The Ruling of Recitation with Tajwid
According to the Hanafi school, reciting the Qur’an with proper tajwid would be considered a sunna.
Moreover, Imam Nawawi (Allah be pleased with him) notes scholarly consensus (ijma`) on the fact that it is recommended to recite the Qur’an in a steady recital (tartil). As confirmed by the authorities of the Hanafi school, amongst them, Imam Abu Bakr al-Jassas, Imam al-Kamal Ibn al-Humam and others. May Allah be pleased with them all.
[Salah Abu’l Haj, al-Hukm al-Fiqhi li Ta`allum Ahkam al-Tajwid]
The Meaning of Tajwid
Tajwid has a linguistic meaning as well as a technical meaning. Linguistically, tajwid means beautification; the act of beautifying or perfecting something. In the specific, technical usage, it is the act of pronouncing each letter from its respective articulation point and giving each letter its dues and rights.
The Qur’anic Command to Recite in a Steady Recital (Tartil)
“And recite the Qur’an in slow, measured rhythmic tones (tartil)” [73:4]
The commentators on the Qur’an, amongst them Ibn Kathir and Qurtubi, have mentioned regarding this verse, that one should not rush in one’s recitation. Rather, one should recite in a slow, deliberate manner such that it aids one in contemplating the meanings of the verse one is reciting. Imam Razi mentioned that reciting quickly indicates that one is not paying attention to the meanings, though this does not negate its permissibility. For example, when one reaches verses of promises or threats, one has hope and fear, when one hears the mention of one’s Lord, one is awe of the majesty. He ends the section stating that what is meant by the word “tartil”, or steady recitation, is that one’s heart is present whilst one is reciting such that one reflects on the meanings.
Sayyida `A’isha reported that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace said), “Someone who recites the Qur’an and is fluent in it, is with the noble pious angels. Someone who recites the Qur’an and stammers in it has two rewards as it is difficult for him.” [Agreed upon]
The Prophet’s Recital (Allah bless him and give him peace)
Sayyida Umm Salama (Allah be pleased with her) reports: “The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) recited each verse separately. He recited ‘Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds’ and paused, then recited, ‘The Beneficent, the Merciful ‘ and paused, then paused after reciting, ‘Owner of the Day of Judgment’.”
Sayyiduna Qatada (Allah be pleased with him) reports: “I inquired from Anas (Allah be pleased with him): ‘How was the recital of The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace)?’ He replied: ‘He recited (the words of elongation (madd)) with an elongation (madd)”‘.
The Jurists (Fuqaha) and the Scholars of Tajwid
The Jurists of Islamic Law and the Scholars of Tajwid actually differ on this issue. Though it is said that each knowledge is taken from its people, and the opinion of the Jurists (fuqaha) is what counts as the question is: What is the ruling of Tajwid? Such questions are dealt with by the Jurists of each school of Islamic Law.
I asked Shaykh `Ali Hani who is a major authority in the sciences related to the Qur’an, being a master of the ten famous recitations, Qur’anic sciences (`Ulum al-Qur’an), specifically, Interpretation of the Qur’an (Tafsir), as well as being a scholar in the Shafi`i school, and he also confirmed that we take such rulings from the Jurists and the correct opinion is that one is not sinful even if one performs a mistake which would be considered major (al-lahn al-jali).
What would be considered sinful, as mentioned by Shaykh al-Islam Zakariyya al-Ansari and quoted by Mulla `Ali al-Qari in his own commentary of Imam Jazari’s (Allah be pleased with him) poem on tajwid, would be to recite in manner which fulfills the following two conditions:
 One completely changes the meaning (ma`na);
 And one does not recite with the correct declension (i`rab);
[Mulla `Ali al-Qari, al-Minah al-Fikriyya Sharh Muqaddimat al-Jazariyya; al-`Allama Zakariyya al-Ansari, al-Daqa’iq al-Muhakkima fi Sharh al-Muqaddima]
Nevertheless, this is a legal ruling, like other rulings. It does not detract from the fact that studying such knowledge would be a communal obligation (fard kifaya), just like the other sciences. Taking on such a responsibility is something of huge reward and a means of becoming of the closest to Allah.
One strives to increase in one’s knowledge and practice in order to seek to recite the Qur’an in the way that it was revealed to the best of creation (Allah bless him and give him peace). One should take heed of the way one is affected by the recitation of an accomplished recitor (qari); another wisdom and miracle of the Qur’an.
To conclude, the one who recites with perfection and giving each letter its due, will raise in ranks in Paradise according to his memorization, as mentioned by the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), and he will be amongst the Noble Emissaries (al-Safara al-Kiram al-Barara).
Sayyiduna `Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-`As reported that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “It will be said to those who know the Qur’an, ‘Recite and ascend. Recite slowly as you did in the world below. Your station will be at the last verse you recite.’” [Abu Dawud; al-Tirmidhi]
And Allah knows best and He alone gives success.