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  • A question about how Arabic words are understood

    Assalamu 'alaikum wa rahmatullah ya ikhwaan wal ikhwaati

    I want to know how Arabic words with dual/multiple meanings are understood.

    Often Ive seen people combine all of the meanings of a particular word and claim that the word means all of the above.

    Let me give you a popular example: 'Alaq.

    Now I know the word means clinging or hanging or a notion of attachment, as well as leech and blood clot (coagulated form of blood).

    People combine all of the meanings and say 'alaq means a leech like clot of blood which clings.

    I have seen this approach throughout the tafaseer of brother Nouman Ali Khan, and also in the linguisticmiracles.com site.

    For example:

    http://linguisticmiracle.com/sulaalah.html

    Five meanings are suggested for "Sulaalah", namely:

    1. extract
    2. pure
    3. unique
    4. clear
    5. quintessence.

    So all of the meanings are basically lumped together to arrive at the conclusion that Sulaalah means:

    1 - Sulaalah is a Pure (sul / sal) flowing liquid, drawn out/separated from a greater collection of flowing liquid.

    2 -Sulaalah/sulaalatin is in the Singular form [sulaal / sulaalaat are plural].

    3 - Salsal = it isUnique (Shaadh).
    Is this the right way of interpreting Arabic words?

    I mean in English, words can have multiple meanings, but when we try to understand one word in a particular context, we only understand one meaning and neglect the other ones, because those, we say, are inappropiate in the context.

    For example, right can mean the right side, while it can mean the opposite of wrong.

    So if someone says "you are right", this doesnt mean "he is not wrong and on the right side as opposed to the left side." This only means he is not wrong. So we didnt take both the meanings of "right" into consideration.

    Similarly if I say, "Its located to the right", no one in their right mind would understand this to mean simultaneously opposite of left and opposite of wrong.

    So in the case of words with more than one meaning, only one meaning is understood at a time, when the language is English.

    So is the approach spoken of earlier about the understanding of Arabic words i.e. taking all the meanings into account, correct? Or is it the same as the case with English Language i.e. we only take one meaning into account depending on the context while ignoring the rest? (even if the context is unclear, no one says the English word actually means both of the intended meanings, rather the word has only one meaning, we just don't know what it is.)
    Allah said, "Indeed, I know that which you do not know." [Baqarah, 2:30]

  • #2
    اسالوا اهل الذكر ان كنتم لا تتعلمون

    Dear brother Hassan......Assalamo alikom
    When the Word in Quran is Nakiraht { unidentified } then the meaning is hidden and it may have several meanings this sort of " Ibham " is the best indication for " bian " i.e when Alhaq swt does not tell us the direct meaning of the word He is allowing us to speculate and all the Arabic meanings of the word are correct and may fit the general trend of the verse.
    An example for that is Surat Alnaziaat it has five correct meanings and they all valid and fits the general trend of the verse.
    The Mufasser has a good command of Arabic language { grammar , vocabularies , topology , chronology etc }
    So brother do not worry about the meaning if it is not obvious ask Ahla Alzekr and they will guide you Insh Allah
    َاللهم إِني أَعوذ بك أَن أَضِلَّ أَو أُضِلَّ، أو أَزِلَّ أَو أُزِلَّ، أَو أَظْلِمَ أَو أُظْلَم، أَو أَجْهَلَ أَويُجْهلَ عليّ

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    • #3
      Wa 'alaikumussalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu brother Ahmed

      JazakAllahu khayran for the response, but I still have issues I am not completely clear about.

      An example for that is Surat Alnaziaat it has five correct meanings and they all valid and fits the general trend of the verse.
      Akhi, if they "fit" the trend of the verse, is it the rule that we have to accept all of the meanings of the particular word simultaneously? Or just one at a time?

      What is the evidence from Arabic linguists etc. to support the correct view?

      I mean I understand all of the meanings may fit the word, but does it mean we take the word to simultaneously mean all of those things? Please give evidence inshAllah.

      Also brother, please dont use Arabic words in your reply, since Im a jahil in Arabic : (

      P.S.

      The Mufasser has a good command of Arabic language { grammar , vocabularies , topology , chronology etc }
      So brother do not worry about the meaning if it is not obvious ask Ahla Alzekr and they will guide you Insh Allah
      Akhi, Im confused about the meanings of the embryological terms in the Qur'an. Can you help me out inshAllah?

      Wassalam
      Allah said, "Indeed, I know that which you do not know." [Baqarah, 2:30]

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      • #4
        Akhi, if they "fit" the trend of the verse, is it the rule that we have to accept all of the meanings of the particular word simultaneously?
        Assalamo alikom
        That is good question , Quran for every time past and future so we take the meaning that is closer to our time and knowledge and we still respect the other meanings because only Allah SWT knows what it means.
        Example you mentioned Sulalah and its different meanings , recently theydiscovered that the shape of the chromomeres is in the shape of sullalah i.e the chromosomes in 3 dimensions is simillar to the shape of the straw basket or the old egg basket made in the farms I personally believe that this is the most accurate definitions for sullalah by far.
        Another example Alnaziat could mean the Angles , the planets , stars , winds or the arrowshot from the bow.They are all correct and fit the trend however I say it means the Angles
        Akhi, Im confused about the meanings of the embryological terms in the Qur'an. Can you help me out inshAllah?
        In Sha Allah Just tell me what you want exactly
        Finally Akhi :" please do not say you are Jahil in Arabic " You ARE NOT
        Wasalamo alikom
        َاللهم إِني أَعوذ بك أَن أَضِلَّ أَو أُضِلَّ، أو أَزِلَّ أَو أُزِلَّ، أَو أَظْلِمَ أَو أُظْلَم، أَو أَجْهَلَ أَويُجْهلَ عليّ

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        • #5
          Wa 'alaikumussalam wa rahmatullah Akhi al kareem

          That is good question , Quran for every time past and future so we take the meaning that is closer to our time and knowledge and we still respect the other meanings because only Allah SWT knows what it means.
          Akhi I find this problematic, since this gives the notion that the meanings of the Qur'anic verses are subject to change as new knowledge are dug up and scientific progress is made. Its like in light of the recent scientific discoveries the meanings of the words are tailored, which seems intellectually dishonest.

          I believe the meanings are to be derived from linguistic analysis and they would remain static thereafter.

          And also:

          They are all correct and fit the trend however I say it means the Angles
          So at the end of the day, can a word only mean just "one" thing and not the combination of a whole bunch of things as some people nowadays say?

          Once I get this basic issue settled, I will tell you the words Im confused about inshAllah.

          Finally Akhi :" please do not say you are Jahil in Arabic " You ARE NOT
          Well I dont know Arabic : )
          Allah said, "Indeed, I know that which you do not know." [Baqarah, 2:30]

          Comment


          • #6
            بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
            السلام عليكم
            Originally posted by Hassan_'Abd_Allah View Post
            Is this the right way of interpreting Arabic words?
            Sometimes yes. Arabic is a much deeper language than English (actually, several other languages are also much deeper than English) so sometimes it simply isn't possible to express the meaning of a number of words with 1 simple translation. Even listing several translations of a word doesn't always give it justice because you still may lack experiencing and feeling these words (which was probably way more common back then than it is now).

            So sometimes yes, you just have to lump together a number of the translations. Sometimes some of those translations have are specifically used for different contexts and other times you just have to bring a few of them together to get a good understanding of the word.

            However it's not always like this. For example, the word "mawla" (مولى) has a number of different meanings, some of them are quite contridictary. ie, one meaning is "master" and another is "slave/servant" so it's not possible to merge them together. The specific translation is for a specific context
            If one is serious about learning knowledge then let him spend actual couple of years studying from ABC and gradualy advance (not attending some lectures or reading some articles and books) then ask about how to employ texts and conclude rulings.
            Until then rulings are taken from scholars who sufficed us the trouble of investigating the process.
            ^Excellent quote by Shaykh Ayman that i've included here to remind myself and others

            Comment


            • #7
              Bismillah......Wasalamo alikom
              Q1-{Akhi I find this problematic, since this gives the notion that the meanings of the Qur'anic verses are subject to change as new knowledge are dug up and scientific progress is made. Its like in light of the recent scientific discoveries the meanings of the words are tailored, which seems intellectually dishonest.}
              A1-Allah Swt spoke Qur'an to the Worlds and He knows what is to happen in the future , It is great mercy that He said it in language that everyone will always understand i.e one of the miracles of Quran that the primitive Arabs can relate to it fully and the modern Muslims will do the same in the future.It is a book that falsehood can not default. Saying that , it is also a known fact that language is vibrant and alive and it suits the needs of every generation to come.This vitality of the language is necessary to it survival.You may now understand that the meaning of the language can not be tailored to suit if the speaker is Allah so it is made to fit ever time till Allah SWT seize everything in the universe.
              Q2-{So at the end of the day, can a word only mean just "one" thing and not the combination of a whole bunch of things as some people nowadays say?} A2- The answer is NO , we have to follow all what MUfaserin said about each verse to be fair in our analysis after all know body knows its meaning except Allah { wal yaalamo tawilahu ila Allah }.
              Q3-{Once I get this basic issue settled, I will tell you the words Im confused about inshAllah.}
              A3-I would love to help
              Q4-Well I dont know Arabic : )
              A4-That is a better way of expressing what you wanted to say { wa naouzo billahi an nakona min aljaheleen } we seek refuge By Allah not to be included in the ignorants.
              Assalamo Alikom
              َاللهم إِني أَعوذ بك أَن أَضِلَّ أَو أُضِلَّ، أو أَزِلَّ أَو أُزِلَّ، أَو أَظْلِمَ أَو أُظْلَم، أَو أَجْهَلَ أَويُجْهلَ عليّ

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by ibn al-Taalib View Post
                بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
                السلام عليكم

                Sometimes yes. Arabic is a much deeper language than English (actually, several other languages are also much deeper than English) so sometimes it simply isn't possible to express the meaning of a number of words with 1 simple translation. Even listing several translations of a word doesn't always give it justice because you still may lack experiencing and feeling these words (which was probably way more common back then than it is now).

                So sometimes yes, you just have to lump together a number of the translations. Sometimes some of those translations have are specifically used for different contexts and other times you just have to bring a few of them together to get a good understanding of the word.

                However it's not always like this. For example, the word "mawla" (مولى) has a number of different meanings, some of them are quite contridictary. ie, one meaning is "master" and another is "slave/servant" so it's not possible to merge them together. The specific translation is for a specific context
                Wa 'alaikumussalam wa rahmatullah akhi

                and JazakAllahu khayran for your response,

                Now my question is when do we lump the meanings together and when don't we? You mentioned "sometimes" but what defines this "sometimes"?

                Brother Ahmad above mentioned that's up to the mufassirun, what if the mufassirun didn't have much to say on the particular verses?

                I think Im gonna come out of my shell now and just give you the exact words Im confused about.

                Ive been looking into the issue of Qur'an and Embryology for the past few days, and these are the words which describe the embryonic stages in the Qur'an:

                -Nutfah
                -'Alaqah
                -Mudghah

                (additional: Maniy, and perhaps sulalah, though it only means extract)

                I think Im clear on Nutfah, because it only means drop.

                As for 'Alaqah, Im pretty confused.

                I looked into the linguisticmiracle site and heres their take on 'Alaqah:

                http://linguisticmiracle.com/alaq.html

                1st meaning:

                'Aliqat - to become Attached.

                وفي الحديث: فعلقت الاعراب به اي نشبوا وتعلقوا
                i.e. The Arabic saying: They became attached to it and adopted it to their culture.

                Meaning 2:

                علق الصيد في حبالته اي نشب
                'Aaliqa - the animal Fell into the trap. I.e. He became attached in it.

                Meaning 3:

                والعلوق ما يعلق بالانسا

                'Ulooq - that which Clings onto a person. I.e. Lice, or a Leech etc.

                والعلق في الثوب ما علق به

                'Aaliqa - what clinged on the dress.

                Meaning 4:

                'Alaqah - Leech.

                i.e. doodat* al 'Alaq

                دودة العلق

                = the Leech worm.

                Summarised:

                'ALaQ;

                - to Hang
                - to be Suspended
                - Dangle
                - to Stick on.
                - Cling On.
                - be Attached.
                - LEECH (animal)

                'Alaaqa = a Bond, Connection, Association.

                Conclusion:

                Allah created the human from an 'Alaq. This 'Alaq has the following attributes;

                1 - Clinging and Connected inside the mother's womb.
                2 - Sucking blood from the mother's womb - like a Leech.
                3 - a Blood clot.
                A lot of mufassirun mentioned "Blood clot" to be a meaning of 'Alaq, but after reading a few papers it appears (to me) that this is not the primary meaning of 'Alaq.

                Moiz Amjad writes:

                The word `alaq, does not "mean" blood but because of certain properties of blood, it was, besides other things also used to imply blood. The real meaning of the word, as would be obvious from an analysis of all the meanings stated above, is anything that sticks to or hangs with something else. The word was used for blood, because of the well known property of blood of being sticky, as soon as its starts to dry out. The word was used for mud, because of its obvious property of sticking to the hands. The word was used for unending hatred or love, because such emotions stick to one's heart. The word was used for a small insect which sucks blood (leech), because it sticks to its prey. The word was also used for that part of the tree, which is in the reach of grazing animals, because the animals stick to that part of it.
                And Mohd. Elfie (ya'ni MENJ) writes:

                The actual word "al-alaq" has a dual meaning in Arabic. Depending on the context it can either mean "a clump of blood" or "leech." This can be seen for example in the Arabic-English Dictionary "A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic" by J. Milton Cowan. On page 634, this word is translated into English as "medicinal leech; leech, blood, blood clot." To find a much more comprehensive and authoritative study of this word we need to go to the 18 volume encyclopedia of Arabic language, Lisan Al-Arab. In volume 10, pages 261-270 we can find a detailed treatment of this word, its root, its derivations, its usage, its various permutations, and their meanings. In these ten pages we are presented with roughly 160 different permutations of this word. Each differing only very slightly from the others in written or pronounced form, and with all of them being united by the common theme of different ways of "clinging or hanging" Let us have a look at a couple of examples:

                The root word from which this word is derived is the word "Aa-la-qa." It has the general meaning of "to hang" or "to cling." By employing various grammatical manipulations on this word we come up with the aforementioned 160 derivations each of which is closely associated with the concept of "clinging or hanging." For example, one derivation has the general meaning of "devotion" (to cling to with love), another has the general meaning of "hanger" (to hang up clothes), a third conveys the meaning of "dowry" (the money paid to the woman in order to cause the couple to "cling together" in marriage), a fourth form of this word has the general meaning of "lust" (to cling to something with desire and lust), a fifth form has the general meaning of "to ensnare" (an animal gets hung up in a net), a sixth form has the general meaning of "to cling to by your nails," etc.
                So from the above discussion, if it's accurate, it seems the word 'Alaq linguistically refers (ya'ni the primary meaning of 'Alaq) to the act of clinging or hanging, and the other meanings of this word are based on this. So a clot of blood sticks, and so does a leech, and thats why they are called 'Alaq.

                Now Muslims these days in explaining the word 'Alaq (like in the linguisticmiracle article above) include more or less the meaning of clinging, leech, and bloodclot.

                My questions:

                1.

                The same question appears: do we include all three above meanings in understanding " 'Alaq"? Or just one? if so, which one should we include, and why?

                2.

                I dont know Arabic hence this question might seem stupid, but does the meaning of 'Alaq change with the differences in form? does 'alaq, for example, have a different meaning than 'Alaqah?

                3.

                Lastly, as MENJ mentioned above, Lisaan Al Araab has around 160 meanings of the word 'Alaq. Here's Qamoos al Muheet:

                1.Blood in its normal state or blood which is extremely red or which has hardened or congealed, 2.a piece thereof 3. Every thing that sticks ;4. Clay that sticks to hands;5. Unchanging enmity or love; 6.Zu `alaq is the name of a hill of Banu Asad, where they defeated Rabi`ah ibn Maalik;7. An insect of water that sucks blood;8. That portion of a tree that is within the reach of animals.
                So of all these meanings, why do we only include three ya'ni bloodclot, leech and something that clings? Why leave out the other meanings like clay or part of tree within the reach of animals? Why do we take Leech and Bloodclot and leave out the rest?

                JazakAllahu Khayran for the answers
                Allah said, "Indeed, I know that which you do not know." [Baqarah, 2:30]

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Hassan_'Abd_Allah View Post
                  Wa 'alaikumussalam wa rahmatullah akhi

                  and JazakAllahu khayran for your response,

                  Now my question is when do we lump the meanings together and when don't we? You mentioned "sometimes" but what defines this "sometimes"?
                  wa iyyak

                  For this, you would have to learn the language and do a lot of reading and practicing with it and become very familiar to it so you know the intended meaning/meanings of a given word in a given context.

                  Something good to remember is that a lot of Arabic words were based off of real-life situations. ie the Arabs (or those that came before them) would see something and then come up with a word to express that thing/phenomenon. This will give you a word that is applicable to a number of contexts ranging from very general to very specific.

                  Context is key.
                  If one is serious about learning knowledge then let him spend actual couple of years studying from ABC and gradualy advance (not attending some lectures or reading some articles and books) then ask about how to employ texts and conclude rulings.
                  Until then rulings are taken from scholars who sufficed us the trouble of investigating the process.
                  ^Excellent quote by Shaykh Ayman that i've included here to remind myself and others

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Something good to remember is that a lot of Arabic words were based off of real-life situations. ie the Arabs (or those that came before them) would see something and then come up with a word to express that thing/phenomenon. This will give you a word that is applicable to a number of contexts ranging from very general to very specific.
                    That is helpful brother, jazakAllahu khayran

                    For this, you would have to learn the language and do a lot of reading and practicing with it and become very familiar to it so you know the intended meaning/meanings of a given word in a given context.
                    I think I understand brother.

                    The reason I opened this thread to begin with is to serve a specific purpose, I am looking into the Embryological information given in the Qur'an and the authentic ahadeeth, and some words have me confused. The primary ones among them are 'Alaq and Mudghah.

                    I was wondering if you would help me with the meaning of these two words inshAllah?

                    JazakAllahu khayran
                    Allah said, "Indeed, I know that which you do not know." [Baqarah, 2:30]

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Language Indications are different للغة مدلولان

                      Dear bros Hassan......Assalamo alikom
                      Firstly I agree with bros Ibn Al Taalib
                      Secondly You have to understand that any word in Arabic has two Indications :
                      1- Linguistic meaning {Madloul Laghawey}
                      2-Islamic Terminology Meaning { Madloul Istilahey }
                      Examples are numerous , such as :
                      A-Alqareah : in Arabic it means the sound made by hitting 2 pieces of wood or metal together. However in religion it refers to doomsday.
                      B- Altghaboun : is to be Jealous of each other and it refers to doomsday as well.
                      Brother I know your reasons for asking are honorable and you have to be patient in learning because it is a long path ahead of you , so take it easy and do not sound like obstructionist student.
                      Assalamo Alikom
                      َاللهم إِني أَعوذ بك أَن أَضِلَّ أَو أُضِلَّ، أو أَزِلَّ أَو أُزِلَّ، أَو أَظْلِمَ أَو أُظْلَم، أَو أَجْهَلَ أَويُجْهلَ عليّ

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