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Question Regarding Grammar of the verse "A few days" in the Second Chapter


Question

During the month of Ramadan, I continually heard the verses “A few days” in Surah al-Baqarah (Qur’an, 2). After looking at the Arabic I noticed that the word for days, “Ayaaman” ends with a fataha which would make it mansub. Why?

Answer

May Allah bless you for spending some of your life thinking and pondering over His book. The word “Days” is mansub because it is the object of a verb that is hidden. [All of you must fast] “A few days.” Sumuu “Aymaan M’adudat.”

And Allah knows best

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship.

Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010 and his website, www.SuhaibWebb.com, was voted the best “Blog of the Year” by the 2009 Brass Crescent awards.

Suhaib Webb has lectured extensively around the world including in the Middle East, East Asia, Europe, North Africa and North America. Upon returning from his studies in Egypt, Webb lived in the Bay Area, California, where he worked with the Muslim American Society from Fall 2010 to Winter 2011. He currently serves as the Imam of the Islamic Society of Boston’s Cultural Center (ISBCC).

13 Comments

  • Salam wr wb,

    According to both Abu Saud and Samin al-Halabi, both of whom focus primarily on the grammar of the Qur’an, a better I’rab is Dharf, which makes more sense as the fasting takes place DURING a few days, rather than the fasting being OF a few days. They both do mention, nevertheless, that the I’rab of direct object is acceptable, yet they qualify it by saying “ittisaa’an” i.e. that it’s a bit of a stretch.

    And Allah knows best.

  • As-Salamu alaikum,

    While I respect Faraz’s opinion which he has displayed. If you look into the context and read the proof and the commonality of each’s conclusion in other simlar contexts you will see that Suhaib’s conclusion is more sound accordng to Qur’anic usage.
    There’s defintely room for disagreement. But blogs are about exchanging ideas.

    Allah knows best.

  • I checked one of the I’raab of the Qur’an books today, it gives both maf’ool bihi or dharf zamaan as possibilties for the hidden verb mentioned in the post.

  • Salam wr wb,

    Abu Majeed, I don’t quite understand how the “context, proof, and commonality in other similar contexts” leads us to believe that direct object is more sound, according to “Qur’anic usage.” Could you please clarify what exactly you mean, perhaps with some concrete, specific examples? Your explanation just seems a bit vague, with no disrespect intended. I’m just trying to understand your point of view.

    Also, is this your own personal conclusion based on your own understanding of “context” and “Qu’ranic usage” or do you have some citation of grammarians/exegetes or the like to substantiate how Imam Suhaib’s conclusion is more sound?

    I tried looking up a few more tafasir, and I didn’t come across any that considered the i’rab of direct object to be more sound. Again, as I mentioned above, Abu Saud and al-Halabi (and others) did consider it to be a bit of a stretch. Finally, Sawi and Ibn Aashur mention only Dharf as it’s I’raab (w/o mentioning Maf’ul bihi).

    A note to Omair, most modern I’rab books aren’t too reliable, or even if they are they seldom go into explanations, so for a more sound understanding it’s always good to double check w/ classical works. That’s been my experience, but I could be mistaken.

    Finally, if we do go w/ maf’ul bihi, what exactly is the meaning? Here is where my confusion lies. Because most classical dictionaries, and even fiqh texts, define “Sawm” as “Imsaak” or to withhold, both of which to my understanding don’t take maf’ul bihis in the first place. Because that from which one withholds, needs the preposition [‘an] or “from,” like “I withheld from food” or “I withheld from speaking.” So if we go w/ maf’ul bihi for “a few days,” what exactly is the translation? To withhold from a few days? The preposition is missing, and the meaning doesn’t make sense. If anyone can clarify, it would be much appreciated.

    And Allah knows best.

  • Asalamu alaykum,

    Excellent discussion mashallah!

    The ‘Irab I gave above can be found in al-Bahr al-Mahit vol.2 pg. 192, the tafsir of Imam al-Baghawi vol.1 pg. 219, the tafsir Imam bin ‘Adil in al lubaba vol. 2 pg. 333 and the tafsir of al-Thalabi vol. 1 pg. 183. Sh. Tantawi mentions both possibilities without preferring one over the other, while Imam al-Razi mentions four including both the Dharf and the Maful.

    Haq, I truly apologize, as there are, as noted in the above mentioned texts, those who hold it to be hal. Thus, dear brothers, I think we can accept more then one possibility.

    Akhi Faraz: as for many of the contemporary works on ‘Irab of al-Qur’an, then I would have to differ with your contention. I know that Darwish states the ‘Irab I gave above which agrees with the classical work of al-Zujaj on the same topic. I think we have to be very careful in dismissing contemporary works and efforts and, in fact, I hold it as one of the greatest illnesses the Umma suffers from: our ability to hyper criticizes contemporary efforts creating a traditionlacentric outlook that impedes discovery and development. I remember two of my greatest teachers: one in Qiraat from Western Africa an the other a scholar of the Arabic Language encouraging me to purchase the ‘Irab of Darwish. In fact, what caused me to ask them about it, is they they both constantly had it with them. When the latter had me do the ‘Irab of Surah al-Baqarah he told me to use the ‘Irab of Darwish as a point of reference.

    Since Abu Majeed is well versed in the Qiraat and he’s a hafidh, I’m assuming his position is held by the fact that the meaning of the word here is not the linguistic meaning, but the Shar’i meaning. Secondly the Qirah the reads fa idataan min Ayaamin Ukhar. Here, and I’m on vacation with not much time to go into details, the work ‘Ida is the object of Sumuu according to some. Finally, I believe Ibn ‘Ashur of al-Mundhari in al-Lisaan mention that the Masdar Siyam is exclusively when it refers to the Siyam of food and drink unlike the masdar Saum. Again this is off my head and unable to supply references.

    That being said, I’m not here do disprove the validity of anyone’s argument, nor call them out. I certainly realize the potential for it to be Dharf, Hal or the object of a hidden verb. As one of my teachers in Arabic said, “There are always many possibilities.”

    Allah knows best
    Suhaib

  • Dear Brother Faraz,

    I think Suhaib covered the sources and he is right on with the I’rab of Darwish. Although I do agree with you about holding close ot the classics and have read linguistic tafseer extensively according to Zamakhshari, Ar-Razi, al-Baydawi, Al-Baghawi and ash-Shawkani. The new books help us to understand the classics and there is no using one without the other.

    As for examples, I could just say remember a lot of times the seemingly unatached mansoob word to the sentence is as a result of a hidden verb. That being said that isn’t proof in itself, but when I looked it up I found both and it seems to go both ways, but from my own mind I realized that it is that we should fast days and that is the eloquent way of saying we fast from food, water, relations during those days. Of course a literalist would see it as a tharf zaman or adverb describing the time in which the verb took place. We even have it in English now i.e. “I fasted monday” In English if I’m not mistaken Monday would be the object of the verb.

    Wallahu a’lam

    Your Brother

  • The first impression one gets is that it is Tharf Zaman, and both Hal and Maf’ul bihi seem to be a bit of a strech, but closer inspection shows that there truly are, like Imam Suhaib’s teacher said, many possibilities. One of my teachers said: “All interpretations and explanations that do not contradict the Usool are acceptable.” This just proves that there is endless wisdom in the Quran. We might find a particular hikmah relevant to our situation today, and we may understand the same verse quite differently ten years later.

  • Salam wa Rahmatullah Br Abu Majeed!!!
    How are you? Hope you and your family are good
    Regarding the English “I fasted Monday” Monday will be the adverb since it is indicating when you did the action of fasting. Fasting is an intransitive verb hence will not have a direct object as in “I hit him” here “him” will be the direct object. hope this helps
    Peace…

  • Salam wr wb,

    Masha Allah, this is so exciting! I wish I had more time to really research this verse properly. May Allah put more baraka in our time.

    Just to clarify, I didn’t mean to say that modern works have no use at all. If I came across like that, then it’s my mistake. I was just advising brother Omair to also supplement his research with classical works, as they are in general more reliable. Darwish is a nice work; it’s just that I’ve found many cases where he will give a couple possiblities, while classical works give many more. But I agree that some contemporary works are very useful.

    To both Imam Suhaib and Brother Abu Majeed, just to clarify I wasn’t implying that maful bihi wasn’t possible. I just felt Dharf was a better I’rab. I tried quickly looking up your references, and what I noted in those sources was the I’rab of the hidden verb “Soomoo”, which I agree with as being the best I’rab. My contention was simply that the relationship b/t the word “Ayyam” to that hidden verb was one of “ta’alluq” of a dharf rather than maful bihi, as the verb “to fast” in both English and Arabic is intransitive (as Haq clarified with regards to the English). And it is intransitive in both its linguistic meaning as well as its legal/Shar’i meaning. Again, which is why many exegetes said that the I’rab of maful bihi was a bit of a stretch. And in asking for references, I wasn’t interested in references that offered the I’rab of maful bihi; nor those that discuss the hidden verb; rather, I was interested to see if any of our esteemed Imams considered the I’rab of maful bihi to be a better I’rab than dharf with regards to the relationship b/t “Ayyam” and the hidden verb.

    In the end, there’s definitely many possiblities, a true beauty of the Qur’an.

    Wa’salam
    Faraz

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