Creative Project 2 – The Recitation Styles of Ayat al-Kursi (Week 2)

 

The Quran is undoubtedly the most important religious text in Islam. Muslims around the world approach the Quran with ultimate reverence and associate it with extraordinary beauty. All aspects of the Quran, including its meaning, calligraphic design, and sound contribute to the aestheticism of the scripture. In this piece, I focus primarily on the sound of the Quran and how different performance styles reflect the diversity in Islamic culture.

As we discussed in lecture, within the Islamic world, it is important to distinguish sound art from music (“The Quran: God’s Word and the Arts of Recitation” Lecture Powerpoint). Although Quranic performances typically resemble musical notes, Muslims categorize them as sound art, which has less of a secular connotation. Hence, Quran performers are known as reciters rather than singers.

For this project, I focus on a well-known Quranic verse, Ayat al-Kursi, in two main styles of recitation: murattal and mujawwad. Similar to surat al-Fatiha, Ayat al-Kursi is a memorable Quranic verse and is revisited by many Muslims on a daily basis. Known in English as the Throne Verse, Ayat al-Kursi is valued for its detailed description of Allah. As we learned in lecture, many of the ninety-nine names of Allah contradict each other; this of course is inevitable because the names are essentially a worldly attempt of defining the indescribable Divine. Because Ayat al-Kursi is a Quranic verse, in which Allah directly describes Himself, it is invaluable for Muslims seeking to develop a greater, authentic understanding of the Divine (“Fundamental Concepts (cont) 10 Sep” Lecture Powerpoint).

In Sound 1 of my uploaded file, I began by reciting Ayat al-Kursi in a beginner level murattal style.  This performance method focuses on the correct pronunciation and articulation of Quranic verses. The term, murattal, derives from the Arabic word, tartil, or “measure[ment]” (Sells 25). In this way, murattal is a universal form of recitation because its emphasis on clarity helps Muslims around the world understand the Arabic verses more easily.

In Sound 2, I recited the verse in a beginner level mujawwad style. This form of recitation focuses on the melodic performance of Quranic verses and typically varies by the reciter. Mujawwad derives from the Arabic word, tajwid, which literally translates to “embellish[ment]” (Sells 25). Similar to the murattal performance, the mujawwad recitation is controlled by traditional Quranic pronunciation rules. However, it places a much greater emphasis on individual style. By personalizing the sound of religious scripture, mujawwad recitation allows reciters to internalize the Quran and relay its message through aestheticism. Indeed, mujawwad performances emphasize the beautiful sound of the Quran and produce a “fascinating thrill…in the hearts and ears of its listeners,”–one that is so powerful it continues to attract new Muslims towards Islam (Kermani 44).

Although the aesthetic sound of the Quranic verse is sufficient to capture its beauty and significance, it is nonetheless important to understand its meaning. Therefore, in Sound 3, I have included an English translation of Ayat al-Kursi.

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