'Al dahr': Arabic word to remind us about the value of time

Our Arabic word of the week has spiritual and existential meanings

The Arabic word of the week is al dahr, which translates as time.
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Time is not only a relative concept in the Arabic language, it is also steeped in wisdom and spirituality.

In everyday conversation, it is referred to with various words.

While waqt means “moment”, it is often used in the sentence “Ay waqt?”, to ask “what time?”

The word sa’aa, literally meaning hour, has now become a byword for watch.

Al dahr, however, is something more existential.

It refers to a time both indefinite and finite, and that it is something to cherish and guard.

In the Quran, Al Dahr is the alternative title for the 76th chapter Al Insan (Man) and is inspired by the opening verse, which states: "Is there not a period of time when each human is nothing yet worth mentioning?”

Al dahr is also mentioned in a saying attributed to the Prophet Mohammed, also known as a hadith, where he states, "Do not abuse time, for God is time."

Used as an adjective and in context, it can also take you to the here and now, with dahriy meaning temporal, secular or worldly.

Al dahr is also mentioned in Arabic sayings referencing circumstances from “life's adversities” (dawahi al dahr) to the “vicissitudes of fate” (suroof al dahr).

Al dahr can be used in scientific and geological journals to mean aeon, era or age.

At its core al dahr is a word to comfort and raise awareness.

It can remind us that our relative struggles will one day become a thing of the past, while at the same encourages us to make use of our time because it is fleeting in nature.

May we all make the best of al dahr, while we have it.

Scroll through the gallery below to see The National's pick of Arabic words of the week

Updated: July 15, 2022, 6:01 PM
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