The Permissible Range

BasmalahIn a previous post (Why are some teachers more picky than others?) we spoke about a ‘Permissible Range’.   What exactly is that Range and how can you develop an ear for it, an understanding of its boundaries?  Where do teachers and students stand with regards to it?  This is what we will address in this post In shaa Allaah.

The Permissibile Range

Especially for those of you who have sharp ears, along your journey in perfecting your Tajweed, at some point, you will notice there are slight, minute differences between the way one expert Qaari’ will pronounce a letter for example, compared to another expert Qaari’, and they compared to yet another…

Yet, despite these very slight differences (owing many times to simply differences in voice and tone), the said letter (or whatever in question) is still recognised as what it should be and therefore, we are not referring to major mistakes otherwise known as لحون جلية.

This is what we are referring to as the Permissible Range:  where pronunciations are still recognised and do not go out of bounds such that they change the recitation and become major mistakes or affect the meaning.

To clarify this, have a listen to Surat al-Fatihah recited by all the different Qurraa’ on this link and notice the way each Qaari’ pronounces the letter ر in the Basmalah and verse 3.  See if you can hear any subtle differences between each Qaari’.  Do some sound natural, while others don’t as much?  Do some sound awkward?  Do some pronounce the ر softer than others?  Do some make the takreer (trilling) in ر stronger or more apparent than others?  Do your ears pick these subtle differences?  Or do they all sound the same to you?

Now, although Allah سبحانه وتعالى revealed the Qur’an to be recited in a certain way which has been passed down in continuous mass oral chains from the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, when it comes to minute differences from one person to the next, then it is impossible for everyone to sound exactly the same, and therefore:

لا يكلف الله نفسا إلا وسعها
Allah does not burden a soul more than it can bear.  [al-Baqarah: 286]

One will not be held accountable for these tiny differences so long as they have tried their best to correct as much as possible to their ability to what they know the oral recitation should sound like from the sanad.

The Sticky Dilemma

Now, some teachers will be so fussy and picky that they will not be satisfied unless their student recites in exactly the same way as themselves, or the way they want/are used to, even though other qualified expert Qurraa’ who have ijazat do not sound just like that.  This may be fine for a beginner student who only has that one teacher, but what about advanced students who already have ijazat from others, coming to this picky teacher and getting corrected for things that other teachers (who may have been of equally picky nature) excused?  And what about when they go back to their first teacher after their adjustment from the new teacher, and get picked on to change it back to the way it was before?  Now you’ve found yourself between a rock and a hard place.

In the example of Surah al-Fatihah above, generally the Qurraa’ pronounced the ر in an acceptable way that was within the Range.  Yet each was slightly different from the other, and not all teachers will recognise all these ways.  For example, teachers who hold the view that there should be no apparent takreer in ر will call out those who have any sort of trilling, albeit soft, and yet those who hold the opinion that takreer is soft trilling will accept this way and call out those who may have made the trilling a little too hard, and yet others who hold the opinion that takreer is just the soft shaking of the tongue due to the narrow hole made in the centre at the tip, will promote this way, etc.

One may reason that the Permissible Range should be applied, and as long as students are within this Range teachers should not fuss.  And yet, we may find a beginner student who pronounces the same letters but in slightly different ways everywhere, meaning their recitation of individual letters may be within the Permissible Range, but put together their recitation is altogether inconsistent and uncontrolled.  What to do in this case?

Applying the Range

In order to understand how best to apply the concept of the Permissible Range, one must understand there are different categories of students/teachers.  Each has their place and duty, and as long as they understand and maintain their rightful roles there will be balance In shaa Allaah.

وكذلك جعلناكم أمة وسطا
And thus we have made you a just nation… [2:143]

The Beginner Student

The beginner student who has no Ijazah is like a bent piece of wire that needs to be straightened and polished.  At this level, it is fine if the qualified teacher with Ijazah is super picky with this type of student and makes them copy their own recitation to the dot.  This is actually the most beneficial for this student and will help train their recitation to sharp perfection that is within the Range, whatever shade it may be.

If the teacher understands the boundaries of the Permissible Range and wishes to be lenient with the student based on this, then there is no harm as long as the student is consistent in whatever way they pronounce and recite and not random, since Ibn al-Jazari رحمه الله said:

واللفظ في نظيره كمثله
And to pronounce the equivalent letter in the same way (as you would pronounce that letter).

The Intermediate/Advanced Student

The intermediate/advanced student is someone who has at least one proper Ijazah from a teacher that has not been lenient out of the bounds of leniency, i.e. their recitation should be consistent throughout and within the Range.  If this is the case then if they happen to recite to another teacher for (another) Ijazah, the teacher should not be super picky on them if they don’t sound exactly the way the teacher is used to.  This is a type of ظُلم on the student if the he/she is applying everything properly already.  The teacher can make the student aware of slight differences in pronunciation of anything, but should not hold back giving Ijazah just because the student does not completely conform to their (teacher’s) comfort zone.

As we stated before as long as the recitation of the student is within the Permissible Range and consistent.  This is the mark of a trained recitation.  And if this is not the case, then it is the teacher’s duty to correct no matter how many Ijazat the student may have (as there are some teachers who may give Ijazah where the recitation is not deserving or befitting).

The Teacher

As someone who has at least one proper Ijazah (meaning where it was given for recitation that is within the Range and consistent), they should now work on developing an understanding of the boundaries of the Permissible Range.  This can be done by reciting to other teachers and not confining oneself to just one style/teacher (referring to whom they got their own Ijazah from).  They are advised to think outside the box and continue to grow, but ever remain humble and have Taqwa, as this attitude will help one learn.

واتقوا الله ويعلمكم الله
And fear Allah.  And Allah teaches you.  [al-Baqarah: 282]

This can also be done by listening to the top Qurraa’ and comparing recitations.  More on this below, In shaa Allaah.

Developing Your Ear For The Permissible Range

This can be achieved by doing the following:

  1. Reciting to multiple Shyookh/Teachers
    This is for anyone above the beginner student.  The beginner student should stick to one teacher until they are finished in order to develop their base and become consistent.  As for intermediate/advanced, if you are able to recite to other Shyookh then do so.
  2. Listening to multiple expert recitations
    One should listen to multiple top Qurraa’ and compare their recitations.  For example, one may listen to a section or small surah, and then listen to the same part by different reciters and play “Spot the Difference”.
  3. Comparing your own Recitation
    Another excellent tool in mastering recitation, is by recording yourself reciting after a Qaari’ you are copying and then playing back the recording, and comparing it to the recitation of that Qaari’.  You can do this by reciting at the same time, or reciting separately but playing your recording at the same time as the Qaari’ reciting and compare them, see if you can note how you sound different.  Again play the game and mimick to the best of your ability.  Doing this with different (but expert Qurraa’) will really help you develop a feel for the subtleties of recitation.
  4. Spot-Fixing
    Using the same way as above but when dealing with a specific concept you are trying to understand or fix, for example a letter you find particularly hard.  Find all possible places where this occurs and then listen to different Qurraa’ recite the same parts and compare.  This will help you get a real feel for the letter and what it should sound like in all situations and what are its subtle ranges.

Conclusion

That said, this post is in no way meant for students to start arguing with their teachers if they feel they are being too picky.  Remember, humbleness will help you accept your mistakes and learn, which is what we are all aiming for.  No one is perfect, and absolute perfection is only for Allah, which means there is always room for improvement.  The main point of this post, is to distinguish between what is acceptable and what is not.  Within the “acceptable” range, there may be ways which are overall “better” and more “perfect” than others, which is what one should work towards and always keep doing so even after attaining Ijazah.  Also, the ears of the teacher are their “rizq” from Allah, which means that some teachers may be able to pick up mistakes that others do not hear, again take this as a blessing and take advantage of the opportunity to improve oneself.
And remember, consistency throughout recitation is something which will make a huge difference in the balance and beauty of your recitation.  And above all, make it fun!

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