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In the Name of God بسم الله
haideriam reacted to Ibn Al-Ja'abi for a blog entry, A History of the Arabic Language: A Family to Belong To
The languages of the world can be divided into families and sub-groupings. This means that several groups of languages can be thought to be related due to recurring and predictable patterns observed throughout them. These can be related to both grammar and phonology. What this means is that these languages descend from a proto-language and possible this language descends from a larger grouping. What happened was that the speakers of the proto-language started moving away from each other, and in a time before literacy, let alone wide spread dissemination of printed material and a standardized educational system, before people would leave their homes to work in the big city and return (before towns even!), and before our modern technology which keeps us connected, the speakers of a language just started speaking differently. This could have happened in several ways, sound changes for vowels are some of the simplest, think of how differently British people and North American people pronounce the word "far". Consonantal phonemes (sounds) can be dropped or added, you can also have grammatical innovations which make up for something lacking in the proto-language (e.g. the creation of a definite article) or a simplification of something in the proto-language (maybe a complex case system is dropped, or at the least reduced), though it's important to remember these are sporadic and things are traded off for one another, languages don't just become "simpler". Within no time Group A can no longer understand Group B anymore. A linguist will determine this using the comparative method, this requires looking at the different languages and comparing them for regular patterns to ascertain genetic (in a linguistic sense) relation. There is one limitation to this, the comparative method can only work compare changes made within a few thousand millennia, after 7000-10, 000 or so years it ceases to be very reliable as it cannot account for a change being due to genetic relation or just coincidence. There are some languages which are isolates, meaning they lack genetic relation to any language we know of. This doesn't mean they emerged out of nowhere, rather their relatives went extinct before we could get any record of them.
Linguistics today classify Arabic as one of the Afro-Asiatic languages (also called the Hamito-Semitic languages in older literature). This language family is perhaps one of the oldest that we know of, the proto-language, Proto-Afro-Asiatic, was spoken sometime around 15, 000 BCE. This language family includes the Semitic languages (of which Arabic is a member), the Egyptian languages (both Ancient Egyptian and Coptic), the Berber languages, the Cu[Edited Out]ic languages (including Somali), the Chadic languages, and possibly the Omitic languages. Now, when this proto-language was spoken, how exactly it split into its daughter-languages, and in what order that happened is something debated by linguists (a video that shows some possibilities), but the connection between these languages has been observed for a very long time. The first person to observe the similarities between these languages was Judah b. Quraysh (fl. c. 9th century), a Jewish Rabbi with knowledge of Aramaic, Arabic, and Hebrew and noticed their similarity to the Berber languages spoken in Algeria. The eminent 19th century German philologist, Theodore Benfey, went on to demonstrate a systematic relationship between the Ancient Egyptian language and Semitic languages (Rubin, 2013). Such correspondences can be observed in grammatical features, such as several of the Afro-Asiatic languages having a construct state (إضافة, for those of you who might have studied Arabic grammar), this is an exceedingly rare construction indicating possession, it is only found outside the Afro-Asiatic family in a single Nilotic language. In the Afro-Asiatic family, the construct-state is found in the Semitic languages, the Berber languages, and the Egyptian languages. They also share a root system for their morphology, and similar nominal systems for their nouns. We can also compare vocabulary to find a proto-word that developed into cognates across various languages. One such reconstruction is the word "les" (meaning tongue, this root will remain italicized), it appears in the Semitic languages originally as Lišān (and this further developed from there), in Egyptian as ns and later in Coptic as les, in the Chadic languages as ḥalisum, ʾVlyas, and lyas, and in a Cu[Edited Out]ic language as milas (Orel & Stolbova, 1995).
Arabic can further be classified as a Semitic language. This language family is believed to be about 6000 years old and is thought to have originated in South-West Asia. There are a number of features common to the language, including shared verb stems (the أبواب), a case system of nominative -u, accusative -a, and genitive -i (found preserved in Classical/Middle Arabic, Ugaritic, and Akkadian), and a root system with shared roots between these languages¹. Arabic fits into these languages as a West Semitic languages, meaning it is excluded from being one of the East Semitic languages (the Akkadian languages or Ebalite). It is also a Central Semitic language, so it is excluded from the South Semitic languages which include the Modern South-Arabian languages, the Ethio-Semitic languages, and the Ancient South Semitic languages. It splits from the other Central Semitic languages, which go on to become the North-Western Semitic languages including Ugaritic, Aramaic, and the Canaanite languages (including Hebrew and Phoenician). What distinguishes Arabic from the other Central Semitic languages are 14-19 linguistic innovations not found in other Central Semitic languages, these include:
The loss of the independent first person pronoun "ʾanāku" (Arabic only preserves the proto-Semitic "ʾanā")
Replacing mimation with nunation (تنوين), meaning, a nūn is fixed to the end of words (in the form of tanwīn), not a mīm, such as what can be found in Hebrew.
The preposition fī (in) is derived from the word for "mouth" (فم).
The development of the mafʿūl passive participle.
A full list can be found in Ahmed Al-Jallad's forthcoming article, "The Earliest Stages of Arabic and its Linguistic Classification".
Now with an understanding of language families and Arabic's Afro-Asiatic and Semitic context you have a foundation for exploring the development of Arabic as we know it. We are left, however, with the need to know who the speakers of this language were and where they lived. We're now ready for the next part of our historical epic. Join me next time!
¹ A cool resource to look at different Semitic roots is this website. You can search roots and compare cognates across various languages.
Wolff, H. E., (2018, May 14). "Afro-Asiatic languages", Encyclopaedia Britannica,
Orel, V. E., & Stolbova, O. V., (1995). Hamito-Semitic Etymological Dictionary: Materials for Reconstruction.
Rubin, A. D. (2013). "Egyptian and Hebrew", Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics. Geoffrey Khan (ed.).
haideriam reacted to Islamic Salvation for a blog entry, Did the Imam Curse Zurara?
قال أبو عبد الله عليه السلام: رحم الله زرارة بن أعين لو لا زرارة و نظراؤه لاندرست أحاديث أبي عليه السلام
Abu Abdillah عليه السلام said: May Allah have mercy on Zurara b. A`yan, if it was not for Zurara and his peers the narrations of my father عليه السلام would have perished
سمعت أبا عبد اللّه عليه السلام يقول: لعن اللّه زرارة!
I heard Aba Abdillah عليه السلام saying: may Allah curse Zurara!
Did the Imam Curse Zurara?
Zurara is such an important narrator in the Madhhab. No one has narrated more narrations than him. There are more than two thousand surviving Hadiths attributed to him in our books. No surprise then to find that we have a lot of reports of praise from the `Aimma confirming his esteemed status. A bit more difficult to explain away is the not insignificant number of narrations that portray him in a negative light. These have been latched onto by polemicists who believe that they can damage the Madhhab by weakening this man who transmitted such a lot of knowledge from the `Aimma that he became a cornerstone of our Fiqh. How do we defend him? There is a reliable text preserved by al-Kashshi in his book which I believe is useful in explaining this phenomenon preserving as it does a candid assessment by the Imam of the real situation.
The words of the Imam are indented and a relevant commentary is provided directly below each section. The text can be accessed in its entirety here https://sites.google.com/site/mujamalahadith/vol1/book-of-narrators/zurara-b-ayan [See No. 17/172]
Abdallah b. Zurara said: Abu Abdillah عليه السلام said to me: convey my salutations of peace to your father and say to him …
The letter that the Imam dictates to this son of Zurara is done in confidence and with the expectation that no one else will come to know of its contents. It seems to have been prompted by Zurara’s grief, conveyed directly to the Imam, for censuring him to fellow companions and others, such that word reached back to him. Zurara seeks to clarify what the Imam’s true opinion of him is.
I only defame you as a way of defending you, for the masses and the enemy hasten to whomever we draw near and praise his station so as to cause harm to the one we love and bring close. They accuse such a one because of our love for him and his closeness and intimacy with us, and they consider causing him harm and even killing him as justified. On the other hand, they praise every one whom we fault even if his affair is not praiseworthy. Thus, I fault you because you have become notorious as a result of your association with us and your inclination towards us, which have caused you to become blamable in the eyes of the people and your works to be looked upon unfavourably, all this because of your love for us and your inclination towards us. So I wished to fault you so that they can praise your religious stand as a result of my denigrating and diminishing you, and this becomes a way of warding off their evil from you.
This narration is important because it is the lens through which all the negative narrations about Zurara should be seen. The Imam explains his rationale for publicly cursing Zurara i.e. the Imam is defending his companion through Taqiyya. As he notes, the enemy wishes to bring down everyone they draw near, a fate which he does not wish for Zurara. Zurara was particularly at risk because of how many narrations he had from them and how closely he was associated to them.
Allah Majestic and Mighty says: “as for the boat then it belonged to the poor working at sea so I wished to damage it because there was a king after them who seizes every good boat by force” (18:79) … No by Allah! he did not damage it except that it be saved from the king and is not ruined in his hands. It was a ‘good’ boat which had no question of being defective Allah be praised, so comprehend the parable, may Allah have mercy on you!
The Imam likens his act of criticizing Zurara to Khidhr damaging the fisherman’s boat, both seem ostensibly cruel on the surface but they are ultimately done to secure the very person they seem to hurting.
… this is a revelation from Allah [including the word] ‘good’ …
The Qira’a of the Ahlulbayt includes the word صالحة in the verse which is not there in our existing copies. This can be seen as an interpretive addition which happens to be quite straightforward and does not go against conventional understanding. This is also how Ibn Mas`ud and Ubay b. Ka`b read the verse [See Tafsir al-Tabari].
You are by Allah! the most beloved of people to me and the most beloved of the companions of my father in my estimation both in life and after death. Indeed you are the best boat in that tumultuous and stormy sea, and there is a tyrannical and usurping king after you, keeping watch for the crossing of every good boat returning from the sea of guidance so that he can take it for himself and seize it and its owners, so may the mercy of Allah be upon you in life and His mercy and pleasure be upon you after death.
This is the true status of Zurara in the eyes of the Imam. It becomes very clear that Zurara is the principal companion of al-Baqir and al-Sadiq and the closest to them. This tallies with the Madhhab’s conception of his status where he is seen as the greatest of their companions barring Muhammad b. Muslim which is arguable.
Let not your heart constrict in grief if Abu Basir comes to you with the opposite of that which you were instructed by my father and by me, for by Allah! we did not instruct you and him except with an instruction that is fitting to act upon both for us and for you, and for each [instruction, even if seemingly contradictory] we have diverse expressions and interpretations which all agree with the truth. And if we were allowed [to explain] you would come to know that the truth is in that which we have instructed you.
The Imam acknowledges a second problem which Zurara seems to have raised which is the Ikhtilaf [differences] of instructions which are attributed to them. The Imam accepts that these may indeed go back to them but notes that they have a reason for every instruction they give even if the companions cannot fully comprehend the reasons behind them. However, the Imam is very clear that despite the seeming diverse answers there is a way to reconcile them and all agree with the truth.
The one who has divided you is your shepherd who has been given authority by Allah over His creation. He [the shepherd] is more aware of what is in the interest of his flock and what can corrupt it. If he wishes he divides between them to safe-guard them, then he unites them once more so that it is secure from destruction and the fear posed by its enemy, in such a time as Allah permits, bringing it thereby safety from His place of safety and relief from Him. Upon you is to submit and to refer back to us and to await our affair and your affair and our relief and your relief.
The significance of these words of the Imam cannot be overstated. It reveals that the `Aimma would purposely teach different things to different Ashab aiming to purposely divide them. Elsewhere it is explained that they saw Madhhabic uniformity among their followers especially in rituals as being a distinctive marker that would make them a target. What the companions have to understand is that answering differently to different people is the prerogative of the Imam. No one can question this practice. What the companions have to do is submit fully to whatever they receive from the `Aimma and know that it has an explanation behind it for which the time is not ripe. All will be finally revealed when the time comes.
However [if you do not submit wholly then], if our Riser were to rise and our Speaker speak and he recommences teaching you the Qur’an, the Laws of religion, the rulings and inheritance shares the way Allah revealed them to Muhammad the ‘people of insight’ among you will repudiate it on that day a bitter repudiation, then you will not remain steadfast upon the religion of Allah and his path except under the threat of the sword over your necks!
If the companions cannot submit now, when they have lived through a chain of living Imams, then it augurs badly for the reaction of the self-appointed ‘people of insight’ who will be the first to line up against the One al-Sadiq calls ‘our Riser’ and alternatively ‘our Speaker’. When he comes back after a long period of occultation and recommences teaching them the religion as it is supposed to be the opposition to him from the Shia themselves be deafening! Those scholars who have cherished their dusty books will still cling to them even though the Imam who is the living embodiment of the Sharia is himself telling them otherwise.
The people after the prophet of Allah were left to embark by Allah the same example as those who came before you, so they changed, altered, distorted, and added to the religion of Allah and reduced from it, consequently there is not a thing which the people are upon today [following] except that it is distorted when compared to that which was revealed from Allah. Respond then my Allah have mercy on you away from what you are calling for to what you are being called to, until comes the one who will renew the religion anew.
Why did it have to come to this? This is the unfortunate consequence of the Umma betraying the will of the prophet. It has become utterly divided. Not having the correct leaders has meant that the authentic message of Muhammad has been irredeemably altered. There is not a single act of worship or belief that has been left un-corrupted because every middling scholar can peddle his interpretation. The temporal rulers are also more than happy to take advantage of the confusion and extend patronage to scholars whose interpretations were power friendly. The Imams themselves cannot openly propagate the actual version without repercussions.
To be continued ...
haideriam reacted to Qa'im for a blog entry, Grading Hadiths: An Introduction
Biographical evaluation (`ilm ad-diraya, `ilm ar-rijal) exists both in Sunni and Shi`i branches, and it refers to the strengthening and weakening of individual narrators & transmitters, and chains of transmission (isnad, or plural: asaneed). The purpose of the system is to grade hadith reports based on the trustworthiness of its transmitters. To summarize the Sunni system, all companions of the Prophet (pbuh) - ie all of those who have been in his presence at some point in his life - are considered trustworthy (thiqa). These companions then narrated their traditions to their pupils, family members, and associates. They would then pass it down until they reached a compiler of hadiths, usually in oral form, but sometimes written.
The Sunni system excels in its biographical documentation because it covers a vast amount of individuals, giving relevant data about many people. But the system does have its flaws:
1) We don't consider all companions to be trustworthy; and we particularly distrust those who have directly oppressed the Prophet's family.
2) The culture of memorizing, transmitting, and documenting hadiths did not receive widespread popularity until the 2nd century AH. Therefore, the careful preservation of these hadiths are in question. Sunni isnads tend to be long, transmitted orally over centuries.
3) Strengthening (tawtheeq) is based mainly on scholarly opinion, with much disagreement.
Shi`i hadiths take a different approach. The vast majority of Shi`i hadiths come from one of the twelve Imams. The Shi`a hold the belief of a golden chain, which is the chain from one of the Imams that goes through his forefathers back to the Prophet (pbuh). Through the hadith of thaqalayn, the Prophet established that the Qur'an and Ahl al-Bayt are what the Muslims must hold onto, and that the two are one in essence. The Ahl al-Bayt are (at least primarily) the 12 Imams + Fatima (as). In many hadiths, the Prophet aligned himself with `Ali and Fatima, saying the truth is with them, that whoever angers them angers the Prophet, that opposing them is hypocrisy and disbelief, etc. The tying of truth with `Ali, the Mahdi, etc. gives them high authoritative value. The Imams have said in many hadiths that all they say and do comes from the Prophet. Many times, they quoted the Prophet directly, and they have said that all quotations of the Prophet come from their golden chain to him. Likewise, as infallible guides, all that they say and do is from the Qur'an and Sunna, and therefore their words are taken as proof (hujja) for all religious matters.
This means that the relation of hadiths in Shiism took place over a 300+ year period rather than just a 23 year period. Surely, the religion was completed and perfected by the end of the holy Prophet's lifetime. That same religion was relayed by the Imams. As hadith narration became popular in the second century AH, thousands of students studied under the 5th and 6th Imams. Together, al-Baqir and as-Sadiq narrated tens of thousands of hadiths on all topics - `aqeeda, fiqh, tafsir, history, eschatology, and more. The Imams gave their students the explicit instruction to write their words down, memorize their hadiths, and spread the knowledge to the people. Hence, the hadith collection process began in their lifetimes. The earliest available Shi`i notebook (usl) dates back to the time of the 4th Imam. By the occultation of the 12th Imam, over 300 of such usool existed. Unlike Sunni tradition, the hadiths were mostly not transmitted orally between the Prophet and a third century compiler. Rather, the hadiths came mainly from the Imams, and most of them were copied down during the time of the Imams. In some books, the chains of narrators are considerably shorter than in Sunni books. The time between the narration of the hadith and its compilation is also much smaller.
As noted earlier, not all companions of the Prophet - or the Imams - are considered reliable. Their veracity and loyalty to Ahl al-Bayt must be proven. There are many ways that a hadith narrator is given tawtheeq:
1. The Imams directly gave tawtheeq to some people.
2. The Imams gave taraddi (expressing God's satisfaction) and tarahhum (asking God's mercy) to some people.
3. Like in Sunni rijal, the scholars would give tawtheeq to people or weaken them, based on their biographical data, beliefs, actions, who they associate with, etc.
4. The clients, messengers, and tax-collectors of the Imams were largely given tawtheeq.
5. People can be given tawtheeq through other thiqa people.
6. People can be given tawtheeq if they are relied upon by major trustworthy companions of the Imams (as`hab al-ijma`)
And many other means.
There are certain levels that a narrator can embody.
1. A narrator can be considered thiqa. This means the narrator is trustworthy in what he narrates. Non-Shi`is can be considered thiqa, but this will be noted in the grading of the chain. A sahih chain is one where all the rijal are Imami Shi`a. A muwathaq chain is a chain that is all thiqa, but may include trustworthy Sunnis, Zaydis, Fat`his, Waqifis, etc.
2. A narrator can be considered `aadil or faadil or mamdooh which means that he is a just and good person, but his explicit tawtheeq cannot be established. This makes a chain hasan in grading.
3. A narrator can be considered dha`eef, which means he is weak. Either he is known for lying and bad character, or he is associated with the enemies of Ahl al-Bayt (nawasib, or ghulat - Shi`i extremists), or both.
4. A narrator can be considered majhool, which means we may know some biographical details about the person, but not enough to establish trustworthiness or lack thereof.
There is a theory called as`hab al-ijma` that is used by a minority of scholars. The as`hab al-ijma` are a list of 18 companions of five of the Imams who are considered very trustworthy central figures of the sect. This method says: any hadith that is authentic up to one of these 18 can be accepted. Even if one of these 18 individuals narrate from someone without tawtheeq, the idea is that they would not relate a hadith unless it had value - as they were close, accepted, and tested supporters of the Imams. However, to be safe and cautious, many rijal scholars do not use this method.
The hadiths parimarily came from the Imams during their time in Medina. Their Shi`i partisans were mainly Kufan visitors who would go to Medina, stay for a while, gather knowledge and bring it back to Kufa. As mentioned before, Kufa and Baghdad were an Islamic powerhouse during the second century AH, and most of what was written in the early period in both sects was in Iraq and Persia. That is where most Muslim scholars came from and most Islamic books were written. Thus, the tradition survives through this transmission. From Kufa, the hadiths also went to Qum when Ibrahim b. Hashim and others took their traditions there. There were thousands of Shi`as in Iraq during the time of the 6th Imam, and many hundreds of his companions were Kufan transmitters of hadiths.
A hadith or concept that is narrated through multiple chains is mutawater (widely narrated). `Aqeeda must be established on mutawater traditions. Fiqh however can be established throug ahad (single-authority) traditions.
There are some issues with rijal. We should recognize that it is still a man-made system and will have its faults. The main fault in Shi`i rijal is that there are too many majhool narrators, because the Ahl al-Bayt had thousands of students, and the status of many of them was not known to the scholars of rijal. Also, different scholars had different opinions on certain narrators. There are also some manuscript discrepancies in the works of some rijal scholars (most prominently, Ibn al-Ghada'iri's). Sometimes we don't have as many biographical details as we want. Rijal scholars largely lived after the people they had written about were dead. However, the system can weed out contradictions and strengthen established concepts. It is also an insurance that what we believe and practice was what the best of the Muslims believed and practiced.
The gradings of narrators are usually extrapolated from the biographical information provided by major Shi`i classical scholars of rijal. These scholars include Najashi (~ d. 1058), whose gradings are usually preferred, Ibn al-Ghada'iri (11th century), Shaykh al-Tusi (d. 1067), and Kashhi (d. 951). It is recorded that Shaykh al-Kulayni, the compiler of al-Kafi, and Shaykh as-Saduq had their own books of rijal, but those book have not survived. Furthermore, some scholars have accepted all of the narrators who have been included in Tafsir al-Qummi and Kamil az-Ziyarat, under the belief that the authors of these works have only included reliable narrators. Later scholars who have contributed to the science include `Allamah al-Hilli (d. 14th century), `Allamah al-Majlisi (d. 17th century), Shaykh Bahbudi (d. 20th century), Sayyid Burujirdi (d. 20th century), al-Khoei (d. 20th century), Muhammad Taqi al-Tustari (d. 20th century) Shaykh Asif Muhsini, Shaykh ar-Radi, Shaykh as-Sanad, and many others.
It should be noted that the authors of the Four Books - Kulayni, Saduq, and Tusi - took rijal seriously. They believed that their books were filtered enough to represent Twelver Shiism, even for lay use. Kulayni in particular viewed his work as sahih in content. Many attested to the works of these scholars and others. While some later scholars have weakened many narrations in the Four Books based on a strict adherence to classical rijal standards, this standard is seen by some scholars to be too stringent and unnecessary. Still, the study of rijal provides a wealth of information on our sources, and it remains a critical tool for scholars and seminarians.
That is some [very] basic information on rijal in Shiism - inshaAllah it is helpful to some.
haideriam reacted to Hameedeh for a blog entry, Minimalism
Two years ago I became a minimalist. I'm not talking about music, sculpture or painting, but minimalism in my life. I read about creating a minimalist home, but I did not buy the book:
So, I am thrifty and I buy very little. Whenever I am shopping and see a dozen things I want to own, I question myself. Do I have storage space for this? Is this really necessary? Will I really love it or is it just something that I never had before and always wanted to have one? Just wanting to possess something is not a good reason to buy it. Could I take a photo of it and just look at it, without spending my money? This must be a good reason to join Pinterest, to have all the things you want to look at, but never need to buy, store or move them.
As you have seen, my ShiaChat blog is minimalist by nature. I usually say very little, because if there is one thing that I know, it is that I recognize great writing when I see it, but I am not a good writer. I hope to become a better writer some day, and in the meantime, I invite you to my tumblr. Please, if you can, start at the last page which shows my first post (a prayer for the safety of 12th Imam AJ) and then scroll your way up, and over to previous pages in chronological order, the way my brain was working.
♥ May your days be sunny, your nights restful, and your heart satisfied with the blessings that Allah has given you. Think Positive. ♥