I would like to know about the grammar of the word al-saabi’oon in Soorat al-Maa’idah. Why does it appear in the nominative form (al-saabi’oon ) when it appears in another soorah in the accusative (al-saabi’een ), although the syntax in both passages is very similar? This was the cause of a great argument between myself and a Christian person who says that there are grammatical mistakes in the Qur’aan. I told him that I would leave Islam if there was a single grammatical mistake in the Qur’aan. I said this out of strong faith and certainty that the Qur’aan is the word of Allaah, glorified and exalted be He far above what the fabricators say.
The word al-Saabi’een (in the accusative) appears in Soorat
al-Baqarah and Soorat al-Hajj, where Allaah says (interpretation of the
“Verily, those who believe and those who are Jews and
Christians, and Sabians [wa’l-saabi’een ], whoever believes in Allaah and
the Last Day and does righteous good deeds shall have their reward with
their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve”
“Verily, those who
believe (in Allaah and in His Messenger Muhammad), and those who are Jews,
and the Sabians [wa’l-saabi’een], and the Christians, and the Majoos, and
those who worship others besides Allaah; truly, Allaah will judge between
them on the Day of Resurrection. Verily, Allaah is over all things a
The same word appears in the nominative form in Soorat
al-Maa’idah, where Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Surely, those who believe (in the Oneness of Allaah, in
His Messenger Muhammad and all that was revealed to him from Allaah), and
those who are the Jews and the Sabians [wa’l-saabi’oon] and the Christians,
— whosoever believed in Allaah and the Last Day, and worked righteousness,
on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve”
In the first two verses, there is nothing difficult about the
grammar, because the word al-saabi’een follows the conjunction waw (and) is
in agreement with the word alladheena (those who); it is the noun of
the particle inna (translated here as “verily”) and as such appears
in the accusative form of the sound masculine plural, in accordance with the
rules of Arabic grammar.
Where the confusion arises is in the third verse quoted, from
Soorat al-Maa'idah, where the word appears in the same position with regard
to word order, but appears in the nominative form.
The grammarians and mufassireen explained this in several
ways, and they mentioned several well-known similar usages in Arabic. It is
sufficient here to quote just three of them, which are among the most well
1 – The word order in the verse differs from everyday usage.
Based on that, the meaning is that those who believe, and those who are the
Jews and the Christians, whosoever believed in Allaah … on them shall be no
fear, nor shall they grieve, and the same applies to the Sabians. So the
subject appears in the nominative, as is indicated by the waw of the sound
masculine plural. There is a similar example in Arabic verse where the poet
Faman yaku amsa bi’l-madeenati rahlahu fa inni wa
qayyaarun biha la ghareeb
(Whoever ends up in Madeenah with his saddle, then Qayyaar
and I are strangers).
The point here is that the word Qayyaar – which is the name
of his horse or camel – appears in the nominative here (qayyaarun) because
it is the subject. It does not appear in the accusative even though it is
preceded by the particle inna (inni = inna + the yaa (i) which is the
accusative suffix representing the first person singular pronoun following
the particle inna).
2 – The word al-saabi’oon is the subject and the word
al-nasaara (Christians) is in agreement with it. The phrase man aamana
Billaah (whoever believed in Allaah) is the predicate of al-saabi’oon
. The predicate of inna is omitted here, as is indicated by the predicate of
the subject al-saabi’oon . A similar usage in Arabic appears in the
line of verse:
Nahnu bima ‘indina wa anta bima
‘indika raadin wa’l-amru mukhtalif
(We with what we have
and you with what you have are content, even though it is different).
The point here is that the subject nahnu (we) is not
followed by its predicate, because the predicate of anta (you) is
sufficient. The predicate of anta – raadin (content) –
includes the predicate of the first subject, nahnu (we). What these
words mean is: we are content with what we have and you are content with
what you have.
3 – The word al-saabi’oon appears in conjunction with
the word that takes the place of the noun of inna. If any of these
particles – inna and its “sisters” – comes at the beginning of a
nominal sentence that is composed of a subject and predicate, the noun of
inna was originally nominative because it is the subject, before the
word inna was introduced. Hence the word al-saabi’oon is nominative
because it is a word that takes the place of the noun of inna.
See Awdah al-Masaalik by Ibn Hishaam, with a
commentary by Muhiy al-Deen (1/352-366); and the Tafseer al-Shawkaani
wa’l-Aloosi, on this verse.
What you have mentioned,
about your certain faith in the words of Allaah, is what is expected of
every Muslim. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Do they not then consider the Qur’aan carefully? Had it
been from other than Allaah, they would surely, have found therein many a
One of the things of
which we must be certain is that this phrase, with this pronunciation, was
revealed like this. This is how it was pronounced by the Prophet (peace
and blessings of Allaah be upon him), this is how the Muslims learned it
from him and recited it, and wrote it in the Mus-hafs, and they were pure
Arabs. This became a new principle by means of which we learned a new usage
of conjunctions in Arabic, even though it is not a common usage, but it is
very eloquent and evocative… (End quote)
Ibn ‘Aashoor tried to explain the eloquence of this word
al-saabi’oon appearing in the nominative. He said words to the effect
that: the nominative in this context is unusual, so it makes the reader
pause and wonder why this word is put in the nominative, when it would
usually appear in the accusative.
See the commentary on the verse from al-Maa'idah in
Tafseer Ibn ‘Aashoor.
For more information on who the Sabians were, see the answer
to the question: “49048”.
But there are a few points that should be noted from this
Firstly: We should take an interest in shar’i knowledge; it
is not sufficient to rely only on faith that we already have in our hearts
even though that is the greatest source of protection. If shar’i (Islamic)
knowledge is added to that then – in sha Allaah – it will give extra
protection against doubts and confusion that the enemies of our religion may
try to stir up.
Secondly: questions like this draw attention to the extent of
negligence concerning one of the most important duties that we have towards
the Book of Allaah, which is the duty to study and ponder it, not just
recite it. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“(This is) a Book (the Qur’aan) which We have sent down to
you, full of blessings, that they may ponder over its Verses, and that men
of understanding may remember”
Shaykh Ibn Sa’di (may
Allaah have mercy on him) said: This is the reason why it was revealed, so
that people may ponder its verses, derive knowledge from it and contemplate
its meanings and rulings. For by studying it and contemplating its meanings,
and studying it time after time, they will attain its blessings and
goodness. This indicates that we are encouraged to study the Qur’aan, and
that this is one of the best of deeds, and that reading that includes
pondering the meanings is better than a quick recitation that does not
achieve this purpose. The evidence for this is that if we were to undertake
this obligation time after time, these verses would cause us to stop and
wonder about the meaning, so that we would ask about it and research it,
before we are confronted with specious arguments from our enemies.
Thirdly: If we undertook the two obligations referred to
above, we would be qualified to take the initiative and call others, telling
them of the truth that we have and informing them – in the best manner – of
the falseness of their ways, instead of being on the defensive, weak and
defeated. And Allaah is the Source of strength.