The Designation of “Foreign” Languages in the Exegesis of the Qurʼān

Andrew Rippin

in With Reverence for the Word

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780195137279
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849482 | DOI:
The Designation of “Foreign” Languages in the Exegesis of the Qurʼān

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Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūtī, who died in 911/1505, wrote at least two separate works on “foreign” words in the Qurʼān. Al-Suyūtī's compendium of the Qurʼānic “sciences”, al-Itqān fī ʼulūm al-Qurʼān, also contains a chapter on “foreign vocabulary”. His works exhibit an attribute of the mature Muslim exegesis which Norman Calder has termed its “fundamentally acquisitive” nature. The material al-Suyūtī presents on foreign words has been culled from many sources and contains several substantial differences of opinion on any given item. In analyzing the lists of foreign words compiled by al-Suyūtī, it is easy to see the reasons behind the inclusion of some of the words: difficult morphological structures, barren roots, and irregular phonetic features. The isolation of these features, of course, depended upon the establishment of a set of criteria to define Arabic as such. In addition to the judgment that a word is foreign, another interesting aspect of the exegetical treatment of these words is the determination of the language to which a word belongs.

Keywords: Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūtī; foreign words; Qurʼān; Arabic; language; exegesis; barren roots

Chapter.  4697 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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