What’s the difference between the letters ح ح and ح?
At first glance, you would think they are the same letters. But in the old days, one could represent ج, the other ح and the last as خ.
In those days, Arabic dots were not always written on letters. Due to their mastery of the language, Arabs at that time were able to understand what word was written due to their contexts. However over time, as Islam spread to other lands and Arabic became the second or third language for many, the need to begin writing the dots on words became increasingly apparent.
There were some who would interpret a word incorrectly within a passage because of the absence of dots. Some were well versed in Arabic, but because of the poor condition of the text, they were unable to figure the correct letter or word.
To help readers understand whether the author wrote a ج ح or خ scholars would use certain terminologies to clarify to the reader which letter was intended. May Allah reward them for this tremendous service!
You will find terminologies like:
1. Letters that have dots like ب, خ, غ,ظ, etc. referred to as معجمة
2. Letters without dots like ح, س, ع, ص, etc referred to as مهملة
These terminologies معجمة و مهملة are used with letters that are only differentiated by dots. An example of this can be seen at the beginning of “Tuhfatul Atfaal” when the author said,
همز فهاء ثم عين حاء ** مهملتان ثم غين خاء
The author referred ع and ح as being مهملة, meaning without dots.
Other terminologies include:
1. When a letter has one dot like ب it is known as موحدة.
2. When a letter has two dots like ت it is known as مثناة.
3. When a letter has three dots like ث it is known as مثلثة.
4. If a letter has two dots on top, then it’ll be referred to as فوقية. For example التاء= المثناة الفوقية
5. If a letter has two dots on the bottom, then it’ll be referred to as تحتية. For example الياء= المثناة التحتية
6. If a letter has a shaddah above it, then it’ll be referred to as مشددة. If it doesn’t have shaddah, then it’ll be خفيفة.
It is also said that the letters ط is known as الطاء المهملة المشالة, so as not to confuse it with ص.
And ظ is known as الظاء المعجمة المشالة, so as not to confuse it with ض.
In summary, here are some letters and how you will find them written:
ب= باء موحدة / ت= تاء مثناة فوقية / ث= مثلثة / ياء= مُثَنّاء تحتية ، حاء= مهملة ، خاء= معجمة ، د= مهملة ، ذ= معجمة ، س=مهملة ، ش=معجمة ، ص= مهملة ، ض= معجمة ، ط= مهملة ، ظ= معجمة ، ع= مهملة ، غ= معجمة.
This is important to know when reading books like Fathul Baari by Ibn Hajar, as he does this often in his explanation.
Abu Awzaa’ee Abdus-Salaam
9th of Jumaada Awwal, 1438
February 6, 2017
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