Understand, Live by, Inspire

Non-Arabic Words in the Qur’an

The early Arabs used words of non-Arabic origin due to the impact of other cultures on them. The Arabs, like any other people, used names that were alien to their culture but those words were easily integrated with the passage of time, and they became part of Arabic words that can be easily subjected to the well known rules of Arabic grammar.

Allah says, [And We never sent a messenger save with the language of his folk, that he might make (the message) clear for them…] (Ibrahim: 4)

He also says, [Lo! We have revealed it, a Lecture in Arabic, that ye may understand.] (Yusuf: 2)

It is clear from the aforementioned verses that the Glorious Qur’an was revealed in Arabic as Arabic was the tongue of the target people of Arabia. Revealing the Qur’an in Arabic was necessary for the Arabian people to fathom the message of the Qur’an and understand it easily.

However, it is well known that there is interchange between words of different languages due to the close contact between individuals and groups. Such interaction has become a necessity in our social life. Thus, such interpolation of words may be the product of shifting from one language to the other, or due to the fact that two languages share the same origin. Hence, as long as the non-Arabic word(s) are easily adapted into the Arabic language, they are considered Arabic words.

The same rule applied in regard to the Arabic language in general does apply to the Qur’an in particular. According to some Muslim scholars there are non-Arabic words in the Qur’an such as Al-Qistas, but those words have become Arabic as the Arabs used it and they had subjected them to the rules of Arabic grammar.

In his Tafseer, Imam Al-Qurtubi, states, “There is no difference among the four Imams of Jurisprudence that there are non-Arabic words and proper names in the Qur’an such as Nuh, Lut, `Imran, Gabriel.”

However, this does not imply a consensus on the part of Ulama concerning this issue. Rather, the point is very controversial. Some scholars, including at-Tabari and al-Baqillani, hold the view that all the words of the Qur’an are Arabic and that foreign words found in the Qur’an are nevertheless part of Arabic speech. This makes it clear that some words are of non-Arab origin they have become Arabic words through constant usage.

However, it is conceded that there are non-Arabic proper names in the Qur’an, such as `Imran, Nuh., etc.

Others maintain that the Qur’an does contain words not used in the Arabic language, such as:

Qistas (17:35), derived from the Greek language.

Sijjil (15: 74), derived from the Persian language.

Ghassaq (78: 25), derived from the Turkish language.

At-Tur (2:63), derived from the Syriac language.

Al-Kifl (57: 28), derived from the Abyssinian language.

Some scholars have written books on the topic of ‘foreign vocabulary in the Qur’an’, e.g. As-Suyuti, who compiled a small book with a list of 118 expressions in different languages.


March 18, 2011 - Posted by | Qur'anic Studies

No comments yet.

Your comments, if any...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s