Best Tajweed course Lesson 10, Heavy and light letters, heavy letters in Arabic

Heavy and light letters

In this lesson:

  • We will learn what the meaning of ‘heavy’ and ‘light’ letters are and how this affects the pronunciation with the fathah.

Heavy and light terminology:

  • In Arabic, there is a classification of heavy and light sounds.
  •  Almost all the letters in the alphabet produce light sounds.
  •  Some letters always produce heavy sounds (seven letters).
  •  Some letters can produce both heavy and light sound depending on certain rules (laam and Ra).
  • The heavy and light sounds can be noticed once you know what the letters are that produce them and the rules applying to them.
  •  The heavy and light sounds are quite noticeable when letters are pronounced with the short vowel sound fathah as the actual fathah sound also changes on the heavy letters.

Heavy and light letters with fathah:


When you put the short vowel on top of certain letters, they give what we call a light sound. So far, we have learned that when you put a fathah on a letter you get an ‘a’ sound and that is the ‘a’ as in the English word ‘apple’. And the majority of all the letters with fathah give an ‘a’ sound. However, there are certain letters that give a heavy sound. So, when you put fathah on those letters instead of giving the ‘a’ sound it gives the “A” sound as in the English word “Art”. So, we are going to see the difference in the ‘a’ and ‘A’ sound.

Heavy and light letters:

  • Letters that always produce a ‘heavy’ sound are called heavy letters.

For example:

ط ظ ص ض خ غ ق

These are the seven letters that always produce the heavy sounds.

  • Letters that can produce both heavy and light sounds (depending on certain rules) are also called heavy letters.

For example:

ل ر
  •  All the other letters of the Arabic language always produce the ‘light’ sounds.
    So as long as you can remember these seven letters and these two with a few small rules everything else you just pronounce as light sounds.

Different fathah sound examples:

We are going to use fathah because it gives the most pronounced or different types of sounds with the heavy and light sounds.

The letters ج is one of the letters that produce a light sound. So, with the fathah, it produces the sound ‘ja’.

The letter خ is one of those letters that produce a heavy sound. And with the fathah, it gives the sound ‘kha’.

The letter ص is also a heavy letter and with the fathah, it will give the sound ‘Sa’.

So, you can see the difference between ja, kha and Sa. So not all the letters give an ‘a’ sound. And with ص you can not say it as a light letter ‘sa’. It must be ‘Sa’. Similarly, with خ you cannot say it as a light letter ‘kha’. You must say it ‘Kha’.

pronunciation of heavy letters in Arabic:

  • These seven letters always produce heavy sounds.
  • Hence with fathah, they give an ‘ar’ sound (as in art) instead of ‘a’ sound (as in apple).

خَ غَ صَ طَ ظَ قَ     these letters are pronounced as:

          Kha, gha, Sa, Ta, Za, Qa.

The letter Ra with fathah:

  • The letter Ra also produces a heavy sound if it has either a fathah or dummah on it.
  • Later on, we will see that the letter Ra has many more rules regarding its pronunciation. And it is one of the most difficult letters to learn all the rules for.
  • The letter Ra with the fathah رَ is pronounced as Ra. You can not say it as a light letter ra. And you will hear this letter in the word ‘رب’ and you cannot say it as a light letter.

Tafkheem and Tarqeeq:

In the Arabic language, the letters that produce the heavy sound are known as the tafkheem letters.

The letters that produce the light sound are known as the Tarqeeq letters. This is just the Arabic terminology. So, to keep it easy we will normally say heavy and light.


The definition of tafkheem: fattening

Its applied definition:

It is a heaviness that enters the body of the letter so that the mouth is filled with its reverberation (echo). The method of making a letter has the characteristics of tafkheem is: elevating the posterior tongue to the roof of the mouth (soft palate), creating more space between the roof of the mouth and the bottom of the mouth, and focusing the pressure of the letter to the roof of the mouth.

Tafkheem is commonly known as “full mouth”. A lot of people will say you are pronouncing certain letters with a full mouth like ‘Sa’ and generally when you say those letters especially with fathah, your mouth is quite round.

So they call that like the full mouth

Now that is a long and difficult explanation so that is just an official definition.

The easiest way to learn it is to try and imitate the sound.


The linguistic definition of Tarqeeq: thinness

It applied definition:

It is a thinness that enters the body of the letter, so the mouth if not filled with its reverberation (echo).

Tarqeeq is commonly known as empty mouth.

So again, the letters that are pronounced with the empty mouth, for instance, the letter ث (sa) and generally when you pronounce this letter you make a very slight smile.


  • We now know what tafkheem is and what letters produce the heavy sounds.
  • We know what Tarqeeq is and what letters produce the light sounds.
  • We have seen the different sounds the short vowel fathah produces with letters that produce heavy sounds.
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