Monthly Archives: January 2007

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.

There are two different types of hypberbolic forms:

i. Those that indicate a different meaning to the other forms, for example the forms al-dahhaak الضحّاك and al-duhakah الضُحَكة which stem from the root daad-Haa’-kaaf ض-ح-ك connoting laughter. To call someone dahhaak is to praise him, as it means he laughs alot. To call someone duhakah, however, is an insult, as it can mean he laughs TOO much (such as when it is inappropriate to laugh for example), or that he laughs at others alot.

ii. Those that indicate a different level of intensity to other forms. Some of the most common siyagh al-mubaalaghah are (more in later posts in shaa’ Allaah):

1. fa33aal فعّال – For example, hammaaz, or kaffaar كفار (Ibrahim, verse 34). This form connotes the repetition of the action time after time, so much so that it becomes like a characteristic of the person, and this is why it is often this form that is used to refer to a person’s trade or profession; for example, a carpenter is known as a najjaar نجار, a tailor is known as a khayyaat خياط, a butcher is known as a lahhaam لحام , and so on.

Thus, al-Razi commented on the word ghaffaar غفار in the verse,

فَقُلْتُ اسْتَغْفِرُوا رَبَّكُمْ إِنَّهُ كَانَ غَفَّاراً

And said, ‘Ask forgiveness of your Lord. Indeed, He is ever a Perpetual Forgiver.

saying ‘As though this was His craft and business.’

And in the following verse,

وَخُذْ بِيَدِكَ ضِغْثاً فَاضْرِب بِّهِ وَلَا تَحْنَثْ إِنَّا وَجَدْنَاهُ صَابِراً نِعْمَ الْعَبْدُ إِنَّهُ أَوَّابٌ

[We said], “And take in your hand a bunch [of grass] and strike with it and do not break your oath.” Indeed, We found him patient, an excellent servant. Indeed, he was one repeatedly turning back [to Allah ].

the awwaab أواب is the one who repents constantly and always turns back to Allah.

And when Allaah refers to Himself as al-Ghaffaar,

وَإِنِّي لَغَفَّارٌ لِّمَن تَابَ وَآمَنَ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحاً ثُمَّ اهْتَدَى

But indeed, I am the Perpetual Forgiver of whoever repents and believes and does righteousness and then continues in guidance.

it is as though He is saying that He constantly, time after time, forgives those who turn to Him in repentance.

ii. fa3ool فَعول – This form is originally used to refer to concrete nouns that are used to carry out other thinjgs, such as the wadoo’ وَضوء is the water used to carry out the ablution, and the waqood وَقود is the wood used to light fires, and the fatoor فَطور is the food used to break one’s fast. This form was then extended to be used as a form of intensification, and thus it connotes a characteristic in a person that is concrete within him, as though he is a source and basis of that thing. For example, to call someone saboor صَبور is as if to say that their patience (sabr) represents a type of commodity or fuel within them, their driving force, their motivations, and their drive – i.e. the person in their entirety symbolises and exemplifies patience.

Thus, when Allah refers to Himself as al-Ghafoor,

وَهُوَ الْغَفُورُ الْوَدُودُ

And He is the Forgiving, the Affectionate,

it is as though He is saying that He is full of forgiveness and a source of it.

Eternal regret.

regret-chains.jpgal-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

There are some commentaries on the Qur’an (tafseers) which have a strong linguistic element, and within such commentaries one may sometimes find that the different types of ishtiqaaq have been used to offer a depth of meaning and insight that would not ordinarily be understood had reference to the ishtiqaaq not been made.

One such example of this can be found in the tafseer of al-Qurtubi in which he commented on the regret expressed in verse 54 of Surah Yunus,

وَلَوْ أَنَّ لِكُلِّ نَفْسٍ ظَلَمَتْ مَا فِي الأَرْضِ لاَفْتَدَتْ بِهِ وَأَسَرُّواْ النَّدَامَةَ لَمَّا رَأَوُاْ الْعَذَابَ وَقُضِيَ بَيْنَهُم بِالْقِسْطِ وَهُمْ لاَ يُظْلَمُونَ

And if every self that has done injustice had whatever is in the earth, it would indeed ransom itself therewith; and they will keep secret [their] regret (al-nadaamah) as soon as they see the torment, and [the case] is decreed between them with equity, and they are not done an injustice.

al-Qurtubi commented that the word used for regret – al-nadaamah – comes from the root noon-daal-meem ن-د-م. He then mentioned that these letters rearranged form the root daal-meem-noon د-م-ن, which means to continue and persist in something.

Such knowledge undoubtedly deepens our appreciation of the type of regret that such a person as is mentioned in the verse will feel – a regret that is continual and everlasting, and from the chains of which they will never break free.

May Allah protect us from being one of these people. Ameen.

Best seen in context.

seencontext.jpgal-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

Many people who have set about to memorise the Qur’an, or portions of the Qur’an, will at some point have become confused when they come to a verse they have learnt elsewhere in the Qur’an, but with a slight change in wording or order. The key to overcoming this confusion, more often than not, lies in understanding two things: 1) the meaning of the words, 2) the context. So important is context that some linguists say that words only come to have a meaning once they are put in a context, otherwise what is to say that the meaning of ‘ayn عين is ‘eye’ and not ‘spring’?

To give an example, Allah says in Surah al-Baqarah, verse 86,

أُولَـئِكَ الَّذِينَ اشْتَرَوُاْ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا بِالآَخِرَةِ فَلاَ يُخَفَّفُ عَنْهُمُ الْعَذَابُ وَلاَ هُمْ يُنصَرُونَ
Those are the ones who have bought the life of this world [in exchange] for the Hereafter, so the punishment will not be lightened for them, nor will they be aided. (yunsaroon).

He later says in the same chapter (verse 162),

خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا لاَ يُخَفَّفُ عَنْهُمُ الْعَذَابُ وَلاَ هُمْ يُنظَرُونَ
Abiding eternally therein. The punishment will not be lightened for them, nor will they be reprieved. (yundharoon).

Just as He says in Surah Aal-‘Imraan, verse 88,

خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا لاَ يُخَفَّفُ عَنْهُمُ الْعَذَابُ وَلاَ هُمْ يُنظَرُونَ
Abiding eternally therein. The punishment will not be lightened for them, nor will they be reprieved. (yundharoon).

Thus He has used the word ‘yunsaroon’ in one context, but ‘yundharoon’ in two others.

If we look at the context of verse 86 in al-Baqarah,

وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَكُمْ لاَ تَسْفِكُونَ دِمَاءكُمْ وَلاَ تُخْرِجُونَ أَنفُسَكُم مِّن دِيَارِكُمْ ثُمَّ أَقْرَرْتُمْ وَأَنتُمْ تَشْهَدُونَ
And [recall] when We took your covenant, [saying], “Do not shed each other’s blood or evict one another from your homes.” Then you acknowledged [this] while you were witnessing.

ثُمَّ أَنتُمْ هَـؤُلاء تَقْتُلُونَ أَنفُسَكُمْ وَتُخْرِجُونَ فَرِيقاً مِّنكُم مِّن دِيَارِهِمْ تَظَاهَرُونَ عَلَيْهِم بِالإِثْمِ وَالْعُدْوَانِ وَإِن يَأتُوكُمْ أُسَارَى تُفَادُوهُمْ وَهُوَ مُحَرَّمٌ عَلَيْكُمْ إِخْرَاجُهُمْ أَفَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِبَعْضِ الْكِتَابِ وَتَكْفُرُونَ بِبَعْضٍ فَمَا جَزَاء مَن يَفْعَلُ ذَلِكَ مِنكُمْ إِلاَّ خِزْيٌ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يُرَدُّونَ إِلَى أَشَدِّ الْعَذَابِ وَمَا اللّهُ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ
Then, you are those [same ones who are] killing one another and evicting a party of your people from their homes, cooperating against them in sin and aggression. And if they come to you as captives, you ransom them, although their eviction was forbidden to you. So do you believe in part of the Scripture and disbelieve in part? Then what is the recompense for those who do that among you except disgrace in worldly life; and on the Day of Resurrection they will be sent back to the severest of punishment. And Allah is not unaware of what you do.

أُولَـئِكَ الَّذِينَ اشْتَرَوُاْ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا بِالآَخِرَةِ فَلاَ يُخَفَّفُ عَنْهُمُ الْعَذَابُ وَلاَ هُمْ يُنصَرُونَ
Those are the ones who have bought the life of this world [in exchange] for the Hereafter, so the punishment will not be lightened for them, nor will they be aided.

we would see that it is mentioned in the context of war and fighting; a context in which one is in need of support and assistance. Thus, it was more befitting to conclude the verse with yunsaroon.

However, in the other two verses, the same curse was mentioned, a curse of being distanced and driven away from the Mercy of Allah. How is such a person to be viewed and looked at? The word yundharoon connotes two meanings: firstly, they will not be granted respite at that time, and secondly, Allaah will not look at them with mercy, for if a person has been distanced from his Lord and expelled from his Lord’s Mercy, how would he be looked at?