Category Archives: Arabic Grammar

Articles that help you learn Arabic grammar–the placement of harakaat (vowels) into words. Prepositions, verb conjugation, everything.

Arabic Analysis of Surah Balad

This is post #35 in our series on Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma (click the link to see all posts in this series).

Arabic Calligraphy/Art

In this post, we will insha’Allah do a word-for-word breakdown of each surah, as space permits.

In the first ayah, Allah (subhannahu wa ta’ala) says:

لَا أُقْسِمُ بِهَٰذَا الْبَلَدِ

The first two words, laa uqsimu (لَا أُقْسِمُ) literally means “I do not swear.” Uqsimu is mudaari’ mutakallim waahid, i.e. the single, gender-non-specific first person “I.” It appears to be on Baab I, but there’s a hint that it’s not–the dumma on the first letter. Check the comments insha’Allah for more clarification; the mudaari’ is yuqsimu; it’s a four-letter root (aqsama اقسم) in maadi’ (past-tense).

And–as we mentioned in the tafseer–knowing the tafseer, we know this is not literal; it’s best translated as an oath (which it is).

The latter part of the ayah, bi haadhal-balad (بِهَٰذَا الْبَلَدِ) has a badal in it–the clue is that you see that al-balad is majroor (with kasra) without any apparent reason for it; then you notice haadhaa (ismul-ishaara bil qareeb), and the alif-lam before balad, which is the recipe for badal: one part common noun preceeded by alif-lam, and one part ismu-ishaarah (demonstrative pronoun) preceeding it.

And as you probably remember, badal means that the haadha passes on the kasra from the bi (which is a harf–jarr or preposition) onto the balad.

Precisely the same badal occurs in ayah #2–“anta hillun bi haadhal-balad.”

In ayah four, Allah says:

لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ فِي كَبَدٍ

I harped on this ayah quite a bit in the tafseer. Notice the linguistic emphasis–the use of lam (one emphasis), plus qad (another emphasis). This, from the words of Allah themselves (something we should pay attention to), makes us realize just how important it is to understand this ayah.

In ayah five, Allah says:

أَيَحْسَبُ أَن لَّن يَقْدِرَ عَلَيْهِ أَحَدٌ

A bit of more advanced grammar here — Allah says “lan yaqdira (لَّن يَقْدِرَ).” It’s not “lan yaqdiru” because lan modifies a mudaari’ (present-tense) verb to become mansoob (with fatha) instead of it’s usual marfoo’ (with damma). If you know this rule, it’s easier to remember the last vowel!

Then, in verses eight to ten, Allah (‘azza wa jal) says:

أَلَمْ نَجْعَل لَّهُ عَيْنَيْنِ
وَلِسَانًا وَشَفَتَيْنِ
وَهَدَيْنَاهُ النَّجْدَيْنِ

If you notice, all the final words of all these verses end with -ayn, the majroor/mansoob form of the dual (eg. kitabaani–two books–becomes kitabayni). Regardless of why, listen to these three ayaat–they actually rhyme. Aside from the miracle of how Allah (‘azza wa jal) made it rhyme and made the meaning impressively impressive, shaykh Nouman Khan mentioned that this is how you can identify one discourse (discussion on one topic) from another in the Qur’an–by the use of rhyme schemes. Subhanallah, this is just one part of the Qur’an that you cannot ever grasp purely through translation.

Skipping forward, in verse 14, Allah says:

أَوْ إِطْعَامٌ فِي يَوْمٍ ذِي مَسْغَبَةٍ

The word dhiy (ذِي) is actually the majroor form of dhuw (ذو). Dhuw is one of those “five” weird words that change their form to show the case–dhuw (owner of), fuw (mouth), akhun (brother), abu (father), and one more, if I recall. The marfoo’ form is dhuw, the majroor is dhiy, and the mansoob is dhaa (ذا).

Here, it’s dhiy because it’s an adjective (na’at) of yawm, which is majroor.

And with that, insha’Allah we will close on the Arabic analysis. If you have any questions or comments–on this in particular, or on any part of the surah in terms of meaning and grammar–insha’Allah post it in the comments or on twitter, and we’ll try to respond with the right answer, bi idhnillah.

References:

  • Touched by an Angel: Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma. By Muhammad Alshareef. 2009.
  • Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma. By Nouman Ali Khan – Bayyinah. 2009.
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What is Hamd?

Bismillah.

As Muslims, the phrase “alhamdulillah” الحمد لله (all praise and thanks is for Allah) is an integral part of our deen; we are taught to say it from both the Qur’an and Sunnah. Linguistically, Hamd is from ha-meem-daal ( حمد or ح م د) and it is to mention the good attribute of a person, such an attribute that is the at the level of perfection. Hamd is based on mahabbah (love) and ta’dheem (greatness). Hamd is not a fake praise, meaning it is not done to please the person or with no significance, Hamd is always true. Hamd implies admiration, love and magnifying the praise of mahmood (one who is praised). Hamd is a sincere and true praise, that the mahmood (one who is praised) deserves. The one doing hamd is doing submission to the one being praise–out of humility. Hamd also includes sincere gratitude and mentioning the kamaal (best) traits of someone.When we say alhamdulillah, it implies exclusivity and entirety, meaning that praise is entirely and only for Allah. The ‘al’ (ال) before ‘hamd’ is called “istighraaq” in Arabic, and when “al” comes before this phrase its means that entire praise, all kinds of praise and all the time, hamd is due to Allah. The “li” (in lillah, meaning for Allah) implies limitation which is known as “ikhtisaas” in Arabic and it means that Allah is the only One who deserves the hamd.

Now with this concrete definition in mind, what exactly does ‘Alhamdulillah’ mean? It means: The perfect, most Beautiful praise is only for Allah.

Alhamdulillah appears 38 times in the Qur’an, five of them at the beginning of surahs. (Look up which surahs start with hamd if you are not aware of them)

When a surah begins with hamd, it implies three interpretations:

  • Firstly, to tell and to make it known that: alhamdulillah, all praise and thanks is for Allah. As if to announce it.
  • Secondly, when we open something we begin with hamd. (like a khutbah)
  • Thirdly, it teaches us how we should praise Allah, by saying: alhamdulillah and we also learn that we must praise Him.

A Name of Allah that coincides with Hamd is, Al-Hameed, Allah ta’ala is Al-Hameed, The Praiseworthy. How is this different from mahmood (one who is praised)? Mahmood is one who is praised only when they are praised by someone. Hameed is One who is ALWAYS deserving of praise, NO MATTER if He is praised or not. So Allah ta’ala is The Most Praiseworthy, if we do hamd of Him or not.

Alhamdulillah. Such a short phrase with a heavy meaning. Let us remember this meaning the next time we say Alhamdulillah.

wa lillahil hamd!

Reference

Al-Huda Institute Canada: Ta’leem Al Qur’an English course for women.

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Words beginning with Fa

Bismillah.

Learning Arabic as a second language may be difficult for many, so I decided to share some tips that assist with learning the meanings of words and their structures.

Words that begin with ف usually will always mean something that breaks open, separates, or breaks apart. Check out these examples:

الفجر (Al-Fajr) from ف ج ر means the dawn, but it literally means when the daylight breaks/crack through the darkness. If you’ve ever seen the sky at Fajr time, you can see a thread of light near the horizon, while the rest of the sky is dark with the night. Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) tells us in Surah Baqarah to stop eating suhoor when the “white thread” is distinguishable from the “black thread.”

Another word from this root is fajjara, with a shadda on the jeem, which means to break open and gush forth. Another word from this root is الفاجر (Al-Faajir), the fujjar (plural of faajir) cross the limits and breaks the rules.

الفرقان (Al-Furqaan) derives from ف ر ق, which means to break through, to distinguish. Al-Furqan, which is another name of the Qur’an, means the Criterion that distinguishes truth from falsehood.

الفريق (Al-Fareeq) also from ف ر ق means a party or a group. A group is one that breaks off from the majority.

الفاسقون (Al-Faasiqoon) from ف س ق and fisq, literally means when a flower breaks through the bud to bloom. The Fasiqoon are those who transgress the bounds of Allah, and go beyond them.

الفضة (Al-Fiddah) from ف ض ض, which means silver, but literally means to scatter. When you scatter something, the first thing you do is break it apart then you throw it all over the place. What does this have to do with silver? Silver is ‘scattered’ when zakah is paid on it and when someone spends it. And after someone dies, their silver is ‘scattered’ to the heirs.

InshaAllah try and look through the Qur’an for words beginning with ف that follow this pattern and post them in the comments! (You may need a dictionary, such as this one.)

Wa lillahil hamd.

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The Calling Ya

Arabic has something called the “calling ya” in it. The closest thing we have in English is the “calling o”–as in “o my teacher” or “Oh God!” (As you can tell from the examples, we don’t use it much anymore these days–though, in Arabic, it’s quite common.)

The rules are quite simple–just like English, it’s “O so-and-so”. So for example, you could say “ya ummiy” (o my mother) or “ya taajiru” (o merchant). And, in fact, if you read the Qur’an at all, you’ll find these everywhere. The most common are:

  • Ya ayyuhalldhiyna amanuw, which addresses the believers (Muslims).
  • Ya ayyuhan-naas, which addresses humankind.
  • Ya bani israeel, which addresses Bani Isareel (the Jews).

Grammatically, what does the calling ya do? The callee (the one who immediately succeeds the ya) takes either a single dumma (if it’s a proper noun) or a single fatha (if it’s the posesser in a possessive-case). (Definite nouns are names.)

So if you wanted to say “Oh Allah”, it would be “ya Allahu” (because it’s a proper noun), not “ya Allahun.” Or, if your friend is Yasin, you would say “ya Yasinu” instead of “ya Yasinun“.

But, what if you wanted to say “O mother of Adam”? It would be “ya umma Adam” (because it’s possessive case). Similarly, if you wanted to say “O Messenger of Allah” (as we see in many ahadith), it’s “ya rasulallah”.

Interested in some applications of the calling ya? Check out the related entries inshallah.

Related Posts: Amplify your Du’a with Tawassul

Vocabulary

Note: You can put your mouse over any underlined text to see the Arabic.

Allahu: God (singular, exclusive; THE God)
amanuw: believed (male, plural)
an-naas: humankind
banu: tribe
taajirun: merchant
ummun: mother
ummiy: my mother

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Thumma, Wa, and Fa

There are three conjunctions you can use in Arabic (among others)–wa (and), thumma (then), and fa (which is difficult to translate, think of it as “and”). They are all used to group multiple items. What are the differences between these three?

Wa indicates grouping, but doesn’t specify order or timing. For example: Ahmed and Ghufran and Yusuf travelled to the masjid. It doesn’t indicate what order they arrived in, or anything about how long the people who came first waited for the people who came after then. It just groups them together.

Thumma indicates order, but doesn’t specify the timing. For example: Ahmed, then Ghufran, then Yusuf travelled to the masjid. While this tells you the order–Ahmed was first, then Ghufran was second, then Yusuf was third–it doesn’t tell you anything about the time between them.

Fa indicates the order (like thumma), but also shows that the second event happened immediately after the first. For example: Ahmed and then immediately Yusuf and then immediately Yusuf travelled to the masjid. shows that Ahmed came first, then Ghufran came next (on the heels of Ahmed), then Yusuf came right behind Ghufran.

And that’s it! InshaAllah if you have any questions/comments/etc. or if you find uses of these in the Qur’an, post them inshaAllah too.

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Kaana as Emphasis

The word kaana is the past-tense masculine singular third-person (he) form of the verb to-be. So you can translate it as “he was”. (And the khabr takes the same rules as with any other verb.)

So what does it mean when Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) uses kaana to describe Himself? For example, in surah Nisaa, He says:

إِنَّ اللّهَ كَانَ غَفُوراً رَّحِيماً

Translation: And seek the Forgiveness of Allah; surely, Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful [Surah Nisaa, 4:106]

In the Qur’an, when Allah uses kaana, it doesn’t mean He was, and no longer is–rather, it’s used as a form of emphasis. The same way that you are certain about past events (like 9/11–it happened), you are certain when you use kaana. That is why translations carry such words as “verily”, “indeed”, “surely”, and so on.

Wallahu ‘alim.

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Mubtada and Khabr

In Arabic, default kind of sentence is called a nominal sentence. It looks something like this:

  • Ahmad is rich
  • The masjid is big
  • I am a Muslim

It has two parts–the mubtada (the subject — eg. Ahmad), and the khabr (the predicate–information about the mubtada — eg. rich, big, a Muslim).

What are the rules of grammar as they apply to the mubtada and the khabr? There are three:

  1. Match: The khabr must match the mubtada in number (eg. singular, plural) and in gender.
  2. Definite: The mubtada cannot be indefinite–it must be definite.
  3. Dumma: The mubtada must take dumma (single dumma, too, because it’s definite) — and, when dissecting complex sentences of any type, this is how you locate the mubtada!
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Laysa (Not)

Laysa in Arabic means “not” (eg. that is not a pen). Unlike the other negations maa and laa, laysa is conjugated as a verb, depending on what you’re negating.

For example:

  1. the duck is not big (al-battatu laysat kabiyratan)
  2. the cat is not lazy (al-qittu laysa bi kaslaana)

Whenever you use laysa, the mubtada and khabr change: the mubtada becomes ismu laysa, and the khabr becomes khabru laysa.

Finally, laysa causes ismu laysa (not the mubtada–it’s now ismu laysa) to be marfoo’ (takes dumma/tanween-dumma), and khabru laysa becomes mansoob (takes fatha/tanween-fatha — see example one). Except if you prefix the khabr with bi (the preposition). In that case, it takes kasra, just as any word with a preposition. (Like example two.)

And of course, you can use laysa at the beginning of a sentence, just like any verb–eg. I am not sick (lastu bi mariydin).

The sarf for laysa is listed below–laysa is essentially a past-tense verb. (Read the sarf from top to bottom and right to left.)

I (M/F) You (F) You (M) She (F) He (M)
لَستُ لَستِ لَستَ لَيسَت لَيسَ Single
لَسنَا لَستُمَا لَستُمَا لَيسَتَ لَيسَا Dual
لَستَنَّ لَستُ لَسنَ لَيسُو Plural

Wallahu ‘alim. As usual, post a comment inshallah if you need any clarifications or have any questions.

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Hadhaa Kitaabun vs. Haadhal Kitaabu

One question that plagues many new students of the Arabic language is the difference between hadhaa kitaabun and hadhaal kitaabu

The difference is best demonstrated by example: hadhaa kitaabun kabiyrun means “this is a big book,” and “hadhaal kitaabul kabiyru” means “this big book …”

Get the difference? The first (hadhaa kitaabun) is talking about any book. “This is a book.” Nothing special. The second–hadhaal kitaabu–is talking about a specific book. It’s saying “this book … something.”

And how do you know the difference? in the second case, the book is definite–it’s a specific book. Notice, al-kitaabu–the book. Not kitaabun–a book.

And, notice the second one is a fragment–this big book what? This big book is open? This big book is on the table? And so on.

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Inanimate Object Plurals

In Arabic, masculine plurals generally follow a couple of different patterns. Sometimes they acquire a waw-noon at the end (eg. muslim becomes muslimuwna)–these are called “sound plurals” (because the original word is still intact). Some acquire letters inside their form (eg. qalam becomes aqlaam)–these are called “broken plurals”.

Feminine words, Allahu ‘alim, they also have sound and broken forms. One example of a sound feminine plural is muslimaat (plural of muslimah).

Interestingly enough, with inanimate objects–such as pens, books, cars, and dogs–the plural (both masculine and feminine plural) acts as if it’s the feminine singular.

So say you wanted to say “these houses are big, and they’re new.” How would you say it? Chances are, you’d say something like: “haaulaai buyuwtun kibaarun, wa hum jududun.” But, recall the rule–masculine plural (in this case, buyuwt) acts, for all intents and purposes, like the singular feminine!

The correct form would be: “haadhihi buyuwtun kabeeratun, wa hiya jadiydatun.”

Let’s try a feminine example. How would you say “those ducks left from the masjid?” The answer is, “tilkal buttaatu kharajat min al-masjidi,” not “olaaikal buttaatu kharajna min al-masjidi.” Why? Because battatun (three or more ducks) is an inantimate object plural, and acts (grammatically) as a singular feminine.

It might seem a little strange at first, but inshallah ta’ala if you keep practising it, it’ll soon slip beneath your conscious effort and become something you “just know” inshallah!

Vocabulary

Note: You can put your mouse over any underlined text to see the Arabic.

aqlaamun: pen (masculine, plural)

buyuwtun: house (masculine, plural)

ghayr ‘aql: inanimate object

haaulaai: these (close, plural)

haadhihi: she (feminine, singular) — also used as “it” for objects.

hiya: she (feminine, singular) — can be used as “it” for objects.

hum: they (masculine, plural) — also used as “it” (plural) for objects

jadiydatun: new (feminine, singular)

jududun: new (masculine, plural)

kabeeratun: big (feminine, singular)

kibaarun: big (masculine, plural)

muslimaat: Muslim (feminine, plural)

muslimah: Muslim (feminine, singular)

muslimun: Muslim–one who submits (masculine, singular)

muslimuwna: Muslim (masculine, plural)

qalamun: pen (masculine, singular)

wa: and

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