Quranic Reflection No. 423. Ayat 2:121 – Rights of Tilāwah

الَّذِينَ آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ يَتْلُونَهُ حَقَّ تِلَاوَتِهِ أُولَٰئِكَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِهِ
Alladhīna ātaynāhumul-kitāba yatlūnahu haqqa tilāwatihi ūlā’ika yu’minūna bihi
Those to whom We have given the Book recite it as it ought to be recited; they have faith in it
(Sūrat al-Baqarah, No 2, Āyat 121)

During the month of Ramadan believers tried to recite more of the Holy Quran. Masājid and homes were filled with sounds of beautiful Quran tilāwah, with both the young and old seeking closeness to the Quran. It is a practice they hope to somewhat continue during the year. Reciting the Quran brings a certain comfort to the heart. It is a conversation for the soul, listening to its Maker and awakening to the deeper yearnings that lie deep within.

According to the verse above recitation of the Quran must be done correctly. The action has rights that should be fulfilled for its effects to take place. Tafsīr Namūne says under this verse that people are of different types regarding Tilāwah:
1. One group focuses on the letters and outer from of the verses. They are mainly concerned about correct pronunciation and the rules of reciting correctly.
2. Another group goes beyond that to understand the meaning of the verses and ponder over the insights and teachings of the Quran. They spend time reflecting on it.
3. The third group does both above and implements the teachings of the Quran in their lives. They understand that correct recitation and reflection are preludes to acting on the verses. They consider the verses as a program for life that takes them towards perfection and know that that is the real reason for the revelation of these verses – to guide them to their Lord. Thus, every time they recite the Quran they are infused with a new spirit and become more determined than ever to act on it. These are the ones who fulfill the rights of tilāwah.

‘Allāmah Tabātabā’ī in Tafsīr al-Mīzān quotes a hadith of Imam Ja‘far al-Sādiq (a) explaining this verse: They recite its verses slowly, understand it, act according to its orders, hope for its promises, are afraid of its threats, take lessons from its stories, obey its commands, and desist from what it prohibits. By God, it does not mean memorizing its verses, studying its letters, reciting its chapters, and learning its one-tenths and one-fifths [i.e. divisions of the Quran]. They remembered its words and neglected its boundaries. And what it means is meditating on its verses and acting its orders. Allah, the most High has said, ‘A Book We have sent down to you, abounding in good, so that they may ponder over its verses’(Q 38:29) (taken from Irshād al-Qulūb of al-Daylāmī).

In another hadith about this verse, the Imam (a) says: It is stopping at [the description of] the Garden and the Fire. (al-‘Ayyāshi)

As you plan how to continue the spirit of closeness to the Quran after the holy month, let this verse remind you of the rights of tilāwah. Move beyond the first and second group as described in Tafsir and be from the third group, those who truly fulfill its rights. It will transform your life, both inwardly and outwardly. Such is the power of the Quran.

Sources: ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh.