All that has a trunk is a tree.

al-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

There are endless gems to be extracted from the depth, breadth and precision of Arabic vocabulary, and among the many books which put some such gems on display is the classic Fiqh al-Lughah wa Sirr al-'Arabiyyah by Abu Mansur al-Tha'aalibi. His book is divided into two sections, the first of which is almost exclusively a lexicographical study that arranges words according to a wider quality that they share, rather than alphabetically.

The first such entry deals with words that are found in the Qur'an, and offers a broader meaning for them.

Below are some examples given by al-Tha'aalibi. I have italicised the word that is used in the Qur'an, and added a reference to some of the instances in which it is used in the Qur'an, followed by the most common translation of the word in bold. This is to compare the actual meaning with the meaning conveyed through translation. It should be noted that while these are the broader linguistic meanings, they may not apply in every instance the word is used in the Qur'an as the meaning may be restricted according to its context. The benefit of this knowledge is rather to see how the words used in the Qur'an were developed and their wider meanings.

  • Everything that is above you and offers you shade is a samaa'. (sky; 3:5, 10:31)

  • Every square-shaped building is a ka'bah (5:95, 5:97)
  • Everything that crawls ('dabba') on the face of the Earth is a daabbah (animal, beast; 2:164, 6:38)

  • Every part of the body that one is shy to uncover is a 'awrah (33:13)

  • Every plant that has a trunk is known as a shajarah (tree, 2:35, 7:22)
  • Every garden surrounded by a wall is a hadeeqah (pl. is hadaa'iq) (garden, 27:60, 78:32, 80:30)

  • Every difficult calamity that befalls man is a qaari'ah (101:1-2, 69:4)

8 responses to “All that has a trunk is a tree.

  1. Walaikum asalaam,
    Is this book translated? (Fiqh al-Lughah wa Sirr al-’Arabiyyah)

  2. Yaser Al-Hotaki

    I am really enjoying this blog more than anything I have before. I am working on my own Arabic right now and this website is a big motivation to try to read those texts you keep mentioning (like Fiqh Al-Lughah and Sibawahi’s work). I can read some classical texts now, somewhat slowly, like Ibn Kathir and Ibn Hisham but I don’t know how different these grammatical texts and linguistic texts are in difficulty. I am a Linguistics student in school and everytime I go through another class I am more amazed how far ahead our classical ‘ulema were then there time in defining, organizing and explaining the beautiful language of Arabic. I enjoyed your post on the uniqueness of Arabic because it really is unique in many regards. And the classical ‘ulema were very uniqe when put in comparison to the other grammarians and morphologists of other languages. Keep up the posts! Allahu ‘Alam.

  3. Arshad, the book has not been translated. One of the aims of this site is to provide original material from untranslated works, to encourage the reader to refer back to the Arabic himself, or to learn Arabic to enable him to access this aspect of our rich Islamic heritage for himself.

    Yaser Al-Hotaki, Jazaakum Allaahu khayran for your encouraging feedback, as the motivation you described is one of the aims we set out to fulfill al-Hamdu lillaah. May Allaah grant you and others tawfeeq in your pursuits.

  4. This is really cool mashaAllah, may Allah reward you all with jannah.

    I wanted to ask, about daabbah what exactly does crawl mean, anything that’s not two legs? So if there are animals with two legs (i’m not sure are there?) they will not be daabbah?

    Replying to an eralier post about comebacks: I really like one between Ibn Hajar and al Ayni. Al ayni had written a poem about the minaret of the ruler, which collapsed, so al Haafidh wrote:
    لجامِعِ مولانا المؤيد رونق منارتُهُ تزهو مِنَ الحسنِ والزينِ‏.‏
    تقول وقد مالت عليهم تمهلوا فليس على جسمي أضر من العين‏.‏
    so al Ayni replied:
    منارة كعروس الحسن إذ جليت وهدمها بقضاء الله والقدر
    قالوا أصيبت بعين قلت ذا غلط ما أوجب الهدم إلا خشية الحجر

  5. The original, general meaning of a daabbah is anything at all that walks or crawls on the face of the earth, two legs or four, rational or irrational (including birds and fish). This is the meaning the some exegetes said is indicated in Surah al-Noor verse 45 of the Qur’an.

    However, this meaning is usually restricted today to primarly refer to a beast that is ridden, especially equines.

    Jazakum Allaahu khayran for the couplets, very clever maa shaa’ Allaah.

  6. What was the meaning of awra prior to the rules of hijab

  7. Its root refers to an illness in one eye, such that it cannot see. So the meaning was adapted directly from this meaning, as the ‘awrah is something that cannot be seen.

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