Characteristics of the letters | Tajweed rules

Introduction

We have studied the exit points of the letters (Makharij) previously. Now, it is fundamental to know their different characteristics.

We call characteristic of a letter (sifaat صِفَات), the state of this letter when pronounced. Previously, we saw that several letters could leave the same exit point. Thus, their characteristics make it possible to distinguish between letters when they are pronounced.

Some letters will sound soft. Some will sound hard. Some will need breathing, some will not, etc.

Why study the characteristics of letters – Sifat al Huruf?

We can derive 3 great benefits from learning these attributes:

  • This makes it possible to distinguish between several letters coming out of the same exit point (makharij)
  • It allows you to differentiate between thin letters (muraqaqa) and emphatic letters (mufakhama), which is useful when applying the rule of “assimilations” (al idgham).
  • It allows us to perfect our pronunciation.

Indeed, one can notice that for the letters with the same exit point (for example, the د and the ت), it is enough to confuse a single characteristic so that one of these letters resembles the other. If a little air is allowed to be blown out when pronouncing the د, it will look like ت.

By learning these characteristics – Sifaat, we will learn to respect all the elements that make up these letters to give them all their purity until they are no longer confused with each other.

How many characteristics – Sifaat are we going to study?

Scholars have differed on the number of sifat. Among them, some have brought their number to 17 sifat. This is the opinion of Imam Ibn Al Jazary. Some have increased their number to 44 sifaat. Others excluded certain characteristics – sifat (such as “idhlaq” and its opposite “ismat“, as well as “inhiraf” and “leen“) and counted the ghunna among them, bringing their number to 14.

We will stay at the teaching that there are 17 compulsory sifat.

Each letter has its own distinctive features, qualities or characteristics that allow it to be differentiated from another letter.

Thus we distinguish two main categories:

  • Letters with opposing distinctive characteristics
  • Letters with distinctive characteristics having no opposites.

Letters with opposing distinctive characteristics – الصِفَاتُ المُتَضادَة

The first classes of characteristics – Sifat are therefore composed of characteristics opposed to each other. Each of these classes is defined by an attribute that makes up one of the letter’s nature.

In each of these attributes, we can say whether the letter is rewarded or not, which necessarily places it in a category for these attributes. 5 attributes characterize each letter of the alphabet:

  • The breath (or not) during the pronunciation of a letter
  • The continuity of sound (or not) when pronouncing a letter
  • The distance of the tongue (or the approximation) with the palate when pronouncing a letter
  • The letter is stuck to the palate (or not)
  • The letter is spelt with the tip of the lips or the tip of the tongue (or not).

1. Al Hams - الْهَمْسُ vs al Jahr - الجَهْرُ

Al Hams – الْهَمْسُ

 

 

In the Arabic language, al-hams means  “the whisper”.  It is a flow of air accompanying the following 10 letters:

 

ف – ح – ث – ه – ش – خ – ص – س – ك – ت

 

These letters are compelled in this sentence:

 

فَحَثَّهُ شَخْص سَكَت

Technically, the air continues to come out after the letter is pronounced. The airflow is more evident when the letter is sakeena (bear a sukoon).

 

Examples:

 

الرَّحْمن – بِاسْمِ

 

Notes:

  • Concerning the letters ت and ك, the airflow is clearly done if the letter is sâkina:  ت and ك and the air hardly flows when they bear vowels marks (mutaharika), these are the two exceptions at the sifat al-hams.
  • Avoid exaggerating too much in the pronunciation of the letter ت as it becomes close to the letter س.

 

Examples:

تُتْلَى – سُيَّرَتْ – كُوِّرَتْ

 

 

al Jahr – الجَهْرُ

 

  In the Arabic language, al-Jahr means “the loud voice”.

 

It is a stopping of the airflow during the pronunciation of the remaining letters (19 letters):

 

ا – ب –  ج – د – ذ –  – ز- ض

 

 ط – ظ – ع -غ -ق – ل – م – ن – و -ء – ي

 

  These letters are compelled in this sentence:

 

عَظُمَ وَزْنُ قَارِئٍ غَضٍّ ذِي طَلَبَ جِد

 

Technically, the breath stops coming out after the letter is spoken. Examples:

 

الحَمْدُ – يُؤْمِنُونْ – نَعْبُد

 

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2. Ash-shidda - الشِّدَّةُ, al baynya - البَينية, ar Rakhawa - الرَّخَاوَةُ

Ash-shidda – الشِّدَّةُ

 

  In the Arabic language, al-shadda means “the intensity”. It is a stop of the sound flow during the pronunciation of the 8 letters:

 

ت – ك -ب – ط -ق – د – ج – أ

 

These letters are compelled in this sentence:

 

أَجِدْ قَطٍ بَكَتْ

 

Technically, the sound stops because it leans on its makhraj. Examples:

 

انشَقَّتِ – تُبْلَى – رَكَّبَكَ – يَجْتَبِي

 

 

al baynya – البَينية

 

It is also called at-tawasutالتَّوَسُط

 

The sound is neither completely cut off (sound stop) as for الشَّدَّة nor long (sound flow) as for الرَّخَاوَة. Intermediate characteristic of the following 5 letters:

 

ر – م – ع – ن – ل

 

These letters are compelled in this sentence:

 

لِنْ عُمَر

 

 

Technically, the sound does not stop clearly, but it does not continue too much. It is a category between al-shidda and al-rakhawa.

 

Examples:

 

الأرْضِ – الدِّيْنِ – نَعْبُدُ – الحَمْدُ

 

 

ar Rakhawa – الرَّخَاوَةُ

 

In the Arabic language, al-rakhawa means “flexibility”. This is the sound flow as you pronounce the remaining 15 letters:

 

و – ه – ف – غ – ظ – ض -ص ش -س -ز – ذ – خ – ح – ث – ا

 

  Technically, the sound of the letter continues. Examples:

 

أَظْلَمَ – نَسْتَعِيْنُ – يُغْنِيكُمُ – الرَّحْمَنِ

 

Note: The sound of the letter is, therefore, longer for ar-rakhawa – الرَّخَاوَة, shorter for al baynya – البَينية and cut for shadda – الشدة.

 

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3. Al-istiala - الاِسْتِعَلاءُ vs al-istifal - الاسْتِفَالُ

 

Al-istiala – الاِسْتِعَلاءُ

 

In the Arabic language, al-istiala means: “elevation”. The pronunciation of the letter causes upward pressure on the palate. 7 letters are undergoing this pressure:

 

ظ – خ – ص – ض -غ – ط – ق

  These letters are compelled in this sentence:

خُصَّ ضَغْطٍ قِط

Technically, the tongue is close to the palate, and the mouth is filled by pronouncing the letters, which are those of the emphasis(al-tafkheem – التَّفْخِيم). This characteristic, therefore, implies that all letters are emphatic.

  There are different degrees of tafkheem, the former being more emphatic than the latter.

  1. When the letter of isti’ala bears a fatha, followed by an alif
  2. When the letter of isti’ala bears a fatha but not followed by Alif
  3. When the letter of isti’ala bears a damma
  4. When the letter of isti’ala bears a sukoon
  5. When the letter of isti’ala bears a kasra

 

al-istifal – الاسْتِفَالُ

 

 

In the Arabic language, al-istifal means: “lowering”. Pronunciation of the letter causing pressure to go down the palate, and this for the remaining letters (22 letters).

 

ا – ب – ت – ث – ج – ح – د – ذ – ر -ز -س

ش – ع – ف – ك – ل – م – ن – ه – و -ء – ي

 

Technically, the tongue moves away from the palate.

 

This characteristic implies that all of these letters are lightened out. It is the equivalent of al-tarqeeqالتَّرْقِيق.

 

In this case, it is important to provide some clarification: Among the remaining letters, three of them have a special status because they are sometimes emphatic and sometimes thinned out:

 

 

ر – ل – ا

 

 

Al-itbaq – الإِطْبَاق vs Al infitah الإِنْفِتَاح

 

 

Al-itbaq – الإِطْبَاق

 

 

In the Arabic language, al-itbaq comes from the verb, which means: to stick.

 

It is a pressure of part of the tongue on the palate when pronouncing the following 4 letters:

 

ظ – ط – ض -ص

 

Technically, the tongue is glued to the palate.

 

Al infitah الإِنْفِتَاح

 

 

In the Arabic language, al-infitah means separation.

 

It is the act of leaving an opening between the tongue and the palate (separation) when pronouncing the other 25 remaining letters:

 

ا – ب – ت – ث – ج – ح – خ – د – ذ -ر -ز – س

 

ش – ع – غ – ف – ق – ك – ل – م – ن – ه  – و – ء – ي

 

  Technically, there is an interval between the tongue and the palate.

 

 Al-idhlaq – الإِذْلاقُ  vs  Al ismat – الإِصْمَات

 

 

This category of characteristic – sifat is not important. Some scholars have not counted them as characteristic – sifat.

 

 

Al-idhlaq – الإِذْلاقُ

 

 

These letters are pronounced with ease and fluidity. There are 6 letters:

 

ب – ل – م – ن  – ر – ف

 

These letters are compelled in this sentence:

 

فَرَّ مِنْ لُبٍّ

 

Technically, the letter is pronounced with the tip of the tongue or the tip of the lips.  

 

Al ismat – الإِصْمَات

 

 

It is a heaviness that affects the letters of al ismat by their pronunciation. The letters concerned are the remaining 23:

 

ا – ت – ث – ج – ح – خ – د – ذ – ز – س –  ش – ص

 

ض – ط – ظ – ع -غ – ق – ك – ه – و -ء – ي

 

 

Technically, the letter does not press against the tip of the tongue or the tip of the lip.

Letters with distinctive characteristics having no opposites - الصِفَات غَيْر المُتَضادَة

As Safeer – الصَفِير

In the Arabic language, as-safîr means: whistling. This is the whistle that accompanies the letters:

ص – ز – س

This is a strong characteristic. The ص sounds like of the goose, the ز sounds like of the bee, the sound of س the cicada.

 

Technically, it’s an added sound that comes out from between the lips. These letters are also called “the whistling letters”.

 

 

Al Qalqala – القَلْقَلَة

 

In the Arabic language, al qalqala means restlessness, instability, disturbance.

 

It is a strong impact resulting from the pronunciation of a Sakeena letter and due to the fact of the sudden separation of 2 organs of pronunciation without any opening of the mouth or rounding of the lips or lowering of the jaw inferior. This characteristic – sifat is also a rule of Tajweed. This is a strong characteristic. These letters are

:

ق – ط – ب – ج – د

 

  These letters are compelled in this sentence:

 

قُطُبٌ جَدٍ

  Technically, it’s a strong bounce of the letter when bearing a sukoon. The qalqala has a different degree depending on the letter:

 

  • the highest degree is the qalqala of  ط
  • the intermediate degree is the qalqala of ج
  • the lowest degree is the qalqala of د – ب – ق
  • When this letter is located in the middle of a word or a sentence, we will make a small qalqala We call it qalqala sughra

 

Example:  

 

لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ

 

 

He neither begets nor is born (112:3)

 

Note: When this letter is located at the end of a verse and we stop on it, we will make a large qalqala. We call it qalqala kubra.

 

 

لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ

 

 

He neither begets nor is born (112:3)

 

Note: The impact of the letter is even stronger when the letter at the end of the reading is duplicated. We call it al qalqala akbar.

 

 

تَبَّتْ يَدَا أَبِي لَهَبٍ وَتَبَّ

 

 

May the hands of Abu Lahab be ruined, and ruined is he. (111:1)

 

 

Al-leen – اللِّيْن

 

 

In the Arabic language, al-leen means gentleness. It is a gentle and effortless pronunciation. This is a weak characteristic.

 

The letters concerned are the waw and ya having a sukoon and preceded by a fatha.

 

Example:

 

 

الَّذِي أَطْعَمَهُم مِّن جُوعٍ وَآمَنَهُم مِّنْ خَوْفٍ

 

 

Who has fed them, [saving them] from hunger and made them safe, [saving them] from fear. (106:4)

 

 

وَيْلٌ لِّكُلِّ هُمَزَةٍ لُّمَزَةٍ 

 

 

Woe to every scorner and mocker (104:1)

 

 

Al inhiraf – الإِنْحِراف

 

In the Arabic language, al-inhirâf means deviation. This is the deflection of the sound of the letters from their original point of articulation. This is a strong characteristic. This concerns the 2 letters:

 

ل – ر

 

 

Technically speaking, when pronouncing these letters, one tends to deviate from their makharij and spill over into the makharij of the next letter.

 

For the letter ل, the sound is deflected towards the sides of the tongue and for the letter ر the sound is deflected from the end of the tongue towards the back of the latter (the part between the end and the middle of the language).

 

 

At-takreer – التَّكْرِير

 

 

In the Arabic language, at-takrîr means repetition. It is the vibration of the tip of the tongue as the letter is pronounced:

 

ر

 

This is a strong characteristic.

 

Technically, it is making the tip of the tongue vibrate during the pronunciation of the letter, due to the rolling of the tongue.

 

Note: This characteristic – sifat is learned in order not to be applied with exaggeration as this is a mispronunciation.

 

 

As soon as we are going to pronounce the ر, this letter will have to be struck only once on the palate. When the letter is mushadada رّ, the lengthening of the takreer must be reduced by blocking the tongue.

 

 

At tafashee – التَّفَشِي

 

In the Arabic language, at-tafashee means propagation. It is the spread of air in the mouth when the letter is spoken. This is a strong characteristic.

 

This concerns the letter:

 

ش

 

Technically, it is propagation or diffusion of the breath in the mouth during the pronunciation of the letter ش.

 

 

Al istitala  – الإِسْتِطَالَة

 

In the Arabic language, al istitala means elongation. This is a weak characteristic. This is the lengthening of the sound when pronouncing the letter:

 

ض

 

 

Technically, it is an extension of the letter dad which extends to the makharij of the letter lâm ل.

 

This tajweed rules lesson is now finished. The next one will be insha’Allah about the definite article “al” ال.

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