By KHALIL KHAYAT
LET’S look at some of the characteristics and uniqueness of this so ancient, yet modern-day Arabic language.
It’s Magical, Here’s why:
- Composed out of 29 letters (though most say 28 but the first letter Aleph is a combination of two ا and ء)
- You have a very high probability of picking any 3 letters randomly and come up with at least one or up to six different meaningful words plus many more depending on the way its pronounced (use of diacritics.)
- Most Arabic words generate from 3 lettered masculine past tense verbs called “Roots” from which all types of different verbs, adverbs, nouns, subjects, objects, adjectives, etc… are derived.
- Roots can also be from 4, and some even consider 5 and 6 letters. Words from two letters are very common, even there are 15 words from a single letter (more than half the Alphabet.)
- The number of conjugation words made up from a combination of 3 letters is astonishing. Can go up to hundreds even more from a single root.
- Many sentences can be formed out of one word. Take for instance this word mentioned in Qur’an (أنلزمكموها) it translates into a full sentence in English: “Shall we (God) compel you (plural 3 or more) to accept it”
- The language is extremely concise you can get a full size A4 English letter and translate it into same size Arabic font for less than a half page.
- Today’s practice of combining letters of different words to come up with a new acronym is a pretty old Arabic language practice, it is called نحت “Nahet” (word sculpture.)
- Arabic language is very rich, can indicate singular, dual, plural (3 or more), masculine, feminine, other creatures, things, and magnitude of synonyms…
- Qur’an as a 1450 years old text is the single & unique book that modern formal Arabic language is built on, around and preserved.
To demonstrate, let us take the following 3 letters as an example: ك ت ب written as كتب
In English it reads : Ka Ta Ba meaning “he wrote”
For singular feminine gender add one letter at end كتبت “she wrote”
For dual masculine كتبا
For dual feminine كتبتا
For plural 3 or more masculine كتبوا
For plural feminine كتبن
And so on….. it is just the beginning for the multi-layered conjugations.
This small word is not just about writing, its derivatives are enormous, indicating books, libraries, envelopes, writers, offices, desks etc.
Can easily spend an hour trying to put all possible combinations of these 3 letters by adding prefixes, suffixes, singular, dual (2 persons), or plural (3 or more persons), past tense, present, future, exaggeration, genders, known, unknown subjects, etc….
- Here’s a complete sentence of words derived from these three letters:
كتب الكاتبون والكاتبات كتبهم بالمكتبة
English: “The male writers (3 or more) and female writers (>3) wrote their books (>3) in the library”
- Another example
درس الدارسون والدارسات دروسهم بالمدرسة
“The male students and female students studied their lessons at school”
all from one root درس he studied
- A third example قرأ he read (past tense)
قرأ القراء القرآن في المقرأة
“The reciters read the Qur’an in the place where recitation is taught”
And so on..
To get more sophisticated, it’s not just how you write a particular word, its also how you pronounce it vocally, that matters pretty much. Early linguistic scholars such as the brilliant Al-Khalil ibn Ahmad al-Farahidi – Wikipedia (100-170 AH) had to devise set of signs (diacritics) lightly highlighted above or below letters to differentiate phonetic vowels.
For instance, the above example word كتب can be read in three different tones:
KaTaBa=the male wrote or he wrote (singular masculine past tense)
KuTeeBa= it has been written (unknown affirmative singular or plural any gender past tense)
or: KuTuB= Books
All three words are written exactly the same but pronounced differently, and diacritics are hidden (not necessary to be shown,) proper pronunciation can be detected from context.
Another astonishing characteristic of word derivation is this:
Take any 3 lettered root word, play with letters order, in addition to ending up with several meaningful words (six or more), at many instances one of these words carries the opposite meaning of the original root. This is what Arabic linguistics call it the “grand” derivation (الاشتقاق الأكبر).
In case of our above example كتب to write (in one way it’s an act of revealing) the word, كبت is to hide, to conceal.
Other meaningful derivations of the same word are بكت بتك تكب تبك.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Haven’t discussed the profound logic of grammar, the traditional Arabic poetry, the melody built within the language, the metaphor, etc….
Now can you tell which language, still in use, as it was four to five thousand years ago? And that can offer such kind of advanced sophisticated syntax? And can come up with texts that cover all possible meanings?
Which language can give such diversity and with continuous living inspiration?
- Qur’an is the most sophisticated Arabic text, it was interpreted in hundreds of Arabic written volumes, linguistically, historically, biographies, ethically, prose, poetry, and nowadays interpretation trend is concentrated on scientific and mathematical implications. It’s meanings have been translated into most living languages, including over 100 translations in the English language alone!
No wonder God’s final revelation to earth was in Arabic!
Allah (swt) said: (notice diacritics above and below letters and size of English translation)
وَلَوْ أَنَّمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ مِنْ شَجَرَةٍ أَقْلَامٌ وَالْبَحْرُ يَمُدُّهُ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ سَبْعَةُ أَبْحُرٍ مَا نَفِدَتْ كَلِمَاتُ اللَّهِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ
- “And if whatever trees upon the earth were pens and the sea [was ink], replenished thereafter by seven [more] seas, the words of Allah would not be exhausted. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.”Qur’an 31:27