Harakat: Definition, Types, And Significance With Examples

Harakat: Definition, Types, And Significance With Examples

Harakat, also known as Arabic diacritics or vowel marks, are symbols crucial for maintaining accurate recitation of the Quran and other Arabic texts. They guide pronunciation by indicating how each letter should be pronounced. With six types of Harakat including Fatḥah, Damma, Kasrah, Sukūn, Shaddah, and Tanwin, they play a vital role in distinguishing between sounds and phonetic variations in Arabic. 

While Harakat aids beginners in reading and pronouncing Arabic accurately, they are fundamental for preserving the correct recitation of the Quran and enhancing reading comprehension. Harakat’s history traces back to early Arabic script development, with notable figures like Abu al-Aswad al-Du’ali and Al-Farahidi contributing to its evolution. While reading Arabic without Harakat may be challenging, practice and familiarity with the language aid in comprehension. To type Arabic with Harakat, ensure you have an Arabic keyboard enabled in your language settings.

In this article, we will explore the topic of the Arabic alphabet with Harakat (also known as Arabic diacritics), uncovering its meaning, types, importance, and history. 

Whether you are a beginner learning Arabic or an enthusiast seeking to expand your understanding, this guide will offer valuable insights into the significance of Harakat in mastering the complexities of written Arabic.

What is Harakat?

Harakat marks play a crucial role in maintaining the accurate recitation of the Quran and other Arabic texts.

1. Definition:

Harakat, also known as Arabic diacritics or vowel marks, are symbols used in the Arabic alphabet to indicate the pronunciation of words.

2. Purpose:

The purpose of harakat is to provide essential guidance on how to pronounce each letter accurately and correctly in Arabic.

3. Importance:

Harakat plays a crucial role in distinguishing between different sounds and phonetic variations in Arabic, helping readers identify which vowel sound should be pronounced for each word.

4. Types of Harakat:

There are six types of Harakat, as follows:

a. Fatḥah ( ـَ ): Represents a short “a” sound.

b. Damma ( ـُ ): Represents a short “u” sound.

c. Kasrah ( ـِ ): Represents a short “i” sound.

d. Sukūn ( ـْ ): Indicates no vowel sound.

e. Shaddah ( ـّ ): Indicates doubling consonant emphasis.

f. Tanwin (ـً ـٌ ـٍ): Indicates an indefinite noun and is divided into three types: tanwin al-fatḥ, tanwin al-kasr, and tanwin al-damm.

5. Role in Learning Arabic:

Harakat serves as an indispensable tool for learners of Arabic by providing clear guidelines on pronunciation, especially for beginners who are still grasping the language’s phonetics.

6. Usage in Written Texts:

While harakat may not always be present in written texts intended for fluent readers, they are particularly helpful for beginners in accurately reading and pronouncing Arabic words.

7. Fundamental Aspect of Arabic:

Harakat is a fundamental aspect of the Arabic language’s written form and is considered essential for maintaining textual integrity and accuracy in pronunciation.

What Does Harakat Mean in Arabic?

Harakat, in Arabic, refers to diacritical marks that are used to indicate vowel sounds in written texts. These marks are important for accurate pronunciation and understanding of Arabic words.

The term “harakat” means “movement” or “vowelization,” highlighting their purpose in distinguishing different vowel sounds within the Arabic alphabet.

By adding harakat to letters, readers can determine whether a letter should be pronounced with a short or long vowel sound. 

The inclusion of harakat provides clarity and precision when reading Arabic text, especially for non-native speakers who may not be familiar with the inherent pronunciation rules of the language. 

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Types of Harakat in Arabic

Harakat, also known as Arabic diacritical marks or accent marks guides the correct pronunciation of vowels and consonants by indicating the short vowel sounds. There are some types of harakat:

1. Fatḥah (ـَ):

Fatḥah is one of the lightest harakat in Arabic. It is called fatḥah because it represents the opening of the mouth when producing the /a/ sound. Written above the letters as a very small line ( ـَ ), it indicates the short vowel sound /a/. For example, the word بَاب (baab) means “door”.

2. Damma (ـُ):

Damma is represented by a lowercase waaw “و” written above the letter ( ـُ ). It signifies the short vowel sound /u/. Placed above the letter, it represents the “u” sound. Example: كُتُب (kutub) meaning “books”.

3. Kasrah (ـِ):

Kasrah is denoted by a small line written under the letters ( ـِ ). It indicates the short vowel sound /i/. Positioned below the letter, it represents an “i” sound. Example: كِتَاب (kitab) meaning “book”.

4. Sukūn (ْ):

Sukūn refers to a consonant without a vowel. In grammar, sukūn is used to represent the haraka placed above the letter. It is represented by a small circle above the letter ( ـْ ). Sukūn signifies a complete stop or silence in pronunciation. Example: مَدْرَسَة (madrasah) meaning “school”.

5. Shaddah (ّ):

Shaddah represents the doubling of a letter or stress in the English language. In Arabic, it appears as the first part of the letter Seen in a smaller size or as a horizontal three ( ـّ ). 

Shaddah is always accompanied by a harakah, which can be fatḥah ( ـَّ ), damma ( ـُّ ), or kasrah ( ـِّ ). It emphasizes the pronunciation of the doubled consonant sound. Example: كُتَّاب (kuttab) meaning “writers”.

6. Tanwin:

Tanwin, also known as nunation, is a grammatical feature in Arabic that indicates indefinite or indefinite nouns or adjectives. There are three forms of tanwin:

A. Tanwin Al-Fatḥ (ـًا): 

Tanwin Al-Fatḥ is represented by the letter noon with a sukoon added to the end of the word, indicating the short vowel sound /an/. This form is placed at the end of a noun or adjective. Example: بَيْتًا (baytan) meaning “a house”.

B. Tanwin Al-Kasr (ـٍ): 

Tanwin Al-Kasr consists of two kasra placed on top of each other under the last letter of the word. It signifies the short vowel sound /in/ and appears at the end of a noun or adjective. Example: كِتَابٍ (kitabin) meaning “a book”.

Tanwin Al-Damm (ـٌ):

Tanwin Al-Damm is represented by two Damma (two small waws) placed on top of each other above the last letter of the word. It denotes the short vowel sound /un/ and is placed at the end of a noun or adjective. Example: جَبَلٌ (jabalun) meaning “a mountain”.

Importance of Harakat in Arabic

Harakat, also known as Arabic diacritical marks or short vowel marks, play a crucial role in the Arabic language by facilitating text understanding and ensuring accurate pronunciation.

1. Clarity of pronunciation:

Harakat provides clear guidelines for pronouncing words, especially for non-native speakers, by indicating the correct placement of vowels.

2. Avoid ambiguity:

In cases where the pronunciation of a word cannot be easily determined from context, harakat resolves ambiguity and enables accurate interpretation.

3. Enhancing reading comprehension:

Harakat aids in reading comprehension, particularly for beginners, by making it easier to distinguish between different words that may have the same consonantal form but different vowel sounds.

4. Preserving correct recitation of the Quran:

Harakat is essential for the precise recitation of the Holy Quran, as it ensures that the correct pronunciation is maintained according to the rules of Tajweed.

5. Learning tool for language acquisition:

Learning and understanding harakat is an integral part of mastering the Arabic language, as it provides insights into the grammatical structure and phonetics of words.

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History of Harakat (Arabic Diacritics) in Arabic

The history of Harakat can be traced back to the early centuries of the Arabic script’s development. Two prominent figures in the history of Harakat are Abu al-Aswad al-Du’ali and Al-Farahidi, who introduced different systems of diacritic markings to aid in the proper vocalization of written Arabic.

1. Abu al-Aswad’s system:

Abu al-Aswad al-Du’ali, a renowned grammarian and linguist of the 7th century, is credited with introducing the use of diacritics to the Arabic script. 

His system involved the use of red dots placed above or below letters to indicate the presence of short vowels.

Each arrangement or position of the dots had a distinct meaning, contributing to the overall pronunciation and meaning of the word.

2. Al-Farahidi’s system:

Al-Farahidi, an influential grammarian and lexicographer of the 8th century, further developed the system of Harakat.

He introduced additional diacritic marks, including small horizontal lines and dots, to represent different vowel sounds.

Al-Farahidi’s system provided a more detailed and comprehensive method of indicating short vowels and aiding in the accurate pronunciation of Arabic words.

The systems created by Abu al-Aswad and Al-Farahidi had a significant impact on the development of diacritics in Fusha Arabic, leading to its essential role in written Arabic for ensuring accurate pronunciation.

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How many Harakat are there in Arabic?

In Arabic, there are six main types of Harakat or diacritics. These symbols help indicate the pronunciation and phonetic value of each letter in the Arabic alphabet. They include Fatḥah, Damma, Kasrah, Sukūn, Shaddah, and Tanwin.

How to read Arabic without Harakat?

While reading Arabic text without Harakat can be challenging for beginners, it is still possible with practice and familiarity with the language. Native speakers often omit these diacritics since they are mainly used in educational materials or religious texts. Context plays a crucial role in understanding word meanings and sentence structures when Harakat is absent.

How to type Arabic with Harakat?

To type Arabic text with Harakat, you will need to use a keyboard that has the option for Arabic characters. Depending on your operating system, you may need to enable the Arabic keyboard in your language settings.


Harakat plays a crucial role in the Arabic language by providing pronunciation guidance and clarity to the written text. It consists of diacritical marks that are placed above or below letters to indicate vowel sounds. 

With six main types of Harakat – Fatḥah, Damma, Kasrah, Sukūn, Shaddah, and Tanwin – readers can accurately pronounce words and understand their meaning. 

Whether you are learning Arabic as a child or an adult, understanding Harakat is essential for developing strong reading skills and comprehension abilities. 

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