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The Pilgrimage in a proverb.

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Wanted to post some for the past 2 days but I was too tired to do that (and busy all day). I think I’m having some time now. And since it is the holy pilgrimage season, I thought (or remembered more accurately) of a proverb that was/is used and it is in relation to this occasion. I’m not sure, though, about the history and the story behind this proverb. But the purpose and the moral shall be clear!

ما أَكْثَرَ الضّجيج وأَقَلّ الحَجيج

Translation: How many are the noises, and how few are the pilgrims!

Transliteration: má akþara ađ-đajíj wa aqalla-l-ħajíj

Moral: Don’t be fooled by the appearances and what the majority of people are doing, but look into the essence.


The pilgrimage to Makkah (الحج: Al-ħaj) is an once a year occasion where millions of Muslims head to Makkah and do specific rituals along several days, reviving the story of the prophet Abraham and his wife Hagar and his son Ishmael. This ritual is required to be done at least once in a life time of a Muslim, whenever he or she is able to. The word (حج: ħaj) is actually a general term for any type of pilgrimage, linguistically speaking. However, when the discussion is in the context of Islamic practices it mostly refers to this pilgrimage occasion specifically. The occasion takes place during the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar, namely ðul-ħijjah (ذو الحِجّة).


ما أَكْثَرَ: How many.
الضّجيج: The noises.
أَقَلّ: How few, how little.
الحَجيج: The pilgrims.


Maybe you’ve noticed already that in my word-to-word explanation, I’ve merged the first two words into a single entity. This is because I didn’t want to complicate things because in Arabic grammar each one of those has a specific status (Arabic: إعراب: i3ráb). However, collectively, the two together are something called Exclamation Speech or Exclamation Style (أسلوب التعجب), which is a way to express surprise. The simple form of such style is what we see here, by bringing (Má: ما) and then following that with a modified form of some adjective (something close to what is usually called Correlative adjective in English, e.g. bigger, smaller). I’m trying to simplify things here I’ve stated before, because what I’m calling a form of adjective here, is actually considered a “modified past tense” in Arabic grammar classifications. But no need to delve into that. Here are some examples away from the proverb above:
How wonderful is the garden!: ما أجمل الحديقة
How small is this insect!: ما أصغر هذه الحشرة
How big are your eyes!: ما أكبر عَيْنَيْك

I didn’t bother to put all the vowel marks or Harakat on the words but maybe you can use these simple phrases above for practising? I hope!
Next word is (الضّجيج: ađ-đajíj), which can be considered a plural for (ضجّة: đajjah), meaning “noise”. Notice that you might encounter another word for “Noise” and that is (إزعاج: iz3áj) but the two in Arabic are different in meaning. The former is a general noise or loud sounds whatever their nature is, but the latter comes in the context of an annoying sound. Also, the former as we saw above can be singular or plural, but the latter comes in singular form only almost (never saw a plural for this word so far!). Maybe after a while I will make a special post on how to pronounce this very special letter in Arabic: ض.
Then, we have the conjugate or connecting article (وَ: wa) which you probably know by now and it means “and”. This article, in Arabic, belongs to a class of articles called أحرف العطف (Articles of coupling). Usually, whatever comes after such articles, have the same status as a similar object or subject in the preceding phrase or sentence.
Under the light of the previous explanation for (wa), we arrive at (أقل: aqal) – which I’ve typed in the transliteration merged to the word next to it because of the presence of (AL) and the continuity of speech here. As a separate entity, (أقل: aqal) has the meaning of (lower, lesser, fewer). However, in this context, it is connected to the phrase before it by (wa), and we can say that the status of (أقل: aqal) is similar to that of (أكثر: akþar) in the phrase before. Because of this connection, we can eliminate or add (Má); It doesn’t matter, and does not change the meaning. The reader will know that this is an exclamation speech and nothing else because it comes in contrast to the preceding phrase. Thanks for (wa) for connecting all that together!
The last word we have here is (الحَجيج: al-ħajíj) which simply translated to “the pilgrims”. The singular form of this word would be حاج (masculine here, add Ta-Marbuta and it’s made into feminine). In fact, there are other plurals for this word specifically, but I will not go deeper into the details (might keep it for later though!) but here are some other plurals that have the same meaning of “pilgrims”: الحاجّون، الحُجّاج. Each one of these two words and plurals do have a story in its formation and what are the “models” upon which they have been built. That’s a story for another time.

Hope this is beneficial for you. I’m posting this now and must leave the office in few minutes. It’s weekend here so yeah... YAY and all that fun stuff. At least I get to sleep as much as I like now, for the time being.

August 1, 2019


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