Art in Islam – the first art of reciting the Quran

Dear Readers,

Assalamu alaikum, peace be with you all!

May you all be and enjoying peaceful days wherever you are, and may peaceful days continue for you or reach you soon!

I began sometime ago on the beautiful art of reciting the Quran, explaining that tajweed (the science of correct pronunciation of Quran) is a exacting science and art that takes many years to master, and also that recitation of the Quran is to many Muslims a form of ‘music’ if you will. In fact, it is famously said that in Egypt – considered to be the place where Quranic recitation reached is pinnacle – large crowds will gather to sit throughout the night listening to famous master reciters intoning the Quran. Quran concerts! 🙂

Once the rules of tajweed are mastered, then great reciters are able to captivate listeners even further by using the ancient Middle Eastern musical forms to recite the Quran. These are called ‘maqamaat’ and are similar to the ‘raag’ of the South Asian classical music system to those familiar with it. I have explained a bit of this in this post. I think it is very neat that maqamaat can be employed to further beautify Quranic recitation and I think it also more neat that large crowds can sit the whole night listening to a master reciter and enjoy that experience.

Traditional Muslim societies enjoyed Islam a great deal, and there is everything good in that and nothing bad. I do not know why the old ways are dying out, nor why some Muslims object to the old ways. There is the very famous saying of the beloved messenger of God, Muhammed (peace be upon him) who said ‘God is beautiful and loves beauty’. God willing, I will post on the multitudes of beautiful art forms in the Muslim world – carpet weaving, tile making, wood work, calligraphy to name a few – all so gentle in their execution and exquisitely beautiful. My personal opinion is that only those with hearts connected to the Divine can produce such works that touch on Divine traces of beauty…always gentle, always soothing, always peaceful and breathing into the soul of the viewer/user/partaker, the fragrance of the eternal existence with the primordial source of all.

For now, I wanted to share that the first Islamic art form was the beautiful recitation of the Quran. Many of the companions of the prophet (peace be upon him) were master reciters of the Quran and indeed he himself (peace be upon him) is reported to have had a wonderfully beautiful voice and to have recited the Quran with perfection. May we be blessed to hear his recitation one day (sallalaahu alaihi wasallam = peace be upon him).

The prophet (peace be upon him) would sometimes when tired, ask some of his companions to recite Quran for him. Some authentic narrations below;

Once the Messenger of Allah said, “The person who reads the Quran in the best way in my ummah is Ubayy.” (Bukhari, “Fada’ilu’l-Qur’an”, 8).

The messenger of God, peace be upon him said to Ubayy b. Ka’b, “Allah ordered me to make you read the Quran.” Ubayy asked, “Did Allah utter my name?” The Prophet said, “Yes, He did.” (Bukhari, “Tafsir”, 98; Tirmidhi, “Manaqib”, 33)

The Prophet asked Abdullah Ibn Masud to read him the Quran. Thereupon, Ibn Mas’ud said,

“O Messenger of Allah! Shall I read the Quran to you though it was sent down to you?” The Prophet said,

“Yes, I like listening to the Quran from others.”

Ibn Mas’ud started to read. When he came to the verse, “How then if We brought from each people a witness, and We brought thee as a witness against these people?”, the Messenger of Allah said,

“That is enough for now.” At that moment, tears were coming down from his eyes. (Bukhari, Fadailu’l-Qur’ân: 32-33)

I wish I could post some videos of gatherings of listening to the Quran. I have attended far too few and generally people at these gatherings don’t seek popularity, and are very modest in their bearing. So no one really bothers to record anything, being very much in the moment and enjoying the experience all the more for it.

But it is well known among Muslims that we derive great enjoyment and peace by just listening to the recitation. So in that sense our relationship to the Quran is unlike that of other faith communities to their scripture, at least those I know of. So this is something non-Muslims often misunderstand about Muslims when we talk about listening to the Quran, or our relationship with the Quran.

It is also a wrong opinion that Muslim women reciting the Quran is not common. Indeed some of the greatest reciters of Quran were women. In fact, one of the most famous international annual Quran reciting competitions (yes we have these, they test mostly perfection of tajweed and of course how well the Quran is memorised) is named after our lady Fathima, the beloved daughter of the prophet (peace be upon him). I will share a video from this competition below, they are hard to access by English users usually.

Please go to minute 3.45 where the recitation of our dear little sister Fariha will begin. Subhahanallah, her recitation is clear and beautiful… so very gentle. For those not familiar with Quran competitions, the judging panels can be rather daunting. Of all the Islamic sciences, the science of reciting the Quran is the most strict as even the slightest mistakes are not allowed, hence the judges look especially tough, and likely are. How these work is that a judge will recite from some random verse in the Quran and the participant has to complete it and go on reciting until he/she is stopped. Thus a participants perfection in memorization and how well they have mastered tajweed is tested. The melody with which they recite is entirely up to them.

 

 

 

And to finish, here is one video I found of a ‘Quran concert’, where Hajara Bousaq, a famous Moroccan reciter of the Quran, a ‘qari-ah’ (= female reciter of Quran) is reciting in a mosque to a full crowd. She will repeat many verses to emphasize meanings as she goes along. I hope you enjoy. Her recitation is masterful!

 

May peace be with you all.