Clearing the Confusion behind ض | Part 3: Arabic Pronunciation


This series is based on a translation of the book إعلام السادة النجباء أنه لا تشابه بين الضاد والظاء  by Dr. Ashraf Muhammad Fu’aad Tala’at and of the research paper صوت الضاد الفصيحة التي نزل بها القرآن  on this topic, by Sheikh and Researcher Farghali Sayyid Arabawi.

sand dunesIn our last post we spoke about the roots of the Arabic Language and the Qur’an, and how it changed till it has become what it is today. We spoke about Modern Standard Arabic and its place and importance with regards to the original Arabic Language. But these were the changes and development of the Language in general as a whole and not specifically the pronunciation part of it, which is especially what concerns us with the letter ض. In this post therefore we will deal with the oral pronunciation of the Arabic Language and how it has fared through the ages.

dried flowersIn the same way as the Arabic Language words and vocabulary of the common masses’ dialects have changed and become distorted from the original Arabic at the time of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, the pronunciation of the Language in the dialects has gone through similar changes. Today so many letters have changed and are pronounced differently, that this only adds to the difficulty of Arabs from different places understanding each other using their dailects. For example some places pronounce the letter ق as a ء, some pronounce it like the hard English ‘G’, some pronounce it like غ. Some pronounce the letter ث as ت; some pronounce the letter ج as the French ‘J’, and some pronounce it as the hard English ‘G’; some pronounce the letter ظ as a full mouthed ز, and some pronounce it mixed with ض. And of course some people pronounce our letter ض as a full mouthed د, some pronounce it as a ظ, some pronounce it mixed with ظ, some pronounce it as a laam etc. Many letters are no longer pronounced correctly anywhere in the dialects.

However the important thing to understand is that this took place in the dialects. And if it were not for the controlled oral tradition of the Qur’an recitation, the old original pronunciation of these letters the way the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم pronounced them in the Qur’an, would have been lost too. But, all praise belongs to Allah سبحانه وتعالى Who took it upon Himself to preserve His book, saying in Surat al-Hijr, verse 9:

إنا نحن نزلنا الذكر وإنا له لحافظون

Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its guardian.

By Allah’s mercy on this Ummah, an oral tradition of Qur’an recitation and preservation is what was used in teaching and transmitting it, as Ibn al-Jazari mentions in an-Nashr:

ثم إن الاعتماد في نقل القرآن على حفظ القلوب والصدور ، لا على خط الْمصاحف والكتب ، وهذه أشرف خصيصة من الله تعالى لِهَذِهِ الأمة

Indeed the dependance in the transmission of the Qur’an is upon memorisation by heart and preserved in the chests, not upon the writing of the masaahif and books, and this is the most privileged characteristic from Allah Most High for this Ummah.

Ibn Taymiyyah mentions the same thing [Majmoo’ al-Fataawa Vol. 13, Pg 400]:

والاعتماد في نقل القرآن على حفظ القلوب لا على المصاحف  The dependence in the transmission of the Qur’an is upon memorisation by the hearts not upon the masaahif.

pearlAs we can see the main reliance for the recitation of the Qur’an is its being transmitted orally in the mass oral chains of transmission till this day, and not upon what has been documented and codified in books. This is what has preserved the correct pronunciation of every single letter of the Qur’an as it was pronounced by the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم over 1400 years ago. You will not find this in the Arabic dialects of today, but you will find it with those who are part of and transmit the uninterrupted mass oral chains of the Qur’an.

And this is how the correct pronunciation of the letter ض has also been preserved in the recitation of the Qur’an, although you will not find it pronounced correctly amongst the dialects of today.

To be continued…

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