimes harder to hear, especially for those new to the study of maqamat. I have a few mujawwad clips though and perhaps we’ll share them in the future, inshaAllah
Let me know if these are helping (or not). Lastly if you haven’t yet downloaded your copy of The Overnight Qari, you’re missing out … you can get your copy using the sign-up box on the upper right side of this page, or by heading over to this dedicated page.
In late Dec 2011 I was blessed with the chance to visit Shaykh Ismet Akcin at his masjid in Miami, Florida. For those who don’t know, Shaykh Ismet is a Turkish-born Qari who studied at the prestigious al-Azhar University in Cairo. Some of you may remember that he joined us for a webinar called ‘Tunes for the Soul’ back in Dec 2010. There’s much I can say about my visit and about Qari Ismet, but to keep it short, it would suffice to say that he is from the people of the Quran. Even though he is senior to me both in age and knowledge, through his humility and love I immediately felt when I met him as though I knew him forever … may Allah bless him and preserve him.
We recorded a series of videos where Qari Ismet demonstrated a few of the main maqamat (or tune patterns) for reciting the Quran beautifully … here they are … enjoy!
Anyone who knows anything about Quranic recitation knows that Shaykh Mahmud Khalil al-Husary is an absolute LEGEND. He was considered the Imam or Shaykh amongst the Qurra of his time (which featured such heavyweights as Shaykh Abdulbasit Abdussamad, Shaykh Muhammad Siddiq al-Minshawi, Shaykh Mustafa Ismail, etc). Not only was he a professional reciter, but he was also an outstanding scholar of the Quran. During his lifetime he recorded the entire Quran numerous times: in the riwayah of Hafs ‘an ‘Aasim (in the murattal, mujawwad, and mu’allim styles), as well as recitations in the riwayat of Qaloon and Warsh ‘an Nafi’, as well as ad-Duri ‘an abu-‘Amr. Even to this day, countless children from around the world continue to learn from his recitations. We ask Allah to shower him with His mercy, to forgive any of his shortcomings, to admit him into the highest levels of Jannah, and to forever preserve his legacy.
Since you are looking to beautify your recitation and learn the vocal arts connected to recitation, I want to draw your attention to three lessons we can take from Shaykh al-Husary’s recitations:
LESSON 1: RECITE WITH PROPER TAJWEED
Shaykh al-Husary’s precision in tajweed is simply amazing, to the point that his recitation is considered to be authoritative. Every madd, every ghunnah, and every harakah is given its complete due. Nowadays we’ll find that some people might try to beautify their recitation by imitating their favourite Qari or by learning some of the maqamat patterns, but if they have no background in tajweed they could very well end up ruining their recitation. Remember: tajweed is the foundation and basis of a great recitation.
LESSON 2: RECITE IN TUNE
From the perspective of tune/melody, Shaykh al-Husary recites predominantly in maqam nahawand. But if you’ve ever heard him recite, you’ll know that he does so without much ornamentation or huge variances in pitch – basically, he keeps it simple. He recites within a limited range and within that range, he stays “in tune” (aka “on pitch”), and there is no nashaz (discord) in his recitation. Sometimes when students are interested in beautifying their recitation, they think this means they have to be able to play with their voice a lot or be able to recite at high pitch levels, but when they try to do so they end up going “off tune” and introducing breaks in their voice. There’s no harm in keeping it simple until you are able and ready to operate your voice smoothly. Remember: staying “in tune” and not having nashaz in your voice is the biggest thing that will determine whether overall your recitation sounds pleasant or unpleasant.
LESSON 3: RECITE FROM YOUR HEART
The final lesson I want to share with you is regarding spirituality. When you listen to Shaykh al-Husary, his recitation touches your heart and you immediately get the sense that he recites with a fully engaged heart. Shaykh al-Husary brings to my mind a hadith where we learn that the reciter with the most beautiful voice is the one who conveys fear of Allah. As a student of recitation, you can never sell yourself short by trading your khushoo’ for anything else. Sometimes when students start learning tajweed or maqamat, their mind might be focused on what they’re learning – this is natural, but it is not ideal. Try to take separate time for practice and don’t turn your salah into a tajweed/vocal practice session. Remember: the best Qurra inspire others with the book of Allah. If you wish to recite like them, you must start with engendering taqwa within yourself.
I ask Allah to bless you in your recitation of His book, and I ask Him to bless our Ummah with more of the likes of Shaykh Mahmud Khalil al-Husary (rahimahullah).
Any questions or comments? Please let me know below. And if you enjoyed this post, kindly share it with others.