Abu al-AswadAl-Du'ali (Arabic: أبو الأسود الدؤلي) (ca. 603–688 CE) was a close companion of Ali ibn Abi Talib and grammarian. He was the first to place dots on Arabic letters and the first to write on Arabic linguistics. He educated many students. It has been said - and many adduce it as fact - that the first grammarian in the Arabic language was Abu'l-Aswad al-Du'ali (d. 69 AH), a companion ofAli bin Abu Talib and an early poet.
Ibn al-Nadim, author of the Fihrist (book) said:
"Muhammad b. Ishaq says that most scholars agree that grammar was taken from Abu'l-Aswad al-Du'ali, and that he took it from the Khalifah 'Ali." This is also the opinion of the famous language specialist Abu 'Ubayda (d. 210 AH), and the lexicographer al-Zubaydi (d. 397 AH) said about Abu'l-Aswad: "He was the first to establish [the science of] the Arabic language, to lay down its methods and to establish its rules."
There are also stories in which both 'Ali and 'Umar acknowledge or refer the subject of grammar to Abu'l-Aswad al-Du'ali. The reason why Abu'l-Aswad began to lay formal rules for the Arabic language lies undoubtedly behind the multiply of non-Arabic Muslims - who recited the Qur'an.
It has been illustrated by a report in which Abu'l-Aswad heard some Muslims pronounce the wrong reading of the Qur'an, owing to a mistake in voweling. As a consequence, following the order of the governor Ziyad b. Abi Sufyan, he instructed a scribe, saying: "When you see me open my mouth at a letter, put a dot above it. When I close it, put one next to the letter. When I draw them apart, put a dot under it.
Ibnun Nadim, author of the Fihrist said: “Muhammad bin Ishaq says that most scholars agree that grammar was taken from Abu’l Aswad ad Du’ali, and that he took it from the Khalifah ‘Ali (radhiymahu allah wa Ahloh)”. The reason why Abu’l Aswad began to lay formal rules for the Arabic language lies undoubtedly behind the multiply of non-Arabic Muslims who recited the Qur’aan. It has been illustrated by a report in which Abu’l Aswad heard some Muslims pronounce the wrong reading of the Qur’aan, owing to a mistake in voweling.
As a consequence, following the order of the governor Ziyad bin Abi Sufyan, he instructed a scribe, saying: “When you see me open my mouth at a letter, put a dot above it. When I close it, put one next to the letter. When I draw them apart, put a dot under it.” Hence it is accepted that Ab’ul Aswad ad Du’ali had initially accepted the vowel points. However, these vowel points were not those which are used today. As previously mentioned, for a “fat-ha”, one dot was placed above the letter; for a “kasra”, one dot was placed below the letter; for a “dhamma”, one dot in front of the letter and for a tanween, two dots were fixed. Later Khalil ibn Ahmad (rahimahullah) used the signs of hams and tashdeed. Thereafter, Hajjaj ibn Yusuf had requested Yahya ibn Ya’mar (rahimahulla), Nasr ibn Aasim Laithi and Hasan Basri (rahmahullah) to insert both dots and vowel points in The Quraan Kareem. On this occasion, to denote the vowel points, the present forms of fat-ha, kasra, were fixed instead of dots, so that they were no confused with the normal dots of letters. Ad Du’ali passed away in 69 AH. Muslims are indebted to the highly beneficial contribution of this great scholar.
His name was ‘Amr ibn ‘Uthman ibn Qinbar (Abu Bishr) originally from the lands of Persia. Seebawayh was a laqab (nickname) given to him by his mother, meaning ‘the scent of apples.’
At the beginning of his youth he sought knowledge in the field of hadith. He studied with the likes of Hammaad, the famous muhaddith in Basra, and it was here with Shaykh Hammaad (rahimahullah) that a particular incident took place which changed Seebawayh’s entire focus.
Scholars to this day have not stopped benefiting from his book and the knowledge which he left behind.
“Another story describes Abu'l-Aswad's reason behind the beginning of grammar. Some Arabic people laughed once when a client of an Arab mispronounced an Arabic word, so Abu'l-Aswad rebuked them, saying: "These mawali (non-Arab Muslim means- allies) have formed a desire for Islam, and have converted, so they have become our brothers; if only we were to lay down [the rules] of language for them!"
Basra was a very important centre of grammar. The first one who had established the base of the school of Basra was Abul Aswad ad Du’ali, the close friend of Ali (radhiyallahu anhu). His real name was Zalim ibn ‘Amr ibn Sufyan ibn Jandal ad Duali. He was the first to place dots on Arabic letters and the first to write on Arabic linguistics.
This school competed with the school of Kufa. The grammarians of Basra were called (people of logic) to be distinguished from the grammarians of Kufa. One of the most prominent scholars of this school of grammar was Seebwayh the Persian Muslim scholar who had written a book called “The Book of Seebwayh”.
One day Hammad (rahimahullah) asked him to read out a hadith and Seebawayh began by saying: “ليس من أصحابي أحد إلا ولو شئت لأخذت عليه ليس أبا الدرداء…” – however, he read Aba as Abu in a state of raf’ (nominative) thinking that it was the Ism of Laysa. Hammaad al Basri corrected him and said, أخطأتَ يا سيبويه إنما هو استثناء – ‘You’re mistaken O’ Seebawayh, it is in fact an Exception,’ (i.e. meaning: ‘… except for Abu Darda’). So Seebawayh said, لأطلبنّ علما لا يُنازعني فيه أحد – ‘I will certainly seek knowledge (grammar) such that none can dispute with me therein.’
So he travelled to the learned scholars and grammarians of his time in Basra and studied extensively with the famous al Khalil ibn Ahmad al Farahidi (who established ‘ilm al-’Aroodh) and other grammarians such as al Akhfash. It was here that Seebawayh established the foundations of grammar for the people and wrote his huge scholarly work ‘al Kitab.’ However, at the time, he did not release it to the people. It is stated that he would travel through towns and villages, sitting with the folks and recording their poetry as well as historical statements (handed down through tribes) in an attempt at gathering shawahid (linguistical evidences) for each point and argument that he mentioned in his book.
After his death, one of his students took it upon himself to make this book available to the public. Not only did his book benefit the people of Basra, but it thereafter became one of the greatest books on grammar to have ever been written in history, such that the people began to call it ‘Qur’aan an Nahw’ (the ‘Qur’aan of Grammar’). Seebawayh (rahimahullah) died at the young age of 34.
There are also stories in which both 'Ali (k.w.) and 'Umar (r.a.) acknowledged Abu al-Aswad‘s command of grammar or deferred to him on the subject. Shaykh Abu al-Aswad (r.a.) began to lay down formal rules for the Arabic language because more and more non-Arabs were converting to Islam, especially with the conquest of the Persian Empire. They needed help in learning the language of the Qur’an. It was reported that Shaykh Abu al-Aswad (r.a.) heard some Muslims pronounce words wrongly whilst reading of the Qur'an, owing to a mistake in vowels. As a consequence, following the order of the governor, Ziyad ibn Abi Sufyan, he instructed a scribe, saying, "When you see me open my mouth at a letter, put a dot above it. When I close it, put one next to the letter. When I draw them apart, put a dot under it."
Another story describes Shaykh Abu al-Aswad's (r.a.) reason behind the beginning of grammar. Some Arabs laughed once when a non-Arab muslim mispronounced an Arabic word. Shaykh Abu al-Aswad (r.a.) rebuked them, saying, "These mawali (clients) have formed a desire for Islam, and have converted, so they have become our brothers; if only we were to lay down [the rules] of language for them!"
The following was taken from the blog of Ustadzah Zafirah binte Jeffrey: The Requirements of Being an Educator. She translated one of the poems of Shaykh Abu al-Aswad ad-Du’ali (r.a.).
This is one of the most notable works by Shaykh Abu al-Aswad ad-Du’ali (r.a.) (16-69 H), one of the greatest forefathers of Arab grammar. He is of the tabi’in, the generation after the Prophet (s.a.w.) and played a major role in assigning the markings, ashkal in the Qur’an. Much reference has been made to this, especially the last line, in studies of Arabic literature and grammar.