Ṣifāt is the plural of ṣifah. Literally, it means qualities or characteristics. Technically, ṣifāt are those characteristics which are affixed to the pronunciation of a letter whether intrinsic or circumstantial.
The Ṣifāt ʿĀriḍah
These characteristics are temporary i.e. sometimes they are found in a letter and sometimes they are not. They are all 11 in number:
Tafkhim And Tarqiq
Tafkhīm literally means to make something fat or full. In contrast, tarqīq means to make something thin.
The letters of the Arabic alphabet can be divided into three categories:
1. Those which are always read with tafkhīm or full-mouth.
2. Those who are always ready with tarqīq or empty-mouth.
3. Those which are sometimes read with tafkhīm and sometimes with tarqīq.
*Letters are always read with tafkhīm:
They are all the letters which have the ṣifah of istiʿlaʾ in them خص ضغط قظ
Those letters which are sometimes read with tafkhīm and sometimes with
tarqīq. They are:
1. The alif ا
2. The lām ل in the word Allah
3. The rāʾر
Those letters are always read with tarqīq. They are all the remaining letters of the alphabet.
The letters which are read with only tafkhīm and tarqīq can easily be understood. What needs to be learnt, however, is the second group of letters: the alif , lām in the name of Allah and the rāʾ – when should they be read with tafkhīm and when should they be read with tarqīq.
1) The Alif
The alif does not have the quality of tafkhīm or tarqīq but is dependent on the letter before it. If the alif ا is preceded by a full-mouth letter it will be read with a full mouth and if preceded by an empty-mouth letter it will be read with an empty mouth.
NOTE: The tafkhīm letters (full-mouth letters) are not the letters of istiʿlaʾ only, but if the alif is preceded by a rāʾ, then too it will be read with tafkīm.
2) The ل In The Name of اللّٰه
The ل is normally read with tarqīq, however, the ل which appears in the name اللّٰه is sometimes read with tarqīq and sometimes with tafkhīm. If the ل in the name is preceded by a fatḥah or ḍammah, it will be read with tafkhīm, e.g. اللّٰه and if preceded by a kasrah it will be read with tarqīq.
The Letter Ra -ر
The ر will be found in one of three conditions:
1. rāʾ mutaḥarrikah
2. rāʾ sākinah preceded by a mutaḥarrik
3. rāʾ sākinah preceded by a sākin letter which is preceded by a mutaḥarrik.he
1) Rāʾ Mutaḥarrikah
If the ر has a fatḥah or a ḍammah, it will be read with tafkhīm, e.g. رَبِّكَ and if it has a kasrah it will be read with tarqīq e.g. الرِّجال.
NOTE: The rāʾ mushaddadah has the same rule like the rāʾ mutaḥarrikah i.e. if it has a fatḥah or a ḍammah it will be read with tafkhīm, and if it has a kasrah, it will be read with tarqīq.
NOTE: Rāʾ mumālah (that rāʾ in which imālah or inclination has taken place) will always be read with tarqīq. In rāʾ mumālah the fatḥah inclines towards the kasrah and the alif towards the yāʾ. There is only one word in the narration of Ḥafṣ which is read with imālah.
2) The Rāʾ Sākinah preceded by a mutaḥarrik
If the rāʾ sākinah is preceded by a fatḥah or ḍammah it will be read with, tafkhīm eg- ٱلْقَمَرُ and if it is preceded by a kasrah it will be read with tarqīq e.g.فرعون.
NOTE: This rule is applied whether stopping on the rāʾ or continuing (as long as the rāʾ remains sākin). If during waṣl (continuing) the rāʾ gains a ḥarakah then the rules of rāʾ mutaḥarrikah will apply.
There are three exceptions to this rule:
1. If the kasrah is temporary. Contrary to the rule (that rāʾ sākinah will be pronounced with tarqīq if preceded by a kasrah), the rāʾ will be read with tafkhīm due to the temporary kasrah.
NOTE: An easy way to check whether the kasrah is temporary or not, is to join it to what’s before it. If the kasrah is not pronounced when joining then it is temporary. If the kasrah is read whether joining or starting from it, (in all conditions) then it is permanent.
2. If the rāʾ sākinah is followed by a letter of istiʿlāʾ in the same word e.g مرصاد. Contrary to the rule the rāʾ will be pronounced with tafkhīm here.
NOTE: We add the condition: “In the same word” to exclude words like فاصبر صبرا in which the rāʾ will be read with tarqīq because the letter of istiʿlāʾ following it is in the next word.
3. The rāʾ sākinah and the kasrah must be in one word. If they are in two different words, the rāʾ will be pronounced with tafkhīm e.g.رَّبِّ ارْحَمْهُمَا.
NOTE: إن إرتبتم the kasrah before the rāʾ sākinah is temporary and it is in a different word to the rāʾ sākinah. Therefore it will be read with tafkhīm.
NOTE: The rāʾ mushaddadah upon which waqf (a stop) is made will be read with tafkhīm if it is preceded by a fatḥah or ḍammah and with tarqīq if preceded by a kasrah.
3) The Rāʾ Sākinah preceded by a sākin letter which is preceded by a mutaḥarrik
If the mutaḥarrik has a fatḥah or ḍammah it will be pronounced with tafkhīm and if it has a kasrah it will be read with tarqīq e.g.ذِكْر.
NOTE: If rāʾ sākinah is preceded by a yāʾ sākinah, it will ALWAYS be read with tarqīq. This rule will only apply during waqf. During waṣl (joining), the rāʾ becomes mutaḥarrik and the rules of rāʾ mutaḥarrikah will apply.