Discussion in 'العربية (Arabic)' started by SofiaB, Feb 10, 2009.
Is there a distinction between these two designations for a Christian?
مسيحي in reference to المسيح Messiah.
نصارى (pl) is the term mentioned in the Quraan.
النصارى is, as mentioned above, used in the Qur'an, and was therefore probably used by the Christians of the peninsula during the early days of Islam, as when the term was used in the Qur'an it was understood by the Arabs of the peninsula.
It is not used today though probably because Christian Arabs prefer to have their own name, rather than one which Islam assigns to them, and Muslims also prefer not to use it, as some like to make a distinction between pre-Islamic Christians, who are considered to have helped (hence the term nasaara coming from nasr) Jesus (pbuh) in his mission, to post-Islamic Christians, who are considered worshippers of the Messiah.
I've also seen some people claim this term is linked to the Hebrew term nazarenes, not sure how correct that is.
I thought that نصرانى was derived from الناصرة the Arabic name for the city of Nazareth, the childhood home of Jesus.
Wikipedia says that the name derives "from the Hebrew word נצר netser, meaning a shoot or sprout"
The two words are largely interchangeable. There may be some preference for one over the other by certain groups, but I think it fair to say that both are neutral and acceptable.
The word نصرانى in all likelihood comes from Nazareth, and مسيحي comes from Messiah.
One term I've heard used by Muslims that Christians find offensive is صليبي although the plural form or as an adjective is used and accepted as equivalent for Crusader, as in the Crusader Wars of the Middle Ages.
Nazarenes means people of Nazareth. So that's the other theory which I also mentioned.
The term النصارى I have always thought though derives from the mention in the Qur'an of the followers of Jesus (pbuh) answering his request for people to help the cause of God by saying: قَالَ الْحَوَارِيُّونَ نَحْنُ أَنصَارُ اللَّهِ
This is how نصرانى was introduced to me. i.e a native of Nazareth.
Actually, مسيحي comes from مسيح = wiped, cleaned, anointed ; which in turn is from the verb مسح (masaHa) = to wipe, clean, AND to anoint
We never use <صليبي Saleebi> to refer to Christians, but <as-Saleebiyoon> is used and is a reference to the crusaders in particular, not Christians in general.
In the past, even Arabic-speaking Christians referred to themselves as نصارى, but at some point in history (probably the last 2 or 3 hundred years) they decided it was offensive, so the PC term in Arabic is مسيحي, and it's best to avoid the term نصراني.
نصراني is still used by some Muslim clerics and in polemical literature, especially in countries with no significant native Christian populations (e.g. Saudi Arabia).
Any ideas on the origin of the word Wadi Hanifa? does it simply refer to Nazarenes (people of Nazareth)? Is it linked to Ansaar at all? As is used in the verses when Jesus (pbuh) asks who will become his followers?
Yes, that is correct the Arabic root ن-ص-ر -- to help, aid, support -- is related to the Hebrew root נ-צ-ר -- which carries essentially the same meanings as the Arabic as well meanings related to watching over and keeping guard. In this respect it is also related to the Arabic root ن-ظ-ر which has meanings related to watching, seeing, observing -- we can see the connection between watching and observing and keeping guard.
I don't know how the term came to be used to refer to Christians, but I think it was probably in use before Islam, thus I would not say that Islam assigned this term to the Christians, but rather it already existed and they adopted it.
...which is exactly the same as the meaning of the cognate Hebrew root מ-ש-ח (m-sh-kh), whence we get the Arabic and English terms.
Actually, I believe that article is wrong. This Hebrew word, and root, are most likely related to the Arabic root ن-ض-ر -- to be flourishing, blooming (of plants). There is a definite connection between the meaning of the Arabic root and the idea of (a plant) spouting.
The reason there is ambiguity is that the Hebrew emphatic consonant צ (tsadi) is the cognate of 3 of the Arabic emphatics -- ض، ص، ظ. This has led many to surmise that Hebrew actually had more letters at one time that eventually merged into other letters. Thus we see many cases in which the same Hebrew root represents different ideas.
This is way outside my area of (limited) knowledge, so your guess is as good as mine. Personally, I've always found أنصار الله to be a more plausible origin than 'Nazarenes.'
I remember coming across evidence of the term being used by some Christians before Islam, as you said.
If use of naSraanee predates the Quran, then that would seem to support the Nazarean theory.
Just thought of this one, Islamic texts speak of "Christians of Najran" not a huge leap to go from Najran to NaSran, get it?
I know, I know that one is far fetched, just thought I'd throw it out there.
Under the wiki article for Nazarene, the 'sprouting' theory is mentioned, but only as one possibility amongst many.
There's also quite a few interesting mentions of many other languages/communities that use very similar words. For example, one of the oldest known groups of Christians are the Syrian Malabar Nasrani from India. Also the Hebrew נוצר (Notzer) is still used in Hebrew to refer to Christians, which is mentioned as cognate with نصراني.
Not it wouldn't. In fact, it would have no bearing at all on the question of etymology, unless someone is arguing that the Quran invented the word.
Well that's what some posters were saying, that naSraanee was adopted by Muslims to refer to Christians stemming from the use of the word or its cognates in the Quran.
But if in fact the word was in use before the Quran, then some other etymology is likely; i.e. Nazarean.
It was obviously in use before the Qur'an, as no special explanation of it was given, indicating that it was a commonly known term.
That doesn't imply anything at all about the origins of the word though. It's quite obvious the term was used by other non-Arabic communities as well, albeit perhaps in a slightly different form. Although the fact the Nasrani of India use the exact same word, could indicate that other languages used the exact same pronunciation. The Nasrani of India were a Jewish sect who embraced the Messiah, but retained practise of Torah teachings.
No, what we're saying is that it comes from the root ن ص ر, meaning to help, support, guard, etc. We refer to the Quran here because the Quran articulates this etymology when it says أنصار الله, but we're not saying that the Quran invented the word.
Perhaps, I should have stated my original opinion more clearly. I don't think the word originates from the Quranic verse; I believe that it is more plausible that the derivation given to the word by the Quranic verse is congruent with the original derivation of the word in pre-Islamic times, namely that it come from the root ن ص ر, rather than the word coming from the city of Nazereth.
Exactly! I was,in fact, looking up the Hebrew root because ages ago my dad told me the same; מ-ש-ח (m-sh-kh) it is. So thanks for making it easy,Josh!
I really don't think that the word naSraani refers to AnNaaSira, or else it would have been NaaSiri ناصري, right?
نصراني منسوبة إلى نصران, which is like عَلْمَان، رَحْمَان، سَكْرَان، عَطْشَان، عَرْفَان all coming from علم، رحم، سكر، عطش، عرف; so it makes much more sense to me that it is derived from نصر.
Why would عَلْمَاني come from عَلِمَ not عَالِم but نصراني comes from ناصرة not نَصَرَ?
Nobody gave you the main difference.
Nasraani (which is after Nazareth and a name of a heretic sect of the 7th century which Muhammad may have known) was used solely by Muslims before the 20th century and was deeply hated by Christians because it was associated with the Ottoman millet system.
As soon as the Ottomans left in 1918, this word became obsolete in the Levant (and similar was the word Nusayri نصيري , the name of the Allawites under the millet system). The words نصراني and ثصيري (Christians and Allawites) were removed even from place names and to use them in Levant today is offensive and like calling an African person a nigger.
Thanks everyone for the input.
What you're saying is basically correct, and I said basically the same thing in my earlier post (perhaps you missed it). You do exaggerate a bit: first of all, until relatively recently, Arabic-speaking Christians used the term Nasrani themselves, and secondly, though it is un-PC, it's not the equivalent of 'nigger' by any stretch. A very famous modern Christian scholar and priest, Fr. Louis Sheikho (الأب لويس شيخو) has a book called شعراء النصرانية and he used the word نصرانية in the titles of other books as well.
That's a bit excessive. The term obviously dates back to the early Christians own term for themselves, and is still used by the Hebrews, from whom they were an off-shoot. As has been discussed above, in all likelihood derives from the word for helper/protector/guardian etc. There's nothing offensive at all about the term.
Compare that to the word nigger which clearly labels a group of people based solely on the colour of their skin, coming from the Latin term for black.
You may be right, but I was talking about Levantine Christians. Try and call a Syrian Christian Nasraani and he will curse your ancestors or will think you're a terrorist. Maybe it depends on the region.
the word nasrani is not really liked by Christians here as well... It's considered offensive...
I'm not denying that it's considered offensive by most people, but I think this is a much more recent phenomena than you seem to think. I just thought of another example: I'm sure you're familiar with Philip Hitti's History of the Arabs; the Arabic translation of it was made by four Lebanese Christian students of Hitti's, and they use the terms Nasaaraa, Nasrani, and Nasraniyya throughout the book.
Yes, but this is probably limited to some enlightened scholars (BTW, Philip Hitti lived in the 19th and early 20th century).
I know for sure that Nasraani was out of common use by the 1930's in Syria.
Hitti died in 1978, so not that long ago, and the translations were in the late 20th century; probably after he died in fact.
As a Christian Arab, I don't find نصرانى offensive, just very very uncommon. It's almost never used in spoken Palestinian Arabic, and I rarely ever see it in written works either. However, the Christian Quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem is called حارة النصارى in Arabic - by Muslims and Christians alike.
Perhaps the word is perceived differently in different countries.
So, I guess we can say it can be either offensive or obsolete depending on the country, but either way, it's not a word you would want to use in common discourse.
Yes, I would agree with that - except that, as I said, it's حارة النصارى and not حارة المسيحية.
Sir, this is the right explanation for Nasara, what you mentioned earlier is totally wrong and has no historic basis!
Christian and Christianity was not a term used in Jesus Christ time it was used first years after his departure according to Acts 11:26 [And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch].
so probably followers of Jesus in his lifetime on earth was refered to by their city, Nazarenth and it's noteworthy that Jesus himself is called Jesus of Nazareth, Iesous Nazarenos.
We know that Nazarenes were the first believers, it was a sect in early Christianity but today we should not call Christians نصارى because firstly some get offended secondly Nazarenes beliefs differ than Christians. They were Jewish who believed in Christ but kept their Jewish practice and also they rejected Paul and his teachings, they believed Jesus was The Messiah but yet a normal human being....and other things that Christians today do not believe.
Thank you L.2 you are absolutely right about the pejorative connotation of nasara, it isinuates the contemptuous perception of muslims to the followers of Christ!
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