by Tabassum Mosleh

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

If you open any of the standard Islamic books from good publishers you’ll see that they always use a standard transliteration system for those terms which won’t fully retain their meanings if translated into English, and neither can they be written in the kind of informal chat-language we use in channels like Facebook.

Here are some reasons for learning to use transliteration:

  1. Writing a term in chat-language can change the pronunciation and thus the meaning of the word. For example, alālah means corruption, whereas dalalah means guidance.
  2. Learning transliteration will help us understand it easily when we come across it in books.
  3. It will make your writing look more mature and scholarly, and thus increase its weight.
  4. It’ll enable you to get better marks in assignments.
  5. We must learn it if we ever want our work to be taken seriously.

So here are the rules:

  1. Put a line on top of all the madd letters: ā, ī, ū.
  2. Use the opening quote mark for ع, e.g. ‘ayn (عين). Use the closing one for all the types of hamzah, e.g.: qara’a (قرأ), sā’il (سائل) (but you don’t need to use it if it’s at the beginning, e.g. akala (أكل).).
  3. For the following five letters, use a dot at the bottom: ح ḥ,ص ṣ, ض ḍ, ط ṭ, ظẓ.
  4. For the non-madd ya and waw, use y and w respectively, e.g. nawm ( نوم), shaykh ( شيخ), dalw ( دلو)
  5. Use á for alif maqsūra, g. attá (حتى)
  6. Use t for ة only when it’s the muāf, otherwise use h. e.g. sidrat al-muntahá.
  7. For shaddah, simply double the letter (e.g. shaddah), or the digraph concerned (e.g. kadhdhāb). Exception: وّ preceded by a ammah, e.g. ‘adūw (عدو), and يّ preceded by a kasrah, e.g. Ḥanafī (حنفيٌّ)
  8. Vocalization of end vowel or tanwīn:
    1. For verbs: vocalize the ending except if the word is at the very end of the sentence. (e.g. yaliju al-laylah al-nahār, hum yūqinūn)
    2. For nouns: Don’t vocalize (e.g. qabr instead of qabrun) Exception: manqūṣ nouns, e.g. din, thānin, qāin, ma‘nan
    3. For adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, pronouns and demonstratives: vocalize. (e.g. anna, bayna, hādha, anta, laylatan)
  9. Hyphens:
    1. Use to connect the inseparable prepositions and conjunctions: li-, wa-, fa-, bi-.
    2. For the definite article al-. Never join al- with the preceding word (e.g. al-hurūf al-shamsīyah, and not al-hurūful-shamsīyah), nor change it to correspond the sun-letters (e.g. not ash-shamsīyah).
    3. For separating problematic letter combos, use the prime symbol ′, which is different from the quotation marks, e.g. mub’ham (مبهم), muṣ′af (مصحف)

Note: Some words which have entered the English dictionary need not be transliterated. Examples: Allah, Quran, hadith, Muslim, azan, muezzin, kitab, salaam, amir, wali, salat, hajj, Ramadan, sawm, zakat, Eid, Eid ul-Fitr, Eid ul-Adha, sunna, fiqh, Fatiha(h), fatwa, mufti, wudu, ghusl, halal, haram, hijab, iftar, umrah, imam, jinn, jihad, Kaaba, masjid, kafir, khimar, niqab, madrasa, minbar, minaret, nikah, talaq, tajweed, khula, Salafi, shahid, sura(h), waqf. (See the Oxford English dictionary)

Tip: In order to call these symbols more easily, you can use the ligature codes, or program these symbols into macros or autocorrect options in Word.


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Tabassum Mosleh


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