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Old 01-24-2011, 07:07 PM   #1
Zindiiq
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Default The Arabic word 'quran' modeled after the Syriac 'qiryan'?

Hi all,

Lately, I've been interested in learning more about the formation and language of the Quran. To this end I decided to read the article "Syriac Influence on the Style of the Kur'an," by Alphonse Mingana (available here in PDF and here as an HTML) and was quite intrigued by one of his claims.

He claims that the word قرآن (Quran) itself is imitated from the Syriac word ܩܪܝܢܐ (qiryana; the ܐ (a) at the end is termed an emphatic ܐ, a feature that all Syriac nouns have, so the base word is ܩܪܝܢ, qiryan) which he says means "scriptural lesson or reading." That is quite interesting as that very much describes what the Quran is meant to be (or any religious scripture for that matter) -- a series of scriptural lessons/readings, or simply lections.

His justification, as seen in the first footnote on pg. 88 of the article linked to, is as follows:

Quote:
There is not much doubt in my mind that the word Kuran is imitated from the Syriac Kiryan. All the Biblical lessons to be read in the Churches are called by the Syrians Kiryans. The Prophet called simply his book by the word that was used to name the pericopes of the Revelation in the Christian Churches of his day. We should also remember that in the oldest MSS. of the Kur'an the word is simply written قرن (qrn) which may be, and has already been, read Kur'an or Kuran without hamzah*. I suspect that this reading of the word without hamzah is reminiscent of an earlier pronunciation Kuryan or Kiryan (with a ya') and that the hamzah pronunciation is a late reading adopted to make the word more Arabic and in harmony with the root of the verb kara'a.
*The hamzah, a letter in Arabic, is a glottal stop as in the stop in the middle of 'uh-oh' or the cockney pronunciation of bottle -- bo''le.

As I was so intrigued, I thought I'd explore that idea a little further and share my thoughts here with you guys.

Firstly, I wanted check the meaning for myself, from independent sources. So I checked a couple of dictionaries.

The first dictionary I checked was Robert Payne Smith's Thesaurus Syriacus (available here), which is one of the most comprehensive Syriac dictionaries. It is largely based on ancient Syriac dictionaries, particularly that of Jesus bar-Ali (ninth century) and Hassan bar-Bahlul (10th century). The dictionary is in Latin, but I was fortunately able to understand the part I needed due to the smattering of Latin I know as well as the cognates of certain words in English.

The word appears here (pg 3716), right under the words "Eadem Hunt." The word appears both with the emphatic 'a', ܩܪܝܢܐ, and without it, ܩܪܝܢ (the Syriac font in both Payne's and Mingana's works is the Nestorian; I can only seem to find the Estrangelo font).

Definition (1), which doesn't interest us, is 'vocatio' (calling; invitation; summons).

Definition (2), which does interest us, is 'lectio'. It (apparently) literally means 'reading'. If the word originally did not have any religious connotations to it, it seems apparent that it eventually acquired such connotations. Payne Smith references a few religious works in which the word appears, among them the Bible verse 1 Timothy 4:13. Also, it is worthy to note that the English words 'lection' (a reading from scripture) and 'lesson' (which originally meant "a reading aloud from the Bible" -- 13th century) are both derived from the Latin lectio. So, it appears that this word does hold a religious connotation.

However, if there's any doubt as to the signification of the Syriac word, then in definition (3) we find 'lectio (reading, lection), periocha (summary), locus legendus (place of reading)...; spec. 'lectio ecclesiastica', (the spec. I take to mean especially or specifically), which must mean an 'ecclesiastical or churchly reading' or, by inference, 'a reading from scripture.'

We also see, further down, the word 'lectionarium' which means lectionary -- a book or list of lections, i.e. scripture readings.

The second dictionary I used was an online Syriac dictionary I found.

***NOTE: My Norton Antivirus displays a "Caution Sign" indicating that that there is an "Identity Threat" associated with this site, but no "Computer Threat."

The link to the dictionary is here and specifically the word ܩܪܝܢܐ (qiryana) is here, but I will copy and paste the dictionary entry below for those who would prefer not to click on the link due to the site's questionable security status:
Quote:
Eastern Syriac :ܩܸܪܝܵܢܵܐ
Western Syriac :ܩܶܪܝܳܢܳܐ
Eastern phonetic :qir ' ia na

[Humanities]

English :1) a lesson , a reading assigned to a pupil to be studied ; 2) a lection , a reading of the Holy Scriptures , a portion of Scriptures read during a divine service ; 3) a reader ;

French :1) une leçon , une lecture donnée à étudier à un élève ; 2) une lection (lecture des Saintes Ecritures) , un chapitre de la Bible lu lors d'un service divin ; 3) un lecteur ;

Dialect :Urmiah
So, I think it is save to say that the Syriac word ܩܪܝܢ (qiryan) definitely had/has a religion connotation.

The ancient Arab lexicographers (who wrote two centuries after the advent of Islam), on the other hand, could not seem to agree on what exactly 'quran' meant. In the meanings that they did offer none indicated that the word had a religious connotation, per se. Some thought it meant 'the collection' (even though the root ق-ر-ء (q-r-ء, the last letter the aforementioned hamza, or glottal stop) holds the meaning of 'to read' or 'to recite', the primary meaning, at least in ancient times, was 'to collect), and by extension others thought it meant the collection of سور (suwar) or chapters that make up the revelation. Others thought it also meant collection, but that the collection referred to the collected histories of the prophets, and the commands, prohibitions, promises, and threats of God. Yet others thought that the word was a proper noun, unrelated to the root ق-ر-ء , applied to the "Book of God" in the same manner that التوراة (al-tawraah), the Torah, is applied to the Jewish Scriptures and الإنجيل (al-injiil), the Gospel, is applied to the Christian scriptures. For slightly further discussion you can read the entry on القرآن in Edward William Lanes' "Arabic English Lexicon, here (go to page 00000032).

These conjectured definitions on the part of the Arab lexicographers seems to indicate that the Arabic word may not have been in use before Islam, or if it was, it did not have a religious connotation associated with it. This gives more reason to posit an outside influence; in this case, Syriac.


Applying the meaning of the Syriac word makes sense to me in light of some of the Quranic verses in which the word قرآن appears. The word القرآن, or Quran (capital Q), is used now, and has been for a long time, as a proper noun to refer to the entire revelation of Muhammad, the Islamic “Book of God.” However in certain verses it is apparent that the word does not refer to the Muslim revelations directly, but rather describes what the revelations are. So it is apparent that it is being with a different meaning.

To demonstrate this I will list some verses below along with translations (all translations by Abdullah Yusuf Ali unless otherwise noted) and my own transliterations. For an understanding of what the numbers in my transliteration refer to, look here.

For example the word appears here as a singular noun:

Verse 15:1:
"الَرَ تِلْكَ آيَاتُ الْكِتَابِ وَقُرْآنٍ مُّبِينٍ"
(ALR tilka aayaatu al-kitaab wa-qur2aanin mubiin.)
"A. L. R. These are the Ayats of Revelation,- of a QUR'AN that makes things clear."
The word Yusuf Ali translated as 'revelation' is الْكِتَابِ (al-kitaab), which literally means "the book," but refers to the revelations of Muhammad (i.e. the "Quran" (capital Q)). Here, قرآن (qur2aan) is singular and it is used in juxtaposition with the word الْكِتَابِ (al-kitaab), which as I noted literally means book, but refers to the revelations. This juxtaposition indicated that there must be a distinction between the two things -- the book of scriptures and the word 'quran'.
---------------

The word also appears as singular and with an adjective. The fact that it has an adjective qualifying it indicates that it must have a particular meaning other than Quran (capital Q) for if the word only referred to the revelations of Muhammad then it would not need an adjective distinguishing it from something else.

The phrase 'قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا ' (quraan(an) 'arabiyy(an) -- the 'an' at the end of the words is just a grammatical case inflection), literally meaning an Arabic quran, appears in several verses. For example:
Verse 12:2:
"إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا لَّعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ"
(inna anzalnahu qur2aanan 3arabiyyan la3allakum ta3qiluuna.)
"We have sent it down as an Arabic qur'an, in order that ye may learn wisdom."

Verse 39:28:
"قُرآنًا عَرَبِيًّا غَيْرَ ذِي عِوَجٍ لَّعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ"
(qur2aanan 3arabiyyan ghayra dhii 3iwajan la3allahum yataquuna.)
"(It is) a Qur'an in Arabic, without any crookedness (therein): in order that they may guard against Evil."

Verse 41:3:
"كِتَابٌ فُصِّلَتْ آيَاتُهُ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا لِّقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ"
(kitaabun fuSSilat ayaatuhu qur2aanan 3arabiyyan li-qawmin ya3lamuuna)
"A Book, whereof the verses are explained in detail;- a Qur'an in Arabic, for people who understand."

Here we also have the word 'book' (referring to the revelations) used in juxtaposition with the word 'quran' thus indicating a distinction between the two.

The wording قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا, an Arabic quran, is interesting. That quran here is singular and qualified with an adjective (3arabiyy) indicate that it was a particular kind of quran as opposed to some other kind of quran.

And then, in the following verse, the phrase قُرْآنًا أَعْجَمِيًّا (qur2aan(an) a3jamiyy(an)) -- literally a foreign [language] quran or a language other than Arabic -- occurs, thus indicating what other kind of quran there is:
Verse 41:44
"وَلَوْ جَعَلْنَاهُ قُرْآنًا أَعْجَمِيًّا لَّقَالُوا...ا"
(wa-law ja3alnahu qur2aanan a3jamiyyan la-qaalu.)
"Had We sent this as a Qur'an (in the language) other than Arabic, they would have said..."
So we first have the phrase قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا (quraan(an) 'arabiyy(an)),an Arabic quran, and then we have قُرْآنًا أَعْجَمِيًّا (qur2aan(an) a3jamiyy(an)), indicating different kinds of qurans. As I said above, if there were only one kind of quran -- the "Quran" or the revelations of Muhammad collectively -- then there would be no need to qualify it with an adjective. That the word is qualfied with adjectives indicates that it must have a meaning other than "the book containing the revelations of Muhammad."

Also, going back to verse 12:2 we have the the pronoun ـه (hu, meaning 'it') attached to the verb أنزل (anzala), which obviously refers to the revelations (the Quran, capital Q). So why would the Quran be referenced in the pronoun and then the same word be used to describe what it is -- we have sent the Quran as an Arabic quran? That doesn't make sense. This further indicates that the word must have had a different meaning here.

It should be noted that other translators of the Quran have used words other the quran when translating these verses. For example Marmaduke Pickthall translates it as "lecture" and Muhammad Asad translates it as "discourse." So they recognized that the word as used in these verses had a different meaning from "Quran," but they still translated it with neutral words that do not have a religious connotation per se, and most likely based the Arabic lexicographer's definitions of the word.

Now, going back to the Syriac, let's see what happens when we translate these verses according to the Syriac meaning of the word:
15:1
"These are ayats (verses, literally: signs) of The Book, a clear scriptural lesson that makes things clear."

12:2:
"We have sent it (the revelations from God) down as a scriptural lesson in Arabic, that ye may learn wisdom."
Or:
"We have sent it down [to be used] as a scriptural lesson in Arabic, that ye may learn wisdom."

Verse 39:28:
"(It is) a lection/scriptural lesson in Arabic, without any crookedness (therein): in order that they may guard against Evil."

Verse 41:3:
"A Book, whereof the verses are explained in detail;- a scriptural lesson in Arabic, for people who understand."
The Syriac meaning fits quite nicely and makes much sense in light of what we know the Quran to be -- a series of scriptural lessons. In fact, the meaning with the Syriac word makes more sense than if we use the meanings of the word according to the Arab lexicographers.
------------------

The word قرآن also appears often with the demonstrative هذا (haadha) meaning 'this', which also indicates a particular kind of quran as opposed to another. Two such examples:
Verse 17:9:
"إِنَّ هَـذَا الْقُرْآنَ يِهْدِي لِلَّتِي هِيَ أَقْوَمُ...ـ"
(inna haatha al-qur2aan yahdi li-llati hiya aqwamu...)
"Verily this QUR'AN doth guide to that which is most right (or stable)..."

Verse 17:89:
"وَلَقَدْ صَرَّفْنَا لِلنَّاسِ فِي هَـذَا الْقُرْآن مِن كُلِّ مَثَلٍ ِ...ـ"
(wa-la-qad Sarrafna lil-naas fii haatha al-qur2aan min kulli mathalin...)
"And We have explained to man, in this QUR'AN every kind of similitude..."

Verse 39:27:
وَلَقَدْ ضَرَبْنَا لِلنَّاسِ فِي هَذَا الْقُرْآنِ مِن كُلِّ مَثَلٍ لَّعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ
(wa-laqad Darbna li-nnaasi fii haadha al-qur2aani min kulli mathalin la3allahum yatadhakkaruuna.)
"We have put forth for men, in this Qur'an every kind of Parable, in order that they may receive admonition."
Applying the Syriac meaning to both these verses we find that it fits quite nicely as well:
Verse 17:9
"Verily this scriptural lesson guides to that which is most right (or stable)..."

Verse 17:89:
"And We have explained to man, in this scriptural lesson every kind of similitude..."

Verse 39:27:
"We have put forth for men, in this scriptural lesson every kind of Parable, in order that they may receive admonition."
------------------

In sum, it seems quite reasonable, and indeed compelling, to suggest that the Arabic word قرآن (qur'aan) was imitated from the Syriac ܩܪܝܢ (qiryan). Qiryan means "scriptural lesson or reading" and the Quran (like other religious texts) is intended to be a series of scriptural lessons. Further, the word quran, as read in the context of Quranic verses in which it occurs, appears to have a different meaning; a meaning different from that of the collection of verses in the "Book of God." Accordingly, when we apply the Syriac word to Quranic verses in which the quran appears, we find that the meaning makes more sense and becomes clearer than if we use the definitions of quran given by the Arab lexicographers.

I'm definitely quite inclined to side with Mingana in thinking that the Arabic word was modeled after the Syriac word.
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Old 01-24-2011, 07:24 PM   #2
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Yes and there are a number of other examples too. I will have to dig out a few books on the subject and add to this post but the Quran may well have been written in Syriac. Interestingly the Shi'ites in particular have embraced or at least encouraged scholarly discussion about a Syriac origin to their holy writings. Not all Muslims are as irrational as we'd like to believe.
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Old 01-25-2011, 06:41 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by stephan huller View Post
Not all Muslims are as irrational as we'd like to believe.
Right. Just like not all blacks are as fond watermelon as we'd like to believe.
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Old 01-25-2011, 11:05 AM   #4
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It's worth bearing in mind that all these semitic languages have quite a bit in common. In particular I know one Syriac scholar who travels regularly to the Middle East and has never bothered to learn Arabic -- he just speaks Syriac and is mainly understood.

Theories that the Koran was originally written in Syriac are probably a bit outré. But that it contains Syriac words, and the fact is concealed by the vocalisation ... I'd be prepared to believe that.

However the key thing is to be sceptical of what we would find convenient. We all know that Islam is not true. We all know that we are under threat from Islamic extremists. We all know that Islam is being promoted by the politically correct, and that we are not allowed to speak about Islam except in terms of warmest approval. But none of this means that we should avenge ourselves by filling our heads with nonsense. We need to be sceptical of "too good to be true" theories.
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Old 01-26-2011, 12:30 AM   #5
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While it is by no means a decisive issue here my suspicion is that Mohammed developed his arguments for being the 'Paraclete' from a 'heretical' Diatessaron. While the name Mohammed is indeed the Arabic equivalent of menachem, I doubt very much that the Diatessaron already existed in Arabic at this time. Besides, was 'Mohammed' a pre-existent religious terminology in pagan Arab culture. I strongly doubt it. I think Mohammed developed his own religious identity through contact with Syriac speaking monks (the so-called 'hanifim'). It's not a complete stretch to assume that the Christian culture in the region had all its religious texts in Syriac (as we see the Indian branches of the Syriac church today). It's all speculative of course but the idea is not without merit.
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Old 01-26-2011, 06:54 AM   #6
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It's not a complete stretch to assume that the Christian culture in the region had all its religious texts in Syriac (as we see the Indian branches of the Syriac church today).
As opposed to Arabic, do you mean? But I don't think there are any 7th century Christian Arabic texts, so yes, the majority of the works would be in Syriac, including in Arabia. There would also be works in Greek, of course, and in Coptic in regions adjoining Egypt.
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Old 01-30-2011, 10:11 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Roger Pearse View Post
It's worth bearing in mind that all these semitic languages have quite a bit in common. In particular I know one Syriac scholar who travels regularly to the Middle East and has never bothered to learn Arabic -- he just speaks Syriac and is mainly understood.
True, Semitic languages have a lot in common, especially in terms of root letters, but generally they are not mutually intelligible as word froms vary. So that's interesting about your friend. Perhaps in some villiages where Syriac and a particular dialect of colloquial Arabic are spoken side-by-side they have mixed enough to be mutually intelligible, however, on the whole, I would think the mutual intelligibility between Syriac and Arabic is low. However, I can't be 100% sure since I only speak a smattering of Syriac.

Adding my own anecdotal evidence: I saw the movie "The Passion of the Christ" some years ago and was surprised that I was able to understand...maybe about 20% of what was being said, based on my knowledge of Arabic. Now, while I was able to understand more than I would have thought, I still would not consider that to be mutual intelligibility.

Quote:
Theories that the Koran was originally written in Syriac are probably a bit outré.
Yes, I agree.
Quote:
But that it contains Syriac words, and the fact is concealed by the vocalisation ... I'd be prepared to believe that.
Yes, pronunciations and spellings of certain words in Arabic are two criteria that Mingana uses to state his case.

This is particularly true of proper names taken from biblical stories.

For example, take the name Pharoah. In Hebrew, the word is is פרעה (pronounced paro3ah) -- letters p,r,3,h.

This is ultimatley derived from the ancient Egyptian word p.r.3, (vowels unknown).

Now, in Arabic the word is فرعون (pronounced fir3awn) -- letters f,r,3,w,n. As we can see, the Arabic word has an /n/ where the Hebrew does not, and the ancient Egyptian does not.

So the question is where did it come from?

If the word had come directly from the Hebrew we would most likely expect something like فرعه (f,r,3,h) or فرعة (f,r,3,a). So the word must have been taken from somewhere else.

Looking at the Syriac word for Pharaoh -- ܦܪܥܘܢ (p,r,3,w,n) -- we find that it is an exact cognate of the Arabic فرعون. The breakdown is as follows:

ف = ܦ = p/f
ر = ܪ = r
ع = ܥ =l3
و = ܘ = w
ن = ܢ = n

It seems apparent, then, that the word came from Syriac. This would make sense, considering that Syriac was the lingua franca throughout much of the Middle East from the 4th century to the 8th century until it was largely replaced by Arabic, on which it had a large impact on the development thereof. Further, it can be surmised, as has already been alluded to in this thread, that the knowledge the ancient Arabs had of the Bible, probably came via contact with Syriac speaking Christians.

Another example is the name Solomon. The Arabic version is سليمن‎ (Sulayman) -- letters s,l,y,m,n; or سليمان s,l,y,m,a,n1) -- which has an /n/ on it, whereas the Hebrew שלמה (shlomoh) has no /n/.

As with Pharaoh above, a direct borrowing from Hebrew would most likely have resulted in something like سلمه (s,l,m,h) or شلمة (letters s,l,m,a)

The Syriac, on the other hand, does have /n/ -- ܫܠܝܡܘܢ (sh,l,y,m,w,n) and is an exact cognate of the Arabic. The breakdown:

س = ܫ = sh/s
ل = ܠ = l
ي = ܝ =y
م = ܡ = m
ا = ܘ = Syriac 'w'; Arabic 'a'1)
ن = ܢ = n

1The current spelling of Solomon in Arabic is (سليمان Sulaymaan), with an extra ـا (alif, pronounced 'a') in there. According to Mingana, in the article linked to at the top of my first post, the alif in the current spelling of سليمان‎ was added later by scribes. He also remarks that in many ancient Syriac books the ܘ (w) in the name is missing and it appears as ܫܠܝܡܢ (s,l,y,m,n).

There are many other examples of that.


Another criterion that he uses is words that are used with frequency in Syriac whose cognates in Arabic are not used with the same frequency or not even used at all. The Arabic 'quran' is one such example. While the word appears to not be attested in Arabic before the advent of Islam, the Syriac 'qiryan' has long been used to refer to 'scriptural lessons/readings'.

Quote:
Originally Posted by stephan huller View Post
While it is by no means a decisive issue here my suspicion is that Mohammed developed his arguments for being the 'Paraclete' from a 'heretical' Diatessaron.
Could be, I suppose. However, I don't think it's even clear whether or not Muhammad would have been aware of the idea of the Paraclete, let alone thought of himself as such. The first commentaries about Muhammad being the Paraclete do not begin until about 150 years after his death.

Quote:
While the name Mohammed is indeed the Arabic equivalent of menachem
Linguistically speaking, that is not true. The name 'Menachem' in Hebrew מנחם, means 'the consoler' or 'comforter'. It comes from the root is נ-ח-ם (n-ch-m) which has meanings related to 'consoling' or 'comforting'. This is the cognate of the Arabic root ن-ح-م (n-H-m) which has to do with groaning, weeping, couching, clearing one's throat -- basically, it appears that it has to do with certain kinds of sounds that come out of the mouth. Although a connection is not immediately evident between the Hebrew and Arabic roots, there may have been one; after all, it is not always possible to reconstruct ancient Hebrew and Arabic thought, or infer what the meaning may have been in some proto-Semitic language.

Now, the name 'Muhammad', in Arabic محمد, literally means 'the highly praised [one]'. It is from the Arabic root ح-م-د (H-m-d), which has meanings that revolve around 'praise'. This is the cognate of the Hebrew root ח-מ-ד (ch-m-d), which has to do with ‘desire’ or ‘taking pleasure (in something)’. In this case, we can see the connection between the two roots.

Quote:
I doubt very much that the Diatessaron already existed in Arabic at this time.
I agree. I don't think it was translated into Arabic until well after Muhammad had died.
Quote:
Besides, was 'Mohammed' a pre-existent religious terminology in pagan Arab culture. I strongly doubt it.
I believe you are probably right. The name certainly existed before Islam, but I do not believe it had any religious connotations attached to it at that time.

Quote:
I think Mohammed developed his own religious identity through contact with Syriac speaking monks (the so-called 'hanifim'). It's not a complete stretch to assume that the Christian culture in the region had all its religious texts in Syriac (as we see the Indian branches of the Syriac church today). It's all speculative of course but the idea is not without merit.
Yes, you are right. As I said above, Syriac was the lingua franca of Middle East at this time and any knowledge the Arabs may have had most likely came by way of Syriac spekaing Christians.
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Old 01-31-2011, 12:06 AM   #8
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A. Guillaume translator of the Inb Ishaq "Sirat Rasul Allah" some of which can be found on p. 104:

Quote:
In the Sira, the biography of the Prophet, written by Ibn Ishaq, we have a quote from the Gospel of St. John that is relevant for us:

“Among the things which have reached me about what Jesus the Son of Mary stated in the Gospel which he received from God for the followers of the Gospel, in applying a term to describe the apostle of God, is the following. It is extracted from what John [Yuhannis] the apostle set down for them when he wrote the Gospel for them from the Testamant of Jesus Son of Mary: ‘He that hateth me hateth the Lord. And if I had not done in their presence works which none other before me did, they had not had sin: but from now they are puffed up with pride and think that they will overcome me and also the Lord. But the word that is in the Law must be fulfilled, 'They hated me without a cause' (ie. without reason). But when the Comforter [Munahhemana] has come whom God will send to you from the Lord's presence, and the spirit of truth [ruhu`l-qist] which will have gone forth from the Lord's presence he (shall bear) witness of me and ye also, because ye have been with me from the beginning. I have spoken unto you about this that you should not be in doubt.’

“The Munahhemana (God bless and preserve him!) in Syriac is Muhammad; in Greek he is the Paraclete [Albaraqlitis ]”
Alfred Guillaume has very convincingly argued that Ibn Ishaq must have had access to a Palestinian Syriac Lectionary of the Gospels:

Quote:
“It will be apparent to the reader that Ibn Ishaq is quoting from some Semitic version of the Gospels, otherwise the significant word munahhemana could not have found a place there. This word is not to be found in the Peshitta version [Syriac version of the Bible], and in the Eastern patristic literature…it is applied to our Lord Himself. Furthermore the Peshitta, Old Syriac, and Philoxenian versions all write the name of John in the form Yuhanan, not in the Greek form Yuhannis found in the Arabic text. Accordingly to find a text of the Gospels from which Ibn Ishaq could have drawn his quotation we must look for a version which differs from all others in displaying these characteristics. Such a text is the Palestinian Syriac Lectionary of the Gospels which will conclusively prove that the Arabic writer had a Syriac text before him which he, or his informant, skilfully manipulated to provide the reading we have in the Sira.

“ …Apart from the spelling of the name Johannes …the renderings of Paracletus and Spiritus veritatis are crucial. It has long been recognized that the Palestinian Syriac Lectionary has been strongly influenced by Jewish Aramaic and nowhere is this more perceptible than in their rendering of Paraclete which the Syriac Versions and the Vulgate simply transliterate, preserving the original Greek term as the English Bible in some places. The word Paraclete has been 'naturalized' in Talmudic Literature and therefore it is strange that the Syriac translators of the Lectionary should have gone out of their way to introduce an entirely new rendering, which given its Hebrew meaning has, by a strange coincidence, the meaning 'Comforter' of the English Bible ….But in ordinary Syriac no such meaning is known. There menahhemana means ‘life-giver’ and especially one who raises from the dead, while nuhama stands for resurrection in John XI.24, 25. Obviously this cannot be the meaning of our Lord’s words in the passage before us. What is meant is one who consoles and comforts people for the loss of one dear to them, their advocate and strengthener, a meaning attested by numerous citations in Talmudic and Targumic dictionaries.

"Secondly for spiritus veritatis the best MSS of Ibn Ishaq have ruhu `l-qist, which later writers have gratuitously altered to ruhu `l-quds. But qist is not truth, but rather 'equity' or 'justice'. Whence, then, came the word? There is no authority for it in the Old Syriac or Peshitta which read correctly sherara. Again the answer is to be found in the Lectionary which has ruh d`qushta, the correct meaning in Jewish Aramaic."
It is worth noting that Schulthess in his Palestinian Syriac Lexicon gives the secondary meaning of “to Console, comfort” for nHem, naHHem.
Guillaume`s discovery is of enormous importance, since it lends credence to Christoph Luxenberg’s theory that the Koran must have emerged out of a Syriac Christian milieu. Guillaume has conclusively shown that Ibn Ishaq must have had access and recourse to Syriac Christian texts.

From memory, (it's been a long while since I looked at the Peshitta) the Aramaic root appears through the Apostolikon, so much so that a colleague and I wondered if it had an influence on Marcionitism. But that's from memory again.
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Old 01-31-2011, 10:36 AM   #9
mrsonic
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Quote:
Another example is the name Solomon. The Arabic version is سليمن‎ (Sulayman) -- letters s,l,y,m,n; or سليمان s,l,y,m,a,n1) -- which has an /n/ on it, whereas the Hebrew שלמה (shlomoh) has no /n/.

As with Pharaoh above, a direct borrowing from Hebrew would most likely have resulted in something like سلمه (s,l,m,h) or شلمة (letters s,l,m,a)

The Syriac, on the other hand, does have /n/ -- ܫܠܝܡܘܢ (sh,l,y,m,w,n) and is an exact cognate of the Arabic. The breakdown:
if you want, you can discuss your claims here

http://forum.wordreference.com/forumdisplay.php?f=77





you say ,

", whereas the Hebrew שלמה (shlomoh) has no /n/"

maybe because the hebrew speakers lost the noon for many of thier words long time ago?

arabic
bint

hebrew
bat

arabic
insaan

hebrew
Ish
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Old 01-31-2011, 10:46 AM   #10
mrsonic
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i found the follwing discussion between denis giron and yusuf b gursey on sci.lang

http://groups.google.com/group/sci.l...ullah&start=0&



> Both these reviews were interesting, but I wanted to make a brief
> comment on the second one (by de Blois). Particularly of interest was
> the following:


> "But in the eyes of our author, the Aramaic suffixes -â and -ê are
> 'represented' in the Qur'an not only by alif, but also by ha'. Thus
> [p. 34] Arabic (xalîfatun) is 'the phonetic transcription' of Syriac
> hlyp' (hlîfâ). Unfortunately, no reasonis given for why, in this



the required dot underneath the h was ommitted in the web page.


> 'phonetic transcription', the Aramaic laryngeal h is not 'transcribed'
> by the phonetically identical Arabic laryngeal h, but by x."

> Mr. de Blois writes such with a tone that is meant to mock Luxenberg,



because he has good reason to.


> but here (unlike in other instances), I am at a loss for exactly where
> the problem is. It seems that de Blois' comments are to be taken as
> insinuating that if khaleefa was really taken from the Aramaic
> Hleefaa, the Qur'anic term would employ a Haa (Xaa) rather than a


exactly.


> khaa. Of course, aside from the pronunciation difference, the only
> difference between these respective sixth and seventh letters of the
> alif-baa is a single dot. The distinction between these two letters
> does not exist in Syriac (or Hebrew for that matter, which has
> essentially the exact same alphabet as Syriac/Aramaic).


orthography aside, they have merged into one phoneme in syriac.

for the 1st millenium at least, it was [H], as evidenced from
known syriac words in arabic from that period.




> If this is what is intended in de Blois' comments, it would imply that
> he wishes to argue that if one has an Arabic word that employs a khaa
> as one of the radicals of the trilateral root from which it is
> derived, a corresponding word in another Semitic language (such as
> Syriac or Hebrew) would not employ a Haa (Xaa), or its rough
> equivalent, in its root. So in other words, you have a word in Arabic,
> and a corresponding word in Syriac (or some other Semitic language,
> like Hebrew) - then de Blois seems to wish to argue that if the Arabic
> word employs a khaa, and the other word employs its language's
> equivalent of the Arabic Haa, then this serves as a defeator for one
> being the same as the other (or being borrowed from the other
> language).



de Blois is correct.

both semitic */H/ and */x/ appear as /H/ (pronounced [H]) in
1st millenium masoretic hebrew and syriac, while arabic
preserves that distinction.
arabic /H/ for proto-semitic */x/
in a word or name usually indicates a borrowing from these
languages in that period.


the biblical name Ham (rendered in greek as Kham), masoretic HAm
appears in arabic as Ha:m, because it is a 1st millenium loan.
if it was a cognate word (such as some you listed) or a much
earlier borrowing one would have expected *xa:m in arabic
.


this is why I find your transcriptions of hebrew, which is based
on modern spoken israeli hebrew rather confusing for work in
comparing arabic and hebrew. "vav" should be /w/ not /v/,
"chet" should be /H/ nor /x/ ("ch") etc.



> I doubt that this is what de Blois wishes to argue if he is in fact
> familiar with "the methodology of comparative Semitic linguistics."
> For example, the word for "brother" in Arabic is "akh," while the



if the word were borrowed into arabic in the 1st. millenium from
masoretic hebrew 'AH or from syriac 'aH-a: / 'aH-o: woudl have *'aH
(or if from hebrew possibly *'a:H).

arabic 'ax shows that it is a cognate, not a borrowing.



> corresponding word in Hebrew is "ach". The Hebrew employs the chet,
> which corresponds with the Arabic Haa, but the Arabic word employs a
> khaa, not a Haa. The Arabic word for sister is "ukht," and the Hebrew
> word for sister is "achot". If you take the way "achot" is spelled in
> the Bible, it is alef-chet-tav, which corresponds with the Arabic
> letters alif-Haa-taa (i.e. the eact same spelling as ukht if ukht had
> a Haa instead of a khaa). Obviously these words are the same (either


careful about what you mean by "same"


> one language took it from the other, or they both draw it from a
> common source, such as an earlier Semitic language). Are we to believe
> that the Hebrew ach/achot is not the same as the Arabic akh/ukht
> because the Hebrew employs the language's equivalent of a Haa?

> It would be a silly argument, as of course the Hebrew alphabet



it's not a silly argument, as the alphabet reflects the phonemic
structure in this case as well
. Hebrew did have the distiction
(at least in some dialects) at the time the septaugint was written,
as is known from transcritions in greek of proper names. but they
had merged to /H/ in the first millenium, as was the case in aramaic.

when writting in the nabatean alphabet, arabs chose the aramaic
letter for /H/ to represent both sounds. thus, when arabic names
were writtten in an aramaic text they looked less outlandish.


when the arabic alphabet took its present form, the letter with
hte sound as in aramaic was left dotless, while the phoneme once
also represented by that letter but with a different sound had a
dot added on to it inthe reformed script.



> (alef-bet) does not have an equivalent of the khaa, and the same is
> the case with the Syriac alphabet! Think of the khaa-baa-alif root in
> Arabic, which is for "to hide, conceal" - the same root exists in
> Hebrew and Aramaic, only with the Haa (chet/khet - eighth letter of
> both the Hebrew and Syriac alphabets) in place of the khaa. There's
> also the khaa-baa-sad root in Arabic, for "churn, mix," which exists
> in Hebrew and Aramaic with the Haa instead. The same for the
> khaa-raa-baa root, for "destroy." Another example might be the Arabic
> "khidr" (bridal room, tent), which corresponds exactly with the Hebrew
> "cheder," even though the Hebrew employs its equivalent of the Haa.


this would be a cognate, not a borrowing.


> As was already stated, the difference between the khaa and the Haa
> that one finds in Arabic does not exist in Syriac (or Hebrew for that
> matter - though maybe one could argue that in modern Hebrew a kaf
> without a dagesh is the same as the Arabic khaa, but I would reply
> "not exactly..."). Mr. de Blois wants to know why, if Luxenberg wishes
> to connect these words, the Arabic one employs a khaa while the Syriac



Luxenberg inteprets nearly every "similarity" between arabic and
syriac as syriac borrowings in arabic. going further, just plain
syriac "misunderstood" as arabic.


> employs the language's equivalent of the Haa in place of the khaa.


because in the case of a borrowing one would expect *Hali:f (or
according to Luxenberg, with allegation that the emphatic state
appears as -a(t) *Hali:fa(t) ).


> Even if Luxenberg never gives an answer, this does not negate the
> connection. We can cite literally hundreds (if not thousands) of words
> that correspond to one another in Arabic and Syriac, yet the Arabic
> counterpart employs a khaa, while the Syriac employs its equivalent of
> the Haa.


because they are cognates (from a common ancestor),


> By whatever method these words reached both languages (either one
> language borrowed from the other, or ultimately it goes back to a
> common source), it is nonetheless the case that at one point the word
> originally employed either a khaa or a Haa, but then that changed when
> it entered the language that diverges from whatever the original may
> have been. In other words, this shift is perfectly natural, as it has
> apparently happened numerous times.



fine. but that is the point de Blois is making, while Luxenberg
has insisted on unidirectional (syriac to arabic) borrowing
as the only mechanism (or the only mechanism when it suits him),
while ignoring cases when one can show common origin as the cause.



..

what do you think?
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