Silence and Satisfaction: Another Proverb
Been a while since I’ve posted anything here because of my busy life and other things. Anyway, I was also looking for a good topic to post about. The following saying occurred to me, specially that we are now commemorating the death of prophet Mohammed (PUH) according to the lunar (Islamic) calendar. By the way, the lunar calendar is used in Arabia long before Islam, it’s only the designation of years that was set after Islam, to the year of immigration of prophet Mohammed from Makkah to Medina to officially start spreading the new faith across the tribes of Arabia and establishing Medina as a capital city for the new faith.
Anyway, here we go, and I hope the audio recording is clear enough because I’m doing this quickly at work and I don’t have the proper software to enhance the quality of the recording (which I do on my mobile).
السُّكوتُ عَلامَةُ الرِّضا
Translation: Silence is a sign of satisfaction.
Transliteration (phonetic): As-sukútu 3alámatu-rriđá.
Transliteration (by word): Al-sukútu 3alámatu al-riđá.
السُّكوتُ: The silence.
عَلامَةُ: A sign.
الرِّضا: The satisfaction.
This saying is attributed to prophet Mohammed (PUH) at the occasion of asking his daughter, lady Fatima, about her response to Ali bin Abi Talib’s request for her hand. After asking her the first time, lady Fatima was shy and remained silent, and the prophet uttered these words and asked her again, and again she remained silent looking down. The prophet then said: الثالثة ثابتة (aþ-þáliþatu þábitah: the third one is fixed); Meaning: for the third time, if you don’t say No, then you are truly accepting the man to be your husband. After asking her for the third time, lady Fatima remained silent but nudged her head down for “yes”. The two sayings went on as proverbs or sayings for various occasions in fact, and not limited to marriage and proposals. For example, when someone or some people are subjected to trials or injustice, and they remain silent without doing anything against it, this saying might be used to describe their status as if they are willing to accept their destiny that way. The second saying, الثالثة ثابتة, in time, turned to be used mostly in bad omens unfortunately, despite being originally for such happy occasions. Mostly used by people when successive bad events happen (accidents mainly); After the second, people would say الثالثة ثابتة, meaning if the third incident happens, then it is surely a bad omen or some evil has been done to that person for sure. It might be used on other occasions as well, like if a person did something (bad or a habit) twice then doing it a third time is a sure sign that it was not a coincidence. Anyway, for here, I will stick to the main saying mentioned above.
What we have here is a simple nominal sentence, composed of a subject and a predicative. The predicative, though, has a twist, and this is the main thing to be explained, in time. I will try to use less vowel marks (diacritics, harakat) in hope that people will get used to read words more often without them, like we do in everyday life.
This word simply means “silence” as opposed to “talking”. It would not be used to note a quiet place for example, but a person who does not talk. There is another word that means “silence” in Arabic and that is صمت (camt) and probably they can be used interchangeably but I’m sure scholars do have a say in this, and the difference between the two can be delicate, but either way, the public would still understand the meaning when they read or hear the word.
This word, in this position, is the subject of our nominal sentence. In Arabic grammar books, the subject of such sentences is called مُبْتَدَأ (mubtada’), meaning: the beginning, or the thing to begin with. Typically it is the point of attraction, or the thing that we want the listener to pay attention to in the first place. The thing that we want to explain. In our simple example here, Mubtada’ is simply one word and in a typical position; The beginning of the sentence. Deep inside the language, more complicated structures can occur, where Mubtada’ can be a simple phrase, and sometimes even pushed forward while bringing the predicative of the sentence to the front. For this reason, Arabic grammar is better dealt with in terms of logic, rather than schematics and systematics. A fact that I’ve discovered later in my life after finishing school, unfortunately.
One point to clarify left, I guess, and that is, this word is masculine, and the Ta’ ت at the end is original and not ة (ta’ marbúta), just as in the word بيت (bayt: home).
This word simply means “sign” or “mark”. In schools, this word is used to grades and marks, but the general meaning is simply “sign”. However, notice that sign language is typically translated into Arabic as لغة الإشارة (luğatul-išárah: language of gesture). So, I would say that this word is roughly used for physical signs (written, marked, logos, ...etc), and for non-physical signs, as it is the case in this saying.
I suppose you know the drill right now: علامة is feminine word that ends in Ta’ Marbúta and hence it is spelled as (3alámah) but when moved with a vowel as in the case here, the (H) sounds change to (T), and thus becomes (3alámatu). As to why we add (-u) to its end here, this is the essence of the story. This word is our “first” part of the predicative. We do need a second part to complete the meaning here, and to do that, we add another word and form a Genitive relationship.
In simple terms, this word means “satisfaction” or sometimes in some contexts it would be translated as “acceptance,” and it is masculine. There is a debate in fact about writing this word, as some people prefer to write it as رضى, with Alif-Maqcúrah, which is ى (notice that there are no dots below, so this is “á” and not “í”). The reason for this is planted back in some orthographic rules and the relation between the spelling of the verb in the past tense and in the present tense. However, many scholars say that both spellings are accepted and correct, either رضا or رضى. After all, the final vowel is not changed in essence.
This word, the last in the saying, is the word we are looking for to add to علامة to form the Genitive and complete the meaning. For this reason I’ve preferred to use of in the translation above to show this genitive relation clearly between these 2 words. As I’ve stated before in previous texts, the second noun in the genitive relation is the one to get the definite article “AL” (if the compound is defined), and also it typically gets Kasrah (-i) to its end. However, obviously this is not the case here. This is because the word itself ends in a long vowel (-á), so logically and technically it is impossible to put Kasrah there (and it’s meaningless anyway). For this reason, the ending here is not changed and we call such occurrence in Arabic as كسرة مقدّرة (kasrah muqaddarah: estimated kasrah). Meaning that the Kasrah is there in essence but not in reality or in spoken word because the ending of such word cannot be changed.
Now, even though علامة bears the proper ending for a predicative (the vowel -u to its ending), we cannot call it a predicative on its own while it is connected in an “of” relationship to another word (i.e. genitive relation to another word). For this, we call the whole phrase or compound علامة الرضا (sign of satisfaction) as a semi-sentence (Arabic for phrase: شبه جملة: šibh jumlah) in the place of a predicative: شبه جملة في محل رفع خبر. The predicative, by the way, is called خبر (xabar) in Arabic, meaning literally “a news bit” or can rounded to “the ending” or “the result”.
In typical and normal cases, the predicative in Arabic is mostly undefined with AL. In contrast, the subject or Mubtada’ in Arabic comes mostly defined with AL. Thus, sentences like a boy is smart in English cannot be translated directly into Arabic and the translation would depend largely on the context surrounding this sentence in the first place. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule and Mubtada’ can occur undefined, but scholars restricted these occurrences to specific points, occasions and conditions. Discussing them here is a bit lengthy and delves deep into the world of literature. So, let’s stick to the basics here. Finally, to sum this up: Subject is defined – Predicative is not defined.
One final word here about the translation into English, you might have probably noticed that I didn’t use “the” anywhere. I’m not sure if this is a mistake from my side but it makes sense to me that way, without any definite article to any word, as we are speaking in some general sense. In Arabic though, this is not the case, where the words السكوت (literally: the silence) and الرضا (literally: the satisfaction) are defined already. These are some of occurrences where one must translate by essence or meaning rather than using a word-to-word basis. Of course I can say the silence is the sign of satisfaction but probably adding “the” here would point to one specific occasion of “silence” and not the general meaning of “silence” as a whole, no?
Well, I hope this short text did some information in your learning process. I was pretty busy the past few weeks so I didn’t put anything in this forum, so I hope this one would do some good for some time.
Probably one of the hardships faced by new comers to Arabic is the presence of such sentences structures as the Nominal sentences; Where a sentence would start with a noun and end in a noun or compound of nouns without the need of any verbs to connect them (in the present or generalizing case). Many books or resources would suggest a specific order for the Arabic language, such as SVO or VSO, but the truth is, Arabic is flexible and a sentence can be formed without a verb even, in a close proximity to Russian, but the latter lacks the presence of defining articles. In fact, scholars (even Arab ones) made books and lengthy discussions about the nature of such sentences and what is really to be called Nominal sentence. However, the version which is taught in schools nowadays, as well as the one I depend on for understanding and classifying sentences is the simple fact that a sentence is nominal when it starts with a noun, while it is called verbal if it starts with a verb.
That’s it folks! If you like to copy or save the audio file please feel free. Have a nice day!
Thank you for your hard work! I normally don’t comment but I try to read every post I see from you.
I enjoy being able to learn new Arabic while learning about Islam with your posts.
Anyone who didn't comment is satisfied :) I'm also satisfied but I have a big mouth so I couldn't help it :D Your posts are really interesting btw, thanks for your effort!
Interesting, all three parts: The proverb, your explanation of the proverb and the grammar.
To the grammar part: Nominal sentences: What I see: Two of the three nouns in this sentence seem to be derivated from verbs: سَكَتَfrom السُّكوتُ رَضِيَ from الرضا
In the course there are many examples of such nouns: الْسِّباحة اَلْأَكْل الْنَّوْم اَلْقِراءة اَلْكِتابة
Building sentences with such verbal nouns, is that used often in Arabic?
Well, actually these are simply "noun" and sometimes we in fact call them "sources" - as seen in Arabic, nouns are the sources of verbs and not the opposite. I would personally use the name "verbal nouns" to another entity in Arabic, which some people also might call "verbal subject" which is the derivation of a noun to note the "doer" of the verb, which in English might be translated by the context of the topic into various classes of nouns (-er, or -ing nouns for example). Here, the verbal noun or subject for the verbs you've mentioned are:
- سكت = ساكت (meaning: the one who is silent)
- رضي = راضي (meaning: one who is satisfied)
Just to elaborate more, let me give an example sentence here: I'm going home - in Arabic, this can be translated as: أنا ذاهب إلى المنزل (aná ðáhibun ilá al-manzil). The word (ðáhib: ذاهب) is a verbal noun/subject from the verb (ðahaba: ذهب) [to go]. So, you can see here that such verbal noun is almost equal to the ing in the English sentence.
Thank you for making this very good question. And also thanks to TJ for giving these amazing explanations.
also forgot to mention that such verbal nouns or subjects are used by dialects mainly to replace the verb and I've seen some examples of that here on Duolingo exercises. Anyway, while it is "fine" to use them in such a way but there is a line of literature here and using verbal nouns a lot instead of verbs would sound more dialectical rather than proper Arabic in fact.
Why you pronouce عَلامَةُ with 3aláma(tu) if there is no t letter in the word? Thanks
Yes, the answer is there in text in fact (rather quickly):
This word simply means “sign” or “mark”. In schools, this word is used to grades and marks, but the general meaning is simply “sign”. However, notice that sign language is typically translated into Arabic as لغة الإشارة (luğatul-išárah: language of gesture). So, I would say that this word is roughly used for physical signs (written, marked, logos, ...etc), and for non-physical signs, as it is the case in this saying. I suppose you know the drill right now: علامة is feminine word that ends in Ta’ Marbúta and hence it is spelled as (3alámah) but when moved with a vowel as in the case here, the (H) sounds change to (T), and thus becomes (3alámatu). As to why we add (-u) to its end here, this is the essence of the story. This word is our “first” part of the predicative. We do need a second part to complete the meaning here, and to do that, we add another word and form a Genitive relationship.
Sorry, I got confused with the buttons. So, I will write it again.
Thank you very much for this very good proverb and it is nice to see that you are well off. Indeed you make me lucky with chosing this proverb. This shows another good ocation in Ali Ibn Abi Talib's life and we can see from whom he learned to observe people so well and to be able to use the language in this amazing way. Actually, I like the first way for what this proverb stands more.