Why is "أنا" (Ana) spelled with an "Alif" at the End?

Answered by Ustadh Tariq Abdul-Rasheed
Question: Assalamu alaikum. Why did the Arabs spell the word ‘ana’ with an extra alif in the Quran when the alif is not pronounced? Is the alif pronounced in this word in other variant readings?
Jazakallah khair.
Answer:In the name of Allah the Beneficent the Merciful
The word أنا in Quranic Recitation as transmitted by Imam Hafs from `Asim (Allah be pleased with them both) is considered from a family of ‘alifs’ that appear in the Quran. The ‘Seven Alifs’ are in the rulings related to (المدود). It is considered a ‘natural madd’ (المد الطبيعي) or normal elongation and is extended in recitation the timing of roughly two beats.
If the reciter stops on the word containing one of the ‘Seven Alifs’ then the madd (elongation) is recited. However, if the reciter continues in their recitation and connects the word containing the alif with the remaining verse or the following verse, then the elongation is omitted according to the rules of recitation transmitted by way of Imam Hafs. [Jamiah al-Muhafidhah ala al-Quran al-Kareem: al-Munir fi Ahkam at-Tajweed]

Quranic Recitation vs. Spoken Arabic

As for the writing of the alif in Arabic script and the way it is spoken, it is firmly established and should not be confused with the rules of Quranic Recitation. As you will note in your reading of the Quran, the word أنا is always written with the alif. It is not considered extra.
The way of Quranic Recitation as it has been transmitted relates to the proper manner of reciting the Noble Quran as the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) recited it. Spoken Arabic, however, doesn’t conform to the rules of Quranic Recitation per se.
Therefore, when the word أنا is spoken (as in normal conversation) the alif is always spoken and is not considered extra rather it is what is known of the language by convention.

Other Ways of Recitation

Is should be noted that if a student if learning the rules of Quranic Recitation according to a particular transmission. Then one should stick to that recitation until they have mastered it before moving one of the other well-known recitations. Additionally, there is no mixing between transmissions. If one is reciting according to Hafs for instance then they don’t mix between Haf and Warsh this is considered sinful.
In regards to the ‘Seven Alif’s’, yes, there are variations of how it is recited in the other transmissions. It is best to refer to and consult a local teacher of Quranic Recitation if you would like to see how the variations differ in practice according to their proper rules.
May Allah (the Most High) grant us love for His book and bless us with its proper knowledge and etiquette.
And Allah knows best,
Tariq Abdul-Rasheed