Week 2: The Qur’an, God’s Words as Sacred Sound, and the Art of Calligraphy

First Project (Audio):

Islam unconditionally spread through its beauty in the seventh century, “God has sent down the most beautiful of all teachings” (Qur’an  39:23); this beauty was expressed through the sound of the words prophet Mohammed (PBUH) recited upon the people in his community. Although the beauty of these were words were in Arabic, language did not impose a barrier to experiencing the complexity and dynamics of the words:


“They were beguiled by its language, by its linguistic beauty and art. That language was the key that opened the door thorugh which they could enter the world of the Quran and accept Islam as a religion. Hence it is impossible to draw a dividing line at any level between Islam and language” (Kermani 46).


Thus, language was not an integral part of the Qur’an for it to be expressed as a “sacred sound”. When reciting the Qur’an, there are multiple ways to express the text. In general, tajwid is the integral part of Qur’an recitation and is a part utilized in this piece above. The “sacred” terminology placed on the sound of these words can be seen in tajwid— this is because tajwid’s aim was to preserve the beauty of the words. Within tajwid there are two main recitation styles within the seven Ahruf that Mohammed (PBUH) listened to and approved, the murattal and mujawwad styles (Asani, Lecture 10/12). These express two different aims with murattal being the focus for private settings with less of a focus on melody and mujawwad being the focus for public settings with an emphasis on the melody. Murattal style tends to be demonstrated in the majority of settings with this style also being at the center of Qur’an recitation competitions— ones for all ages (Koran By Heart). In this audio, it is audible to hear that this recitation is based on the tajwid through the mujawwad style. A famously known example of an orator who can recite both styles is Hajjah Maria Ulfah. There are multiple audios of her reciting the Qur’an in both styles some of which were presented in lecture (Asani, Lecture 09/10). In other words, the audio was a reflection of the sacred sound that can be found in the Qur’an. Regardless, of whether the listener knows the language they can embrace the beauty in the sound. In the tajwid through the mujawwad style, my audio presents the Surah Al A’la; the reasoning behind this choice is it’s internal meaning to me, specifically in the “oneness” of God. The beauty in this surah is that it carries the complexity of God. In reciting this surah, my attempt with the mujawwad style was with the intention of noting certain lines (some lines are repeated in the audio). Lines like these are repeated because of their importance to either an individual, group, and/or community. For example, the second line that is repeated expresses the line “He who fears Allah will be reminded” (Qur’an 87:10). Therefore, mujawwad style can be pivotal in highlighting lines that the orator believes are important within the chapter. In reflecting on this piece, it is important to realize the power of words especially in Islam, regardless of style and language.