When learning Arabic sometimes you do feel a lot like the Karate Kid. Remember the scene where the kid eager to learn Karate and his instructor Mr. Miyagi asked him to wash and wax a car instead. At that moment the Karate kid was unhappy because he could not relate how waxing a car can make him better at martial arts. But later he found out that what he was doing was learning a defensive move.
Sometimes you may forget why you are doing what you doing but sooner or later you will be surprised at the result.
I frequently feel like a Karate kid in the sense that sometimes, I don’t see the point of all the grammar I am learning. But the Aha! moment came for me after learning about Ismul Ishara.
What is Ismul Ishara?
Ismul Ishara is known as demonstrative pronouns. Now ‘demonstrative pronoun’ is far easier to understand than it is to pronounce. Demonstrative pronouns are nothing more than two words that we use on a daily basis which are this and that.
In Arabic it can be broken up into six words as in the chart above. Why in Surah Al Baqarah it starts with dzalika kitab (That book) and not hadza kitab (This book)? I only got the awareness to ask this question when I learned about Ismul Ishara. Before learning Arabic, I was parroting the Ayah like most people.
They are words like hadza or this (masculine) hadzihi is also this when used describing things that are feminine, and then there is ha ula i when describing something that is plural. The same goes for Dzalika or that (masculine), Tilka is also this when used describing things that are feminine, and then there is Ula ika when describing something that is plural.
The rules for Ismul Ishara?
The first thing to remember is that they are always, always proper. This means they are not common. There are seven types of proper noun and one of them is when they fall under Ismul Isharah.
Secondly, they are non flexible, meaning that their ending sounds do not change no matter what their status. If they are Rafa Nasb or Jarr their ending sound would remain the same. Hadza would still be hadza if it is rafa, and if it is jarr it is still going to be hadza and not hadzi.
The cool thing is that you can use them to make sentences or fragments. What does that mean? Say you have two words like This book which in Arabic is hadza al kitab. This book is not a complete sentence but it is a fragment. A Fragment is more than one word but not enough to form a complete sentence. A complete sentence would be This is a book.
This is so cool, to make a complete sentence, all you have to do is to simply take out the prefix Alif lam before kitab. So al kitab would become just kitab. A complete sentence in Arabic is hadza kitab which means This is a book.
In arabic there is no copula verb. “What the heck is copula” was my response when I first heard somebody mention ‘copula verb’. sounds dangerous like a venomous snake. Copula verb are words like, is, are and other words that are within the same time
Surah Al baqarah
Surah Al Baqarah starts with Dzalika al kitabullah rayba fihi . The word Dzalika means that which at a glance that there is a mistake. You are holding the Quran in your hand and you saying That is the book . It should be This book right? This can create doubts in your heart whether the Quran is really from God.
When I dig further, I discovered that when the Quran was revealed it is revealed a few bits and pieces at a time. And they used to write it on bones, or patches of animal hide. So there was no book at that time. So why not say Dzalika Ayah or Dzalika Surah ?
When we say this we are referring to something which is near and when we say that we are referring to something that is further away.
The ayah Dzalik al kitabullah was not referring to the Quran that you have in your hand. The word Kitab really means something that is carved.
When you carve something, it is set and cannot be changed. At the time of revelation of this ayah, the Quran is still revealed so there is no Kitab here, but the Kitab is kept in the Lawhun Mahfuz which the last time I checked, is not in our backyard or even anywhere on this earth. The logical and accurate thing to say is That book.
Disclaimer: I am just sharing what I learn from Bayyinah TV. I am not an expert, I am sharing what I understand as a student. So this article should not be treated or quoted as sources of fiqh.
Shahfizal Musa is the editor of Halalop. He graduated with a Law degree from Thames Valley University London. He is an award-winning journalist covering topics such as human trafficking, Muslim research discoveries, and exceptional Muslims.