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The Quran => Q&As with Joseph Islam - Information Only => : Reader Questions June 29, 2012, 12:15:06 AM

: 'Hayta la-ka' - Come now, Take Me
: Reader Questions June 29, 2012, 12:15:06 AM
Salam brother,

Another (apparent) imperative in Surah Yusuf is the Arabic construction “hayta la-ka” (12:23) which is variously translated as “come, thou or come now, take me…etc!”—some sort of seductive invitation. It may be a little challenging to parse this expression according to its normative grammatical construction, if at all it follows normative grammar rules.  Any thought about how this Arabic construct can be explained? Specifically what perfect verb the command “hayta” belong to and what is the significance of ‘la-ka’ at the end?
: Re: 'Hayta la-ka' - Come now, Take Me
: Joseph Islam June 29, 2012, 12:22:37 AM
Salamun Alaikum,

You ask a great question and to give my perspective on this, I would just like to elaborate a little on my precepts with a view to provide a suitable context, if I respectfully may.


In my humble perspective, I find the Quran often 'rendering' or 'capturing' dialogues that never occurred in Arabic into a language that the primary audience could understand (The Arabic dialect of the Quraish).

So rather than a 'direct' translation, the Quran is best capturing the 'original' narrative of the speaker in their language, and conveying the essence of that message to an Arab audience in Arabic.  Therefore, the Quran to a large extent is itself a translation of many narratives of bygone communities.

So for example, if a dialogue of Prophet Joseph (pbuh) is captured, the Quran will capture the original 'narrative' as uttered by Prophet Joseph in his 'native' language most likely a dialect spoken by his clans. Therefore, the translation of the Quran of the same narrative may not even resemble the Hebrew Torah capturing the 'same narrative' which itself is a translation from the original dialect spoken by Prophet Joseph.

The Hebrew 'rendition' of the original dialogue would only be best understood in its own 'language ambit' of Hebrew. Otherwise, we would end up with a translation of a translation from one language to another, where the message / nuance may become totally skewed. The Quran would have no intention to do this but to impart the original message clearly from its originator.

I mention this for two reasons:

Grammatical Classical Arabic as a literary academic genre, was a late development by the grammarians of the second century AH/8th century CE (over 100 years after the death of the Prophet). The rules of grammar et al were themselves largely based on the Quranic Arabic as the primary language of the Arabs par excellence. Other later sources were also used. Therefore, the Quran wasn't following any grammar rules per se, but was just narrating Divine inspiration to a Prophet in a language that the primary audience - the Quraish understood with all their peculiarities of language. This is a salient point that I will use later.

The Hijazi based Quranic revelation certainly had no intentions to adhere to later grammar constructs which were not considered 'normative' until at least a century + in the schools of Basra and Kufa (Modern day Iraq).

Hence an example I usually relate is let us assume that the Quran was revealed to a 'Texan' community to a messenger amongst them, then the Quran would not only communicate in 'American English', but would also capture the pronunciation, nuances and peculiarities of language etc of the Texans!  After all, they would be the primary audience. Their peculiarities may or may not follow 'normative' 'English' of neighbouring American-English speakers despite how the language was considered 'normative' at the time or of later times.

This is one of the major contentions I also have with critical polemics who challenge the Quran based on its alleged grammar 'mistakes'. My usual response is - "what grammar?" - " Do you honestly expect the Quran to follow 'normative grammar rules' which were not formulated and 'canonised' as 'normative' until at least a century after its own revelation?


So with the phrase, 'hayta la’ka', [and I consider this a specific phrase not following what is known as ‘normative’ grammar construct] I personally put it down to the 'peculiarity’ of the language of the Quran's primary audience. It 'infers' some kind of seductive nuance which the Quraishi Arabs clearly understood.  Of course, it is only ‘peculiar’ from the eyes of later grammar rules, but to the original Arabs, it would have been very much the ‘norm’.

It could well be an equivalent phrase of the tribal Quraish which best captured a similar meaning to the Hebrew imperative "Shakab {shaw-kab}" (Lie down you!) (Genesis 39:12) or "shakab om-i"  'Lie with me!" as a seductive nuance capturing the same narrative with Prophet Joseph.

Also, we are only informed of one phrase in the conversation that occurred between Prophet Joseph and his seducer which captures the gist of her intentions.

I attach the lexicon excerpt from Edward Lanes capturing some interesting perspectives of the classical grammarians on this phrase.


: Re: 'Hayta la-ka' - Come now, Take Me
: Reader Questions June 29, 2012, 12:40:12 AM
Salamun alaikum, brother:

Thank you for taking the time to do the elaborate analysis of this imperative expression “hayta laka”.  From the lexical point of view, this expression seems to be an Arabicized derivation from Hebrew as indicated in the lexicon image.  Fortunately, a good portion of the Qur’an does seem to follow the normative ‘grammar’ rules (even though Arabic grammar, as you also pointed out, the Arabic grammar was a product derived from the Qur’an later).  The difficulties of the like of “hayta laka” are thankfully fewer. The ‘seductive nature’ of this imperative perhaps demanded a more ‘frank or colloquial style’, hence ‘hayta laka’.  The appendage “laka” suggests to me the overall meaning to be “come! it’s all yours”.  The context was already clear to me but the verb form and the grammatical nuance was not.  Thanks for the lexicon image—that clarified the mist.

Curiously, a ‘hadith’ indicates that the Prophet said that the Qur’an was revealed in seven ‘ahruf’ when he okayed two or more variant recitations of the same passage of the Qur’an! I am glad Allah protected it in the current form and saved us from the specter of having to live with ‘seven ahruf’ especially when there is no consensus among scholars on what exactly is meant by the word “ahruf”.

God bless,
: Re: 'Hayta la-ka' - Come now, Take Me
: Joseph Islam June 29, 2012, 12:41:29 AM
Salamun Alaikum

Ceteris paribus, I think the overall meaning that you suggest "Come! its all yours" in a colloquial seductive sense is very plausible and one which I feel is quite appealing given the expression. I would also admit ‘”Come forward! Its all yours”

Furthermore, it carries a similar nuance for me to that of the Hebrew "Come, lie with me" (shakab om-i) as in the Hebrew Torah where she is practically giving herself up for his taking.  You are absolutely correct that thankfully, normative rules depart from the Quran seldom and when they do and there is a difference of opinion, I find much solace in the expression with regards the 'qawl' - "fayattabi'una ahsanahu" (39:18).

Thanks so much for sharing.