Does Musi’un” Mean Expand­ing”?


It has come to our atten­tion that Avi­jit Roy, web­mas­ter of the Muk­to Mona web­site, wrote an arti­cle titled Does the Qur’an Have any Sci­en­tif­ic Mir­a­cles ? One por­tion of the arti­cle on the sub­ject of Sura’ az-Zaariyaat is worth com­ment­ing on, as it is an exhi­bi­tion of some of the com­mon prob­lems with non-Mus­lim cri­tiques of Mus­lim argu­ments over the Inter­net. These would include an unjus­ti­fied con­fi­dence with the rel­e­vant sub­ject mat­ter, a poor under­stand­ing of the argu­ments involved and a pos­si­ble ten­den­cy to bluff with the hopes that no one else notices.

What is at issue here is the fact that the word Does "Musi'un" Mean "Expanding"? 1 (musi‘un) in Sura’ az-Zaariyaat 51:47 can be trans­lat­ed as expand­ing”, thus some Mus­lims have argued that this is a Quran­ic ref­er­ence to the expand­ing of the uni­verse. What­ev­er the sound­ness of that posi­tion, Mr. Roy’s attempt to refute it includ­ed some state­ments that were so ridicu­lous that one could not sim­ply let them pass.

Deceit or Sin­cere Ignorance ?

One of the first state­ments that raised a red flag was one that attempt­ed to lean on the argu­ments of Denis Giron. 

Mr. Roy writes :

    Den­ish [sic] Giron also explained in one of his won­der­ful­ly writ­ten pieces that the verb from which the Ara­bic word (musi’un) is derived can­not mean expand”

Then Mr. Roy cites Giron’s arti­cle enti­tled Expan­sion of the Uni­verse in the Bible and the Qur’an : Com­par­ing Isa­iah to Soorat az-Zaariyaat.

The first prob­lem is that Giron’s arti­cle bla­tant­ly con­tra­dicts Mr. Roy’s claim. In fact, Giron’s arti­cle explic­it­ly states that the verb from which this word is derived can mean expand.”

One has to won­der : did Mr. Roy even both­er to read Giron’s arti­cle ? The sim­ple fact is that Mr. Roy’s argu­ment says that the word can­not be trans­lat­ed as expand­ing”, yet he calls to wit­ness an arti­cle that gives a rather clear argu­ment for why it can be trans­lat­ed as expand­ing”!

After that, Mr. Roy calls to wit­ness an arti­cle by Ali Sina. In this case, Mr. Roy actu­al­ly man­ages to cite a per­son who agrees with him, but Sina’s argu­ment is sim­ply ridicu­lous, to put it mild­ly. Roy’s men­tion­ing of this arti­cle is appre­ci­at­ed, how­ev­er, as it can serve as a prime exam­ple of Sina’s total igno­rance regard­ing the Ara­bic lan­guage. Mr. Sina argues as follows :

The word used here is moosi­AAoona which dri­ves from word vase­un. It means vast. It has noth­ing to do with expand­ing. When you say al rezwano vase­un (the gar­den is vast). It does not mean that the gar­den is expanding.

While this may seem like a case of bela­bor­ing a minor point, it might be worth not­ing that most peo­ple who employ a double‑A (“AA”) in their translit­er­a­tions of Qur’an­ic words or phras­es over the net are prob­a­bly novices who mere­ly lift­ed the rel­e­vant translit­er­a­tion off one of the web­sites which pro­vide this odd sym­bol as des­ig­na­tion of the pres­ence of the Ara­bic let­ter ayn. Regard­less, Sina’s attempt to prove that musi’un can­not be trans­lat­ed as expand­ing” betrays a rather pathet­ic igno­rance on his part regard­ing the Ara­bic lan­guage, and thus Mr. Roy’s deci­sion to call him to wit­ness is a true exam­ple of the blind lead­ing the blind”. Most iron­ic of all, the arti­cle by Denis Giron itself refutes Ali Sina’s ridicu­lous claim.

The Islam­o­phobes’ Expand­ing” Stupidity

As it was not­ed in Giron’s arti­cle, and would be known by just about any­one famil­iar with Ara­bic gram­mar, a ver­bal root in Ara­bic can take dif­fer­ent ver­bal forms (or known as wazan). The fol­low­ing chart will serve to illus­trate the var­i­ous forms of wazan in the Ara­bic lan­guage and this chart will form the basis of what follows.

Does "Musi'un" Mean "Expanding"? 2

When the ver­bal root is in the Does "Musi'un" Mean "Expanding"? 3 (af‘ala) form (or, as Giron puts it, the FORM IV verb stem”), it can take on a causative function. 

E.H. Palmer states that :

    Does "Musi'un" Mean "Expanding"? 4E.H. Palmer, Sim­pli­fied Gram­mar of Hin­dus­tani Per­sian and Ara­bic, 3rd ed., (Kegan Paul Trench Trub­n­er & Co., 1890), p. 65

This is also expressed by Socin as follows :

    Does "Musi'un" Mean "Expanding"? 5 A. Socin, Ara­bic Gram­mar, (GE Stechert & Co., 1922), p. 26

The word musi’un is the plur­al of a par­tici­ple from the verb root in this ver­bal form, which is Does "Musi'un" Mean "Expanding"? 6 (awsa‘a). Thus, the relat­ed verb can mean some­thing along the lines of caus­ing some­thing else to be wide or vast (i.e. expand­ing that thing). This is sup­port­ed by var­i­ous mod­ern Ara­bic-Eng­lish dic­tio­nar­ies and con­cor­dances.See, for exam­ple Rohi Baal­ba­ki, al-Mawrid : Mod­ern-Ara­bic Eng­lish Dic­tio­nary, (Dar el-Ilm Lil­malayin, 1988), p. 1233 and Han­na E. Kas­sis, A Con­cor­dance of the Qur’an, (Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia Press, 1983), p. 1294. The lat­ter gives the mean­ing extend”. Hans WehrJ. Mil­ton Cow­an, Hans Wehr : A Dic­tio­nary of Mod­ern Writ­ten Ara­bic, 4th ed. (Otto Har­ras­sowitz, 1979), p. 1251 gives the mean­ing expand” under the form II stem for the root, and notes that the form IV stem can have all the same mean­ings as the form II.It should be not­ed that ibid., 2nd ed. (Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1966), p. 1067, is exact­ly the same as the pre­vi­ous edi­tion. For form II as giv­en by Wehr, LaneEdward William Lane, Ara­bic-Eng­lish Lex­i­con (Islam­ic Book Cen­ter, 1978), p. 3053 gives made wide, broad, spa­cious […] ampli­fied, enlarged, made ample”.

As also has been not­ed in Giron’s arti­cle, par­tici­ples can be trans­lat­ed as the ver­bal form in the present tense. This is explained by Thack­ston, who says that :

Does "Musi'un" Mean "Expanding"? 7Wheel­er M. Thack­ston, An Intro­duc­tion to Koran­ic and Clas­si­cal Ara­bic, (Iran­books, 1994), p. 58

Regard­ing the exam­ple pro­vid­ed by Thack­ston (saa­jid), it appears in the plur­al (saa­jideen) in Sura’ ash-Shu’ara, 26:46. The read­er might be inter­est­ed in com­par­ing all trans­la­tions of this verse. Crit­ics of the claim that m?si’un can be trans­lat­ed expand­ing” (present tense) try and lean on the fact that cer­tain” trans­la­tions don’t ren­der it that way. Look­ing at the trans­la­tions with a non-con­tro­ver­sial exam­ple such as Sura’ ash-Shu’ara, 26:46 might be worth­while because we see that while cer­tain” trans­la­tions do not ren­der the active par­tici­ple as a present tense verb, oth­ers do (e.g. pros­trat­ing” or bow­ing”), and this is a very pos­si­ble translation.

We are also told in anoth­er ref­er­ence that :

Does "Musi'un" Mean "Expanding"? 8Eck­e­hard Schulz, Gun­ther Krahl & Wolf­gang Reuschel, Stan­dard Ara­bic (Cam­bridge, 2000), p. 280

One may ask, what does the derived par­tici­ples from the verb sig­ni­fy ? Kasis explains :

The par­tici­ples are derived from the verb to sig­ni­fy the doer (active par­tici­ple) or recip­i­ent (pas­sive par­tici­ple) of the action. In addi­tion, they sig­ni­fy an action which may be tem­po­rary, con­tin­u­ous or in a habit­u­al state of being […] The active par­tici­ple is very fre­quent­ly trans­lat­ed as an adjec­tive or as a sub­stan­tive noun. Thus kat­ib may be trans­lat­ed, depend­ing on the con­text, as either writ­ing” (adj) or scribe” (n).Han­na E. Kas­sis, A Con­cor­dance of the Qur’an (Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia Press, 1983), p. xxxiv

Thus expand­ing” is a very real mean­ing for the word musi’un. Our points above are hence sum­marised as follows :

    (1) That the (Form IV) af‘ala stem is causative.
    (2) That awsa‘a (or musi‘) can have the mean­ing expand”.
    (3) That active par­tici­ples can be trans­lat­ed as present tense verbs.

But here is a food-for-thought for even those unfa­mil­iar with Ara­bic to pon­der. The word under dis­cus­sion was Does "Musi'un" Mean "Expanding"? 9 (musi’un). Yet Ali Sina went on to expound on the word vase­un” with­out mak­ing any recourse to the word orig­i­nal­ly under dis­cus­sion. It should be not­ed that there is no con­so­nant v” in Ara­bic. Per­haps he meant wasee‘ or Does "Musi'un" Mean "Expanding"? 10 (waasi‘). This is not a very sub­tle attempt of bait and switch, which makes one won­der how had this argu­ment man­aged to fool Avi­jit Roy. Do these two men hon­est­ly believe that every word from the same root in Ara­bic have the same mean­ing ? When try­ing to dis­cuss the mean­ing of a word, why hinge your entire argu­ment on the mean­ing of a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent word ? The ques­tion even those who do not know Ara­bic can ask Sina and Mr. Roy is : are we dis­cussing thw word vase­un” or are we dis­cussing musi‘un ?


How seri­ous­ly can Mus­lims take Ali Sina or his cohort Aijit Roy when they put forth such poor argu­ments which is reflec­tive of their com­mand in Ara­bic ? Cer­tain­ly when it comes to issues of Ara­bic gram­mar, even their sup­port­ers should not hold to close­ly to their argu­ments. Did either of these men hon­est­ly believe they could just bluff their way through these argu­ments ? Or did they actu­al­ly con­vince them­selves that these were good argu­ments ? What kind of (a lack of) atten­tion is required for one to not real­ize that they are call­ing to wit­ness an arti­cle which dis­agrees with the very core of their claim ? How did Mr. Roy man­aged to attribute a claim to an arti­cle which states the exact opposite ?

Now non-Mus­lim read­ers (par­tic­u­lar­ly the sup­port­ers of Ali Sina or Mr. Roy) may object that we have not men­tioned the fact that Denis Giron’s arti­cle was attempt­ing to dis­prove the claim that Sura’ az-Zaariyaat is a sci­en­tif­ic mir­a­cle. This was not the issue under dis­cus­sion here. Note that we did not make any pos­i­tive claim about this verse nec­es­sar­i­ly being an obvi­ous sci­en­tif­ic mir­a­cle, hence we are not under any require­ment to defend such a posi­tion or refute every attempt to cri­tique it. 

How­ev­er, it should be stat­ed that Denis Giron’s actu­al argu­ment should not be con­sid­ered ter­ri­bly con­tro­ver­sial by any Mus­lim who under­stands it. What was at issue here was the absurd lev­el reached in these arti­cles by Ali Sina and Mr. Roy in their attempt to tack­le this issue. Can their sup­port­ers at least agree with us that in these instances, these two men com­mit­ted some rather laugh­able errors and put on an exhi­bi­tion of just how lit­tle they know about Ara­bic grammar ?

And only God knows best ! Does "Musi'un" Mean "Expanding"? 11Endmark

Cite this arti­cle as : Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi, Does Musi’un” Mean Expand­ing”?,” in Bis­mi­ka Allahu­ma, Novem­ber 25, 2005, last accessed May 27, 2024, https://​bis​mikaal​lahu​ma​.org/​p​o​l​e​m​i​c​a​l​-​r​e​b​u​t​t​a​l​s​/​m​u​s​i​u​n​-​e​x​p​a​n​d​i​ng/

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