Monthly Archives: September 2006

Discover your roots.

Rootsal-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

A common phenomenon known to linguists is that of semantic shift, whereby a word acquires new shades of meaning over time. This phenomenon is also noticeable when we take a look at Islamic terminology, such as zakat, or Shari’ah, or the Names and Attributes of Allah, or words related to the prayer such as rukoo’, sujood, tashahhud; they all connote a meaning in an Islamic framework that was completely unknown to the pre-Islamic Arabs.

A number of Arabic scholars of the past researched this issue and recorded their findings in books, sometimes solely related to this topic. One of the best known sources in this regard was authored by Abu Hatim al-Razi (d. 322 Hijri) which he called, “al-Zeenah fee al-Kalimaat al-Islamiyyah al-‘Arabiyyah.”

As Arabic was the language chosen by Allaah for His Qur’an, and as the eternal miracle of Islam lies in the inimitable nature of the Qur’anic language, it is important to study as many aspects and angles of the language as possible, to gain a fuller and more complete understanding of the Qur’anic message. Such knowledge can serve to strengthen one’s faith and bring their hearts closer to the Qur’an.

For example, when we look at words related to Jannah (Paradise):

Jannatu ‘Adn جَنَاتُ عَدن (the Gardens of Eden): al-Asma’i said: The Arabs say ‘adanat al-iblu bi-makaani kadhaa wa kadhaa عدنت الإبل بمكان كذا وكذا to mean ‘the camels chose to remain and stay put in such-and-such place,’ indicating that the root ‘ayn-daal-noon ع – د – ن indicates constancy in one place. Thus, the Jannaat ‘Adn were so called because they are everlasting; when one is entered into them they will never leave.

Toobaa طوبى: The Prophet (may the peace and prayers of Allah be upon him) mentioned in a hadith:


Islam began as something strange, and will return to being something strange as it once began, so Toobaa طوبى is for the strangers.

Allaah said in the Qur’an (al-Rad, verse 29)

الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ الصَّالِحَاتِ طُوبَى لَهُمْ وَحُسْنُ مَآبٍ

Those who believe and work righteousness, Toobaa طوبى is for them and a beautiful place of (final) return.

Toobaa is the name of a tree in Paradise. Some linguists say its name was derived from the root taaba-yateebu طاب – يطيب which means ‘to be pleasant/ delightful’, as though to indicate that it will be delightful for the dwellers of Paradise to take shelter under it. The word Toobaa is of the pattern fu’laa فعلى, and this is a superlative pattern indicating the topmost end of a thing. Thus, Toobaa refers to the most extreme type of pleasure and delight; when one reclines and relaxes and takes shade under this tree it will be incomparable to any relaxation ever taken before – a reward awaiting the believers.

Kawthar الكوثر: It is a river in Paradise, whiter than milk and sweeter than honey, out of which branch out all other rivers. It is specifically for the Prophet (may the peace and prayers of Allah be upon him). It’s name was derived from the root kaaf-thaa’-raa’ ك – ث – ر which indicates abundance and plenty, reflecting the great blessings and bounty that lie within this river, as a reward to the Prophet (may the peace and prayers of Allah be upon him).


The Classical Bookshelf I

bookshelfal-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

In response to a recent request, this post will provide a list of some of the main classical books specifically related to the Arabic language from which one may benefit, be it for the sake of research or general interest. The post will be divided into categories based on the most important areas of research. The books may either be wholly dedicated to their category, or simply contain enough information related to the category to merit mention.

I apologise in advance that this list will be of more specific benefit to those who already are able to read and understand a level of Arabic. In shaa’ Allaah, the regular posts will resume shortly.

Please note that this is not a complete list, but rather a general guide.

On Grammar (nahw):
1. al-Kitāb by Sībawayhi
2. Ma‘ānī al-Qur’ān by al-Farrā’
3. al-Muqtadab by al-Mubarrad
4. al-Usūl fi al-Nahw by Ibn al-Sarrāj
5. al-Mufassal by al-Zamakhsharī
6. al-Kāfiyah by Ibn al-Hājib
7. al-Alfiyyah by Ibn Mālik
8. Mughnī al-Labīb by Ibn Hishām

On Morphology (sarf):
1. al-Tasrīf by al-Māzinī
2. al-Tasrīf by Ibn Jinnī
3. Nuzhat al-Tarf fī ‘ilm al-Sarf by al-Maydānī
4. al-Mumti‘ fī al-Tasrīf by Ibn ‘Usfūr
5. al-Shāfiyah by Ibn al-Hājib

Dictionaries (Ma‘ājim al-Alfādh):

(Arranged according to articulation points)
1. al-‘Ayn by al-Khalīl ibn Ahmad
2. Tahdhīb al-Lughah by al-Azharī

(Arranged alphabetically – starting with first root letter)
1. al-Jīm by Abu ‘Umar al-Shaybānī
2. Jamharat al-Lughah by Ibn Durayd
3. Mu‘jam Maqāyīs al-Lughah by Ibn Fāris
4. Asās al-Balāghah by al-Zamakhsharī
5. al-Misbāh al-Munīr by al-Fayyūmī

(Arranged alphabetically – starting with last root letter)
1. Tāj al-Lughah by al-Jawharī
2. Lisān al-‘Arab by Ibn Mandhūr
3. al-Qāmūs al-Muhīt by al-Fayrūzābādī
4. Tāj al-‘Arūs by al-Zubaydī

Thesauri (Ma‘ājim al-Ma‘ānī):
1. al-Gharīb al-Musannaf by Ibn Salām
2. al-Alfādh by Ibn al-Sikkīt
3. al-Alfādh al-Kitābiyyah by al-Hamadānī
4. Jawāhir al-Alfādh by Qudāmah ibn Ja’far
5. Fiqh al-Lughah by al-Thālibī
6. al-Mukhassas by Ibn Sīdah

On Rare words in the Qur’ān (Gharīb al-Qur’ān):
1. Tafsīr Gharīb al-Qur’ān ibn Ibn Qutaybah
2. Mufradat alfādh al-Qur’ān by al-Isfahānī

On Rare words in the Hadīth (Gharīb al-Hadīth):
1. al-Fā’iq fī gharīb al-Hadīth wa al-Athar by al-Zamakhsharī
2. al-Nihāyah fī gharīb al-Hadīth wa al-Athar by Ibn al-Athīr

On Philology (Fiqh al-Lughah):
1. al-Khasā’is by Ibn Jinnī
2. al-Sāhibī by Ibn Fāris
3. Fiqh al-Lughah by al-Tha’ālibī
4. al-Muzhir by al-Suyūtī

On common solecisms and correct usages:
1. Mā talhanu fīhī al-‘Awām by al-Kisā’ī
2. Islāh al-Mantiq by Ibn al-Sikkīt
3. Adab al-Kātib by Ibn Qutaybah
4. al-Fasīh by Tha‘lab
5. Lahn al-‘Āmmah by al-Zubaydī
6. Tathqīf al-Lisān by Ibn Makkī al-Siqlī
7. Durrat al-Ghawāmid fī Awhām al-Khawāss by al-Harīrī

Allāhumma ‘allimnā mā yanfa’unā, wa infa’nā bi mā ‘allamtanā.
Oh Allāh, teach us what will benefit us, and benefit us with what You have taught us.