The Trilling Letter Part 2

Basmalah

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:

The diagram on the left shows the shape of the mouth, tongue and throat when ر is articulated with تفخيم or (it is مُفَخَّمَة, as we say in Arabic).  The diagram on the right is when ر is articulated with ترقيق (it is مُرَقَّقَة).  With تفخيم (right) you have concavity of the tongue in the middle, and narrowing of the throat due to the fattening of the tongue.  This fills the mouth with the echo of the sound of ر because the sound is directed to the roof of the mouth, similar to what happens when you speak in a hall and your voice echoes.
With ترقيق, you have no concavity and no narrowing, and so the sound is directed straight to the lips and out of the mouth, instead of up to the roof and echoing through rest of the mouth.

Common Mistakes

  1. Those who can naturally trill their tongues:
    1. They may trill too hard without a gap in the middle of the tip of the tongue and end up saying repeated راءات (more than one ر).
    2. They may trill once, but block the مخرج instead of opening it.  This does not allow the sound to trail off, thus not giving ر its correct timing when accompanied by a Sukoon.
  2. Those who cannot trill:
    1. They may not pronounce ر from the correct مخرج.  They may be saying it from the English letter R’s articulation point which is behind and deeper into the mouth roof.
    2. They may be trying to use the correct makhraj but not in the correct manner, i.e. they may be touching but not with the required amount of force to “hit”.
  3. Mistakes common to both:
    1. They may leave a gap between the tongue tip and gums that is too big and so the correct  مخرج is not used at all.  The resultant sound is more like a vowel sound than a consonant, and alongwith this it is another very common mistake to use the lips, which results in a و sound mixed in.
    2. Pronouncing ر without the characteristic of الجهر, which we explained in Part 1.  This is a common mistake especially when ر is being pronounced with ترقيق, so the person pronounces it with air only and no voice.
    3. Mixing the letter غ (which is from the throat) with the letter ر.  This happens when the person is putting pressure at the throat instead of at the مخرج of ر and can occur when making the ر heavy, because that is when the tongue goes up at the back near غ.  Make sure the tongue raised at the back does not move back into the مخرج of غ because this will pull its tip away from its مخرج at the gums at the front of the mouth.  In other words for تفخيم: for the back of the tongue think ‘up’ but not ‘back’.
    4. Not applying تفخيم when there should be, or not applying enough of it.  This happens if the person does not raise the back of the tongue, or does not restrict the throat in the correct manner.
    5. Not applying ترقيق  when there should be.  This happens because the person is not flattening their tongue properly and directing the sound straight out of the mouth.  They may be making the concave shape in the middle of the tongue which should be for تفخيم.  They may also be making too much space in the mouth between the roof and tongue.
    6. Changing the مخرج of a ر when it should be with ترقيق.  Another common mistake when pronouncing ر with ترقيق is to pronounce it from the مخرج of the English letter R because that is softer, but ترقيق as we explained above does not mean “softness”, it means the lack of the sound filling up the mouth with its echo due to the appropriate mouth, tongue and throat shapes.  The مخرج should remain the same as if it were with تفخيم.
    7. Using the lips (و) to imitate the sound of تفخيم.  We say ‘imitate’ because تفخيم does not come from the lips, it comes from the mechanisms inside the mouth as shown in the pictures above.  It is a very common mistake, especially for beginners to try and make any letter مُفَخَّمَة using the lips, but the lips should not be used in any letter except for letters which actually come from them (ب م ف و) or for the damma or و maddiyyah.  Other than this the lips, should just be opening and closing.

Here is a clip by Shaykh Ayman demonstrating and explaining the letter ر including demonstrating incorrect pronunciations.  He demonstrates the correct way at around 20 seconds into the video before going on to explain.

Take note: The correct way should be learned with a proficient teacher, but if you don’t have one, you can try the next best thing which is to listen to top Qurra’ reciting and then copying and comparing.  You can also record your voice and compare it the recitation of the Qari’.

If you have any questions feel free to leave comments In shaa Allaah.

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