Quranic Reflection No. 7:21 Āyat 2:121 – Rights of Tilāwah

اَلَّذِينَ آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ يَتْلُونَهُ حَقَّ تِلَاوَتِهِ
Alladhīna ātaynāhumul-kitāba yatlūnahu haqqa tilāwatihi
Those to whom We have given the Book read it as it ought to be read.
(Sūrat Baqarah, No.2, Āyat 121)

Tilāwah, according to the Quran itself, is the act of reading the Quran. Its original meaning is following (as in Q 91:2), referring to the Moon when it follows the Sun. It also means following the message of the verses and taking them as leaders and guides. Thus Quli Qarai translates the verse as: Those to whom We have given the Book follow it as it ought to be followed.  People who have faith in the Quran do Tilāwah following its etiquette and message.

The above verse refers to the people who were given Divine books before the Quran. When they recited them as they should be recited they were able to believe in the Quran that came after it. They recognized the signs and accepted it. The correct Tilāwah was a source of guidance for them. It is possible that the verse also refers to the recitation of the Quran only.

To recite the Quran as it ought to be recited requires mental and emotional participation. It means being fully engaged and involved. According to Tafsīr-e Namūne the people who recite the Quran are of three types:
a) People who are very concerned about correct recitation and its etiquette but do not go beyond that. They do not reflect on the verses or think much about acting upon them.
b) People who understand and ponder over the meanings of the verses. They are aware of the commands of the Quran and its messages but do not act upon it.
c) People who recite it correctly, ponder over its meanings and sincerely work at applying the verses to their lives. They consider it a blueprint for their lives and mold themselves according to its teachings. For these people the Quran gives them a new spirit every time they recite it. Allah says that the faithful are those who when His signs are recited to them, the (signs) increase their faith (Q 8:2).

Tafsīr al-Mīzān quotes a Hadith from Imam al-Sādiq (a) which gives eight ways in which the right of Tilāwah can be maintained:
1) Recitation of its verses
2) Understanding its depths
3) Acting on its rules
4) Having hope in its promises
5) Fearing its warnings
6) Taking lessons from its stories
7) Following its commands
8) Staying away from its prohibitions.

These rights of Tilāwah need to be fulfilled every time we recite the Quran. Being conscious of them will add new depth and inspiration to our recitation. It is then that the Quran will have effect in changing us and transforming our lives.

Recite this verse when you begin reciting the Quran, reminding yourself that it has rights that you must fulfill. Let each recitation be a new experience, being an increase in guidance and a decrease in blindness, as explained by Imam Ali (a) (Nahjul Balāgha, Sermon 176). Recite the Quran as it ought to be recited and rejoice in the beauty of God’s words.

Sources: Āyatullāh Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūne; Agha Muhsin Qarā’atī, Tafsīr-e Nūr