Friday, March 25, 2011


Salaam all,

Walaw nazzalna AAalayka kitaban fee qirtasin falamasoohu biaydeehim laqala allatheena kafaroo in hatha illa sihrun mubeenun

The aya says:
And if we brought down upon you (singular) a book on paper so they touched it with their hands, then those who rejected would have said: This is not anything but self evident magic.

My personal note:
The term “Kitaban fee Qirtas” waas translated as book on paper. It is a very difficult expression to translate. The term Kitab is generally translated as book which is understood to be written on paper or leather and other materials that can be bound together and accept writing. However, Kitab as a general term probably fits more with knowledge to be shared or expressed and so on and this fits with book and anything related to writing.

Qirtas is the term used for Papyrus, or paper and any material to write on that can hold the knowledge of the books. So, when the term Kitab fee Qirtas is used it is pointing to somehow trying to emphasize that this book is concrete and can be touched rather than just knowledge.

Translation of the transliterated words:
Walaw: and if
Nazzalna: We made descended/ we brought down
Note: the root is N-Z-L and it carries the meaning of arrival to stay and descent. One concrete meaning is the descent of the person from his or her horse or camel as they arrive at the place where they plan to stay. NAZZALNA is an action that is completed. It means: the action of making the object (KITABA= a book) arrive or making it descend happened by the subject (first person plural).

Aaalayka: upon you (singular pointing to Muhammad pbuh)
Kitaban: book/ the collection of knowledge
Note: the root K-T-B and it means putting things together as in grouping the herd together or closing the lips or writing (the most common use), because in writing, one puts the letters and the ideas together. KITABAN means, the process of writing or the book or anything related to it from the ideas to the ink and paper to the place where all is put together. In a sense, it points to the collection of knowledge and information that are communicated.

Fee: in/ on
Qirtasin: paper/ papyrus/ what one writes on
Note: the root is Qar-R-TTA-S and it means papyrus to write upon but can be extended to any material one uses for writing documents. QIRTASIN is paper or papyrus or any material to write on.
Falamasoohu: so they touched him
Note: FA means then or therefore or so. LAMASOOHU is derived from the root L-M-S and it means skin feeling an object. LAMASOOHU is an action that is completed. It means: the action of skin of the subject (third person plural) feeling the object
(HU= him and points to the book on paper) happened.

Biaydeehim: by their hands/ with their hands
Note: Bi suggests that what comes after it is either an association with the action, a tool of the action or an object of the action or any combination of the three. If bi serves as an object of the action that it serves as an emphasis of the action. AYDEEHIM is derived from the root Hamza-Y-D and it means hand and then it takes different meanings according to the plane of thought. AYDEE means hands of. HIM means them.

Laqala: then would have said
Note: LA is a response to the conditional statement that started the verse and it is a response with emphasis. QALA is derived from the root Qaf-W-L and it means saying in any way possible. QALA is an action that is completed that is derived from the root. It means the action of saying happened by the subject (third person singular). This, in turn means: Then they would have said.

Allatheena: those who
Kafaroo: rejected (Allah and His message)/ discarded
Note: the root is K-F-R and it means cover or bury in the ground, as in put the seed in the ground and cover it. This is then used conceptually for many purposes as in discarding and rejecting as well as burying. KAFARO is an action that is completed. It means: the action of rejection or discarding of the object (not declared, but understood from the context to point to God and/or the message) happened by the subject (third person plural).

in hatha illa: this is but
sihrun: Magic/ what makes things look other than what they are/deception of the senses.Note: the root here is S-Ha-R and it means to make things look other than what they are and that includes deception and magic as well. SAHAR is one of the concrete terms and it points to the predawn time. The relationship between magic and that time may be because one can see things as other than what they really are in that time. Sihrun means magic.
mubeenun: making clear/ clarifying/ self evident
Note: the root is B-Y-N and it means in concrete between. The action of the verb is betweening. This betweening can mean clarifying because one can know better the difference between two things. It also can mean distancing because the betweening makes things become apart. MUBEEN is the one that makes between in a conceptual sense. In this context, SIHRUN MUBEEN carries the meaning of self evident magic and so on.

Salaam all and have a great day.



A. Muhammad Ma`ruf said...

Assalaamu `aleykum Brother Hussein.

Thanks very much for your continuing commentary.

I had a question about the word SAHAR which you have mentioned as being from the same root from which SIHR is also derived. My question is unrelated to the Aya you have explained and to the problems of translating SIHR. The question now is only about the time that is named the SAHAR time.

Does Arabic have a definite distinction between “predawn” and “dawn”?

Is there an assumption of a beginning and an end of “predawn”? How are they determined?

Is there any astronomical basis that you are aware of for such a distinction or are those time divisions made only on the basis of naked eye observations of the amount of light and darkness outside?

Are the conditions that demarcate “predawn” and “dawn” peculiar to the position of Mecca where the Qur`an was revealed? Would such conditions be as easily known and recognized in regions away from the latitude and longitude positions of Mecca?

Can there be an overlap between predawn and dawn?

These questions relate to a discussion with another brother about the rules for fasting. Where I grew up, the time for eating before the beginning of the fast was known as SAHAR time. This word is not normally used in US based calendars for fasting and salaat and so forth.

Thank you very much for your time.

hussein said...

Thank you so much brother for your points. Sahar is by definition the time just before the beginning of dawn. Dawn is defined in the Qur'an as the time when we stop eating when fasting and that is the time of "being able to see the difference between the white thread and the black thread". That is why the word Suhoor is the time of the predawn meal before fasting.

This time is then defined by the commentators of the Qur'an as the time when one can see in the eastern horizon the beginning of the thread of light appearing as a thin line of horizontal light.

It is not specific to Mecca but it may be easier to see in the desert because of the clarity of the sky at night. It can be deduced by using astronomical calculations as well, but the rule is actually being seen by the eye which therefore means that it dawn may appear later when there is a cloudy night and so on.

I hope this helps a little brother and take care