Tajweed is the set of rules for the correct pronunciation of the letters with all their qualities and applying the various traditional methods of recitation. In Arabic, the word Tajweed linguistically means ‘proficiency’ or ‘doing something well’. It comes from the same root letters as the word Jayyid, which means ‘good’. When applied to the Quran, it means giving every letter of the Quran its rights and dues of characteristics when recited and observing the rules that apply to those letters in different situations. Stop signs in Tajweed are crucial as they guide the reciter in understanding when to pause or stop, which can affect the meaning and the beauty of the recitation.
Mandatory Stop (الوقف اللازم – Waqf Lazim) (مـ):
The mandatory stop, denoted by a small “mīm” (م), is a critical sign in Tajweed. It indicates that the reciter must stop at this point. Continuing without stopping could lead to a change in the meaning of the verse, which is considered a mistake in the recitation.
- Verse: Sūrah Al-Anʿām, 6:36
- Arabic: إِنَّمَا يَسْتَجِيبُ الَّذِينَ يَسْمَعُونَ
- Translation: “Only those who hear will respond.”
- Explanation: Stopping at this point is necessary to separate the response of those who hear from the condition of the dead mentioned in the following part of the verse.
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Preferred Stop (الوقف المرغوب – Waqf Murghab) (قلى)
This sign, represented by the letters “قلى,” suggests that it is better to pause at this point, although it is not mandatory. The reciter has the discretion to continue, but pausing is preferred as it may add to the reflective nature of the recitation.
- Verse: Sūrah Yūnus, 10:66
- Arabic: أَلَا إِنَّ لِلَّـهِ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَن فِي الْأَرْضِ
- Translation: “Unquestionably, to Allah belongs whoever is in the heavens and whoever is on the earth.”
- Explanation: Pausing here emphasizes the sovereignty of Allah over all creation, allowing the reciter and listeners to reflect on this concept.
Permissible Stop (الوقف الجائز – Waqf Jaiz) (ج)
The permissible stop is indicated by a small “jīm” (ج). The reciter has the option to stop or continue. This flexibility is given because stopping at this point does not affect the meaning of the verse.
- Verse: Sūrah Yūsuf, 12:1
- Arabic: الر ۚ تِلْكَ آيَاتُ الْكِتَابِ الْمُبِينِ
- Translation: “Alif, Lam, Ra. These are the verses of the clear Book.”
- Explanation: The reciter can pause after “Alif, Lam, Ra” to separate the disjointed letters from the statement about the clear Book, or they can continue to keep the introduction together.
Silence Symbol (السكتة – Sakta) (س)
The silence symbol, represented by a small “sīn” (س), instructs the reciter to take a brief pause without taking a breath. This subtle pause can affect the rhythm and cadence of the recitation.
- Verse: Sūrah Al-Qiyāmah, 75:27
- Arabic: وَقِيلَ مَنْ ۜ رَاقٍ
- Translation: “And it is said, ‘Who will cure [him]?'”
- Explanation: The pause indicated by the sīn allows for a moment of suspense and emphasis on the question being posed in the verse.
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Embracing Stop (الوقف المعانق – Waqf Mu’anq) (∴ ∴)
The embracing stop is denoted by a pair of pyramid-shaped dots. It provides a choice to the reciter to stop at either of the two signs but not at both. This is often used to offer flexibility in longer verses.
- Verse: Sūrah Al-Baqarah, 2:2
- Arabic: ذَٰلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لَا رَيْبَ ۛ فِيهِ ۛ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ
- Translation: “This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah.”
- Explanation: The reciter can choose to pause after “no doubt” to emphasize the certainty of the Quran or after “a guidance” to reflect on the guidance provided.
Preferred Continuation (الوصل المرغوب – Wasl Murghab) (صلى)
Indicated by the letters “صلى,” this sign suggests that it is better to continue the recitation without pausing. However, if the reciter chooses to pause, it is not considered incorrect.
- Verse: Sūrah Al-Kahf, 18:14
- Arabic: وَرَبَطْنَا عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ إِذْ قَامُوا فَقَالُوا رَبُّنَا رَبُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ
- Translation: “And We made firm their hearts when they stood up and said, ‘Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth.'”
- Explanation: Continuing without pause maintains the flow of the narrative about the people of the cave and their firm conviction.
Prohibited Stop (الوقف الممنوع – Waqf Mamnoo) (لا)
The “lā” (لا) sign indicates a mandatory continuation. The reciter must not pause at this point, as doing so could misrepresent the meaning of the verse.
- Verse: Sūrah Al-Baqarah, 2:25
- Arabic: وَبَشِّرِ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ
- Translation: “And give good tidings to those who believe and do righteous deeds that they will have gardens [in Paradise] beneath which rivers flow.”
- Explanation: Stopping here could imply that the good tidings are complete with belief and deeds alone, but the continuation connects these actions to the reward of Paradise, completing the intended meaning.
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How long can you pause between recitations?
In the practice of Tajweed, the length of pauses during Quranic recitation can vary depending on the type of pause indicated by the Tajweed rules. Here are some general guidelines:
- Mandatory Stop (واجب): When you come across a mandatory stop sign (م), you should stop and take a breath. The length of the pause is typically as long as it takes to comfortably take a breath before continuing.
- Permissible Stop (جائز): For permissible stop signs (ج), you have the option to stop and take a breath or continue without stopping. If you choose to stop, again, it’s usually just long enough to take a breath.
- Preferred Pause (مستحب): With a preferred pause (قلى), the pause is similar to that of a mandatory stop, where you stop and take a breath, but it’s not compulsory. The length of the pause is a brief moment to breathe.
- Silent Pause (سكتة): A silent pause, indicated by the letter س (sīn), is very brief. You do not take a full breath here; it’s more like a slight suspension of sound that lasts no more than a second or two.
- Continuation (لا): When you see the sign for continuation (لا), you should not pause at all and continue reciting.
The pauses are not meant to be extended breaks but rather brief moments to either take a breath or to emphasize a particular part of the recitation. The exact length can vary somewhat depending on the reciter’s style and the context of the recitation. For example, in a more contemplative, personal recitation, a reader might take slightly longer pauses for reflection. In contrast, in a formal setting like during Taraweeh prayers in Ramadan, the pauses might be more consistent and shorter to maintain the flow and keep the congregation engaged.
It’s also worth noting that the rhythm and pace of recitation (madd) can affect the length of pauses. Some reciters may have a naturally slower pace with longer pauses, while others may recite more quickly with shorter pauses. However, the pauses should always be long enough to allow for clear and distinct pronunciation of each letter and word, without rushing or dragging the recitation.
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Importance of the Rules of Stopping When Reading the Quran
The rules of stopping (waqf) when reading the Quran are of great importance for several reasons:
1. Preserving Meaning:
The Quran is the literal word of God according to Islamic belief, and its message is conveyed not just through the words but also through the structure and sequence of Arabic text. Stopping at the wrong place can alter the meaning of a verse, sometimes significantly. The rules of stopping ensure that the integrity of the meaning is preserved.
2. Reflective Recitation:
The pauses allow for reflection on the meaning of what has been recited. This reflective practice is a significant aspect of engaging with the Quran, as it encourages deeper understanding and contemplation of the divine message.
3. Rhythmic Flow:
The rules contribute to the rhythmic flow of Quranic recitation, which is a characteristic feature of tajweed. The rhythm helps in memorization and makes the recitation more impactful and pleasing to the ear.
4. Respect for Sacred Text:
Following the rules of stopping is a form of respect for the sacred text. It shows diligence and care in handling the word of God, ensuring that it is recited as it was revealed and intended.
5. Facilitating Understanding:
For listeners, especially those who are learning or may not be fluent in Arabic, the proper stops can facilitate understanding. It breaks down the recitation into manageable segments, allowing listeners to follow along more easily.
6. Aiding Memorization:
The Quran is often memorized completely by Muslims (a practice known as hifz). The rules of stopping help in memorizing the text accurately by providing consistent and logical points to pause and resume recitation.
7. Enhancing Recitation Quality:
The quality of recitation is enhanced by the proper application of stopping rules. It prevents errors that may occur if one runs out of breath or if the recitation is rushed.
8. Linguistic Precision:
Arabic is a language where the meaning can be highly dependent on the structure of sentences. The stopping rules help maintain the linguistic precision that is required when reciting the Quran.
9. Educational Tool:
For teachers and students of the Quran, the rules of stopping are an essential educational tool. They provide a structured approach to learning the recitation and understanding the text.
10. Spiritual Discipline:
The discipline of learning and applying the rules of stopping can be a spiritual exercise in itself, fostering patience, attention to detail, and a deeper connection with the text during recitation.