Category Archives: Fiqh al-Lughah

Lord, have mercy.

This post is dedicated to my baby Rahma, the joy of my heart, light of my life, and queen of my kingdom,  owing to whom this site has not been updated for a while.

al-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

Undoubtedly the most oft-repeated names of Allāh are al-Rahmān الرحمن and al-Rahīm الرحيم, due to them being present in the basmala [1] which is mentioned before every chapter in the Qur’ān and which muslims are instructed to repeat before beginning any task.

For two names to so constantly be mentioned alongside the name of Allāh alludes to their status and importance within the Islamic creed, and thus it is important to gain a thorough understanding of their meaning and significance.

Both al-Rahmān and al-Rahīm are derived from the root rā’ – hā’ – mīm (ر-ح-م) and mean to treat or regard someone with mercy, compassion or tenderness. From the same root  stems the word al-rahim الرَّحِم (the womb) for the womb itself can be seen to behave in a tender and compassionate manner towards the fetus which it carries. Continue reading

He’s my brother.

This post is dedicated to my brother. May Allaah protect you and have mercy upon you always habibee…ameen.

al-Salaamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullaah,

One of the first concepts encountered by those who decide to submit themselves to their Creator and accept Islam as their creed and way of life, is that a Muslim is the brother of his fellow Muslim, and that the bonds of faith are stronger than the bonds of blood. Thus one of the first words learnt by the new Muslim are akhee أخي (‘my brother’) and ukhtee أختي (‘my sister’), and in some cases these become the very words most frequented by the tongue of the Muslim.

Oftentimes though, a Muslim may feel disappointed or let down by his brother, the very feeling of which is a contradiction of what a brother represents to the Muslim and the Arabs, as told in part by the etymology of the word itself. Continue reading


al-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

Updates to the site may be slow for a little while, due to travelling.

Jazaakum Allaahu khayran for your patience.

It just doesn’t sound right.

ear.jpgal-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

The sound and pronunciation of a word is very important in Arabic, and this especially becomes a problem in the case of generating new words via the naht process. (Although it was mentioned before that one cannot do naht at their whim, the council of Arabic Language has permitted cases of naht to be submitted to them for review for the sake of meeting with the demands of modern terminology into the language).

Some of these problems are that when you combine two or more words in naht, some of the letters invariably have to be dropped. But which letters are dropped and which are retained is a crucial issue, for there are a number of linguistic ‘flaws’ related to words, some of which are that two letters following each other may be considered heavy on the tongue (al-thiqal), or adjacent letters may be discordant or inharmonious with one another. Thus, Ibrahim Anees offered some guidelines (published in Mujallat Majma’ al-Lughah al-’Arabiyyah fee al-Qahirah, ed. 30) followed by classical scholars in the words they welcomed into the language, to help us judge whether new words are harmonious and acceptable to Arabic or not. Some of these are: 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

The Science of Language

phpoztwyzam.jpgal-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

Since the dawn of early Islam, and largely provoked by the doctrine of the miracle of the Qur’an’s linguistic inimitability, scholars of both Arab and non-Arab stock concerned themselves with studying the Arabic Language deeply and comprehensively. They were able to establish a range of sciences (‘uloom) into which the letters, words, and constructions of Arabic all fell. It is important to be aware of these sciences to fully understand the depth and breadth of the Arabic language, and the various angles through which it may be studied. These sciences may be divided into three main categories, each of which is further divided into sub-categories as follows:

Continue reading


al-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

Updates to the site may continue to be slow coming for the next month or so until further notice.

Jazaakum Allaahu khayran for your patience.

Edited: 28/06/06

Down to the last letter.

alphabetal-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

Arabic linguists of the past examined the semantic connotations of Arabic alphabetical letters according to their position in a word, and were able to notice certain trends in meaning. Although the rules are by no means to be taken as absolute, they may be viewed within the larger phenomenon of ishtiqaaq and perhaps lend further insight into its mechanics.

Some of what was noticed was the following:

1. When the letter taa’ ت is the second root letter of a word, it affords the meaning of cutting or severance, for example:

batara al-yad بتر اليد means ‘he amputated the hand
atta al-habl بت الحبل means ‘he cut the rope’

2. When the letter thaa’ ث is the second root letter of a word, it affords the meaning of spreading or diffusion, for example:

nathara al-maa’ نثر الماء means ‘he sprinkled the water’
hathaa al-turaab حثا التراب means ‘he poured earth/soil [upon something]‘ Continue reading

“Antonyms in Arabic are a strange phenomenon.”

sandal-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

While one of the aims of Arabic Gems is to provide original content related to the Arabic language, I came across a great article in The Daily Star by Tamim al-Barghouti that I wanted to post here. It is extremely interesting, has a nice philosophical take on the reasoning behind the phenomena it speaks about, and its content is in line with the content of this site, almost like a continuation from the previous posts. You can read it below, or on the link provided above.

Antonyms in Arabic are a strange phenomenon.

By Tamim al-Barghouti
Special to The Daily Star
Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Antonyms in Arabic are a strange phenomenon. There is a whole category of words that mean one thing as well as its opposite. For example, the word, "saleem," means the one who is cured as well as the one who has just been bit by a snake. The word baseer, means one with great sight and insight, but also means blind. Mawla means master and slave and wala means to follow and to lead, The word umma, which is usually translated as nation, means the entity that is followed, or the guide, as well as the entity that follows and is guided.

Like many properties of Arabic, the reason for this is usually attributed to the Bedouin origin of the language – the desert is said to impose unity, homogeneity, and therefore equality on the all creatures. Sand is everywhere, and in the end everything turns into sand, the contradictory extremes of life seem to be the same in essence. But this traditional explanation, like many traditional explanations, does not explain much.

Continue reading

Two ends of the same stick.

Stickal-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

There is a category of words in Arabic known as al-ad`daad الأضداد. They are a type of ishtiraak in which a single word shares different shades of meaning, but what is special about the ad`daad is that the same word is applied to two completely opposite meanings. For example, the word jawn جَوْن can mean either black or white, and Ibn Faaris mentioned in his book al-Saahibee fee Fiqh al-Lughah that it was among the customs of the Arabs to apply words in such a way.

Sometimes such differences are tribal. For example, the sudfah سُدفة in the dialect of the tribe of Tameem refers to the darkness, while in the dialect of Qays it refers to the light. Similarly, the tribe of ‘Aqeel would use the verb lamaqa لَمَق to mean ‘he wrote it’, while all the other tribes of Qays would use it to mean ‘he erased it’. Continue reading