Arabic/Urdu: ظ-ل-م (roots and derived words)

Discussion in 'Indo-Iranian Languages' started by Alfaaz, Jul 17, 2012.

  1. Alfaaz Senior Member

    Background: this thought arose while hearing the following couplet by احمد فراز and seeing the dictionary entries for the word ظلمت : (excuse the poor translations)

    شکوہِ ظلمتِ شب سے تو کہیں بہتر تھا اپنی حصے کی ہوئی شمع جلاتے جاتے Rather than complain of the darkness of the night it would have been far better if you had lit a lamp/candle on your behalf as you were leaving/passing by/(before dying)

    On the other hand, there is this couplet by حبیب جالب :
    ظلم رہے اور امن بھی ہو کیا ممکن ہے؟ تم ہی کہو
    Evil/Oppression/Tyranny remains and Peace/Security/Tranquility also be
    Is this possible? You tell me!

    Z L M: ظ ل م :

    All of the following deal with wrong-doing, oppression, evil, tyranny, etc. etc.:
    ظلم z̤ulm (inf. n. of ظلم 'to act wrongfully,' &c.), s.m. Wrong, wrong-doing, injustice, oppression, tyranny; exaction, extortion; violence, outrage, injury; grievance, hardship; a heavy burden, a heavy assessment
    ظالم z̤ālim (act. part. of ظلم 'to act wrongfully or tyrannically'), part. adj. & s.m. Acting wrongfully, tyrannical, unjust, cruel;—a tyrant, an oppressor, a wrong-doer, a cruel person;
    ظلام z̤allām (v.n. intens. fr. ظلم 'to act wrongfully,' &c.), adj. & s.m. Very unjust or tyrannical;—a great tyrant or oppressor
    ظلوم z̤alūm (intens. adj. fr. ظلم; see z̤ulm), adj. & s.m. Acting wrongfully, most oppressive, tyrannical, cruel;—one who acts wrongfully, &c.; a grievous wrong-doer
    مظلوم maz̤lūm (pass. part. of ظلم 'to act wrongfully,' &c.; see maz̤lama, and z̤ulm), part. Wronged, treated or used wrongfully, or unjustly, or tyrannically

    On the other hand, these deal with darkness and obscurity:

    A ظلام z̤alām (v.n. fr. ظلم; iv اظلم 'to be dark'), s.m. Darkness (=z̤ulmat).
    ظلمت z̤ulmat (for A. ظلمة z̤ulmat), s.f. Darkness, obscurity.
    متظلم mutaz̤allim (act. part. of تظلّم 'to complain of the wrong-doing (of),' v of ظلم 'to treat or use unjustly'; also 'to become darkened or obscure,' prob. fr. z̤ulmat, 'darkness'), part. adj. Darkened, obscure;—injured, oppressed, aggrieved;—s.m. A complainer of wrongs
    مظلم muz̤lim (act. part. of اظلم 'to become dark, or black' (the night, &c.), iv of ظلم;—see z̤ulmat), adj. Becoming dark; dark; black;—mysterious


    • Are there two different roots, both with ظ ل م , that have the two separate meanings (darkness and wrong)...?
      • If yes, then that would explain the differences above and my question was probably a silly one...! :eek: Excuse my lack of knowledge of roots, language, etc.
    • If not, however, would zaalim actually mean "one who spreads darkness/obscurity/ جہالت".......?
      • If this is so, then could the izaafat quoted above by Ahmad Faraaz also be read as:
        • Shikwah-e-Zulmat-e-Shab = Complaint of Oppression of Night
          • instead of Complaint of Darkness of Night
            • The reason for asking this is that both poets (احمد فراز و حبیب جالب ) in addition to others, often had political undertones in their poetry. So the Night could be representing a period of oppression or an oppressor...?
  2. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    The "base" verb in this case is "zalama" (the z is our zo'e) which essentially is connected with doing wrong and being unjust. Classical Arabic has 15 verb patterns (traditionally denoted by Roman numerals in the Western world) out of which I believe only 10 are used in Modern Standard Arabic and a few of these very sparingly.

    The fourth pattern (IV) is "azlama" which often gives the causative meaning of pattern I. Think of it in terms of "fahama" = samajhnaa and adfhama= samjhaanaa

    So, azlama would in theory mean "cause to do wrong/commit injustice" and I suppose by extension, to spread darkness and gloom. These patterns are not "algebraic" and do not always give tight fitting results.

    In Faraz's shi3r, the word means "darkness" and in Jalib's it means "oppression". One can of course associate one with the other. That's the beauty of Urdu poetry.
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2012
  3. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    No, it's one root ظ-ل-م.
    The three letters form one root, and this root have different meanings that are related in a way or another. It's the same with all the roots in Arabic. Sometimes the meanings seem totally unrelated, but when we check the basic meaning, we get to understand how these unrelated words are actually related, and how they came to be formed from that same root.
    In Lisan al-3arab (one of the most famous and prestigious monolingual Arabic dictionaries), the basic or first meaning given under this root is: الظُّلْمُ: وَضْع الشيء في غير موضِعه Which can be roughly translated as: "Zulm" is putting something out of its place. It also says: وأصل الظُّلم الجَوْرُ ومُجاوَزَة الحدِّ: the origin(al meaning) of "Zulm" is exceeding the limits.
    And Zulma is ذهاب النور، وهي خلاف النور ; i.e. the dissapearance of light, and is the opposite of light.
    In Arabic poetry, night is often used to represent both darkness and oppression, as well as hardship in general and suffering. Coming out of the darkness is also used as a metaphore to represent overcoming hardship, oppression, injustice...
    So, maybe these Urdu poets used the same metaphores.
  4. Alfaaz Senior Member

    Thanks cherine SaaHibah and qureshpor SaaHib for your detailed informative answers (especially the interesting information in cherine's post)!
  5. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    You're most welcome, Alfaz SaaHib.

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