Category Archives: Balaghah

Not all questions require an answer.


al-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

There is a rhetorical device in Arabic known as al-istikhbaar الاستخبار, which literally means ‘to seek information’; in practical form, it is to ask a question and seek to know the answer. Yet there is a fine line between the essence istikhbaar and the clothes of the interrogative (al-istifhaam – الاستفهام) that most people see it as wearing: the linguists say that the first time you ask a question seeking to know the answer, it is known as istikhbaar because you are seeking khabar - information. Once the questionee responds, you may not have fully understood the answer, so you ask again (with a slight change in wording or without), and this is known as istifhaam because you are seeking fahm - understanding and clarification.

But as in many languages, not every question is a real question in Arabic, and the form of istikhbaar can be used for many intents. It is especially important to regard these intents when reading the Qur’an, to fully grasp the precise meaning of Allaah’s words. Some examples of this are: Continue reading