Friday, October 26, 2007

To Be or Not To Be? That is the Question

Assalamu 'alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh

My life often fluctuates between moments of extreme objectivity and moments of extreme subjectivity, and both have often been very beneficial for me, and sometimes detrimental. Objectivity promotes the scientific rational side and subjectivity the artistic, emotional and spiritual side. Objectivity is about reasoning and subjectivity is about feeling and experiencing. At the risk of being too general, I would say that the seat of reasononing is the mind and intellect and the seat of feeling and experiencing is the heart and the soul. The Qur'an, we find, addresses both the intellect and the heart, and while 'aql (reasononing) is associated with the mind and intellect, fiqh (deep understanding) as well as shu'ur (feeling) is associated with the heart. Coupled to these instruments are the 5 senses which play a very pivotal role in supplying the heart and mind with the raw materials in order for them to engage in their respective activities.

The Qur'an is replete with verses that urge us to exercise and utilise all these instruments in the service of knowing and worshiping Allah. There are numerous verses that invite us to reflect, to look, observe, listen, journey into the land, etc. etc. All of these activities serve a very important purpose which is to know Allah and His Attributes and Most Beautiful Names that are manifested and reflected not only in the universe but also in ourselves.

Often we use our minds and hearts to deal with matters of day-to-day living, and we often make vital decisions based on them. Our decisions are not always right or within our so called "realm of control" (if we are ever in control) which is why we resort to al-Istikharah or we say as the Qur'an teaches us: وأفوض أمري إلى الله إن الله بصير بالعباد , [And I refer my matter to Allah. Truly, Allah is sees (everything) concerning His servants]. The latter is more when you find yourself in a really difficult situation and you have no way out from it, then you appeal to Allah.

While my situation is not as grave, I'm nevertheless at a cross-roads, and hence the question: To be or not to be? I've decided that blogging is not the best forum or medium for what I wish to get across, and for I what I have in mind vis-a-vis Arabic. Also, my engagement in blogging has been very intense and all-consuming over the past couple of weeks, and it's not as if I don't have other work to do. It's just that this is something I like doing, and I can't seem to do it in moderation. So it's an all or nothing situation. Add to that the fact that since mine is still a young blog and not as established as other blogs I thought it won't be great loss (if at all). Moreover, blogging is new to me and holds too many unknowns, so I think it's better for me to err on the side of caution, and call it a day in the world of blogging.

As to my 2 or 3 readers (who have coomented from time to time), I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have. You have my email, and so as not to disappoint you, we can work something else out if you wish - something less intense and less consuming, insha Allah. Finally, I ask Allah to remove the dunya from our hearts, crown our efforts with ikhlas and grant us all a حسن الخاتمة (good ending):

اللهم افتح لنا بالخير واختم لنا بالخير واجعل عواقب أمورنا بالخير بيدك الخير إنك على كل شيء قدير

Rules for Achieving the Optimum in Qur'anic Reflection

Assalamu 'alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh

The following is a list of about 40 rules for enhancing the activity of al-Tadabbur taken from Sh.Abdurrahman Hasan Habannakah al-Midani’s Qawa-‘id al-Tadabbur al-Amthal (Rules for Optimal Reflection).

Rule 1: concerning the relation of the Qur’anic sentence (under reflection) to the general theme or topic of the Surah, and its thematic relation to other relevant verses dispersed throughout the Qur’an

Rule 2: concerning the unity of the Surah’s subject matter

Rule 3: concerning the multiple objectives that the text aims at achieving

Rule 4: concerning the human, temporal, local, psychological, ideological (conceptual), individual and collective aspects of the context and environment in which the text was revealed

Rule 5: concerning specific and narrow interpretations on the one hand and a more general and all-encompassing interpretation on the other

Rule 6: concerning the complementary nature of the Qur’anic texts with respect to the various themes and topics that it covers, and to avoid as much as possible the explanation that a particular instance of repetition is merely the result of emphasis and corroboration

Rule 7: concerning following narrative exegesis (tafsir) in determining the meaning of a text

Rule 8: concerning the mutual equivalence of Qur’anic texts and the necessity of harmonizing them within a complete and coherent conceptual system or framework without having to resort to abrogation except if it has been categorically established on the basis of sound, clear and explicit proof

Rule 9: concerning tracing the stages and phases of revelation

Rule 10: concerning the significance and wisdom behind placing (in some cases) Medinan verses in Meccan surahs and Meccan verses in Medinan surahs

Rule 11: concerning investigating the occasions of descension or causes of revelation

Rule 12: concerning the necessity of understanding a verse according to its order or sequence amongst other verses in the Surah

Rule 13: concerning the fact that there are no contradictions and inconsistencies in the Qur’an, nor is there any disagreement between the Qur’an and the scientific facts established through human means

Rule 14: concerning implied meanings and conceptual links in the text, ellipted elements that have been ellipted for the purpose of brevity and lexical incorporations that expressions are made to incorporate

Rule 15: concerning repetition and the aims it is meant to realize

Rule 16: concerning the necessity of doing proper scientific and linguistic research into the meanings of Qur’anic words

Rule 17: concerning linking between verses and their endings

Rule 18: concerning looking into words that are close or synonymous in meaning

Rule 19: concerning the vacillation of text between two or more meanings

Rule 20: concerning the oath in the Qur’an

Rule 21: concerning agreement between the literary style used and the objective to be realized

Rule 22: concerning searching for stylistic and rhetorical devices used in the text and the purpose behind their use

Rule 23: concerning the adequacy of using different expressions that are spread over similar meaning concepts for the purpose of indicating stylistic complementarity and how their usages can be extended to the rest of group of similar meaning concepts in complementary fashion

Rule 24: concerning the diverse use of devices in stylistic expression

Rule 25: concerning investigating the aims in the use of different expressions in various but similar meaning passages (i.e. various passages with a single theme running through them)

Rule 26: concerning the necessity of observing the rules of Arabic grammar, the meanings of the morphological patterns and the importance of searching for the significance of apparent discrepancies in declension and how they are explained away

Rule 27: concerning the care that the Qur’an takes with regard to verse endings because of the importance placed on the overall balance and uniformity of the text’s outward form and structure

Rule 28: concerning the use of an expression to signify more than one meaning simultaneously

Rule 29: concerning explaining the reason for action by means of the infinitival أن together with that which follows it, and the necessity of assuming an elipted element before it in certain Qur’anic verses

Rule 30: concerning the use of the perfect verb in the case of (a) that which has perpetual and eternal existence, (b) that which has actually happened, (c) that which has been decreed in the future and exists in Allah’s Infinite & Eternal Knowledge, and will definitely happen in the future, and the time in which it will happen is being awaited

Rule 31: concerning looking into those to whom the Divine text is addressed

Rule 32: concerning the word (لعَلَّ) that occurs in the Qur’an in expressions such as (لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُوْنَ)

Rule 33: concerning the word (بَلَى) in the Qur’an

Rule 34: concerning the structure (وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا ...؟) in the Qur’an

Rule 35: concerning the transitivity of the verb (أَرَادَ – يُرِيْدُ) in the Qur’an

Rule 36: concerning the expressions (مِنْ بَيْنِ يَدَيْهِ ، وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِ) and likewise (أَمَامَ and وَرَاءَ )

Rule 37: concerning predicating the verb or that which shares its meaning of its agent or its bearer / possessor, its effect, the one motivating its execution, the one ascribing it to someone, the one finding someone to possess it, the one who desires it, etc.

Rule 38: concerning what is called الاستِثْنَاء الْمُنْقَطِع (disjunctive exception or exclusion)

Rule 39: concerning the word كَذَلِكَ in the Qur’an

Rule 40: concerning the 10 Qur’anic variant readings

Having just listed all these rules, I know that to many readers they would not mean much unless they are accompanied by some examples that not only illustrate their meaning but also their correct application. So, insha Allah, I will try in the future, if time permits, to provide an example or two for each rule in order to maximise the benefit of knowing, understanding and being able to apply these rules.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Very Exciting Project: The Art of Tadabbur and Tafakkur

Assalamu 'alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh

At one of the prominent institutions that I was teaching, I was asked by the Director to teach a module on Qur'anic Vocabulary (Mufradat al-Qur'an) - may Allah reward him for affording me the opportunity to explore a whole new world. The course materials that I had at my disposal proved inadequate at the time, and I decided to devise my own. The result was astonishing. Never had I developed such an appreciation for the Qur'an as I did then. I was forced to make use of my then current linguistic skills and develop new ones to deal with the task at hand. These skills I used in conjunction with the tafsir literature that I had access to. For me it was if an entirely different world was opening up - a world that I'd never experienced before. For the first time I began to understand why the Quran was talking about itself in such majestic terms [Furthermore I call to witness the Places of the Stars - and that is indeed a mighty oath if you but knew - that this is indeed a Qur'an Most Honourable in a Book well-guarded which none shall touch save the purified, a Revelation from the Lord of the Worlds (Surah al-Waqi'ah verses: 75 - 80)]. For the first time did I understand why the Qur'an urges us to constantly reflect, contemplate and ponder. It is as if you had stopped breathing air and in its place you are breathing the Qur'an that goes into your whole system like oxygen flows into your blood bringing about rejuvenation of the body. The Qur'an on the other hand brings about the rejuvenation of the soul. When the Qur'an touches you it touches you very deeply, and makes you shiver inside, and for the first time you undertsand the meaning of the Qur'anic verse in Surah al-Hashr: [Had We sent down this Qur'an on a mountain, verily, thou wouldst have seen it humble itself and cleave asunder for fear of Allah. Such are the similitudes which We propound to men, that they may reflect. (Surah al-Hashr verse: 21)]. There are numerous verses in the Qur'an that refer to the impact of the Qur'an on its listeners.

Realising what it is that I had discovered, I decided to pursue it further even after I had left the institution. I had in the process added another component to the study that deals with contemplation of the ayat (signs) in the Universe as well in addition to the ayat (verses) in the Qur'an. Al-Hamdulillah, I have managed to collect some really valuable materials along the way, and managed to develop a skill which I had not hitherto known about. I then thought of how it might be possible for others to develop this skill which I have meanwhile called "Fann al-Tadabbur wa al-Tafakkur" (The Art of Contemplation of the Qur'an and the Universe) or "Fiqh al-Ayat Fil-Qur'an wa Fil-Kawn" (A Deep Understanding of the Ayat in Both the Qur'an and the Universe). I thought that the best way would be to lay out its components to see how this can be developed into a course outline for a course that can be offered as a module. I have meanwhile also thought about writing a complete manual or textbook on "Fann al-Tadabbur wa al-Tafakkur". Insha Allah, I hope all this can materialise soon, and then maybe others can develop and refine it further.

What follows is a tentative structure or outline that I've come up with which is posted on the Lisanularab Discussion Forum, and which I'm importing here. Insha Allah, I hope to develop this topic in this blog from now onwards. This format of the envisaged course was before I introduced the al-Tafakkur component. So, insha Allah, aspects of the al-Tafakkur component will be brought in as separate posts. Your comments will be appreciated.


(a) Definition of al-Tadabbur, lughatan and shar'an
(b) Defining related terms such as tafakkur, i'tibar, tadhakkur, nathar, sayr fil-ard, etc. also terms denoting other human activities vis-à-vis the Qur'an, e.g. qira’ah, tilawah, tartil, sam’ & istima’ and so on. Moreover, these human activities can be divided into two groups: positive activities and negative activities. The aforementioned activities are all positive. Negative activities include kufr (both in the sense of "rejection / denial" and "being ungrateful"), juhuud (rejection), taktheeb (rejection, belying), istikbaar (haughtiness and arrogance), i'raadh (turning away, ignoring), nisyaan (forgetting), etc.
(c) Excellence of al-Tadabbur from Qur'an & Sunnah, and scholarly opinions.
(d) Aim and Benefits of al-Tadabbur
(e) Keywords: al-Tadabbur, Qalb, Aqfal, Qur'an, al-Fafakkur, al-I'tibar, Ayat, 'Ibrah, etc.

Exploring al-Tadabbur, al-Tafakkur, & other related concepts in the Qur'an:

Components / Elements of al-Tadabbur:

(a) the Object of al-Tadabbur (i.e. the Qur'an) – verbal / written Qur’an & visual Qur'an (i.e. ayat quraniyyah & ayat kawniyyah)
(b) the Subject (al-Mutadabbir)
(c) the Method of al-Tadabbur

Types of al-Tadabbur:

Linguistic Aspects (Grammatical & Rhetorical Devices)
Scientific Aspects
Historical Aspects
Divine Aspects (e.g. Divine Attributes, Beautiful Names)
Prophetic Aspects
Narrative Aspects
Eschatological Aspects (e.g. Final Day, Hereafter, Resurrection, Different Names & Attributes for Last Hour / Day, Death, Grave, etc.)

Instrument(s) of al-Tadabbur:

The Heart
The Mind / Intellect

Factors that Enhance / Curtail al-Tadabbur:

(a) presence or absence of locks (aqfal) on the heart [i.e. locks that are specific to hearts (aqfaluha)]
(b) subject’s spiritual level
(c) time of day or night (early hours of the day)
(d) setting / environment
(e) mental state / condition (motivated, tired, etc.)
(f) etc.

Al-Tadabbur & the Organizational Structure of the Qur'an & its Surahs:

Rules of al-Tadabbur:

Examing Instances & Examples of al-Tadabbur from the Qur'an & Tafsir literature:

Use of Modern Media, Tools and Aids for Enhancing the Activity of al-Tadabbur:

(a) Recordings of selected Qur'anic portions recited by renowned Qur'anic readers (e.g. Muhammad Siddiq al-Minshawi, Mustafa Ismail, AbdulBasit Muhammad AbdulSamad), recordings of Tarawih renditions, recordings of whole Qur'an by renowned Qur'anic readers, etc.
(b) The Qur'anic reader's use of musicality and variation of maqamat in highlighting particular Qur'anic meanings for the purpose of creating heightened spiritual effect

Key Readings & Studies for Developing the Skill of al-Tadabbur:

(1) ‘Ilm Ma’rifat Fawatih al-Suwar wa Khawatimiha
(2) ‘Ilm Tanasub al-Ayat wa –al-Suwar
(3) ‘Ilm Ma’rifat Aqsam al-Qur'an wa Amthalihi
(4) ‘Ilm Binyat al-Suwar
(5) ‘Ulum al-Balaghah
(6) ‘Ilm Ma’rifat Mufradat al-Qur'an
(7) Al-Furuq al-Lughawiyyah
(8) ‘Ilm Ma’rifat Dala-il al-I’jaz
(9) ‘Ilm al-Sarf (‘Ilm al-Ishtiqaq), ‘Ilm al-Nahw, ‘Ilm al-Lughah (Fiqh al-Lughah)
(10) Some Tafasir that deal with the aforementioned subjects

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The True Meaning of "Ahlan Wa Sahlan (Wa Marhaban)"

Assalamu 'alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh

Arabs, when they had visitors (or even just strangers) coming to visit them, used to say to them (and they still do): أهلاَ وسَهْلاَ . In those days, people traveled by land and over long stretches of often rugged and steep terrain – over hills and down mountain passes, etc. – and with not a single soul in sight. Often when they did find people these people might prove hostile, and so on. Therefore, the two most yearned-after words that you would like hear as a traveler were: أهلاَ وسَهْلاَ which actually means: أَتَيْتَ / صَادَفْتَ أَهْلاَ ووَطِئْتَ سَهْلاَ [You came upon / found hospitable people (i.e. people that are almost if they are family to you) and are treading smooth and flat terrain]. Often they would add أهلا وسهلا ومَرْحَباً . The word "مرحبا" is often translated as “welcome” but this translation does not do justice to the word. The root form which is also used in the Qur’an, namely, رَحُبَ (rahuba) has the meaning of “being spacious and wide” as opposed to “being narrow and constricted”. The Qur’anic expression وضاقت عليهم الأرض بما رحبت (and the earth became narrow and constricted for them despite being wide and spacious) refers to how in a battle when you are surrounded by the enemy with no where to run, you are literally constrained and narrowed down to that area despite the land being so wide and stretched out. So the addition, مرحباَ which also occurs in the Qur’an (See Surah Sad verse: 59) means that not only have you found a smoothed-out stretch of terrain but also an open and spacious place so as not to feel constrained. Anyone who lives in places like the Gulf would know how much the Arabs love their space. So, the last thing they want is to be constricted and confined to a small area.

This also brings to mind the word الْفُسْحَة and التفسّح (spaciousness, width, roominess) in verse 11 of Surah al-Mujadilah or al-Mujadalah in the part which reads:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا قِيلَ لَكُمْ تَفَسَّحُوا فِي الْمَجَالِسِ فَافْسَحُوا يَفْسَحِ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ، سورة المجادلة: 11

[O you who believe! When it is said to you: Make room in the assemblies, (spread out and) make room: (ample) room will Allah provide for you.]

[By the way, Surah al-Mujadilah or al-Mujadalah, which comprises 22 verses, is the only surah in the Qur'an where each of its verses contains the Name الله ]

One scholar and exegete (Fakhr al-Din al-Razi) in explaining this verse starts by saying: After Allah Almighty has ordered you to refrain from doing things that will breed hatred and animosity among you, He orders you to do things that will bring about love and compassion among you.

He then goes on to explain an alternative reading to تفسَّحوا (tafassahu) namely, تفاسحوا (tafaasahu) and quotes Ibn Jinni (d. 392 AH = 1001 AD) as saying that the latter reading is more apt since the first one only means “let there be space (tafassuh) between you” where as the second reading (tafaasahu) means that everybody must share and co-operate in the act of making space and room for each other.

He then mentions an alternative reading for المجالس (al-majaalis = assemblies) which is the singular form المجلِس (al-majlis = assembly). He says that the singular reading refers to the Majlis of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) with his companions (may Allah be pleased with them), and plural reading refers to the sum of individual places of sitting i.e. the places where individual companions might be sitting.

Al-Razi then goes into the various views as to what is meant by المجالس or المجلس in this context. The part, though, that I found most fascinating and very relevant for our times is where he says and I quote:

واعلم أن هذه الآية دلت على أن كل من وسع على عباد الله أبواب الخير والراحة، وسع الله عليه خيرات الدنيا والآخرة، ولا ينبغي للعاقل أن يقيد الآية بالتفسح في المجلس، بل المراد منه إيصال الخير إلى المسلم، وإدخال السرور في قلبه، ولذلك قال عليه السلام: "لا يزال الله في عون العبد ما زال العبد في عون أخيه المسلم".

[Know that this verse indicates that everyone and anyone who makes available for Allah’s servants in abundant and “spacious” fashion the avenues and doors of goodness and comfort, then Allah will make available for him also in abundant fashion the goodness of this World and the Next. It is not for a rationally-minded person to restrict this verse to merely “making room for someone in an assembly”, but what is really intended by this action is that one must allow and want khayr (goodness) to reach a fellow-Muslim, and have happiness and joy occupy his or her heart. It is for this reason that he (the Prophet – peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Allah continues to provide assistance to a servant for as long as the servant continues to provide assistance to his fellow-Muslim brother”]

The significance of this for me is that we are living in a world where we can ill-afford to make life difficult for one another. For me if you have not made space and room for your Muslim brother or sister IN YOUR HEART, then you will not make space and room for him or her anywhere, and in any world (whether real or virtual). The expression “Ahlan Wa Sahlan Wa Marhaban” should not only be used in the physical sense but in all senses and on all levels. Then and only then will we see an improvement in our condition. I ask Allah to forgive us our shortcomings and increase the spaciousness of our hearts for one another and to remove the ghill (malice) that is occupying our hearts. In saying this, I’m reminding myself first and foremost, since it is easy for one to see the faults in others and be blinded to his / her own.

رَبَّنَا اغْفِرْ لَنَا وَلِإِخْوَانِنَا الَّذِينَ سَبَقُونَا بِالْإِيمَانِ وَلَا تَجْعَلْ فِي قُلُوبِنَا غِلّاً لِّلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا رَبَّنَا إِنَّكَ رَؤُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Three Classics on I'rab al-Hadith

Assalamu 'alaykum warahatullahi wabarakatuh

While there are many books that deal with the i'rab (syntactic analysis) of the Qur'an, there are not as many that deal with the i'rab of Hadith. The primary reason for this is the claim that much of what was transmitted from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in terms of sayings was done so on the basis of its meaning rather than its actual form and wording. In other words, preference was given to preserving the overall meaning rather than the actual form and wording of the hadith, such that narrators and transmitters could (and would) supply their own wording as long as the meaning and message of the hadith were kept intact. This also accounts for the often multiple but slightly different narrations of the same hadith. Often you will hear that a particular hadith was narrated by both Bukhari and Muslim but that the wording of the hadith is that of Muslim.

This also raised another very important question - question of which a great deal has been written classically as well as in modern times. This question pertains to the admissibility or inadmissibility of the Hadith as evidence and proof for linguistic rules. In other words, can a hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) be used in support of and as evidence for a particular grammatical rule just as the Qur'an and the speech of reliable Arab informants was used in support of and as evidence for grammatical rules? Obviously, if the hadith contained the exact words of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) then there would have been absolutely no problem since the Prophet himself was an Arab (in addition to being the most eloquent of Arabs) and his speech automatically qualified as evidence and proof. However, this appears not have been the case, and a number of hadith scholars and transmitters that were involved in the transmission of hadith were themselves non-Arabs. One only has to consider their names to know that a great many of them were non-Arab.

So the fact that very few Arabic scholars ascribed any evidentiary value to Hadith in terms of whether or not it could establish a grammatical rule, is the primary cause for Arabic scholars not paying much attention to singling out or targeting Hadith for independent linguistic study. This does not mean that ahadith were not linguistically analysed in the huge hadith commentaries. However, this was more for purpose of establishing and determining the meaning and message of the hadith. In other words, Arabic and Arabic study served as a kind of hermeneutical tool wherewith to decipher and interpret the text. As for independent linguistic studies or autonomous i'rab works on the huge corpus of Hadith literature there exist very little in the form of works dedicated to this genre of Arabic linguistic study. In fact, only three classical works in the category of i'rab al-hadith have been identified, all of them by renowned and famous Arabic grammarians: the first by Abul-Baqa' al-'Ukbari (d. 616 AH - 1219 AD), the second by Muhammad ibn Malik (d. 672 AH - 1273 AD), and the third by Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (d. 911 AH - 1505 AD). What follows is a brief description of each of these works, insha Allah.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Arabic Around The World

Assalamu 'alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh

It has always been a goal of mine to one day do a survey of all the Arabic institutions and centers around the world - whether traditional or modern, with a view to learning more about:
  • When the institution was founded, and how long it has been in existence?
  • Whether it follows a traditional or modern system, and which particular traditional or modern system?
  • What the focus is on - grammar, communication, holistic, Classical or Modern Standard Arabic, or both, etc.?
  • What their syllabus or curriculum is like
  • What textbooks it is using?
  • Who the most prominent teachers are?
  • What the medium of instruction is
  • What challenges it is facing?
  • and so on.

I've always been interested in how Arabic is taught in the Arab countries, Turkey, Indo-Pak Subcontinent (esp. the traditional Darul-Ulum), Malaysia, Indonesia, some African countries, and the systems that they are following, and the textsbooks that they are using. For example, in Turkey, Indo-Pak Subcontinent, and Iran they are all big on the al-Kafiyah of Ibn al-Hajib on Nahw, as a sort of end book. To get to the al-Kafiyah, though, they might follow different routes. In Turkey, for example, they start with al-Birgwi's Kitab al-'Awamil al-Jadid, followed by his Ith-har al-Asrar, and the al-Kafiyah. Along the away, I assume, students might do a commentary or two so as to prepare them adequately for the next book in the ladder or hierarchy of Arabic Nahw books. In Indo-Pak (esp. the Darul-Ulum) they do, for example, Nahw Mir, and the Mi-at 'Amil of Abdul-Qahir al-Jurjani together with a Sharh. This is followed by Hidayah al-Nahw, which is sort of equivalent to the Ith-har al-Asrar of al-Birgwi in Turkey. Aftr the Ith-har al-Asrar in Turkey, and the Hidayah al-Nahw in the Indo-Pak Subcontinent the students direct themselves to Ibn al-Hajib's al-Kafiyah. The Matn of the al-Kafiyah is further augmented by the commentaries of Radhiyyud-Din al-Astarabadhi and Mulla al-Jami. In both traditions, the Nahw is taught hand-in-hand with a very elaborate focus on Sarf esp. the patterns, where students are required to memorise these patterns.

What is interesting in my brief observations of the various systems and approaches (the Arab, Turkish and Indo-Pak) is that there exist slight differences in the way they do their analysis (i'rab) of sentences, and so on. It was rather refreshing for me to know that, for example, the Turkish system of doing I'rab highlighted aspects of the sentence that is being analysed not highlighted in the other systems. In fact, you most probably wouldn't understand a Turkish I'rab text unless you have been through their system or have done some of their books. Likewise, Turkish students who have been through the Turkish system find it equally confusing when confronted by another system of I'rab. However, if you are familiar with all three systems you are all the more enriched.

These, then, are just some of my observations and thoughts on a project that I would like to attempt some time in the future, insha Allah. Make du'a that it comes to fruition.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

من صامَ رمضانَ، وأَتْبعَهُ سِتًا من شوّالٍ : a question posed by a student to his teacher

Assalamu 'alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh

We are all familiar with the hadith: من صامَ رمضانَ، وأتبعَهُ سِتًا من شوّالٍ كَانَ كَصِيَامِ الدَّهْرِ (Whosoever fasts Ramadan, and follows it up with the six (days / nights) of Shawwal, then his fasting is like the fasting of a whole year) which has been documented by Muslim in his Compilation of Authentic Hadiths.

Apart from the significance of this hadith because of the month that we find ourselves in - the month of Shawwal - the hadith also contains a special Nahw question. At the same time it is also a lesson in for us in student-teacher relationships.

The special grammatical question or query in the hadith is why is it سِتَّا and not سِتَّةً on the basis that what is implied is 'six days' in which case we say: سِتَّةَ أيَّام , and not سِتَّ أَيَّامٍ , such that the implied structure of the hadith should read: من صامَ رمضانَ، وأتبعَهُ سِتَّةَ أَيَّامٍ من شوّالٍ ?

This was the exact question that one student asked his teacher in a series of questions concerning a number of ahadith in Sahih Muslim. The student was no other than the great Imam al-Nawawi, the author of numerous works including the highly popular Forty Hadith and Riyadh al-Salihin, and the teacher no other than the great Ibn Malik, also the author of numerous works and was especially famed for his Alfiyyah (thousand verse didactic poem on grammar). Imam al-Nawawi could not have asked for a better Nahw teacher and Ibn Malik could not have asked for a better student. It is said that it was Imam al-Nawawi that Ibn Malik referred to in the second half of line 126 of his Alfiyyah when he gave examples of a mubtada' occurring as an indefinite (nakirah) noun: وَرَجُلٌ مِنَ الْكِرَامِ عِنْدَنَا (... and there is a man from amongst the honourable men in our midst). What a student! and, What a teacher! May Allah reward both them with only the best for the tremendous services that these two giants have rendered to Islam.

Ibn Malik's Response to Imam al-Nawawi's Question:

Since the first of the month is a night (i.e. it starts from sunset) and the last of the month is a day (i.e. it ends with sunset), the Arabs calculated their dating using the nights, and by mentioning the nights they did not need to mention the days.Therefore, they would say: كُتِبَ لِخَمْسٍ [it was written after five (nights have passed)]. This is also not case of التغليب (giving the one preference and precedence over the other), because التغليب obtains when both categories are mentioned, and then both of them is given the treatment of one of them as though it was mentioned alone, e.g. رأَيْتُ رِجالاً ونِسَاءً يَتَحَدَّثُوْنَ (I saw men and women talking) [here يتحدثون is in reference to both men and women but is conjugated according to the gender of رجال (men)]. This is not the case with كُتِبَ لِخَمْسٍ , because what is mentioned does not cover nights and days, rather the mentioning of الليالي obviates the need to mention الأيام .So when this system was became sort of the standard for dating, it became also adopted for other things, on condition there was no confusion or ambiguity, like the Statement of the Most High: يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنْفُسِهِنَّ أَرْبَعَةَ أَشْهُرٍ وَعَشْرا، البقرة: 234 (they should keep themselves in waiting for four months and ten days) and يَتَخَافَتُونَ بَيْنَهُمْ إِنْ لَبِثْتُمْ إِلَّا عَشْراً ، طـه:103 [they should keep themselves in waiting for four months and ten (days)].Falling in this category would be the following: وأتْبَعَهُ ستّاً مِنْ شَوَّال . Al-Zamakhshari says in the al-Kash-shaf: “You say: صُمْتُ عَشْراً (I fasted ten), and were you to have made it agree with the masculine, you would most certainly have strayed and deviated from their way of speaking (i.e. the way of the Arabs)”.

Ibn Uthman’s comment: This last point that al-Zamakhshari makes is interesting because the whole purpose of the study of al-Nahw is to emulate and follow the Speech or Lisan of the Arabs. This is clearly stated by Abu Bakr Ibn al-Sarraj when he says in his highly acclaimed al-Usul Fi al-Nahw (the Foundations of Grammar): : النحو إنما أريد به أن ينحو المتكلم إذا تعلمه كلام العرب [(Nahw: its purpose is for the speaker – when he learns it (i.e. Nahw) – to emulate and follow the Speech of the Arabs]. The Arabic word for “emulate and follow” in Ibn al-Sarraj’s text is يَنْحُوْ from whence the term النحو (al-Nahw). In other words, Nahw is all about emulating and following the (classical) Arabs in their Speech.

والله أعلم

Keeping Up with the Times: Arabic and the Challenges of Postmodernity

Assalamu 'alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh

As Muslims it is important that we understand the times that we live in. Now, the times that we live in can be variously interpreted and have been variously interpreted by different social scientists. We might all agree that certain things have been happening, but how we view the significance and importance of these events, and whether or not we have to change accordingly is entirely a different issue. What follows is a brief discussion on the times in which we live based on a particular view thereof, and where Arabic (in the traditional sense) features in these times. The discussion that follows is in part based on a particular reading of the times (which is not necessarily my own reading thereof). The idea is basically to take Arabic into hitherto unchartered territories in the current Muslim discourse especially vis-a-vis Arabic, and to see what Arabic is up against in the modern age, and how we can successfully navigate its way through these troubled waters and stormy seas.

We are living in times where socio-economic changes have been fast and furious - fast in that never in history have changes been at the highly accelerated pace that we witness them today, and furious in that never in history did people have to change their lifestyles and the way they view things so drastically as they have done in this day and age. Already under modernity did we witness severe pressures been exerted on societies to make the change from a traditional lifestyle to that of a modern one. Tradition was a vestige of the past and therefore not commensurate with modern scientific, technological and political developments. The situation under modernity required large-scale adjustment of society and culture in the form of making a clean break with tradition, and in the process adopting the forward-looking attitude of modern and progressive societies rather than the backward-looking of traditional and static societies.

The arrival of postmodernity meant that even the modernist movement of modernity had become outdated and outmoded. The solidity of modernism melted under postmodernity, and hopes and promises of modernism vanished into thin air with the advent of postmodernity. People were now entering and experiencing what was called the "Postmodern Condition". The certainity and self-assuredness of modernity have given way to the doubt and ambivalence of postmodernity. In fact, according to postmodernism (the movement sparked by postmodernity) even modernity was never on any sure ground or foundation, as there was never any ground or foundation in the first place - it only appeared solid to us at the time but in reality it was melting. In other words, modernism was always meant to self-destruct, it is just that we did not know that at the time, but now that we know it in hindsight we also know that it never really was. What I have just raised forms part of what is called "Postmodern Speak".

The question is that if tradition already had it tough under modernity how much more tougher would'nt the situation be under postmodernity? As Muslims, and as Muslims who are very attached to our Tradition, we are most certainly feeling the strains and pressures of the times. Those who do not value our Tradition and do not share it with us view it as a burden and unwanted baggage that is slowing us down from making any progress in the modern age, and have therefore called for its total abandonment. Others with even more sinister agendas have called for the total abandonment if not annihilisation of Islam as a religion, not just its tradition. At this stage you might want to ask also how all of this affects or ties in with Arabic? Well, my response to that is that a great deal of Arabic as we know it is part and parcel of the Arabic and Islamic Tradition. The two Primary Sources of Islam are in Arabic. The studies that we depend on for understanding these Primary Sources have themselves been conducted and written in Arabic and according rules and principles that have been formulated quite early on in the Tradition, and then continued to develop and mature in that Tradition. Some contemporary Muslim scholars classify Arabic as being an integral component in the structure that makes up the Tradition.

My own Islamic Traditional response to the above is that Islam and Muslims, masha Allah, have proven to be extremely resilient in the face of the challenges of the Modern Age. Muslims all over the world - from the simplest to the most educated - continue to be inspired by Islam and the Qur'an. While in the West many have relinquished their religions, Muslims have held fast to theirs and we find Islam even gaining more Muslims in the process.

يُرِيدُونَ لِيُطْفِؤُوا نُورَ اللَّهِ بِأَفْوَاهِهِمْ وَاللَّهُ مُتِمُّ نُورِهِ وَلَوْ كَرِهَ الْكَافِرُونَ ، سورة الصف: 8

[Their intention is to extinguish Allah's Light (by blowing) with their mouths: But Allah will complete (the revelation of) His Light, even though the Unbelievers may detest (it). ]

We are definitely living in very trying times, and the challenges are mounting by the day, yet, Muslims all over the world pray their five daily prayers, fast the Month of Ramadhan, and perform the Holy Pilgrimage. It is almost as if Islam has become their life-blood and the oxygen that they breathe, and that is despite the negative portrayal of Islam and Muslims in the media. There is no doubt that in these trying times Muslims have to stand together and support each other and encourage each other to hang in there and persevere through the trials and tribulations of the times in which we live:

وَالْعَصْرِ، إِنَّ الإِنسَانَ لَفِي خُسْرٍ، إِلاَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ، سورة العصر: 1 - 3

[(I swear) by the time. Most surely man is in loss, except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy. ]

As for Arabic, we need not fear, as Allah Himself has undertaken to protect the Qur'an of which Arabic is an indivisible part. Arabic cannot be separated from the Qur'an, nor can the Qur'an be separated from its Arabic.

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ قُرْآناً عَرَبِيّاً لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ ، سورة يوسف: 2

[We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur'an, in order that ye may understand.]

إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ ، سورة الحجر: 9

[We have, without doubt, sent down the Reminder; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption).]

Islam Will Eventually Prevail

Sunday, October 14, 2007

ولباس التقوى ذلك خير (... and the Garment / Covering of Taqwa, that is better ...)

Assalamu 'alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh

Allah, the Almighty, says in the Holy Qur'an addressing the Children of Adam:

يَا بَنِي آدَمَ قَدْ أَنزَلْنَا عَلَيْكُمْ لِبَاسًا يُوَارِي سَوْءَاتِكُمْ وَرِيشًا وَلِبَاسُ التَّقْوَىَ ذَلِكَ خَيْرٌ ذَلِكَ مِنْ آيَاتِ اللّهِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَذَّكَّرُونَ ، سورة الأعراف: 26

[O children of Adam! We have indeed sent down to you clothing to cover your shame, and (clothing) for beauty. But the clothing that guards (against evil), that is the best. This is of the communications of Allah that they may be mindful.]

A short exploration into the word لباس (and other related words):

The word "لِباس" (libas) can be traced to one of two roots:
(1) لبِس - يلْبَس (labisa - yalbasu) - to cover yourself with or get dressed in a garment
The nouns لِباس (libas), لَبُوس (labus), and لُبْس (lubs) all refer to any clothing or garment that you cover yourself with. The verb لبِس (labisa) is almost always used in relation to clothing and garments

(2) لبَس - يلْبِس (labasa - yalbisu) - to cover, conceal, hide, confound, obfuscate, etc, and does not necessarily involve garments or clothing. In fact, all the times the verb لبَس or one of its cognates is used in the Qur'an it is used in the sense of covering up or concealing in general, and almost always in a perjorative sense, as the following verses illustrate:

- وَلاَ تَلْبِسُواْ الْحَقَّ بِالْبَاطِلِ وَتَكْتُمُواْ الْحَقَّ وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ ، سورة البقرة: 42

[And cover not Truth with falsehood, nor conceal the Truth when ye know (what it is)]

- الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ وَلَمْ يَلْبِسُواْ إِيمَانَهُم بِظُلْمٍ أُوْلَـئِكَ لَهُمُ الأَمْنُ وَهُم مُّهْتَدُونَ ، سورة الأنعام: 82

[It is those who believe and confuse not their beliefs with wrongdoing / oppression - that are (truly) in security, for they are on (right) guidance]

Thus, in the first sense لباس (which appears to be the more common sense in which it is used) refers to a garment or raiment that you cover yourself with, whereas in the second sense it refers to any form of covering that is not necessarily a garment or a piece of clothing.

Now, a garment ( لباس ) serves two essential functions: (a) it covers one's nakedness, and (b) it protects one's body from the elements such as heat and cold. There is also a third but not so essential function which is that a garment can also serve as a form of adornment. In fact, it is this function of garments that is referred to by the Qur'anic expression رِيْشاً which literally means' feathers' but because feathers also serve as a adornment for birds, it is often used metaphorically to refer to beauty and adornment in other objects. The famous exegete, linguist and lexicographer, al-Zamakhshari, states in his "Asas al-Balaghah" (a dictionary dealing with Arabic metaphorical usages) that: "Allah has made garments into "rish" (lit. feathers): adornment and beauty قَدْ أَنزَلْنَا عَلَيْكُمْ لِبَاسًا يُوَارِي سَوْءَاتِكُمْ وَرِيشًا [We have indeed sent down to you clothing to cover your shame, and (clothing) for beauty], and this usage is borrowed from feathers which serve to cover and adorn birds". It is this same adornment and beauty that Allah refers to one verse later: يَا بَنِي آدَمَ خُذُواْ زِينَتَكُمْ عِندَ كُلِّ مَسْجِدٍ ، سورة الأعراف: 31 [O Children of Adam! wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer].

Subsequently, the word لباس has come to be used for anything that covers and conceals a person from what is ugly and abominable. Thus, married partners or spouses are referred to as garments unto each other not only because they are allowed to cover each other like garments but also because they protect and safeguard each other from falling into sin by being there for each other.

Insha Allah, we will also see later on, the significance of describing or referring to التقوى in terms of لباس .

Different interpretations of التقوى in لباس التقوى :

التقوى as we know has the meaning of 'protection, safeguarding, etc.' whether in the physical sense of protecting against physical harm or injury or in the spiritual sense of protecting against evil and sinfulness. That لباس التقوى can refer to some type of protective garment or even coat of arms / armour, is borne out by the following two verses:

وَجَعَلَ لَكُمْ سَرَابِيلَ تَقِيكُمُ الْحَرَّ وَسَرَابِيلَ تَقِيكُم بَأْسَكُمْ سورة النحل: 81

[He made you garments to protect you from heat, and coats of mail /arms to protect you from your (mutual) violence]
(Here even a verb bearing the same root letters of التقوى is used to mean "to protect", namely, تَقِيْ )

وَعَلَّمْنَاهُ صَنْعَةَ لَبُوسٍ لَّكُمْ لِتُحْصِنَكُم مِّن بَأْسِكُمْ فَهَلْ أَنتُمْ شَاكِرُونَ ، سورة الأنبياء: 80

[It was We Who taught him the making of coats of mail / arms for your benefit, to guard you from each other's violence: will ye then be grateful?]

As for التقوى referring to a covering or barrier that protects against evil and sinfulness is a common enough meaning and has already been discussed at length in a previous post. We will shortly discuss the connection between التقوى and اللباس and the significance of this connection and comparison.

Grammatical Analysis of لباس التقوى based on the Raf' and Nasb readings of لباس :

There exist basically two primary Quranic readings in terms of how لباس of لباس التقوى is read. These two readings will now be discussed together with the grammatical justifications for these readings.

(A) the Raf' reading of لباسُ (Hamzah, Ibn Kathir, 'Asim & Abu 'Amr):
This is by far the more popular of the two readings, and 4 explanations have been forwarded as to its grammatical validity:
(a) لباسُ التقوى - is the mubtada',
ذلك - is tab'i (appositive) of لباس , (a sifah, badal or 'atf bayan),
خيرٌ - is the khabar of the mubtada' لباسُ التقوى

(b) لباسُ التقوى - is the first mubtada'
ذلك - is the second mubtada'
خيرٌ - is the khabar of the second mubtada' which together constitute a nominal clause serving as the khabar of the first mubtada'

(c) لباسُ التقوى - is the khabar of an elided mubtada', with the structure assumed as: وساترُ عوراتكم لباس التقوى (... and that which covers your nakedness is the covering / garment of Taqwa)

(d) لباسُ التقوى - is the mubtada' of an elided khabar, with the structure assumed as: ولباسُ التقوى ساترُ عوراتكم (... and the covering / garment of Taqwa is that which covers your nakedness)

(B) the Nasb reading of لباسَ (the rest of the Renowned Qur'anic Readers):

The explanation put forward for the Nasb-reading of لباسَ is that it is ma'tuf (conjoined via the conjunctive particle waw) to
لباساً يواري سوآتكم وريشاً in which case they all fall under both the grammatical and semantic force of the verb أنزلْنا .

What is the significance of comparing التقوى to a لباس , and why is the لباس التقوى better?

By comparing التقوى to a لباس it implies that التقوى serves all those functions normally associated with garments and clothing, like protecting one's body, covering one's nakedness, and adorning oneself. By then stating that the لباس التقوى is better, it implies that the لباس التقوى is even superior to an regular garment in these three respects or functions. Here is why I think the لباس التقوى is superior to a regular garment:
(1) The garment of Taqwa safeguards the soul and protects it from the destructive forces of evil and disobedience, and we all know that the soul is more important than the body. At the same we are taught that are bodies also have rights over us, and that we need to look after them and care for them. It is our Taqwa that ensures that we give our bodies adequate protection by eating and drinking properly, not inflicting punishments on ourselves, etc.

(2) The garment of Taqwa covers more than just our nakedness. It preserves also our modesty. It is what prevents us from dressing inappropriately and immodestly when it is scorching hot, and the temperatures are soaring. By covering up our bodies we turn our focus from the outside to the inside, from our bodies to our souls. Thus, while a regular garment only covers our nakedness and the secrets of our bodies except from our spouses, the Garment of Taqwa covers the nakedness of souls and the secrets of our hearts except from Allah. While our bodies are meant for our spouses, our souls and hearts are meant for Allah.

(3) The garment of Taqwa focuses on inner beauty rather than outer beauty. By wearing the garment of Taqwa we cover ourselves in a wide range and great variety of beautiful and coulourful character traits. It is significant that the word used for acquiring and developing virtuous character traits is التحلِّي (al-tahalli), that is, 'to adorn, beautify or dress yourself up', and the word used for shunning bad and undesirable character traits is التخلِّي (al-takhalli), that is, 'to abandon, shun, get rid off, empty out, etc.'

This also brings to mind the hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that states: "A believer is a mirror unto his brother". There is none of us that leaves the house except that he or she has looked into the mirror to see if his or her appearance is acceptable and presentable to the public eye. The mirror that your believing brother or sister holds up to you is to ensure that you look acceptable and presentable in the Presence of Allah on the Day of Judgement, because He does not look at your physical bodies and forms, rather He looks at your hearts and deeds. In another hadith it is stated that: "Iman is what occurs in the heart and is verified by the deeds". In other words, the deeds reflect what is on the inside. Just as you accept the advice of a mirror and are more than ready to do the necessary adjustments to your appearance based on what the mirror tells you, you should be even more accepting of the advice of the mirror that your believing brother or sister holds up to you and more ready to do the necessary adjustments to your siritual appearance, since in the final analysis, it is your spiritual appearance that counts rather than your physical appearance:

وَلَا تُخْزِنِي يَوْمَ يُبْعَثُونَ، يَوْمَ لَا يَنفَعُ مَالٌ وَلَا بَنُونَ ، إِلَّا مَنْ أَتَى اللَّهَ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ ، سورة الشعراء: 87 - 89

[And let me not be in disgrace on the Day when (men) will be raised up - The Day whereon neither wealth nor sons will avail - but only he (will prosper) that brings to Allah a sound heart ]

والله أعلم

Saturday, October 13, 2007

ألم يأنِ لنا - نحن الناطقين بغير اللغة العربية - أن نتكلم بها ...؟

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

إلى كل غيور على لسان العرب وكل عاشق لبنت عدنان أوجه هذه الرسالة من صميم قلبي لعله يتشجع على التكلم باللغة العربية محاورة ومحادثة، والكتابة بها تحريرا وإنشاء، فقد حان الحين وآن الأوان لأن نؤدي المهمة الملقاة على عاتقنا تجاه لغة الضاد، وهي مهمة إحيائها في أظهرنا وفي تعاملنا بعضنا مع بعض، إذ لا نكون قد قمنا بما يجب علينا القيام به نحو هذه اللغة على النحو المطلوب إلا إذا توّجنا جهودنا في خدمة لغة القرآن والسعي من أجل إحيائها في أوساط مجتمع غير عربي وبيئة لا تتمتع فيها اللغة العربية بالسيادة وإقبال الناس على دراستها وتعلمها، في حين أننا كثيرا ما نرى غيرنا يتعلم لغة أجنبية أو أكثر حتى يصل به الأمر إلى أنه يتقنها لا قراءة فحسب بل قراءة وحوارا واستماعا وكتابة، بيدما نحن نبقى متعاملين مع لغة القرآن على المستوى القرائي فقط لا غير، مع أنها من أجمل اللغات - إن لم تكن أجملها - محادثة وكتابة واستماعاً.

ألم يأن لنا أن نعطي اللغة العربية حقها وافيا كاملا من الاهتمام والاعتناء وأن نبذل قصارى جهودنا للرفع من شأنها فيما بيننا والنهوض بها نحو احتلال مكانة مرموقة بين لغات العالم حتى نُكتب عند الله ممن
خدم لغة القرآن حق الخدمة وشمّر عن ساعد الجد للحيلولة دون انقراضها إذ نعيش في زمن تقدَّر فيه لغات وتحقَّر أخرى، بل يرمى إلى بعضها تهمة أنها لغة إرهابية، وأنها تدفع أبناءها إلى أعمال إرهابية، ومن ثم يجب القضاء عليها وإحلال غيرها محلها، كما أنه بلغنا من بعض جهات معتبرة أن اللغة العربية سينتهي بها الأمر إلى الانقراض خلال الخمس والثلاثين سنة القادمة، هذا واللغة العربية الفصحى لا تكاد يتكلم بها إلا في مواقف ومناسبات رسمية في بلاد العرب، وعلاوة على ما مضى من العدوان على بنت عدنان فقد صدر كتاب بعنوان "تباًّ لسيبويه" وفيه يلقي مؤلفه (هداه الله) على سيبويه اللوم كل اللوم بشأن ما آلت إليه حالة اللغة العربية في عصرنا الحاضر ويحمله هو مسؤولية تدهور مكانة لغة العرب في العالم وذلك بما يدعي من أن سيبويه عقَّد اللغة العربية وجعل دراستها وتعلمها على النحو الموصوف في كتاب سيبويه أمرا صعباً وشاقّاً على أبنائها، مما يجعلهم - في ظنه - يتلكمون بما لا يكتبون ويكتبون ما لا يتكلمون به، بمعنى أن حياتهم اليومية واتصال بعضهم ببعض بشكل يومي أمر يفرض عليهم التكلم بالعربية العامية بيدما المطلوب على مستوى الكتابة أن تكون بالعربية الفصحى.

فإذا كانت هذه حال العربية في الوطن العربي فإنها لدلالة سوء، وإن اللغة العربية لفي خطر شديد، فالأمر جدّ، ولا بد من تدارك الأمر قبل الفوات، فعلى كل غيور على هذه اللغة عربيا كان أم غير عربي أن يؤدي دوره حسب طاقته وقدر استطاعته، فهذه محاولة من غير عربي لأداء دوره هو فيما يجب تجاه إنقاذ هذه من التلاشي والهلاك مع أني لا يخطر ببالي أن الأمر سيؤول باللغة العربية إلى هذه النهاية إذ الذي يتكفل بحفظها ورعايتها وإبقائها بناء على أن لسان العرب مرتبط بالقرآن ارتباطاً وثيقاً لا انفصام له، ومتصل به غير منفصل عنه أبد الآبدين.

أسأل الله جل وعلا أن يجعلنا ممن يخدم كتابه ولغة كتابه وسنة نبيه ولغة سنة نبيه حتى تنتشرفي مشارق الأرض ومغاربها، وأن يجعلها منطلقة على ألسنتنا إنه ولي ذلك والقادر عليه، وأصلي وأسلم على أفصح من نطق بالضاد وعلى آله وأصحابه أجمعين،
والله أعلم

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

زكاة الفطر & عيد الفطر : A Linguistic Analysis

Assalamu 'alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh

As we are approaching the end of this Blessed month of Ramadhan, we have most probably paid the زكاة الفطر or the الفطرة for ourselves and those in our care (if we are of those on whom it is uncumbant) and looking forward to celebrating عيد الفطر despite at the same having to bid farewell to our honoured guest - a guest who only vists once a year. In bidding farewell our only hope is that we have shown him ikraam (hospitality) in the best way we possibly can, insha Allah.

Having said this, what then do terms : زكاة , فطر & عيد , mean linguistically, that is, and what is the connection between their linguistic meaning and technical shar'i meaning?

As for the term زكاة , it was originally زَكَوَة , just as صلاة was originally صَلَوَة , as evidenced by their plurals: زَكَوَات and صَلَوَات , respectively. In fact, sometimes زكاة and صلاة are written with the waw instead of the alif.

Anyhow, lexically زكاة has one of four meanings: (1) to cleanse, purify, (2) to grow, increase, (3) to improve and make better, , and (4) to praise, with the first 2 meanings being its primary meanings. الزكاة is socalled because it cleanses the one who pays it to those to whom it is due from sin, and purifies him from being contaminated by the filth of not giving those who entitled to his zakah, as stated in the following Qur'anic verse: "خذ من أموالهم صدقة تطهرهم وتزكيهم بها". At the same time it purifies his wealth, and increases it in the Sight of Allah. The latter part is borne out by the follwing du'a of Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him): " اللهم أعط منفقا خلفا وأعط ممسكا تلفا" [O Allah, grant the one who gives (in charity) compensation,' and grant the one who withholds damage and loss]. Moreover, it also increases him spriritually and makes him a better and more righteous person in the process.

As for فطر , it means 'to open up something and expose it, or to split open', and it is said that one who who beaks his is called مُفْطِر (muftir) because he opens up his mouth to take in the food. This is also the meaning that appears in the Qur'anic statement: إذا السماء انفطرت (when the sky is split open). The verb "فَطَرَ" also have the meaning of 'making or doing something first'. It is in this connection that Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: I did not know the meaning of الفاطر (al-Fatir) until two desert Arabs (bedouins) came up to me to for my judgment concerning a well that was dug. One of them said: أنا فطرتُها (ana fatartuha) meaning, 'I was the first to dig it'. Likewise, the word الفِطْرَة refers to "the manner in which something was created". Thus, human beings were created with a natural disposition towards following the truth (which is Islam), which is termed "الفِطْرَة" (al-fitrah). It is with this meaning that الفطرة is used in the following Qur'anic verse: فأقم وجهك للدين حنيفاً فطرة الله التي فطر الناس عليها لا تبديل لخلق الله ذلك الدين القيم ولكن أكثر الناس لا يعلمون as well as in the following hadith: ما من مولود إلاّ ويولد على الفطرة، ثم أبواه يهودانه أو ينصرانه، أو يمجسانه [there is no child except that he was born with a fitrah (i.e. natural disposition towards Islam), but then it is his parents that made him either into a Jew, Christian, or Magian (fireworshipper)].

So the meaning of الفطر in the genetive construct زكاة الفطر refers to الفطر in the sense of 'opening one's mouth to break his / her fast' , and زكاة الفطر then is the zakah that becomes compulsory on having fasted Ramadhan till the end, at which stage he would have entered the stage of الفطر (breaking fast or ending the fast of Ramadhan by breaking fast), and it is this الفطر together with having fasted Ramadhan or a portion of it that makes the zakah al-fitr compulsory on those who qualify. The purpose of the زكاة الفطر , scholars say, is to 'repair' any damage done to one's sawm, just as sujud al-sahw (prostration of forgetfulness) repairs and supplies a missing part in the salah. Subhanallah! all these opportunities that are afforded to us to make the best of this Holy Month, and to make up for lapses and mistakes.

Now, we come to the final word of the trio, namely, عِيْد , which comes from the verb عاد - يعود - عَوْدا which means 'to return or come back', because it always returns from time to time. In the case of عيد الفطر it refers to an event that recurs once every year and is accompanied by celebration, joy and hapiness. In Islam, there are two 'eids: "'eid al-fitr" and "'eid al-adh-ha". The first refers to the celebration on the occasion of the great multitude of people that have been freed from the shackles of Jahannam following having fasted and spent the month of Ramadhan in worship. The second refers to the celebration of the on the occasion of also the great multitude of people that have been freed from the shackles of Jahannam following the Hajj and the time they spent on Arafat making to du'a to Allah with all their hearts. It is the knowledge that Allah has made so much opportunity available for His servants during these two periods of the year to once again redeem themselves, and the knowledge that Allah would have saved so many from the Fire, insha Allah, gives us reason to be joyous and festive on these two great Days, the Days of Feasting and Celebration for everybody.

So coming to the linguistic analysis, عِيْد was originally عِوْد , but because of the kasrah preceding the waw, the latter is forced to change into a yaa'. The plural of عِيْد is أَعْيَاد but is supposed to have been أعْواد because plurals and diminutives normally restore letters to their original forms. This anomaly, however, is explained by the fact that the yaa' in عِيْد never reverts back to the waw, as if it is always with the yaa', and by the fact that أعْواد is already a plural for عُوْد (piece of wood).
In conclusion, we ask Allah to make us of those who have been saved from the Fire, and earned His pleasure during these very auspicious times, Ameen!

والله أعلم

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Goal Setting & Goal Achievement: لعلكم تتقون (... in order that you may achieve Taqwa) - Part Two

Benefits of Taqwa

The word “تقوى” and its cognates appear numerous times in the Qur’an and in a variety of different contexts. From this we can gauge the benefits of Taqwa (not only in this life but also in the after life), and why it is important to develop this important quality which serves as a shield protecting us from vice. I will here suffice with just listing the benefits together with the relevant Qur'anic references

Benefits of Taqwa in this Life:

(1) it is a cause for facilitating and making things easy in life

(Surah al-Talaq: 4)
(Surah al-Layl: 5 - 7)

(2) it is a cause for protection against the harms of shaytan
(Surah al-A’raf: 201)

(3) it is the cause for receiving blessings from the heavens and the earth
(Surah al-A’raf: 96)

(4) it is a cause for being able to distinguish between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, etc.
(Surah al-Anfal: 29)

(5) it is a cause for being delivered from difficult situations, and obtaining sustenance from whence one knows not
(Surah al-Talaq: 2 - 3)

(6) it is a cause for gaining Allah’s Friendship
(Surah al-Anfal: 34)
(Surah al-Jathiyah: 19)

(7) it is a cause for eliminating one's fear of the harm and destructive plans of the enemy
(Surah Al ‘Imran: 120)

(8) it is a cause for bringing on the arrival of heavenly help when confronting the enemy
(Surah Al ‘Imran: 123 – 126)

(9) it is also a cause for enabling Muslims to live and co-exist peacefully without harbouring any animosity and grudges towards each other
(Surah Maryam: 17 – 18)

(10) it is also cause for venerating the Islamic religious institutions and symbols
(Surah al-Hajj: 32)

(11) it is also a cause for one’s actions to be righteous and be accepted by Allah as well as having one’s sins forgiven
(Surah al-Ahzab: 70 – 71)

(12) it is also a cause for lowering one’s voice in the presence or company of the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him)
(Surah al-Hujurat: 2)

(13) it is a also a cause for gaining Allah’s Love both in this life and the Hereafter
(Surah Al ‘Imran: 76)

(14) it is also a cause for acquiring knowledge
(Surah al-Baqarah: 182)

(15) it is also a cause that prevents one from misguidance after having been guided to the Straight Path
(Surah al-An’am: 153)

(16) it is also a cause for receiving Allah’s Mercy and Grace both in this life and the Afterlife
(Surah al-A’raf: 156)

(17) it is also a cause for gaining Allah’s care and protection
(Surah al-Nahl: 6)
(Surah al-Baqarah: 194)

(18) the Good End will be for the People of Taqwa
(Surah Taha: 132)

(19) it is also a cause for receiving good tidings or news both in this world and the Hereafter.
(Surah Yunus: 63 - 64)

(20) it is also a cause for setting women (of Taqwa) apart from ordinary women
(Surah al-Ahzab: 32)

(21) it is also a cause for not behaving unjustly and unfairly with respect to the bequest
(Surah al-Baqarah: 180)

(22) it is also a cause for treating people in a position of weakness with fairness and justice
(Surah al-Baqarah: 241)

(23) it is also a cause for not forfeiting one’s reward both in this world and the Hereafter
(Surah Yusuf: 90)

(24) it is also a cause for receiving Divine Guidance
(Surah al-Baqarah: 1 – 2)

Benefits of Taqwa in the Afterlife:

(1) it is a cause for being honoured by Allah
(Surah al-Hujurat: 11)

(2) it is also a cause for Success and Felicity
(Surah al-Nur: 52)

(3) it is also a cause for Salvation on the Day of Judgment from Allah’s Punishment
(Surah Maryam: 71 - 72)
Surah al-Layl: 17)

(4) it is also a cause for one’s deeds being accepted
(Surah al-Maidah: 27)

(5) it is also a cause for inheriting Paradise
(Surah Maryam: 63)

(6) the People of Taqwa will have in Paradise Chambers upon Chambers
(Surah al-Zumar: 20)

(7) the People of Taqwa because of their Taqwa will be superior to and high above the unbelievers in everything
(Surah al-Baqarah: 212)

(8) it is a cause for entry into Paradise
(Surah Al-‘Imran: 133)
(Surah al-Maidah: 65)

(9) it is a cause for the obliteration and expiation of one’s sins
(Surah al-Talaq: 5)
(Surah al-Maidah: 65)

(10) it is a cause for obtaining in Jannah whatever one’s heart desires and one’s eye delights in
(Surah al-Nahl: 31)

(11) it is also a cause for eliminating fear and grief, and for preventing harm from coming to one on the Day of Judgment
(Surah al-Zumar: 61)
(Surah Yunus: 62 – 63)

(12) the People of Taqwa will be presented to Allah like a band presented before a king for honours
(Surah Maryam: 13)

(13) the Jannah (Paradise) will be brought in close proximity to them
(Surah al-Shu’ara’: 90)
(Surah Qaf: 21)

(14) it will be what makes the People of Taqwa different from the sinners, so that the two groups cannot be equated
(Surah Sad: 28)

(15) every friendship and companionship on the Day of Judgment will end up in and be doomed to animosity, hatred and hostility except the friendship and companionship based and founded on Taqwa
(Surah al-Zukhruf: 67)

(16) As to the People of Taqwa (they will be) in a position of Security, Among Gardens and Springs; Dressed in fine silk and in rich brocade, they will face each other; So; and We shall join them to Companions with beautiful, big, and lustrous eyes. There can they call for every kind of fruit in peace and security; Nor will they there taste Death, except the first death; and He will preserve them from the Penalty of the Blazing Fire,- As a Bounty from thy Lord! that will be the supreme achievement! (Surah al-Dukhan: 51 – 56)

(17) The People of Taqwa will be in an Assembly of Truth, in the Presence of a Sovereign Omnipotent (Surah al-Qamar: 54 – 55)

(18) it will also be cause for the flowing of rivers of different
(Here is) a Parable of the Garden which the People of Taqwa are promised: in it are rivers of water incorruptible; rivers of milk of which the taste never changes; rivers of wine, a joy to those who drink; and rivers of honey pure and clear. In it there are for them all kinds of fruits; and Grace from their Lord. (Surah Muhammad: 15)

(19) it is also a cause for traveling under the trees of Paradise enjoying the coolness of its shade

As to the People of Taqwa, they shall be amidst (cool) shades and springs (of water). And (they shall have) fruits,- all they desire. "Eat ye and drink ye to your heart's content: for that ye worked (Righteousness). Thus do We certainly reward the Doers of Good. (Surah al-Mursalat: 41 – 43)

(20) Behold! verily on the friends of Allah there is no fear, nor shall they grieve; Those who believe and (constantly) guard against evil (i.e. they have Taqwa);- For them are glad tidings, in the life of the present and in the Hereafter; no change can there be in the words of Allah. This is indeed the supreme felicity. Let not their speech grieve thee: for all power and honour belong to Allah. It is He Who heareth and knoweth (all things). (Surah Yunus: 62 – 65)

(21) the People of Taqwa will have Excellent Abode
(Surah al-Nahl: 30)

(22) the People of Taqwa will have their rewards multiplied for them
Surah al-Hadid: 28)

May Allah (Subhanahu WaTa'ala) makes us of the People of Taqwa who will reap its benefits both in this life and the Afterlife. Ameen!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Goal Setting & Goal Achievement: لعلكم تتقون (... in order that you may achieve Taqwa) - Part One

Assalamu 'alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh

We are all approaching the end of the Blessed Month of Ramadhan, and now we need to ask ourself whether we have or are on our way to achieving our Ramadhan goals. It is time for stock-taking with the hope of making up in what little remains of Ramadhan. Ramadhan has come to give us a 29 / 30 day training session in developing Taqwa. Have we achieved our stated goal? In this post I wish to show how Ramadhan is all about goal setting and goal achievement based on a partial linguistic analysis of the sawm verse.

We are all familiar with famous sawm verse that read as follows:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ ، سورة البقرة: 183
[O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, in order that you may achieve Taqwa]

The significance of the particle لعلّ in the sawm verse:

The operative particle here in the verse is لَعَلَّ which we know to be sister of إنّ . While it performs the same grammatical function of إنّ in terms of operating on a nominal sentence (jumlah ismiyyah) causing the mubtada' therein to become mansub and the khabar therein to remain marfu', it differs from إنّ semantically. Thus, while إنّ seeks to emphasise that something is or is not the case, لعلّ conveys the meaning of hoping or expecting something to be or not be the case. So if I say: لعَلَّكَ ناَجِحٌ (Hopefully, you have passed / I'm expecting that you have pass). The hope or expectation can either be on the part of the speaker or on the part of the addressee. It is in this second sense (i.e. hope or expectation on the part of the addressee) that لعلّ is to be understood and interpreted when used in relation to Allah. Another meaning that has often been attributed to لعلّ in this context is that of "reason /cause" and is often translated as "in order that" or "so that" or just simply "that" and is normally preceded by the action or event that brings about the desired state of affairs.
Another meaning of لعلّ is "expressing fear, concern or apprehension" and is normally translated as "perhaps" or "maybe", e.g. لعل زيداً مريضٌ (Perhaps, Zayd is sick / has taken ill). It is in this sense that لعلّ in the following Qur'anic verse is said to be understood and interpreted: لعلّ السَّاعَةَ قَرِيْبٌ، سورة الشورى: 17 (Perhaps, the Hour is near).

What, then, might be the significance of the use of لعل in the sawm verse?

The particle لعل tells us why it is that sawm has been legislated for us. It informs us about the goal of sawm, which is to achieve a certain state and that state is the state of Taqwa. Now, if this is the goal of sawm or fasting then it follows that we ourselves have to set ourselves that goal at the beginning of the month of Ramadhan, and then see at the end of the month of Ramadhan whether we have actually achieved that goal. However before we can even set ourselves the goal of achieving a state of Taqwa, we have to fully understand what this goal entails, and then clearly work towards achieving it. In other words, there should tangible indicators that should tell us at the end of a month long training program, that we have to a certain degree achieved our goal. At the same time we have to ensure that we have properly planned how to organise our time and activities that will ensure, insha Allah, that we have achieved our stated goal. The process itself calls for continuous assessment of all our actions and efforts during the various stages and phases of the training program to we see whether we are actually on track and getting closer to realising our goal.

Now, the time has arrived for us to take stock, and see how well we have fared towards achieving this noble goal of Taqwa. To know whether we have achieved our goal requires us to know what the essence is of what we are meant to achieve, namely, Taqwa. So what is Taqwa, and what does it mean to be a Muttaqi, and is there a tangible way of measuring not necessarily the degree of Taqwa but rather its presence or existence?

What is Taqwa?

A whole book can be written on this topic, and whole books have been written on it, so what I’ll be presenting is just a droplet in the ocean. The word “taqwa” or تَقْوَى comes from the root و ق ي which means ‘to protect, safeguard, shield, prevent, etc.’. The الماضي، المضارع، الأمر & المصدر forms of are: وَقَى – يَقِيْ – قِ – وِقَايَة , and belongs to the category of verb called الفعل اللفيف المفروق which is a verb whose root letters comprise 2 weak letters separated by a sound / strong letter. Verbs such as these have their الأمر form as a single letter which is the middle strong letter. Its الأمر form occurs in the Qur’an in popular verses such وَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ (Protect us from the Punishment of the Fire) and قُوْا أَنْفُسَكُمْ وَأَهْلِيْكُمْ نَاراً وَقُوْدُهَا النَّاسُ وَالْحِجَارَةُ (Protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is men and stones). Sawm (fasting) itself has been described in hadith as being a shield or protection (جُنَّة) and normally explained as وِقَايَة .

Now, you might ask where the waw is in تقوى , and the answer is that it changed into a taa’ just as the waw of ورث (to inherit) changed into a taa’ in تُراث (inheritance, heritage, legacy). So it is by no means uncommon. The same goes for تَتَّقُوْنَ the original form of which is تَوْتََقِيُوْنَ , with the first waw changing into a taa' so as make possible its assimilation (idghaam / iddighaam) into the taa' following it, and the yaa’ gets dropped due to a morphological rule or rules that will be discussed in later post, insha Allah.

As for the shar’i meaning of التَّقْوَى , the following definitions have been forwarded:

(a) اتِّقَاء الْمَعَاصِيْ (ittiqaa’ al-ma’asi = warding off, avoiding sins, disobedience); this meaning seems to be very apt for the kind of Taqwa that we envisage to gain during the course of Ramadhan, since during Ramadhan we refrain from things that are normally halaal (lawful) so as to make it doubly easy for us to refrain from things that are haraam (unlawful). Ibn ‘Ashur gives an interesting reason as to how sawm teaches and trains us to ward off and refrain from sinful acts. He says that sinful acts are of two types: (a) sinful acts which require us to sufficiently reflect on its detriments in order to abandon them, such as drinking wine, gambling, stealing, usurping other people’s property, etc., and (b) sinful acts that stem from anger and natural desire which might be difficult to just abandon through mere reflection on its negative aspects, and for this reason sawm has been legislated to help us overcome and refrain from these sinful acts. This the act of sawm accomplishes or effects through regulating and controlling one’s lower desires through elevating and raising the individual from being immersed and steeped in base materialism to the lofty heights of the spiritual world. Sawm, then, is a means through which ones engages in the sublime activities of a sinless spiritual world to gain control over the sinful and base desires of an animalistic world. Sawm, then, becomes as the hadith says: a shield that safeguards and protects one from not only falling into sin and disobedience but also from falling into the depthless Fire of the Jahannam in the Hereafter. Moreover, it also serves as a shield that protects us from illnesses and sicknesses that befall people who indulge in lust and desire without the slightest restraint.

(b) Ali ibn Abi Talib’s definition: هي الخوف من الجليل، والعمل بالتنزيل، والقناعة بالقليل، والاستعداد ليوم الرحيل

Taqwa is Fearing Allah, the Majestic, acting according to Revelation, being contented with little, and making preparation for the Day of the Journey

(c) another common definition is: Taqwa is when a servant places between him and what he fears a barrier that will protect him from it

(d) Ibn Abbas says that the Muttaqun (people of Taqwa) are those who fear Allah and His Punishment

(e) Abdullahi ibn Mas’ud says concerning the meaning of Qur’anic statement: اتَّقُواْ اللَّهَ حَقَّ تُقَاتِهِ (Fear Allah as He should be feared):

أن يُطاع فلا يُعصى، ويذكر فلا ينسى، وأن يشكر فلا يكفر

(that Allah must be obeyed and not be disobeyed, that He must be remembered and not be forgotten, that He be shown gratitude and not ingratitude)

These then are some of the definitions of Taqwa, and by studying them closely one realises that Taqwa is one of those terms whose meaning whose meaning is so all-encompassing so as almost to leave nothing out. It seems to me that this all-encompassing property and trait of Taqwa stems from the fact that it creates the person who possesses Taqwa a certain type of consciousness and awareness of Allah such that it permeates his whole being and radiates his whole life and existence, with the result that everything he does is done with that consciousness and awareness of Allah. Being in that frame of mind certainly brings out the best in you, and causes you to engage only in good and refrain from evil.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A Precious Prophetic Pearl on Upholding the Night of Power / Decree (Part Two)

Part Two:

The word "القيام" is a very rich word, and is used in a lot of different contexts. Here in the hadith, what is meant by القيام (the verbal noun of يَقُمْ literally 'to stand') is to uphold this Night in 'ibadah (worship) and ta'ah (obdedience). The significance of using the word "قام - يقوم" is that it is often used as a synonym for "carrying out", "executing", "producing", esp. when used with the baa' e.g. قام بـ and so on. So, it is general for any kind of activity which in the context involves worship and obedience to Allah. It is also often used with prepositions such as إلى , لـ , على , and so on. It also has connotations of "standing up to do something" like getting ready for Salah, and so on. It is also in this sense of "obedience" and "devotion" that the word القيام is used in the following Qur'anic verse: (وَقُوْمُوْا للهِ قَانِتِيْن) (And stand up in obedience and devotion to Allah).

Some scholars say that what qualifies as القيام on that night is anything called قيام in the minimal sense of the word and not necessarily spending the whole night in worship, so much so that it is sufficient to just pray Salah al-'Isha in congregation. Having said this , it should be remembered that according to the popular and customary meaning of the expression قام الليلة (he upheld the night) it is not used except for someone who upheld the whole night or the greater part of it rather than just a small portion thereof.

In addition, he gets the reward mentioned in hadith even if he was not aware of the fact that that particular night was Laylatul-Qadr, which means that if you spend all of the nights of Ramadhan in القيام in some form or the other then you bound to receive the reward of upholding the Night of Power, insha Allah.

At the same time it is not sufficient that you just engage in some form of 'ibadah but that you do so with iman, that is, firm belief and conviction that what you are doing is something genuine and a form of obedience to Allah, not something false and disobedience to Allah, and having firm faith that it is a cause for earning Allah's Forgiveness and that He will reward you for it.

Likewise his 'ibadah for that Night must be sincerely and utterly for the Sake of Allah which is the meaning of "ihtisab". There should be no showiness in it. The word الاحتساب (al-ihtisab) comes from the word الحساب (reckoning, computing, counting, etc.) which is almost as if you are carefully taking account and reckoning of your 'ibadah ensuring that it does not become contaminated with worldly interests such as riya' (showiness). Here it is important not to put yourself in a position where you know that you stand to compromise your 'ibadah, like when you are a good orator and you have to give a talk in front of a massive audience, or you have a good voice and you have to recite the Qur'an in front of a large crowd or you are wealthy and you give sadaqah for everyone to see, etc. If you are obliged to take such a position then try at least to remind yourself to have a pure intention from time to time so as not to compromise your 'ibadah. May Allah help us to to keep our intentions pure, and take the showiness out of our actions.

As for the part of the hadith that deals with the obliteration of previous sins, it refers to minor sins perpetrated against Allah (according to what Imam al-Nawawi reports as being the received view). As for what concerns the Rights of Allah's Servants, these still stand, such that if you have wrongfully taken something from someone then you will have to return it to its rightful owner.

As to why these two nouns ( إيماناً and احتساباً ) are mansub, 3 possibilities have been given:

(a) they are mansub due to being the haal (state or condition in which the agent occurs at the time of the action) because they are two verbal nouns (masdar) having the meaning of their active particples (ism fa-'il), so the structure becomes: من يقم ليلة القدر مؤمنا ومحتسبا (whosoever upholds the Night of Qadr while being in the state of iman and ihtisaba ...),

(b) they are mansub due to being the maf'ul li-ajlihi (object of reason) so the structure becomes من يقم ليلة القدر من أجل لإيمانه واحتسابه (whosoever upholds the Night of Qadr out of iman and ihtisab ...)

(c) they are mansub due to being the tamyiz (noun of specification) so the structure prior to tamyiz was as follows: من يقم ليلة القدر قيام إيمان وقيام احتساب (whosoever upholds the Night of Qadr with an upholding that is based on iman and ihtisab ...)

In another version of the hadith there is the addition: وما تأخر (and his future sins), that is, both his past and future sins will be forgiven.

Finally, the word القدر can either mean "high status, rank, position, worth" on the one hand or "decreeing or setting out in the future" on the other hand.

As for the first interpretation, scholars have given different reasons as to why this Night is the Night of High Status, Rank, Position, etc.:

- because someone who is a nobody on that Night becomes a somebody, i.e. someone of no standing becomes someone of high standing in the estimation of Allah

- because there is no righteous deed that a believer performs on that night except that increases in worth and rank and is accepted by Allah

- because a Book of exceptionally high status was revealed during that Night

As for the second interpretation, some scholars maintain it is called the Night of Decree because it is the Night on which Allah decrees the the affairs of human beings for that year.

Moreover, القَدْر can be variously pronounced as الْقَدْر (with a sukun on the daal) and الْقَدَر (with a fathah on the Daal) are two diactical variants just as النَّهْر (with a sukun on the haa') and النَّهَر (with a fathah on the haa') are two dialectical variants for the word "river".

Wallahu a'lam.

May Allah make us of those who uphold or have upheld the Night of Power / Decree with iman (firm conviction) and ihtisab (sincerity and purity of intention), Ameen!

A Precious Prophetic Pearl on Upholding the Night of Power / Decree (Part One)

Part One:

Assalamu 'alaykum warahmatuulahi wabarakatuh

عن أبي هريرة (رضي الله عنه) أنه قال: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم "مَنْ يَقُمْ لَيْلَةَ الْقَدْرِ إِيمَانًا وَاحْتِسَابًا، غُفِرَ لَهُ مَا تَقَدَّمَ مِنْ ذَنْبِهِ"

[It was reported on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that he said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Whosoever, upholds Laylatul-Qadr (the Night of Power / Decree) in a state of iman and ihtisab will have his previous sins forgiven”. (Compiled by al-Bukhari in the section of his Sahih Collection entitled “Upholding Laylatul Qadr is part of Iman”)]

The noble hadith employs a particular grammatical structure or device called الشَّرْطِيَّة (Conditionality). الشرطية is a situation where two events (both normally indicated by verbs) are connected in such a way so that the first event (referred to as the الشرط ) serves as a condition or pre-requisite (شرط) for the second event (referred to as the الجواب or الجزاء ). To put it differently, the second event (الجواب / الجزاء) follows or results from the first event (الشرط) . To make this connection of conditionality possible a third element is required called the أداة الشرط (conditional instrument or instrument of conditionality) which is a particle or noun placed before the conditional clause containing the الشرط . The أداة الشرط is of two types: a type that effects, in addition to conditionality, الجزم of the shart clause and jawab clause, and a type that only effects conditionality but not الجزم .

Now, in the blessed hadith, the أداة الشرط (conditional instrument) is "من" (whosoever) and is placed before the shart clause / verb which is يَقُمْ (stands, upholds) and the jawab clause is غُفِرَ (to have something forgiven). Moreover, this أداة الشرط effects الجزم which is clearly seen in the verb "يَقُمْ" which majzum with a sukun, as for the verb "غُفِرَ" , it occurs in the الماضي and therefore does not show the effect of الجزم . In other words, should one uphold the Night of Power / Decree in the manner described then the result would be that his / her previous sins will be forgiven. In other words, in order for one to have his / her previous sins forgiven (on that auspicious Night), there is a condition that must be met, and that condition is that he upholds Laylatul-Qadr, and upholds in the manner described in the hadith.

Having clarified the concept of ‘Conditionality’ and using the noble hadith to illustrate this concept, we now move on to what constitutes a شرط and a جواب / جزاء . Here we refer to Ibn Malik’s famous 1000 verse didactic poem on Nahw called the "al-Alfiyyah" (from the word "alf" meaning 'a thousand'). In dicussing the instruments of الجزم that effect conditionality he says:

فِعْلَيْنِ يَقْتَضِيْنَ شَرْطٌ قُدِّمَا * يَتْلُو الْجَزَاءُ وَجَواباً وُسِمَا
مَاضِيَيْنِ أَوْ مُضَارِعَيْنِ * تُلْفِيْهِمَا أَوْ مُتَخَالِفِيْنِ

[Two verbs do they (i.e. these conditional instruments) require: a شَرْط that is placed before (i.e. at the begining after the أداة الشرط ), followed by the الجزاء which is also called the الْجَوَاب ]
[You’ll find them (i.e. these two verbs) either both in the الْمَاضِيْ or both in the الْمُضَارِع or differently (i.e. الْمَاضِيْ + الْمُضَارِع or الْمُضَارِع + الْمَاضِيْ )]

In the case of the blessed hadith we find that the الشرط (conditional verb) – يَقُمْ - is مُضَارِع , and the الْجَوَاب or الجَزَاء (“result” verb) - غُفِرَ - is مَاضٍ . In other words, they are different, and not the same, with the الشرط being مُضَارِع and the الجزاء being مَاضٍ .

Now, to find out the significance of selecting the combination of الْمُضَارِع + الْمَاضَيْ from the four possible combinations, we turn to Balaghah, and more specifically the section called عِلْم الْمَعَانِيْ . While Nahw tells us that the four combinations are possible, it does not tell us why one combination is better than another based on the context. This is the domain of Balaghah and more specifically ‘Ilm al-Ma’ani.

Hence, the significance of the combination of الْمُضَارِع + الْمَاضَيْ is that the الْمُضَارِع – because it’s normally in the process of occurring or it has not occurred yet – there is a certain uncertainty about it. In other words, we do not know for certain how it is going to play out. The الْمَاضِيْ , on the other hand, is more certainty about precisely because it has already occurred, and there is nothing as definitive as the past. It’s the present and future that are somewhat uncertain.

Applying this to the hadith we see that the part which uses the الْمُضَارِع which is من يقم ليلة القدر is with reference to upholding the Night of Power, and we all know the element of uncertainty concerning Laytul-Qadr – which night of Ramadhan it is, and so on. So it is appropriate that the المضارع is used to denote an event that is shrouded in mystery, which makes us all the more anxious to find it lest it should pass us by without we even knowing it. As for when we do get the honour and privilege to uphold this highly auspicious Night, the forgiveness of our previous sins is assured, and there is absolutely no uncertainty about that. Therefore, the most eloquent of those who utter the Dad, the one who has been honoured with جوامع الكلم (i.e. the ability to speak volumes in just a few words) has in this one short hadith told us not merely the excellence and great virtue of upholding this Night but also the fact that the time of its occurrence is uncertain; but that the occurrence of forgiveness for one's previous sins is certain. At the same time he is telling us that to keep up the whole Ramadhan as Laylatul-Qadr could be in any of its nights. In another hadith he tells us to find it in the last ten nights, which to me also as the significance of making a special effort as the month comes to a close, as we are normally so energized at the beginning but than wane towards the end like the waning of the moon. By telling us to search for it in the last ten days, we approach the “final leg” of the month with renewed energy and vigour, such that we not only have a husn al-bidayah (good beginning) but also a husn al-nihayah / al-khatimah (good ending).

اللهم افتح لنا بالخير واختم لنا بالخير واجعل عواقب أمورنا بالخير بيدك الخير والعافية إنك على كل شيء قدير

In Part Two of our analysis of the hadith we will be focusing on the meanings of some of the words used in the hadith, insha Allah.

Allahu a'lam.