'Insaan': the Arabic word for human being has tearful connotations

This week's term lends itself to emotive poetry

This week's word of the week is insaan, which translates to human being.
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In his rousing poem The Epic of Sadness, Nizar Qabbani writes that tears make up a person, and that a person without sadness is only a shadow of a person.

"Inna al dam'a huwa al insaan, anna al insaana biduni huznin zikra insaan", Qabbani writes.

For this week’s Arabic word, we put insaan under scrutiny.

Insaan is Arabic for person or human being. In female form, the word becomes insaana. In plural, unas.

A good or respectable human being is insaan khalooq or muhtaram. Insaan ghayr muhadhab is an impolite person. A person with a heavy presence or ‘shadow’ can be described as insaan thaqil al zil. In contrast, a light-hearted person can be called insaan khafif al zil. Insaan sat'hi is a superficial person.

Ilm al insaan is the study of humanity or anthropology. Huqooq al insaan is human rights. Amal ghair insaani is an inhumane action.

In Abrahamic religions, al insaan al awwal, or the first person, is believed to be Adam. The Quran even has a surah titled Al Insaan, the 76th chapter.

beautiful woman's open eye closeup (iStockphoto.com)

In anthropology, the eye’s pupil or al hadaqa is also known as insaan al ain. The organs of the human body are aadaa jism al insaan.

There are a number of memorable sayings in Arabic that incorporate insaan.

Qeemat al insaan laysa bima yamlikahu bal bima yamnahahu, fash'shamsu tamluku al nar lakinnaha toudii'u al kawna bin' noor, which translates to: The value of a human being is not with what he owns but in what he grants, for the sun owns fire but lights the universe with its rays.

Filhayati satudriku anna hunaka dowron likulli insaanin tuqabiluhu. Al baad sayakhtabiruka, wal baad sayuhibbuka wal baad sayuallimuka, which means: In life, you will realize that every person you meet will have a role. Some will test you, some will love you and others will teach you.

Finally, there is yusbihu Finally, there is yusbihu al insaan ajuzan indima tahullu al aazar mahal al aamal, a person only grows old when excuses take the place of hope.

Updated: August 19, 2022, 6:02 PM
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