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What is really al-Sham as we are told in the Islamic historical tradition opinion

Reader comment on item: "Greater Syria" in the News

Submitted by dhimmi no more (United States), Jun 14, 2014 at 10:24

Dr. Pipes

It seems to me that most of what I'm reading about the meaning of the word الشام or al-Sham in the western press is very far from the historical and linguistic truth

al-Sham makes it to the exegesis of the Qur'an in Surat Quraish or Q105 and indeed in the mind of Muhammad al-Sham really meant Syria also Damascus

And here is what we find in Ibn Manzur's Lisan al-Arab

الشأْم بلادٌ عن مشأَمة القبلة سُمِّيَت بهِ لذلك. أو لأن قومًا من بني كنعان تشاءَموا إليها أي تياسروا. أو سُمِّيَت بسام بن نوح فإنهُ بالشين بالسريانيَّة. أو لأن أرضها شاماتٌ بيض وحمر وسود. وعلى هذا لا تُهمَز وهي مؤَنَّثة وقد تُذكَّر " موقع صخر المعاجم العربية لسان العرب.

Ibn Manzur really does not know but the second opinion that the word Sham is derived from the name of the son of Noah and his name was Sam and in Syriac the Arabic letter seen becomes Syriac sheen and now we have Sham which means that the word Sham is not really an Arabic word but a loan word from Syriac

And indeed if we check the name of Syria in the Syriac language it is really Sham or ܫܐܡ and it also means Damascus (not unlike Egypt where the name of Egypt is Masr and the city of Cairo is also called by Egyptians Masr) and here is the link

http://www.assyrianlanguages.org/sureth/dosearch.php?searchkey=12145&language=id

As for Damascus it is also called in Syriac ܕܪܡܣܘܩ or Darmsuq (see Genesis 15:2)

http://www.assyrianlanguages.org/sureth/dosearch.php?searchkey=3225&language=id

which is Arabized as دمشق or Damashq

And all of this is not surprising that both words Sham and Damascus are loan words from Syriac but what is important here is that in Muhammad's (if he existed and if his trips to Syria ineede took place beacuse if one reads the exegesis of Surat Quraish the Ulama had no clue about here did Muhammad's trips end? Was it Syria or was it many other places) limited mind Syria to him must have been al-Sham or Damascus to be specific

Now if we turn to al-Wasset dicitonary we find the following

( الشَّأمُ ): بِلادّ عن مَشْأمَةِ القِبْلَةِ وسُمّيَتَ لذلك أو لأنَّ قَوماً من بني كَنْعانَ تَشاءَموا إليها أي تَياسَروا أو سُمِّيَ يِسامِ بنِ نُوحٍ فإِنَّه بالشينٍ بالسُّرْيانِيَّةِ أو لأنَّ أرْضها شاماتٌ بيضٌ وحُمْرٌ وسودٌ وعلى هذا لا تهْمَزُ وقد تُذَكَّرُ وهو (شامِيُّ وشآمِيُّ وشآم وأشْأَمَ) أتاها "

So the authors here agree with Lisan al-Arab that this is a Syriac word

Now we know from the revered Arabic language dictionaries what does the word al-Sham mean

However like anything in islam one would find the A and the B and it is not A or B and the only Allahu A3lam because later on we are told by Muslim historians that Bilad al-Sham is really

1. The western half of Syria including the parts annexed by Turkey from Syria

2. Lebanon

3. Today's Israel (the land of Israel as per the early Ulama is a very different story and it extends from the Euphrates to the Egyptian town of al-Arish) and most amazing it does not include the Negev desert

4. Gaza and the west bank

5. The western half of today's Jordan

The question is what do the members of the terrorist group ISIS believe that the word al-Sham means is all that matters and this is why all of the above countries should be on the alert

Submitting....

Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

Daniel Pipes replies:

I discuss the meaning of "Sham" at length in Chapter 1 of my 1990 book Greater Syria,http://www.danielpipes.org/books/greater.php

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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