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How to Pronounce Thā, Dhāl, and Ẓā (ث – ذ – ظ)

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Learning to read the Quran correctly is vital because we must recite the Quran correctly in our prayers. If we purposely don’t when we can learn to do so, our prayers would be void. Three letters that are quite unique in terms of their pronunciation are thā (ث), dhāl (ذ), and ẓā (ظ). In this series of articles on tajweed, we will explore one of the most important tajweed rules: how to correctly pronounce thā, dhāl, and ẓā. It must be noted that one should learn to pronounce these three letters by ear. Nevertheless, learning the theoretical way of pronouncing these letters and all the letters of the Arabic alphabet is just as important to achieve mastery of the Arabic accent.

How to Pronounce Thā (ث)

Thā is the fourth letter in the Arabic alphabet. It has three dots written above it. This is how it is written:

ث

Thā is an interdental consonant, meaning the tip of the tongue has to go in between the front upper and lower teeth. When pronouncing thā, be careful that your tongue does not protrude too much as it does when pronouncing the English th sound as in the word “three.” When we say the tip of the tongue, we mean the front part of the tongue from the very tip to only a few millimeters down toward the back of the tongue. If you go further down, it would be the head of the tongue rather than the tip.

Step-by-Step Guide to Pronouncing Thā

  1. Place the tip of the tongue in between the two upper and lower front teeth.
  2. Take a breath in and then breathe out air from the lungs into this partial obstruction that has been made.
  3. Make sure the vocal cords do not vibrate when pronouncing thā.
  4. Test to make sure there is no vibration of the vocal cords by placing your fingers on your throat while pronouncing thā. If there is no vibration, you are pronouncing it correctly, otherwise, you are doing it incorrectly.

Examples of Words Having Thā

The sound of thā is similar to the voiceless th sound in English words such as math, wrath, three, and thing. Nevertheless, the sound is not exactly the same and must be pronounced from its correct place of articulation. Here are a few examples of words that have thā:

کَوثَر– ثَواب – ثِياب – مَثَل – اُنثیٰ – اٍثنَين – وارِث

How to Pronounce Dhāl (ذ)

Dhāl is the ninth letter in the Arabic alphabet. Its written form is just like dāl except it has a dot above it:

ذ

Dhāl has the exact same place of articulation as thā. However, dhāl is a voiced consonant, meaning the vocal cords vibrate when it is pronounced. Dhāl is similar to the voiced th sound in English in words such as mother, father, brother, breathe.

Step-by-Step Guide to Pronouncing Dhāl

  1. Place the tip of the tongue in between the two upper and lower front teeth.
  2. Take a breath in and then breathe out air from the lungs into this partial obstruction that has been made.
  3. Make sure the vocal cords are together and vibrate when pronouncing dhāl.
  4. Test to make sure there is vibration of the vocal cords by placing your fingers on your throat while pronouncing dhāl. If there is vibration, you are pronouncing it correctly, otherwise, you are doing it incorrectly.

Examples of Words Having Dhāl

Here a few examples of words that have dhāl:

ذِکر – ذُباب – ذَهَب – ذَا النّون – مُذَکِّر

How to Pronounce Ẓā (ظ)

Ẓā is the sixteenth letter in the Arabic alphabet. Its written form is like ṭā (ط) except there is a dot above it:

ظ

The place of articulation of ẓā is the same as dhāl and thā. However, its manner of articulation is different. It has all the characteristics of dhāl except ẓā has isti‘lā’ (استعلاء) and iṭbāq (اِطباق). As a result, ẓā is pronounced with the mouth opening vertically and somewhat rounded, especially when pronouncing alif al-madd. We should hear a thick and heavy sound when pronouncing ẓā. What happens is that the root of the tongue is raised toward the pharynx when pronouncing ẓā, and the resulting sound is said to have tafkhīm, meaning thickness.

Step-by-Step Guide to Pronouncing Ẓā

  1. Place the tip of the tongue in between the two upper and lower front teeth.
  2. At the same time, raise the body of the tongue to take the shape of the hard palate.
  3. At the same time, raise the root of the tongue toward the pharynx.
  4. At the same time, take a breath in and then breathe out air from the lungs into this partial obstruction that has been made while keeping the tongue in the positions that were mentioned simultaneously.
  5. Your mouth should open vertically when pronouncing this letter with an alif al-madd.
  6. Make sure the vocal cords are together and vibrate when pronouncing ẓā.
  7. Test to make sure there is vibration of the vocal cords by placing your fingers on your throat while pronouncing dhāl. If there is vibration, you are pronouncing it correctly, otherwise, you are doing it incorrectly.

Here are a few words that have ẓā:

عَظيم – مَوعِظَة – حافِظ – ظالِم – عِظام

If you find the pronounciations of these letters confusing, you should try to learn them by listening to qualified reciters of the Quran pronounce them in their recitations. Then you can use the above methods to further improve your pronunciation of the abovementioned letters.

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This lesson was only a short glimpse of tajweed. For more comprehensive tajweed lessons, Islam4U offers a full course on tajweed called “Learn Tajweed.” This course covers all the rules of tajweed including the places of articulation of letters, the manners of articulation of letters, the rule of tafkhīm and tarqīq, the rules of nūn sākinah, and the attributes of letters. If you want to become a master in tajweed, don’t hesitate to enroll in this course by clicking here.

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