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mecca

لَبَّيْكَ (labbaika) – What does it mean?

Labbaika (Labbayka) is said during the pilgrimage/Hajj before the pilgrims enter Mecca. It means: Here I am! At your service! But what kind of word is labbaika?

Last updated: May 2, 2021

In this blog post we will examine a pretty tricky expression: لَبَّيْكَ

Let us check it step by step.

The root

It is ل – ب – ى . This root is only used as a II-verb and means to follow, to obey (a call, an invitation), to say “labbaika”.

The مَصْدَر

The مَصْدَر of لَبَّي – a form-II-verb (فَعَّلَ) – would be تَلْبِية . But we don’t use this word for our expression. Instead, we use لَبٌّ which is the so called اِسْم الْمَصْدَر of the verb لَبَّى. If you are not sure what a ism al-Masdar is, click here.

Form the dual:

The word لَبٌّ is put into the dual form for the sake of corroboration (emphasis). It has somehow the meaning of: “answer after answer“, “saying after saying“, etc. –> أُلَبِّي لَبَّيْكَ=تَلْبِيَة بَعْدَ تَلْبِيَة

Check the table below for other examples. The dual is لَبَّانِ in مَرْفُوع (nominative case) or لَبَّيْنِ in مَجْرُور or مَنْصُوب (genitive, accusative case).

Put the word into the accusative case/مَنْصُوب

Why is that? Let us explain this by the famous Arabic expression سُبْحانَ اللَّهِ (Praise Allah! Or: God be praised!)

This expression (similar to “labbaika”) is used as an exclamation of surprise – a special form of the أُسْلُوب التَّعَجُّب.

Grammatically speaking, سُبْحانَ is a so called اِسْم مَصْدَر and is used as an absolute object – مَفْعُول مُطْلَق – which always has to be مَنْصُوب/accusative.

Many common expressions in Arabic have a مَفْعُولٌ مُطْلَقٌ serv­ing as the first part of a إضافة-construction (see Arabic for Nerds 2, question #320)

Actually, there is no other application. This word is only used as a مَفْعُول مُطْلَق. So we need لَبَّيْنِ for our example.

Add the personal pronoun:

As we connect the personal pronoun you (you here refers to Allah) and since we use the word as a مَفْعُول مُطْلَق the ن is elided – because it is connected to a personal pronoun.

Result

Finally, we get: لَبَّيْكَ

There are a bunch of expressions that are constructed similarly using a مَفْعُول مُطْلَق (sometimes in connection with the dual form, for example: سَعْدَيْكَ)

Some common expressions

meaningoriginal meaningexpression
Praise God!أُسَبِّحُ اللَّه تَسْبِيحًاسُبْحانَ اللَّهِ
God forbid!
God save (protect) me (us) from that!
أَعْوُذُ بِاللَّهِ مَعاذًامَعاذَ اللَّهِ
Here I am! At your service!أُلِبُّ لَكَ إِلْبابًا or أَلُبُّ لَكَ لَبًّالَبَّيْكَ
And all good is in your hands.أسْعَدْتُكَ إسعادًا بَعْدَ إسعادٍسَعْدَيْكَ

Other articles dealing with Islam and the Qur’an:

Picture credit: Image by ziedkammoun from Pixabay 

2 comments
  1. Hi There !
    Thank you again for the explanations. I love your blog and find it absolutely necessary.
    I have noticed that the “Books for Arabic Nerds” section is empty, but would really appreciate if you could find some time to recommand some references you deem worth mentioning (aside from yours which I obviously just ordered ! – eager to read it).

    Many thanks

    1. Hi – I have done that. In the menu you will see “Books for Nerds” – just click on it. If you have other recommendations, please use the comment section. It will be beneficial for other readers, I am sure. Appreciate it.

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