السلام عليكم و رحمة الله
We’re going to dive into what is actually considered “speech” in Arabic. To start with, the definition in Arabic is:
الكَلامُ هُوَ اللَفْظُ المُرَكَّبُ المُفِيْدُ بِالوَضْعِ
كَلام (speech) is beneficial (مُفِيد), composite (مُرَكَّب) utterance (لَفْط), upon established rules (بالوضع).
The word كلام (kalaam) has two meanings, one in the the language, and one used in the science of grammar.
- The linguistic كلام is whatever you get a benefit from because of it, whether it is an utterance or not (e.g. writing, drawing or pointing).
- As for the كلام in the sense of grammar:
- It must be an utterance
- It must be composite
- It must be beneficial
- It must be set in the Arab way
“It must be an utterance”
It must be a sound that contains some of the alphabetical letters (ا through ي). Some examples are أحمد, يكتب, and سعيد. Each of these, when pronounced is a sound that contains four letters from the alphabet. Pointing, for example, is not called كلام by the grammarians because it doesn’t have sound, even if it called speech by the linguistic scholars because of the benefit attained by it,
“It must be composite”
It must be composed of two words or more. For example:
محمّد مُسافِرٌ – Muhammad is a traveler
العِلمُ نافِعٌ – Knowledge benefits
يَبلُغُ المُجتَهِد المَجدَ – The striver attains glory
لِكُلِّ مُجتَهِدٍ َنِصيبٌ – Every striver has a dividend
العِلمُ خَيرُ ما تَسعَى إلَيهِ – Knowledge is the best that you pursue
Each of these expressions is called “speech”, and each of them is composed of two or more words, as a single word is not called “speech” by the grammarians unless something else comes with it. This “something else” can be actual as in the previous examples. It can also be implied, as when someone says to you “Who is your brother?” and you say “Muhammad”. Then, this single word is considered as “speech” because the implication is “مُحَمَّدٌ أخِيْ” (Muhammad is my brother), as it is by implication three words.
“It must be beneficial”
It is appropriate for the speaker to pause such that the listener is not waiting for something else. If you were to say “إذا حَضَرَ الأُسْتاذُ” (“When the teacher comes…”), then this is not called speech, even if it was composed of three words because the listener is waiting for what you say after it (i.e. he’s thinking “What will happen when the teacher comes?”). If you were to say “إذا حَضَرَ الأُسْتاذُ أنْصَتَ التَلامِيْذُ” (“When the teacher comes, the students listen”), it becomes speech through attaining the full benefit.
“It must be set in the Arab way”
The words that are included in the speech are from the utterances that the Arabs have set for a specific meaning. For example, حَضَرَ is a word that the Arabs have set for a meaning (the occurrence of presence in the past tense). The Arabs have set the word مُحَمَّدٌ for a meaning, which is the entity of the person who named by this name. If you say “حَضَرَ مُحَمَّدٌ” (“Muhammad came”), it includes two words, each of which is from what the Arabs have set down. On the contrary, if you speak with speech from what the non-Arabs have put down, such as Persian, Turkish, Berber or a European language, then it is not called “speech” in the custom of the scholars of Arabic, even if the people of other languages call it that.
Examples of speech that fulfills all 4 of the conditions above
الجَوُّ صَحوٌ – The weather is clear
البُستانُ مُثمِرٌ – The garden bears fruit
الهِلالُ ساطِعٌ – The crescent is shining
السَّماءُ صافِيَةٌ – The sky is clear
يُضِيءُ القَمَرُ لَيلاً – The moon lights up at night
يَنْجَحُ المُجْتَهِدُ – The one who strives will succeed
لا يُفْلِحُ الكَسُولُ – The lazy person will not be successful
لا إلَهَ إلا الله – There is no deity (worthy of worship) except Allah
مُحَمَّدٌ صَفْوَةُ المُرْسَلِينَ – Muhammad(S) is the elite of those sent
الله رَبُّنا – Allah is our Master
مُحَمّد نَبِيُّنا – Muhammad(S) is our prophet
Examples of single words
مُحَمّدٌ – Muhammad
إبراهِيمُ – Ibrahim
قامَ – He stood
مِنْ – from/of
Examples of speech that has more than 1 word but does not give a complete meaning
مَدِينَةُ الإسْكَنْدَرِيُّة – The city of Alexandria (What about it??)
عَبْدُ اللهِ – The slave of Allah
حَضرَمَوتُ – Hadramaut
لَو أَنْصَفَ الناسُ – If the people were fair…
إذا جاءَ الشِتاءُ – When the winter comes… (What will happen when it comes??)
مَهْما أَخْفي المرائي – No matter how much the hypocrite hides…
أن طَلَعَتِ الشَمسُ – That the sun rises…
Questions to review
- What is كلام (speech)?
- What does it mean that it be an “utterance”?
- What does it mean that it be “beneficial”?
- What does it mean that it be “composite”?
- What does it mean that it be set down in the Arab way?
- Bring 5 examples that the grammarians would call “speech”
…. and you’ve just completed a lesson in Arabic studies. Maybe you saw some Arabic words that made you feel uncomfortable, but that’s okay. Things will become clearer in the next lessons إن شاء الله.
Until next time, السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته
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Very useful. Especially the new words that i haven’t come across. Clear explanation. I look forward to reviewing your other lessons. Jazkaallah khair for this resource.
Wa iyaakum fa Jazakumullahu khayran for your kind words! Keep us in your duas that we are able to complete this and all the other amazing stuff that’s lined up إن شاء الله.
Umm Zayd says
Salam alaikum, I’m so happy to have found this. Great explanation, very clear and very beneficial. Jazakallahu Khairan for these lessons. I can’t wait to learn.
Wa alaykum as salaam,
And we in turn are happy to hear that you found it beneficial. To get new posts straight to your inbox, you can sign up for the newsletter using the form (to the side or bottom of every post) in shaa Allah. Also, please share with others and you will get easy rewards for everyone who benefits from that (multiplied in Ramadan, too).
جزاكم الله خيرا
Great stuff. I learned a lot from your explanation. One question.. under the section Examples of single words you have قام (he stood). Isn’t that a complete sentence because to me that phrase fulfils all 4 conditions.
Wa alaykum as salaam Pauzi,
Sorry for the delayed response. Technically, the word قام (“He stood”) IS a جملة (sentence), but by itself it’s not considered مُفِيْدَة (beneficial) because we don’t know who “he” is without a context.
If I were to come to you and say “He stood”, you’d say “Who stood?” because you wouldn’t know who I was talking about. Similarly, if someone started speaking to you and said قام, you’d ask “مَنْ قامَ” (“Who stood?”) because you don’t know who the doer in the verb (هُوَ) refers to yet.
Now, if I were to point to someone while talking to you, you’d know who is meant by he/هُوَ and my speech would be beneficial (i.e. you’re not waiting for me to tell you anything else after that)
Hope that helps
أبو عمر says
As salaamu alaikum,
May Allah reward you for your efforts akhee. Just a point of observation. Check the sentence يَنْجَحُ المُجْتَهِدٌ It’s most likely a typo, but of course tanween and alif laam can’t coexist in the same word.
وعليم السلام ورحمة الله يا أبا عمر,
Jazaakumullah khayran for bringing it to our attention. We have fixed it.
بارك الله فيك,
السَماءُ صافِيَةٌ, If I’m not mistaken, the sin is missing the ّ shadda.
Muhammad Alam says
I think you made things very clear. I really appreciate it. JajhakAllaah!
Naushad Jamil Usman Muhammad Usman says
Thanks for teaching Arabic in simple way.
Asalamualaikum I bought your ebook but I like to have hard copy. Is it possible to buy hard copy of this book. If Yes, plz let me know how?
Wa alaykum as salaam.
It is available for purchase at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1087439868. If you end up buying it, a please leave a review so that others will benefit from it إن شاء الله