Last Updated on 26th March 2021
Shedding light on the claim of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas with regard to his knowledge of the Arabic language, this series of articles seeks to answer major allegations raised against the Promised Messiah’sas use of Arabic phrases, his God-given eloquence and his command over the language and the usage of sentences taken from past literature.
Muhammad Tahir Nadeem, Central Arabic Desk
The Holy Quran was revealed in sab‘a lughaat, i.e. lughaat of seven tribes of Arabs. This fact gives rise to the following question:
Did the Holy Prophetsa also use various lughaat of Arabs?
We present a narration from Lisan al-Arab to address the above question. It states:
وَرَدَ فِي حَديثِ عائِشَةَ رَضِيَ اللّٰهُ عَنْهَا: اسْتَأْذَنْت النَّبيَّ فِي دُخوْلِ أَبِي الْقُعَيْسِ عَلَيْهَا، فَقَالَ: اِئِذنِي لَهُ فَإِنَّهُ عَمُّجِ. فَإِنَّهُ يُرِيدُ: عَمُّكِ مِن الرَّضاعَةِ. فَأَبْدَلَ كَاف الخِطابِ جِيمًا، وَهِيَ لُغَةُ قَوْمٍ مِنْ اليَمَنِ. قَالَ الخَطّابيُّ: إِنَّمَا جَاءَ هَذَا مِنْ بَعْضِ النَّقلَةِ، فَإِنَّ رَسولَ اللّٰهِ كَانَ لَا يَتَكَلَّمُ إِلَّا بِاللُّغَةِ العاليَةِ. قَالَ ابْنُ الأَثِيرِ: وَلَيْسَ كَذَلِكَ، فَإِنَّهُ قَدْ تَكَلَّمَ بِكَثِيرٍ مِنْ لُغاتِ العَرَبِ، مِنْهَا قَوْلُهُ: لَيْسَ مِن امْبِرِّ امْصِيَام فِي امْسَفَرِ، وَغَيْر ذَلِكَ.
“Hazrat Aishara narrated, ‘I asked the Holy Prophet’ssa permission for Abul-Qu‘ais to enter.’ The Holy Prophetsa replied, ‘Allow him to enter, for he is your uncle.’ By this, the Holy Prophetsa meant, ‘Your [Hazrat Aisha’sra] uncle through foster suckling relations.’
“In this case, the Holy Prophetsa replaced ammuki with ammuji, changing the letter kaf to jim, according to the lughah of a Yemeni tribe.
“Al-Khattabi states, ‘Although this statement has been cited by some narrators, it is not authentic because the Holy Prophetsa would only speak the most eloquent language.’
“Ibn Athir states: ‘This is incorrect [i.e. the assertion of Al-Khattabi] because the Holy Prophetsa is known to have spoken in many Arabic lughaat. One such instance is when he said:
لَيْسَ مِن امْبِرِّ امْصِيَام فِي امْسَفَرِ
“‘[It is not a good deed to fast during a journey] and there are many other examples. [This phrase is generally pronounced as:
لَيْسَ مِنَ البِرِّ الصِّيَامُ فِيْ السَّفَرِ
(Lisan Al-Arab, see letter mim, under the word amam)
In the above mentioned sentence, lam has been replaced by mim in three words and this is one lughat from the various lughaat of Arabs.
Types and causes of differences in lughaat of Arabs
The above explanation proves that there are very many lughaat of Arabs, but the question is, what are the ultimate causes of this discrepancy in lughaat?
Although at first glance, this subject does not seem directly related to this article, but after obtaining knowledge of these reasons, it will become apparent that these causes shed light on many hidden aspects of our article. Thus, it seems appropriate to explain this matter as well.
There are various statements in Lisan al-Arab and other lexicons of Arabic about the causes of differences in lughaat.
The primary reason for differences in lughaat is the use of different words and phrases by different tribes to express the same thing. Researchers have written extensively on the causes of these discrepancies and have presented a number of reasons for it. Ibn Faris in his book, Fiqh al-Laghah, has mentioned the causes and reasons for the apparent inconsistencies in the lughaat of Arabs and Allama Al-Suyutirh has presented them in his book, Al-Muzhir. Below is its summary:
1. One of the reasons behind differences in lughaat is harakaat, i.e. diacritics. For example, the Quraish used to recite نَسْتَعِيْنwith a fathah (a stroke written above the consonant) on nun, while the tribe of Asad etc. recited it as نِسْتَعِيْنwith a kasrah (a stroke below the consonant) on nun.
In the same way, in some tribes, مَعَكم was pronounced as مَعْكم with a sukun (a small circle above a letter which represents the end of a closed syllable) on ain.
Similarly, in some tribes, أَنَّ زَيْداً is written or read as عنّ زيداً. Seemingly, substituting أَنَّ with عَنَّ is a huge difference, but it exists and when the person who has been given the knowledge of Arabic lughaat makes use of this, those who do not have knowledge of it will certainly call it a mistake. However, this usage is from the lughaat of Arabs and is correct.
Likewise, some tribes used to exchange some letters with others. For example, they used to recite أولئك as أُولالِكَ by changing hamzah with lam. A person who lacks the knowledge of Arabic lughaat will criticise the use of this as well and it would only be proof of their own ignorance.
2. Another reason for differences in lughaat is to recite or write hamzah zahirah with reduction. For example, some write مُسْتهزئون as مُسْتهزُوْن. A lot of examples of this kind are found in the Arabic works of the Promised Messiahas.
3. A reason for differences is taqdim and ta‘khir (exchange of sequence of letters in a word) of certain letters within a word. For example, some people recite or write the word صاعِقة as صاقِعةٌ.
4. Hadhaf (omission) and ithbat (retention) are also one of the reasons of differences in lughaat. For example, some Arabs keep two ya in اسْتَحْيَيْتُ, while certain others omit one ya and consider it enough to read or write it as اسْتَحَيْتُ.
5. The differences of feminine and masculine also cause variation in lughaat. Some Arabs say هَذِهِ الْبَقَر and هَذِهِ النَّخْل, whereas certain others call it as هذا الْبَقَر and هذا النَّخْل. Now, a person who knows the general grammatical rules of Arabic but lacks the knowledge of Arabic lughaat will object to the use of هَذِهِ for masculine andهذا for feminine and will call it incorrect.
On the other hand, these lughaat can be manifested in the works of that person who claims to have received God-given knowledge and the one who objects to such usage will effectively be attesting to his ignorance.
6. Likewise, another reason is idgham (to merge one letter into another). For example, some write مُهتَدون as مُهَدُّون and merge ta in dal. This is also a lughat from the lughaat of Arabs.
7. One reason for differences in the lughaat of Arabs is the variations in e‘rab (Arabic case system). For example, some people writeمَا زيدٌ قائماً as مَا زيدٌ قائمٌ. Certain people write إنَّ هذَين as إنّ هذان. This is the lughat of Banu Harith bin Kaab.
8. Another reason is that when a word ends with a round ta (ta marbuta), while doing waqf (pausing) on it, some read it as ha and some read it as ta. For example, some read هَذِهِ أُمَّة as هَذِهِ أُمَّهْ, while some read it as هَذِهِ أُمَّتْ. Each of them are separate lughaat.
9. All these Arabic lughaat are known by the names of the people or tribes who used to practice them. This means that these lughaat belonged to particular nations and tribes and other tribes did not use each other’s lughaat. However, when these lughaat became widespread among people, they were exchanged and used interchangeably.
10. Another great reason for differences in lughaat is the use of contranyms, i.e. two opposite meanings for one lexical item. For example, in the language of the Himyar tribe, ثَبْ means to sit. According to a narration, when Amir ibn Tufail came to the Holy Prophetsa, it is mentioned that فَوَثَّبَهُ وِسَادة i.e. the Prophetsa provided him with a pillow and a place to sit, and seated him on it. Consequently, in the lughat of the Himyar tribe, الوِثاب refers to mats etc. which are spread out for people to sit on.
On the contrary, in some other tribes, the same word ثَبْ is used to mean jump.
It is narrated that Zaid bin Abdullah bin Daram went to meet a king of the Himyar tribe when he was staying on a mountain. The king told him ثَبْ “Sit down”, but Zaid thought that the king was ordering him to jump from the mountain. He thus said, “O king, you will find me among the obedient.” Saying this, he jumped from the mountain and gave his life. (Talkhis az Al-Muzhir lil-Suyuti, Al-Nau‘ al-Sadis Ashar Ma‘rifah Mukhtalif al-Lughah)
(Research conducted by Muhammad Tahir Nadeem Sahib, Arabic Desk UK. Translated by Al Hakam, with special thanks to Ibrahim Ikhlaf Sahib, Arabic Desk UK)