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    Basic Arabic Alphabet

    Arabic Letters Basic Punctuation Marks Arabic Numbers Quick Test

    One of the most daunting things about Islam for those who have converted is reading Arabic - after all, it's a totally different alphabet. However, most of the letters used have an English equivalent, and coupled with the fact that there are only three basic vowel sounds (as opposed to the five used in English and other Western languages), the Arabic alphabet isn't really as difficult to learn as it first appears.

    Arabic Letters

    A single straight line above a letter is equivalent to the letter 'A'. A single straight line below a letter is equivalent to the letter 'I'. A small loop above a letter is equivalent to the letter 'U'.

    The table below is organised into three columns; the first shows each individual letter along with it's name and the Roman letters that are usually used for transliteration purposes; the second column shows how each letter would look when placed at the beginning, middle and end of a word; the third column gives brief guidelines on pronunciation when used with the three vowels detailed above.

     

    Arabic Letter Alternate Written Forms Pronunciation
    ا Alif
    A, I, U
    اـ
    ـاـ
    ـا
    اَ A, as in ample. اِ I, as in inside.
    اُ U, as in chute.
    ب Beh
    B
    بـ
    ـبـ
    ـب
    بَ Ba, as in balloon. بِ Bi, as in biscuit.
    بُ Bu, as in bull.
    ت Teh
    T
    تـ
    ـتـ
    ـت
    تَ Ta, as in tank. تِ Ti, as in tickle.
    تُ Tu, as in tummy.
    ث Theh
    Th
    ثـ
    ـثـ
    ـث
    ثَ Tha, as in thanks. ثِ Thi, as in thick.
    ثُ Thu, as in thud.
    This letter is pronounced as a hard 'th' sound, as opposed to the softer sound of the letter ذ (dhaal) below.
    ج Jiim
    J
    جـ
    ـجـ
    ـج
    جَ Ja, as in jam. جِ Ji, as in jib.
    جُ Ju, as in jump.
    ح Hah
    H
    حـ
    ـحـ
    ـح
    حَ Ha, as in happy. حِ Hi, as in him.
    حُ Hu, as in hump.
    The pronunciation of this letter is virtually identical to the letter ه (heh) below.
    خ Khah
    Kh
    خـ
    ـخـ
    ـخ
    خَ خِ خُ
    This letter has no real English equivalents. It is best pronounced as a harsh, almost hacking form of the letter ح (hah) above. The letter خَ (usually transliterated as 'kha') should be pronounced as though the 'a' has been replaced with an 'or' (almost like 'caw').
    د Daal
    D
    دـ
    ـدـ
    ـد
    دَ Da, as in dad. دِ Di, as in did.
    دُ Du, as in dud.
    ذ Dhaal
    Dh
    ذـ
    ـذـ
    ـذ
    ذَ Tha, as in than. ذِ Thi, as in this.
    ذُ Thu, as in thus.
    This letter is pronounced as a soft 'th' sound, as opposed to the harder sound of the letter ث (theh) above.
    ر Rah
    R
    رـ
    ـرـ
    ـر
    رَ Ro, as in rock.* رِ Ri, as in risk.
    رُ Ru, as in ruin.
    * Despite it's pronunciation, رَ is usually transliterated as 'ra' or 'r'.
    ز Zain
    Z
    زـ
    ـزـ
    ـز
    زَ Za, as in zap. زِ Zi, as in zip.
    زُ Zu, as in zulu'.
    س Siin
    S
    سـ
    ـسـ
    ـس
    سَ Sa, as in sad. سِ Si, as in sin.
    سُ Su, as in super.
    ش Shiin
    Sh
    شـ
    ـشـ
    ـش
    شَ Sha, as in shabby. شِ Shi, as in shin.
    شُ Shu, as in shun.
    ص Saad
    S
    صـ
    ـصـ
    ـص
    صَ Sor, as in sore.* صِ Si, as in sink.
    صُ Su, as in sunk.
    * Despite it's pronunciation, صَ is usually transliterated as 'sa' or 's'. The other vowel sounds are virtually identical to the letter س (siin) above.
    ض Daad
    D
    ضـ
    ـضـ
    ـض
    ضَ Dor, similar to door.* ضِ Di, as in did.
    ضُ Du, as in dud.
    Despite it's pronunciation, ضَ is usually transliterated as 'da' or 'd'. The other vowel sounds are virtually identical to the letter د (daal) above.
    ط Tah
    T
    طـ
    ـطـ
    ـط
    طَ Tor.* طِ Ti, as in tickle.
    طُ Tu, as in tutu.
    Despite it's pronunciation, طَ is usually transliterated as 'ta' or 't'. The other vowel sounds are virtually identical to the letter ت (teh) above.
    ظ Zah
    Z
    ظـ
    ـظـ
    ـظ
    ظَ Zor.* ظِ Zi, as in zither. ظُ Zu, as in Zulu.
    * Despite it's pronunciation, ظَ is usually transliterated as 'z', 'tsa' or 'tza'. The other vowel sounds are virtually identical to the letter ز (zain) above.
    ع Ain
    'A, 'I, 'U
    عـ
    ـعـ
    ـع
    عَ A as in apple. عِ I, as in igloo.
    عُ U, as in ugly.
    The letter ع is usually transliterated as 'a, 'i or 'u (note the apostrophes). Its pronunciation is almost identical to the letter ا (alif) above, but slightly more abrupt.
    غ Ghain
    Gh
    غـ
    ـغـ
    ـغ
    غَ غِ غُ
    The letter غ has no real English equivalents. It is usually transliterated as 'gh'. It must not be pronounced as a straight 'g', but more like the 'gh' in 'argh', almost silently. The best way to learn this letter would be to listen to a recording of Surat Al-Fatihah and pay attention to the last ayat as the letter غ occurs twice.
    ف Feh
    F
    فـ
    ـفـ
    ـف
    فَ Fa, as in fan. فِ Fi, as in fin.
    فُ Fu, as in fun.
    ق Qaf
    Q
    قـ
    ـقـ
    ـق
    قَ Kor, similar to core.* قِ Ki, similar to keen.
    قُ Ku, similar to curtain.
    * Despite it's pronunciation, قَ is usually transliterated as 'qa' or 'q'. The other vowel sounds are quite similar to the letter ك (kaf) below, but with a slightly more rounded sound.
    ك Kaf
    K
    كـ
    ـكـ
    ـك
    كَ Ka, as in can. كِ Ki, as in kin.
    كُ Ku, as in cuff.
    ل Laam
    L
    لـ
    ـلـ
    ـل
    لَ La, as in lack. لِ Li, as in lick.
    لُ Lu, as in luck.
    م Miim
    M
    مـ
    ـمـ
    ـم
    مَ Ma, as in mack. مِ Mi, as in mick.
    مُ Mu, as in muck.
    ن Nuun
    N
    نـ
    ـنـ
    ـن
    نَ Na, as in nan. نِ Ni, as in nick.
    نُ Nu, as in nun.
    ه Heh
    H
    هـ
    ـهـ
    ـه
    هَ Ha, as in hand. هِ Hi, as in hiss.
    هُ Hu, as in hun.
    The pronunciation of this letter is virtually identical to that of the letter ح (hah) above.
    و Waw
    W
    وـ
    ـوـ
    ـو
    وَ Wa, as in wax. وِ Wi, as in wick.
    وُ Wu, as in wood.
    ي Yeh
    Y
    يـ
    ـيـ
    ـي
    يَ Ya, as in yak. يِ Yi, as in yip.
    يُ Yu, as in yuck.

    Basic Punctuation

    As with English, Arabic uses a number of punctuation marks. I will briefly detail the most commonly basic punctuation marks.

    ّ This mark (called a 'shadda') positioned above a letter means that this letter is combined with the letter preceding it, rather than pronouncing the two letters separately.
    For example, the word اِنَّ is pronounced 'inna' (translated as 'truly' or 'verily'), rather than 'i na'.
    ْ These marks (called a 'sukun') positioned above a letter means that this letter has no vowel. A mark similar to a small letter حـ (hah) can also used.
    For example, the word قُلْ is pronounced 'qul' (translated as 'say').
    ي و ا When used plain (without any marks or vowels) after another letter, the letter 'alif', 'yeh' or 'waw' will lengthen the pronounciation of the letter that preceeded it.
    For example, مـا will be pronounced 'maa', rather than 'ma'.
    آ This long, wavy mark written above the letter (called a 'madda') elongates that letter to a greater degree.
    For example, مـآ (maa) will be read out twice as long as the example given above.
    ً  ٍ  ٌ These marks change the vowel sound associated with a letter to either 'an', 'in' or 'un', instead of 'a', 'i' or 'u'.

    There are also a number of more advanced puncuation marks used in Arabic, which affect the way certain words are read.

    Arabic Numbers

    The Arabic numbering system uses ten digits, just as we do.

    ٠= 0 ١= 1 ٢= 2 ٣= 3 ٤= 4
    ٥= 5 ٦= 6 ٧= 7 ٨= 8 ٩= 9

    Quick Test

    Using the tables above, can you work out these common words? Click on the arabic words for the answers.

    1. اِسْلَم

    2. مُسْلِم

    3. قُرْعَن

    4. مُحَمَّد

    5. صَلَوتْ

     
     
     
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    (Muhammad, 47:35)

     

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