Monthly Archives: February 2006

The best comebacks

al-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh

One thing that can be noticed about the poets of old is that they would always seem to come out with the best comebacks in the form of clever couplets.

One such example is from Ibn Rashiq al-Qayrawanee when he received a letter from Ibn al-Aghlab, the ruler of Majorca, asking him to come to visit him by sea. Ibn Rashiq, afraid of what the sea may bring did not want to set out on such a voyage, so he replied with two lines of poetry:

You ordered me to take my efforts to the sea,

But I disobeyed you, so select another means:

You are not Nooh that your ship can protect me,

nor am I 'Eesa that I can walk on water.


A way forward?

al-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh

Jamal al-Din al-Afghani studied the relationship between the Arabic language and the strength of the Muslim Ummah, and among the conclusions he reached was:

"The Turks overlooked a vital matter; the adoption of the Arabic language as their state language. Had the Ottoman Empire adopted Arabic as its official language and strove to Arabicize the tongues of the Turks, it would have been impregnable. But instead, it did the opposite and tried to Turkicise the Arabs which turned out to be a regretable policy and misjudged move. Arabicization would have removed the nationalistic feuds from the two nations [and united and strengthened them]…" [1]

[1] For more information, refer back to al-A'maal al-Kaamilah by Jamal al-Din al-Afghani.

Grammatical pick ‘n’ mix

al-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh

There is a phenomenon in Arabic known as al-naht النحت. It is when two words are merged to make one word that refers to them both.

Such words are often found in books of fiqh, and this is where I first came across the most common ones, some examples of which are:

  • The hay'alah الحيعلة referring to the saying of Hayya 'alā... ('Come to…')

  • The hawqalah الحوقلة referring to the saying of Lā hawla wa lā quwwata illā billāh. ('There is no might and no power except with Allāh').

  • The mash'alah المشألة referring to the saying of Mā shā'a Alllāh.
  • The sam'alah السمعلة referring to the saying of Sallāmu Alllāhi 'alayk.

Some less known ones referring to commonly used phrases are:

  • The taylaqah الطيقلة referring to the saying Atāla Allāhu baqā'ak ('May Allāh lengthen your life').

  • The dam'azah الدمعزة referring to the saying Adāma Allāhu'izzak ('May Allāh preserve your honour').

And Ibn al-Farrakhān mentions a couple more commonly required contractions in his book al-Mustawfā :

  • The Shafa'nafīs شفعنفي in fiqh refer to Imām al-Shāfi'ī along with Imām Abū Hanīfah
  • The Hanaflatīs حنفلتي refer to Imām Abū Hanīfah along with the Mu'tazilah

A word of warning though: It is not permitted to go around making these up ourselves; rather they have been passed on through one of the sources of grammar (there are usūl in nahw just as there are usūl in fiqh), this being samā' – hearing it from the predecessors.

Taps’ tribute to the Hanafīs

al-Salāmu 'alaykum wa rahmatullāh

One of the words for a 'tap' in Arabic is a hanafiyyah. If it makes you think of the Hanafī madh`hab, there is a quirky story that explains why.

When taps were invented, the scholars held that wudū' (ablution) must only be performed using still water, and that running water coming through pipes from a tap may not be used to do wudū'.

The Hanafīs then looked into the matter and ruled that it was permissible to perform wudū' using water that came from a tap. And so to this day, the tap remains the namesake of the Hanafīs.