Introduction

This is a psalm originally written by King Solomon. It sings the praises of a righteous woman, and in Jewish families is sung on Friday nights by the husband to his wife, thanking her for another week of work. It is found in the book of Proverbs, chapter 31, verses 10-31. This Arabic version came from http://www.biblegateway.com. I was working from that translation closely and directly, and I’ve posted the original Hebrew and the traditional English translation after mine, to compare.

The Arabic:

مَنْ يَعْثُرُ عَلَى الْمَرْأَةِ الْفَاضِلَةِ؟ إِنَّ قِيمَتَهَا تَفُوقُ اللَّآلِيءَ.
بِهَا يَثِقُ قَلْبُ زَوْجِهَا فَلاَ يَحْتَاجُ إِلَى مَا هُوَ نَفِيسٌ
تُسْبِغُ عَلَيْهِ الْخَيْرَ دُونَ الشَّرِّ كُلَّ أَيَّامِ حَيَاتِهَا
تَلْتَمِسُ صُوفاً وَكَتَّاناً وَتَشْتَغِلُ بِيَدَيْنِ رَاضِيَتَيْنِ،
فَتَكُونُ كَسُفُنِ التَّاجِرِ الَّتِي تَجْلِبُ طَعَامَهَا مِنْ بِلاَدٍ نَائِيَةٍ
تَنْهَضُ وَاللَّيْلُ مَا بَرِحَ مُخَيِّماً، لِتُعِدَّ طَعَاماً لأَهْلِ بَيْتِهَا، وَتُدَبِّرَ أَعْمَالَ جَوَارِيهَا
تَتَفَحَّصُ حَقْلاً وَتَشْتَرِيهِ، وَمِنْ مَكْسَبِ يَدَيْهَا تَغْرِسُ كَرْماً
تُنَطِّقُ حَقَوَيْهَا بِالْقُوَّةِ وَتُشَدِّدُ ذِرَاعَيْهَا
وَتُدْرِكُ أَنَّ تِجَارَتَهَا رَابِحَةٌ، وَلاَ يَنْطَفِيءُ سِرَاجُهَا فِي اللَّيْلِ
تَقْبِضُ بِيَدَيْهَا عَلَى الْمِغْزَلِ وَتُمْسِكُ كَفَّاهَا بِالْفَلَكَةِ
تَبْسُطُ كَفَّيْهَا لِلْفَقِيرِ وَتَمُدُّ يَدَيْهَا لإِغَاثَةِ الْبَائِسِ
لاَ تَخْشَى عَلَى أَهْلِ بَيْتِهَا مِنَ الثَّلْجِ، لأَنَّ جَمِيعَهُمْ يَرْتَدُونَ الْحُلَلَ الْقِرْمِزِيَّةَ
تَصْنَعُ لِنَفْسِهَا أَغْطِيَةً مُوَشَّاةً، وَثِيَابُهَا مُحَاكَةٌ مِنْ كَتَّانٍ وَأُرْجُوَانٍ
زَوْجُهَا مَعْرُوفٌ فِي مَجَالِسِ بَوَّابَاتِ الْمَدِينَةِ، حَيْثُ يَجْلِسُ بَيْنَ وُجَهَاءِ الْبِلاَدِ
تَصْنَعُ أَقْمِصَةً كَتَّانِيَّةً وَتَبِيعُهَا، وَتُزَوِّدُ التَّاجِرَ الْكَنْعَانِيَّ بِمَنَاطِقَ
كِسَاؤُهَا الْعِزَّةُ وَالشَّرَفُ، وَتَبْتَهِجُ بِالأَيَّامِ الْمُقْبِلَةِ
يَنْطِقُ فَمُهَا بِالْحِكْمَةِ، وَفِي لِسَانِهَا سُنَّةُ الْمَعْرُوفِ
تَرْعَى بِعِنَايَةٍ شُؤُونَ أَهْلِ بَيْتِهَا، وَلاَ تَأْكُلُ خُبْزَ الْكَسَلِ
يَقُومُ أَبْنَاؤُهَا وَيَغْبِطُونَهَا، وَيُطْرِيهَا زَوْجُهَا أَيْضاً قَائِلاً
«نِسَاءٌ كَثِيرَاتٌ قُمْنَ بِأَعْمَالٍ جَلِيلَةٍ، وَلَكِنَّكِ تَفَوَّقْتِ عَلَيْهِنَّ جَمِيعاً»
الْحُسْنُ غِشٌّ وَالْجَمَالُ بَاطِلٌ، أَمَّا الْمَرْأَةُ الْمُتَّقِيَّةُ الرَّبَّ فَهِيَ الَّتِي تُمْدَحُ
أَعْطُوهَا مِنْ ثَمَرِ يَدَيْهَا، وَلْتَكُنْ أَعْمَالُهَا مَصْدَرَ الثَّنَاءِ عَلَيْهَا

Translation
Who can find a righteous woman? Her value is beyond pearls.
Her husband’s heart trusts her and he needs nothing expensive,
She bestows goodness and not evil upon him all the days of her life,
She searches for wool and linen, then works with her willing hands,
She is like ships bringing food from distant countries,
She wakes while it is still night to prepare food for her family, and supervises the work of her servants,
She inspects a field and buys it, and with the gains of her hands she plants a vineyard
Her loins are girlded with strength, and her arms are tough,
She knows her work has worth, and her lamp doesn’t go out at night,
She grips the spinning wheel in her hands, and her palms grasp its spin,
She opens her palms to the poor, and extends her arm to help the suffering,
She doesn’t fear the cold for her family, for they all wear scarlet garments,
She makes embroidered tableclothes, and her clothing is sewn from purple linens,
Her husband is known at the meeting-places at the gates of the city, for he sits among the country’s notables,
She makes linen shirts and sells them, giving the Caananite merchants belts,
Her garments are esteemed and honorable, and she rejoices for the coming days
Her mouth speaks wisdom, and on her tounge are the traditions of the day
She takes care of her family with concern, and never eats the bread of laziness
Her sons are happy with her, and her husband praises her, saying:
“Many women have done great works, but you have outshined them all”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is vain, a woman who fears God, she shall be praised.
Give her the fruits of her hands, and let her actions be the source of her praise.

Original Hebrew Version

 

אשת חיל מי ימצא, ורחוק מפנינים מכרה.
בטח בה לב בעלה, ושלל לא יחסר.
גמלתהו טוב ולא רע, כל ימי חייה.
דרשה צמר ופשתים, ותעש בחפץ כפיה.
היתה כאניות סוחר, ממרחק תביא לחמה.
ותקם בעוד לילה, ותתן טרף לביתה, וחוק לנערותיה.
זממה שדה ותקחהו, מפרי כפיה נטעה כרם.
חגרה בעוז מתניה, ותאמץ זרועותיה.
טעמה כי טוב סחרה, לא יכבה בלילה נרה.
ידיה שלחה בכישור, וכפיה תמכה פלך.
כפה פרשה לעני, וידיה שלחה לאביון.
לא תירא לביתה משלג, כי כל ביתה לבוש שנים.
מרבדים עשתה לה, שש וארגמן לבושה.
נודע בשערים בעלה, בשבתו עם זקני ארץ.
סדין עשתה ותמכור, וחגור נתנה לכנעני.
עוז והדר לבושה, ותשחק ליום אחרון.
פיה פתחה בחכמה, ותורת חסד על לשונה.
צופיה הליכות ביתה, ולחם עצלות לא תאכל.
קמו בניה ויאשרוה, בעלה ויהללה.
רבות בנות עשו חיל, ואת עלית על כולנה.
שקר החן והבל היופי, אשה יראת ה’ היא תתהלל.
תנו לה מפרי ידיה, ויהללוה בשערים מעשיה.

Translation from English Standard Book of Proverbs

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar.
She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.
She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the God is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.

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Q: But is it possible to know the meaning of worship? And does it have a general meaning and a private meaning?

A: Yes.

General Meaning: As I stated above, humility before God, praised and exalted, affection and glorification in doing the things he commanded, and avoiding the things he prohibited in a manner that follows his laws, is the general meaning.

Private Meaning: I’d like to elaborate this. The Sheikh of Islam, Ibn Taymiyya, God’s mercy upon him, said “It [private meaning] is a general name for everything God likes and that pleases him. This includes words and deeds, both internal and external, such as fear [of God], trust [in God], prayer, charity, and other Islamic practices.

So, if you were to try and define general and private meanings by what some of the learned scholars have mentioned on the subject of devotion, both universal and Islamic, in that [devotion] means that a person may be humble before God (SWT) through universal humility and through Islamic humility. Universal humility is general and includes Believers and Non-believers, the pious and the debaucherous. In the words of the Most High: “There is none in the heavens and the earth but cometh unto the Beneficent as a slave.” [Maryam 93] So everything in the skies and on land is subservient to God (SWT), [simply through their] existence. It is never possible to contradict God or oppose what His (SWT) cosmic will intends.

Regarding Private Devotion: It is Islamically prescribed devotion and humility before God (SWT). This is special to Believers in God (SWT) and those who follow his commands, and there is a more special devotion than that, and an even more special one still.

The more exclusive private devotion is that of the Prophets, may God’s peace and blessings be upon them. In the words of the Most High, “Blessed is He Who hath revealed unto His slave the Criterion (of right and wrong)” [Al-Furqan 1] and “And if you are in doubt as to that which We have revealed to Our servant” [Al-Baqara 23] and “And remember Our servants Abraham and Isaac and Jacob” [Saad 45] and other descriptions of the devotion of the Prophets, peace and blessing be upon them.

Taken from Fiqh al-Ebadaat “Jurisprudence of Belief” by Sheikh Muhammad bin Saalih Al-Authaymin, Dar al-Baseera, Alexandria. Translated by Josh Berer

Vocabulary

مفهوم – Meaning

آنفاً – Previously, stated above

الباطنة والظاهرة Internal and external, hidden and clear etc

بر – Pious

فاجر – Non-pious, debaucherous

خاضع – Submissive, under the will of

Translation Notes


ثم إن منها ما هو خاص أخص, وخاص فوق ذلك –
“There is a more special devotion than that, and an even more special one still.” This gave me no small amount of problems translating.

الخوف والخشية – Two words for fear, I only translated one to avoid redundancy

Shams Saghira Intro

October 27, 2007

This story, entitled “Shams Saghira,” “Little Sun” was written by the Syrian author Zakariya Tamir in 1963. It follows the hero, Abu Fahd, as he makes his way home near midnight, slightly tipsy after a few glasses of Arak. He has a surreal encounter with a jinn under a stone bridge, and ultimately meets his downfall while trying to reap the benefits of what the jinn promised him. This story was included in Sabry Hafez and Catherine Cobham’s A Reader of Modern Arabic Short Stories (1988, Saqi), and includes their textual notes at the end. Translated by Josh Berer.

Shams Saghira 1

October 27, 2007

shams1.jpg

Abu Fahd was returning home, walking in slow, slightly dizzy steps down the narrow, twisting corridors, lit by yellow lamps spaced in wide intervals. He soon got fed up with the all-encompassing silence which engulfed him, so he began to sing in a light, sing-song voice.

“Miskiin, wa haali Adam.”

The night was rapidly approaching its mid-point. Abu Fahd‘s happiness was on the rise, having drunk three glasses of Arak, and the second had sent him into intoxication.

“Miskiin, wa haali Adam.”

He fancied his crude voice filled to the brim with first-rate sweetness, and he said to himself in a loud voice, “I am a singer!” He began…

Vocabulary and Translation Notes

Vocabulary

مترنحاDizzy

متعرجة Twisting

متناثرة Scattered

مترنما Sing-song, melodious

غبطة Joy, glee, happiness

مفعم Overflowing, filled to the brim

فائقة First-rate, top-quality

مطرب Singer, crooner, performer

Translation Notes

  • المهيمن – Literally “supervising, protecting, the master” One of the 99 names of Allah.
  • – خيل اليه This is Passive Voice in Arabic
  • Many of the adjectives in this paragraph beginning “muta-” are not actually found in Hans Wehr, but have meanings that can be extrapolated by their roots, which are present.
  • مسكين وحالي عدم I chose not to translate the name of the song he sings. If I were to translate it, it would be along the lines of “Poor Thing, Ain’t Got No Love” or something similar.

Shams Saghira 2

October 27, 2007

shams21.jpg

to imagine people, open-mouthed and and waving their hands,
cheering and applauding him. He laughed a while, then tipped his fez to the rear a bit, and continued happily singing.

“Miskiin, wa haali ‘Adam.”

He was wearing grey trousers, tied around his waist by and old yellow belt. When he arrived under an old stone archwayto the point where the shadow outweighed the light, he was surprised to see a small black sheep, standing close to the wall.

He opened his mouth in surprise, and said to himself, “I’m not drunk. Look well, old boy. What do you see? It’s a sheep! But where’s its owner?”

He looked around but found no one; the alley was completely deserted. He then encircled the sheep and said to himself, “Am I drunk?”

He laughed a faint chuckle and then said, “God is generous! He knew…

Vocabulary

Trousers, (both س and ش are possible) – شروال/سروال

Waving their Hands يلوحون بيديهم

To adjust, move back أمال

Stone arch, aqueduct – قنطرة

To cling to – لصق

Deserted مقفرا

Faint, light – خافتة

Surprise –بوغت

Shams Saghira 3

October 27, 2007

shams3.jpg

Abu and Um Fahd hadn’t eaten meat in a week!”

He approached the sheep and tried to force it to walk by pushing it forward, but it refused to move. So Abu Fahd grabbed it by its two small horns and pulled on them, but the sheep became rigid and clung to the wall. So Abu Fahd looked at it angrily and said, “I’m gonna carry you, and then I’ll get your mother and father, too.”

So Abu Fahd carried the sheep, raising it up and putting it on his back, holding its front hooves in his hands, then he went on his way, and continued singing. However, his happiness and intoxication had been diminished.

After a while he stopped singing, for it seemed the the weight and size of the sheep had increased. He then unexpectedly heard a voice saying, “Let me go!”

He furrowed his brow and said to himself, “Goddamn booze.” After a moment he heard the very same voice again, saying, “Let me go, I’m not a sheep!”

Abu Fahd shivered and pushed back his fear and hung onto the sheep, but stopped walking. The voice said,…

Vocabulary and Translation Notes

إجبار- To force

رمق- To look at

غيظ – Exasperation, ire, rage

قائمتين- (Two) paws, feet of an animal

نشوة- Intoxication

قطب جبينه- To furrow ones brow

ارتعد- Shiver, shudder. From ‘thunder’.

تشبث- To hold on to, cling to

Translation Notes

على حين غرة-unexpectedly, out of nowhere

قائمتيه- The dual-marker nun is dropped because of the addition of a conjoined personal pronoun, making this word an idafa.

لعن الله السكر-Literally “God Curse Drunkenness”, I chose to translate that as “Goddamn Booze.”

 

Shams Saghira 4

October 27, 2007

shams4.jpg

“I’m the son of the king of demons. Let me go and I’ll give you whatever you want.”

Abu Fahd didn’t answer, rather he continued walking quickly, and the voice said again, “I will give you seven jugs filled with gold.”

He then imagined he heard the echo of a piece of gold falling to the ground nearby. He set the sheep down, turned around, and was about to shout, “Let me have it!” when he found himself alone in the long, narrow alley. He didn’t find the sheep, and was left talking to himself alone in the alley for a few fearful moments. The he continued hurriedly along home.

When he arrived at his house, he woke his wife, Um Fahd, up from her sleep and told her what had happened. She said, “Go to sleep, you’re drunk.”

“I only drank three cups!”

Vocabulary

متعجلة – Rapid, speedy, hurried

رنين- Echo

ارتطم – Bump, crash, collide

افلت – Release, let down, escape

هتف – To shout

عثر على – To find, lit. to stumble upon

هنيهات – Moments

مهرول – Hurriedly

Shams Saghira 5

October 27, 2007

shams5.jpg

“You get sick after one!”
Abu Fahd felt he had been insulted, so he replied, “I wouldn’t get sick if I drank and entire barrel of Arak.”

Um Fahd didn’t argue, but began to remember stories she had been told as a child about demons and the tricks they play. Abu Fahd got undressed, turned off the light, and sprawled out on the bed next to his wife, and pulled the covers up to his chin.

Suddenly, Um Fahd said, “You shouldn’t have let him go before he gave you the gold, earlier.”

Abu Fahd didn’t answer, so Um Fahd continued enthusiastically, ‘Go back tomorrow. Catch him, but this time don’t let him go.”

Abu Fahd yawned tiredly and sadly, then said wearily, “How will I find him?”

“You’ll definitely find him under the stone arch. Bring him to the house and don’t let him go until after he…

Shams Saghira 6

October 27, 2007

shams6.jpg

gives us the gold.”
“I won’t find him.”
“Demons live underground during the day. When night falls, they rise to the surface and play tricks till dawn. If they like a particular spot, they’ll continue to return to it. You’ll find the sheep under the stone archway.”

Abu Fahd moved his had to her chest and slipped it between her breasts, and left it there without moving. He said, “We’ll be rich.”
“We’ll buy a house.”
“A house with a garden.”
“We’ll buy a radio.”
“A big radio.”

Shams Saghira 7

October 27, 2007

shams7.jpg

“And a washing machine.”
“A washing machine.”
“We won’t have to eat cracked wheat.”
“We’ll eat white bread!”
Um Fahd laughed like a little girl while Abu Fahd continued, saying,
“I’ll buy you a red gown.”
Um Fahd whispered in a haughty tone, “Just one gown?”
“I’ll buy you a hundred gowns.”
He was quiet a moment, then asked, “When are you due?”
“Three months.”
“It’ll be a boy.”
“He won’t suffer like us.”
“He won’t go hungry.”
“He’ll wear nice clean clothes.”
“He’ll go to school.”
“The landlord won’t bother him for rent.”
“He’ll be a doctor when he grows up.”
“I’d rather he was a lawyer.”
“We’ll ask him, would you rather be a lawyer or a doctor?”
She clung to him tenderly, and continued, wryly, “You won’t get a second wife?”

He gently nibbled her ear and said, “Why would I get a second wife, you’re the best woman on Earth.”
They stayed silent, their joy overflowing, but then Abu Fahd, after…

Shams Saghira 8

October 27, 2007

shams8.jpg

a little while got out from under the covers suddenly. Um Fahd asked,

“What’s up?”

“I’m going now.”

“Where?”

“I’m going to bring the sheep back.”

“Wait until tomorrow night, sleep now.”

 

He hurriedly left the bed, turned on the light hanging from the ceiling and began to get dressed. “I might not find it.”

“You’ll find it.”

As she was helping him tie his yellow belt around his waist, Um Fahd said, “Be careful not to let him go.”

Abu Fahd felt he may be facing a perilous mission, and may need his dagger. His dagger had a curved blade with a dark shine to it.

 

Shams Saghira 9

October 26, 2007

shams9.jpg

He left the house, and dashed along quickly until he arrived under the stone archway. He was flooded with feelings of failure, should he not come cross the sheep. The alley was deserted, and the lights of the scattered windows of the houses on either side of him had gone out.

Abu Fahd stopped and waited, back propped against the wall. After a little while he became aware of an approaching noise, and it wasn’t long until a staggering drunk appeared, bumping against the walls of the alley, all the while shouting in a drawn-out voice, “whatchama…Whoshewhatsit….”

Then he got close to Abu Fahd he stopped walking, he opened his eyes and stared at Abu Fahd in surprise and apprehension, then said in a stumbling, joyful voice, “What are you doing here?”

“Piss off.”

The drunk furrowed his brow in thought, then his face glowed with joy and he said,

 

Shams Saghira 10

October 26, 2007

shams10.jpg

“Oh man! I love women too! Are you waiting for the
husband to go to sleep so she can open the door for you?”

Abu Fahd started to get annoyed, and felt his annoyance rise inside him as the drunk continued, “Is she hot?”

“Who?”

“The woman you’re waiting for!”

“I’ll be you’re wing-man!”

“Piss off.”

Abu Fahd‘s anger intensified as he feared the sheep wouldn’t appear thanks to the drunk’s presence. He said furiously, “Go on your way, before I break your head.”

The drunk burped, then said in a surprised tone, “What did you say to me? Who the hell are you?”

Shams Saghira 11

October 26, 2007

shams11.jpg

There was silence a moment, then he added, saying, “C’mon. Break my head. Lets go.”

Abu Fahd replied, “Go on, leave me be, I don’t want to break your head.”

But the drunk said belligerently, “No, no, c’mon and break my head.”

He took a step back a bit, and said in a playful voice, “I’ll turn you into a sieve.”

The drunk took his hand out of his coat pocket and with it a long straight razor blade. Abu Fahd rushed his hand to his belt, unsheathing his dagger while the drunk was quickly and alertly closing in on him.

Abu Fahd raised his dagger high, then swung it down, but the drunk moved to the left in a quick and sudden movement. The dagger missed him and he pushed the razor into the chest of Abu…

Shams Saghira 12

October 26, 2007

shams12.jpg

Fahd, shouting, “Take that!”

He pulled the razor out of the flesh, twisting it a bit. Abu Fahd clung to the mud wall, and raised his dagger again, but the drunk stabbed him a second time in the chest, then stabbed him a third time in the shoulder, and Abu Fahd‘s arm immediately went limp and hung to the side. His fingers let go of the dagger and it dropped to the ground.

The drunk was shouting and jumping around yelling, “Take that! Take that!”

He stabbed him in the hip and Abu Fahd moaned, he felt weak suddenly in his knees, and he tried to stay standing up firmly, but the razor was still after him, piercing his flesh and ripping it to shreds without mercy. He stabbed him in the stomach, and his guts spilled out. Abu Fahd pressed his hands against his insides, they were warm and wet and gave a final shudder. They spilled out and poured to the ground, and he collapsed on his back. The drunk was standing and leaning over him nearby. The drunk coughed several times, and then vomited. He then raced away.

Abu Fahd heard the sheep saying to him, “Seven jugs of
gold…” And then the gold tumbled down, shining like little suns.

Then the voice started, bit by bit, to drift away.


Shams Saghira Textual Notes

October 26, 2007

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This text came out of a book of modern Arabic short stories designed for speakers of English, and had some textual notes at the end.