In Arabic Grammar there are Two Types of Sentences

There are only two types of sentences in Arabic. Each is classified by the type of word that begins it, a noun or a verb.

  • The Nominal noun-based Sentence [الجُمْلة الاسْمِيّة]
  • The Verbal Sentence [الجُمْلة الفِعْلِيّة]

{مُّحَمَّدٌ رَّسُولُ اللَّـهِ ۚ } ﴿٢٩﴾ سورة الفتح

Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah” [48:29] A noun initiates, therefore, a nominal sentence.

{عَلِمَ اللَّـهُ أَنَّكُمْ كُنتُمْ تَخْتَانُونَ أَنفُسَكُمْ} ﴿١٨٧﴾ سورة البقرة

Allah knew that you had been deceiving yourselves” [2:187] A verb begins it, therefore, a verbal sentence

And here we have an aayah, with two sentences, the first is verbal, the second is nominal:

{سَبَّحَ لِلَّـهِ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ} ﴿١﴾ سورة الحديد

 “All that is in the heavens and all on earth glorified Allah. And He is the All-Mighty, all-Wise.” [62:1]

Most sentences in the Quran are preceded by particles, interrogatives, negations, conditionals, emphasizers or other constructions that we’ll learn in future lessons insha’Allah. In spite of that, the rule remains, when the interrogative, conditional, or emphasizer is removed, whatever comes next, be it a noun or an action, determines the type of sentence.

If it’s a nominal sentence, then it has two basic parts, the subject [المُبْتَدَأ] and the predicate or news [الخَبَر] about the subject. In the first example above we see that “Muhammad” is the subject, and the predicate is “Messenger of Allah”. Arabic has no “is” but it is implied and understood between the subject and predicate. So “Muhammad Messenger…” becomes “Muhammad is …” and thus for other nominal sentences.

From the second example, the subject is “he” while the predicate/news is “the All-Mighty, the All-Wise”. So that means “He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise”.

As for verbal sentences, then they are broken down into a verb and a doer who may or may not be mentioned separately. Thus, “سَجَدَ” meaning, “he prostrated” is a complete sentence if we know who the prostrate one is. If we don’t know who the doer is, then we would have to add one, preferably after the verb. For example, [سَجَدَ خالِدٌ] or [سَجَدَتْ سَلْمى]. Here, the Arabic action + doer order contradicts English grammar structure, but that’s because the attention is on the action rather than the person. It is as if we’re saying “someone prostrated, and that someone was Khalid/Salma.” The only reason Khalid and Salma are mentioned is because of how important their action is to us. Otherwise, if they were the focus of our attention, we’d instead say, [خالِدٌ ساجِدٌ] “Khalid is prostrate” and [سَلْمى ساجِدةٌ] “Salma is prostrate” making it a nominal sentence, or we’d use another construction.

About Chris
Chris, aka AbdulHaqq, is from central Illinois and accepted Islam in 2001 at age 17. He studied Arabic and Islamic theology in Saudi Arabia from 2007-13 and most recently earned a master's in Islamic Law from Malaysia. He is married with children.

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