The Meanings of the Arabic Preposition Lām

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

The Meanings of the Preposition اللام

The اللام is the sixth حرف الجر (preposition) listed by the author of Hidāyatun Naw.

It gives jarr (the genitive case) to both an اسم الظاهر (apparent/visible word) and a ضمير (personal pronoun).

Example of an اسم الظاهر (apparent/visible word):  لِعمرٍو

An example of a dhamīr : له

The preposition ل comes for five meanings or usages.

The first meaning is: الاختصاص (specifying) which means to establish one thing for another and negating it from all others.

Then the specification is either be

  1. ‘specification of entitlement’, like: الجل للفرسِ-The covering is for the horse. (i.e. the horse is the one entitled to the covering and no one else.)
  2. or ‘specification of ownership’ like: المالُ لزيدٍ -The wealth is for Zaid. (This example refers to the wealth being specific for Zaid and that the wealth belongs to Zaid only.)

Another example is like in the saying of Allāh Taʿālā:

لِلَّـهِ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۗ

“To Allāh belongs what is in the heavens and what is in the earth.”

(This example is specifying that all that is in the heavens and earth belongs to Allāh alone.)

The second meaning is: التعليل (citing reason).

There are two types of reasons:

One it where the reason is the final objective, like in the example ضربتُه للتأديبِ- I hit him to discipline him. The reason for hitting was to discipline and ‘discipline’ is the final objective of the action of hitting.

The second is where the reason is that which pushes you to do something, like in the example: خرجتُ لِمخافتِك- I left for fear of you.  The fear was the cause or what ‘pushed’ me to leave. Leaving was not end limit /goal /objective.

The third usage is: زائدة (extra). This entails that the meaning of the sentence will not change with the falling off/dropping of the preposition ل. For example: رَدِفَ لَكُم أي ردفكم “Close behind you.” (Removing the preposition ل, would not change the meaning.)

The fourth usage is in the meaning of عن:  This is when the preposition ل is used with قول and those words which are derived from it, like in the verse:

وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَوْ كَانَ خَيْرًا مَّا سَبَقُونَا إِلَيْهِ ۚ

“And those who disbelieve say of those who believe, if it had truly been good, they would not have preceded us to it.”

In the verse لِلَّذِينَ means عَنِ الَّذِينَ.

The fifth usage is: in the meaning of الواو for القسم (swearing) on the name of Allah at the time of amazement.  It will not be used except in great matters.  For example, in the statement of Huzali:

للهِ يَبْقي علي الأيامِ ذُو حِيدٍ  *  بِمُشْمَخِرٍّ بِه الظَيَّانُ و الاسُ

By Allāh, not even the one that has horns will remain with the passing of days

In lofty mountains in which there are clematis and myrtle.”

الحيد is the plural of حيدة and it refers to the curves in the horns of the mountain goat (ibex), المشمخر refers to a lofty/high mountain, الظيان is the name of a pleasant/good smelling flower, الاس is a well-known tree and it is the raihān.

The meaning of the poem is: “By Allah nothing will remain by the vicissitudes of time (i.e. by the passing of time of this world), and no one will survive from the calamities which occur in time, not even this ibex which takes refuge in lofty mountains.”

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The citation in this poem is  للهas the ل in it is in the meaning of و.

Sometimes ل comes in the meaning of في (in) like in the saying of Allāh Taʿālā:

وَنَضَعُ الْمَوَازِينَ الْقِسْطَ لِيَوْمِ الْقِيَامَة

“And we will place the scales of justice on the Day of Resurrection.”[i]

لِيَوْمِ الْقِيَامَة In the meaning of في يوم القيامة.

Sometimes ل comes in the meaning of الى (to) just as Allāh Taʿālā says:

كُلٌّ يَجْرِي لِأَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى

“Each running its course to a specified time.”[ii]

لِأَجَلٍ in the meaning of الى اجل مسمي.

Sometimes ل comes in the meaning of بعد (after) just as Allāh Taʿālā says:

أَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِدُلُوكِ الشَّمْسِ

“Establish prayer after the decline of the sun.”[iii]

لِدُلُوكِ is in the meaning of بعد دلوك.

Sometimes ل comes in the meaning of مع (with) just as Allāh Taʿālā says:

فَلَمَّا أَسْلَمَا وَتَلَّهُ لِلْجَبِينِ

“And when they had both submitted and he put him down with his forehead.”[iv]

لِلْجَبِينِ is in the meaning of مع الجبين.

Sometimes ل comes in the meaning of ف (so) just as Allāh Taʿālā says:

أَإِذَا مَا مِتُّ لَسَوْفَ أُخْرَجُ حَيًّا

“When I have died, so am I going to be brought forth alive?”[v]

لَسَوْفَ is in the meaning of فسوف

[Siʿāyatun Naḥw Pg.212-3 H.1]

[i] Al-Anbiyā: 47

[ii] Al-Raʿd: 2

[iii] Al-Isrā’: 78

[iv] Al-Sāffāt: 103

[v] Maryam: 66

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