The Arabic Language
Why did Modern Standard Arabic form when Ancient Arabic is more complex?
1 – People who lived in the desert wanted to beautify and describe the world through their speech and words. The Arabs language was pure and refined because it was not affected by other cultures (since other nations did not affect/influence them much – the arabs were Sovereign/independent from other states). The Arabs did not have any arts/buildings/philosophies to take pride in. But what they did have full pride in was their Language.
2 – Any Orientalists who try to criticize the Qur’anic language using the rules of Modern Standard Arabic – they are mistaken because they are measuring a deeper language (Classical Arabic) with a more simplified version of that language (Modern Standard Arabic).
Classical Arabic Poetry:
Arabs took pride in poetry and spread their news and status through it. The ‘Arabs poetry spoke in Riddles.
They saw desert when they woke up – nothing imaginative. So they were very imaginative (picturesque/visual) in their thoughts – the words they said had very deep and imaginative images, so that One word in Arabic can mean a whole Sentence in any other language, or one Sentence in Arabic can mean a whole Paragraph in any other language.
We will attempt to Collect some Classical Arabic lines of poetry and discuss their meanings inshaa’ Allah in this section.
- Poetry #1: GENEROSITY
Watch 0:50 (50 seconds) onwards:
There was a man who lived on a highly located house on a hill. He said poetry – stating that he is really Generous.
His wife asked him how so, if he is extremely poor – without wealth?
فَ سَيلُ حَربٌ عَلي مَكَانٍ عَالِيَه
“Heavy rain does not get along with a house on top of a hill.”
[literal translation: the Stream (saylu) is at war (harbun) upon a home ('alaa makaanin) on a high place ('aaliyah)]
*Poetry & its Explanation from talk by Nouman Ali Khan.
What does he mean?
Imagine a hill, and a house located on top of it. Does the rain go down to the bottom of the hill, or does it stay at the bottom? It goes to the bottom.
He is saying that the Rain (which is the source of all wealth [Rizq] – food/drink) goes down past his high house, to provide wealth for lowly people below him. While he is generous by living at the top, living highly closer to the sky (where all goodness of rain comes from.)
So he is ascribing a ‘higher rank’ to himself, as well as generosity to himself, while being above others.
Riddle & Idiom and Word Choice of Classical Poets.
This is just one example of Riddles which the ‘Arabs took pride in.
If you did not understand their riddle, they would consider you an ‘Ajamiy [عَجَمي] (non-Arab), and it would show your lack of knowledge and eloquence.
This is a good example of how Ancient Arabic was much more complex than Modern Standard Arabic spoken today.
This is the context/Setting of the society in which Allah sent His final Messenger (sal Allah alayhi wasalam) to.
If there is a word that you could say better in your poetry but you did not, the other poets would criticize your poetry. This meant your life-time respect could be destroyed by just saying one wrong word.
- Poetry #2: Mu'allaqah of 'Amr ibn Kulthum
The Mu’allaqah of ‘Amr ibn Kulthum
One poem was extremely famous, so famous – that it was of the Mu’allaqaat (Poems which are hung off the Ka’ba), by the Jahili [Pre-Islamic] Arab poet ‘Amr ibn Kulthum where he says [an extract],
ونَشرَبُ إنْ وَرَدْنا المَاءَ صَفْواً***
ويَشرَبُ غيرُنا كَدَراً و طِينا
‘And when we come to the well,we drink the water (in) pure form ***
Andthose other than us(are left to drink) polluted & [mixed with] clay’
(Present-Future/ Past Tenses: )
شرِبَ-يَشرَب = Verb meaning ‘drank‘
ورَدَ-يَرِد = Verb meaning ‘to come to’ or ‘to go to a watering place‘ or ‘to draw water’
الماء = Water [I'rab: maf'ul bihi hence it's maNsub]
صفواً = Pure [I'rab: Hal/condition hence it's maNsub]
غير = Particle meaning ‘Other than‘ [I'rab: Faa'il]
كدر =Polluted, muddy [I'rab: Maf'ul bihi]
طين =Clay [I'rab: Maf'ul bihi (Object)]
Background Story of the poem:
‘Amr ibn Kulthum was a Jahili poet, he penned this poem when ‘Amr ibn Hind (a chief or leader) was invited ibn Kulthum to a meal. However, in the meal – ibn Hind ordered the mother of ‘ibn Kulthum to serve his mother – [indirectly] humiliating and degrading ibn Kulthum’s mother.
She cried out ‘Wa ‘Amraa!’ (O Help ‘Amr!) and her son came in rage at this open humiliation and killed ibn Hind with his sword. He left with his mother and wrote a famous mu’allaqah in defense of his mother, tribe and person and also in fakhr (pride) and threat.
The lines before this one go something like this:
O Abu Hind, do not hasten upon us
Wait a little and we shall inform you with certainty
That surely, we enter the battle with white flags
But we emerge with them reddened, watered by blood
How dare you, Abu Hind, how can you
Listen to the slanderers and mock us?
You threaten us and promise us (with evil)
But since when have we become slaves for your mother?
We are the bestowers when we wish to give
And we are the destroyers when we’re assaulted
We are the preventers when we wish to prevent
And we are the ones that settle wherever we wish
[And then the above bayt comes in...]
ونشرب إن وردنا الماء صفواً***ويشرب غيرنا كدراًوطينا
The thing to understand about this extract is that traditionally (particularly in villages), there was 1 well to every group of families or people. Now, when morning came, who gets to draw up the fresh water from the well? The well settles overnight and the purest, cleanest water rises to the top and all dirt, clay and mudd settles to the bottom.
The way it was done was that culturally, the sadat (top chiefs, high ranking, people with high status) were always the first to have the water drawn up and those of a lower rank would have to wait, and naturally this left them with the polluted, troubled and muddy water at the bottom.
So ‘Amr in his poem uses this imagery to tell a point to Ibn Hind… that although the latter is commanding service for his mother, he should realise that ‘Amr and his tribe are the real sadat, who drink the pure waters from the wells, and that in reality, Ibn Hind is like the rest of the folk who drink what’s left over. So, he shouldn’t be commanding others around and humiliating them when he is below them!
Use of Clever words:
The use of the terms ‘Safwaan‘ and ‘Kadaraan‘ are precise word choices intended to characterize not only the water but also the ones drinking the water such that the first water pulled from the well is ‘pure’ but also those who are drinking it are also of ‘pure’ bloodlines, whereas those drinking last would be drinking the ‘muddied’ water and who would also be considered of the ‘muddied/polluted’ bloodlines.
A Big Jazakillahu Khayran to sister Fajr.
- Figure of Speech - Coolness of the Eyes
Qurrata a’yun ( قُرَّةَ أَعْيُنٍ )
This is a phrase used by the Arabs even before Islam, and continues to be used by Arabs till today.
It has two implications;
1- Tears of Happiness
2- Refuge (i.e. A traveller in the desert in a sandstorm – when the traveller finds a safe cave)
You want your family to be; Happiness for you and Refuge.
It’s Opposite is; Heat of the eyes – عين حارّة. i.e. “May Allah heat your eyes.” = Sorrow/hardship etc.
وَالَّذِينَ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا هَبْلَنَا مِنْ أَزْوَاجِنَا وَذُرِّيَّاتِنَا قُرَّةَأَعْيُنٍ وَاجْعَلْنَا لِلْمُتَّقِينَ إِمَامً
And who say, “Our Lord, Bestow [hab-laNaa] upon Us from our spouses and offsprings comfort of the eyes, (Literally: the coolness (when)the eyes settle down) and make us an îmam (Leader) of the pious.” [Furqan 25:74]
hiba – to give a huge gift.
إِذْ تَمْشِي أُخْتُكَ فَتَقُولُ هَلْ أَدُلُّكُمْ عَلَىٰ مَن يَكْفُلُهُ ۖ فَرَجَعْنَاكَ إِلَىٰ أُمِّكَ كَيْ تَقَرَّ عَيْنُهَا وَلَا تَحْزَن
[And We favored you (O Moses)] when your sister went and said, ‘Shall I direct you to someone who will be responsible for him?’ So We restored you to your mother that her Eyes cool (she might be content) and not grieve. [Taha 20:40]
When Moses speaks to Allah;
his eyes become cool
when speaking to Pharoah;
his eyes become warm.
Allah’s Messenger, Muhammad (sal Allah alayhi wasalam) said;
جعلت قرة عيني في الصلاة
Ju’illat Qurrata ‘ayni Fis-salah (the Coolness of my eyes is in the prayer)
The Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (sal Allah alayhi wasalam) gets insulted alot by the disbelievers, his eyes become warm. His eyes become cool in the salaah [prayer]. He becomes relaxed and re-strengthened.
- Palindrome of the Pre-Islamic Arabs
Watch 4:20 onwards.
The Arabs even before Islam (in Jaahiliyyah) had Palindromes in their poetry, which took them years to think of. The best they could come up with was the following;
حوت فمه مفتوح
حُوتَ فَمُهُ مَفتُوح
Huwta faMuHu MaftuwH
The whales mouth is open.
( حوت) Huwt = Whale | ( فم ) Fam = Mouth | ( ه ) Hu = His | ( مفتوح ) maFtuwh = Open. |
We see how laughable it is in comparison to the Qur’an which has Palindromes [*] with deep meaning and benefit.
Looking at the depth of eloquent speech of the classical Arabs, and knowing well that they could not come up with something similar to the Qur’an – it surely was something amazing!
If Allah wills, we may add more Classical Arabic Poetry and their explanations to this section in the future.