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Could you please explain what is the difference between different alifs?  For example in the following words from the Qur'an:  (in the beginning of ayah 7 in surah Aali 'Imran) the alif in the beginning of the second word  as well as the alif at the beginning of the last word have a little almost fish like sign on top in my Qur'an while the alif at the beginning of the second word has a little hamzah on it.  There are also alifs in other places that have nothing at all written on them.  Could you please explain the difference?    


There are three different letters that you are referring to: hamzah al-wasl , hamzah al-qata’ , and the alif.

Hamzah al-wasl is represented in the Madinah copy of the Qur’an as an alif with a small  over it: .  This is the letter you described as looking like an alif with a fish like sign on top of it as in the word,  .  Hamzah al-wasl , or the joining hamzah is only found at the beginning of a word that has a sukoon as the next letter.  The Arabs have a rule of never starting with a sukoon, so hamzah al-wasl is put in front of the sukoon and is employed only when starting the word.  Hamzah al-wasl acquires a vowel when starting this word, and the type of vowel used depends whether the word is a verb (it acquires then a kasrah or a dhammah, depending on the original vowel of the third letter of the verb), a noun (it acquires a kasrah in this case) or an article (in this case it acquires a fat-h).  The vowel that hamzah al-wasl acquires is put on the articulation point for the hamzah, thus the term hamzah al-wasl.  In the

Hamzah al-qata’ is the true hamzah that has been addressed in other answers to questions, it is represented by what looks like a fish hook, and it often “sits” on medd letters, such as in the word , where it sits on an alif.  Please also see this link:

The true alif has nothing written over it, and is preceded by a letter that has a fat-h on it.