alif is a very common Arabic letter. When it comes after a letter it causes the long "aa" sound. When it comes at the beginning of a word it means the word starts with a vowel sound.
Basic Appearance alif looks like a vertical line. It is drawn from the top down. example:
This is called a plain alif, because it carries no symbols.
alif can also carry a hamza. The hamza is drawn after the alif. It looks like this:
When it makes the "u" or "a" sound.
When it makes the "i" sound (the "i" sound in "bit" not "bite").
When a plain alif comes after a letter. like so:
ب + ا
بـ ـا Putting it together
It makes a long "aa" sound come after it. In the previous example the Arabic letter ب (baa) was followed by a plain alif. So it was read as "baa", remember a long "aa" sound, not a short one.
يا (pronounced: yaa)
فا (pronounced: faa)
وا (pronounced: waa)
دا (pronounced: daa)
با (pronounced: baa)
تا (pronounced: taa)
كا (pronounced: kaa)
ما (pronounced: maa)
The first letter can also be written with a fatHa and the pronunciation does not change.
يَا (pronounced: yaa)
فَا (pronounced: faa)
But if the alif is not a plain alif, then the long "aa" sound is not made. Something special happens, the purpose of hamza will be covered later.
يَأ (NOT pronounced: yaa)
فإ (NOT pronounced: faa)
Do not forget that the long "aa" sound is only made with a plain alif. If you see an alif with anything on it, it will not make the "aa" sound.