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The Story of Hamza: Part I - The Beginning!

Hello Everyone,
As requested a while ago by some, I wanted to make this article about the Hamza specifically and some notes and perspective from a native like me. Sorry for the delay. My life been busy lately and I can barely have the time to type anything.
Just to note before proceeding, the matter of writing a Hamza is something completely orthographic. Meaning, changing the shape or the position of the Hamza as you write, whether it's wrong or not, does not really change the way you pronounce a Hamza; Hamza will always be a glottal stop (issued from the throat). The changes in orthography of this specific letter is largely an emerging matter in relation to stabilizing the Arabic orthography (will explain how in few), and also giving clues and hints to help read the text properly without the need of diacritics (markers or harakat) as much as possible.
In fact, if someone would look at the history of writing for the Arabic language, the only stable form that was known to be is the Quran's, and Quran's orthography is highly connected with meanings of the Quran and at some point some words are written in a specific manner to compromise between various readings for the Quran; like for instance between Âsim version which is common in the East, and Warsh version which is common in the West (or the Maghrib). These teachings and meanings and why words are written the way they are is really a matter of academic studies and out of the scope of this article. So, looking at the regular texts, I myself for instance found out from simple check-up on some medieval manuscripts, that I did misunderstand some words or I couldn't read some, simply because they were written with different orthography than what we have today (and some are not even close to Quranic orthography).
Thus, by time, and probably around the 19th or even 18th century, there were some serious efforts to regulate and put some laws of orthography for the language away from Quran's orthography (which as a rule should not be changed or altered), in a way to be subjective to the matter. One of these rules of writing was the Hamza and how it should be drawn in a word, depending on its position, and the vowel it bears, and the vowel preceding it sometimes. And by the way, the Quranic orthography or writing is typically known as Uthmani orthography رسم عثماني (rasm 3uþmání), and sometimes خط عثماني (xaŧ 3uþmání: Uthmani line/style).

Now, from a perspective of a native, I have to say that because we learned many of these words (as well as reading Quran in schools), there is a big proportion of memory involved in this and we really didn't think of the rules for writing the Hamza (honestly, I didn't know about these rules clearly until my 20s maybe!). Don't worry and don't be upset if you make a mistake when writing a word containing Hamza. I assure you, there are (many) natives who don't know anything about such rules and still don't write it properly! Heck, some still write شكراً as شكرن!

ا أ إ آ ؤ ئ (ئـ) ء

What you see above are The type of Hamzas (or should I say, the carriers of Hamza). Ironically though, the first letter (from the right of course) which bears no Hamza is also called Hamza, but somewhat a special type of Hamza. Anyway, in this article (and like any other article discussing this matter specifically), I will divide the paragraphs to how Hamza is supposed to be written in the beginning, middle, and end of the word.


In the beginning of the word, the Hamza is never isolate; It must have a carrier, and a single carrier, and that is the letter Alif. Thus, we expect four shapes in the beginning of a word, whenever applicable: ا أ إ آ. However, whatever the shape that Hamza takes here, there are majorly two types of Hamza at the beginning of the word: همزة وصل (Hamzat-wacl: connecting Hamza) and همزة قطع (Hamzat-qaŧ3: cutting Hamza). The irony is, Hamzat-wacl bears no real Hamza ء in it, despite its name.
Now, as we are kids, in schools, or whatever occasion it is - whenever we are puzzled how to start a word with "A," teachers would usually ask us to add a simple preposition before the word (e.g. bi- بـ, fa فـ), or even simply the conjugation و (wa: and) and notice how we say: Do we tend to merge these letters with the word neglecting the "A" sound? Or do we have to spell out the glottal stop clearly? In the former case, then it is Hamzat-Wacl ا. Otherwise, it would be Hamzat-Qaŧ3 أ إ آ. However, I'm quite sure that such system doesn't work with non-Arabs coming to learn the language, as they did not develop the sense of the language yet. Luckily, there are some specific rules that would help the advanced learner to differentiate which one to use.

Hamzat-Wacl همزة وصل

Hamzat-Wacl is supposed to be present at the beginning of words in the following situations:

  • In one article, which is the definite article AL (الـ).
  • In verbs according to the following situations:
    • The imperative form of a 3-letter verb (i.e. in the past tense): سَمَعَ (sama3a: to hear) → اسْمَع (isma3: hear!/m), اسْمَعي (isma3í: hear!/f).
    • In past and imperative forms of 5+letter verbs: اسْتَمَعَ (istama3a: to listen) → اسْتَمِع (istami3: listen!/m), اسْتَمِعي (istami3í: listen!/f).
    • At the beginning of verbal nouns derived from 5+ verbs: اسْتَمَعَ (istama3a: to hear) → استِماع (istimá3: listening).
    • In few well-known nouns (10 of them), most famously: اسْم (ism: name), ابن (ibn: son), ابنة (ibnah: daughter), امرأة (imra'ah: woman), اثنان (iþnán: two/m), اثنتان (iþnatán: two/f); There few others I've neglected as they might not be so common.

There are some exceptions, or changes I'd rather say, that might occur and would force Hamzat-Wacl to change to Hamzat-Qaŧ3, but I will mention those later. Notice also that Hamzat-Wacl would accept other vowels, like fatHa (-a), Dhamma (-u) and Kasrah (-i). However, sometimes they sound a bit more like a schwa and quick when we speak. Nevertheless, when transliterating the words using the Latin alphabet, such distinction is made at the beginning of a word; either i, u, or a. Worth mentioning here too, that sometimes a small صـ is placed on this Alif (ٱ) to mark it as Hamzat-Wacl; Such mark is really more common in Quranic orthography but not really required in regular writing.

Hamzat-Qaŧ3 همزة قطع

This Hamza, as explained before, is where the glottal stop must be pronounced clearly whether or not being preceded by a preposition or some other vowels from the word preceding it. When written at the beginning of the word, this Hamza has three distinctive shapes: أ (this one carries fatHa and Dhamma: a, u, respectively), إ (this one specifically for Kasrah: i), and lastly آ which is Hamza followed by long vowel "á" (that is: 'á). Notice that Hamzat-Qaŧ3 can occur at any point in the word but here we are just discussing when does it come at the beginning of the word as a contrast to Hamzat-Wacl:

  • In all articles that has Hamza at its beginning, with exception to "AL": إلى (ilá: to), إن (in: if).
  • In the past and imperative forms of 4-letter verbs, which originally starts with Hamza: أَسْلَمَ (aslama: to become a Muslim) → أسْلِم (aslim: become a Muslim!), أنْزَلَ (anzala: to bring down) → أنْزِل (anzil: bring down!).
  • In the beginning of a verbal noun derived from a 4-letter verb like above: أسْلَمَ (aslama: to become a Muslim) → إسْلام (islám: Islam), أنْزَلَ (anzala: to bring down) → إنْزال (inzál: bringing down).
  • In the past tense of a 3-letter verb which has Hamza at its beginning: أخَذَ (axaða: to take), أمَرَ (amara: to command), أكَلَ (akala: to eat).
  • In the beginning of the present tense for 1st singular person, however the number of the basic letters of the verb is: أسْتَعْمِلُ (asta3milu: I use), آكُلُ (ákulu: I eat), أنامُ (anámu: I sleep).

    Side Note: Notice that the verb آكُلُ with Hamzat-mad (همزة مد), i.e. lengthening Hamza. This is because as per the rule, the original verb is أكَلَ and to make it for 1st singular person in present I would need to add another Hamza: أأْكُلُ. This is not completely wrong, and in fact one can say (a'kulu). However, some scholars emphasize that two Alifs should not follow each other in a word to avoid confusion, and besides, there are some variations between some tribes originally which do say say such words with double glottal stops (a') while some do merge them into lengthy Hamza (á). Thus, such instances can be written as either أأ (a') or آ (á). Personally, I prefer the latter.

  • In names and nouns, except of those mentioned in Hamzat-wacl section, beside the "separate" personal pronouns: أنْتَ (anta: you/m), أنْتِ (anti: you/f), أنا (aná: I), إبراهيم (ibráhím: Abraham), أحمد (aħmad: Ahmad).

Now, these are the basic guidelines. One thing worth mentioning is that sometimes Hamzat-Wacl would change to Hamzat-Qaŧ3 in verbal nouns that are adapted to be proper names. Of course in any culture it is common to derive personal or proper names from nouns or verbs. In such instances in Arabic, if the original verbal noun was to be written with Hamzat-Wacl originally, then when adapted to be a proper name, this has to change to Hamzat-Qaŧ3. For example: the verb ابتسم (ibtasama: to smile), has the verb noun ابتسام (ibtisám: smiling). Also, this verbal noun can be adapted as a female's proper name, and when this is the case, the name is written as إبتسام.
There are other rules regarding some cases when, in writing, Hamzat-Wacl would be dropped from writing, and there are other instances where Hamzat-Wacl would change to Hamzat-Qaŧ3 other than what is mentioned above already, but for the sake of keeping it simple and basic for the time being (I think it is already so much to digest at this point), I will keep these out for now.


Well, these were the basics for the beginning of the word. I wanted to merge the rest of the rules for the middle and the end of the word, but I think it would be a really lengthy post. So, I will keep those accordingly to other posts. Let's just pray I get the time to type those down! I hope I didn't forget anything essential here; If so, I beg your pardon.
Now, it's time to post this and sip my coffee, and work with my camera. Good night from here! تصبحون بخير!

October 3, 2019



Thank you! I really appreciate hearing aspects of the language like this from a native speaker. Please keep up these informative posts whenever you have the time! :)


Most welcome :)


Thank you for the post!


Most welcome. Hope it's useful. :)


Thank you for this deteiled explanation. I will copy it to my notes. At the moment it is still to complicatd for me to understand everything. But when I will have advanced I bit more with my studies I will read it again.

As a suggestion to TJ_Q8: You made so many excellent contributions to this forum. But the posts get lost in the mass of all the other topics. Why not make a collection and upload it on Dropbox for example?


Well, first, if I am to compare learners here to my situation, it is similar to when I was a kid and learning Arabic back then in schools. I assure you, most of the writing we do is based on memory rather than thinking about spelling the word. As I've stated above in the article, the rules mentioned here did not come clear to me until I was in my 20s. Before that I was really depending on experience and memory to write Hamza in words.

As for the collection, unfortunately, I've used to delete my early contributions in here. I've usually type them as a document and save the file and then when I make another document I actually save it under the same name because frankly I didn't even think that people will like it that much. Only lately I've been saving the files separately each with specific names. Maybe Juliet would be kind enough to collect everything in a single file and upload it? :)


I just got to that section of Hamza, so this will help me to understand better. Thank you!


Unbelievable, really unbelievable. You are so good in giving a complex overview. Actually for this we would have to read many pages in grammar books and then still trying to make a table with all the facts. But what I can tell from my experiences, After reading the grammar books I am only left behind with more questions than before and a lot of confusion. Thank you so much. I am looking forward to the other explanations about the hamza and hopefully also about more grammar topics.


Hope it helps. If grammar book talk about spelling as well, then they might not be that good. Grammar books are or supposed to be talking about grammar alone rather than orthography rules in the first place. At least, I think this is the case for Arabic. Again, building a good base of vocabulary would make grammar and other things much easier. We learned many of these things by heart and we didn't realize the rules till later as we grew up later.


I'm to lazy to read that


This is completely fine. But then you might not be interested in learning how to write Arabic properly and in some cases also how to pronounce Arabic properly. And I wish you luck, that you might reach your aim with the language and that you will be able to speak Arabic in a nice way.

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