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Al-Kisa'ee: Of Nahw and Nobility

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1Al-Kisa'ee: Of Nahw and Nobility Empty Al-Kisa'ee: Of Nahw and Nobility on Sat Jul 11, 2009 4:26 pm

Imam al-Kisa’ee (one of the 7 Qurra’) penned the following poem regarding Nahw (grammar):

إنما النحو قياس يتبع *** وبه في كل أمر ينتفع
Indeed grammar is only a scale that’s followed
And by it, benefit is derived in every matter

فإذا ما أتقن النحو الفتى *** مر في المنطق مرا فاتسع
So if a youth perfects his knowledge of grammar
Then he excels in eloquence and expands therein

واتقاه كل من يسمعه *** من جليس ناطق أو مستمع
All who hear him stand wary of him
Every companion who sits either speaking or listening

وإذا لم يعرف النحو الفتى *** هاب أن ينطق جبنا فانقمع
And if a youth has no knowledge of grammar
Then he cowardly fears to speak, so he remains restrained

يقرأ القرآن لا يعرف *** ما صرّف الإعراب فيه وصنع
He reads the Qur’an but he does not know
What changes the I’rab brings and what function it has

فتراه ينصب الرفع وما *** كان من نصب ومن خفض رفع
So you see him cause the marfu’ to become mansub
And whatever was mansub or makhfud, he makes marfu’!

وإذا حرف جرى إعرابه *** صعب الحرف عليه وامتنع
And if a letter has no sign of I’rab
That letter puts him in difficulty and so he holds back!

يتقى اللحن إذا يقرأه *** وهو لا يدرى وفي اللحن وقع
He is fearful of falling into error when he does read
But he has no knowledge and so in error does he fall!

يلزم الذنب الذى أقرأه *** وهو لا ذنب له فيما اتبع
The sin of this is upon the one who taught him so
And there is no sin on him for what he has followed

والذى يعرفه يقرأه *** وإذا ما شاك في حرف رجع
As for him who has knowledge, reads it well (Qur’an)
And if he is doubtful over a letter, he takes to review

ناظرا فيه وفي إعرابه *** فإذا ما عرف الحق صدع
He looks to it precisely and to its I’rab
And when he finds the answer, he overcomes (the difficulty)

أهما قيه سواء عندكم *** ليست السنة فينا كالبدع
Are they one and the same in your perspective?
In our perspective, the Sunnah is not like the Bid’ah!

وكذلك العلم والجهل فخذ *** منهما ما شئت من شيء ودع
And likewise is the case of ‘ilm and jahl (ignorance)
So take from it what you wish, and leave what you wish

كم وضيع رفع النحو وكم *** من شريف قد رأيناه وضع
How many a debased one was elevated by Nahw
And how many a noble one have we seen debased?

- Imam al-Kisa’ee

Name: ‘Ali ibn Hamza ibn ‘Abdillah ibn Bahman (Abul Hasan)

Originally from Persia, he settled in Kufa. When asked about his nickname (al-Kisa’ee), he said, ‘Because I entered into Ihram (Hajj/’Umrah) dressed in a Kisaa’ (garment).’
He (rahimahullah) was not only an Imam in the Qira’at, but he was also skilled and proficient in Nahw (grammar). It is said that he sought knowledge in nahw in his later years due to the following incident:

One day, he was out walking when he became tired and sat down with a group of people whom he used to sit with a lot due to their virtue. So he said to them قد عيَّيْتُ (’I've become tired’). They said to him, ‘How can you sit with us whilst making such errors in language?!’ He said, ‘And how have I erred?’ They said, ‘If you meant to say ‘out of tiredness’ then say أعْيَيت and if you meant to say ‘out of incapacity and confusion’ then say عّيِيت’

He rejected this statement and got up immediately. He began to ask around for someone to teach him Nahw and they guided him to Mu’adh al-Harraa’ whom he studied from much. He then went to Basra and studied from the likes of ‘Isa ibn ‘Umar, al-Khalil and Yunus.

Imam al-Shafi’i: ‘Whoever wishes to delve deep into Nahw, then he’ll be like a child compared to al-Kisa’ee.’

Ibn al-Anbar: ‘They concurred that he (al-Kisa’ee) was the most knowledgeable of Nahw, leading in understanding the gharib (unique terms in language) and the foremost in having knowledge of the Qur’an (Qira’at etc).’

A humbling experience

Imam al-Kisa’ee relates: ‘I lead Haroon al-Rashid in prayer one day and I took a liking to my recitation. But then I made a mistake that not even a child makes! I wanted to say,

ولعلهم يرجعون‘… So that they may return’

But instead I said,

ولعلهم يرجعين
‘… So that they (she) may return’ –
[In other words, he mixed up the verb indicating a single fem. subject rather than the masc. plural]

He said, ‘By Allah, Haroon didn’t have the boldness to say ‘You have made a mistake,’ but when I finished the prayer he asked me, ‘O Kisa’ee, what language/Qira’ah is this?’ I said, ‘O leader of the faithful, even the fine horses stumble at times.’ He said, ‘Yes, this is true.’

- أهميت تعلم علم النحو ومكانته عند السلف


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