Reciting the Quran in part or whole (Recitative Quran), forms an integral part of the Muslim culture. The author argues that the oral character of the Quran is perceptible in every aspect of the Muslim culture, today as in any previous age of the Islamic history.
The author points out that the recitative function of the Quran has been paramount especially in public ritual and private devotional lives of Muslims over the centuries. This chapter examines the importance of recitative Quran in Muslim communal and personal life.
The discussion begins by exploring how Muslims have sustained recitative tradition: namely, the cultivation amongst Muslims of Quranic recitation as an art and a science in traditional Islamic scholarship and education.
The chapter further illustrates the personal and communal circumstances under which the application of recitative Quran plays a significant role. The chapter gives a comprehensive illustration of the history, application and significance of recitative Quran.
Graham notes that “Anyone who has lived in a Muslim society will appreciate the degree to which the lilting refrain of Quranic recitation occupies a prominent place in the public sphere, forming a significant part of the auditory background of everyday life” (p. 106).
Most Muslims cling to traditional piety and strive to preserve the lilting strains of the chanted Quran as a prominent element in the foreground of their lives. Muslims usually recite Quran during public gatherings like worship (Salat) and during the holy month of Ramadhan.
Muslims also chant the Quran during ‘tilawah and dhikr’ sessions. The above statement emphasizes the strict adherence to recitative Quran by Muslims. From birth to death, every action that a Muslim makes in life including festivities tends to be accompanied by spoken words of the sacred Quran in the form of lengthy Quranic passages or unsophisticated Quranic words.
An example of a Quranic word can be as easy as ‘basmalah’ (in the name of God, the merciful, the Compassionate). Longer recitations include phrases like Fatihah, S. 1, which every Muslim knows by heart. Some scholars hold the opinion that these are not mere words or letters.
They are twigs of the burning bush; a flame with God (Graham 109). An Islamic scholar, Ghazali, declared that much repetition prevents Quranic recitation from appearing old and worn out to those reciting it.
The powerful presence of rhythmic cadence of the Quran tends to be evidenced everywhere in traditional and modern Muslim society. Memorizing of the Quran begins early during the upbringing of children in schools known as maktab.
The learning of at least some part of the divine word is the single most common early learning experience shared in some degree by all Muslims. Maktab forms a significant stage known as the Islamization process of Muslims. A maktab teacher once argued that when children chant the Quran loudly, they learn it by heart.
The teacher indicated that sons of the prophet (children) need the word in their memory so that they can repeat it often. Moreover, the teacher further affirmed that the word should not be translated; this would alter its meaning leading to sacrilege.
Some scholars view Muslims as “those whose gospels are in their hearts while others read them from sacred volumes” (Graham 102). Indeed, the significance of recitative Quran can never be underestimated in any Islamic culture.
Muslims regard recitative Quran as a sacred endeavor which is descendent from the holy prophet Mohammed. The practice forms part of sacred doctrines strictly observed by Muslims globally.
Graham, William. Beyond the Written Word: Oral Aspects of Scripture in the History of Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987. Print.