By Syifa Sjah
Tajweed class is twice a week with our esteemed teacher, Ustadh Wisam. We begin by saying, then reciting, then proclaiming the word “apple”. Bizarre, but incredibly inspiring, may Allah have mercy on our teachers. The class is a lot of breathing, and reciting, and thinking, and repeating – but not a lot of writing. العلم في الصدور لا في السطور “Knowledge is in the chests, not in your notes.” Immediately following up knowledge with action is empowering; before we dismiss class, we’ve already begun acting upon it.
First, take a deep breath through the nose. Your lungs fill up. Your sternum rises.
Then another quick intake of air, through your nose, inflating you until your lungs feel tight.
Then finally a sharp gasp for air through the mouth. His wording is, “Another breath through your mouth,” but realistically speaking at this point in time it’s a gasp.
Now your lungs are filled, “Let it out like a Pepsi can,” and you slowly deflate, air escaping through the mouth in a very long hiss. The cycle begins again and this time we let it out like a straw.
And now, deep breath again, you find your voice. It’s the “Aa” in “Apple”, it comes out of your chest, shaking the air inside and out of you. You know you’ve got it because it’s physically in front of you. And if there’s nothing backing your “Aa” up, as you push the air out with your diaphragm you try again, “Aa, apple.”
It isn’t all theory, it’s got substance. You’re not all talk and no show, you work that apple.
Now, recitation begins. You hit that “Bi” because you mean business, and the “Sss” has just the right amount of whistle. “Mi” comes out just the way it’s spelled, no hint of a “Meh” – and once you hit that “Llll” it’s all about commitment. “Aa” travels to the “H” and leaves you with stereo. You push the place where the sound occurs, and seamlessly push air out using your diaphragm to send the sound in front of you. All the while remembering: these words are divine.
The gravity of that understanding carries the combination of sounds and air past the point of reading into recitation territory. It’s not recitation unless you’re feeling it.
As you recite, you catch places where you find yourself reading. How’d that happen? Did I forget to raise my “Ain” where Allah raised the sky above my head? Did I forget the stereo in my “H” where Umar (RA)’s heart shook? Did I forget to commit my “Lll” where Adam and Hawa (AS) lament what truly is the ultimate loss? There’s no way we could possibly be reading if every word is weighed down by the realization of whom these words belong to.
Then you take another breath, and repeat the cycle, and take another breath, and repeat, breathe, repeat, breathe, repeat. You’re learning something new, and you’re implementing it right away. You are strong, capable, and courageous. And you feel yourself change. How could you not? With the Qur’an being divinely sent down like rain, nourishment from the sky: life-giving, life-sustaining, breathing life into our lungs. All we can do is feel alive.