There are a few words that are used in the Qur’an to describe the way Qur’an should be recited. I will focus on two of these words: tarteel (ترتيل) and tilawah (تلاوة). This post will discuss the meaning of the word tarteel, its usage in the Qur’an and its implications.
Meaning of Tarteel
Linguistically, tarteel is a noun related to the verb rattala (رتّل). Both these words originate from the word ratl (رتل).
The word ratl (رتل) means something that is beautifully composed. In Arabic: حُسْن تَناسُق الشي. The Arabs of the past would say someone who has has white, gapless teeth with no crookedness to have ratl (رتل) teeth.
As you can see from the imagery of teeth, ratl means something that is beautiful, harmonious and orderly.
Usage in the Qur’an
The word tarteel is used in two parts in the Qur’an.
يَا أَيُّهَا الْمُزَّمِّلُ ﴿١﴾ قُمِ اللَّيْلَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا ﴿٢﴾ نِّصْفَهُ أَوِ انقُصْ مِنْهُ قَلِيلًا ﴿٣﴾ أَوْ زِدْ عَلَيْهِ وَرَتِّلِ الْقُرْآنَ تَرْتِيلًا ﴿٤﴾
O you who wraps himself [in clothing], (1) Arise [to pray] the night, except for a little – (2) Half of it – or subtract from it a little (3) Or add to it, and recite the Qur’an with measured recitation. (4)
وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَوْلَا نُزِّلَ عَلَيْهِ الْقُرْآنُ جُمْلَةً وَاحِدَةً كَذَٰلِكَ لِنُثَبِّتَ بِهِ فُؤَادَكَ وَرَتَّلْنَاهُ تَرْتِيلًا ﴿٣٢﴾
And those who disbelieve say, “Why was the Qur’an not revealed to him all at once?” Thus [it is] that We may strengthen thereby your heart. And We have spaced it distinctly. (32)
Translations by Sahih International.
For an explanation on these two sets of ayahs and their relation to the linguistic meaning of tarteel, please refer to these videos:
Meaning and Implications of Tarteel
Putting together the linguistic meaning and its usage in the Qur’an, we can see that tarteel means three main things: clarity, well-paced and serene.
- Clarity: making sure that every letter and every consonant is crystal clear. This can be derived from the imagery of the ratl teeth discussed above.
- Well-paced: making sure that the recitation is decipherable. This can be derived from the usage of the word in Surah Furqan.
- Serene: making sure the experience of recitation is a serene experience. This can be derived from the context of Surah Muzzammil and the description of the Prophet’s recitation.
I pray that Allah gives us the ability to recite the Qur’an with tarteel, ameen.