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The correct pronunciation of the word Allah is tricky. Let's see why.
The most important rules to pronounce Allah
You have to focus on the second “l” (ل) in Allah (الله). Let's analyze the so-called Grand Word and derive two rules that are easy to remember.
What I mean here by correctly is the reading of the Qur'an according to the rules of Tajwīd (تجويد).
The word Tajwīd is derived from the triliteral root j-w-d (ج–و–د). Tajwīd literally means to make better; to ameliorate. It is the way of reciting the Qur'an according to well-established rules of pronunciation and intonation.
Tajwīd (Tajweed) is a religious duty, a so-called Fard (فَرْض), whenever a Muslim recites the Qur'an. A Muslim must try to read the Qur'an according to certain rules as good as he can and knows.
Two more rules which bring us closer to the correct pronunciation of the word Allah:
RULE 1: Mufakhham / Tafkhim
The emphatic Arabic consonants خ ص ض ط ظ غ ق – known as Mufakhkham (مُفَخَّم) – are pronounced with a heavy accentuation, so-called Tafkhim (تَفْخِيم). To produce this sound, the tongue elevates towards the roof of the mouth in order to force a thick and heavy sound that fills the mouth.
This can be achieved either by pharyngealisation (pronounced while squeezing one's voicebox) or by velarisation. The voice box (larynx) is the part of the breathing tract which contains the vocal cords. Velarisation means that the tongue is drawn far up and back in the mouth towards the soft palate (velum).
RULE 2: Muraqqaq / Tarqiq
The remaining letters – known as Muraqqaq (مُرَقَّق) – have a light accentuation, so-called Tarqiq (تَرْقِيق).
They are pronounced normally, without pharyngealisation (except ع, which is often considered a pharyngeal sound). To produce this sound, the back of the tongue lowers, so that a flat sound is produced.
Two Arabic letters are special
- The Rā' (ر) is pronounced with a heavy accentuation when accompanied by the vowel a (فَتْحة) or vowel u (ضَمّة). The Rā' is light when it is accompanied by the vowel i (كَسْرة).
- The Lām (ل) in general is a Tarqīq-letter. However, this is not the case in the word Allah. The Lām in the word Allah can be pronounced as a thick (Tafkhīm) or thin (Tarqīq) letter depending on the vowel before. The rules are similar to the ones mentioned above for the letter Rā'.
Let's check the Arabic word for God, Allah (الله), in detail.
Scholars refer to this word as the Grand Word – in Arabic: Lafz al-Jalāla (لَفْظ الجَلالة).
The word Allah is a special word in Arabic. It has a distinct appearance and is written with two Lam (ل) along with a Shadda (شَدّة).
The word Shadda literally means strengthening and is marked by a small w on top (ّ_) in the Arabic script. It indicates a doubling/gemination of a consonant. This is found over the second Lām: الله.
This is because Allah literally means the God; the first Lām is part of the definite article: al (ال).
The correct pronunciation of Allah
- When the word Allah is preceded by the vowel “a” (فَتْحة) or the vowel “u” (ضَمّة), then the Lām is pronounced in a distinct heavy manner – with Tafkhīm. This heavy Lām is thus articulated with the entire body of the tongue rather than its tip alone.
- Let's take for example the term Hezbollah (ِحِزْبُ الله), literally Party of Allah, which is the name of a Shia Islamist group and political party based in Lebanon. Or a part of the verse 58:22: “man haddaAllah” (ِمَنْ حَادَّ الله) which means: those who oppose Allah.
- If, however, the preceding vowel is “i” (كَسْرة), then the Lām in Allah is light, such as in the Basmala: Bismillahi… (ِبِسْمِ الله الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ). So if a Muslim says “Bismillahi”, he should not pronounce the Lam with a heavy emphasis – instead, just with the tip of the tongue.
Do you know how you can write Allah in a beautiful way on your computer?
Some further readings:
- al-rahman and al-rahim – Is there a difference in meaning?
- Allahu akbar! What does it mean?
- Are there TV shows in Classical Arabic with English subtitles?
- Come to prayer! حي على الصلاة – What type of word is hayya حيَّ?
- Did the first mosques in Islam have minarets?
Picture (free to use): pixabay.com (chzaib)
Shukran for writing a very clear explanation of the pronunciation.
I look forward to learning more from you.
Amd perhaps a chanced meeting.
Aspiring arabic learner