The Characteristics of the letters (Ṣifāt)
This will assist us in articulating the letters properly, distinguishing them from one another especially when certain letters share the same Maharaj (articulation point). Ṣifāt is broken into two categories:
1) Those that have an opposite
2) Those that do not have an opposite
Ṣifāt that have an opposite:
1) Hams – slight continuation of the breath upon the pronunciation of the letter when it carries a sukūn. There are 10 letters of Hams: ت ث ح خ س ش ص ف ك ه
2) Jahr – Stoppage of the breath upon the pronunciation of the letter with a sukūn. This applies to all the letters excluding those of Hams.
3) Isti’lā – The elevation of the back of the tongue toward the upper palate upon pronunciation. Due to the elevation of the tongue, the letters are pronounced thick and heavy. Its letters are خ ص ض ط ظ غ ق2)
4) Istifāl – The lowering or depressing of the back of the tongue away from the soft palate upon the pronunciation of the letter. Its letters are all those that do not have Isti’lā.
5) Shidda – This is the stoppage of the voice upon the pronunciation of the letter due to the strong dependence on the exit of the letter. Its letters are 8: أ ب ت ج د ط ق ك
6) Tawasuṭ – The sound of the letter does not stop as in Shidda nor does it flow as in Rakhāwah (to follow). ر ع ل م ن
7) Rakhāwah – The opposite of Shidda. The continuation of the voice upon the pronunciation of the letter. Its letters are 16 excluding those of Shidda and Tawassuṭ.Its letters are 16 excluding those of Shidda and Tawassuṭ.
8) Iṭbāq – Contact between a part of the tongue and the upper palate upon articulation of the letter. This attribute is necessary even when its letters carry a Kasrah. The letters of Iṭbāq are the strongest letters and the heaviest when pronounced.
ص ض ط ظ
9) Infitāḥ – Separation or opening between the tongue and the upper palate upon the pronunciation of the lett. er.Its letters are all those that do not have Iṭbāq.
Ṣifāt that do not have an opposite:
1) Safīr : It is a whistling sound which accompanies the letter when pronounced from the upper and bottom teeth. This attribute becomes stronger when the letter carries a Sukūn. It’s 3 letters are ز س ص.
2) Qalqalah : The letter is pronounced with a strong echo/bounce when it has a Sukūn. Its letters are 5: ق ط ج ب د
There are 2 types of Qalqalah:
- Minor (Ṣughrā) : When the letter with the Sukūn is in the middle of the word, or at the end of the word but the reader will not stop on it and will continue reciting.
- Major (Kubrā) : When the letter comes at the end of a word and the reader stops on it, whether it is because it is the end of a verse or for some other reason.
3) Līn : The pronunciation of the letter is very easy. Its letters are 2:ي و4)
4) Inḥirāf : The leaning of the tongue away from its Makhraj to another Makhraj. Its letters are 2:
5) Takrīr : To reprise (repeat) the letter. Its letter is only 1 ر. Careful attention should be paid by the reciter to avoid the attributes of Inḥirāf and Takrīr from occurring.
6) Tafashī : The expulsion of air in the mouth upon pronunciation of the letter. ش letter only comes under this.
7) Istiṭāla : The extension of the Makhraj of the letter ض until it reaches the Makhraj of the letter ل, utilizing the whole palate. The flow of sound continues when pronouncing the ض because of the attribute of Rakhawah.