Al-Tha‘alabi: Concerning the Sounds of Movements

Concerning the Sounds of Movements

Al-Hams is the sound of a person stirring and is mentioned in the Qur’an: All voices shall fade for the Most Merciful, and you shall hear nothing but a faint stirring (Surat Taha: 108). Similar to this is al-jars (the muted pecking of birds, the buzz of sipping bees, or the hum of a distant crowd) and al-khashfa (the rustle of creeping serpents or slinking hyenas). As the Prophet said to Bilal: Whenever I see myself entering Paradise, I hear a faint rustle, and there you are.

Very close to this in meaning are al-hamsha (susurration, said of locusts devouring provisions) and al-waqsha (a faint fluttering, like the stirring of a child in the belly). As for al-nāmma, this refers to how a person might be betrayed by their footsteps. Al-Hashasa (to rustle, susurrate) applies in general to anything with a barely perceptible sound, such as the soft treading of camels as they walk. Al-Hamīs is the sound made by the pads of camels. As in the line of poetry: They walk among us with the softest of treads.

— al-Tha‘alabi, Fiqh al-lugha wa-asrār al-‘arabīya, ed. Yāsīn al-Ayūbī (Saydā’: al-Maktaba al-‘Usrīya, 2008), 237-8.

al-Tha‘alabi: Types of Barely Perceptible Sounds

Happy "Friday Word List" from al-Tha‘alabi's Fiqh al-lugha wa-asrār al-‘arabīya (Fundamentals of Language and the Secrets of Arabic). 

Types of Barely Perceptible Sounds

Among the almost imperceptible sounds are al-rizz (a sharp rumbling of the belly), then al-rikz (a slight, far-off cry, such as the voice of hunter calling his dogs), which is mentioned in the Qur’an: And how many generations before them have We destroyed! Can you (Muhammad) see any one of them? Can you hear from them the slightest of sounds? (Surat Maryam: 98).

Then there is al-hatmala (to murmur to oneself) which is softer than the tones made when whispering into someone's ear. Then there is al-haynama (to mumble-read), which is like reading aloud, only unclearly so. As the poet Al-Kumayt ibn Zayd al-Asadi put it: Whenever I’ve witnessed foolish speech, it was spoken by men who murmured and mumbled.

Then there is al-dandana, which is when a person speaks and you can discern its prosody but understand nothing of the words because that person is hiding them from you. This appears in the hadīth: As for your mumblings and those of Mu‘ādh, we understand them not.

Then, al-naghm, which is the ringing of speech and the beauty of its sound. Then there is al-nab’a, which is a soft sound. Finally, there is al-na’ma (to sigh or moan), which is a very slight sound.

Fiqh al-lugha wa-asrār al-‘arabīya, ed. Yāsīn al-Ayūbī (Saydā’: al-Maktaba al-‘Usrīya, 2008), p. 237.