A Linguistic Reading into "mā ʔanā bi-qāriʔ"

  • راشد بن علي البلوشي Associate Professor of Linguistics, Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman.
Keywords: Negative mā, Interrogative mā, Ba- of Confirmation, Negative Polarity Items.

Abstract

When the Angel Jibril (pbuh) first met with Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the cave ħirāʔ, he asked him to read, saying "ʔiqraʔ", three times, and each time the Prophet (pbuh) replied by saying "mā ʔanā bi-qāriʔ". This statement has been understood to mean 'I am not a reader', or 'I cannot read', and taken to indicate that the Prophet (pbuh) did not know the Holy Qur'an prior to that meeting. This paper addresses this issue, and presents another reading into this statement by the Prophet (pbuh) by providing a linguistic analysis that reveals that this statement can have another meaning, or rather the opposite meaning. The analysis, which assumes that mā is the interrogative, not negative, mā particle, will show that the statement may also mean 'what shall I read?', which indicates that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) knew the Holy Qur'an prior to the first meeting with the angel (pbuh).

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Published
2020-02-29
How to Cite
البلوشير. (2020). A Linguistic Reading into "mā ʔanā bi-qāriʔ". LANGUAGE ART, 5(1), 89-100. https://doi.org/10.22046/LA.2020.05
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Article