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Tajweed Lessons - 6 Throat Letters (Haroofe' Halqi)

A short series on Tajweed rules used to correctly recite Qur'an. Today we're briefly looking at just why the Arabic letters of the throat require so much cough syrup.

A note here of caution. Learning and studying Tajweed is a principle of approaching the Qur'an. It requires the etiquette (manners) of doing Wudhu (wuzu) first and being in an adult frame of mind. That being said, let's have some fun with Arabic letters yo! Wheeeeee!

Oh, another note: Haroof means letters, (Harf = 1 letter), Halq = throat, Makhrij = origin or 'home' of a letter to figure out how to say it.

Unbeknown to us English speakers, in the Arabic language nearly all of the mouth's muscles and organs are used to speak. Apart from the letters 'Puh', 'Cuh' and 'Guh', Arabic utilises all the basic consonant and vowel sounds; even 'X' exists as read in 'Xiao'.

So when it comes to reciting the Qur'an, the following six letters simply must be read out loud with their associated sound and respective muscle group. In Qur'anic science, to not do so is disrespectful, close to a sin - if you have the means to do good do it, and could potentially change the meaning.

The six unique throat letters:
خ +غ (Ghayn + Khaw)
ح + ع (`Ayn + Haw)
أ + ه (Haa + Hamza)

Group 1: AQSAL HALQ. Letters living at the top of the throat
  • خ Khaw. Its Makhrij is the part of the throat where you'd feel a 'tickly' cough or your food touches immediately after swallowing. 
    • Keep a dry and croaky 'Kh' sound, like the 'C' in 'careful'. 
    • When reading 'Kh' you must always make your mouth hollow and round, never flat. Khaw is also known as a 'round letter' in Tajweed. This changes 'careful' to 'cawful'. 
    • Tip: try growling to recognise what the 'top of the throat' feels like.
  • غ Ghayn. Keep growling. Add moisture to the back of your throat and roll the 'g' using the back of your tongue. Similar to 'G' in 'going'. 
  • It's more guttural, and feels like your'e purring. That's the only difference between the 'Kh' and 'Gh'.

Group 2: WASATUL HALQ. Letters with Makharij from the middle
  • ح Haw. The hatless sister to Khaw, Haw demands to be read with the same heavy roar but without the muscle vibrations for 'kh' and 'gh'.
    • Move lower down to the middle of your throat like you're the bad comic book guy shouting 'ha ha ha!'
    • Read 'Ha' and 'Kha' repeatedly to distinguish which muscle is being added or silenced. Haw can be read with any vowelled punctuation (i.e. Haa, Hee, Hoo!) without requiring a particular mouth shape. Just add lots of air.
    • Tip: Place a finger in the middle of your neck and say 'Ha' and `A. If the neck muscle rises up then down, you're on the right track. Well done.
  • ع `Ayn. A difficult letter even for native Arabic speakers. 
    • The origin of the `Ayn letter, although neighbouring Haw, requires more muscle tension. 
    • Open and close your throat, as though a valve's there stopping you from being sick. Now read a flat, dense 'a' sound with a strong punch. 
    • One syllable, sounds like a seagull, smile, widen your mouth and say 'a'!
Group 3: AFSAL HALQ. Letters living at the bottom
  • ء Hamza. Read like the silent 'Alif': simply an 'a' for 'apple'. Hamza and Alif are interchangeable but some teachers will tell you it's always called Hamza. 
    • This backwards '2' shape is written on its own or sits on top of the stick Alif and is always read clearly, sharply with a flat tongue and never round mouthed.
  • ه Ha. One could argue both the 'H' letters are identical but their Makhrij/origin changes their personality.
    • Haw above is a deep lion growl, fierce and cough-like. Haa is deeper still, but vast and breathy. Tafseer teachers tell us that the roar and pulsation of Hell can be heard in the menacing of the 'Haa' - if read in such force that is. 
    • Normally, the 'Haa' is a healthy clearing of the lungs. 
    • Tip: Fill your chest with air, inhale a little more, then exhale and say 'haaaaaa'. That's it. 
Hope that helps. Now go practise with Qur'an. (:

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