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.
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.
||Alternate Written Forms
A, I, U
|اَ A, as in ample. اِ I, as in inside.|
اُ U, as in chute.
|بَ Ba, as in balloon. بِ Bi, as in biscuit.|
بُ Bu, as in bull.
|تَ Ta, as in tank. تِ Ti, as in tickle.|
تُ Tu, as in tummy.
|ثَ Tha, as in thanks. ثِ Thi, as in thick.|
ثُ Thu, as in thud.
This letter is pronounced as a hard
|جَ Ja, as in jam. جِ Ji, as in jib.|
جُ Ju, as in jump.
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 following letter.
|خَ خِ خُ|
letter has no real English equivalents. It is best pronounced as a harsh. The letter خَ (usually transliterated
as 'kha') should be pronounced as though the 'a' has been replaced with an 'or' (almost like 'caw').
|دَ Da, as in dad. دِ Di, as in did.|
دُ Du, as in dud.
|ذَ Tha, as in than. ذِ Thi, as in this.|
ذُ Thu, as in thus.
This letter is pronounced as a soft
|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 'râ'.
|زَ Za, as in zap. زِ Zi, as in zip.|
زُ Zu, as in zulu'.
|سَ Sa, as in sad. سِ Si, as in sin.|
سُ Su, as in super.
|شَ Sha, as in shabby. شِ Shi, as in shin.|
شُ Shu, as in shun.
|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 'sâ'.
|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 'dâ'.
|طَ Tor.* طِ Ti, as in tickle.|
طُ Tu, as in tutu.
Despite it's pronunciation, طَ is usually
transliterated as 'ta' or 'tâ'.
|ظَ Zor.* ظِ Zi, as in zither. ظُ Zu, as in Zulu.|
* Despite it's pronunciation, ظَ is
usually transliterated as 'zâ', 'tsa' or 'tza'.
'A, 'I, 'U
|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 apostraphes).
|غَ غِ غُ|
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.
|فَ Fa, as in fan. فِ Fi, as in fin.|
فُ Fu, as in fun.
|قَ Kor, similar to core.*
قِ Ki, similar to keen.|
قُ Ku, similar to curtain.
it's pronunciation, قَ is usually transliterated as 'qa' or 'qâ'.
|كَ Ka, as in can. كِ Ki, as in kin.|
كُ Ku, as in cuff.
|لَ La, as in lack. لِ Li, as in lick.|
لُ Lu, as in luck.
|مَ Ma, as in mack. مِ Mi, as in mick.|
مُ Mu, as in muck.
|نَ Na, as in nan. نِ Ni, as in nick.|
نُ Nu, as in nun.
|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 above.
|وَ Wa, as in wax. وِ Wi, as in wick.|
وُ Wu, as in wood.
|يَ Ya, as in yak. يِ Yi, as in yip.|
يُ Yu, as in yuck.
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 seperately. |
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. |
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'.
||This long, wavy mark written above the letter (called a 'madda') elongates that letter to a greater degree.|
مـآ (maa) will be read out twice as long as the example
|ً ٍ ٌ
||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.
The Arabic numbering system uses ten digits, just as we do.