Comprehensive Guide to Learning
Arabic Alphabets

Fatima Sajid
Learning Arabic alphabets are the first, quickest and easiest way to start your Arabic learning journey.The Arabic language has long been known for being the language spoken by the wise and the intelligent. That being said, it’s not a difficult language. I have been a student of Arabic for more than seven years now and I must confess grasping Arabic is challenging and one of the most fun things you will do! Learning this language is somewhat different compared to learning other languages. While constant practice and reading is a must, Arabic language requires a sharp witty brain to sort out all the principles and rules and incorporate them into one’s sentences as they speak! This article aims to help you learn the alphabets of Arabic for a start. Remember daily revision and practice is the key to mastering this language. Before diving into the letters, let’s acquaint ourselves with some history and facts about Arabic and its vast popularity among all people.

Content

Chapter 01

Overview of the Arabic Language

The Influence of the Arabic Language

Arabic language, also known as the language of Daad (ض) is the language of the Qur’an. Being a sister to Hebrew, it shares some deep roots with the semitic languages and is dated to be known for a very long time now especially in the Middle East region including countries like  Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iraq, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain and is commonly spoken by the inhabitants of Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and countries of Africa like Eritrea, South Sudan, Senegal, Mali and Chad.
ِArabic is likewise one of the six official languages in the United Nations and is the fifth most communicated language on the planet. A portion of its characters are not found in any of the other spoken languages. Arabic language's intricate and refined way of passing on the message demonstrates an intensive comprehension of its standards and styles.

Beginning the Journey of Arabic

One of the first and basic starting points to start studying Arabic is to acquaint yourself with the letters of the Arabic Language. The Arabic language, unlike many Latin and Roman script langauges, is written from right to left. English is commonly written in Latin, or Roman language. Most of the languages in the world use Roman script. Arabic is very different from all these languages because it uses the Abjad script. ‘Abjad’ word is derived from the first four letters of the Arabic alphabet. ( أ, ب, ج, د)
Arabic has been a famous language since a long time now and as it spread, it influenced numerous languages like, Urdu, Hindi, Persian, Turkish, Bosnian, Kurdish, Kashmiri, Bengali, Pashto, Maldivian, Malay, Punjabi, Albanian, Sicilian, Azerbaijani, Spanish, Tagalog, Bulgarian, Greek, Hausa, Odia and Sindhi and some languages in the continent of Africa. Arabic, like any other language, ended up getting influenced by many languages too. Among these include Persian, Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek. Arabic ended up borrowing from some languages such as English and French too.
The Arabic writing system, Abjad, is a famous writing system. Many languages use the Abjad for their alphabets like Urdu, Pashto, Farsi, Sindi, and Punjabi. While Latin may be the most commonly used writing system in the world, Abjab has a strong association with the asian languages and being the writing system for the Qur’an, it is known to all people far and wide.
Learning Arabic can be an astounding encounter. For Muslims, perhaps its most noteworthy advantage is in assisting one with understanding the noble expressions of the Qur'an, the lessons of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be upon him), and uncountable accounts of academic works from Islamic history. For those inspired by the way of life of Arabic-talking individuals or in living in the Middle East or North Africa, it's an extraordinary method for opening up correspondence with individuals and building bridges towards comprehension. I once heard somebody say that to truly get to know an individual one needn't stroll in their footsteps for forty days, yet go through forty days communicating in their language. In this manner one starts to see things according to their viewpoint and gains significant bits of knowledge into their way of life and world-view.

Origins of the Arabic Alphabet

The origin of the Arabic alphabet lies with the Nabataean tribes who were semi-nomadic and lived in southern Syria and Jordan, Northern Arabia, and the Sinai Peninsula. Enduring stone engravings in the Nabataean script show solid likeness to the advanced Arabic composing framework. Like Arabic, their composed messages comprised generally of consonants and long vowels, with minor departures from similar essential letter shapes used to address various sounds.
Chapter 02

Facts about the Arabic Language

Facts about the Arabic Language

1. Arabic Doesn’t Actually Have An Alphabet

Arabic is written using the Abjad writing script. In written English, vowels are always mentioned and reading or writing without them seems like a tedious task for those who are fluent in English. Written Arabic on the other hand doesn’t specify short vowels and it’s a common trend among the Semitic languages including Hebrew, Maltese and Aramaic.
How does Arabic function? Only the consonants and long vowels (like "ee" in the word "exceed") are signed in this language, making it an impure abjad because it has three symbols for vowels among the consonants.
Short vowels are usually taken as less significant and are normally not outlined – however most academic and religious books do mention them with the help of dots, dashes and curves. Improving on this model, Canada becomes "Cnda", where the last "a" is marked in light of the fact that it is viewed as a long vowel.
This composing framework is conceivable on the grounds that, in Arabic, it's not difficult to recognize words even without short vowels – for those who have expertise on the language. For amateurs, it's really everything except simple. Pursuing and composing meaningful sentences in Arabic can be a complex task.
Perusers can easily get befuddled by comparable words. Assuming the creator needs to give clear hints about the importance of a single word, he/she'll demonstrate short vowels utilizing dots and curves. Otherwise, everything stays in the context.
This is not everything about the vowels - there’s a lot more that can confuse a beginner. Sometimes long vowels can be used as consonants. However, when this does happen, they're appropriately set apart with diacritic signs, to stay away from disarray.

 2. The Abjad is Broadly Used by Many Languages

The Arabic letters are the second most broadly utilized alphabets, after Latin. They spread along with Islam. They were and still are used to write many languages. Persian (used in Iran and Afghanistan), Malay (utilized in Brunei and Malaysia), Urdu and Punjabi (spoken in Pakistan) are only a few of the Asian languages utilizing Arabic characters to compose their written form. 
Surprisingly there's in excess of 30 languages whose written form uses the Arabic characters. Indeed, even Chinese has a composing style copied from Arabic calligraphy which may not be used frequently now and is only sometimes observed in their historic preserved writings. 
In the beginning of the twentieth century, Europe was compelled to use Arabic letters. The Turkish and Tatars living in Belarus, Finland, Georgia, Lithuania and Russia also resorted to using the famous Arabic alphabet. Ottoman Turkish has since then been obsolete and the Tatars moved on to using a new alphabet in the 1930s. 

3. Perusing Arabic Challenges Our Brains Differently

With the shortfall of vowels, the mind works contrastingly to perceive words as we read. This is on the grounds that recognizing curves and lines that make the difference between one letter and another necessitates additional time–and an alternate piece of our minds! 
A review led at the University of Haifa, in Israel, has shown that while understanding English or Hebrew includes the two sides of our minds, perusing Arabic is excessively intricate for the right side. It passes on all the work to the left half of the mind. A comparable report by the University of Leicester affirmed this hypothesis.
More or less, it's accepted that the left half of the brain is responsible for rationale, maths, talking and handling what we hear. The right side of the brain predominantly processes music, face acknowledgment, spatial capacities and what we see. In any case, the two halves of the brain cooperate in practically all complex tasks, including learning a language.
The left side of the brain does most of the hard work as we try to grasp Arabic, but this doesn’t mean that we can’t learn Arabic because of it. Usually as we learn a new language, the left side of our brain focuses on the grammar and sentence structure and the right side is more involved with remembering the accent and pronunciation of the new words.
However, these theories or facts could clarify why the vast majority of people see Arabic as a hard language to pursue and why pursuing it needs more effort and time.

4. Arabic Calligraphy Is Visual Art

Arabic letters are always joined together in words, even when typed,imparting a handwritten expression. 
Arabic, unlike English, has no handwritten or typed letters. Arabic language doesn't use capital letters. Yet, a letter takes various structures relying upon its place inside the word – towards the start, in the center, towards the end, or disconnected. 
A solitary arrangement of symbols doesn't make things simpler. Recorders and calligraphers have created different sorts of writing ways or scripts throughout the years. 
The major types are:
Kufic – the most established content, utilized toward the start for composing the Qur'an. After the twelfth century, it was utilized less for the Holy book and for the most part for adornment purposes.
Naskh – it took over the Kufic style around the eleventh century. It's more straightforward to peruse and quicker to compose, being utilized enormously today in papers, magazines and books
Thuluth – its best known for the presence of vowel signs and adornments. It's generally used to write on the walls of the mosques and compose blessed names. 

5. Millions of people speak Arabic!

Arabic is the fifth most commonly used language on the planet, after Mandarin, English, Hindustani and Spanish.
Nations that speak this tongue are totally different with regards to their set of experiences, and culture. Nonetheless, most speakers comprehend conversations with each other fairly well, regardless of territorial contrasts.
Arabic is the official language of 27 countries including Libya, Jordan, Israel, Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen, Tunisia and UAE. Malta is one of those EU countries that has recognised Arabic as one of its official languages.

Is the Arabic alphabet Any Different from the Roman alphabet?

The Roman or Latin script has an easy writing system. The letters can be written separately or they can be joined together end to end in a cursive form. The Arabic language doesn’t work like this and trying to write or read Arabic may come across as a tedious task for beginners.
We write from right to left in Arabic language. Some letters are always bound to other letters in writing and they are written differently in the middle of a word and the end of it meaning a single letter can have as many as three forms. Some letters are exceptional and don’t have three forms.
Arabic is called a revealed language. The reason is that the Qur’an was revealed in it. It is noticed that Arabic has a very strong root system from which most words are derived. Every word has a three letter root word from which using scales and conjugations, we can derive the adjectives, verbal nouns and verbs.

Is the Arabic alphabet unique?

The Arabic alphabet is unique in the way that it doesn’t follow the Latin or Roman writing system. Abjad, the Arabic writing system can be a bit tricky for beginners. The biggest set back for English speakers with the Abjad is that it doesn’t recognise the short vowels in writing. Imagine trying to read through that! Most academic books and the religious book of Muslims, the Qur’an, notify of the short vowels with the help of dots and curves.
Chapter 03

Letters Of Arabic Language

The Arabic language has 28 letters. They are as follows:
خ ح ج ث ت ب ا
kha’ ha’ gem tha’ ta’ baa’ alef
ص ش س ز ر ذ د
sad shen sen zain ra’ thal dal
ق ف غ ع ظ ط ض
qaaf fa’ ghain ain tha’ ta’ da’
ي و ه ن م ل ك
yaa’ waw ha’ noon meem lam kaf
For the reader’s ease, a chart of Arabic letters is used to organise the letters, their isolated and different contextual forms in words:
Name  Letter name in Arabic script Transliteration Isolated form Initial Contextual Form Medial Contextual Form Final Contextual Form
ʾalif أَلِف ā / ʾ(also â ) ا ا ـا ـا
bāʾ بَاء b ب بـ بـ ـب
tāʾ تَاء t ت تـ ـتـ ـت
ق ف غ ع ظ ط ض
thāʾ ثَاء tha (also ṯ ) ث ثـ ـثـ ـث
jīm جِيم j(also ǧ ) ج جـ ـجـ ـج
ḥāʾ حَاء ḥ(also ḩ ) ح حـ ـحـ ـح
khāʾ خَاء kh(also ḫ, ḵ, ẖ ) خ خـ ـخـ ـخ
dāl دَال d د د ـد ـد
dhālʾ ذَال dh(also ḏ ) ذ ذ ـذ ـذ
rāʾ رَاء r ر ر ـر ـر
zāy / zayn رَاء z ز ز ـز ـز
sīn سِين s س سـ ـسـ ـس
shīn شِين sh ش شـ ـشـ ـش
ṣād صَاد (also š ) ص صـ ـصـ ـص
ḍād صَاد (also ḑ ) ض ضـ ـضـ ـض
ṭā طَاء ṭ(also ţ ) ط طـ ـطـ Letter ـط
ẓāʾ ظَاء ẓ(also z̧ ) ظ ظـ ـظـ ـض
ʿayn عَيْن ʿ ع عـ ـعـ ـع
ghayn غَيْن gh(also ġ,ḡ) غ غ ـغـ ـغ
fāʾ فَاء f ف فـ ـفـ ـف
qāf قَاف q ق قـ ـقـ ـق
kāf كَاف k ك كـ ـكـ ـك
lām لاَم l ل لـ ـلـ ـل
mīm مِيم m م مـ ـمـ ـم
nūn نُون n ن نـ ـنـ ـن
hāʾ هَاء h ه هـ ـهـ ـه
wāw وَاو w / ū / ∅ و و و ـو
yāʾ يَاء y / ī ي يـ ـيـ ـي

Hamza: An Arabic letter?

Hamza (Arabic: الهَمْزة‎, (al-)hamzah) (ء) is one of the letters in the Arabic alphabet, addressing the glottal stop [ʔ]. The letter Alif doesn’t have a sound of its own and so it can’t be pronounced except when we put a hamza on or below it. Hamza needs a seat to sit amongst all the Arabic letters and it uses the Alif (ا), Waw (و) and yaa (ي) for its own sitting.

Contextual Forms of the Arabic Alphabet

In Arabic content, letters take various shapes relying on their occurrence in the word and if they are associated with a previous letter. All letters can join from the right side (for example to the previous letter), however some don't associate from the left side (for example to the next letter). Along these lines, each letter might be ordered either as a connector, for example a letter that associates from the two sides, or as a non-connector, for example a letter that doesn't join with the next letter. Majority of the Arabic letters are connectors; there are just six non-connectors. 
Connectors have four shapes:
Free: not associated with any other letter
Introductory: associated with the next letter only
Middle: associated with the former and latter letters 
Last: associated with the former letter only
The Arabic letter bāĀ, is written differently in all 4 positions in the following way:
Last Middle Introductory Free
ب ـبـ بـ
ب
Non-connectors have two shapes:
Free: not associated with some other letter
Last: associated with the previous letter only
The Arabic letter Āalif, is a non-connector and is written in the last like mentioned below:
Final Medial Initial Independent
ـا ـ ـ ا
Chapter 04

Pronunciation Of the Arabic Letters

ِPronunciation of the Arabic letters is critical while learning your direction through the letters. The verbalization of these letters varies ranging from the lips to that coming from the throat. Here are some details that will help you to express and pronounce the Arabic letters.
Let’s learn some words that are frequently used while talking about the Arabic pronunciation. The place from where a letter is pronounced is known as a makhraj – مَخْرَج in Arabic, its plural is makharij– مَخَارِج. It's a verbal noun that is derived from the three letter verb root خَرجَ, which means “he came out” or “he left”.
Researchers vary regarding the quantity of these places of articulation. Some accept there are 16, others 14. As far as concerns us, we incline towards the grammarian Al Khalil's perspective and the great experts of Tajweed, like Ibn Al Jazari, who consider that there are 17 makhârijs.
The Arabic alphabet has 28 letters, and counting the Hamza- ا makes 29 letters. The letters of the Arabic language can be classified as: 
Asliya – أَصْلِية (original, main):  The Arabic alphabet has 29 known letters.
Far’iyya – فرْعِية (auxiliaries, annexes):  These are usually those letters that combine with another letter to produce a sound.
The 17 makharij are gathered into five principle spots of phonation:
The space in the mouth – الجَوف. This is where these letters come from roughly with no specific focus: it is the approximate leaving point. 
There are 4 other exact exit points – makharijs:
The throat – الحَلْق
The tongue- اللِّسان
The lips – الشَّفَتانِ
The nose – الخَيْشُوم

1. The space in the mouth – الجَوف

  Al jawf – الجَوف: it is the space inside of the mouth. The letters of prolongation come out from this space, which are:
  • The ا which forms the sound “a” when it bears sukoon and is preceded by a fatha.
  • Theو which forms the sound “oo” when it bears sukoon and is preceded by a damma.
  •  The ي which forms the sound “ee” when it bears sukoon and is preceded by a kasra.
  They are collected in the Holy Qur’an in this part of the verse:
تِلْكَ مِنْ أَنبَاءِ الْغَيْبِ نُوحِيهَا إِلَيْكَ
These letters have the point of phonation al jawf (space inside the mouth) and are not obstructed by anything. The sound stops when the air is exhausted.
The exit point of these letters is estimated but not specified. They are based on breath.
They are also called al huruf al hawa’iyya – الحُرُوفُ الهَوَائِيَّة about the air.
Note: These three letters (alif ا, wâw و and yâ ي) must come out only from the mouth. The nose does not interfere with the sounds of these letters.

2. The throat – الحَلْق

The throat includes 3 exit points:
أَقْصَى الحَلْق –aqsâ al-halq: the back of the throat
وَسَطُ الحَلْق – wasat al-halq: the middle of the throat
أَدْنَى الحَلْق –adnâ al-halq: the entrance to the throat.
أَقْصَى الحَلْق –adnâ al-halq: the entrance to the throat
The hamza ء and hâ ه are the two letters we pronounce from this region of the throat, the larynx.
Examples:
وَلَا يُحِيطُونَ بِشَيْءٍ مِّنْ عِلْمِهِ إِلَّا بِمَا شَاءَ
قُلْ هُوَ اللَّـهُ أَحَدٌ
وَسَطُ الحَلْق – wasat al-halq: the middle of the throat
The pharynx, the glottis are located at this part of the throat. The letters ‘ayn ع and Hâ ح come out of this place.
Examples:  
إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
أَدْنَى الحَلْق –adnâ al-halq: the entrance to the throat
Letters ghayn غ and khâ خ are pronounced from the part of the halq closer to the mouth. This is the point of their articulation.
Examples:
صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ
وَهُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ
Note:  The letters غ and خ must be emphasized because they are strong letters. It means that you have to fill your mouth when you spell them. 

3. The tongue- اللِّسان

The tongue incorporates 10 distinct marks of verbalization and produces phonation of 18 letters:
The top of the mouth is partitioned into 2 sections:
The hard palate: the top rooftop region, close to the teeth
The soft palate: most profound piece of the rooftop, close to the throat
The tongue contacts the hard or the delicate palates to create various sounds.
Deepest part of the tongue and the soft palate
The posterior part of the tongue (aqsâ al lisan) at the pharynx level and the upper part of the palate form the point of articulation of the letter qâf ق.
The upper part of the tongue, slightly above the point of articulation of the qâf ق with the upper part of the palate forms the point of articulation of the kâf ك. The letter qâf ق is closer to the throat.
Middle part of the tongue and the hard palate
The middle of the tongue (wast al lisân) with the upper part of the palate form the articulation point of the jîm ج, shîn ش, and yâ ي (the yâ as a consonant and not as a long vowel).
The side of the tongue
One of the edges (or both) of the tongue resting against the upper premolars and molars form the point of articulation of the dâd ض. The Arabic language is also called “the language of ض'' because it is a letter specific to the Arabic language and the most difficult to pronounce.
One of the edges of the tip of the tongue resting against the palatal mucosa forms the point of articulation of the letter lâm ل.
The tip of the tongue slightly above the lâm pressing against the palatal mucosa forms the point of articulation of the letter noûn ن.
The tip of the tongue under the point of articulation of the noûn ن pressing against the palatal mucosa and making the back of the tongue vibrate forms the point of articulation of the râ ر.
The head and tip of the tongue
The tip of the tongue resting against the palatal mucosa of the upper central incisors forms the point of articulation of the ta ت, dâ د and Tâ ط.
The tip of the tongue with what separates the lower central incisors forms the point of articulation of sâd ص, sîn س and zey ز.
The tip of the tongue resting against the tip of the upper central incisors, taking the precaution of sticking out the tongue slightly between the teeth, forms the point of articulation of the letters Zâ ظ, dhâl ذ and thâ ث.

4. The lips – الشَّفَتانِ

 The lips include 2 makharijs:
The inside of the lower lip resting against the upper central incisors point forms the point of articulation of the letter fâ ف.
Between the two lips is formed the point of articulation of the letters wâw و (as a consonant and not a long vowel), ba ب and meem م.
Note:
The role of the lips is significant, even if it is not these letters mentioned above. If we ignore the lips’ position, the letters will not come out correctly.
For example, for the kasra, we will make sure to stretch the mouth lengthwise (make a smile) to pronounce an “i”, which does not look like an “è”; the key is to articulate well.

5. The nasal cavity – الخَيْشُوم

This is called nasal noise (ghunna – الغُتة). This happens with the letter noon ن and the meem م when they wear a shadda, when the noon – ن, the meem – م are sakin and the tanween.
In the recitation, a vocalized letter must be pronounced with 1 beat, while the letter with sukoon must be pronounced with a little more than a beat.
Following diagram shows a summary of all the articulation points with the appropriate letter positions.
Chapter 05

Commonly mispronounced letters

Many Arabic letters have articulation points similar to each other and can be easily mispronounced. Some of the commonly confused letters are ع and ا, the letters ص and ث, the letters ح and ه and so on. They are mentioned in the following table for your ease.
Letter Arabic script Letter Arabic script Letter Arabic script
‘ayn ع

’alif ا
ṭā’ (Full mouth) ط

ṭā’ ت
sad ص sīn س thā’ ث
hā’ (chest) ه

ḥā’ (deep throat) ح
ghayn غ’

khā’ خ
ḍād ض

dāl د
ẓā’’ ظ zā’ ز dhāl ذ
kāf ك

qāf ق

Three (3) Short Vowels

Short vowels are those letters in English that are commonly not written in Arabic and are only apparent as an Arabic speaking person pronounces them in their speech. While the vowels form an important part of the language, the Arabs seldom mention them in writing and I agree that reading Arabic books is toughest for beginners because they usually don’t know where to place which vowel until they develop a sound knowledge of Arabic vocabulary.
جِ جَ جُ Arabic letter with Short Vowel
Kasrah Fatha Damma Short Vowel Name
Bottom Top Top Short Vowel placement
i a u Short Vowel Sound
The "i" in sit The "a" in ba The "u" in put Similar English Sound

This table shows the short vowels as the look when mentioned with the letters:
Letter with Kasrah Letter with Fatha Letter with Damma Isolated (Original) Form
اِ اَ اُ ا
بِ بَ بُ ب
تِ تَ تُ ت
ثِ ثَ ثُ ث
ِج َج جُ ج

Three (3) Long Vowels

The short vowels can be elongated in Arabic language. The way of writing them is very easy. The alif is preceded by a fatha for the ‘aa’ sound. Likewise the waw and yaa are preceded by the damma and kasra respectively to produce the ‘oo’ and ‘ee’ sounds. These vowels are pronounced longer and can be measured by either opening a close finger or closing an open finger. 
Sukoon
Anyone who reads the Qur'an using Mushaf Uthmani is well acquainted with the sukoon. It’s the small circle mentioned on top of some letters. The symbol indicates that the sound of that specific letter is not supposed to be pronounced as one reads the Qur’an or any other Arabic book.
جِىْ جَا  جُوْ Arabic letter with Long Vowel
Kasrah on the Letter and Yaa added Fatha on the Letter and Alif added Damma on the Letter and Waw added Long Vowel Explanation
Bottom Top Top Long Vowel Explanation
ea aa oo Long Vowel Sound
The "ea" in seat The "aa" in baa The "oo" in scoop Similar English Sound

The following table shows the long vowels being pronounced for the first few Arabic alphabets:
Letter with Kasrah Letter with Fatha Letter with Damma Isolated (Original) Form
اِىْ اَا اُوْ ا
بِىْ بَا بُوْ ب
تِىْ تَا تُوْ ت
ثِىْ ثَا ثُوْ ث

Double Short Vowels

Double short vowels can be produced from the single short vowels by adding one more fatha to the already present fatha, and the same is done with the single damma, and kasrah. These are called the Tanween and produce a sound using the nose as an articulation point.
جٍ جاً   جٌ Arabic letter with double short Vowel
Kasrah-tain Fatha-tain Damma-tain Double short Vowel (Tanwin) Actual Name
Bottom Top Top Double short Vowel placement
in an un Double short Vowel Sound
The "in" in sin The "un" in funn The "un" in uno Similar English Sound

The following table illustrates the double short vowels in the first few Arabic alphabets:
Letter with Kasrah-tain Letter with Fatha-tain Letter with Damma-tain Isolated (Original) Form
اِ اَ اُ ا
بٍ باً بٌ ب
تٍ تاً تٌ ت
ثٍ ثاً ثٌ ث

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