Over the past several weeks I have had a number of conversations with a variety of people made the choice to become Muslim (I’m purposely not saying ‘convert’ here). Among some of our discussions arose the need for (new) Muslims to better understand Revelation. Many disparaged at not having sufficient skills in the Arabic language, others not having the means or the resources to even pursue Arabic studies. Some felt that the way the religion is discussed amounts to a myriad of bewildering symbols and technical “insider” terms which leave them left out. So I thought I might, in a modest and humble effort, start a (ongoing?) series of short posts helping to decipher some of these words and catch phrases to work towards making Islam accessible and operational. I’ve chosen the phrase, “I seek protection in Allah from the accursed Devil/أعوذ بالله من الشسطان الرجيم” as my first attempt. And with God belongs all success.
A scholar by the name of Muhyi al-Din al-Darwish produced a large body of work entitled, I’râb al-Qur’ân al-Karîm wa Bayânah, a book dealing with the conjugations and endings of Arabic words (‘ilm al-I’rab). In its opening, Shaykh al-Darwish discusses the isti’âdhah, or the seeking refuge:
أعوذ — أعتصم وأمتنع
الشيطان — إما أن يكون على وزن فعلان من شاط يشيط بقلب ابن آدم أي مال به وأهلكه
وإما أن يكون على وزن فيعال من شطن أي بعد كأنه بعد عن الخير أو بعد غوره في الشر
A’ûdhu: in that I, “cling to (God),” and that I, “turn down, refrain” (from Satan).
When the word shaytân is considered to be on the form of “fa’lân“, being derived from the root of shâta/yashîtu, it connotes the meaning, “to burn, scorch or singe” (note: al-Darwish is alluding to the fact that Satan was made of fire) in regards to the heart of the progeny of Adam. This is to say, Satan drags (mâla bihi) Adam’s progeny down, causing his destruction.
And if Shaytân is considered to be on the form of “fay’âl“, when it is considered to be formed from “shatuna”, i. e. , “to become far from”, then the meaning is that Satan is far from goodness or it goes to extremes in committing evil .
Keep this in mind when seeking Allah’s protection when reciting the Qur’an or even, as Allah says in the 23rd Chapter, S. al-Mu’min:
وَقُلْ رَبِّ أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ هَمَزَاتِ الشَّيَاطِينِ
“Say: ‘My Lord, I seek refuge with You from the coercion of the shaytâns.” Qur’an, 23: 97.
This is the first part concerning only “I seek from from God from the Devil”, أعوذ بالله من الشسطان. Special thanks to Professor al-Amry for his feedback. The rest will follow shortly, God willing.