I have a question concerning the pronunciation of the letter Daad, known as the empathic "D." The 15th letter of the alphabet.

Question
Ma'a Salaama.

I have a question concerning the pronunciation of the letter Daad, known as the empathic "D." The 15th letter of the alphabet.

There seems to be quite a bit of disagreement among Arabs about how this is pronounced which is rather strange considering that it is grave error to mispronounce the Qur'an and that Arabic is known as the "Language of the Daad" i.e. it's defining letter.

My Tunisian professor said that it is nearly identical to the other emphatic letter, THA (emphatic voiced th), or the 17th letter of the alphabet (similar to "the" in English).  Indeed, it appears that linguist seem to in part agree with him!  Several dialects pronounce these two letters identically.

And many Arabic speakers (egyptians) pronounce it as a "z" which is definitely incorrect.

But there has to be a correct way of pronouncing this letter.  Is closer to a "D"  or a "TH" ?

Shukran Jazeelan!

Answer

Assalaam alaikum wa rahmatullah.
To find the correct way to pronounce the letter or any other Arabic letter, we need to look at the description by early scholars of tajweed, and/or find a learned scholar of tajweed who can describe the articulation points as they are pronounced in proper recitation of the Qur'an.  The Arabic tongue has become corrupt over time, and many do not know the proper articulation points for many letters.
The letter is pronounced from the side of the tongue, not the tip of the tongue.  The definition of the articulation point is: This letter is articulated from the one or both sides of the tongue and from the molars and the gum area next to the molars.
The posterior one third of the side of the tongue is used for this letter. This letter can be articulated from one side (right or left) of the tongue alone, or from both sides of the tongue simultaneously.

Imam Al-Jazaree died 833 h, may Allah be merciful to him said the following about the dhad in his prose on tajweed:
Translated as:
And the Dhaad from its side [tongue] if is followed by

The molars from the left or its right [side of tongue].

Imam Ash-Shatibiyy, died 590 h, may Allah be merciful to him, wrote the following lines of poetry on the articulation point of the letter :



Translated as:
And the side of the tongue,

then the deepest part of it for an elongated letter

Until what lies opposite to it of the molars and it is from both of them [sides]

Difficult and with the right is the least [used]


As you can see from the above descriptions of early scholars of tajweed, the tip of the tongue is not used when pronouncing this letter.  The letter uses the tip of the tongue and the edges of the two front upper teeth, so both the tongue area used and the teeth area that are used are quite different from the letter .
At the same time, the letter should not be pronounced like the English D.  It is not similar in sound or in articulation point.  We suggest that it not be compare d to it and not be called an emphatic "D". 

Please also see: http://www.abouttajweed.com/articulation-points-areas-of-the-arabic-letters/the-side-of-the-t.html
Note the common mistakes listed for this letter on this above page.
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You are most welcome!