Some Additions to Prof. Jeffery's Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur'an

In the thirty-eighth section of his Itgan, the polygraph Suyuti furnishes a summary of a monograph called al-Muhadhdhab fi ma waga'a fi'l- Qur'an min al-mu'arrab, in which he dealt with the question whether the Qur'an contained any foreign words, and if so, to what language they belonged. The orthodox felt some difficulty about admitting the existence of such an element in the language of the Sacred Book, which claims to be in perspicuous Arabic; it was, however, difficult to maintain that the proper names that occur in the volume were all of Arabic origin, and certain other words have an obviously foreign appearance. Suyuti himself compromises by admitting in such cases the foreign etymology, but maintaining that the words had received Arabic naturalization.

Professor Jeffery's work, forming volume 79 of the Gaekwar of Baroda's Oriental Series, and dated 1938, is practically an exhaustive treatment of the subject, based on extraordinarily wide linguistic knowledge and no less wide acquaintance with what has been previously written about the words in question. The soundness of his judgment is throughout conspicuous. A good many puzzles indeed remain, for example, the connection of the word Hanif with natural religion and in particular with Abraham. We are scarcely better off in the case of Nazo- raios in the New Testament.

I propose to suggest a few additions to Professor Jeffery's list.

(1) In Sura XXXIV.13 the Jinn learn that Solomon is dead because of a termite gnawing his minsa'at; in consequence of which Solomon collapsed. This word has occasioned difficulty: certainly the Prophet's uncle and protector is quoted for the word, and indeed according to Lisan al'Arab by the grammarian al-Farra, though whence he got the line is not clear; it is not to be found in the odes ascribed to Abu Talib in the Sirah, which are certainly spurious. According to an authority quoted by Taj al-,Arus al-Farra even suggested an emendation, min sa'atihi, supposing that si'at here stood for siyat, the curved end of a bow. To this there was the objection that Solomon was unlikely to be leaning on a bow. The verb whence minsa'at is said to be derived is given the sense "to drive" cattle, but whether a stick used for this purpose would suit the luxurious Solomon may be doubted.

I do not remember to have seen it suggested, though I think it must have been, that the Arabic word is a transformation of the Hebrew M)'V) (mi.`nt) to which Mandelkern assigns the meanings fulcrum, scipio, baculus, sceptrum. The verb whence it is derived means "to lean"; and doubtless the sense required in the Qur'anic verse is "scepter." Solomon's connection with the Jinn goes back to the difficult words in Eccles. 2:8, where the author among his acquisitions enumerates fl1ZLT)l fTV (sdh wsdwt meaning "field" and "fields."). I* By the time of Josephus his relations with the demons had assumed serious proportions. The Aggadah does not appear to have preserved anything analogous to the Qur'anic narrative; the Hebrew word for "scepter," meaning something to lean upon, is likely to have been used in it.

(2) In Sura 11.261, there is a story of a man who was put to death by Allah for a hundred years, after which he was resuscitated. Asked how long he had remained (unconscious), he replied: a day or part of one. No, he was told, a hundred years; so look at your food and drink lam yatasannah. The note of Tabari (Comm. iii, 24) on this passage is unusually interesting, since it records how one Han!,, client of the Caliph 'Uthman, with nisbah al-Barbari, acted as intermediary between the Caliph and the editor of the Qur'an, Zaid b. Thabit: he was sent by the latter to ask which was right lam yatasannan or lam yatasannah and the Caliph chose the latter. Tabari records variations as to the person consulted. He also mentions a third reading lam yatasanna. It seems to be agreed that the sense of the word is changed, that is, neither food nor drink has gone bad; this gloss is traced to Wahb b. Munabbih, and scarcely differs from the rendering "does not stink," which derives the form from the group 'sn or sn. The sense changed is obtained indirectly from the word sanatun "year," on the assumption that a verb "to year" might mean "to be affected by the passing of the years."

I would suggest that we have here a Hebraism, the word being referable to the Hebrew MV (snh) "to be changed," Piel i1]V. (sinnah) "to change" (transitively), both of which have a tendency to imply a change for the worse. Since the person who underwent this experience might have found the corruption of his food and drink a more convincing proof that he had been dead a hundred years than their preservation, this detail occasions some surprise. It would, however, seem clear that their preservation is meant.

(3) Where Arabic words are practically identical with such as are found in other Semitic languages of which we possess earlier monuments, it is at times difficult to decide whether they are ursemitisch or borrowed: even Lautverschiebung, where it occurs, is not always a safe guide. It is a great merit of the Qur'an that it taught the Arabs their language, and where there is reason for thinking that the sense of a word was inferred from its usage in that book, there is a probability in favor of its having been introduced into the language therein.

The word that suggests this consideration is natagna in Sura VII. 170, wa 'idh natagna l jabala fawgahum Kaannahu ;ullatun: "and when We ... the mountain over them as though it were an umbrella." In parallel passages recording how a mountain was raised over the beads of the Israelites (11.60 and 87; IV. 153), the verb corresponding with that which has been left untranslated is rafna: "We raised." What, then, is the exact sense of natagna? If Ibn al-Athir in his Nihayah is right, the word was extraordinarily appropriate to the operation described: it means, he says, in tagla` u sh -shai'a fa-tarfa'uhu min makanihi li-tarmiya bihi: "your uprooting a thing and raising it from its place in order to fling it." Since the Israelites (as the Surah proceeds to assert) were afraid the mountain would fall upon them, the verb that contains the three ideas of uprooting, raising, and flinging suits the situation exactly. Only it seems more probable that the sense was inferred from the Qur'anic passage than that the language had a verb involving all three notions. Hence it is permissible to suggest that the Arabic verb is borrowed from the Hebrew and Aramaic pn] (ntq). Mountains, according to Job 28:9, have "roots"; and this verb is applied to the pulling up of roots in Ezek. 17:9. For its employment in the later literature Levy gives it the sense losreissen, ausreissen.

Ibn Duraid in his Jamharah (ed. Krenkow, ii, 26) gives as the meaning of the Arabic verb nafada "to shake out," as when you shake out the contents of a vessel; he quotes for it a verse of the Rajaz writer Ajjaj (found, but corrupt, in Ahlwardt's edition xxiii, 3), where it is used of a camel shaking vermin out of the rider's cloak. It would seem then that Tabari's rendering 'igtala`a, "uproot," goes back to someone who was acquainted with the Hebrew and Aramaic sense of the group.

(4) A similar doubt, as to whether the word is ursemitisch or borrowed, occurs in the case of husban, which is identical with the Hebrew I111Ufl (hisbon), Aramaic p flfl (husban). This word occurs VI.96, in the Hebrew Aramaic sense "reckoning": "He made ... the sun and the moon husbanan," meaning doubtless a means of reckoning dates. In LV.4, bi-husban ash-shamsu wa-l-qamaru seems similar, though the word looks like a misreading of yasbahan "they twain give praise," since what follows is "the star and the trees prostrate themselves." But in a third place the rendering "reckoning" seems inappropriate. This is XVIII.38, where the speaker says: "Peradventure my Lord will give me something better than thy garden, and send thereon a husban from heaven, and it shall become slippery soil." Tabari cites authorities who gave it the sense "punishment," which indeed might be a synonym of "reckoning," but what is wanted is something more material, having the effect of doing away with all the vegetation. Hence, numerous guesses were offered for the interpretation: Ibn Kathir thinks violent rain must be meant; other suggestions are lightning, fire, and hail. Now the word in its Syriac form has some material sense, of which Payne Smith cites two examples from a pre-Islamic writer, John of Ephesus: only in both cases it is some personal possession, apparently an article of wearing apparel, as in the first example it is one of the things on a person who is stripped by robbers; in the second it comes between books and vessels. Payne Smith, who trans lated the Syriac text, gave the word the sense "pillow," which is one of the meanings given the Arabic word: and that in this sense it is an Arabic borrowing from Syriac may be assumed. There would be little difficulty about supposing a cushion to be sent down from heaven, only the result stated in the verse, the levelling of the ground, would be surprising. If the word in this sense is really derived from hsb, and not altered from some foreign word, it may be suggested that it is specialization of the Hebrew or Syriac in the sense of "a device," a usage found twice in the Old Testament, once indeed in the sense of "engine" (2 Chron. 26:15), such as is used in war. I should be inclined to render the word in the text of the Qur'an by "device," meaning some means whereby the leveling of the soil would be effected, the speaker not specifying further.

(5, 6) The following two words are dealt with by Professor Jeffery, but I venture to disagree with his conclusions. In Sura LXXXIII. 18, "the book of the virtuous" is said to be in `illiyyina, which is then glossed as "written book." In verse 7, "the book of the evildoers" is said to be in sijjinin to which the same gloss "written book" is attached. These glosses are dismissed as worthless by Tabari and his successors. For 'lywn, Professor Jeffery accepts the view of Frankel, who identifies it with 11r2y ('lywn), a divine name found in the Old Testament and elsewhere. If this were right, there would be no occasion to regard the Arabic word as foreign. It may be suggested that the first letter should have a point, and that it is the Syriac gelayuna, the 11r51 (glywn) of Isa. 8:1, where it is some sort of tablet on which something was to be written. The words that follow in the Qur'an (verse 21) yashhaduhu 1-mugarrabuna, "to be witnessed by high officials" remind one of what follows in Isaiah: "and I took unto me faithful witnesses." The gloss of Bar Bahlul on the Syriac word is sijjil tumar, which justifies us in identifying the other word sijjin with the Syriac sygylywn.

The substitution of N for L in sijjin for the sake of the rhyme is parallel to Jibrin for Jibril (Gabriel). The use of the gh to represent a (g) at this period might be harder to illustrate; it is to be observed, however, that the letter in both Hebrew and Aramaic had two pronunciations.

The glosses in the Qur'an are therefore correct, though it is noticeable that in Rabbinic usage the gillayon was ein noch unbeschriebenes Schreibmaterial (Levy). The difference between the two "books" would seem to be that the one containing the record of the evildoers is closed, that of the virtuous open.

The following words may be explained from Ethiopic.

(7) In XL.38 Pharaoh says to Haman, "Build me a tower peradventure I shall reach," al-'asbaba 'asbaba "of the heavens and come in sight of the god of Moses." The word left untranslated is used elsewhere in the Qur'an in the sense of "rope"; this does not seem appropriate here, and Tabari reports various suggestions, "roads," "gates," "dwellings." These are all guesses, none of them felicitous. Dillmann gives examples of the Ethiopic 'asbab in the sense excubiae, excubitores, stationer, and the supposition that the Arabic word which is identical has the meaning "guardhouses" in the Qur'anic verse seems to be rather plausible. In Isa. 21:8 the word 711 DiZ 1] (mismeret), properly "guardhouse," is rendered by Gesenius specula, "watchtower," an elevated place whence objects at a distance could be seen. What Pharaoh wishes is to get a sight of the god of Moses, if such a being is really in heaven, and if Haman will build him a tower reaching the level of the watchtowers of heaven he will compass this object. In the book of Esther, Haman builds a gallows fifty cubits high; in Gen. 11 the builders of Babylon say, "let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven." This passage is somewhat nearer the narrative in Sura XXVIII.38, where Haman is told to "kindle for me upon the clay and make for me a tower, peradventure I shall come in sight of the god of Moses"; since the builders of Babylon say, "Go to, let us make brick and burn them thoroughly." Since the first meaning assigned to the verb far`a is ascendit montem, it might seem that Pharaoh by this project was justifying his name.

(8) In Sura XLIV.23, where the crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites is described, Moses is given the order wa-truk il-bahra rahwan, "Leave the sea ... verily they are a host that shall be drowned." This is the only place in the Qur'an in which the word rahwun occurs, and it is clear from Tabari's note that its signification was unknown, and had to be guessed from the context. Hariri supposed it to mean "tranquil," as he writes (Maq. xxxix, ed. de Sacy, p. 432), lam nazal nasiru wa l-bahru rahwun wa l jawwu sahwun, "we ceased not travelling with the sea calm and the weather fine," but this sense does not suit the Qur'anic passage, since the sea was neither calm nor stormy, a passage having been hollowed out, the water on each side being like a great mountain (XXVI.62). Hence for "calm" authorities cited by Tabari substitute "undisturbed," that is, leave the sea as it is, do not restore it to its previous condition. I am inclined to regard the word here as the Ethiopic rekhewe, "open," of which Dillmann gives several examples: thus Acts 10:11, "he saw the heaven opened," XVI.27, "seeing the prison doors open," and many other passages. This sense suits the scene with which the text of the Qur'an is dealing, in which a way has been left open in the sea through which the Israelites passed: Moses is commanded not to close it, but leave it open for the Egyptians, on whom it will close, so that they will be drowned. Dillmann's statement about the letter kh is "the old pronunciation would sound like the Arabic kh, later confused with h and h (Ethiopic letters)." The words antiquitus and posthac give little clue to the time at which the confusion began.

(9) In Sura XLIV. 18, we read that among the injunctions of Moses to the people of Pharaoh was wa an la tadlu 'ala -llahi. This is ordinarily rendered and exalt not yourselves against Allah. This may be right; but we seem to obtain a more natural sense from the Ethiopic usage of the same group, 'aldwa which is familiar in the sense of "rebel." Dillmann's renderings include "rebel or be refractory, to separate oneself from, to abandon," rebellem vel refractarium esse, desciscere, deficere, and he furnishes numerous examples; in historical texts the word is used for "to revolt." The same usage is found in XXVII.31, where a letter of king Solomon to the people of Saba is reproduced, beginning 'ally ta`lu 'ala wa 'atuni muslimina, where the meaning is clearly "disobey me not, but come to me submissively." We are, I think, justified in regarding this usage as an Ethiopism.

(10) In XXXIII.19 there occurs the phrase 'idha dhahaba l-khawfu salagakum bi-alsinatin hidadin, evidently meaning "when their fear has departed, they abuse you with sharp tongues." The verb salaqa is given no fewer than eleven senses by Freytag, and it evidently has several sources. One of them is to be found in istalaga, "to lie on one's back," to the stem of which its relation is similar to that of sabaqa to baga. Another is a stem found also in Aramaic, meaning "to ascend." The most common sense of the word, "to boil," is that of the Aramaic and late Hebrew 75V> (slq), whereas "ascend" is that of 75b (slq). For the sense "abuse" we must go to Ethiopic, where the derived form tasalaqa has the sense "to play with, to mock" illudere, ludibrio habere. Of this Dillmann gives numerous examples. Perhaps the Qur'anic usage may be regarded as an Ethiopism.

(11) The two angels of 11.96 who taught people spells destructive of connubial happiness, Harut and Marut, have been the subject of many conjectures. The second of these names seems to be identical with the Ethiopic marit Writ, rendered by Dillmann "soothsayer, prophetic" divina, fatidica. The masculine form, Mari, is given the additional meaning magus; it seems to be likely that this Ethiopic word is the source of this angel's connection with magic; and Babylon, where the two angels are located, is the home of magic.

(Lucan, Pharsalia, vi, 150)

The Qur'an favors the form gatul for foreign names, giving Yajuj and Majuj for Gog and Magog, Qarun for Corah, Harun for Aaron, Jalut for Goliath, and so on. Both these angels' names are accommodated to this scheme, and Harut is to the Syriac Herta, "strife," what Jalut is to Goliath. Possibly Lagarde's etymology may explain why these beings became angels, though the tracing of Qur'anic matter to Old Persian mythology seems hazardous: the etymologies given above explain their connection with magic and strife.

I must in finishing once more express my admiration for Professor Jeffery's work.

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