Category Archives: Fiqh al-Lughah

He’s my brother.

This post is dedicated to my brother. May Allaah protect you and have mercy upon you always habibee…ameen.

al-Salaamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullaah,

One of the first concepts encountered by those who decide to submit themselves to their Creator and accept Islam as their creed and way of life, is that a Muslim is the brother of his fellow Muslim, and that the bonds of faith are stronger than the bonds of blood. Thus one of the first words learnt by the new Muslim are akhee أخي (‘my brother’) and ukhtee أختي (‘my sister’), and in some cases these become the very words most frequented by the tongue of the Muslim.

Oftentimes though, a Muslim may feel disappointed or let down by his brother, the very feeling of which is a contradiction of what a brother represents to the Muslim and the Arabs, as told in part by the etymology of the word itself.

Some linguists believe that the word akh is derived from the word aakhiyyah آخيّة, which refers to a piece of rope the two ends of which are buried in the ground and attached to a small stone or stick, used to tie a horse or other animal in place so that it does not wander off. In this way should one be attached to their brother, so that they do not wander off from one another. Similarly, the brother should be like an aakhiyyah and ensure that his companion is kept close to the mark and does not wander too far away from it, but if it should happen, his brother shall draw him back to it.

Another group of linguists believe that the word akh is derived from the word wakhaa وخى, which refers to an aim, endeavour, or desire. This is because the two would share these same aims such that they are as one.

There is an Arabic proverb that states rubba akhin laka lam talid-hu ummuka رُبَّ أَخٍ لَكَ لَمْ تَلِدْهُ أُمُّكَ ‘There is many a brother for you to whom your mother has not given birth,’ referring to the full meaning of the word, as explained above. And indeed many can attest to the truth of this proverb.

al-Hamdu lillaah, Allah has blessed me with two such brothers to whom my mother has given birth, may Allaah have mercy upon them all and rain down His mercy and blessings upon them such that were each a mere raindrop from the sky, the world would be flooded many times over. Ameen.

Updates

al-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

Updates to the site may be slow for a little while, due to travelling.

Jazaakum Allaahu khayran for your patience.

It just doesn’t sound right.

ear.jpgal-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

The sound and pronunciation of a word is very important in Arabic, and this especially becomes a problem in the case of generating new words via the naht process. (Although it was mentioned before that one cannot do naht at their whim, the council of Arabic Language has permitted cases of naht to be submitted to them for review for the sake of meeting with the demands of modern terminology into the language).

Some of these problems are that when you combine two or more words in naht, some of the letters invariably have to be dropped. But which letters are dropped and which are retained is a crucial issue, for there are a number of linguistic ‘flaws’ related to words, some of which are that two letters following each other may be considered heavy on the tongue (al-thiqal), or adjacent letters may be discordant or inharmonious with one another. Thus, Ibrahim Anees offered some guidelines (published in Mujallat Majma’ al-Lughah al-‘Arabiyyah fee al-Qahirah, ed. 30) followed by classical scholars in the words they welcomed into the language, to help us judge whether new words are harmonious and acceptable to Arabic or not. Some of these are:

1. The letters Taa’ ط and jeem ج are not found in the same word.
2. The letters jeem ج and Saad ص are not found in the same word.
3. The letters Saad ص and Taa’ ط are not found in the same word.
4. The letters seen س and dhaal ذ are not found in the same word.
5. The letters seen س and zaa’ ز are not found in the same word.
6. The letters qaaf ق and jeem ج are not found in the same word.
7. The letter zaa’ ز will not come after the letter daal د in the same word.
8. The letter raa’ ن will not come after the letter noon ن in the same word.
9. Any word from a root of four or five letters must have at least one (sometimes two or three) liquid letters حروف الذلاقة (ie raa’, laam, noon, faa’, baaa’ and meem ر ل م ن ف ب)

In addition to helping us judge the quality of a word, these guidelines also serve to provide much fun in trying to find those ‘there MUST be some!’ words that prove this wrong. I was unable to think of any, but would welcome anyone else’s successes.

The correct combination.

padlock.jpgal-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

I came across an amusing anecdote in Lisan al-‘Arab recently illustrating the dangers of engaging in naht haphazardly.

It is related from Ibn Mas’ood (may Allah be pleased with him) that his wife one day asked him to provide a jilbab (protective outer garment worn outside the house) for her. He replied, “I fear that you will then set aside the jilbab in which Allah has contained you.” She asked him, “What is that?” He said, “Your house.”

To which she replied,

أَجَنَّك من أَصحابِ محمدٍ تقول هذا؟
“Ajannaka from the Companions of Muhammad (peace be upon him), that you say this?”

The word of interest here is the first one in the sentence: ajannaka. At first glance it could render the sentence as ‘You have been made mad by one of the Companions of Muhammad (peace be upon him)’, based on it being from the root ج – ن – ن.

However, the wife of Ibn Mas’ood actually came up with her own form of naht here: what she intended to say was,

أَمِنْ أَجلِ أَنّك
Is it due to that fact that you are…

But she ommitted from this phrase:
– the word مِن
– the أ and ل from the word أجل
– the أ from the word أنّك

…resulting in the final combination: .أَجَنَّك

The Science of Language

phpoztwyzam.jpgal-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

Since the dawn of early Islam, and largely provoked by the doctrine of the miracle of the Qur’an’s linguistic inimitability, scholars of both Arab and non-Arab stock concerned themselves with studying the Arabic Language deeply and comprehensively. They were able to establish a range of sciences (‘uloom) into which the letters, words, and constructions of Arabic all fell. It is important to be aware of these sciences to fully understand the depth and breadth of the Arabic language, and the various angles through which it may be studied. These sciences may be divided into three main categories, each of which is further divided into sub-categories as follows:

 

1. Sciences related to the letters. They fall into two sub-categories:

i. That which deals with the articulation and sound of the letter. This is known as ‘ilm al-sawt (‘the science of phonology’), or ‘ilm al-tajweed (‘the science of art of pronunciation’)

ii. That which deals with the written representation of the letter. This is known as ‘ilm al-harf (‘the science of orthography’), or ‘ilm al-hijaa’ (‘the science of spelling’).

 

2. Sciences related to the words, with regards their meaning and form. They fall into four sub-categories:

i. That which deals with the meanings and connotations of words, and the vowelling of the words (on all but the last letters). This is known as ‘ilm al-lughah (‘the science of philology’).

ii. That which deals with the manner in which these words were attributed to their objects. This is known as ‘ilm al-wad.

iii. That which deals with the nature of the letters of these words, with regards to any additions, subtractions, transformations, exchanges, changes in the vowelling, and so on. This is known as ‘ilm al-sarf (‘the science of morphology’).

iv. That which deals with the origins and branches of the words, the relationship between them, and the manner in which some are formed from others. This is known as ‘ilm al-ishtiqaaq (‘the science of etymology’).

 

3. Sciences related to the constructions, with regards their meaning and form. They fall into four sub-categories:

i. That which deals with the relationship of some meanings to others, and the requirements of this relationship, as embodied in and indicated by the vowel on the end of each word. This is known as ‘ilm al-nahw (‘the science of syntax’).

ii. That which deals with the characteristics of speech composition by virtue of which they conform to the requirements of the occasion. This is known by ‘ilm al-ma’aani (‘the science of meanings’). This was considered the most important science of Arabic balaaghah (rhetoric) to the Arabs.

iii. That which deals with the different ways of expressing the various shades of a single meaning. This is known as ‘ilm al-bayaan (‘the science of style’).

iv. That which deals with the artistic embellishment of speech. This is known as ‘ilm al-badi’ (‘the science of rhetorical figures’).

 

There are also a further two sciences related to poetic constructions:

i. That which deals with the metres of poetry. This is known as ‘ilm al-‘arood (‘the science of prosody’).

ii. That which deals with the ends of each line of poetry. This is known as ‘ilm al-qaafiyah (‘the science of rhyme’)

 

May Allah grant us a deep understanding of the language of the Qur’an, and bless those in the past who exerted their efforts to master the language, and then simplify and explain it to us in an accessible manner. Ameen!