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  5. The Story of Hamza: Part II -…


The Story of Hamza: Part II - The Middle.

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Hello again!
This is the second article in this series about Hamza. After speaking about how to write the Hamza at the beginning of the word, and the difference between Hamzat-Wacl and Hamzat-Qaŧ3, I'd like now to proceed with the next level: Hamza, in the middle of the word.
In Arabic, the Hamza in the middle of the word is typically called in literature Hamzah Mutawassiŧah or more grammatically correct: Hamzatun Mutwassiŧah; همزة متوسطة, meaning: a middle Hamza.
Just like the Hamza at the beginning, probably natives like me are more prone to remember the shapes of the words rather than memorizing the rules, and in fact I think it is quite the same for new comers to Arabic, since I seldom see learners of any language starting with audio alone or with audio first, then moving to the written part; Not in modern times at least (people in the past learned by hearing mostly in fact, a fact I've experienced). So, probably for you as a learner, you'd be noticing the words and spelling and also the shape of the Hamza in that word and memorize it that way before even knowing the rules of writing it. Nevertheless, I have to say that natives who are mediocre in their education, or simply careless about the quality of their writing, do neglect such rules which makes their writings disastrous (and funny at times), so it might be a good idea to know when such typos occur. Anyway, let's first take a look at the shapes of the Hamza in the middle of the word:

أ ؤ ئـ آ ء

These are the main possible shapes of Hamza in the middle of the word, and here we have (ئـ) replacing (إ). Please notice here that we are talking about the "original" Hamza in the middle of the word. In other words, if a word starts with Hamza, and putting some prefix before the word, that does not make Hamza actually in the middle of the word; This Hamza is originally in the beginning of the word.

Example: The word أَمَل (amal: hope) has Hamza in the beginning, and writing something like بِأَمَل (bi'amal: in/by a hope), with the preposition بـ, does NOT make the Hamza in the middle of the word. The Hamza under discussion is the original in the word, without any effects on the word; No prefixes, no suffixes.

To decide how to write the Hamza in the middle of the word, a "power scale" had been invented, and ironically, some exceptions were made to that as well. Why? I don't know. Anyway, this power scale is related to the vowels, and the rule goes as following:

When writing a Hamza in the middle, we look at the power of the vowel of Hamza, and the power of the preceding letter, then we write Hamza on a letter that matches the most powerful vowel between the two.

First, what is that Power Scale? It's just a hypothetical scale which has no linguistic or phonetic effect, except for writing the Hamza here. The vowels, or Harakat, are to be ordered in the following order, from strongest to the weakest:

Kasrah (-i) →Dhammah (-u) →fatHa (-a) →Sukún (-).

Side Note: Sukún is when the letter or consonant has no vowel marker. It is marked with a little circle above the letter (ــْــ). Maybe old information by now. However, a long vowel like ـا (-á) or ـو (-ú) or ـي (-í) are actually categorized under Sukún in this scale. The logic is that long vowels in Arabic are written with letters and not markers, and these letters are silent, meaning, they do not bear a vowel of their own, so they are considered silent on their own right.

So, what the definition above is really saying, is that we check the vowel for the Hamza, and the vowel for the preceding letter before the Hamza. Whoever is stronger, then we write the Hamza on a letter that matches this vowel, that is in the following manner:

  • If the strongest between the two is Kasrah, we use ئـ - Examples: مِئَة (mi'ah: hundred), عائد (3á'id: comer/coming/profit).
  • If the strongest between the two is Dhammah, we use ؤ - Examples: فُؤاد (Fu'ád: heart/male's name), مَسْؤول (mas'úl: responsible/authority figure).
  • If the strongest between the two is fatHa, we use أ - Examples: سَأَلَ (sa'ala: he asked/to ask), مأْتَم (ma'tam: funeral/obsequies).

    Side Note: The word مِئَة can also be written مائة but the pronunciation remains the same. This spelling for this word is accepted as well, as it is one of the things inherited from the Quranic orthography.

As it can be seen from the previous example, the shape on which Hamza is written (i.e. ئـ ؤ أ) would mostly be unrelated to the actual vowel over Hamza itself but rather it's a game of power between the vowel of Hamza, and the letter before Hamza. Besides that, if the two vowels are the same, then of course they are equal and Hamza is written on the corresponding letter to that vowel. As I've mentioned before, there are some exceptions that are taken into consideration, as if life couldn't be any harder anyway:

  • If Hamza comes with fatHa, and preceded with a long vowel Alif ـا, then it's written on line without any carrier: قِراءَة (qirá'ah: reading), بَراءَة (bará'ah: innocence).
  • If Hamza comes with fatHa, and preceded with a long vowel Waw ـو, then it's written on line without any carrier: نَبوءَة (nabú'ah: prophecy), مُروءَة (murú'ah: sense of honor/chivalry/generosity).
  • If Hamza comes with fatHa, and preceded with stable Ya (Ya with sukún, no vowel), then it's written on "Nabirah" نَبِرَة (some call it Sinnah سنة and some call it Kursiy كرسي) which is هَيْئَة : ئـ (hay'ah: shape/agency), بيئة (bí'ah: environment) notice that long vowel í is same class as sukún.

Now, these are basics. However, some conventional ways to write some words do come over some of these rules. Some scholars even suggest that words like هيئة should not be classified, but the word itself is just an exception to a general rule of power scale discussed above. All this debate between scholars, produced some flexibility in writing some words (but writing هيئة as هيأة is truly weird). For example, the word شؤون (šu'ún: affairs) is the correct form as per the power scale rule, because (š) has (u) vowel and Hamza has a long (ú) which makes it same class as Sukún, and Dhamma (u) is stronger than sukún, thus Hamza must be written over Waw ؤ - Nevertheless, you would still see ads and some people write it as شئون; And this is how it is written in Quran indeed, but as I've stated before, the orthography of Quran is different than the modern Arabic orthography. Yet, both spellings are correct and accepted. Personally, I prefer شؤون.
Probably you've noticed that I didn't talk about the آ in the middle of the word. This type of Hamza is nothing special really. It is just Hamza followed by a long vowel ('á). The rule is that we should not write double Alif, specially in the middle of the word, and for this reason we do write قراءة and براءة instead of قراأة and براأة; the last two are wrong in orthography. For this same rule, when Hamza gets a long vowel ـا (á), we cannot write double Alif. We write it as آ ('á). Examples: مِرْآب (mir'áb: garage), مِرْآة (mir'áh: mirror). We cannot write the previous examples as مرأاب or مرأاة; that would be wrong. Two Alifs cannot come follow each other in the middle of the word.


By the end, I hope the amount of information here is not too much for you. If you are noting these down or copying them, feel free to do so, and calm down. Even though the matter is essentially required for good orthography, yet it is not such a critical matter. Thus, it is just fine to make mistakes here and I assure you, many native speakers do have a problem writing Hamza for different reasons; Mainly, the lack of proper observation and education. Worth mentioning here that in various dialects across the Arab World, there is a tendency to drop down the glottal stop when speaking and exchange it for some other sound; Majorly when a word comes with ئـ (or -i-), the speaker may change it to يـ (y) sound (e.g. قائم [qá'im: standing] becomes قايم[qáyim/gáyim/'áyim]; the change in "Q" sound depends on the dialect). This change in glottal stop is also apparent in Arabic words with Hamza that got into other languages (e.g. in Turkish daire, from Arabic دائرة [dá'irah: circle]). The Hamza at the end of the word also can be dropped in dialects (but also for poetic purposes in standard/classical Arabic).
At this, we are left with the last part, which will be about Hamza at the end of the word (Arabic: همزة متطرفة Hamza mutaŧarrifah) and the rules for writing it. Good night for now! تصبحون بخير.

October 5, 2019



This is really a veeery good way of showing these complecated topic. It is written in a clear and understandable way, even if we can not memorize everything immediately, it is so good. Thank you so much for making this possible to let it read us. Actually there are not that many people out there who can explain this topic. And in grammar books the explanations seems very often far more complicated. So hopefully you will find the time and motivation for going on with these posts. Thank you so much.

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