Category Archives: Tajweed

Articles on correct pronounciation of Arabic letters and recitation of the Qur’an, including common errors. Hafs recitation.

Precision in Vowels

To give your recitation a quick boost, try ‘Itmaam-ul-Harakaat’. No, it’s not a medicine from Yemen. ‘Itmaam’ simply means completion & ‘harakaat’ could be loosely translated to mean vowels. It means fine-tuning the vowels. Unlike English, unitary vowels in Arabic are not letters – thus not written out explicitly. Instead, they are shown with either of the following 3 marks above or below a letter.

Fathah: straight stroke on top of a letter, pronounced like the ‘a’ as in “bat”. The common mistake is to pronounce it as the ‘a’ in “ball”, thus making it heavy. Bear in mind that heavy letters are only a minority (7 of 28), so for most cases pick up the “bat” and throw the “ball” away. Trust me on this.

Kasrah: straight stroke below a letter, pronounced as the ‘e’ in “bee” & not as the ‘ay’ in “bay”. Say Bismillah. Go ahead, I’m waiting. See? Did you say “base”millah (really bad)? or “bes”millah (still wrong)? or “bis”millah(correct) as in “biscuit”?
Imagine it is night-time & you are standing at the shore of a “bay” when a “bee” attacks you from behind. You have two options: jump in the “bay” or fight the “bee”. Well, if you are carrying the “bat” from the first vowel, you can easily fight the “bee”.

Dammah: looks almost like a ‘9’ & found above the letter. It is pronounced as the ‘oo’ in “moon”. This requires that your lips make a complete circle as they extend outwards. Try imitating Lifesavers. Don’t eat ’em though – not halal. Anyways, whatever you do, don’t pronounce it like the ‘o’ in “moan”. Hence, the spelling ‘Mohammed’ is wrong. It should really be ‘Muhammed’.

So after fighting the “bee” with your “bat”, you look at the beautiful “moon” and praise Allah. For either the “ball” or the “bay” would have had you “moan”ing right now.


Madd: Fard and Mustahab

Madd (pronounced like “mud”), literally means “extension”. In recitation of the Qur’an (tajweed), madd is when you extend and stretch a vowel sound (aah, ooh, etc.).

There are two types of madd: fard (obligatory: you have to recite it) and mustahab (recommended: you should recite it). The general rule is that a madd inside a word is fard, while a madd that connects two words is mustahab.

For example, in Surah Baqarah, Allah says:

فَقَالَ أَنْبِئُونِي بِأَسْمَاءِ هَؤُلاء إِنْ كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ

Translation: Reveal the names if you are true. [Surah Baqarah, verse 31]

the word [هَؤُلاء] contains two madh in the middle of the word (they are part of the word)–so you should always extend them in your recitation.

Meanwhile, in another verse of Surah Baqarah, Allah says:

وَالَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِمَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكَ وَمَا أُنْزِلَ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ وَبِالآخرَةِ هُمْ يُوقِنُونَ

Translation: Those who believe in what was revealed to them and what was revealed before them and in the Akhira they have certainty. [Surah Baqarah, verse 4]

Here, we see a madd that connects two words, [مَا] and [أُنْزِلَ], so it is recommended to extend the alif sound.

Also, madd most commonly occurs when you have an alif, waw, or ya, followed by a hamza–these vowels recieve madd.

Wallahu ta’ala ‘alim.


When is a Ya a Ya?

In Arabic, there is the letter Ya: ي. It is pronounced similar to the letter Y in English.

However, there’s also another type of ya–the ya without dots, which looks like this: ى. As for that ya, sometimes pronounced as a ya, and sometimes, as an alif (ا).

For example, the word على (ayn-lam-ya) can be read as ‘ala (on top: عَلَى) or as ‘Ali (as in the name: عَلِي). So how do you know when to pronounce it as a ya, and when to pronounce it as an alif?

There are two signs that indicate that it’s a ya:

  1. Dots: If the ya has two dots under it, it’s a ya!
  2. Harakat: If the letter before the ya has a fatha on it, then the ya is pronounced as an alif; if the letter before has a kasra, then the ya is pronounced as a ya.

And if you understand Arabic enough to get the context of the sentence, that helps too.


Qalqala: Mnemonic and Mistakes

Mnemonic: Something used to help you remember.

Qalqala is best described as an “echo noise” or “bouncing noise”. There are five qalqala letters. If any of them appears with a sukoon on top, you perform qalqala. (Prime example, if you have no idea what qalqala is: the end of the last word of every verse in Surah Ikhlass.)

Qalqala letters: qaff (ق), ba (ب), taw (ط), jeem (ج), and dal (د).

The mnemonic to remember them is “qutb jadd” (قطب جَدّ). Qutb means “pole”, jadd means “grandfather”. Grandfather pole…

Some letters are easy to do qalqala on — even qaris (reciters) make mistakes on them! Learn them and avoid them. (To stop yourself from doing a qalala on a letter, simply stop on the letter.)

Common qalala mistakes: ‘ayn (ع), daad (ض), ta (ت), and kaf (ك)


Learn Pronounciation in Surah Fatiha

Surah Fatiha contains almost all the Arabic letters that the English language lacks: ‘Ayn (ع), Saad (ص), Daad (ض), Taw (ط), Qaf (ق), and 7a (ح). Once you learn to pronounce these letters correctly, you practice them 17 times a day, every day, in every state of mind. Bi ithnillah, once you learn them, practice, and you will master them quickly.