Last updated: May 2, 2021
At least regarding the grammar of the sentence, the Arabic sentence الصَّلاةُ خَيْرٌ مِن الْنَّوْمِ means “prayer is better than sleep”.
You might know that in Sunni Islam there is a special line that the muezzin says if he calls people to come to pray during dawn: الصَّلاةُ خَيْرٌ مِن الْنَّوْمِ (as-salatu khayrun min an-nawm). This is only said for the الْفَجْر-prayer (fajr).
This is an interesting grammatical construction. We do not use the regular اِسْم التَّفْضِيل ism -al-Tafdeel) here, following the pattern: أَفْعَل – which would denote a comparative or superlative meaning.
So why do we translate the word with a comparative meaning?
The word خَيْرٌ is usually translated as good, which is correct. But it also has another meaning – the meaning of a اِسْم تَفْضِيل.
The word خَيْر has the same meaning as أَحْسَن – better.
Let us have a closer look at some examples:
|Prayer is better than sleep.||الصَّلاةُ خَيْرٌ مِن الْنَّوْم|
|Work is better than laziness.||الْعَمَلُ خَيْرٌ مِن الْكَسَلِ|
|He is better than…||هُوَ خَيْرٌ مِنْ|
|I am not better than the student.||لَسْتُ خَيْرًا مِن الطَّالِبِ|
What is the DNA of the word خَيْر?
The word for better was originally أَخْيَر – but it was changed into خَيْر.
This happened a long time ago as in the Qur’an, خَيْر is already used in the meaning of better.
The word comes from the root خ – ي – ر. The corresponding I-verb is خارَ.
Watch out for the correct plural:
|good; excellent/better; best||خِيار or أَخْيار||خَيْر|
|good; blessing; good thing||خُيُور||خَيْر|
There are other words which follow the same logic as خَيْرٌ, for example, the word شَرٌّ (bad or evil), but it is less common.
|She is worse than…||…هِيَ شَرٌّ مِنْ|
Watch out: If you use خَيْرٌ or شَرٌّ in a إِضافة-construction, they have the meaning of the superlative.
|(the) best student||خَيْرُ طَالِبٍ|
- In Arabic, you don’t use the definite article although it has a definite meaning in English.
- As it is a إِضافة-construction, the word خَيْر doesn’t get nunation.
If you are interested – here is more about grammar:
- Is Arabic a gender-inclusive language?
- What does nunation express in Arabic?
- What is the idea behind nunation (tanween) in Arabic?
- How well can you identify Arabic roots?
- Why are the adjective and the حال often confused in Arabic?
Picture credit: Image by Mücahit Yıldız from Pixabay