Tilāwa (Arabic: تِلاوة) is the recitation of the Qur'an and reflection on it. The root of the word, al-tilawa, has appeared only once in the Qur'an, but its cognates appear more than 50 times. Many hadiths from Prophet Muhammad (s) and the Imams (a) have emphasized the tilawa of the Qur'an. According to a hadith from the Prophet (s), the tilawa of the Qur'an is a light and [leads to] blessings and the increase in one's livelihood. There are specific manners for the tilawa of the Qur'an. Having wudu', reciting with a nice voice are from the external manners of tilawa; pure intention, humbleness, and pondering upon recited verses are among internal manners.
Literal and Terminological Meanings
Tilawa is an infinitive form of the Arabic root, t-l-w, which means reading or reciting. According to Ibn Faris, the root has one meaning only, which is to follow something, and since in the recitation of Quranic verses, the verses follow one another, it came to be called "tilawat al-Qur'an". Al-Raghib al-Isfahani offered the same meaning for the root and said that tilawa means to read and reflect on the Qur'an. He also pointed out that tilawa is restricted to the recitation of holy books, unlike the word, "qira'a" (قرائة; reading), which applies to every text. However, according to Ibn Manzur, some people take tilawa to be general as well.
Exegetes of the Qur'an have also taken "tilawa" to mean recitation, derived from its main meaning (to follow). For example, al-Shaykh al-Tusi, al-Tabrisi, and 'Allama Tabataba'i believe that the recitation of the Qur'an is called "tilawa" because the letters (or words) follow one another. The additional comment of al-Shaykh al-Tusi and al-Tabrisi is also noteworthy: the recitation is called "tilawa" because letters follow one another, and it is called "qira'a" because the letters are collected (vocally).
Difference between Tilawa and Qira'a
The semantic difference between "tilawa" and "qira'a" is that the latter means to read, and usually, regardless of whether one reflects on the meanings, but "tilawa" is to read the Quranic verses along with reflection on its meanings, instances, commands, and prohibitions, as if the verses are revealed to him or her at the time of recitation.
In the Qur'an
The Qur'an has emphasized the virtues of reciting the Qur'an. For example, the verse 29 of Qur'an 35, the proper recitation of the Qur'an is a transaction without any loss. The word, "tilawa", has only occurred once in the Qur'an (Qur'an 2, the verse 121), but its cognates have been used in the Qur'an more than 50 times.
In the Qur'an, "tilawa" and its cognates are used to mean reading something which is required to be