To See = رَأَى
The word for “to see” in Arabic is رَأَى (ra’aa). It can also be used to mean “to consider“. In the former case, where it is used to mean “to see”, it is singly transitive (for example
رَأَيْتُ الْقَمَرَ I saw the moon), and in the latter case it is doubly transitive (for example رَأَيْتُ مَحَمّدًا صَادِقًا I considered Mohammed (to be) truthful). Where رَأَى is used to mean “to see”, and there are two accusative words after it, such as رَأَيْتُ الْقَمَرَ طَالِعًا, the second word is an adverb rather than the second object: I saw the moon rising.
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Repentance = التَوْبَةُ
There are a number of words in Arabic for “repentance“, the best known being التَوْبَةُ (al-tawbah). In addition, there is الإِنَابَةُ (al-inaabah) and الأَوْبَةُ (al-awbah). In Islamic spirituality, one explanation which has been offered by some scholars for the difference between the three, especially when used in contradistinction to one-another, is that التَوْبَةُ is repentance which has been brought about from a fear of God’s punishment, الإِنَابَةُ is repentance which has been brought about by a desire for some reward from God, and الأَوْبَةُ is repentance for which the motivation is purely to obey to God, as repentance is something which has been commanded at every stage of the Seeker’s journey to God, in recognition that he or she will always fall short in some way.
Last Night = اَلْبَارِحَةَ and اَللَيْلَةَ
The word for “last night” in Arabic is اَلْبَارِحَةَ (al-baarihah). Before midday however, when the sun reaches and then passes its zenith, we would refer to the night that has passed as اللَيْلَةَ (al-laylah). So at 10:00am, for example, you would say رَأَيْتُ كَذَا فِي الْمَنَامِ اللَيْلَةَ I saw such and such a thing in my dream last night (al-laylah). After midday, referring to the same dream, you would use the word اَلْبَارِحَةَ rather than اَللَيْلَةَ . The latter word would now refer to the coming night, i.e. tonight. The phrase for the night before last is الْبَارِحَةَ الأَولَى .
Family = أَهْلٌ and آلٌ
There are two commonly used words in classical Arabic for “family“, namely أَهْلٌ (ahl), and آلٌ (aal), . These can also be used derivatively to mean “people” or “followers”. The difference between the two is that آلٌ is only used with reference to someone who has nobility or a high rank. So we say آلُ مُحَمّدٍ the family of Mohammed (upon whom be peace), or آلُ الْخَلِيْفَةِ the family of the Caliph, but we wouldn’t say آلُ الْخَادِمِ the family of the servant; instead we would have to say أَهْلُ الْخَادِمِ . In addition, آلٌ can only be used in possessive constructions with proper nouns which refer to rational beings, and cannot be used in such constructions with indefinite nouns, or places, or times. So we can say آلُ قُرَيْشٍ the people of Quraysh, but we would have to say أَهْلُ الْمَدِيْنَةِ the people of Medina.
Name = اِسْمٌ
The word for “name“ in Arabic is اِسْمٌ (ism), plural أَسْمَاءٌ . You may have noticed that in the phrase بِسْمِ اللهِ , which appears, amongst very many places, at the start of Quranic chapters, and which means “In the name of God”, the word اِسْم is written without the initial ا . It has been suggested that this is due to the phrase being used in writing so very often: as the ا is in any case not pronounced, it’s convenient to omit it altogether. The phrase is of course a prepositional phrase in an elliptical sentence – “in the name of God” is a complement connected to the omitted verb أَبْدَأُ or “I begin”. Where we use this or any similar phrase in a different context, such as in the Quranic verse اِقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ , meaning “Read in the name of your Lord” (Quran 96:1), we find that the ا is restored.
bi ismi ‘llahi al-rahman al-rahim.
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