A Qur'anic Interpolation

To judge by the translations that are given by the Western Qur'anic interpretations of Qur'an CI.5-8,1 this passage presents no particular difficulty. The four verses read: "(5) As for him whose scales are heavy, he (will have) a pleasant life (6) And as for him whose scales are light, his mother is hawiyah (7) What will convey to you what it is? (8) A blazing fire." The best available translations for them are:

"Moreover he whose balance shall be heavy with good works, shall lead a pleasing life: but as to him whose balance shall be light, his dwelling shall be the pit of hell. What shall make thee to understand how frightful the pit of hell is? It is a burning fire," with the note: "The pit of hell; the original word Hawiyat is the name of the lowest dungeon of hell, and properly signifies a deep pit or gulf." (Sale, 1764)

Then as to him whose balances are heavy-his shall be a life that shall please him well; And as to him whose balances are light-his dwellingplace shall be the pit. And who shall teach thee what the pit (El- Hawiya) is? A raging fire! (Rodwell, 1861, agreeing almost literally; Lane Poole, 1879; and Palmer)

Those whose works weigh heavily in the balance will have a pleasant life. Those whose works will be light will reside in the pit (El-hawiya), Who can teach you what this pit is? It is the raging fire. (Kasimirski, 1865)

The one whose weigh-scale is heavy, will find himself in the good life, however the mother of the one whose weigh-scale is light, will be the hawiyah. Also, do you know what that means? A blazing fire," with the note: "Hawiyah means the fallen and also a mother robbed of her children. One says, "hawat ummuhu, literally, his mother is fallen or has become childless, i.e., her son fell in battle. The commentators believe that hawiyah means Hell." (Sprenger, Das Leben and die Lehre des Mohammad, II, 503)

Now, whose weighing will be heavy, he is in pleasure and love; And whose weighing will be light, his mother is in the depth. Do you know what this is? Heat, burning hot. (Ruckert)

And whose scale sinks will be happy and healthy; but whose scale rises, falls in deep ground. What makes its nature known to you? It is a scorching fire-spitting mouth. (Klamroth)

Whose weighing is heavy (with good deeds), he will see a happy life;but whose weighing is light, his mother is [in] the abyss(Grimme, loc. cit.); and so forth.2

These are clear and, so it seems, thoroughly plausible translations, which differ really only on one point: the majority of the translators have understood the mother (in verse 6) as figurative (that is, as dwelling, dwelling place, residence, and so forth), while Sprenger, Ruckert, and Grimme have maintained the figure, obviously without understanding it otherwise. Sprenger's footnote reveals, at any rate, that he must have found diverse "inconsistencies" in the explanation of his mother is hawiyah in the native Qur'anic commentaries. As one can see, he quickly glided away from it, as is his nature, and contented himself with the traditional translation.

Noldeke, Geschichte des Qordns (p. 78), and Hirschfeld, New Researches into the Composition and Exegesis of the Qoran (p. 58), briefly classify Sura CI chronologically, without mentioning details.

From the outset, one may accept that the portrayed facts are an exact reflex of the exegesis devoted to our verses in the native Qur'anic commentaries most used in the West. Indeed, Mahalli (in Tafsir al-Jalalayn), Baydawi, Shaykh Zadah (in his Hashiyah to Baydawi), as well as al- Nasafi (in his commentary entitled Madarik al-tanzil), Muhammad b. Abi Razi (in his Numudhaj jalil ft bayan as'ila wa-ajwiba min ghara'ib ay altanzil), and Abu Yahya Zakariya al-Ansart (in his Fath al-Rahmdn bi- kashf ma yaltabis fi-l-Qur'an) give the same clear explanation as the Western translators. Compare:


His mother-his dwelling place-is hawiyah; And what will convey what it is? that is, "what is hawiyah?" It is a blazing fire, the affliction of heat.

Baydawi (edited by Fleischer):

His mother-his abode-is the Fire and the hawiyah is one of its names. Therefore, he said, what will convey to you what it is? A blazing firepossessing great heat.

Shaykh Zadah:

Baydawi's statement, "his abode is the Fire" is because the hawiyah is among the names of the Fire and God's statement his mother is hawiyah is a kind of simile; the Fire is likened to the mother. For their rebelliousness falls with them and attaches to them as the mother attaches to her children. They take refuge in her. God's statement what is it is a nominal sentence replacing the object of (the verb) convey to you... . And it is the pronoun for hawiyah.... Baydawi's statement "fire" is the predicate of an implied (dropped) subject of a nominal clause, that is, it is a fire of the affliction of heat, etc.


His mother-his residence and his dwelling place is the Fire. A dwelling place is called mother in the simile because the mother is the dwelling place of the child and his place of refuge. And what will convey to you what it is? is the pronoun referring back to hawiyah.

Muhammad b. Abi Bakr al-Razi (with whom Abu Yahya Zakariya al- Ansari almost literally concurs):3

God said And as for him whose scales are light. That is to say, his evil deeds weigh more than his good deeds. His mother is hawiyah means his dwelling place is the Fire and most believers' evil deeds weigh more than their good deeds. (We say that) the God's statement his mother is hawiyah does not imply their eternal residence in it. The believer dwells in it the amount of time required by his sins. Then he leaves it for the Garden. Etc.

Despite all of this, the meaning of the four verses has its problems and Muslim Qur'anic exegesis, despite Mahalli, Baydawi, Shaykh Zadah, Nasafi, and so forth, has from the earliest times also recognized and acknowledged these problems, at least partially. One can compare alTabari's Tafsir:4

His statement And as for him whose scales are light, his mother is hawiyah, he is saying "as for he whose weight of good deeds is light, his dwelling place is the hawiyah in which he falls on his head in Hell. The interpreters of the Qur'an said much the same thing concerning this. Bishr related from Yazid from Said from Qatadah:5 And as for him whose scales are light, his mother is hawiyah, it is the Fire, their abode. Ibn 'Abd al-Adla related from Ibn Thawr from Macmar from Qatadah, (who) said: His mother is hawiya, the destiny in the Fire; it is the hawiyah. Qatadah said, "It is an Arabic word. If a man fell into a harsh situation, it used to be said, `His mother fell (hawat).' " Ibn 'Abd al-Alla related from Ibn Thawr from Macmar from al-Ash'ath ibn cAbd Allah al- A`ma, (who) said: When a believer dies, his spirit is taken to the spirits of the believers. They [angels?] say, "Go to your brother! For he was in the affliction of the world." And they ask, "What did so-and-so do?" "He died. Perhaps he did not come to you?" They said, "Go with him to his mother the hawiyah!" Ismail ibn Sayf al 'Ajli related that Ali ibn Mushir related that Ismail from Abi Salih6 said concerning his mother is hawiyah: They fall (yahwuna) in the Fire upon their heads. Ibn Sayf related from Muhammad ibn Sawwar from Said from Qatadah, (who) said: His mother is hawiyah; He falls (yahwa) in the fire upon his head. Yunus related from Ibn Wahb from Ibn Zayd, (who) said concerning his mother is hawiyah: The hawiyah is the Fire-it is his mother and his abode to which he returns and in which he abides. And he recited: And their abode is the Fire.7 Muhammad ibn Sald related from his father from his paternal uncle from his father from his father from Ibn 'Abbas8 (who) said: His mother is hawiyah; it is a metaphor; it represents the Fire as his mother because his abode is just as a woman giving accommodations to her son. It represents her since he does not have an abode except the residence of his mother. And the statement: And what will convey to you what it is? God says to his prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him): And what will impart to you, Muhammad, what the hawiyah is? Then he explains what it is. He says it is a blazing fire, etc.

Zamakhshari, Kashshaf (ed. Lees):

[His mother is hawiyah] among their teaching is, if they called destruction upon a man, then his mother falls. This is because if he falls worthless and perishes, then his mother falls into grief and is as one who has lost a child. A poem: "May his mother fall. What the morning brings (him) / And what the night conveys when he returns (home)."9 As if it were said, "As for he whose scales are light, he is perished." And hawiyah is said to be one of the names of the Fire. It is like the deep fire far into which the people of the Fire fall. As it is related, [they] fall in it for seventy autumns. In other words, his abode is the Fire. And "abode" is called "mother" allegorically because the mother is the abode of the son and his place of refuge. And from Qatadah, His mother is hawiyah, his mother is his head, hawiyah is in the bottom of Hell because he is cast into it upside down. It is the personal pronoun of the calamity which is indicated by the statement "his mother is hawiyah" in the former interpretation or the personal pronoun of hawiyah, etc.

al-Fakhr al-Razi, al-Tafsir al-kabir:

As for God's statement His mother is hawiyah, it contains several meanings. (1) Hawiyah is one of the names of the Fire, as though it is a deep fire far into which the dwellers of the Fire fall. It means his abode is the Fire. Mother refers to "abode" allegorically, since the child takes refuge only with the mother. (2) The mother of his head (his skull) is hawiyah in the Fire; that is to say, al-Akhfash, al-Kalbi, and Qatadah said that they fall (yahawuna) into the Fire on their heads. (3) When they call destruction upon a person, they say "May his mother fall (hawa)" because when he hawa, that is, fell and perished, his mother fell into grieving and bereavement. Similarly, it is said regarding and as for him whose scales are light, he perished. Then he said What will convey to you what it is? The author of the Khashshaf said that it is the pronoun for the calamity indicated by the statement His mother is hawiyah in the third interpretation or the pronoun of hawiyah, etc.

Nizam al-Din al-Hasan b. Muhammad al-Naysaburi (The edition on the margins of al-Tabari's Tafsir):

As for His statement his mother is hawiyah, it contains several meanings. (1) "Mother" is well-known, and hawiyah is the one who perishes. This is among the usages of the Arabs. They say, "May his mother fall down (hawa)" that is, may she perish and fall. They mean he has a curse of affliction, ruin, shame, and disgrace on him. Al-Akhfash, al-Kalbi, and Qatadah said: The mother of his head (his skull) is hawiyah in the Fire.... The mother is the foundation and the hawiyah is among the names of the Fire because it is a deep fire and the meaning is his residence and his abode in which he abides is the Fire. This corroborates this meaning: his statement what it is? that is to say, "what is the hawiyah?" This is the obvious meaning and the ancient [exegetes] said: the pronoun for the calamity that is indicated by the statement His mother is hawiyah, etc.

Khazin, Lubab al-ta'wil:

His mother is hawiyah, that is, his residence is the Fire. The residence is called mother because mothers are the foundation of residing. It is said that it means the mother of his head (his skull) is hawiyah in the Fire and the hawiyah is one of the names of the Fire. It is the abyss whose bottom is not reached. They fell in it on their heads. When a difficult situation used to befall a man, it was said, "his mother fell (hawat)." That is to say, she perished in grief and bereavement. What will convey to you what it is? It means the hawiyah. Then it was explained: "a blazing fire," etc.

Al-Khatib al-Shirbini, al-Siraj al-munir:

His mother, that is to say, that which shelters him and embraces him just as the earth is called mother because it suggests that and one lives off of it just as one lives off of one's mother. Thus the residence is hawiyah, that is to say, a very base, low fire. He does not cease falling down into it. He is in a loathsome life. The verse is an example of binding;10 it refers to the former life indicating its being cut off in the latter, and it refers to the mother in the latter indicating her being cut off in the former. The hawiyah is one of the names of Hell and it is the abyss, the bottom of which is cannot be reached. And Qatadah said it is an Arabic saying: If a difficult situation used to befall a man, it was said "His mother has fallen (hawat)." And it was said he intended "the mother of his head (his skull)." . . and Qatada and Abu Salih believe this interpretation.... What it is?, that is, the hawiyah.... He said here What will convey to you what it is? (If it were said) that He had said [along with] first part of the surah, "What will convey to you what the calamity is?" and had not said, "And what will convey to you what the hawiyah is?" (it would be answered) that "it is a calamity," which is a considerable matter, while "it is a hawiyah," which is not like that. The distinction is obvious, etc.

Abu al-Sulud, Irshad al-'aql al-salim:

His mother that is to say, his abode is hawiyah. It is one of the names of the Fire. Lexically it refers to the extreme limit of its depth and the farness of its abyss.... And it was said that it was a name for its lowest gate.... From Qatadah, 'Ikrimah,11 and al-Kalbi that the meaning is: the mother of his head (his skull) is hawiyah in the bottom of Hell because he is cast into it inverted. The first [suggestion] is consistent with the God's statement: And as for him whose scales are light, his mother is hawiyah. What will convey to you what it is? A blazing fire. It is a clarification for it after some ambiguity.... It is the pronoun of the hawiyah, etc.

Finally, Sulayman al-Jamal, who in his gloss of Tafsir al-Jalalayn 12 along with all sorts of excerpts out of his predecessors that contain nothing new, makes the note: "the hawiyah is the last of the seven levels." Al-Shihab al-Khafaji,13 Hashiyah for Baydawi begins his comments to verse 6 of our sura with the words:

(His statement, "His abode is the Fire"). The abode is called mother by mocking comparison because the mother of the child is his abode and his residence.

He concludes in connection with with Baydawi's words "the hawiyah is one of her names" with citations from al-Jawhari's Sahah and Ibn Barri's glosses.

Naturally, the Arabic lexicographers have also concerned themselves with our passage, principally regarding the term hawiyah, which constitutes the real crucial point for the understanding of verses 6-8, and also regarding the nearby His mother. They give, all things considered, the same explanation as the Qur'dnic exegetes, but provide some features that are new and not unimportant. Compare Sahah under the entry hawa:

Hdwiyah14 is one of the names of the Fire and it is definite without the definite article. God said His mother is hawiyah. He is saying his dwelling place is the Fire and the hawiyah is the abyss. He said:

You say "May his mother fall (hawat)," she is hawiyah, that is to say, bereaved. Kalb ibn Sad al-Ghanawi elegized his brother:

Lisan al-'arab under the entry hawa (XX.25 f.):

Hdwiyah and the hawiyah are among the names of Hell and it is definite without the definite article. The statement of God, His mother is hawiyah is to say that his abode is Hell and his dwelling place is the Fire. It is said that one who has some compensation coming, he will dwell in "a blazing fire." According to al-Farra' some said concerning His mother is hawiyah that this is a curse against them just as one would "May his mother fall (hawat)" in the speech of the Arabs. He recited the statement of Kalb ibn Sa'd al-Ghanawi elegizing his brother ... [the aforementioned verse].16 The meaning of "May his mother fall (hawat)" is "May his mother perish." And one says "May his mother fall (hawat);" so she is hawiyah, that is, she is bereaved (of a child). Some said, His mother is hawiyah, (means) hawiyah becomes his abode just as the woman gives shelter her son. There is no abode for him other than her, his mother. It was said the meaning of His mother is hawiyah is the skull (mother of his head) falls in the Fire. Ibn Barn said, "Had hawiyah been a proper name for the Fire, then it would not be fully inflected in the verse and so the hawiyah is each abyss whose bottom is not reached." `Amr ibn Milgat al-Ta'I said "`Amr ... [the aforementioned verse]."

And under the entry umam (XIV.299):

God's statement His mother is hawiyah: and it is the Fire into which he, who is made to enter it, falls, that is, perishes. And, it is said his skull (mother of his head) is hawiyah in it, that is, fallen.

Taj al-'arus under the entry hawa (X.416):

Hawiyah without definite article is definite. Al-Jawharl restricted it to "the hawiyah" also with the article. Ibn Sa'ld related it one of the names of "Hell, may God protect us from it," amen. And concerning [who is] correct, etc.

All the rest is as in Sahah and Lisan; only the note to the verses is new:

"May she fall (hawat)," that is to say, "May his mother perish" so that she does not produce the like of him. Al-Jawharl related it from Tha`lab: "May his mother," etc.

And under the entry umam (VIII.189):

(And) the mother is (the dwelling). An example is the saying of God, His mother is hawiyah. That is to say, his dwelling is the Fire. And it is said that his skull (the mother of his head) is hawiyah in it, that is fallen.

Thus the native exegesis gives instead of one single explanation for the passage, three different ones, of which one, as an even closer look will immediately show, is presented in four or more varieties. And their most thorough and conscientious advocates stand, as it is not possible to fail to recognize, on the point of view of non liquet, or, in Islamic terms, "only God knows (Allahu a'lam)." Which of these three or more explanations deserves preference? Is it really the one that the chorus of the western translators have accepted unanimously?

The explanations are:

(1) "Mother" in his mother stands in the meaning of "mother of the head," "skull," also "brain," and "cerebral membrane (meninx)" 17 or of only "head" and hawiyah is simply the active particle of hawa, "to fall, to tumble" (passim).

(2) Mother stands metaphorically for dwelling, abode, residence, or the like (passim; Khafaji sees sarcasm in this metaphor), or for origin or foundation (Nizam al-Din al-Naysaburi). Hdwiyah denotes Hell or the Fire and to be precise either as a proper noun (passim) or as a common noun. As a common noun it is regarded equivalent with abyss and chasm or as a metonymy for a base, lowly fire (Khatib).

(3) Mother means, as usual, mother and hawiyah is the active participle for hawat, "his mother perished" or "lost her children" (passim).18

We will skip over without further ado the first explanation, even though it is obviously very old and is supported by names such as Qatadah, 1Ikrimah, al-Kalbi, al-Akhfash, and the like. The idea that the damned fall headfirst into Hell has obviously been influenced by Qur'anic passages such as L.23, 25: "Cast into Hell every rebellious unbeliever ... cast him into severe punishment"; LXVII.6: "And for those who disbelieve in their Lord there is the punishment of Hell, an evil destination. When they are cast in it they will hear the groaning even as it flares up"; CIV4 "Nay, he will be flung into that which smashes"; XXVII.92: "And those who do evil their faces will be thrown down into the Fire"; XXV.36: "Those who will be gathered to Hell on their faces"; and the like.

The second explanation, as one has seen, is that which has achieved exclusive rule in the West. That it has also won great popularity among Muslims. In addition to the citations given above,19 it is shown by the following not uninteresting passages as well:

Kamil 65:

We had said that you joined your mother falling (hawiyah) into20 the blazing Fire (the Kharijites under al-Zubayr ibn 'Ali during their siege of Isfahan21 shouted this at a brave opponent whom they believed they had killed). Muhammad Tahir al-Pattani, Majma `bihar al-anwar ft ghara'ib al-tanzil wa-lata'if al-akhbar, Indian lithograph from 1314 under the entry hawa: T:22 His mother is the hawiyah: "Mother" is "destiny" and hawiyah is the equivalent or explanation.

and Razali, al-Durra al-fakhirah, ed. Gautier, 35:

Perhaps a man dies a Jew or a Christian. When he arrives from the world to his people, they ask "what do you know about so-and-so?" He says to them, "He died." They say, "we are Allah's and we return to him." He was brought low to his mother23 the hawiyah.

Its popularity is illustrated further from the fact that the Qur'anic exegetes and theologians always list the hawiyah among the names of the seven gates of hell enumerated in Qur'an XV.44. Compare, for example, with Tabari, Tafsir to Qur'an XV.44 (XIV.22)

Al-Qasim related from al-Husayn from al-Hajjaj from Ibn Jurayj: It has seven gates. The first is Hell (Jahannam), then Laza, then the Hutamah, then the Sa`ir, then Saqar, then the Jahim, then the Hawiyah. Abu Jahl is in the Jahim.

Zamakhshari, Kashshaf, on the same passage:

It is said that the gates of the Fire are its layers and levels.24 The highest level is for the monotheists, the second for the Jews, the third for the Christians, the fourth for the Sabians, the fifth for the Magi, the sixth for the idolaters, and the seventh for the hypocrites.25 And from Ibn Abbas, Hell (Jahannam) is for he who feigns belief the deity, Lazo is for serving the Fire, the Hutamah, for the serving of idols, the Saqar for the Jews, the Sa'ir for the Christians, the Jahim for the Sabians, and the Hawiyah for the feigners of belief in the divinity.

`Abd al-Rahman b. Ahmad, Daga'iq al-akhbar fi dhikr al-janna wa-l-nar, ed. M. Wolff (Eschatologie), 89:

[Gabriel] said: As for the first gate, in it are the hypocrites and whoever disbelieves from the companions of the table and the people pharaoh. Its name is hawiyah.

and others.26 Nevertheless, even this explanation proves itself untenable after careful consideration.

First, as Ibn Barn correctly recognized, hawiyah cannot be a proper noun, because it would then have to be diptote. (Compare with the correct form the proper nouns 'A'ishah and Fatimah and with the other names of Hell, Laza and Saqar). The Muslim scholars simply avoided these defects. As is apparent with the aforementioned passages, they replaced "the hawiyah" or hawiyah [diptote] for the traditional hawiyah [triptote] without any hesitation. That is completely arbitrary!

However, if one regards hawiyah as a common noun, be it in one or the other of the two accepted meanings, one also gains no usable result. Understood as abyss, chasm, gulf, and so on and with it as associated forms hawah (abyss), huwa'ah, uhwiyah (abyss), hawa', hawiyah (abyss), mahwan (abyss), mahwah (abyss), hawt, hawtah, and hit27 (compare also hawha'ah, "wide fountain"), it appears very persuasive at first glance. That it can have this meaning for the old language is shown from the indigenous dictionaries citation of the verse of 'Amr b. Milgat "0 'Amr ...... which I translate: "0'Amr, if our lances had hit you, then you would have resembled he who falls into an abyss in the deep"-for the more recent passages as Kalilah wa-Dimnah, ed. Sacy, II, 1:28

She said,27 I would like you (frogs) to you go with me to a nearby deep pit. Croak in it and be noisy. When he (the elephant) hears your voices, he will not doubt that there is water (in it). He will fall (yahwi) in it. They agreed to that and gathered in the abyss (hawiyah). The elephant heard the croaking of the frogs. Thirst overpowered him so he fell into the deep pit.

The verse from 'Amr b. Milqat is impeccable, since it is repeated not only with a second verse in Lisan and Taj al-`arus (under Thallab), but also appears in 'Ayni II, 458, as in Suyui's Shar shawahid al-Murni (Manuscript Thorb. A 232, book XIII, folio 3a) in a larger fragment of the gasidah, to which it belongs.30 The Leiden manuscript of the Arabic Kalilah wa-Dimnah has, just as Dozy (loc. cit.) cites under hawat, al- hawtah for Sacy's al-hawiyah; the latter stands however, for example, also in the Mosul edition (3rd ed., 19) and has naturally its worth in any case.

Pause for thought is given by the fact that the equivalent that the Qur'an itself employs in verse 8 for hawiyah, "blazing fire," lies conceptually fairly far from hawiyah (abyss). It lies far further than other instances of the Qur'anic formula And what will convey to you what is ... introducing an equivalent of the expression that it is meant to explain. Moreover, the fact that in the Qur'an, the Prophet's authentic and characteristic interpretations that which begin with the stereotypical And what will convey to you what is .... are otherwise used just for words that he himself newly coined either in form or in content, or those that must have been entirely new for his listeners-never for common Arabic expressions such as hawiyah (abyss).31 Of even greater weight in disfavor of this interpretation is that the trope "mother" for "abode" (or others), understood either literally or ironically. It is less than appealing and more so to those for whom Arabic is otherwise completely foreign. As the exegetes here accept it, they do not let themselves be led by their knowledge of the language or their feeling for the language. Rather, they are led only by the acceptance that, since in verse 5 the discussion was about the future ishah radiyah (pleasant life) of the pious (that is, their life in paradise), to which stands in unmistakable antithesis verse 6, the latter must necessarily deal with the future residence of sinners in Hell. Since this residence in Hell in the Qur'an is ordinarily expressed by means of the word "abode,"32 "his abode" (or something else) is substituted for our his mother, without any hesitation.

These objections to the dominant interpretations of his mother naturally also brings the downfall of the identification of hawiyah with a low, base fire. Apart from the fact that the latter is already in and of itself dubious.

Finally, the last of the proper modalities, the interpretation of mother as "origin" (asl), etc., is in itself admissible. (The meaning of mother as "origin," "basis," "element," and others, already exists and is fundamentally nothing more than a close metaphor).33 So we can dismiss it because it does not bring us further in any way.

Consequently only the third explanation is left over, according to which his mother is hawiyah means "his mother perishes," more correctly "becomes childless," and is regarded as a kind of euphemism33 for "perish" (halaka). It seems to me that this explanation, as I will establish is the only admissible one.

That hawd can mean "dying, perishing," is shown, for example, by the two following verses:


However, with mother and others as subject, it becomes, as the majority of the old Arabic philologists recognize a synonym for thakal, "bereaved of a child." It means therefore "to become childless." This use cannot be surprising if, as I with Fleischer37 want to accept that the original meaning of hawa is "to yawn, to gape," out of which can develop-through the intermediate meaning "to be empty"-the meanings "to die" (compare faragha and khala) and "to become childless" in a similar manner. I can provide examples with four old verses, namely that already given above:

and the following three others:

The four verses are all well attested. The first two belong to a longer one: the Marthiyah of Kalb b. Sacd al-Ranawi which is much appreciated and oft-cited by the Arabs. (According to other less reliable information it is by Sahm al-Ranawi, see Khizanah, loc. cit.). It is still completely or at least mostly extant, in the as yet unpublished part of the Mufaddaliyat Asma`iyat, no. 11.40 Khizana IV, 374f, Mukhtarat of Ibn al-Shajari 27 ff., Shu`ara' al-nasraniya, 746 ff., and Muhibb al-Din Efendi, Sharh shawahid al-Kashshaf, 47 f. (just the first of the two verses is also in Sahrh, Lisan, and Taj al-'arus under the entry umam, as well as, Ibn al- Sikkit, Alfaz, 576 and Maggari, Analectes, II, 518). The third verse comes from Abu Tammam in his Hamasah, included with fragments of another Marthiyah, which likewise found wide circulation (compare Ham. 424, II ff.; Wright, Opuscula, 113; Yaq. 11178; and Sharh shawahid al-Kashshaf 48; for our verse alone also Maggari loc. cit. II, 519). Finally, the fourth one is found in a particularly esteemed poem of Humayd b. Thawr, that Ibn Qutaybah has preserved for us (al-Shi`r wa-l-shu`ara', 231 f.). On the authenticity of these verses there can be hardly any doubt. The view of the Arabic philologists of the stereotypical his mother fell (hawat) in the three first verses is illustrated by the following passages. Ibn al-Sikkit, Alfaz, 575, 5:

It is said concerning the curse against a man ... "May his mother become childless (hawat)." That is to say, "may his mother become bereaved of a child (thakilat). "Kalb ibn Sald al-Ghanawi said, "May his mother ..."

with the following commentary of Tibrizi:

This curse employs the aspect of surprise with proficiency and skill. It excels others. It is said "may his mother become bereaved of a child" How fine is what he produces and how excellent his speech; its like is his statement "may Allah fight him," and the statement of the Prophet (blessings upon him) "on you, of all things, is religion. Your hands are covered with dust ..." etc.

Tibrizi according to Hamasah, 424:

This was said concerning being proud and being astonished. That is to say, "may their mothers be bereaved (thakilat) of them" And he said "may their mother fall (hawat)." That is to say, "may she perish." .. . Abu al-IAla' said, "may their mother perish" is among the curses that the Arabs employed for the opposite. Namely, its obvious meaning is as disparagement and a curse on the aforementioned (person), but the intention of it is praise. It indicates their purpose with that (statement) that they do not mean anything disparaging by it.

Khizanah IV 375:

The statement "May his mother fall (hawat) ..." etc. Al-Qali said, "That is to say, `may his mother perish (halakat).' It is as though she was brought down to the hawiyah and the author of the al-Kashshaf mentioned it.... The intention is not cursing someone to fall down. Rather, it is astonishment and praise like the statement "may Allah fight him" and means that he is worthy because he is envied and is cursed with destruction (halak).

Sharh shawahid al-Kashshaf, 48, 1:

His mother is hawiyah is among their sayings. One curses a man "may his mother fall (hawat)," because then he "falls (hawa)." That is to say, he falls (sagata) and perishes (halaka). His mother "falls (hawat)" bereaved and grieving.... And "may his mother fall" is a curse by which one does not want him to "fall down (wuqu`). Rather it is said with wonder and praise.

Lisan XIV, 296, 2 if.

Al-Layth: When the Arabs say, "you have no mother (la umm la-ka)," it is praise according to them. Against it: it is said "you have no mother," and it is a disparagement. Abu `Ubayd: some of the scholars maintained that their statement "you have no mother" is put in the place of praise. Kalb ibn Sald al-Ghanawi elegized his brother "May your mother fall (hawat) ..." etc. Abu al-Haytham said concerning this verse "what does this verse indicate?" Abu Ubayd: Rather the meaning of this is like their saying, "Woe to his mother," and "affliction to his mother." The affliction to her and not to the man in this (verse) indicates praise. Their saying "you have no mother" does not resemble this (verse) because their saying "you have no mother" indicates that you do not have a free mother, and this is a clear insult. This is due to the fact that the sons of a slave girl are reprehensible according to the Arabs and they do not come close to the sons of a freewoman. A man does not say to his companion "you have no mother" except in anger at him, being neglectful of him and vilifying him. He said: As for if he said "you have no father," that is not a thing of vilification. And it is said the meaning of their saying "you have no mother" is saying "you are a foundling for whom a mother is not known." Ibn Barri said concerning the exegesis of the verse of Kalb ibn Sald "may his mother fall (hawat)": He employs notion of astonishment like their saying "May Allah fight him."

(approximately the same Taj al-`arus) and Majd al-Din ibn al-Athir, Nihaya under the entry umam (ed. Cairo 1311, I, 42):

They obeyed the two of them, that is Abu Bakr and 'Umar (may Allah be pleased with the two of them). They had been well guided and their mother was well guided. By "mother" he intends "community" (ummah). And it was said it is the opposite of their statement "may his mother fall (hawat)" in cursing him.

From these citations one recognizes that the conception of the Arabic philologists of "may his mother fall" is not absolutely uniform, but that the majority and most important voices identify "may she fall (hawat)" with "may she become childless (thakalat)." The reference to hawayti in the verse of Humayd of De Goeje in the glossary to his Ibn Qutaybah can be dealt with analogously. Whether "may his mother fall," "may you fall," and the like, over which the Arabic philologists are also of divided opinion, is merely used as antiphrasing42 or not makes no difference for the purposes of our study; because even if, as it certainly appears that the former had been the case, the hawa would nevertheless have possessed exactly the same meaning outside of this optative or imprecatory formula, as (is the case with) gatala, akhza, tariba, and so forth, outside the expressions gatala-hu Allah, akhza-hu Allah, taribat yada-ka, and so forth.

Under the circumstances no one who is very well acquainted with the peculiarities of the old Arabic lexicons would reject our explanation of his mother is hawiyah, if the closing verse of the surah did not exist, which hangs completely in midair with this explanation. Because with Zamakhshari and others a bridge is established on the way, it is naturally unacceptable for one to apply hiyah in verse 7 not to hawiyah but to something inferred from verse 6 al-dahiyah, "disaster," "misfortune."

Fortunately, however, there is a way out of this difficulty that must have been (and still is) closed for every Muslim, namely the possibility of striking out verses 7 and 8 as interpolations. I hold to this deletion as correct on the grounds of the following considerations. First, as we have seen, the verses 6-8 next to each other mock each literal or analogous explanation. To fall back upon Qur'an 111.5, where the Prophet appears to admit the existence of unclear or ambiguous expressions in the Qur'an,43 and to accept that our his mother is hawiyah would be such a deliberately unclear expression, naturally would not occur to a Western interpreter because such a method would mean bankrupting all Qur'anic exegesis. Second, whereas on each of the other thirteen passages in the Qur'an where a new word is coined by the Prophet using "and what will convey to you what ... , " the coined word repeatedly comes after this expression. In our verse 7 instead of hawiyah the pronoun hiyah appears (please note that the pronoun is not otherwise found in the whole Qur'an, nor its counterpart huwah). This fact must be all the more disturbing, since the concerning repetition obviously constitutes a well-known rhetorical technique of the Prophet44 and since in our passage neither the consideration of the rhyme nor any other discernible reason makes the replacement of hawiyah by hiyah necessary. Thirdly, the content of both verses is quite meager. Verse 7 consists of an expression, that, as just mentioned, recurs not less that thirteen times in the Qur'an. And both words, those from verse 8, a blazing fire (nar hamiyah), are without doubt the most prosaic and most vapid among the numerous, partly effective rhetorical and graphic expressions with which the Qur'an portrays Hell. They appear here all the more pathetic since they are also found in Qur'an LXXXVIII.4, where they sound much better, so that the supposition is unavoidable that they are borrowed from there.45 Fourth, one does not need to search far for a reason for the interpolation. The expression "his mother is hdwiyah" was obviously already unclear to a large, if not the largest, part of the companions of the Prophet, more precisely Meccan and Medinan companions; that is proved by a comparison of all the extant exegesis transmitted to us, particularly the first generation of the chain of transmitters (asdnid) with which al-Tabari supports his material. Obviously the blame for the uncertainly was due to the fact that the Prophet had borrowed the expression from the 'arabiyah.46 That is, at that time in the whole of Arabia the speech of the Bedouin was given classical recognition of a higher style, which differed not insignificantly from the dialects of Mecca and Medina.47 Muhammad, despite his animosity toward the old Arabian poets (the chief representatives of `arabiyah), repeatedly describes the language of his revelations in the Qur'an itself as `arabi, that is, "classical Arabic."48 In addition, it is evident from some traditions that even the oldest Qur'anic exegetes had to let Bedouin interpret certain words and expressions in the revelations.49 However, insofar as one was unclear over the exact meaning of the expression "his mother is hdwiyah," one recognized by context that it should announce the punishment of the sinner, naturally the punishment of Hell. The majority of the Qur'anic exegetes had decided the expression to be identical with his abode is the Fire. This insight caused an old Qur'an memorizer (hdjtz)-of course before the final redaction of the Qur'an-to attach verses 7 and 8 to the sura, in order to make clear the intention of verse 6 as the punishment of Hell to even the dullest eyes or ears. Naturally, the aforementioned Qur'an memorizer could thus have been led by the best of intentions.

Perhaps one could raise two kinds of objections against this solution to the problem. First, until now Qur'anic interpolations have not been proven and so it must seem dubious, even though only the possibility of admitting such would be permissible. And second, the bare "his mother is hawiyah" means "his mother becomes childless," that is, "he perishes," is not contrasted effectively enough with "He is in a pleasant life," which immediately brings to mind Paradise and to which it is supposed stand in antithesis.

To the first objection I reply that in my opinion the possibility of inter polations in the Qur'an, even worse than that asserted by me here, absolutely must be admitted. And, if such interpolations have not been proven until now, this mainly because no one has undertaken a drastic detailed criticism of the Qur'an. One can only imagine the absolute lack of official as well as private care for the individual "qur'ans" during the more than twenty years of Muhammad's prophetic career. In addition, there is the uninhibitedness with which he partly retouched older revelations considerably, and partly canceled them out completely, usually replacing them with new ones according to need and mood. And there is the mendacious obsession with telling tales of many of his companions, who, as the oldest Qur'anic exegesis and Hadith show, even include the person and the work of the Prophet sent by God. All these things are too sufficiently well known for it to be necessary to even show them in detail here. Even a commission working with all the methods of a modern scholarly training and criticism would not have been able to produce an absolutely authentic Qur'an from materials affected by such factors-how much less 'Uthman's commission which was devoid of all literary practice! So few of these techniques were employed to even avoid the confusion in chronology and in content and the fragmentary composition evident in many parts of the Qur'an. It was likewise incapable of being sure to totally eliminate small parasitic accretions that in the course of the decades-about forty years passed between the first appearance of the Prophet and the final redaction of the Qur'an-attached themselves on individual suras. Were our Qur'an really genuine in all its parts, the it would be truly the wonder which the orthodox Muslim belief, certainly in other respects, holds it to be.

The second objection points out that Paradise and Hell in other passages of the Qur'an are placed in a direct, close, and (therefore at least partially perhaps) effective contrast with one another, as would be the case according to my explanation of his mother is hdwiyah in verse 5 and 6 of our sura. Compare LXXXII.13-14:

As for the righteous, they will be in bliss; and as for the wicked, they will be in a fire;

LXXXI. 12-13:

And when the Fire is kindled, and when the Garden is brought near;


Then, as for him who exceeds proper bounds and preferred the life of this world, the Fire is the abode; but as for him who feared to stand before his Lord and restrained (his) soul from lust, the Garden is his abode.

XXXIX.71,73, and so forth. However, there is in no way a lack of passages where, as in our verse 6 according to my explanation, Hell and its torments are not directly addressed, rather just vaguely of a "losing the soul," a "being afraid," and others (as, on the other hand, Paradise and its blessings are not directly addressed, rather just vaguely of a "thriving," and others). Compare VII:7-8 (two verses that are also closely related to our verses 5 and 6 since they have similar wording, as already was mentioned above):

The balance on that day will be true; those whose scale is heavy, those are the successful; those whose scale is light, those are the ones who forfeit their souls ...

(almost exactly the same XXIII:104 f., compare also XXVIII.67); XLII.2 1:

You will see the wrongdoers in fear of what they have earned and what will fall on them; those who believe and do good deeds will be in the meadows of the gardens ...

X.46; and others. In general the threat of punishment contained in vague expressions were often as effective as the precise designation and description of the punishment.

What I have said above about hiyah and the general composition of the two ending verses of our sura might also suggest, among other things, that both verses are not interpolations. Rather, they are an old Qur'anic fragment that the commission of Zayd b. Thabit and his companions or someone before them merely placed at the end of our sura, because it was less suitable elsewhere.

In conclusion I again refer to Zamakhshari, without doubt not only the most astute and most clever of the Qur'anic exegetes, but also the best expert on the old language, who brings the meaning of the sentence his mother is hawiyah that is adopted by me to the first position.


1. According the Flugel's numbering in his edition of the Qur'an, which is used here by me as a basis throughout and is in the present case also consistent with Fleischer's Baydawi. Others, as for example Zamakhshari, Khashshaf, edited by Lees, count verse 5 and 6 as two each (see also Grimme's Mohammed, 12:111), but hardly correctly as the rhyme readily shows. Unfortunately, even a fairly critical edition of the Qur'an is still lacking.

2. For he who is immersed somewhat deeper in the secrets of the 'arabiyah, there can be no doubt that among all the existing translations of the Qur'an, complete as well as partial, none satisfy very strict philological requirements. Sale's translation was a very respectable achievement for its time, and it continues to deserve to be reprinted again and again. However, it naturally now no longer stands up to the mark of Arabic studies and religious studies, especially the study of Islam. Since Sale only Sprenger, among the Qur'an translators who have had their translations published, has seriously endeavored to penetrate deeper in the understanding of the book. Unfortunately, though he possessed a stupendous (but in no way always reliable) erudition and a wealth of spirit and imagination, he did not also possess the necessary general philological training. Noldeke concluded the short examination of the literature of Qur'anic translations in his Orientalischen Skizzen, p. 61, with the words: "Unfortunately, Fleischer's translation of the Qur'an still awaits publication." Concerning this I would like to take this opportunity to notify, that I-in the general conviction that a translation of the Qur'an from Fleischer's hand would necessarily greatly exceed all available translations, especially in syntactical and lexical respects-had in mind at the end of 1901 to let Brouillon print the manuscript of Fleischer. Unfortunately, I must state that it has completely disappeared. Perhaps one of the readers can give some news of its whereabouts. Thorbecke's handwritten translation of suras 50-114 (see ZDMG 45:480 no. 131 c = Ms. Tho A. 97, e) is a cursory work without special value.

3. The same passage as a quotation out of Karkhi's commentary of Tafsir al-Jalalayn, also by Sulayman al-Jamal's al-Futuhat al-ilahiyah, a commentary of the same works.

4. 1 have listed the commentators according to their seniority.

5. Qatadah b. Dicamah, an outstanding authority on tradition and the Qur'an, died at the age of fifty-six around 117 A.H. I comment here only on the names of the most important and oldest informants of al-Tabari.

6. Badham, freedman of Umm Hani', an aunt of the Prophet, source of traditions.

7. Qur'an 111. 144 and XXIV.56.

8. The well-known cousin of the Prophet and the founder of the official Muslim Qur'anic exegesis.

9. For the author of the verses [and a slightly different translation].

10. Compare to this figure of speech Mehren, Die Rhetorik der Araber, p. 122, n 185.

11. 'Ikrimah is the well-known transmitter, freedman of Ibn `Abbas, who died c. 104 A.H.

12. See above, n. 3.

13. Khafaji (d. 1069) is older than Sulayman (d. 1204). However, because of his contact with the lexicographers, I placed him directly before them.

14. The vocalization is mine. As everybody knows, the Bulaq edition of the Sahah that I use, unfortunately contains only consonantal Arabic.

15. For the author [and slightly different] translation see page 443.

16. In the margin, regarding:

"May his mother fall." Al-Saghani said, replying to al-Jawhari with the report: "May his wife fall (hawat) and his good deeds perish when he rewards (goodness)." Al-Jawhari is correct. He is the one who emended the al-Azhar- revision of his books.

17. Mother of the head: for example, Kamil 275; Yaq. I, 120. For cerebral membrane usually as "mother of the brain (dimagh)," see Kamil 64; 275; also mother of the head (ham), see ibid. Lane, Lexicon, see dimagh, etc. Compare with all three editions of Ibn al-Athir's Murassa`.

18. I will not allow myself to be involved with the foolish attempts at harmonization, such as that of al-Tabari, who attempts to combine the first two of these three explanations with each other.

19. Tibrizi, loc. cit., can be added to them:

In the Qur'an, his mother is hawiyah: it is said that it is a name for Hell, that is to say it is their abode just as the mother houses the child.

20. This "into (ft)" is missing in the five manuscripts used by Wright. In the expression is the image of the "mother" being held onto, but it means naturally a part of Hell, or rather Hell itself. Compare with the parallel report in al-Tabari, Annales, II, 763:

They began to say: "0 enemy of God, verily by God, we hope that we surround you with your mother." He said to them: "0 sinners, why do you mention my mother?" They began to say: "He defends his mother to whom he will soon be brought." His companions said to him: "They mean the Fire," and he understood. He replied: "0 enemies of Allah, what is most irreverent to your mother is when you are plucked from her. This is your mother and your destiny is it (the Fire)."

21. S. Brunnow, Charidshiten, 94 f.

22. It is explained in the forward: Al-Tayyibi, Sharh al-mishkah. Compare with Brockelmann, Gesh. d. Arab. Litt. I, p. 364

23. Gautier has "community" (ummah), with the footnote, "These three words [to the community of the hawiyah] is missing in BFGH; C replaces 'community' with `people (ahl)'; D aj. The mother is miserable and the rank is miserable. [Gautier incorrectly has "the suspicious (al-muriba).]" However, it is obvious that both aforementioned citations are analogous to that from al-Tabari above which contains His mother [instead]."

24. Compare to level (darak) in contrast with routes (daraj). IIarn7, Durra, 49.

25. Compare with Qur an 4:144: "The hypocrites are in the lowest level of the Fire."

26. From Western works, compare, for example, with Palmer, Qur'an 1, p. LXX; Hughes, Dictionary of Islam, under the entry "Hell."

27. For uhwiyah compare, for example, with Yaq. III, 321 Hamasah 424; For hawa', plural ahwiyah, chasm, or gulf, for example, Qazwini, ed. Wusten- feld, I, 144, and al-Tabari, Annales, Glossary; for hit Yaq. IV, 997 and ZDMG (58): 874. I also have examples for the remaining forms, excluding huwa'ah (compare however hamasah, loc. cit.), however I will refrain from citing them here, especially those that are found almost exclusively in younger sources and already by Dozy, Supplement.

28. I have taken this example from Dozy's Supplement under the entry hawiyah. A second example that he gives I am not able to consider unfortunately, because the book in question (Ajbar machmnk, cronica anonima del siglo XI, dada a luz por Don Emilio Lafuente y Alcantara) is not accessible to me.

29. That is, the lark, that wants to take its revenge on the elephant, to the frogs.

30. For 'Amr, Aws appears in all of these passages. To tahwi bi-hi alhawiyah `Ayni remarks: that is to say, the abyss and "you fall" with a kasrah under the waw, that is, you fall (tasqutu). Suyuti loc. cit. reads tahwi ila alhawiyah, for which tahwi etc. would naturally be read, assuming the reliability of the manuscript with regard to ila.

31. One can compare for both contentions the passages under discussion (that all stand together in Flugel's concordance under adra-ka).

32. Compare with XXXII.20 "as for those who sin, their abode will be the Fire"; IV.99 "those, their abode is Hell"; V.76 "He who associates (other things) with God, God will forbid him the Garden and his abode will be the Fire," and many others. Occasionally one finds for "abode" (ma'wa) also related expressions such as mathwan, maw'id, mihad, ma'ab, etc.; compare VI.128 "the Fire is your dwelling place, abide in it for ever"; XV.43 "and verily Hell is the dwelling place for all of them"; VII.39 "for them there is Hell as a bed"; XXXVIII.55-56 "and verily, for the wrongdoers will be an evil end: Hell, they will burn in it; (it is) an evil bed"; etc.

33. Compare the lexica and for example also the ummahdt "mothers" or elementa simlicia ( = basa'it) with the mawalladat "mothers," the "derived structure or compound" ( = mukarrabat); Qazwini I, 301 = Sacy, Chrest2, III, 180 (see also ibid., 485 above; for basa'it and mukarrabat compare, for example, still, Ibn Yalish 1122; Baydawi I, 11, etc.)

34. For euphemism by curses, see Goldziher, Abhandlgg. z arab. Philologic, 1, 39 f.

35. Nabira, Complement, p. 54; Lisan and Taj al-`arus under hawd. With the latter, matin, "very solid" for mubin "clear," that perhaps deserves preference.

36. Kamil 727; Hamasah 382. With a few insignificant variations.

37. In Franz Delitzsch, Kommentar zu Job, to VI, 2.

38. Compare to ma dha in the classical language the interesting chapter of Maggari, Annalectes, II, 517. The interpretation of the rest of the verses, see Lisan XIV 296 (= Taj al-'arus VIII, 190); Ibn al-Sikkit, Alfaz, 576; Khizanah, IV, 375; Sharh shawahid al-Kashshaf 48.

39. For reflection, compare Maggari II, 518 and 519, among others.

40. Ahlwardt-I take into account naturally only the two verses which concern us here-has the incorrect al-subha and al-layla instead of al-subhu and al- laylu; compare with Noldeke, ZDMG (57): 209.

41. Imru al-Qays is regarded as the author; compare ed. Ahlwardt 134, no. 29; Lexika under the entry nafar and nami, Lane under nafar, and Maydani, ed. Freytag II, p. 624, no. 112.

42. 'Ala 'al-aks. This enantisemantic expression obviously belongs in the large chapter on the expression li-l-tafa'ul (to regard as a good omen) (see my Marrok. Sprichworter, Mitteilungen aus d. Sem. f Or. Sprachen, I, Westas. Studien, 203, note 1). Compare as especially relevant here "may Allah shame him (akhza-hu Allah)" (see the Lexica), as well as "you have no father (la aba laka)," Hariri, Magamat, ed. Sacy2 I, 165 with commentary.

43. The verse reads: "He is the one who has sent down the book to you: in it are verses of established meaning; they are the foundation (umm) of the book: others are ambiguous. But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part that is ambiguous seeking discord and searching for its meaning. No one knows its meaning except Allah ..."

44. Compare for example the beginning of our sura: "The calamity! What is the calamity? And what will convey to you what the calamity is?" the beginning of Surah LXIX: "The reality! What is the reality? And what will convey to you what the reality is?" and so forth.

45. I know very well that the Quran has no lack of reiterations (compare for example with regard to our sura itself, verse 5b with LXIX.21, verse 4 with LXX.9 and verse 5a and 6a with VII.7 f., and XXIII.104 f.). Hence, the same expressions appearing two or more times do not necessarily mean that one has been interpolated. If however one passage is already suspect, their agreement with one another naturally becomes a further suspicious fact.

46. Qatadah also acknowledged that (according to al-Tabari and Khatib), who calls hawiyah an Arabic word (kalimah 'arabiyah). Compare also according to Nizam al-Din "this is from the usage of the Arabs" and so forth.

47. To a certain degree this difference is always acknowledged by the modem Arabic studies also. But that it was larger than one in general had accepted until now, I have tried to show in 1903 at the General Philologist Conference in Halle in a lecture Zur Entstehung der Orthographie des Schriftarabis- chen (see Verhandlangen, page 154), which I hope to be able to publish soon in expanded form.

48. See Flugel's concordance under the entry `arabi. This description that Muhammad spoke classical Arabic is put forth more in the later official view of Muslims. Compare Muzhir, ed. Bulaq, 1282,1,103:

The most eloquent person (in Arabic) under any circumstances is our master and our lord, the Messenger of God.... The Messenger of God (p.b.u.h.) said: "I am the most eloquent of the Arabs." The foreign companions related it and they related it also with the wording "I am the most eloquent of those who speaks with the dad" (a letter peculiar to Arabic and hence can refer to the Arabic language).

49. See Suyuh's Itqan, Calcutta 1852-84, 267; compare also 282 ff.

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