Category Archives: Qur’an

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

A runaway slave

al-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

The Story of Prophet Yunus in the Qur’an is told only briefly in Surah al-Anbiya and Surah Saffat, although he is referred to elsewhere, such as al-Qalam. In brief, he was sent to a people whose unresponsiveness to him and his message led to him leaving them in frustration. In Saffat (37:139-140), the most high describes his departure by saying:

و إن يونس لمن المرسلين. إذ أبق إلى الفلك المشحون.
And Yunus was one of the Messengers; when he ran to the laden ship.”

In explaining the word ( أبق ), some exegetes gloss it as ( تباعد ) ‘to move away’; ( فزع ) ‘to flee’; or most commonly, ( هرب ) ‘to run away’. In my translation above, I rendered it simply as “ran”.

But the words given as estimates for ( أبق ) are simply that: an estimation of the approximate meaning. They do not allow us an understanding of the intricacy of this instance of word choice and usage in the Qur’an. ( أبق ) is not merely to flee; it is used for the ( آبق ), a slave who escapes and runs away from his master. Continue reading

The secret of happiness

al-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

So important is the concept of ‘happiness’ in our lives that many people – even dating back to the days of the Greek philosophers – considered its pursuit to be the very purpose of existence.

Indeed, the Qur’an itself speaks of happiness as being one of the rewards of those whom Allah chooses to admit to Paradise. He says of the martyrs in Aal-’Imraan, verse 170,

فَرِحِينَ بِمَا آَتَاهُمُ اللَّهُ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ
They rejoice in what Allah has bestowed upon them of His Bounty

And of the reward of the pious believers [al-Insaan, verse 11],

فَوَقَاهُمُ اللَّهُ شَرَّ ذَلِكَ الْيَوْمِ وَلَقَّاهُمْ نَضْرَةً وَسُرُورًا
So, Allah saved them from the evil of that Day and gave them a light of beauty and joy.

What becomes immediately apparent upon reading the Arabic text (but once again obscured in the translation) is that two very different words have been used to convey the idea of happiness: فَرِحِينَ fariheena, which is conjugated from the noun فَرَح farah, and سُرُور suroor, and this is prevalent throughout the Qur’an. This is because there are two very different types of happiness being referred to. Continue reading

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

Love, oh love.

heart_instant_hot_pack.jpgal-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

The word ‘love’ appeared as a noun in the Qur’an ten times – of those ten, nine were using the word hubb حبّ, as in the verse,

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَتَّخِذُ مِن دُونِ اللّهِ أَندَاداً يُحِبُّونَهُمْ كَحُبِّ اللّهِ

And of mankind are some who take (for worship) others besides Allah as rivals (to Allah). They love them as they love Allah.

and once was using the word mahabbah, محبّة in the verse concerning Prophet Musa (peace be upon him),

أَنِ اقْذِفِيهِ فِي التَّابُوتِ فَاقْذِفِيهِ فِي الْيَمِّ فَلْيُلْقِهِ الْيَمُّ بِالسَّاحِلِ يَأْخُذْهُ عَدُوٌّ لِّي وَعَدُوٌّ لَّهُ وَأَلْقَيْتُ عَلَيْكَ مَحَبَّةً مِّنِّي وَلِتُصْنَعَ عَلَى عَيْنِي

Saying: ‘Put him (the child) into the Tabut (a box or a case or a chest) and put it into the river (Nile), then the river shall cast it up on the bank, and there, an enemy of Mine and an enemy of his shall take him.’ And I endued you with love from Me, in order that you may be brought up under My Eye,

The word hubb is the original verbal noun of the verb habba حبَّ, while the word mahabbah is what is known as the ‘masdar meemi‘ (verbal noun begining with a letter meem‘) of the same verb. As it is the original verb, it is the origin, the asl, and thus it appeared 9 times. But mahabbah only appeared once. The reason for this lies in the difference between these two words, which can be summed up in the following three points:

Continue reading

Submit and obey.

phpe73upogreyam.jpgal-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

Sometimes there appear mushtarak lafdhee words in the Qur’an, that sound and are written the same as one another, but appear to be somewhat different in meaning, and it is sometimes difficult to make a link between the various meanings or draw them back to an original meaning. An example of this the word دينdeen‘ in the following verses:

 

مَا كَانَ لِيَأْخُذَ أَخَاهُ فِي دِينِ الْمَلِكِ إِلاَّ أَن يَشَاءَ اللّهُ

He could not take his brother by the law of the king (as a slave), except that Allah willed it. [12:76]

 

مَالِكِ يَوْمِالدين

Sovereign of the Day of Judgment [1:4]

The word ‘deen‘ comes from the root daal-yaa’-noon د – ي – ن, and the basic meaning of the word is submissiveness and obedience.

Thus, the word ‘deen دين in its most well-known meaning of ‘creed’ is so called because one submits to the tenets of the creed and obeys them. Continue reading

Don’t be a hater.

peace-dove.gifal-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

When Ibn ‘Aashoor (d. 1973/1393) wrote his tafseer on the Qur’an, which he called Tafsir al-Tahrir wa al-Tanwir, he followed a number of basic principles in his methodology, particularly when it came to the linguistic exegesis, with which his tafseer is replete. These principles are generally based on the semantic connotations of individual words, and how these meanings relate to the context in which they are found.

This linguistic analysis is perhaps the most outstanding feature of this tafseer, and this is due to the high regard in which Ibn ‘Ashoor regarded such analysis. He himself commented in the begining of this work,

 

“With regards the Arabic language, then the purpose of it is to understand the intents of the Arabs in the speech and literature of their language…the Qur’an is in Arabic, and thus the rules of Arabic [grammar] are a means by which to understand the meanings of the Qur’an. Without [knowledge of] these rules, the reader will fall into error and incorrect understanding…”

This tafseer is truly distinguished from other tafseers by Ibn ‘Ashoor’s precise linguistic analysis, in the way he shows the meaning of the Qur’anic words and their semantic connotations, and the way in which they are used in their context. Continue reading

The story’s secret.

open-book.gifal-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

To look back to the original meaning of a word is to embark on more than just a linguistic voyage; in some cases, tracing a word back to its original meaning is actually the key to unlocking one of the treasures of the guidance of the Qur’an.

For example, Allaah said in the introduction to the story of Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him),

نَحْنُ نَقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ أَحْسَنَ الْقَصَصِ بِمَا أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ هَـذَا الْقُرْآنَ وَإِن كُنتَ مِن قَبْلِهِ لَمِنَ الْغَافِلِينَ

We relate to you, the best of stories (qasas) in what We have revealed to you of this Qur’an although you were, before it, among the unaware.

wherein the real secret behind Allah relating this story to us lies in none other than the word story itself. Continue reading

Dealing with extremities.

hurricanenature_140×140.jpgal-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

There are certain noun forms in Arabic known as siyagh al-mubaalaghah (‘forms of intensification/hyperbolic forms’) that are used to put across a more intense meaning than the original noun form. For example, a liar ‘kaadhib كاذب may also be known as a kadhoob كذوب or a kadhdhaab كذّاب - all carrying the meaning of ‘liar’ but denoting different levels of intensity.

Allaah often uses these forms in the Qur’an, and thus we find that He refers to Himself as al-Ghaffaar الغفار (Ta-Ha verse 82) and al-Ghafoor الغفور (al-Burooj, verse 14).

Similarly, the slanderer has been referred to as a hammaaz هماز (al-Qalam, verse 11), and a humazah همزة (al-Humazah, verse 1).

Is there a difference between these forms of essentially the same word? Abu Hilal al-’Askari, author of al-Furooq al-Lughawiyyah, said that it is impossible for there to be two different words in Arabic that have exactly the same meaning, and that those who are unaware of the differences think that the different words are only different hyperbolic forms, whereas they also reflect different meanings. Continue reading