A Word of Explanation on the Language and Grammar of the Qurʾān

Dr. Abd al-Hakim Radi, Professor of Arabic Literature, Literary Criticism, and Rhetoric in the Department of Arts at Cairo University and member of the Arabic Language Academy in Cairo

Jean Druel, O.P., Director of IDEO and scholar in the history of Arabic grammar

icon-calendar Tuesday September 10ᵗʰ, 2019

At a lecture he gave last November, Jean Druel, O.P. outlined a history of the Arabic language in connection with other Semitic languages. He discussed the question of the status of the language of the Qurʾān and its link with the historical phases of Arabic, highlighting some specific features of each phase which now coexist in use.

At this seminar, Dr. Abd al-Hakim Radi wished to respond to Jean Druel’s lecture, focusing in particular on the status of the Qurʾānic language and its specific eloquence, which culminates in the question of the linguistic miracle of the Qurʾān. He also discussed the question of the normative grammar of the Arabic language and its authority to judge the Qurʾānic language. He explained that instances in the Qurʾān that may violate rules of the Arabic language could be authentically justified in the itself, without any contradiction, due to the flexibility of the Arabic language and the diversity of its ancient dialects, which are all authentically Arabic and eloquent. He also explained that Muslim scientists have extensively dealt with these issues in the past.

In the end, the difference between the two researchers is that Jean Druel, O.P. discusses these different states of the Arabic language from the point of view of their historic succession, while Dr. Abd al-Hakim Radi considers this linguistic diversity within a single language without history and without development.

Cercare di capirsi

Jean DruelCercare di capirsi: Avvio al dialogo interreligioso, Brescia: Queriniana, 2018, 88 pages.

«Lo scopo di questo libriccino è aiutare persone che vorrebbero imbastire un dialogo con altri credenti (o con non credenti), ma non sanno bene come e da dove cominciare. Vorrei cercare di aiutare tutte queste persone a entrare progressivamente in una maggiore complessità, verità e bellezza».

La nostra epoca ha creduto di ottenere la pace mettendo a tacere le religioni e i credenti. Ha pensato che lo studio storico-critico dei dogmi e delle pratiche religiose avrebbe neutralizzato il potenziale di violenza delle fedi. Invece è accaduto il contrario. Sicché abbiamo bisogno più che mai di dialogare, di confrontarci con le nostre credenze e con i nostri racconti. Di divenire adulti nella fede, liberi e felici di essere diversi.

Se rispettiamo alcune regole semplici, come quella di prendere sul serio l’interlocutore, di ascoltarlo fino in fondo senza innervosirci, di dire davvero ciò che pensiamo, di distinguere i diversi livelli di discorso, possiamo superare le nostre paure reciproche e vivere meglio insieme.

La scommessa dell’autore è che il libro riesca a far imboccare davvero questa via a chiunque lo legga.

Un libro agile e pratico, non privo di humour, nato dall’esperienza vissuta, sul confronto con i non credenti (e i credenti di fedi diverse dalla nostra).

Click here to buy the book online…

The word āmīn in Arabic

Jean Druel

Director of IDEO

icon-calendar November 7, 2017

In his short treatise entitled A glitter in the debate about the word āmīn used in supplication and its rules in Arabic, Ibn al-Ḫaššāb al-Baġdādī (d. 567/1172) presents the state of the art of the grammatical knowledge on the word āmīn in his time. All grammarians agree that āmīn is not an Arabic word, but a Hebrew one (or Persian, or Syriac), which is however well attested in the Ḥadīṯ: the Prophet and his companions would conclude the recitation of the first sūra, al-Fātiḥa, by saying āmīn. This situation has triggered the curiosity of both Qurʾānic commentators and grammarians, who have studied the following issues: the validity of both forms, long āmīn and short amīn; the part-of-speech āmīn belongs to; its meaning; and the possibility that āmīn be a name of God.

Grammarians agreed on the analysis of āmīn as an ism fiʿl ‘verb name’ (a category refering to the verbs’ proper names, see Levin 1991), based on a commentary by Muǧāhid (d. 104/722) and ʿIkrima (d. 105/723) that the dual in Qad uǧībat daʿwatukumā (Q10, Yūnus, 89) refers to the invocation of Moses and Aaron, and that Aaron’s invocation consisted in saying āmīn. In order for āmīn to be an invocation, it has to be a full sentence. This means that āmīn is comparable to ṣah ‘sh!’, which is a ‘verb name’ whose meaning is the imperative ‘hush!’. Grammarians have thus interpreted āmīn as being a ‘verb name’, and its meaning is Allāhumma staǧib ‘Lord, answer!’

Lastly, although four ḥadīṯs transmitted by Hilāl b. Yasāf (or Yisāf), Muǧāhid and Ḥakīm b. Ǧābir mention that āmīn is a name of God, both Abū ʿAlī al-Fārisī (d. 377/987) and Ibn al-Ḫaššāb (d. 567/1172) agree that it cannot be so, although for different reasons. The former argues that an invariable noun cannot be a name of God, whereas the latter argues that it is because āmīn is a complete sentence that it cannot be one of God’s names.

The reception of Sībawayh’s Kitāb in the West

Jean Druel

icon-calendar September 2015‒September 2020

Couv SibawayhIn her PhD research (1992, published in 1995 under the title Les voies de la transmission du Kitāb de Sībawayhi, Brill) Geneviève Humbert has reveaIed the existence of a North African (Kairouan?) parchment of Sībawayh’s Kitāb, probably dated 5th/11th century. It’s a very rare parchment (not paper) that roughly contains one sixth of the Kitāb (chapters 327 to 435 of Derenbourg’s edition).

Geneviève Humbert studied in great detail the history of the transmission of the Kitāb, both in the East and in the West, and according to her, this parchment contains a quite different version of the Kitāb than the “official” version circulated by al-Mubarrad (d. 285/898). In particular, it seems that the “canonical corpus of internal glosses” found in all other manuscript is not found in its matn.

Here are, always according to Geneviève Humbert, names of Andalusian grammarians who played an important role in the transmission of the Kitāb in the West.

In this research, Jean Druel wishes to focus not on the transmission of the text, as did Geneviève Humbert, but on the grammatical lessons that can be drawn from this different text. Does this peculiar parchment contain significantly different lessons? Does it bring a new light, not only on the reception of the Kitāb but on Sībawayh’s teachings?