Other Posts By Adel Bishtawi
Burying Arab girls alive is a myth
The interpreters of the Holy Quran are wrong not the Quran: Arab girls, like all other girls, are too precious to be harmed let alone buried alive, and no, Arabs were not brought to the world by storks!
In the translation of the holy Quran “And when the girl (who was) buried alive is asked; for what sin she was killed” (81:8, 81:9).
The translation is not the translation of the Quran but rather partially a translation of what some interpreters thought the Quran said. The difference is huge.
We really have to understand the context of everything said in the holy Quran to be able to provide a correct translation let alone correct interpretation.
Etymologically, the controversial word is ‘w’d’. This is a prefixed specifier extension of the very ancient bilateral *ʼD. Now, this root is one of the largest linguistic clusters in ‘Ariba, from which Arabic is a direct descendent surpassing ʼŠ/Šʼ and ʼR/R. Why these two clusters specifically? Because they were the invention of the tribe of ‘D. So, ‘D is a person, probably one of the greatest men ever lived.
He was made a god in Syria and Mesopotamia known as Ad or Adad or Hadad and he is mentioned in the holy Quran, Miriam 89, ‘Idda’. Because his name starts with the linguistic chimera par excellence, the hamza (ʼ), his name is found in historical, lexical and religious books in a number of forms. The reason is that the hamza can be mantled as ‘a’, ‘e’, ‘i’, ‘w’ and ‘y’.
This great man is not a secret. He is too important to be a secret because his tribe represents more half of all Arab and a substantial portion of Europeans and others. Those wishing can look him up in Lisan Al-Arab ‘Udd” (أدد) but shouldn’t be shocked if they discover who his great, great, great grandson is.
In prehistoric times his tribe was confronted by the fearsome Yemeni tribe ʻAd and was almost decimated. It is not clear what happened to ʼD. He may have been killed or escaped to north Arabia then Syria, then Iraq then north Iran chased by the ferocious Yemenis.
A number of words are etymological records of terrible things done to his tribe. Whether some of them were buried alive, we don’t know. If the word ‘w’d’ in the Quran means “buried alive”, and nobody should be sure, this is a very clear reference to victims of the Yemeni war against ʼD tribe.
To give the readers an idea who this man is it may be sufficient to explain that the word ‘sayyid’ “master” is derived from his name = sʼd. “Adab’ “politeness, good manners, literature”, etc. is another. I have identified more than 50 extensions from his name, both suffixed specifier extensions and prefixed specifier extensions.
Here are a few entries for his name in Akkadian and some of them tell parts of his story so read about his loneliness and isolation carefully please:
edinu: desert, steppe
ēdišši- : [Numbers] alone;
edû (1): [Humanities → Geography] 1) (river): a flood, a wave, a spate; 2) sea: wave(s); 3) (epithet of king);
edû: G. to know
ēdu: [Numbers] only 1) (person): single, sole, alone; 2) (personal name : only child); 3)
substantive : a single (person); 4: chief of
ēdu [DILI : ] (feminine: ettu)
[Numbers] only 1) (person): single, sole, alone; 2) (personal name: only child); 3)
substantive : a single (person); 4): chief of kārum; 5) (divinity): unique; 6) (things): single, only one, isolated, free-standing (palm-tree …); 7): stative: (w)edē / (w)edāku: I am alone,: ēdukku: you are alone; 8) (a medicinal plant – Asa foetida- ): [Ú.AŠ: ] -also šammuēdu; 9): astronomy: (name of a star -in Hercules constellation -): [MUL.DILI
The word in the Quran is ‘maw’ooda’. It is feminine singular. Had this word meant what some of the interpreters presumed it meant, i.e. “she buried alive’ it would have been in plural because a reference to a single case of a girl buried alive doesn’t make religious or linguistic sense. It could have been done by a madman.
If the reference were to something that happened to the tribe of ʼD, the same word, ‘mao’ooda’, would have been used.
Let’s make one thing very clear. The holy Quran is sacred; the interpretation is not. The text is holy the text of Ibn Abbas and all the other is not. The interpreters stock of words is different from the Quran’s. They made many mistakes; some of them are very serious. For most of them it was not their mother tongue. Some of them had different agenda’s but used interpretation to gain political influence and power.
It is not the interpreters own Book, it is the Muslims, most of whom do not need interpreters for such a lucid, detailed and clear Book. Do you have to understand every single word in the Quran? If you can fine, if not understand what you can. It is a relaxed religion of simplicity and easy going and huge respect for Christians and Jews and women.
No doubt, Al Tabri is very clever but he was presumptuous in the interpretation of (81:8, 81:9). It is true he gave all the interpreters the opportunity to express their opinions on what the verses may have meant, but he led all of them, very causally and almost as a matter of fact: “The first of the readings, in our opinion, is the correct one, because the readers of the Quran were unanimous in their judgement. Al ‘mao’ooda’, is the female buried alive, thus the Arabs did to their daughters…”
This is crude, very callous and extremely irresponsible. What is his proof, a word he doesn’t know what it means? How does he know? Is he an etymologist? He’s not. Did he know that Arabic is rooted in bilaterals and mono syllabic root morphemes not in trilaterals? He didn’t, nor all of the others did. They took an almost pure, natural language and turned into a linguistic zombie. A third of the entries in Lisan Al-Arab are manufactured, that’s almost 3,000 useless words nobody knows and nobody uses. Even if there were a case or two of girls being buried alive for any reason, how could he be so sweeping in such a blatant way “thus the Arabs did to their daughters”? Did he see Arabs bury their daughters alive? Did he visit their graves? If they were buried alive where did we, contemporary Arabs, come from? Storks?
Now, nobody should say that Tabri was a Persian so it was fine to to use the platform of an interpretation moderator to accuse Arabs of such a heinous crime. He was not. Probably his Arabic was better than all of the interpreters. But he was an exceptionally devout Muslim with unimaginable love for the Prophet. However, several scholars appear o have blackened the image and reputation of Arabs before Islam in the false belief that it would whiten the face of Islam.
Girls for Arabs are too precious to be buried alive. Didn’t Arabs believe before Islam that angels are daughters of God? Arabs call girls ‘walaya’, “those guarded by Allah”. It does not apply to boys. The root ʼm “mother” is the root for ‘umma’ “nation”, ‘Imam’ “leader”, ‘mal “hope”. They are the ones who said, “Paradise is under the feet of mums.”
The holy Quran is not wrong. Etymological analysis of more than 5,000 non recurring words left us in no doubt the language is solid and original, and every single linguistic structure developed over several thousand years is represented. How could the interpreters with several of them doubling as linguists and lexicographers failed to recognise those structures?
Unfortunately the huge damage is done. Translated into so many languages the misjudgements of the interpreters have been wiped clean by the translators who are telling their readers in all those languages that child-loving Arab dads and mums did bury their daughters for no reason.
Of course it is the interpreters’ fault not theirs but that doesn’t reverse the harm.
Bishtawi is author of Origins of “Semitic” Languages, Origin of Arabic Numerals and Natural Foundations of Arabian Civilisation: Origins of alphabets, numeration, numerals, measurements and money