x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Ask Ali: Arabic titles and respect for the Quran

Ali Al Saloom on the differences between Arabic titles, and respecting the Quran in the home.

Dear Ali: What is the difference between a sheikh, an emir and a sultan? KG, Abu Dhabi

Dear KG: All three words come from Middle Eastern Arab origins. All indicate titles and status. Some think there are hierarchical differences between them, but that is not true.

"Sheikh" is the traditional title of a Bedouin tribal leader in recent centuries. The most famous sheikh of our time is probably the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, simply called Sheikh Zayed, the principal architect, founder and first president of the United Arab Emirates. "Sheikh" also can refer to an Islamic scholar or a religious man. And the term of honour additionally can be given to any elderly man of wisdom.

"Emir", also written as "amir", comes from the Arabic root "amr", meaning "command", and is considered a military title. An amir has a high degree of nobility in Arabic nations and some Turkish states. Today, "amir" and "amira" mostly mean "prince" and "princess", respectively. They also can be people's first names.

"Sultan" is an Arabic title and translates as "authority", "strength" or "rulership". It comes from the Aramaic "sultana", which means "power". "Sultan" also can be a man's name.


Dear Ali: I recently converted to Islam and would like to know how to handle the Holy Quran in my household, which includes relatives who are not Muslims. KC, Russia

Dear KC: Quran means "Recitation", which means it's a book to thoroughly read and not merely to browse through. It holds great respect for a Muslim and it is honourable to memorise it. Allah's infallible word has 114 chapters arranged from longest to shortest.

Anyone who touches the Quran must have clean hands. Keep Qurans out of latrines and off the floor. Use a cloth or a plastic dust cover for the Quran when it is not in use. Muslims will keep the Quran on the highest bookcase shelf and place nothing atop it.

If reading the Quran while sitting on the floor, Muslims will place it in a book rest or holder. If no holder is available, they will hold the Quran above their waist.

Prior to reading the Quran, Muslims often will recite: "I seek refuge in God from Satan, the rejected enemy [of mankind]."


Dear Ali: In reference to dressing in an appropriate manner, does wearing tights count as covering your knees? HF, Abu Dhabi

Dear HF: It depends. If the issue is modesty, then I don't think tights are acceptable, especially if they are not covered with an abaya or a dress or skirt. Also, what kind of tights are we talking here, see-through nylons or leggings style? Thick leggings as a casual outfit for a teenager might be fine, but nylons and a mini-skirt would not be.

If the question refers to an official dress code, then the practice of covering the knees should indicate where the hemline of a dress or skirt should be. If it refers to hijab-conform dressing in the region, then the outfit of a long, loose top worn over leggings or tights in my opinion also is not acceptable.

Still, as much as I and others think tights are inappropriate, more women are wearing them under the abaya. It's getting a lot of negative attention, but I think the mostly young women who wear them will outgrow the practice.


Language lesson

Arabic: Qa'ed

English: Leader

This is not an official title, but it is a word we use to describe our leaders. "Qa'edna el habib" means "Our beloved leader".