'Iqraa': Arabic for read has mystical reach

Unsurprisingly, there are several common maxims that encourage reading

The Arabic word for read has mystical and scholarly connotations.
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With the Sharjah International Book Fair in full swing, it is a good occasion to explore the Arabic word for read, and all the mysticism and erudition that comes with it.

Iqraa is Arabic for read when in command form. In Islam, the Prophet Mohammed had his first revelation when visited by the angel Gabriel in a mountain cave near Makkah. The angel told the would-be prophet to “iqraa!” to which he responded that he could not. Gabriel then embraced Prophet Mohammed and revealed to him the first lines of the 96th surah of the Quran, which is also sometimes called Surat Iqraa.

Qiraa is reading in noun form. As a verb, the word becomes qaraa, for instance qaraa/qaraat kitab. He/she read a book. You can also read majallat (magazines), suhof (newspapers) or kutub electroniyya (e-books).

Qurraa or qari'oun are readers. Qiraa jahriyya is an oral reading. Qiraa saa'mita is a silent reading. Readers’ letters in a newspaper can be referred to as barid al qurraa.

The word also has a mystical resonance. Qiraat al afkar is mindreading. Qiraat al kaff is palm reading. Qiraat al funjaan is to discern someone’s future from the dregs of their coffee cup.

Unsurprisingly, there are quite a few common maxims that encourage reading.

“Mahma kunta taatakid annaka mashghool la budda an tajida al waqt waqta – wa'illa sallamta nafsaka lil jahli”, translates to: “No matter how busy you are, you must find the time to read, or else you surrender yourself to ignorance.”

“Al qiraa ghizaa al rooh wal aql”, or: “Reading is food for the soul and mind.”

“Alaql yatawaqqaf aan ilnamoo yawma yatawaqqaf aan il qiraa”, or: “The mind stops expanding the day it stops reading.”

“Al qiraa al haqiqiyya laysa an taqraa li taaref bal taqraa li taeesh”, which translates to: “True reading is not merely to learn but to live.”

Updated: November 11, 2022, 6:02 PM