Nomenclature of wrongdoing in the Qur’an

Analysis of terms denoting wrongdoing

This article, taken from The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation, looks at the range of words which indicates wrongdoing in the Qur’an.

The Traditionalist has no discernible method for identifying the meaning of such words and nor, typically, does he exercise much consistency in his translation of them.However, the meaning of the words which denote wrongdoing can be established in most cases either by Qur’anic definition or contextual evidence.

i-th-m – falsehood, falsity, false

Translated generically by the Traditionalist as sin, crime, misdeed though without much consistency, it is possible to understand the meaning of this root by comparison of all contexts:

  • 2:85 Assisting against people in it (i.e. in ithm) and enmity is it
  • 2:173 Eating unlawful food wilfully is it
  • 2:181 Changing a will when there are no grounds to fear partiality on the part of the testator is it
  • 2:182, 2:182 Making a false statement regarding a will (under oath) is it
  • 2:188 Those who take a portion of the property of the people knowingly are guilty of it
  • 2:203, 2:203: Leaving the site during ḥajj in less than two days is it
  • 2:206 (A desire for or sense of) greatness takes a man into it
  • 2:219, 2:219 Intoxicants and gambling contain it
  • 3:178 Those indifferent to warning are reprieved so that they might increase in it
  • 4:20 To take substance given to a wife as dowry by means of false accusation of infidelity is it
  • 4:48 To confer lordship beyond God is it
  • 4:50 To fabricate a lie about God is it
  • 4:111 Whoso commits one does so against himself
  • 4:112, 4:112 To cast the blame upon another for something one has done is it
  • 5:2 We are not to assist one another in it
  • 5:3 Whoso is compelled by hunger to eat forbidden food does not commit it
  • 5:29, 5:29 Referred to by Abel
  • 5:62 People compete in it
  • 5:63 The rabbis and the priests should have forbidden the speaking of it
  • 5:107 Witnesses can be guilty of it
  • 6:120 We are to leave the outwardness and inwardness of it
  • 6:120 Those who produce it will be rewarded in kind
  • 7:33 It is made unlawful by God
  • 24:11 It results from impugning the reputation for chastity of believing women
  • 33:58 It results from impugning the honour of believing men or women
  • 42:37 Abstaining from large ones recommended
  • 49:12 It is found in some types of suspicion
  • 53:32 Abstaining from large ones recommended
  • 58:8 Can be conversed in
  • 58:9 Can be conversed in confidentially

While not all contexts can immediately be correlated with a particular facet of wrongdoing, those that can, connect to falsity, false-dealing or untruth, and we find that if such a value is assumed it fits the remaining contexts. Lane in his Arabic-English Lexicon also notes the noun athmim (which is from the same root) as a great, habitual liar. On the basis of these facts, I render the Qur’anic sense of ithm as falsity (in the sense of proving false) and regard other values ascribed to the term as vestiges of that original value.

All instances in the text are footnoted.

References

2:85, 2:173, 2:181, 2:182, 2:182, 2:188, 2:203, 2:203, 2:206, 2:219, 2:219, 2:283, 3:178, 2:276, 4:20, 4:48, 4:50, 4:107, 4:111, 4:112, 4:112, 5:2, 5:3, 5:29, 5:29, 5:62, 5:63, 5:106, 5:107, 6:120, 6:120, 7:33, 24:11, 26:222, 33:58, 42:37, 44:44, 45:7, 49:12, 52:23, 53:32, 56:25, 58:8, 58:9, 68:12, 76:24, 83:12.

Meanwhile, athām means recompense or requital (Lane p.22) and occurs at 25:68.

junāḥ – conditional absence of wrongdoing

Translated generically by the Traditionalist as sin, crime, misdeed, an attentive analysis of this word in all contexts reveals a constant function. In all cases, it indicates a condition: if condition x is (is not) met then y is (is not) wrong. It operates with words such as if, when, after. When such as word is not explicit, it is implied.

I render throughout as [you, he, they] do no wrong [if, when, after, etc.]

All instances in the text are footnoted.

References

2:158, 2:198, 2:229, 2:230, 2:233, 2:233, 2:234, 2:235, 2:236, 2:240, 2:282, 4:23, 4:24, 4:101, 4:102, 4:128, 5:93, 24:29, 24:58, 24:60, 24:61, 33:5, 33:51, 33:55, 60:10.

fāḥishat – sexual immorality

faḥshā – sexual immorality

While this is translated variously by the Traditionalist, we do not have to guess as to the meaning. The Qur’an applies fāḥish (sg.) to three scenarios only: sex outside of marriage (17:32); marrying the wife of one’s father (4:22); and male homosexuality (7:80-81, 27:54-55).

Why there are two version of this word I do not know. However, the fact that they are synonyms is established at 7:28, and I render them identically.

All instances in the text are footnoted.

References

fāḥishat – sexual immorality

3:135, 4:15, 4:19, 4:22, 4:25, 6:151, 7:28, 7:33, 7:80, 17:32, 24:19, 27:54, 29:28, 33,30, 42:37, 53:32, 65:1.

faḥshā – sexual immorality

2:169, 2:268, 7:28, 12:24, 16:90, 24:21, 29:45.

dhanb – transgression

dhunūb – transgressions

The present translation renders this value as transgressions since the contexts at 3:11 and 8:50-54 make it clear that dhunūb signifies that denial or rejection of the proofs of God which can take a man to Hell if not repented of or forgiven.

Like the custom of the house of Firʿawn and those who were before them, they repudiated our proofs and so God seized them for their transgressions. (3:11)

This value does not contradict those values which the Traditionalist typically uses, but is here consistently applied throughout.

All instances in the text are footnoted.

References

3:11, 3:16, 3:31, 3:135, 3:135, 3:147, 3:193,5:18, 5:49, 6:6, 7:100, 8:52, 8:54, 9:102, 12:29, 12:97, 14:10, 17:17, 25:58, 26:14, 28:78, 29:40, 33:71, 39:53, 40:3, 40:11, 40:21, 40:55, 46:31, 47:19, 48:2, 55:39, 61:12, 67:11, 71:4, 81:9, 91:14.

s-w-‘ – evil

This root is rendered generally by the Traditionalist as evil or synonyms. I do the same, rendering as evil throughout.

Instances in the text are not footnoted.

kh-ṭ-‘ – error, erring

The Traditionalist’s definition for this concept has no firm root. He uses sin, mistake, error and other meanings on an ad hoc basis. However, the meaning is clearly err (in the sense of unintentional wrongdoing) a fact which is demonstrated in the Traditionalist’s translation at 33:5, and I enforce this value consistently.

Call them by [the names of] their fathers; it is more just in the sight of Allāh. But if you do not know their fathers – then they are [still] your brothers in religion and those entrusted to you. And there is no blame upon you for that in which you have erred but [only for] what your hearts intended. And ever is Allāh Forgiving and Merciful. (33:5)
[Saheeh International]

All instances in the text are footnoted.

References

2:58, 2:81, 2:286, 4:92, 4:92, 4:112, 7:161, 12:29, 12:91, 12:97, 17:31, 20:73, 26:51, 26:82, 28:8, 29:12, 29:12, 33:5, 69:9, 69:37, 71:25, 96:16.

f-s-q – wanton perfidiousness

The Traditionalist renders this root defiantly disobedient and synonyms. The Qur’anic definition of fusūq is given at 2:27 and I follow its meaning (wantonly perfidious) throughout. This meaning is simply a Qur’anically-based definition or clarification of what is the received value and I apply this value across the verb forms.

Who break the covenant of Allāh after contracting it and sever that which Allāh has ordered to be joined and cause corruption on earth[…] (2:27)

I have no way of definitively establishing the difference between fisq and fusūq. The Traditionalist has none that I have seen based in Qur’anic principles and he renders the two terms as the same thing without discernible principles. If you can supply genuine historical or etymological data on this point, please let me know.

All instances in the text are footnoted.

References

verb

2:59, 6:49, 7:163, 7:165, 10:33, 17:16, 18:50, 29:34, 32:20, 46:20.

noun

2:197, 2:282, 5:3, 6:121, 6:145, 49:7, 49:11.

active participle (noun)

2:26, 2:99, 3:82, 3:110, 5:47, 5:49, 5:59, 5:81, 7:102, 7:145, 9:8, 9:24, 9:67, 9:84, 24:4, 24:55, 32:18, 46:35, 49:6, 57:16, 57:26, 57:27, 59:5, 59:19.

active participle (adjective)

5:25, 5:26, 5:108, 9:53, 9:80, 9:96, 21:74, 27:12, 28:32, 43:54, 51:46, 61:5, 63:6.

ḥ-n-th – perjury

The meaning of this root in Arabic is to perjure oneself. The root occurs twice in the text and I have rendered both according to the root meaning.

Both instances in the text are footnoted.

References

38:44, 56:46.

sayyi’ah

I render this throughout as evil. This value is in general accordance with the Traditionalist’s understanding, though consistently applied here.

All instances in the text are footnoted.

References

2:81, 3:120, 4:78, 4:79, 4:85, 6:160, 7:95, 7:131, 9:102, 10:27, 13:6, 13:22, 23:96, 27:46, 27:90, 28:54, 28:84, 30:36, 40:40, 41:34, 42:40, 42:40, 42:48.

sayyi’āt

I render this throughout as evil. This value is in general accordance with the Traditionalist’s understanding, though consistently applied here.

All instances in the text are footnoted.

References

2:271, 3:193, 3:195, 4:18, 4:31, 5:12, 5:65, 7:153, 7:168, 8:29, 10:27, 11:10, 11:78, 11:114, 16:34, 16:45, 25:70, 28:84, 29:4, 29:7, 35:10, 39:48, 39:51, 39:51, 40:9, 40:9, 40:45, 42:25, 45:21, 45:33, 46:16, 47:2, 48:5, 64:9, 65:5, 66:8.

shaṭaṭ

I render this as wanton falsehood based on both the root sense of injustice and the contextual evidence which in both cases treats of false speech. This reading accords generally with Traditionalist renderings.

Both instances in the text are footnoted.

References

18:14, 72:4.

About the Author Sam Gerrans

Sam Gerrans is an English writer and speaker with professional backgrounds in media, strategic communications, and technologies. He is driven by commitment to ultimate meaning, and focused on authentic approaches to revelation and Realpolitik. He is founder of Quranite.com and author of The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation where his consistent, Qur'an-centric hermeneutical methodology is applied to the text of the Qur’an in its entirety. Read more...

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