Category Archives: Anecdotes

How the horse got his name.

horseal-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

The verb خالَ khaala has two different forms that also differ in pattern and meaning.

The first is the verb خال khaala (perfect tense) يَخُولُ yakhoolu (imperfect tense), خَولا khawlan (verbal noun), and it means ‘to do proficiently’ or ‘to perfect’. One may use it in the phrase خَوَّلَهُ اللهُ نِعمةً مِنْ عِنْدِهِ khawwalahu Allaahu ni3matan min 3indihi to mean ‘Allaah [proficiently] bestowed upon him blessings from Himself.’

This meaning also allows us to recognise the importance and status of the maternal uncle and aunt, and indeed our obligations as maternal aunts and uncles, who are called the خَالٌ khaal and the خالَةٌ khaalah because they are supposed to ‘take care proficiently’ of their family. And this may be one reason why the maternal aunt in Islam is afforded the status of the mother when the mother is absent. Continue reading

Swallow more than your pride.

*Post edited and corrected on 28-10-08

 

al-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

It has been narrated that a major scholar of the past [1] used to try and fault the Qur’an by searching for flaws in its language. His attempts and studies lasted months, during which time a group of men would frequent his house and ask him whether he had found anything yet. Eventually, he smashed his ink pot and broke his pen, and replied, “None can dispute that this is the Speech of Allah!” He then left the house and passed by a mosque, from which he heard the voice of a young boy reciting the verse,

وَقِيلَ يَا أَرْضُ ابْلَعِي مَاءكِ وَيَا سَمَاء أَقْلِعِي وَغِيضَ الْمَاء وَقُضِيَ الأَمْرُ وَاسْتَوَتْ عَلَى الْجُودِيِّ وَقِيلَ بُعْداً لِّلْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ
And it was said, “O earth, swallow your water, and O sky, withhold [your rain].” And the water subsided, and the matter was accomplished, and the ship came to rest on the [mountain of] Judiyy. And it was said, “Away with the wrongdoing people.” (Hood, verse 44)

to which the man remarked, “It is not possible that a human could produce such words.”

The verse in question is one of the most beautiful, eloquent, rhetorical verses of the Qur’an, as the scholars of Arabic balaaghah (rhetoric) identified within it more than twenty-five different rhetorical devices (fann balaaghee) within just 17 words! [2] Continue reading

The correct combination.

padlock.jpgal-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

I came across an amusing anecdote in Lisan al-’Arab recently illustrating the dangers of engaging in naht haphazardly.

It is related from Ibn Mas’ood (may Allah be pleased with him) that his wife one day asked him to provide a jilbab (protective outer garment worn outside the house) for her. He replied, “I fear that you will then set aside the jilbab in which Allah has contained you.” She asked him, “What is that?” He said, “Your house.”

To which she replied,

أَجَنَّك من أَصحابِ محمدٍ تقول هذا؟
“Ajannaka from the Companions of Muhammad (peace be upon him), that you say this?” Continue reading

Mind over matter

al-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

Sibawahyi is the forefather of Arabic grammar, the Imam of the grammarians, the first person to systemize the rules of Arabic grammar and present them in a book form to be available to the masses for generations to follow. Although there is doubt whether the contents of his book al-Kitaab are his words or the words of his teacher, al-Khalil ibn Ahmad al-Farahidi, there is no doubt that Arabic grammar is indebted to Sibawayhi.

There is an interesting story behind how he came to be the grammar genius he was though. As a young boy living in Basrah, he used to learn Fiqh and Hadith from the scholars there. One day he went to his shaykh Hamad al-Basri to learn hadith, but when he recited a hadith to his teacher he made a grammatical mistake [he made the khabar of laysa marfoo' instead of mansoob] which changed the meaning. His teacher interrupted him and said, “You made a grammatical error, O Sibawayhi!” Continue reading