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Nahw – The Anatomy of a Sentence – Part 3

June 15, 2007

In this post I will explain , Insha Allah, some points regarding the use of the relative pronoun ﺍﻟﳲﺬﻱ in the Arabic Language. We will use the following sentence as our example:
ﻛﺎﻥﹶ ﺇﺳﻤﺎﻋﻴﻞﹸ ﻭﹶﻟﹷﺪﴽ ﺻﻐﻴﹻﺮﴽ ﻳﹷﺠﺮﹺﻱ ﻭﹶ ﻳﹷﺨﹿﺮﹸﺝﹸ ﻣﹷﻊﹶ ﻭﺍﻟﹻﺪﹺﻩﹺ

(Ismail was a small boy who would run and go out with is father)

In English a relative pronoun is used to describe a noun whenever the noun is being described by a full sentence rather than a single word. For example, in the sentence The pen, which I bought yesterday, is unique, the word which is connecting the pen with its adjective. The analogous word in Arabic is ﺍﻟﳲﺬﻱ and it gives the meaning of who .The technical term for it is ﺍﹺﺳﻢ ﻣﻮﺻﹹﻮﻝ .

Note that we have translated the sentence given above into English using the word who even though there is no ﺍﻟﳲﺬﻱ in it. To understand this apparent anomaly understand that ﻭﹶﻟﹷﺪﴽ is an ﺍﹺﺳﻢ being described by the adjective ﺻﻐﻴﹻﺮﴽ (both of them form a ﻣﻮﺻﹹﻮﻑ and ﺻﹻﻔﻪ relationship, and thus match each other in being indefinite). Also, the word ﻭﹶﻟﹷﺪﴽ is being described further by the verbal sentence which starts at ﻳﹷﺠﺮﹺﻱ and ends at ﻭﺍﻟﹻﺪﹺﻩﹺ. In effect, the ﻣﻮﺻﹹﻮﻑ has two ﺻﹻﻔﻪ in the main sentence. Plus, the second ﺻﹻﻔﻪ is a complete sentence in itself as opposed to the first one which is a single word. So we have an instance where a noun is being described by a sentence. To be consistent with the ﻣﻮﺻﹹﻮﻑﺻﹻﻔﻪ rules, whatever is describing ﻭﹶﻟﹷﺪﴽ has to be indefinite. In the Arabic Language, as a rule,  all sentences are considered indefinite by default. Hence, there is no grammatical problem when connecting ﻭﹶﻟﹷﺪﴽ with its adjective (i.e. the verbal sentence) since both are indefinite.

Now consider a case where the noun being described is definite and we have a sentence which is describing it. This will cause a problem since we need to have a way of converting the indefinite sentence into a definite sentence before letting it describe a definite noun. This functionality is provided by ﺍﻟﳲﺬﻱ which transform the value of a sentence from indefinite to definite . An example of this can be seen in Al-Hashr [22-24]:

*هُوَ اللَّهُ الَّذِي لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا هُوَ عَلِمُ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَدَةِ هُوَ الرَّحْمَنُ الرَّحِيمُ
*هُوَ اللَّهُ الَّذِي لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْمَلِكُ الْقُدُّوسُ السَّلَمُ الْمُؤْمِنُ الْمُهَيْمِنُ الْعَزِيزُ الْجَبَّارُ الْمُتَكَبِّرُ سُبْحَنَ اللَّهِ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ
*هُوَ اللَّهُ الْخَلِقُ الْبَارِئُ الْمُصَوِّرُ لَهُ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَى يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَوَتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

Note that the first two verses have ﺍﻟﳲﺬﻱ in it since the noun اللَّهُ is being described by لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا هُوَ which is a complete sentence. However, this is not the case with the final verse where the noun اللَّهُ is being described by الْخَلِقُ (and other adjectives) which is a definite noun (and single word, as well), so ﺍﻟﳲﺬﻱ is not needed here.

I hope this will explain some basic points regarding the use of ﺍﻟﳲﺬﻱ in the Arabic Language.

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