Introduction to Arabic Poetry – Meter and Rhyme

Introduction

Al-‘Arūd (Prosody) is the study of Arabic poetic meter, which helps to determine if the poetry is sound or broken. Al-Khalīl ibn Aḥmad al-Farāhīdī (d. 786) was the first to discover that all classical poetry followed one of 15 meters. Later Al-Akhfash al-Akbar identified a 16th meter.

Although very stringent in its requirements, almost all the well-known classical Arabic poetry conforms to one of these meters.

It is worth mentioning here that even though these meters were written down and theorized by Al-Khalīl at a later date, the classical Arab poets used them instinctively. Anything that ‘broke’ one of these meters was naturally identified as being of sub-par quality. It is remarkable that they were able to stay within these patterns or meters when composing poetry without referring to them in the form of written rules. 

Terminology

Before getting started, let’s get familiar with some commonly used terms in Arabic prosody.

A single line of poetry consisting of two hemistichs or half lines, is called a bayt.

Each individual foot is known as a taf’īlāh.

The first hemistich is called ṣadr. The second hemistich is called ‘ajuz.

The last foot of the ṣadr is called the ḍarb. The last foot of the ‘ajuz is called ‘arūd.

The remaining parts of each hemistich is known as ḥashw.

How to Scan Arabic Poetry

Scanning Arabic poetry according to the traditional method involves the following steps: transcription, symbolization, superimposing the taf’īlāt (feet) to identify the correct meter. We will explain each step in detail.

1.Transcribing Arabic Poetry

In order to scan Arabic poetry accurately, it is first transcribed directly from its oral form. Or in other words, it is written according to how it is pronounced.

We will first look at the rules for how this is done, and then go through several examples.

The golden rule: What is pronounced is written, and what is not pronounced is omitted.

And from this principle the following rules can be derived:

  1. Maddah: The maddah is written as a ḥamza followed by an alif

آمَنَ ← أَاْمَنَ

  1. Tanwīn: The tanwīn is written with the nūn sākin

قَلَمٌ ← قَلَمُنْ، صَبَاحاً ← صَباحَنْ، لَيْلَةٍ ← لَيْلَتِنْ

  1. Shaddah: The letters with shaddah are written as double, with sukūn on the first and the ḥarakah on the second.

ثُمَّ ← ثُمْمَ، كَأَنَّ ← كَأَنْنَ، أُحِبُّ ← أُحِبْبُ

  1. Hidden alif: The alif that is not written but pronounced is always transcribed.

هذَا ← هَاذَا. هذِهِ ← هَاذِهِ. هذَانِ ← هَاذَانِ. هؤُلاَءِ ← هَاؤُلاَءِ. ذلِكَ ← ذَالِكَ. اللهُ ← الْلاَهُ. لكِن ← لَاكِنْ. لكِنَّ ← لَاكِنْنَ. الرَّحْمنُ ← ارْرَحْمَان

  1. Hidden wāw: The wāw which is not written but pronounced is always transcribed.

دَاودُ ← دَاوُوْدُ. طَاوسُ ← طَاوُوسُ. نَاوُسُ ← نَاوُوْس

  1. Ḥarf al-qāfiyah: The ḥarf of the qāfiyah, or the final vowel at the end of each half-line is converted into a long vowel.

يَكْتُبُ ← يَكْتُبُوْا. مُدَلَّلِ ← مُدَلْلَلِيْ. تَعَلَّمَ ← تَعَلْلَمَا

  1. Hā ͑ al ḍamīr al-mufrad al-ghā ͑ ib: The third person singular pronoun (hu/hi) can be written as either long or short.

لَهُ ← لَهُ ⁄ لَهُو. مِنْهُ ← مِنْهُ ⁄ مِنْهُو. بِهِ ← بِهِ ⁄ بِهِي. إِلَيْهِ ← إِلَيْهِي

  1. Ḥamzat al-waṣl: It is omitted where it is not pronounced.

فَاكْتُبْ ← فَكْتُبْ. فَاسْتَغْفِرْ ← فَسْتَغْفِرْ. فَاذْهَبْ ← فَذْهَبْ 

As for the (أل)  if the letter after it is qamariyyah, only the alif is removed. If it is shamsiyyah, both the alif and lām are removed.

دَخَلْتُ البَيْتَ ← دَخَلْتُ لْبَيْتَ

فُتِحَتِ التّابُوتُ ← فُتِحَتِ تْتَابُوْتُ

  1. Alif, wāw and al-sākinah: The alif, wāw and al-sākinah will be omitted when succeeded by a sākin

فِيْ البَحْرِ ← فِلْبَحْرِ

إِلَى العُلَا ← إلَلْعُلَا

قَاضِيْ القُضَاةِ ← قَاضِلْقُضَاةِ

حَتَّى العَصْرِ ← حَتْتَلْعَصْرِ

  1. Additional wāw: The additional wāw in certain nouns which is not pronounced, is omitted.

عَمْرُو ← عَمْرُ

  1. Alif al-fāriqah: the additional alif at the ends of verbs in plural form are omitted

جَلَسُوْا ← جَلَسُو. كَتَبُوا ← كَتَبُوْ

  1. Ana: Ana the first person singular pronoun is usually written with a short vowel

أَنَا ← أَنَ 

Examples:

البحر الطويل، وهو من قصيدة للسَّموأل:

إذا المَرْءُ لم يَدْنَسْ مِنَ اللُّؤُمِ عِرْضُهُ              فَــكُــــلُّ رِداءٍ يَــرْتَــدِيــهِ جَـــمِــيْـــلُ

إذَ لْمَرْ ءُ لَمْ يَدْنَسْ  مِنَلْلُؤْ  مِعِرْضُهُوْ              فَكُلْلُ   رِدَائِنْ يَرْ   تَدِيْهِ      جَمِيْلُوْ

من الكامل، من قول عنترة:

وإذا صَـحَـوْتُ، فَـما أُقَصِّــرُ عَنْ نَــدًى                وَكَمـــا عَلِمْتِ شَـــــمَائِـلي وَتَــكَرُّمِي

وَإِذَاْ صَحَوْ تُ فَمَاْ أُقَصْـ صِرُ عَنْ نَدَنْ                 وَكَمَا عَلِمْـ  تِ شَمَاْئِلِيْ   وَتَكَرْرُمِيْ

من البحر الوافر، قول عمرو بن معد يكرب:

إذا لَــمْ تَـسْــتَــطِعْ شَــيْئــاً فَــدَعْـــهُ      وَجَــــاوِزْهُ إلــــى مـــا تَــســـتَـــطيــــعُ

إِذَاْ لَمْ تَسْـ   تَطِعْ شَيْئَنْ      فَدَعْهُو        وَجَاْوِزْهُو  إِلَىْ مَاتَسْـ      تَطِيْعُو

2.Symbolization

After transcription as shown, the next step is to symbolize each mutaḥarrik (fatḥah, ḍammah or kasrah) with (/) and each sākin with (0). This breaks down the poetry to the essential sounds – the ḥarakah and the sukūn.

أبــا مُنْـــذِرٍ أَفْنَيْتَ فَـــاسْتَبْقِ بَــعْـضَنَــا         حَـنَانَيْكَ بَـعْـضُ الشَّـــرِّ أَهْـوَنُ مِنْ بَــعْضِ

أَبَاْ مُنْـ  ذِرِنْ أَفْنَيْـ  تَ فَسْتَبْـ  قِ بَعضَنَاْ          حَنَاْ نَيـْ  ـكَ بَعْضُشْ شَرْرِ أهْوَ  نُ مِنْ بَعْضِيْ

//0/0  //0/0/0   //0/0   //0//0            //0/0     //0/0/0     //0/      //0//0 

إذا المَرْءُ لم يَدْنَسْ مِنَ اللُّؤُمِ عِرْضُهُ              فَــكُــــلُّ رِداءٍ يَــرْتَــدِيــهِ جَـــمِــيْـــلُ

إِذَ لْمَرْ ءُ لَمْ يَدْنَسْ  مِنَلْلُؤْ  مِعِرْضُهُوْ              فَكُلْلُ   رِدَائِنْ يَرْ   تَدِيْهِ      جَمِيْلُوْ

//0/0  //0/0/0  //0/0  //0//0               //0/   //0/0/0   //0/     //0/0

3.Superimposing the Taf’īlāt

The final step when scanning Arabic poetry is to identify the correct taf’īlāt and superimpose them to the lines. The arrangement of these taf’īlāt will show us the meter of the poem.

The taf’īlah (foot) is a basic building block of the poetry and its basic sounds (ḥarakah and sukūn) correspond to that of the poetry when superimposed. 

There are a total of 10 taf’īlāt used to represent the buhūr or the meters.

فَعُولُنْ (//0/0)

مَفَاعِيْلُنْ (//0/0/0)

مُفَاعَلَتُنْ (//0///0)

فاعِ لاتُنْ (/0/ /0/0)

فَاعِلُنْ (/0//0)

مُسْتَفْعِلُنْ (/0/0//0)

فَاعِلَاتُنْ (/0//0/0)

مُتَفَاعِلُنْ (///0//0)

مَفْعُوْلاتُ (/0/0/0/)

مُسْتَفْعِ لُنْ (/0/0/ /0)

Let’s revisit the previous example:

أبــا مُنْـــذِرٍ أَفْنَيْتَ فَـــاْسْتَبْقِ بَــعْـضَنَــا         حَـنَانَيْكَ بَـعْـضُ الشَّـــرِّ أَهْـوَنُ مِنْ بَــعْضِ

أَبَاْ مُنْـ  ذِرِنْ أَفْنَيْـ  تَ فَسْتَبْـ  قِ بَعضَنَاْ          حَنَاْ نَيـْ  ـكَ بَعْضُشْ شَرْرِ أهْوَ  نُ مِنْ بَعْضِيْ

//0/0  //0/0/0   //0/0   //0//0            //0/0     //0/0/0     //0/      //0//0 

The meter for this is as follows:

فَعُولُنْ مَفَاعِيلُنْ فَعُولُنْ مَفَاعِلُنْ       فَعُولُنْ مَفَاعِيلُنْ فَعُولُ مَفَاعِلُنْ

 and this is a variant of the ṭawīl meter.

Arabic Poetic Meters

There are a total of 16 buhūr (seas) or meters for Arabic poetry. These lines provide a key to these meters. It is highly recommended that you memorise them.

Key to the Meters:

طَـوِيلٌ لَـهُ دُونَ الْبُـحُورِ فَضَـائِلُ***فَعُولُنْ مَفَاعِيلُنْ فَعُولُنْ مَفَاعِلُ

لِـمَــدِيــدِ الـشِّـعْرِ عِـنْـدِي صِــفَــاتُ***فَـاعِـلَاتُـنْ فَاعِلُنْ فَاعِلَاتُ

إِنَّ الْبَسِــيـطَ لَـدَيهِ يُبْسَـطُ الْأَمَـلُ***مُسْتَفْعِلُنْ فَاعِلُنْ مُسْتَفْعِلُنْ فَعِلُ

بُــحُــورُ الشِّــعْرِ وَافِــرُهَـا جَـمِيــلُ***مُـفَاعَـلَتُنْ مُـفَـاعَلَتُنْ فَعُولُ

كَـمُـلَ الْـجَمَــالُ مِـنَ الْبُحُورِ الْكَامِلُ***مُتَفَاعِلُنْ مُتَفَاعِلُنْ مُتَفَاعِلُ

عَــلَــى الأَهْـــــزَاجِ تَـسْــهِــيـــلُ***مَـــفَــاعِـيــلُــنْ مَـــفَــاعِــيلُ

فِـي أَبْحُـرِ الْأَرْجَــازِ بَـحْـرٌ يَسْهُلُ***مُسْتَفْعِلُنْ مُسْتَفْعِلُنْ مُـسْتَفْعِلُ

رَمَــلُ الْأَبْــحُــرِ تَـرْوِيــهِ الـثِّـقَاتُ***فَاعِـلَاتُنْ فَاعِـلَاتُنْ فَاعِـلَاتُ

بَـحْـرٌ سَــرِيــعٌ مَـا لَـهُ سَـاحِــلُ***مُــسْـتَـفْـعِـلُـنْ مُسْتَفْعِلُـنْ فَاعِـلُ

مُــنْـسَـرِحٌ فِــيـهِ يُـضْــرَبُ الْمَثَلُ***مُـسْتَفْعِلُنْ مَـفْـعُولَاتُ مُـفْتَعِلُ

يَـا خَـفِـيـفًـا خَـفَّـتْ بِـهِ الْحَرَكَاتُ***فَـاعِـلَاتُنْ مُـسْتَفْعِلُنْ فَـاعِلَاتُ

تُـــــعَــــدُّ الْـمُـــضَــارِعَـــاتُ***مَـــــفَـــــاعِـــــيـــلُ فَــــاعِ لَاتُ

اِقْــــتَـــضِـــبْ كَــــمَـــا سَـــأَلُـــوا***مَــــفْـــعُولاتُ مُــــفْــــتَعِلُ 

جُـــثَّـــتِ الْحَــــرَكَـــــــــاتُ***مُــــسْــــتَـــفْــــعِــــلُنْ فَــــاعِلَاتُ

عَــنِ الْمُـــتَــقارِبِ قَالَ الْخَلِيلُ***فَـعُولُـنْ فَـعُولُـنْ فَـعُولُـنْ فَـعُولُ

حَـــرَكَـــاتُ المُــــحْــدَثِ تَـنْـتَـقِــلُ***فَـعِلُـنْ فَـعِلُـنْ فَـعِلُـنْ فَـعِــلُ

Now we will take a look at the first meter – ṭawīl. This is a common meter and a lot of classical Arabic poetry including Imru ‘ al Qays’ famous mu’allaqah uses this meter

Ṭawīl Meter

فُعُولُنْ مَفَاعِيلُنْ فُعُولُنْ مَفَاعِلُينْ     فُعُولُنْ مَفَاعِيلُنْ فُعُولُنْ مَفَاعِيلُنْ 

Key: 

طَوِيلٌ لَهُ دُونَ البُحُورِ فَضَائِلُ       فُعُولُنْ مَفَاعِيلُنْ فُعُولُنْ مَفَاعِيلُنْ

Variations:

The ṭawīl meter can has one ‘arūd – مَفَاعِلُنْ. As for the dharb, it can have three variants:

  1. مَفَاعِيلُنْ
  2. مَفَاعِلُنْ
  3. فُعُولُنْ

So the meters are:

فُعُولُنْ مَفَاعِيلُنْ فُعُولُنْ مَفَاعِلُنْ     فُعُولُنْ مَفَاعِيلُنْ فُعُولُنْ مَفَاعِيلُنْ 

فُعُولُنْ مَفَاعِيلُنْ فُعُولُنْ مَفَاعِلُنْ     فُعُولُنْ مَفَاعِيلُنْ فُعُولُنْ مَفَاعِلُنْ 

فُعُولُنْ مَفَاعِيلُنْ فُعُولُنْ مَفَاعِلُنْ     فُعُولُنْ مَفَاعِيلُنْ فُعُولُ فَعُولُنْ

Minor Deviations

The ṭawīl meter allows some minor deviations in the feet as well. These are known as ziḥāf. Here are the common ones:

  1. Kaff

مَفَاعِيلُنْ ← مَفَاعِيلُ

The final nūn can be subtracted from mafā’ilun to make it mafā’ilu. This is known as kaff.

2. Qabḍ

فُعُولُنْ ← فُعُولُ

The final nūn can be subtracted from fu’ūlun to make it fu’ūlu.

These are non-persistent. This means that these can be present in one line and absent in the rest.

Kaff and Qabḍ don’t usually occur together in the same line usually.

Examples

أَبَا مُنْذِرٍ أَفْنَيْتَ فَاسْتَبْقِ بَعْضَنَا      حَنَانَيْكَ بَعْضُ الشَّرِّ أَهْوَنُ مِنْ بَعْضِ

أَبَا مُنْ  ذِرِنْ أَفْنَيْ  تَ فَسْتَبْ  قِبَعْضَنا      حَنَانَيْ  كَ بَعْضُشْشَرْ رِأَهـْوَ  نُ مِنْ بَعْضِي

فُعُولُنْ    مَفَاعِيلُنْ    فُعُولُنْ    مَفَاعِلُنْ     فُعُولُ  مَفَاعِيلُنْ  فُعُولُ  مَفَاعِيلُنْ

Translation:

Father of Mundhir, leave some of us, for you have annihilated (us)

    Show us much tenderness; some evils are lighter than others

وليلٍ كمَوجِ البحر أرخى سدولَـه     علــيّ بـأنواع الهـمـــوم لـيبـتـلي

وَلَيْلِنْ  كَمَوْجِلْ بَحْ  رِأَرْخَىْ  سُدُولَهُو     عَلَيْيَ   بِأَنْوَاعِلْ  هُمُومِ   لِيَبْتَلِي

فُعُولُنْ    مَفَاعِيلُنْ    فُعُولُنْ    مَفَاعِلُنْ     فُعُولُ  مَفَاعِيلُنْ  فُعُولُ  مَفَاعِلُنْ

Translation

A night like the waves of the ocean which has let down its curtains

    Around me, with a multitude of sorrows, to test me

فــقلـت لــه لــمّا تمطّى بصُــلبـه     وأردف أعــجـازًا ونـاء بـكـلـكلِ

فَقُلْتُ   لَهُولَمْمَا   تَمَطْطَى   بِ صُلْبِهِي   وَأَرْدَ  فَ أَعْجَازَنْ  وَنَاءَ  بِكَلْكَلِي

فُعُولُ    مَفَاعِيلُنْ    فُعُولُ     مَفَاعِلُنْ     فُعُولُ    مَفَاعِيلُنْ    فُعُولُ   مَفَاعِلُنْ

Translation

Then I said to it, as it extended its body

    And it mounted its back, and its chest weighed down

ألا أيها الليل الطـويلُ ألا انـجلي        بصبح وما الإصباحُ مـنك بأـمثلِ

أَلَاأَيْ  يُهَلْ لَيْلُطْ    طَوِيلُ  أَلَنْجَلي      بِصُبْحِنْ  وَمَلْ إِصْبَا  حُ مِنْكِ  بِأمْثَلِي

فُعُولُنْ  مَفَاعِيلُنْ    فُعُولُ   مَفَاعِلُنْ      فُعُولُنْ    مَفَاعِيلُنْ     فُعُولُ   مَفَاعِلُنْ 

O’ long night do you not recede,

    So that the morn may rise; but the morn is no better than you.

إِذَا المَرْءُ لَمْ يَدْنَسْ مِنَ اللُّؤْمِ عِرْضُهُ     فَكُلُّ رِدَاءٍ يَرْتَدِيهِ جَمِيلُ

إِذَلْ مَرْ  ءُ لَمْ يَدْنَسْ  مِنَلْلُؤْ  مِعِرْضُهُو     فَكُلْلُ  رِدَاءِنْ يَرْ  تَدِيهِ  جَمِيلُو

فُعُولُنْ  مَفَاعِيلُنْ    فُعُولُ   مَفَاعِلُنْ      فُعُولُنْ    مَفَاعِيلُنْ     فُعُولُ   فُعُولُنْ 

If a man doesn’t soil his honour with indignity

    Then every garment he wears is beautiful

Practice

Finally, here is some poetry which uses the ṭawīl meter:

قِفَا نَبْكِ مِنْ ذِكْرَى حَبِيبٍ ومَنْزِلِ        بِسِقْطِ اللِّوَى بَيْنَ الدَّخُول فَحَوْمَلِ

فَتُوْضِحَ فَالمِقْراةِ لمْ يَعْفُ رَسْمُها        لِمَا نَسَجَتْهَا مِنْ جَنُوبٍ وشَمْألِ

تَرَى بَعَرَ الأرْآمِ فِي عَرَصَاتِهَا        وَقِيْعَانِهَا كَأنَّهُ حَبُّ فُلْفُلِ

كَأنِّي غَدَاةَ البَيْنِ يَوْمَ تَحَمَّلُوا        لَدَى سَمُرَاتِ الحَيِّ نَاقِفُ حَنْظَلِ

وُقُوْفًا بِهَا صَحْبِي عَليَّ مَطِيَّهُمُ        يَقُوْلُوْنَ: لا تَهْلِكْ أَسًى وَتَجَمَّلِ

وإِنَّ شِفائِيَ عَبْرَةٌ مُهْرَاقَةٌ        فَهَلْ عِنْدَ رَسْمٍ دَارِسٍ مِنْ مُعَوَّلِ؟

كَدَأْبِكَ مِنْ أُمِّ الحُوَيْرِثِ قَبْلَهَا        وَجَارَتِهَا أُمِّ الرَّبَابِ بِمَأْسَلِ

إِذَا قَامَتَا تَضَوَّعَ المِسْكُ مِنْهُمَا        نَسِيْمَ الصَّبَا جَاءَتْ بِرَيَّا القَرَنْفُلِ

فَفَاضَتْ دُمُوْعُ العَيْنِ مِنِّي صَبَابَةً        عَلَى النَّحْرِ حَتَّى بَلَّ دَمْعِيَ مِحْمَلِي

ألَا رُبَّ يَوْمٍ لَكَ مِنْهُنَّ صَالِحٍ        وَلَا سِيَّمَا يَوْمٌ بِدَارَةِ جُلْجُلِ

أَمِنْ أمِّ أَوفَى دِمْنَةٌ لَمْ تَكَلَّمِ      بِحَوْمَانَةِ الدَّرَّاجِ فَالمُتَسَلَّمِ

أَقِيمُوا بَنِي أُمِّي صُدُورَ مَطِيٍّكُمْ       فَإِنِّي إِلَى قَوْمٍ سِوَاكُمْ لَأَمْيَلُ

فَقَد حُمَّت الحاجاتُ واللَيلُ مُقمِرٌ     وَشُدَّت لِطِيّاتٍ مَطايا وَأَرُحلُ

 لَعَمْـرُكَ مَا بِالأَرْضِ ضِيـقٌ على امْرِىءٍ        سَرَى رَاغِبَـاً أَوْ رَاهِبَـاً وَهْوَ يَعْقِـلُ

وَلِي دُونَكُمْ أَهْلُـون: سِيـدٌ عَمَلَّـسٌ        وَأَرْقَطُ زُهْلُـولٌ وَعَرْفَـاءُ جَيْـأََلُ

وَفي الأَرضِ مَنأى لِلكَريمِ عَنِ الأَذى     وَفيها لِمَن خافَ القِلى مُتَعَزَّلُ

وَإنْ مُـدَّتِ الأيْدِي إلى الزَّادِ لَمْ أكُـنْ      بَأَعْجَلِهِـمْ إذْ أَجْشَعُ القَوْمِ أَعْجَلُ

عَلَى قَدْرِ أَهْلِ العَزمِ تَأْتِي العَزَائِمُ     وَتَأْتِي عَلَى قَدْرِ الكِرَامِ المَكَارِمُ

وَتَعْظُمُ فِي عَيْنِ الصَّغِيرِ صِغَارُهَا     وَتَصْغُرُ فِي عَيْنِ العَظِيمِ العَظَائِمُ

لِخَوْلَةَ أَطْلَالٌ بِِبُرقَةِ ثَهْمَدِ     تَلُوحُ كَبَاقِي الوَشْمِ فِي ظَاهِر اليَدِ

 وُقُوفًا بِهَا صَحْبِي عَلَيَّ مَطيَّهُمْ      يَقُولُونَ لَا تَهلِكْ أَسىً وَتَجَلَّدِ

سَتُبْدِي لَكَ الأَيَّامُ مَا كُنْتَ جَاهِلاً     وَيَأْتِيكَ بِالأَخْبَارِ مَنْ لَمْ تُزَوِّدِ

عَنِ المَرْءِ لَا تَسْأَلْ، وَأَبْصِرْ قَرِينَهُ     فَإنَّ القَرِينَ بِالمُقَارِنِ يَقْتَدِي

أرَاكَ عَصِيَّ الدّمعِ شِيمَتُكَ الصّبرُ    أما للهوى نهيٌّ عليكَ ولا أمرُ ؟

بلى أنا مشتاقٌ وعنديَ لوعة  ولكنَّ مثلي لا يذاعُ لهُ سرُّ

إذا الليلُ أضواني بسطتُ يدَ الهوى    وأذللتُ دمعاً منْ خلائقهُ الكبرُ

تَكادُ تُضِيءُ النّارُ بينَ جَوَانِحِي    إذا هيَ أذْكَتْهَا الصّبَابَة ُ والفِكْرُ

معللتي بالوصلِ ، والموتُ دونهُ    إذا مِتّ ظَمْآناً فَلا نَزَل القَطْرُ

Learning Arabic – Critical Steps and Resources

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the hundreds of tutorials offering to teach you Arabic? Do you find promises of ‘the best Arabic program’ everywhere? 

This guide aims to cut through all the noise, and provide you clarity for learning Arabic. I have also listed the most important resources and books you need to master Arabic.

Step 1: Determine your current level

The first thing we do at Fluent Arabic is to determine the level of the student and assign him or her to one of the 6 CEFR levels. You should do the same and identify your correct level, because this will help you choose the right material and curriculum.

Here are the CEFR levels we recommend for Arabic:

Basic UserA1Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.
A2Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters.  Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.
Independent UserB1Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken.  Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.
B2Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialisation. Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party. Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.
Proficient UserC1Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognise implicit meaning. Can express him/herself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes. Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organisational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.
C2Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read. Can summarise information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation. Can express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in more complex situations.

Source: https://www.coe.int/en/web/common-european-framework-reference-languages/table-1-cefr-3.3-common-reference-levels-global-scale

Step 2: Write Down Your Goals

Once you know where you are currently, the next step is to determine where you want to be. You need to set long-term and short-term goals. 

Long-term goals

These help you stay focused on your destination. Please remember to make them realistic and specific; and set a time-frame.

Examples of long-term goals:

  • To be able to understand the Quran in Arabic in the next 2 years
  • To attain B2 proficiency in 1 year
  • To be able to converse in Arabic in any situation, in another 1 year
  • To read classical Arabic books without a dictionary, in 1.5 years

Short-term goals

Short-term goals are realistic targets you can achieve within 1-3 months. These are important as they help you see your progress and keep you motivated. 

Examples of short-term goals:

  • To master the Arabic script 
  • To finish book 1 of the Madinah Arabic series
  • To write my first 1-page essay in Arabic
  • To have my first Arabic conversation with someone
  • To learn 100 words in Arabic

Step 3: Choosing the Right Curriculum

Now that where you are and where you want to be is clear to you, it is time to choose the best path for your journey. As there are numerous programs teaching Arabic, I would recommend looking for these 4 aspects that are essential to language learning:

arabic curriculum

Language-focused learning: The course covers language features like grammar, and pronunciation. Learning grammar is an essential part of learning Arabic.

Language Input: You must go through large quantities of input material in Arabic appropriate to your level. Input can be in the forms of reading and listening. This exposure to the language is also critical.

Language Output: You must be producing output in Arabic. This includes a good quantity of speaking practice in the form of monologues and conversations, and also writing practice in the forms of exercises and essays.

Fluency Practice: This is an important step that a lot of programs miss out on. You need to be practising material that is already familiar to you. This includes revision and repetition. The idea is to practice what you already know several times, in order to develop fluency.

I suggest following the 3 Madinah Books along with the right practice and immersion materials, to cover all these aspects of language learning that we have discussed. 

Here are the books I recommend for each level:

A1 – Madinah Arabic Book 1

A2 – Madinah Arabic Book 2

B1 – Madinah Arabic Book 3

Once you get to B2, you are now ready to learn classical books of Arabic grammar. I suggest the Ajrumiyyah for this level.

After this you can move on to intermediate books like Qatr An Nada by Ibn Hisham.

Step 4: The Study Plan

Now that you know what a well-rounded curriculum entails, it’s time to put it to practice. There are different study plans you can make based on what route you want to take.

how to learn arabic

Plan A: Learn with 1-2-1 tutor

One of the most effective ways to make rapid progress with your Arabic is to learn from a qualified native speaker. After all, the best way to learn a language is from the people who speak it, and not from textbooks. However there are several challenges a student faces when trying to find the right tutor:

  • While being a natural master of the language, some native speakers might have trouble explaining the grammar of the language. This is because he / she might not have spent much time learning grammar, as they have learned the language naturally.
  • He might have poor command of English, and therefore finds difficulty in explaining concepts and ideas.
  • He might have good knowledge of Arabic grammar and proficiency in English, but is not experienced in teaching methods. This might cause him to go about teaching without a plan
  • Teachers with experience and command of both English and Arabic, might charge extremely high rates to teach Arabic

With these challenges in mind we have created 1-2-1 programs which address all these issues. We have highly skilled teachers with proficiency in English and Arabic, who work with our curriculum. If you want to try out this program you can book a trial class now.

If you proceed with 1-2-1 classes, use the classes to understand grammar and to practice with the tutor. Also, ask your tutor to help you choose plenty of immersion material in Arabic suitable for your level. These must be used outside class. Ideally you must also have a language partner. 

Plan B: Enroll in a group class

Group classes are also a great option because apart from the live instruction, they also help you stay motivated as you will be with a group of enthusiastic learners.

When choosing a group class, make sure there is an exclusive discussion group for the class, allowing access to the instructor and other students. You can also use these groups to find ideal practice partners.

You can check our upcoming group classes here.

As for recorded courses and programs, I don’t really recommend them unless they provide a good level of interaction with the teacher.

Plan C: Self-study

If you don’t want to pick the first two options due to budget constraints or other reasons, can you still learn Arabic effectively? 

The answer is yes. Paid classes are only a tool that you must use effectively in order to get results. But, if you can’t use them, then it is still possible to learn Arabic thanks to the unlimited availability of free tutorials, books and classes.

Books like the Madinah Arabic series and the Ajrumiyyah are taught for free very often, and there are videos of these on Youtube.

However, keep in mind:

  • Sometimes, tutors use their free classes only as lead magnet to capture paid students. Although you can still benefit from these classes, the tutor might be saving the best content for the paying students
  • The level of interaction might be lesser. 
  • You still need the ‘language output’ component which means you need to find someone to practice with.

Important Books to Learn That Will Take You From Beginner to Expert

  • The Three Madinah Books / Al-Arabiyyah Bayna Yadayk Series (Complete Beginner)
  • Al-Ajrumiyyah (Advanced Beginner)
  • Tasreef al-Izzi (Sarf) (Advanced Beginner)
  • Qatr an Nada (Intermediate)
  • Al-Alfiyyah (Advanced)

Useful Resources

This list contains a comprehensive list of free resources you can use to learn Arabic.

Text Books

[Choose one of these as the core of your syllabus, and use the remaining resources to supplement your learning]

ResourceFormat
All The Arabic You Never Learned The First Time AroundWebsite
Madinah Books (PDFs + Audio) [Abdurrahman.org]Multiple
Al-Arabiyyah Bayna Yadayk (PDF + Audio)Multiple

Additional Grammar Resources

ResourceFormat
Ultimate ArabicWebsite
Fluent Arabic (Grammar)Website
Desert SkyWebsite
Arabic Grammar FoundationWebsite
Madinah Books (PDFs + Audio) [Abdurrahman.org]Multiple
Youtube Lecture Series Teaching All 3 Medina BooksVideos
Arabic Grammar for All – Abu SulaymaanVideos
Ajrumiyyah Series – Abu SulaymaanVideos
Transparent Language Blog – ArabicWebsite
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic_grammar (summary of Arabic grammar)

Dictionaries
Article
ResourceFormat
Al-Mawrid Reader (Allows searching in Hans Wehr, Lane’s Lexicon and J. G. Hava all on a single page, 20 root based arabic dictionaries in 6 different languages. )Website
Al-Maany (Arabic-English / Arabic-Arabic)Website (free)
Quranic Arabic Corpus (Word by word translation, grammatical analysis, and more)
Al-Mawrid Arabic-English DictionaryBook
Google TranslateWebsite
Reverso Context Arabic-EnglishWebsite
Arabic-English Lexicon by Edward William Lane
Website
Globse Ar-En Dictionary
Website

Immersion – Reading and Listening

ResourceFormat
Arabic With SamPodcast
Arabic Qahwa (Learn Quranic Arabic)Podcast
Arabic With Sam (Youtube)Videos
ArabicFluency (Youtube)Videos
Shinqitee Lectures English SubtitlesVideos
Fahad AlKandariVideos
Sheikh Sa’eed Al-KamaliVideos
Qasas al-Anbiya (Stories of Prophets) – Nabil Al AwadhiVideos
Free Vowelized Children’s Storybooks (Hindawi.org)Website
Read Arabic Newspapers From Different Countries OnlineWebsite

I hope this article has given you a bird’s eye view of the Arabic journey you must now make! Remember, the most import aspects to a successful program is consistency, and persistence.

Tasrif Al ‘Izzi with Abdurrahman Diallo

Learn Taṣrīf al-ʻizzī

A primer in the science of Ṣarf

Starting March 18, 2021

Taṣrīf al-ʻizzī by the scholar ʻIzz al-Dīn Abī al-Maʻālī ʻAbd al-Wahhāb ibn Ibrāhīm al-Zanjānī (died. 655 H) is a classical primer in the science of Ṣarf.

It is an ideal introductory work in field of Ṣarf for those looking to get started.

The Importance of Ṣarf

Although often overlooked, the science of Ṣarf is every bit as important as that of Nahw. Nawh deals with the changes of the word endings, whereas Ṣarf deals with the remaining structure of the word i.e what comes before the ending.

And for this reason, understanding Ṣarf is critical for speaking, reading and writing accurately.

Should I learn Ṣarf?

It is possible to acquire the knowledge of Ṣarf through practice and immersion in the Arabic language. Seasoned learners will be able to ‘guess’ the patterns of words even without having studied Ṣarf. 

However, learning this science will:

  • Correct the mistakes in your language
  • Remove the guesswork, and help develop clarity and confidence in your speech
  • Help you master word structure faster

For these reasons, I highly recommend including the study of Ṣarf in your Arabic program

The Tutor

Ustad Abdurrahman Diallo is from Senagal. Having memorized the Quran at a young age, he has gone on to memorize many Arabic texts, including the Alfiyyah of Ibn Malik – A thousand-line poem explaning Arabic Grammar. He loves teaching Arabic and is skilled at breaking down concepts in a clear and understandable manner for learners. He currently pursues his PHD from the International Islamic University of Malaysia.

Class Details

  • Starting Date

    March 18, 2021

  • Schedule

    Every Thursday and Sunday. 9pm GMT

  • Duration

    3 Months

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FAQ

Most frequent questions and answers

This class is suitable for beginners who can read and write Arabic.

Yes. You will have access to them for a year.

Please send us an email and we will provide a different payment gateway.

No, but it is highly recommended in order to benefit from the course.

Tajweed for Sisters (Level 1)

It's time to master your recitation of the Qur'an!

Dear Sister,

Are you making mistakes in your recitation of the Qur’an?  If so, Fluent Arabic brings you a golden opportunity to perfect the basics of your tajweed. Start reciting the Qur’an accurately and beautifully!

In this exclusive, sisters-only course, Ustadhah Umm Salih will take you through all the basics. This class consists of both theory and practice.

Over the course of 3 months, we will cover the fundamentals of tajweed. You will also be given feedback and guidance on your recitation. At the end of this course, you will be expected to have a sound understanding of all the essentials, and to be able to recite the Quran with much better accuracy and adherence to the rules.

Reserve your spot today, and get started on your learning journey.

Umm Salih is an experienced teacher who teaches the Qur’an and the Arabic language. She holds a master’s degree in Education.

About the Class

This course is spread out over 3 months with 2 classes a week. As this will be a practice-based course, the class will be very interactive. Attending the live classes is a must and no recordings will be provided.

Course Curriculum

We will be focusing on the following essential parts of Tajweed.

1st lesson:

  1. The Etiquettes of reading the holy Quran, Importance of learning Quran and introduction to tajweed rules.
  2. Major and minor mistakes in recitation- Makharij Al-huroof:

2nd lesson:

  1. Introduction to the rules of noon sakina and tanween: ikhfaa

1st lesson:

  1. Idgham

2nd lesson:

  1. Ith’haar- recap ikhfaa

1st lesson:

  1. Iqlab- recap idgham
  2. The ruling of Meem and Noon Mushaddadah- recap

2nd lesson:

  1. The rules of Meem As-Sakinah: Al-Ikhfaa Ashafawi – recap

1st lesson:

  1. The rules of Meem As-Sakinah: Al-Idgham Alshafawi – recap

2nd lesson:

  1. The rules of Meem As-Sakinah: Al- ith’har alshafawi -recap

1st lesson:

  1. Qalqala: the echoing rule- recap

2nd lesson:

  1. The rules of Alif, Laam and Raa- recap

Week six:

1st lesson:

  1. Introduction to Madd:
  2. madd asli
  3. madd I’wadh

2nd lesson:

  1. Madd Far’i: 1st rule

1st lesson:

  1. Madd Far’i: 2nd rule

2nd lesson:

  1. Madd Far’i: 3rd rule

1st lesson:

  1. Madd Far’i: 4th rule

2nd lesson:

  1. Madd Far’I: 5th rule

1st lesson:

  1. Madd alleen

2nd lesson:

  1. The Huroof Muqataat

1st lesson:

  1. The rules of starting and stopping

2nd lesson:

  1. continue with the rules of starting and stopping

1st lesson:

  1. revision and practice topics from week 1 to week 3

2nd lesson:

  1. revision and practice topics from week 4 to week 6

1st lesson:

  1. revision and practice topics from week 7 to 9

2nd lesson:

  1. revision and practice topics from week 10

Class Details

Start Date: 13 March, 2021

Course Duration: 3 Months

Time and Days: 8pm – 9pm GMT (Sat and Sun)

Classes Conducted via Zoom

One-Time
Monthly

One time Payment

120 USD

3 X 40 USD (You will be billed 40 USD each month for the next three months)

By making this purchase you agree to Fluent Arabic’s Terms of Service and Refund Policy

FAQ

Most frequent questions and answers

This course is suitable for beginners who can read Arabic script

Classes are not recorded. Please make sure you can attend at the class time before signing up.

As Tajweed is learned through practice, it is highly recommended to participate in the class.

We have a maximum class size of 25 students.

Tajweed Masterclass with Sheikh Asfandyar

A Rare and Unique Opportunity to Master Tajweed with Sheikh Asfandyar

Do you have mistakes in your recitation of the Quran?…

Then it’s time to fix them!

Fluent Arabic is extremely pleased to bring you yet another unique learning opportunity in the month of March, 2021. We will be teaching selected parts of the book Ghayat Al Mureed fi ‘Ilm Al Tajweed – A comprehensive text in the Riwayah of Imam Hafs ‘an Imam ‘Asim.

This is a rare opportunity for learners who have a basic level of mastery in Tajweed to correct the mistakes in their recitation and to take their recitation of the Quran to an advanced level.

This course is taught by the well known Qari and Imam from the International Islamic University of Malaysia, Sheikh Muhammad Asfandyar Dilawar.

Recitation of Surah Yaseen by the Sheikh

About the Tutor

Sheikh Qari Muhammar Asfadyar Dilawar learned the 10 Qira’at and tafsir at the Madinah Univesity in Saudi Arabia. He is currently a lecturer and deputy director of the IQRA program at the International Islamic University of Malaysia. He is a well known Qari and Imam, and is known for his recitation and mastery of the Qur’an al Kareem.

Course Curriculum

We will be focusing on the following essential parts of Tajweed. Please note that this course is designed to master the theory, as well as to master its application. Therefore amply time is included for practice.

A brief introduction to the science of tajweed and its importance.

We will learn and practice the various rules of the Nun As Sakinah like Idhaar, Idghaam, Iqlaab and Ikhfaa’

We will practice the rules of the Meem As Sakinah like Ikhfaa’, Idhgaam, and Idhaar for the same.

We will learn about the various types of madd, their length and how to apply them.

Guidance on how to keep improving your recitation.

Class Details

Start Date: 13 March, 2021

Course Duration: 3 Months

Time and Days: 10 am – 11 am GMT (Sat and Sun)

Classes Conducted via Zoom

Timings might vary slightly for Ramadan. However, recordings will be provided in case you are unable to attend.

Tajweed with Sheikh Asfandyar

Reserve your spot now!
$ 150 One-time Payment
  • Access to live classes
  • Access to recordings (for 1 year)
  • Access to Exclusive Discussion Group

FAQ

Most frequent questions and answers

If you can read the Quran without difficulty and have had a basic exposure to the rules of recitation, you can insha’Allah benefit from this course.

Yes. We will provide you access to the recordings for 1 year from the date of purchase. They will be accessible through the Fluent Arabic website.

As Tajweed is learned through practice, it is highly recommended to participate in the class. However, if you don’t want to you can inform the ustadh before hand and benefit by listening to the class.

We highly recommend attending them. But if you can’t due to any reason, you can still benefit from the recordings, and the exclusive discussion group.

We have a maximum class size of 25 students.