Thursday, December 6, 2007

Kohl (Kajal) and the first 10 Days of Dhul-Hijjah

Assalamu 'alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh

What do Kohl (surma - a type of eyeliner), the first 10 Days of Dhul-Hijjah and a blog on Arabic have in common? At first it might seem a very unlikely combination - a combination that could very well qualify as suitable material for your typical lateral thinking question.

So as not to keep you in suspense any longer, let me give you the answer. While, after I've given you the answer, it would not be difficult to see how these three elements are combined, the mas'alah, though, that is behind the question might prove a little bit difficult to understand. The main point, then, is to understand how these 3 things are connected, and if you, in addition to that, also understand the mas'alah then that is a bonus.

So, first of all, the underlying mas'alah is a Nahw mas-alah, and that is how it is relevant to my blog. Second of all, the mas'alah involves the word الْكُحْلَ (or kohl) and that is how kohl comes into the picture. In fact, the mas'alah in the Arabic linguistic literature is known as "the mas'alah al-kuhl" (مسألة الكحل) . Third of all, a real example of the mas'alah al-kuhl comes from a hadith ascribed to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in which he extols the excellence of the first 10 days of Dhul-Hijjah and the excellence of fasting on these days. And what is actually meant by the first 10 days (in the context of fasting) is the first 9 days, because the 10th day is Yawm al-Nahr or Eid al-ADHaa, and is forbidden to fast on the Eid al-ADHaa. I stated between brackets "in the context of fasting" because there are other wordings or even reports that state in place of the word "fasting" "good works" so as to make it more general.

Now, as for the mas'alah al-kuhl, here it goes (and fasten your seat belts because it's going to be a bumby ride). In Arabic the verb is known to make certain nouns marfu', and certain other nouns mansub, because it is an action and an action must proceed from someone and sometimes it can also proceed onto something else. For example, the verb كَتَبَ (to write) must proceed from someone in the sense that he does or performs the act of writing, and it can also proceed onto something else in the sense that it gets done or applied to a letter for example. So you might say: كَتَبَ الرَّجُلُ الرِّسَالَةَ (the man wrote the letter). Now, there are certain nouns (call them verb-like nouns) that can also do what verbs do, that is, they can also make certain nouns marfu' and others mansub. This is so because they also denote action just like verbs, and actions proceed from people and proceed onto other things (depending on the type of action). One such noun is the اسم الفاعل (or active participle) such as كَاتِبٌ . So you can say for example: أَكَاتِبٌ الرَّجُلُ الرِّسَالَةَ (Is the man writing the letter?), where الرَّجُلُ is the Fa-'il and الرِّسَالَةَ the Maf-'ul bihi of the noun "كاتِبٌ" .

Having said, there are also other types of noun can also perform the verbal function but with many more conditions that make the whole thing a bit complicated. Anyhow, I'm going try to explain it in a way that is IMHO the least difficult, insha Allah. Another type of noun with verbal power or force but under very strict circumstances is the اسم التفضيل (ism al-tafDil or the noun of comparison) such as أَفْضَلُ (better), أَجْمَلُ (more beautiful), etc. Now, the اسم التفضيل is able to make a substantive noun Marfu' as shown in the following example which has become famous as the mas'alah al-kuhl:

مَا رَأَيْتُ رَجُلاً أَحْسَنَ فِيْ عَيْنِهِ الْكُحْلُ مِنْهُ فِيْ عَيْنِ زَيْدٍ

[I have not seen a man in whose eye(s) kohl is more beautiful than in the eye(s) of Zayd]
Now, in order for the اسم التفضيل to perform this verbal function of making a substantive noun Marfu' the following conditions need to be met as per the example just given:

(1) the اسم التفضيل must occur in a sentence containing a negation, which in the example is: مَا رَأَيْتُ

(2) the negation must be followed by a noun denoting a class of objects rather than someone or something specific, which in the example is رَجُلاَ ,

(3) this noun in turn must be described or qualified by the اسم التفضيل , which in the example is أَحْسَنَ ,
(4) this اسم التفضيل in turn must be followed by a noun that bears no grammatical connection to the previous generic noun, which in this case is الكحل which contains no Damir to show that it is connected to the previous generic noun, and
(5) this noun (which is الكحل ) must be preferred over or compared from two perspectives which here is (a) the eye of the man (in general) and (b) the eye of Zayd. The way to explain this last point is to take a hat, for example, and place it on my head and see how it looks, and then to take the same hat and place it on someone else's hat and see how it looks, and then one can conclude that: this hat looks better on that someone else's head than what it (i.e. that same hat) looks on my head.

This then is the mas'alah al-kuhl. As for the hadith that has been ascribed to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), this is its wording in the Sharh of Ibn 'Aqil on the famous al-Alfiyyah of Ibn Malik:

مَا مِنْ أَيَّامٍ أَحَبَّ إِلَى اللهِ فِيْهَا الصَّوْمُ مِنْهُ فِيْ عَشْرِ ذِي الْحِجَّةِ

(There aren't days on which fasting is more loved by Allah than on the ten Days of Dhul-Hijjah)

I'm yet to find this wording of the hadith, though, in a credible hadith collection while I have come across other wordings of the hadith. Another wording mentioned in the Arabic linguistic literature is: ما من أيام أحبَّ إلى الله فيها الصومُ من أيام العشر . In some of the Hadith literature that I have consulted الْعَمَل or الْعَمَل الصًّالِح (good deeds in general) is used in stead of الصَّوم so as to make more general the kinds of good that you can do on those days.

Finally, you might be asking yourself: Is there any particular relevance in having chosen this specific topic for the post rather than another topic? The answer is: Yes, and reason is that the start of Dhul-Hijjah is just a couple of days away, and I'm just reminding myself before I remind anyone else of the excellence of doing good works on the first ten Days of Dhul-Hijjah (including fasting on the first nine Days) which is the least we can do while our brothers and sisters are all performing the holy rites of Hajj, not only out of respect for the greatness of the time that we will be finding ourselves in but also in solidarity with the Hujjaj who are performing this great pillar of Islam. May Allah accept all their good deeds and du'as, and grant them a Hajj Maqbul and Mabrur, and return them safely to their loved ones all spiritually enriched with the Blessings of Hajj and the Barakah of the Greatest Cities on earth (Makkah and Madinah), and may we soon be able to follow in their footsteps as Allah's Chosen and Honoured Guests, Ameen Allahumma Ameen!

PS. I recently came across the following hadith compiled by al-Bukhari in his Collection of Sahih Hadith in the Book of the Two Eids, the Section on Doing Righteous Works during the Days of al-Tashriq:

مَا مِنْ أيَّامٍ الْعَمَلُ الصَّالِحُ أَحَبُّ إِلَى اللهِ فِيْهِنَّ مِنْ هَذِهِ الأَيَّامِ (يَعْنِيْ عَشْرَ ذِي الْحِجَّةِ) قَالُوْا: وَلاَ الْجِهَادُ فِيْ سَبِيْلِ اللهِ؟ قَال: وَلاَ الْجِهَادُ فِيْ سَبِيْلِ اللهِ، إِلاَّ رَجُلاً خَرَجَ بِنَفْسِهِ وَمَالِهِ، ثُمَّ لَمْ يَرْجِعْ بِشَيْءِ

There aren't any days in which righteous work is more loved by Allah than these Days (i.e. the Ten Days of Dhul-Hijjah). They said: Not even Jihad in the Path of Allah? He said: Not even Jihad in the Path of Allah, except a man who goes out (in the Path of Allah) with his life and his wealth, and does not return with anything (therefore).

No comments: