Can I Start Memorizing The Quran [Hifz] Without Tajweed?

FAQ: ‘Can you do Hifz without knowing Tajweed?’ I’ve been told that I need to do Tajweed before starting Qur’ān memorisation. I want to memorise the Qur’ān but my Tajweed is not good enough.

I often get inquiries and statements like these in my inbox or DMs.

So is it true that you can’t memorise the Qur’ān without Tajweed?

What is Tajweed?

To begin with, you must remember what Tajweed is and what role it plays in the recitation of the Qur’ān. I assume you already know what it is but I’ll serve you a reminder in a way that you’re not used to.

You’d be well aware that the Queen of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth nations, Queen Elizabeth II, had died this month. You would have seen all the royal family following conventions and protocol, from the funeral to the making of a new king. These are all the works and standards of a monarchy. Everyone must learn how to meet and address a king or queen according to a set code or convention. It’s proper. It’s what good manners dictate. So why would I talk about this when answering a question about Tajweed?

You see, the Qur’ān is the Speech of The King of all kings. He is the Holder of the Keys of the universe, seen and unseen, and we’re fortunate enough to be able to listen to His Words and recite them. Just as the royals of a monarchy, king or queen speak and are addressed in a specific way, likewise, the Qur’ān is to be recited in a specific way. When you recite the Qur’ān, you are being witnessed by a Divine Royalty that has no comparison or likeness. In the same way, His Speech has no comparison or likeness, in form, meaning, presentation, and the way it is recited. Tajweed then is an inherent code. It is a code of recitation. This code decorates His Speech with manners, beauty, precision, measure, emphasis, elongation, thought and much more. This code preserves the Qur’ān from being recited in a way that the King never intended for – free from mistakes and free from corruption. It is to recite like His Beloved (ﷺ) giving every letter recited and not recited full attention and carried to perfection.

That is Tajweed.

Is Tajweed an obligation (fard) on every Muslim?

If you understood what I shared above, you will have understood how important and inherent Tajweed is to Qur’ān recitation. So you’re absolutely right to say that it is a Fard on every Muslim to recite with Tajweed. Not because I said so but because Allāh Himself has commanded us to recite the Qur’ān with it:

وَرَتِّلِ ٱلْقُرْءَانَ تَرْتِيلًا
—and recite the Quran ˹properly˺ in a measured way. (73:4)

There are two types of obligations:

The player

The individual obligation (fard al-‘ayn) is to recite the Qur’ān with Tajweed up to a point that at least you are not making clear, obvious, or major mistakes. You may, however, make mistakes that are more obscure or non-obvious that you never realised (because you never knew it).

For those of you that are into sports, you’ll know that you cannot afford to play a game without knowing what would make you fall into error. It’s obligatory as a player that you understand how to play the game up to a point that you know you’re not making mistakes that can be penalised. But you might not know everything inside out, you just know enough to play a good game. This is when you meet the individual obligation.

The coach and referee

The collective or communal obligation (fard al-kifāyah) is that at least one person within a given community (1 to 1000) knows how to recite the Qur’ān with Tajweed, not making any clear or obvious mistakes, but is also clear from making any obscure or non-obvious mistakes. This one person knowing this knowledge would suffice and make up for the rest of the community not knowing the same level of knowledge. So knowing the practical side to be clear of obvious mistakes is an individual obligation, and knowing the theoretical side beyond that is a communal obligation.

This is because they have gone beyond the required on an individual level. They have learnt and mastered every detail of Tajweed. Hence, they are the coaches and referees. The referee or coach must know the game he is overseeing or training a team for inside out. They not only know the practical side but they also know the theoretical side.

What this means is that you can start memorising the Qur’ān without full Tajweed so long as you’re free from making major, clear and obvious mistakes.

These are things like:

  • changing one letter into another, or a vowel (harakah) into another
  • adding or removing letters or vowels (literally or through lengthening vowels more than required)
  • stopping (waqf) and starting (ibtidā’) at improper places

These are called major because they can change the meaning radically and of course, are not part of the revelation. In contrast, the minor, more obscure, implicit, non-obvious mistakes are things not do not change the meaning and cover the detailed rules of Tajweed.

So you must memorise the Qur’ān with Tajweed?

We have already established that to recite the Qur’ān with Tajweed is an obligation to a level where you are free from major mistakes. If that is the case with recitation, it is also the case for memorisation. You need to be free from major mistakes, at a minimum. This is from a legal and default perspective.

In terms of administrating and implementing Tajweed though, we may have different approaches which can mean that a person may have memorised the Qur’ān without Tajweed initially.

Why is it so? Everyone is different and everyone has different needs. So are there any exceptions?

A. Memorising the Qur’ān without Tajweed as an adult

There are three types of people:

  • those that have memorised without Tajweed because they had never learnt it
  • those that are elderly adults and have become used to reciting without Tajweed
  • those that have struggled with recitation due to issues with speech

For these types of people, we can make exceptions and find a different way to make Tajweed applicable to them. For instance, for elderly adults that are memorising the Qur’ān, there is a method for memorising the Qur’ān without Tajweed and revision due to difficulties with age.

Eventually, you will have to address any major mistakes you are making and learn to recite well with Tajweed (within your given ability). This will take time but it is possible to do.

B. Memorising the Qur’ān without Tajweed as a young person

As a young person, you must memorise with Tajweed, free from major errors. As you don’t have many years of life behind you, you can easily change the way you’re reciting. You don’t have any excuses unless you have limitations in speech.

If you’ve already memorised without Tajweed, then you should aim to go through the entire Qur’ān again and work on your Tajweed, page by page, with a quality teacher.

Tajweed is taking too long. I can’t wait to start memorising the Qur’ān, can’t I just start?

You need to start the process of learning and implementing Tajweed. If you want to memorise, you can memorise while learning Tajweed. How? Focus on the small surah first. Go through a surah working on your Tajweed first and using it to learn. Then when you’re able to recite it well (with the approval of a teacher), you can memorise that surah. Then move on to the next surah. Like this, you can do things side by side.

It’s important to remember that Tajweed is an ongoing process, even for those that are proficient. Tajweed comes from the word Jawwada which means to make something better or improved. It is also linked to the word for good (jayyid). This is a process that is continual.

Conclusion

The best thing to do is to always learn how to recite without major errors before committing to memorise the Qur’ān. This will ensure that you memorise properly and engrave the Qur’ān in your heart without error. If you can recite the Qur’ān without making major mistakes, you have the minimum required to start memorising the Qur’ān. You can pick up the rest as you go along.

May Allāh grant ease and forgive us for any mistakes.

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