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Islamic Ideology ( 17 Oct 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Dabbah: a Creature ' or ' a Beast



By Mohammad Suleman, New Age Islam

18 October 2016

Several years back, soon after I retired from my job as electrical engineer from Texas Instruments, I started re-reading the Holy Quran. This time around, in Arabic with English translation, deliberately slowly and with some contemplation, as is recommended in the Quran. I would spend an hour or so, just to read one page. I would try to learn and understand not only the meanings of the Arabic words with the help of dictionaries at hand, but also the context in which these words were used in the Ayat. As curiosity, some time I would use other translations of the Quran to check out how it has been explained by other scholars for the same Ayah.

I enjoyed this practice and got used to it. I found it very educational and helpful in strengthening my faith as a believer. I certainly felt great joy and blessing to have the opportunity to read ' Kalam Allah', the words of God. The majestic commands in it would shake my being and the rhythmic narration of mercy and forgiveness in it would bring out ecstasy to my soul. How could I not love it? But some time I felt that the traditional translations and meanings of these Ayat, as explained in Tafaseer, are not satisfactory. Or maybe I did not understand the original text in Arabic.

For example, in Sura Naml Ayah 82,

وَإِذَا وَقَعَ الْقَوْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ أَخْرَجْنَا لَهُمْ دَابَّةً مِّنَ الْأَرْضِ تُكَلِّمُهُمْ أَنَّ النَّاسَ كَانُوا بِآيَاتِنَا لَا يُوقِنُونَ

I found the following translations by different scholars.

Sahih International: And when the word befalls them, We will bring forth for them a creature from the earth speaking to them, [saying] that the people were, of Our verses, not certain [in faith].

Pickthall: And when the word is fulfilled concerning them, We shall bring forth a beast of the earth to speak unto them because mankind had not faith in Our revelations.

Yusuf Ali: And when the Word is fulfilled against them (the unjust), we shall produce from the earth a beast to (face) them: He will speak to them, for that mankind did not believe with assurance in Our Signs.

Shakir: And when the word shall come to pass against them, We shall bring forth for them a creature from the earth that shall i wound them, because people did not believe in Our communications.

Muhammad Sarwar: When the word about them comes true We shall make a creature appear to them on earth who will tell them that people had no faith in Our revelations.

Mohsin Khan: And when the Word (of torment) is fulfilled against them, We shall bring out from the earth a beast to them, which will speak to them because mankind believed not with certainty in Our Ayat (Verses of the Quran and Prophet Muhammad SAW).

Arberry: When the Word falls on them, We shall bring forth for them out of the earth a beast that shall speak unto them: 'Mankind had no faith in Our signs.'

After reading the above translations, an interesting question came to my mind, that every translator, chose different English words to explain the same Ayah, except the word Dabbah, which every one preferred to translate it almost the same meaning, either ' a Creature ' or ' a Beast '.

In my efforts to know the meaning of this Ayah and the word Dabbah, I consulted few scholars I knew at the time, both Arab as well as non Arab. Still, I did not get a satisfactory answer.

In 2015 I attended the Annual ISNA convention in Chicago. I spent most of my time in browsing the book stalls in the Exhibition, for new Translations of the Quran in the market. There I picked up a copy of English Translation of Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, not knowing what standard of translation it might be. (It was a free copy). I found its English very simple and easy to understand, like the Holy Quran by Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi, I had been reading for some time, in Arabic with English Translation. 

Coming back, in my hotel, naturally the first thing I did was to read the translation of Ayah 82 of Surah Naml. 

وَإِذَا وَقَعَ الْقَوْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ أَخْرَجْنَا لَهُمْ دَابَّةً مِّنَ الْأَرْضِ تُكَلِّمُهُمْ أَنَّ النَّاسَ كَانُوا بِآيَاتِنَا لَا يُوقِنُونَ

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan's translation is:

‘When God's word is justly carried out against them, We will produce a Dabbah from the earth, which will tell them that mankind had no real faith in our signs.'

I noticed, that he did not translate the word ' Dabbah 'as most everyone else above did and he left it as is, in Arabic ' Dabbah’.

Question is, Why not.

It seemed to me, that he did not agree with the traditional translation of this word as 'Beast' or Creature, but left it for the readers for contemplation and thinking.

But how did he explain Dabbah?

Please read his Note below:-

“At the time when Almighty God takes the decision to bring to an end the present history of the earth, some extraordinary signs will appear to usher in the last phase. Among these signs will be the appearance of a Dabbah.

The message, which was brought through human beings and which was not accepted by the people, will be announced by Dabbah.

Modern systems of communication are probably what is alluded to here as Dabbah. This will be the bell announcing the end of the examination period and not its beginning.

(P-289, The Quran, Translated by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan GOODWORD BOOKS)

The translation of Maulana Wahiduddin Khan and his note about the nature of Dabbah could have satisfied my curiosity and I would have left this discussion here, had it not been my several years of job related experience at Texas Instrument Dallas. There,  I was involved in the production and testing of some newly manufactured electronics components and parts, used in  Computers, Speak N Spell (remember that ?), Calculators, Phones and almost all electronics devices and gadget used by military or civilian,  ' modern system of communication ',  The Transistors and IC – Integrated Circuits.

I knew that these little jewels, (CHIPS or IC - integrated circuit) are grown and fabricated on Silicon slices.

Most everyone who is familiar with the basic chemistry, know what Silicon is?

Sand from Earth

This new understanding about the meaning of Ayah 27-82 and his note on Dabbah, got further strengthened, when I checked the Arabic to English dictionary, by Hans Wehr, Edited by J. Milton Cowan,  Page 270 line 2. Meaning of the word Dabbah, SAND HILL, MOUND (few lines down also Beast, Creature)

Allah o Akbar

All praises to God the knower of all.

God knows the best.

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