What Does “Gentle Pause” (Sakta Latifa) Mean in Tajwid?

Answered by Shaykh Anas al-Musa


I saw a notation in the margin of the Mushaf mentioning “gentle pause.” What does this mean, and are there different types of pauses?


In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

In the margins of some Mushafs, especially those transcribed in the narration of Hafs from Asim through the way of Shatibiyya, there is a phrase that relates to the manner of reciting certain words of the Quran. This phrase, “(سَكْتَة لطيفة) gentle pause,” is inscribed in the margin, and above the Quranic word to which this pause applies, the letter (س) is placed.

For instance, in the Mushaf printed by the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Quran, in the margin of Surat al-Kahf, verse 1 – (الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي أَنْزَلَ عَلَى عَبْدِهِ الْكِتَابَ وَلَمْ يَجْعَلْ لَهُ ‌عِوَجًا), it is written: “Gentle pause on the Alif of (عِوَجا),” with the letter (س) marked above the Alif of (عِوَجا) as a symbol for this pause.

Similarly, in a Mushaf published by the al-Dar al-Athariya, it is stated more clearly: “Our master Hafs, when connecting (عِوَجا) to (قَيِّما), recite with a gentle pause on the Alif, substituting the tanwin, with a slight pause of two counts without breathing.”

Pause (Sakta)

Tajwid scholars define “pause” as momentarily stopping the sound during recitation for a shorter duration than the usual pause for breath, with the intention of immediately resuming the reading. The duration of this pause in Hafs’s recitation is brief and subtle, as mentioned by Shatibi (may Allah have mercy on him) in his verses:

830 – ‌وَسَكْتَةُ ‌حَفْصٍ ‌دُونَ ‌قَطْعٍ ‌لَطِيفَةٌ … عَلَى أَلِفِ التَّنْوِينِ فِي عِوَجاً بَلَا
“And Hafs’s pause, without a cut, is gentle… on the Alif of tanween in (عِوَجًا) indeed,”

831 – وَفِي نُونِ مَنْ رَاق وَمَرْقَدِناَ وَلَا … مِ بَلْ رَانَ وَالْبَاقُونَ لَا سَكْتَ مُوصَلَا
“And in the Nun of (مَنْ رَاق), and (‌‌مَرْقَدِنَا), and Lam of (بلْ رَانَ), and the rest do not pause in continuation.”

Abu Shama al-Maqdisi, in his commentary on al-Shatibiyya, citing the author of al-Taysir, elaborates:

“Hafs recites (عِوَجا) with a gentle pause on the Alif, without a complete stop or tanwin, then continues with (قَيِّما). Makki noted that Hafs would make a slight pause on (عِوَجا) when connecting it in recitation.”

Abu Shama further explains that this means the pause is not a complete stop, aiming to clarify the meaning, so it’s not misconceived that (قَيِّما) is an adjective for (عِوَجا), but rather (قَيِّما) is a state of the revealed book or governed by an implied verb, meaning “(جعله قيمًا) He made it upright.”

Ahwazi commented that this is not a preferred stop, as the sentence structure involves rearrangement: (أَنْزَلَ على عبده الكتاب قيمًا ولم يجعل له عوجًا). [Shatibi, Hurz sl-Amani; Abu Shama al-Maqdisi, Ibraz al-Ma‘ani; Qawa‘id al-Tajwid ‘ala Riwat Hafs ‘an ‘Asim]

Therefore, the intended meaning of a “gentle pause” is to stop momentarily at the letter marked with (س) without breathing, indicating the intention to continue reading without a full stop. When not breathing during this pause, it implies not stopping the recitation; otherwise, it would be considered a “stop” in Quranic recitation terms.

The Four Gentle Pauses

The four gentle pauses in Hafs’s narration from Asim through the way of Shatibiyya are:

  • The pause on the Alif of (عِوَجًا) in (الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي أَنْزَلَ عَلَى عَبْدِهِ الْكِتَابَ وَلَمْ يَجْعَلْ لَهُ ‌عِوَجًا) [Quran, 18:1];
  • The pause on the Alif of (مَرْقَدِنا) in (قَالُوا يَا وَيْلَنَا مَنْ بَعَثَنَا ‌مِنْ ‌مَرْقَدِنَا هَذَا مَا وَعَدَ الرَّحْمَنُ وَصَدَقَ الْمُرْسَلُونَ) [Quran, 36:52];
  • The pause on the Nun of (مَنْ راق) in (وَقِيلَ ‌مَنْ ‌رَاقٍ) [Quran, 75:27];
  • The pause on the Lam of (بلْ رَانَ) in (كَلَّا ‌بَلْ ‌رَانَ عَلَى قُلُوبِهِمْ مَا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ) [Quran, 83:14].

It is permissible for the reader at (عِوَجًا) to choose between the gentle pause if intending to connect (عِوَجًا) with (قَيِّماً) in the following verse and stopping at (عِوَجًا) if intending to pause, as both are permissible since (عِوَجًا) is the start of a verse. The same applies to (مَرْقَدِنا), although it is not the start of a verse, but the stop there is complete. In the last two pauses at (بلْ رَانَ) and (مَنْ رَاق), it is necessary to clearly pronounce the letters without merging, thus reading (برَّان) and (مَرَّاق) is incorrect. [Feryal al-‘Abd, al-Mizan Fi Ahkam Tajwid al-Quran]

When we say “gentle pause,” it doesn’t imply the opposite, such as an “ugly” pause; rather, the term “gentle” here indicates the brief and subtle nature of the pause.

Difference between Pause, Stop, and Cut

Quranic recitation scholars differentiate between the terms “pause,” “cut,” and “stop,” each with distinct meanings. A “pause” involves momentarily halting the sound, while a “cut” signifies a complete cessation of reading, and a “stop” is halting in recitation, usually with a breath intake.

Some Important Points Regarding “Cuts”

It’s advisable for a reciter not to disengage from a verse (cut off) until its completion; a cut should only occur at verse beginnings, as they are natural separators. Ibn Al-Jazari, citing Abdullah Ibn Abi al-Hudhayl, stated: “If one of you begins a verse, do not cut it off until completed.” [Ibn al-Jazari, al-Nashr fi al-Qira‘at al-‘Ashr]

After a cut, if a reciter wishes to resume reading, they must start with seeking refuge (Istia‘dha) as per Allah’s command: “So when you recite the Quran, seek refuge with Allah from Satan, the accursed.” [Quran, 16:98], followed by Basmala if resuming from the start of a Sura or optionally in the middle. [Qawa‘id al- Tajwid ‘ala Riwayat Hafs ‘an ‘Asim; al-Mawsu‘a al-Quraniya al-Mutakhassisa]

Some early scholars did not differentiate between a cut and a stop, using them interchangeably. [Qawa‘id al- Tajwid ‘ala Riwayat Hafs ‘an ‘Asim]

Specific to Hafs ‘An ‘Asim

Finally, the aforementioned rulings on the “gentle pause” are specific to Hafs’s narration from Asim through Shatibiyya, addressing the questioner’s query and its prevalent use in the Islamic world today. However, other narrators didn’t observe the “gentle pause” at (مَنْ رَاق) and (بلْ رَانَ), nor at (‌مِنْ ‌مَرْقَدِنَا) and (عِوَجًا).

May Allah send blessings upon our Master Prophet Muhammad, his family, and companions.

[Shaykh] Anas al-Musa.

Shaykh Anas al-Musa, born in Hama, Syria, in 1974, is an erudite scholar of notable repute. He graduated from the Engineering Institute in Damascus, where he specialized in General Construction, and Al-Azhar University, Faculty of Usul al-Din, where he specialized in Hadith.

He studied under prominent scholars in Damascus, including Shaykh Abdul Rahman al-Shaghouri and Shaykh Adib al-Kallas, among others. Shaykh Anas has memorized the Quran and is proficient in the ten Mutawatir recitations, having studied under Shaykh Bakri al-Tarabishi and Shaykh Mowfaq ‘Ayun. He also graduated from the Iraqi Hadith School.

He has taught numerous Islamic subjects at Shari‘a institutes in Syria and Turkey. Shaykh Anas has served as an Imam and preacher for over 15 years and is a teacher of the Quran in its various readings and narrations.

Currently, he works as a teacher at SeekersGuidance and is responsible for academic guidance there. He has completed his Master’s degree in Hadith and is now pursuing his Ph.D. in the same field. Shaykh Anas al-Musa is married and resides in Istanbul.