Any Muslim who wishes to learn the Holy Qur’an perfectly as it was descended on our Prophet (peace be upon Him) must imperatively learn the exit points of the letters. You have to devote yourself to learning how to pronounce each letter well and articulate it well to give each letter its requested value. The point of articulation of a letter is the place of its phonation.
In Arabic, this exit point is called makhraj – مَخْرَج, its plural is makharij– مَخَارِج. It comes from the Arabic triliteral verb root خَرجَ, which means “he came out”.
Scholars differ as to the number of these points of articulation. Some believe there are 16, others 14. For our part, we lean towards the grammarian Al Khalil’s opinion and most of the specialists of tajweed, such as Ibn Al Jazari, who consider that there are 17 makhârijs.
The Arabic alphabet has 28 letters, and counting the alif- ا makes 29 letters. The Arabic letters are divided into two parts:
- Asliya – أَصْلِية (original, main): These are the 29 known letters of the Arabic alphabet.
- Far’iyya – فرْعِية (auxiliaries, annexes): These are those composed of two letters and whose makhraj oscillates between two points of articulation.
The main points of articulation
The 17 makhârij are grouped into five main places of phonation:
- The space in the mouth – الجَوف. There is no place where these letters come from: it is the estimated exit point.
There are 4 other precise 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. From this space come out the letters of prolongation, 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 Qu’ran in this part of the verse:
تِلْكَ مِنْ أَنبَاءِ الْغَيْبِ نُوحِيهَا إِلَيْكَ
That is from the news of the unseen which We reveal to you (11:49)
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 intervene in any case.
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
This region is located at the level of the larynx. Two letters emerge from this point, hamza ء and hâ ه.
وَلَا يُحِيطُونَ بِشَيْءٍ مِّنْ عِلْمِهِ إِلَّا بِمَا شَاءَ
and they encompass not a thing of His knowledge except for what He wills (2,255)
قُلْ هُوَ اللَّـهُ أَحَدٌ
Say, “He is Allah, [who is] One
وَسَطُ الحَلْق - wasat al-halq: the middle of the throa
It is the region located at the level of the pharynx, the glottis. The letters ‘ayn ع and Hâ ح come out of this place.
إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ
It is You we worship, and You we ask for help. (1:5)
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In the name of Allah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful. (1:1)
أَدْنَى الحَلْق -adnâ al-halq: the entrance to the throat
It is the part closer to the mouth. It is the point of articulation of the letters ghayn غ and khâ خ.
صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ
The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favour, not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray. (1:7)
وَهُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ
and they will abide therein eternally. (2:25)
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 includes 10 different points of articulation. It comes out 18 letters:
- 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 below the point of articulation of the qâf ق with the upper part of the palate form the point of articulation of the kâf ك. The letter qâf ق is closer to the throat.
- The middle of the tongue (wast al lisân) with the upper part of the palate form the articulation point of the djîm ط, shîn ش, and yâ ي (the yâ as a consonant and not as a long vowel). Warning! Pronounce the letter ج well: “djîm” and not “jîm”.
- 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 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, shîn ش 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.
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.
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5. The nasal cavity - الخَيْشُوم
The nasal cavity. This is called nasal noise (ghunna – الغُتة). This happens with the letter noon ن and the meem م when they wear a shedda – ّ. When the noon – ن, the meem – م and the tanween are sakeen, but under certain conditions.
Summary table of exit points of Arabic letters.
Note: 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.
The intermediary articulation points - فرْعِية
They are letters whose makhraj oscillates between two points of articulation. There are four of these letters in the holy Qu’ran according to the reading of Imam Hafs:
- Al-alif ا al-mumala (declining alif)
- Al-lâm ل al-moufakhama (the emphatized lâm)
- Al-hamza ء al-mousahhala
Al-alif al-mumala (declining alif) - الأَلِفُ الْمُمَلَ
This rule is also called al imala sughra. Technically, the letter should be read with a sound that falls between the fatha and the kasra. Regarding the Hafs reading, there is only one example in the Holy Qu’ran:
وَقَالَ ارْكَبُوا فِيهَا بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ مَجْرَاهَا وَمُرْسَاهَا
And [Noah] said, “Embark therein; in the name of Allah is its course and its anchorage. (11:41)
Note: In some copies of the mushaf, there is a diamond below the letter on which the rule of al imâla sughra must be applied. For example:
Al-lâm ل al-mufakhama (the emphasized lam)
It is the letter lam ل of the divine name when a fatha or a damma precede it.
وَمَا اللَّـهُ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ
And Allah is not unaware of what you do. (2:85)
Al-hamza ء al-musahhala
It is the hamza which is located between the hamza ء and the alif ا. It is found only once in the Saint Qu’ran, according to Hafs.
Is it a foreign [recitation] and an Arab [messenger]? (41:44)
Note: In some copies of the mushaf, there is a black point that shows us that we must apply the rule of al hamza musahhala:
Technically, it is a “damm ach chafatayn“, that is to say, one acts as if to pronounce the sound “oo” of the damma, but without any sound coming out (can only see it the person next to the reciter).
We find it according to Hafs in this verse:
قَالُوا يَا أَبَانَا مَا لَكَ لَا تَأْمَنَّا عَلَىٰ يُوسُفَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَنَاصِحُونَ
They said, “O our father, why do you not entrust us with Joseph while indeed, we are to him, sincere counsellors? (12:11)
Note: In some copies of the mushaf, there is a diamond above the letter to which the rule of al ishmam must be applied:
This tajweed rules lesson is now finished. The next one will be insha’Allah about the characteristics of the letters of Arabic letters.