'Matar': The Arabic word for rain is soaked in culture

In Arab and Islamic traditions, it is also seen as a gift from God

The Arabic word for rain, matar, has many variations that are connected. The National
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This year, the UAE has experienced unprecedented rainfall. And because of this unusual weather, it is likely that many non-Arabic speakers have come across the latest Arabic word of the week.

Across Arabic dialects, matar means rain. However, the word’s origin and use in classical Arabic has other meanings linked to the idea of rain but not necessarily the weather.

Matar comes from the Arabic word matara, a verb with various meanings.

Derived from the three Arabic letters mah, tah and rah, matara means when someone or something is going or has gone.

It can also refer to a quick swooping motion or when something gains sudden speed. For example, a hawk diving down to attack its prey or a horse that quickens its pace. Another meaning for the verb matara is to pour liquid into a vessel.

There are other meanings for matara, all of them connected or deviating slightly from the same thread of meaning that runs through them, which is a form of fast and successive movement. With this in mind, matara can also be used to describe blessings or bad luck that befall an individual in a short period of time, as well as both praise and insults hurled upon someone.

It is a versatile word. In the context of the sky, matara means rainfall, which is where the word matar, to rain, is derived from.

Matar is a noun and its plural form is amtaar, officially meaning water falling from clouds.

There is an old Arab proverb, which has a number of variations, that goes, “a promise is a cloud; fulfilment is rain.”

Not only does it imply that fulfilling a promise is a blessing, but it also makes clear the position of rain within the context of Arab culture.

In both Arab and Islamic culture and tradition, matar is seen as a gift from God. Not only is rain the means by which land is revived to sustain human, animal and plant life, but it’s also seen as one of the signs of God’s immense power and majesty.

Matar, is rooted in the identity of the semi-nomadic Bedouin lifestyle, especially since many migrate across the deserts and land to find water sources created by rain.

Matar is also often used in Arabic poetry and literature as a motif, trope or plot device to symbolise notions of renewal and rebirth or an onslaught of passionate emotions.

Within Islam, matar is considered a significant sign of spiritual, symbolic and practical value. Matar is connected to the beginning and continuous survival of life. It is also seen as a sign from God to contemplate its existence, formation and the need we have for it in our lives. Rainfall is also believed to be a time when a person's prayers and supplications to God are considered most powerful.

Updated: May 03, 2024, 6:02 PM