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In the Name of God بسم الله

Grammar: When to capitalize al- ?

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Divaesque

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Salam,

When to capitalize al- ?

Question 1 : When a person is being referred, do I begin an English sentence with al-Saduq or Al-Saduq, for example? There are many instances in English literature that begin a sentence with al-Saduq. Why is that?

Question 2: My lame understanding is that the al- is used to describe a characteristic of the person or from which region/city the person is from e.g. Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi or Ronaldo al-Tornado. So, why do we find in literature references like al-Husayn (عليه السلام) and al-Hassan (عليه السلام)?

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On 6/24/2024 at 9:19 AM, Divaesque said:

Salam,

When to capitalize al- ?

Question 1 : When a person is being referred, do I begin an English sentence with al-Saduq or Al-Saduq, for example? There are many instances in English literature that begin a sentence with al-Saduq. Why is that?

Question 2: My lame understanding is that the al- is used to describe a characteristic of the person or from which region/city the person is from e.g. Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi or Ronaldo al-Tornado. So, why do we find in literature references like al-Husayn (عليه السلام) and al-Hassan (عليه السلام)?

Wassalam, 

Arabic is not a case-sensitive language, and generally the 'al-' prefix is not capitalized in transliterations; at least I don't recall having heard any such rule. 

The 'al-' prefix can indicate a lot of things in classical Arabic; it can be a demarcator of a definite noun (ma'rifah) as opposed to an indefinite one (nakirah), a conjunction denoting a descriptive characteristic or a genitive/possessive case scenario (idaafa), or even som category in totality (al-naas = all of humankind, al-'aalameen= totality of the universe). Some of these will make sense to us because they have corresponding usages in English grammar, while some of them are usages unique to Arabic, so they might be difficult for us to relate to. 

In my limited understanding, 'al-' is added before al-Hassan (عليه السلام) and al-Hussain (عليه السلام) to distinguish them as proper nouns from adjectives (asmaa' al-sifaat). 'Hassan' in Arabic is also an adjective meaning 'good', and 'Hussain' is also an adjective meaning 'handsome/beautiful'; both of these are simultaneously proper nouns to, depending on the specific usage. This may be so because Arabic doesn't really have a separate category for 'adjective' as we do in English, and adjectives are all subsumed within the category 'noun' (ism). 

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