I have been thinking about why some people are averse to undertaking a deeper study of the Quranic Arabic. After all, it would seem to me that a better understanding of the language in which a text you are studying would be something to aspire to. There seem to be various reasons for this, and I can understand why some people may be intimidated by the notion of having to learn a new language, but I am at a loss as to why there is at times such a strong push against pursuing any kind of in depth study of Arabic roots.

I would be very interested to know from those who marginalise the study of Arabic and its roots when studying the Quran, why they feel it is not an important part of such study.

There are those out there who would like to study Arabic roots but feel it is beyond them, and this is what I would like to address here. The most concise way that I can address this is by saying: “Don’t shy away from studying the Arabic of the Quran because you feel that it is difficult or you don’t have the credentials”. It is much easier than you may think.

We sometimes see people discussing things (any subject), and feel out of our depth, forgetting that they started somewhere, at a beginning and developed stage by stage as much as they put in to it.

I am not an Arab, nor do I have no formal tertiary Arabic training, but I think that it is important to learn the Arabic of the Quran and would like to create a friendly, easy environment for those who want learn some of the basics of studying Arabic roots. For this, I have started a facebook group called QuranRoots. It hasn’t been active because I have been trying to figure the best way to move forward with it. I’ve finally decided how I would like to approach this.

The discussion group will utilise the chat function in a kind of class environment at a set time, when any members interested can join the “class”. This group will be focussed on QuranRoots and will not put too much emphasis on the grammar aspects. It will require volunteers who are willing to share their methodologies for studying Arabic root words. These volunteers would “lead” the class by taking people through the process of examining a particular root, which could extend over a few sessions. Once the root has been explored this way, further discussions on the root can take place on the forum.

Would anyone be interested in this, especially volunteering to share your methodologies for exploring the roots? Once we have a few volunteers I will post it on Quranology group and others.

Primary Usage of Words in Quran

The following is something I wrote in response to a claim that we must accept the literal meanings of words first, even though it can have other meanings:

I would like to also comment on the statement regarding looking for inner meanings and extensions to the understanding of words in the Quran, while ignoring the literal meanings. The statement is fine as long as we don’t make false assumptions in terms of which understanding commands the primary usage within the Quranic text and which understanding constitutes an extension of such primary usage. Let’s demonstrate this with an example.

It is commonly thought that the primary understanding of SJD and its derivatives in the Quran is physical prostration and that the understanding of acceptance of whatever is in context is an extension of that meaning.

Let’s examine the occurrences and see whether or not this is true. The following is a listing of SJD and its derivatives from Quran. They are divided into four categories.

1. Occurrences where prostration cannot be understood in the context:

2:34, 7:11, 15:30, 17:61, 18:50, 20:116, 38:73, 7:12, 13:15, 15:33, 16:49, 17:61, 22:18, 38:75, 41:37, 55:6, 2:34, 7:11, 17:61, 18:50, 20:116, 41:37, 2:58, 4:154, 7:11, 7:161, 12:4, 15:29, 15:31, 15:32, 16:48, 38:72.

2. Occurrences where prostration is a weak inference in the context:

3:43, 68:42, 68:43, 7:120, 12:100, 20:70, 26:46

3. Occurrences where prostration is a possible understanding in the context:

4:102, 3:113, 7:206, 25:60, 27:24, 27:25, 84:21, 22:77, 25:60, 53:62, 76:26, 96:19, 48:29, 50:40, 2:125, 9:112, 15:98, 17:107, 19:58, 22:26, 25:64, 26:219, 32:15, 39:9, 48:29

4. Occurrences of the root as masjid:

2:114, 2:144, 2:149, 2:150, 2:187, 2:191, 2:196, 2:217, 5:2, 7:29, 7:31, 8:34, 9:7, 9:17, 9:18, 9:19, 9:28, 9:107, 9:108, 17:1, 17:1, 17:7, 18:21, 22:25, 22:40, 48:25, 48:27, 72:18

The analysis was conservative on the side of the “physical prostration” understanding and many of the occurrences that appear in the third group are debatable as to which of the two understandings to take.

There are 64 occurrences of the root excluding its use as masjid, which is excluded because whatever one takes the root to mean, in the case of masjid, it will be the place, time or state of the performance of the root verb. The 28 occurrences of masjid can therefore be seen in both contexts.

Half of the remaining occurrences (32/64) are clearly not referring to a physical prostration.

When one considers the occurrences where it is unlikely that it refers to a physical prostration, we find that a further 7 occurrences (39/64) will not support physical prostration.

25 occurrences can have a possibility of meaning prostration.

It must also be noted that when one reverses the analysis, understanding SJD and its derivatives as an acceptance of whatever appears in the various contexts; such an understanding fits all occurrences.

Since both meanings finds credence in the lexicons, we must consider both. However, in such a situation, considering the physical prostration as the primary meaning does not hold water as it is clear that within the Quranic context, the understanding of acceptance fits everywhere, whereas the understanding of physical prostration is limited to half the occurrences at best. Therefore the assumption that the primary meaning of SJD in the Quran is physical prostration is fallacious.

So like I stated in the beginning, there is no problem as long as our initial assumption of what constitutes primary usage in Quran is accurate.

It would be great to get some input on what you all think of this.