Category Archives: On the Arabic Bookshelf

Don’t be a hater.

peace-dove.gifal-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

When Ibn ‘Aashoor (d. 1973/1393) wrote his tafseer on the Qur’an, which he called Tafsir al-Tahrir wa al-Tanwir, he followed a number of basic principles in his methodology, particularly when it came to the linguistic exegesis, with which his tafseer is replete. These principles are generally based on the semantic connotations of individual words, and how these meanings relate to the context in which they are found.

This linguistic analysis is perhaps the most outstanding feature of this tafseer, and this is due to the high regard in which Ibn ‘Ashoor regarded such analysis. He himself commented in the begining of this work,

“With regards the Arabic language, then the purpose of it is to understand the intents of the Arabs in the speech and literature of their language…the Qur’an is in Arabic, and thus the rules of Arabic [grammar] are a means by which to understand the meanings of the Qur’an. Without [knowledge of] these rules, the reader will fall into error and incorrect understanding…”

This tafseer is truly distinguished from other tafseers by Ibn ‘Ashoor’s precise linguistic analysis, in the way he shows the meaning of the Qur’anic words and their semantic connotations, and the way in which they are used in their context.

As an example of this analysis, Ibn ‘Ashoor explained the difference between the words al-‘Adaawah العداوة and al-Baghdaa’ البغضاء that appear in the verse, (al-Ma’idah, verse 14),

وَمِنَ الَّذِينَ قَالُواْ إِنَّا نَصَارَى أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَهُمْ فَنَسُواْ حَظّاً مِّمَّا ذُكِّرُواْ بِهِ فَأَغْرَيْنَا بَيْنَهُمُ الْعَدَاوَةَ وَالْبَغْضَاء إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ وَسَوْفَ يُنَبِّئُهُمُ اللّهُ بِمَا كَانُواْ يَصْنَعُونَ

And from those who say, “We are Christians” We took their covenant; but they forgot a portion of that of which they were reminded. So We caused among them al-‘Adaawah (translated as ‘animosity’) and al-Baghdaa’ (translated as ‘hatred’) until the Day of Resurrection. And Allah is going to inform them about what they used to do.

He mentioned that other linguists and exegetes (mufassiroon) failed to mention the difference between these two words, except for two: Ibn ‘Arafah al-Toonisee, and Abu al-Baqaa’ al-Kafawi (author of al-Kulliyyaat); each one’s opinion, however, contradicted the other’s.

Ibn ‘Arafah al-Toonisee held that al-‘Adaawah is more general than al-Baghdaa’, because al-‘Adaawah leads to al-Baghdaa’, for two people may ‘yata’aadaaيتعادى (become enemies; from same root as ‘adaawah) with one another, but it will not lead to anything unless hatred (al-mubaaghadah; same root as al-baghdaa’) stems, then other things may occur.

Abu al-Baqaa’ al-Kafawi, on the other hand, held that al-‘Adaawah is more specific than al-Baghdaa’, because every enemy (‘aduww عدو; same root as ‘adaawah) has become an enemy due to hating (yabghud يبغض ; same root as baghdaa’) another, but one may hate someone who is not their enemy.

Ibn ‘Ashoor then stated that he believed both opinions to be unclear, and in his opinion, the meaning of al-‘adaawah and al-baghdaa’ were in opposition to one another; al-‘Adaawah is a hatred that comes from a person, who then treats the other person with aversion, or harm, or cuts off from them. This is because the word ‘adaawah stems from the word عدو (‘enemy’) which comes from the root ayn, daal, waw ع د و, and all the words of this root connote meanings of transgression and distancing one thing from another.

On the other hand, al-baghdaa’ refers to a very strong hatred and the root ب غ ض only carries the meanings of hatred, so we cannot understand the real meaning of this word simply from its root.

He then turned to al-ishtiqaaq al-kabeer to help solve the problem, and discovered that when you flip around the root ب غ ض  you end up with غ ض ب, which connotes extremely strong anger. Thus, he concluded that al-baghdaa’ refers to an extremely strong form of anger that is not necessarily directed towards a single enemy, but rather it is concealed in a person’s nafs, like a psychological state of anger. Thus, Ibn ‘Ashoor stated that we cannot say that both al-‘Adaawah and al-Baghdaa’ are within a single person at one time in this verse, because one is directed towards an enemy and one is not. Rather, the verse could mean ‘We caused ‘adaawah among some of them, and baghdaa’ among others.”

And Allah knows best.


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.


al-Bayan wa al-Tabyeen

al-Bayaan wa al-Tabyeen by al-Jaahidh الجاحظ

The author is Abu 'Uthman 'Amr ibn Bahr ibn Mahbub al-Kinaa'ee, known as al-Jaahidh (d. 255 Hijri). He was born in Basrah, and among his teachers were Abu 'Ubaydah, Abu Zayd al-Ansari, and al-Akhfash. He was a brilliant polymath who wrote on many subjects including Philosophy, 'Aqeedah, Politics, Economics, History, Geography, Mathematics, Ethics, Sociology and Literature. It is said that he wrote over 350 books, most of which, sadly, have been lost.

One of the last books he wrote was al-Bayaan wa al-Tabyeen, an encyclopedic work, the main axis of which revolves around rhetoric and eloquence. The three main areas that he covered at length in this book are:

  1. He deduced and derived the principles and meanings of 'style' (bayaan)
  2. He spoke about the art of oratory, and its literary conventions.
  3. He defended the eloquence of the Arabs against the peoples' accusations against it.

These topics were covered in extreme detail, so he ended up covering all that is related to the orator (khateeb) – the traits, qualities, and knowledge he must have – examples of the most beautiful styles from the Qur'an, hadith, poetry, and speeches, the blessings of having an eloquent tongue, how different tribes would use the same word, the different types of rhetorical devices (balaaghah) in poetry and rhyming prose (saj') with examples from the Hadith, speeches, and proverbs, and even going on discuss rhetoric and eloquence in relation to the ascetics (zuhhaad).

So important did this book become that Ibn Khaldun mentioned in his book al-Muqaddimah,

"We heard our shaykhs say in class that the basic principles and pillars of the science and art of literature are contained in four works: Adab al-Kaatib by Ibn Qutaybah, al-Kamil by al-Mubarrad, al-Bayan wa al-Tabyeen by al-Jahiz, and al-Nawadir by Abu 'Ali al-Qali al-Baghdadi. All other books depend on these four and are derived from them."

The Arabic library

al-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

In classical times, students of knowledge would be given speific lessons that familiarised them with the most important classical books in our heritage on various subjects such as fiqh, tafseer, Arabic, 'aqeedah, and so on. This tradition even continued it seems right up until the previous generation, where students of Arabic in Arab universities, for example, were required to take a class on al-Maktabah al-'Arabiyyah; the Arabic Library.

It remains an important subject today, because it familiarises us with our heritage and the wealth of information available to seekers; it is also, in shaa' Allaah, a powerful drive to encourage people to learn Arabic. The posts in this section will be of two types; one that will provide a list of the most important books for each area of study, and another that will be a short review of the contents of a particular book and its author.