The Trilling Letter Part 2


This post is on how to perfect the pronunciation of the letter ر in Tajweed. In our last post part 1, we explained the مخرج (articulation point) of the letter ر and some of its صفات (characteristics). In this post we will explain the rest of the characteristics of ر, in sha Allah.

makhrajIn order for the letter ر to be articulated correctly, the following ingredients (صفات) must also be included:

al-Istifaal الاستفال:  Literally means lowering.  In Tajweed, it refers to the lowering of the back of the tongue when pronouncing the letter, so that the sound is light and is not directed to the roof of the mouth.

al-Infitaah الانفتاح:  Literally means opening or separating.  In Tajweed, it refers to the lowering of the middle part of the tongue when pronouncing the letter, so that the sound is not compressed between the tongue and roof of the mouth.

al-Inhiraaf الانحراف:  Literally means deviation or drifting.  In Tajweed, it refers to the deviation of the sound of the letter.  This happens because of the sound’s incomplete running, which is due to the partial closure at the مخرج.  This characteristic in ر is closely related to the next one below:  at-Tikraar. (Also see: at-Tawassut/al-Bayniyyah)

at-Takreer التكرير:  Literally means repetition.  In Tajweed it refers to the trilling of the tongue against the gums when pronouncing the letter ر.  This characteristic is studied in order to avoid it in excess.
Trilling happens because the tongue makes contact with (hits) the gums, and the air coming behind from the throat hits this obstruction (tongue with gums), and pushes the tongue away with its pressure.  So the tongue “releases” the pressure of the collection of air behind it when it is pushed away, and then makes contact again, and then again pressure builds up and the tongue is forced away to release it.  This is the trilling of the tongue and these “contacts” and “releases” of the tongue against the gums, happen very fast.

But, this trilling like this is “hard” trilling, and this is what the scholars of Tajweed have said to avoid, because with each repetition (trill) of the tongue hitting the gums, a ر is pronounced, and so, multiple trillings give birth to multiple راءات (plural of ر), which is incorrect.  At the same time at-Tikreer is an inherent characteristic of ر i.e. it is always part of the letter.  This means that we do not get rid of the trilling altogether.  Rather we must control and hide it as Ibn al-Jazari states:

وأخف تكريرا إذا تشدد
And hide the (characteristic of) trilling when it (ر) occurs with a shaddah

How do we control and hide it?  We do this by leaving a gap at the tip of the tongue where it hits the gums.  This is the partial closure mentioned above in al-Inhiraaf.  This allows the tongue to hit the gums only once, and for the sound to trail.  At the same time, because the gap is narrow, the tongue vibrates and there is soft trilling.  This soft trilling is what is supposed to be in ر, while the hard trilling mentioned above is what should be avoided.

Tips on How To Pronounce راء

Firstly you are either one of two types of people.  The first type is someone who is able trill their tongue, while the second type is someone who cannot.

  1. For those who can trill:  This person should have no problem with the makhraj of ر, but will need to make sure they are controlling the trilling.  To control the trilling, you need to practice:
    • Practice hitting the gums with the tongue tip with a gap in the tip.  You need to make sure you “hit” the gums as well as leave a gap in the middle of the tip where you’re hitting.  Alternatively you can try hitting the gums “softly” if you can’t seem to avoid the hard trill on contact.
  2. For those who cannot trill:  The main problem for this type of person, is that they usually have trouble using the correct makhraj for ر.  Do the exercise mentioned in the previous post (Part 1):  Practice hitting or tapping the tip of your tongue with the upper gums.  Get used to the ‘feel’ of this.  Make sure that no matter what, you always ‘hit’ this area with the tongue, everytime you pronounce ر, whether it has a harakah or not.

The تفخيم or ترقيق of the Letter راء

The letter ر is one of the three letters which can be both articulated with تفخيم or ترقيق.  The difference in pronunciation between both of these is only in the state of the back of the tongue and there is no difference in the مخرج of ر.   When articulating the letter راء with تفخيم, then the back of the tongue is elevated; in the case of ترقيق, it is not.  Below is a picture showing the difference in the shape of the tongue, mouth and throat between these two ways: