Is it permissible to recite the quran with taghanni and as if singing?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Taghanni lexically means to sing with a tune.

Taghanni made while reciting the Quran has a form that is permissible and a form that is not permissible. The form that is not permissible is the way of reciting it by distorting the articulation points of the letters and rules of tajwid. It is regarded permissible in hadiths to beautify the voice by obeying the articulation points of the letters and rules of tajwid; we are even advised to recite the Quran by beautifying the voice. Sa'd states the following from the Messenger of Allah (pbuh):

"Verily, this Quran was sent down as effective. Weep when you read/recite it. If you cannot weep, try to weep. Try to beautify your voice while reciting. He who does not try to read the Quran with a beautiful voice is not one of us."(1)

The term "taghanni" is used in the hadith. In fact, taghanni means to recite with a tune (melody). Scholars made various explanations about the desired meaning of taghanni mentioned in the hadith. According to some scholars, what is meant by "taghanni" in the hadith is "tartil". Accordingly, taghanni means to recite the Quran slowly. Some other scholars say what is meant by taghanni is to recite the Quran slowly in accordance with the rules of tajwid and by beautifying the voice.

They explained the phrase "is not one of us" in the hadith as "He who does not make taghanni while reciting the Quran is not one of the members of our perfect way." Some other scholars state that taghanni means istighna. They deduce the principle of not using the Quran as a tool for worldly interests from this hadith.

What all scholars agree unanimously is that it is mustahab to recite the Quran with a beautiful voice. If the voice of a person is not beautiful, he should try to beautify his voice naturally as much as he can. According to Imam Malik and some scholars, it is necessary to recite the Quran with khushu (awe), by thinking about its meaning and in a way to touch the heart and make the eyes shed tears. For, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) attracts attention to the importance of reciting the Quran with awe and in a way to touch the heart in a hadith:

"When you hear the voice of a person reciting the Quran, if you have the impression that he fears Allah, he is among those who read the Quran with the best voice." (2)

According to Abu Hanifa and some scholars, it is permissible to recite the Quran with a tune. According to them, reciting with a tune will touch the heart more and gain more khushu.

Imam Nawawi states the following regarding the issue:

"Scholars agree unanimously that it is mustahab to beautify the voice in reciting the Quran unless the limit for qira’ah is not exceeded due to lengthening. If this limit is exceeded and even if one letter is added or removed, that reciting will be haram."

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) orders us to beautify the Quran with a nice voice:

"Ornament your recital of the Quran by beautifying your voices." (3)

In another hadith, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) states that God Almighty is pleased with a person who recites the Quran with a nice voice.

In conclusion, we can say that it is mandub to recite the Quran with a nice voice and in a beautiful way. It is permissible to recite it with a tune unless the rules of tajwid are violated. However, it is not permissible to lengthen the letters without paying attention to the articulation points of the letters, to add and to remove letters. Scholars agree on it unanimously. Such people should fear the curse of the Quran and should act in accordance with the manners of reciting it.    

References:

1. Ibn Majah, Iqamah: 176.
2. ibid.
3. ibid.

RECITING THE QURAN, RECITING THE QURAN WITH TAGHANNI

Some people say “taghanni” is haram while reciting the Quran while others say it is not haram. Which one is true?

There are hadiths that seem to be showing the decree about this issue in two different ways. Different explanations probably originate from the fact that those hadiths are not understood very well by everybody. We will try to clarify the issue or rather understand the difference that is found with the views of the scholars whom we believe to understand well.

There is an important verse in the Quran regarding the issue: "... Recite the Quran in slow, measured rhythmic tones (with tartil)." (al-Muzzammil, (73) 4) "Recite with tartil" is a divine command; it is necessary to obey. What is “tartil” "Tartil" is derived from the root "ratal". "Ratal" means the order and arrangement of something being harmonious and nice. The word "tartil" derived from it means the expression of the statement being clear, understandable and unhurried (Ibn Manzur, "ra-ta-la" item) the letters being determined with their characteristics and vowels be pronounced properly, easily and calmly (Zamakhshari, IV/175). Separate, pearly and harmonious teeth are likened to the petals of daisy and are called "as-saghrul-murattal" (Ibn Manzur and Zamakhshari, ibid). To sum up, the word tartil expresses harmony, unhurriedness, calmness, separateness and regularity. That is, the Messenger of Allah was ordered to recite the Quran like that. This command was given to him as well as to all believers; and he fulfilled that command. They asked Hz. Aisha how he recited the Quran. She said, "If a person had wanted to count the letters the Prophet pronounced, he would have been able to do so (Zamakhshari, ibid). Anas bin Malik said, "The Messenger of Allah recited by lengthening." Umm Salama said, "He recited letter by letter." (For the sources of these hadiths and similar ones as well as detailed explanations, see M. Tayyib Okiç, Kur ân-ı Kerim`in Üslûb ve Kıraati, Ank.1963 p. 22). It means the Messenger of Allah fulfilled this order like that. Then, that is what reciting with tartil means; the recitals other than the style described above is contrary to what Allah wants. That is the first and most important point of the issue. If it is understood well, it will be easier to understand the rest.

There are hadiths that want the Quran to be recited with "taghanni" (tune, melody, harmony) or that are considered to indicate that taghanni is good:

1."He who does not recite the Quran with taghanni (others also include the addition ‘does not recite the Quran clearly’) is not one of us" (Bukhari, Tawhid, 44; Abu Dawud, Witr, 20; Darimi, Salah 171; Musnad, I/172 et al).

2."Allah did not grant anybody as much as he did to a prophet who recited the Quran with taghanni" (Bukhari, Fadailul-Quran, 19; Muslim, Salatul-Musafirin, 232; Darimi, Witr, 20 et al).

3."Adorn the Quran with your voices" (Bukhari, Tawhid 52; Abu Dawud, Witr 20; Nasai, Iftitah 83; Ibn Majah Iqamah, 176 et al. For a detailed takhrij of the sources of the hadith, see Hafiz Abu Bakr al-Ajuri, Akhlaqu Hamalati Quran, tahqiq Fawwaz Ahmad Zamirli, Darul-Kitabi-Arabi, Beirut, 1407 (1987) p. 108).

4. "During the march of conquest to Makkah, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) recited the chapter of "al-Fath" with "tarji"" (Muslim, Salatul-Musafirin, 237; Bukhari Tafsir (48) 1; Abu Dawud, Witr, 20). According to the dictionary Qamus, "tarji" means vibrating the voice in the throat, and while reciting the Quran and in music to recite with melody and harmony" (Ahmed Asım, Terceme-i Kâmus, (radda) item). Bukhari states that "tarji" is described as producing the sound (a) as (a-aa) (Bukhari, Tawhid 50; Qurtubi, I/16).

5. One night, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) listened to Abu Musa al-Ash`ari reciting the Quran. "You have been given one of the mazamir (sweet melodious voices) of the family of Dawud (David)." He said, ‘If I had known you were listening, I would have recited it with an ornamented voice. (Bukhari, Fadailul-Quran, 31; Muslim, Salatul-Musafirin 235; Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 55 et al).

Those are the most important evidences on which those who say it is permissible to recite the Quran with a tune and melody base their view. We will analyze them one by one and try to explain that they cannot be evidences.

We will mention the hadiths based on the order given above:

1. The word "taghanni" is the keyword of the first hadith. It is unanimously agreed that it is not permissible to recite the Quran with tunes and melodies; therefore, people tried to understand it in different ways. Some of them said, "taghanni" meant to ornament and embellish the voice while others said it meant istighna (to regard it sufficient and not to need anything else) (see Davudoğlu, IV/347). After analyzing the issue for a long time, Abu Jafar at-Tahawi said, "It has been understood that there can be two probabilities regarding the issue. Taghanni is either reciting with a melody or regarding the Quran as sufficient. If it becomes clear through evidences that the first one is impossible, the second one becomes certain: to regard the Quran sufficient and not to need anything else." (Tahawi, Mushkilul-Athar, N/130). According to some people, "taghanni" means not to need the news about the previous nations and from the previous heavenly books. According to some others, it means to be engaged in, that is, to be interested in the Quran, to benefit from the Quran, according to some others, to benefit from it by obeying its orders and prohibitions and according to some others, it means to be rich and full (Davudoğlu, ibid, Qurtubi, I/10; at-Tidhkar fi-Afdalil-Adhkar, Darul-Kutubil-Ilmiyya, 123 et al).

The word "taghanni" derived from ghina definitely has some traces and signs of those meanings but we think most of them are strained interpretations because what is essential in "taghanni" and what comes to mind first is to beautify the voice with some deeds (cf Qurtubi, I/14-17; Okiç, Kur`ân-ı Kerim`in Üslûp ve Kıraati, Ank. 196318). This is something desired and wanted. As we will explain later, Allah`s speech must definitely be recited in the best way in all aspects including voice. In that case, the meaning of the hadith is as follows: "Those who want to be like us in all aspects must read the Quran with the best tone of voice by fulfilling the order of "tartil"." That is, "taghanni" is something related to voice. As we have seen at the beginning, we are ordered to recite with "tartil" and we learned its meaning from the Messenger of Allah; therefore, we should interpret "taghanni" in such a way that "taghanni" will be made and "tartil" will be observed while reading the Quran. We will try to understand how it can happen in the explanation of the other hadiths.

2. The second hadith is not much different from the first hadith in terms of meaning.

3. The third hadith, in our opinion, also tells us what "taghanni" is. Since the Quran is the speech of Allah, it must be recited with tartil, the first and important condition that is also demanded by the Quran, in the best way possible including the voice.  "Beautify the Quran with your voices because nice voice adds to the beauty of the Quran" (Haythami, Majma`uz-Zawaid, VN/171 from Bazzar with a weak chain of narrators). There are also hadiths meaning "Nice voice is the adornment of the Quran" (Hafiz Abubakr al-Ajuri, Akhlaqu-Hamalatil-Quran,108). Should those whose voices are not nice not recite? "They will recite as beautifully as they can with their voices." This statement was reported from Ibn Abi Mulayka (Tahawi, ibid, N/128-29; Ajuri, ibid; Qurtubi, I/12). The statement of Abu Musa al-Ash`ari mentioned in the fifth hadith is understood like that too. That is, "If I had known you were listening, I would have beautified my voice with the Quran, ornament it and make tartil." For, "tahbir" means beautifying and ornamenting (Qurtubi, ibid). There is one more thing that is understood from this explanation and that is worth mentioning here: The word "Quran" mentioned in the hadith is understood either as being replaced or "reading". According to the former, the Quran is not beautified with the voice but the voice is beautified with the Quran. According to the latter, not the Quran but the reciting, that is, “qira’ah”, is beautified. The voices of men cannot add beauty the Quran (ibid).

In that case, the first meaning of "taghanni" becomes apparent. 1. In general, tune, melody made with music and vibrations. That is the real meaning of "taghanni". 2. As a part of this general meaning, beautifying the voice with a style that is outside the normal reciting. That is the metaphorical meaning of the word. What is permissible for the Quran is the second one and the Messenger of Allah wants that from us. It is not permissible to make "taghanni" with the Quran in the first sense because it will be contrary to the order of "tartil" in the first place.

What those who define "taghanni" as sorrowful (touchy) reciting say supports what we mention. "This Quran was sent down with sorrow. Therefore, weep when you read/recite it. If you cannot weep, act as if you are weeping." (For the detailed takhrij of the sources of the hadith, see Fawwaz Ahmad Zamirli, Adabu Tilawatil-Quran (Tahqiq) p.107; see also Suyuti, al-Itqan,1/141). "Read the Quran with sorrow because it was sent down with sorrow" (ibid). "The one who recites the Quran in the best way among people is the one that recites it in the most sorrowful way" (ibid).

To sum up, reciting sorrowfully and harmoniously by using the voice outside the speaking and addressing style  is different from vibrating the voice in different tunes and lengthening or shortening it outside tajwid and tartil. The word "taghanni" includes both of them. The common characteristic of them is that a style that is outside normal speech is used. The hadiths order us to recite the Quran with "taghanni". To practice "taghanni" in the second sense is contrary to the Quran’s command of "tartil", and there are hadiths prohibiting it, which we will mention later. Then, the "taghanni" that is demanded from us is "taghanni" in the first sense according to our explanation. That is, the Quran is not recited like in ordinary speech and addressing but with a harmonious and sorrowful style peculiar to it; it must not be recited like music, by vibrating the voice in a way to make one sound more than one sound and by lengthening and shortening contrarily to tajwid rules. We will see below that this peculiar style is "Arab dialect".

4. The reciting of the Messenger of Allah with "tarji" took place only once and as Ibnul-Athir states it unintentionally because he was on the camel and the camel moved harmoniously. (Ibnu-Athir, an-Nihaya, N/202; Okiç, ibid, 22 (from Lisanul-Arab)).

5. That Abu Musa was given one of the mazamir (sweet melodious voices) of the family of Dawud, that is, his wanting to recite the Quran in a more embellished way is different from the voice being beautiful with the "taghanni" that is prohibited and from trying to recite beautifully. We pointed out that difference above.

One of the reasons that force us to understand "taghanni" like that is the command of "tartil" and the other is the actual practice of the Messenger of Allah and the following news:

"Recite the Quran with the special tune of Arabs; do not recite it with tunes of minstrels, sinners, Jews and Christians. Some people will come after me; they will recite the Quran wavily like songs and elegies. The Quran will not go beyond their throats. Their hearts and the hearts of those who like them are aberrant." (Qurtubi, I/17; at-Tidhkar fi-Afdalil-Adhkar, 130. Ibnul-Jawzi states that the hadith is not sound  (Al-Ilalul-Mutanahiya, tahqiq by Khalil al-Mays; I/118. However, many sources mention the hadith. For, sources, see az-Zamirli ibid, 109). Abis al-Ghifari states the following:

"The Messenger of Allah listed some characteristics that he feared about his ummah after him. One of them was "reciting the Quran like a song in order to benefit materially from it" (Suyuti, al-Hawi, I/252).

Said b. Musayyib heard that Umar b. Abdilaziz led prayers and made random lengthening and shortening in his reciting. He said, ‘May Allah forgive you! Imams do not recite like that.’ (Qurtubi Tidhkar,122).

According to what is narrated from Ibn Abbas, the Messenger of Allah had a muezzin. He made random lengthening and shortening in his reciting. The Messenger of Allah said to him, "Adhan is plain and smooth. Recite it as plain and smooth or do not recite it at all" (Qurtubi I/16; Tidhkar, 122). Since the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) prohibited it in adhan, he definitely prohibited it in the Quran, which is under the protection of Allah (Qurtubi Tidhkar, ibid). The Companions of the Messenger of Allah regarded it makruh to elevate the voice while reciting the Quran (Qurtubi I/10). Besides, while reciting the Quran, there is tatrib in random lengthening and shortening, tarji in making the voice wave, adding hamza where there is no hamza and lengthening a vowel where there is no lengthening. Thus, one “alif” becomes a few “alifs” and one “waw” becomes a few “waws”. This causes addition to the Quran, which is haram (Qurtubi I/16; Tidhkar,129). Sarakhsi reports the following hadith under the heading "It is makruh to make lahn in adhan: "Somebody came to Hz. Umar and said, ‘I love you for Allah.” Hz. Umar said, ‘I hate you for Allah.’ The man asked why. Umar said, ‘I have heard that you make taghanni (lahn) while reciting adhan.’ (Sarakhsi, I/138).

A person who is acquainted with the meaning of the Quran a bit understands easily the terrible difference between reciting the Quran with a peculiar style, pronouncing the words one by one, in accordance with the fluency of the meaning, without making "taghanni" and reciting with random lengthening, shouting, undulating and making "taghanni". He becomes very pleased and does not get sickened even if he listens to it for hours with the former. He is the addressee of the Quran with its spirit and words. Even a person who does not know Arabic gets infinite pleasure from it. Those who think the special harmony of the Quran is not effective but their voices are and try to seem to be reciting with some strain and deeds can be as effective as only those who recite a well-rendered song. For, they think their tunes are effective not the spirit of the Quran; and as one scholar puts it, ‘they sacrifice the spirit and meaning of the Quran for taghanni.’ For instance, when they say "Rabbana atina (O our Lord! Give us)", they sometimes elevate their voices so much that he who knows the meaning of the Quran deduces a funny and ugly threatening style from it as if saying, "O Lord! Give me or else…!" Most of them are artistic recitals. That is, art is regarded to be superior to divinity of the Quran. Or they want to please the audience and get more money. It has been like that since the past. (cf. Qurtubi, at-Tidhkar,122; Tafsir, I/11,16). As Nawawi puts it, "To read the Quran with such haram taghannis, is a disorder that some ignorant, mean and cruel people are addicted to. That is clearly a haram bid’ah – and as Mawardi the Judge of the Judges say –, a person who listens to such reciting becomes a sinner too." (Nawawi, at-Tibyan, 78-79). As a matter of fact, the Messenger of Allah said, "O people! Recite the Quran with a normal voice. Do not shout because you do not call a deaf being or being that is unknown" (Qurtubi, I/15).

In conclusion:

1. "The desired way of reciting the Quran is to recite it with a nice voice, based on tajwid rules, that is, with the Arabic tune. It is not permissible to recite the Quran with "profane" taghanni as if singing (Okiç, ibid, 21).

2. It is necessary to recite the Quran with a style peculiar to it, with a nice voice and with Arabic accent, not as a prose, addressing or song.

3. If it is not necessary to make people who are a bit distant hear, one should not shout while reciting the Quran and should adjust the voice in compliance with the meaning.

4. One should try to be effective with sincerity, sorrow and the effort of conveying the spirit of the Quran, not with the tune of his voice and intonation. The first condition of it is not to expect any material benefit for reciting the Quran and to accept any benefits given to him even if he does not ask. We tried to explain it in detail in another article based on especially Imam Birghiwi and Ibn Abidin.

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