Words from Eid

One would be surprised to know that we use words related to ‘Eid’ every day in Urdu.


Khaled Ahmed November 15, 2011

The two Eids are those that all Muslims celebrate in memory of ancient events linking Islam to its earliest origins. The third Eid is the birthday of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). In some ways, this third ‘Eid’ or ‘Eid Milad’ is the most important one in the eyes of Muslims.

The massacre of ‘Eid Milad’ in Karachi 2006 shook Pakistan to its roots. If the attack was sectarian, it denotes a new kind of internal conflict that can destroy everything that Pakistan stands for. What is the origin of the word Eid?

One would be surprised to know that we use words related to ‘Eid’ every day in Urdu. For instance, habit in Urdu is adat. The root is ‘awd’ meaning to ‘return our visit again and again’. This kind of action would be called routine in English.

Adat is therefore routine. But why should Eid be derived from this root? Simple; because Eid comes again and again. Anyone who does something in routine will become an experienced person in whatever he does.

Such a person would be m’ueed. In Arabic, a camel that pays off in terms of journey again and again without getting tired is called m’ueed. But those who are named M’ueed should not be disturbed. Anyone who does this in routine is also a ‘restorer of things’.

One of the 99 attributes of Allah is M’ueed because He is able to revisit his creation and restore it. From this comes the other name Aida, one who is kind and helpful. The root ‘awd’ means repetition and, therefore, custom. One tribe mentioned in the Holy Quran is called Aad.

In Urdu we have the word i’ada for repetition, from the same root.

Aud is also fragrance because of its capacity to make you revisit an earlier happening in life. Ghalib’s letters were issued under the title of Aud’-e-Hindi, the ‘Fragrance from India’. The name of one son of Saddam Hussein, Uday (fragrance?) could be related.

Another related word that we use very often in Urdu is me’ad or a pledged time. It is in fact a promise of payment at a place to be revisited at an agreed time. The sense of coming back is the basis of all these formulations.

The study of roots reveals a lot about a culture or civilisation. Those who investigate the roots of their language actually find out how their collective mind works. It is a pity that no one has even tried to write an etymological dictionary of Urdu.

Arabic names don’t always have a good root to begin with, but the derived meanings somehow come out good. At times, they reflect on a nation’s attitudes, as in the case of the name Khadija. It is probably the most favourite name for girls among Muslims. Khadija was the first wife of the Prophet (pbuh).

The root that applies to Khadija is the one applied to an aborting camel or a prematurely born baby-camel. In a society where girl children were not greatly prized, this name denoted a sense of loss. But for us Muslims, Khadija was the Prophet’s most honoured wife.

She gave birth to a daughter whose name is now more of a favourite than even Khadija. This was Zainab, which comes from root ‘zyn’ meaning ‘ornament’. When you join it with abb, it becomes ‘ornament of the father’.

The word milad is from the root ‘wld’ meaning ‘to give birth’. We have the young boys in Paradise called wildaan and we have the name Waleed from it. Of course, we also have the Urdu waalid (father) and walidayn (parents).

Published in The Express Tribune, November 16th,  2011.

COMMENTS (3)

Mohammad Taqi | 10 years ago | Reply

Interesting take Khaled sahab. The Eid is so named perhaps not because one gets good at repetition but in the same manner that many many happy returns of the day is used in English. Some more mushtaqat of walad , of course, are tawleed and the subsequent zabt-e-tawleed

Saima Arif | 10 years ago | Reply

I don't think splitting of 'Zainab' into 'Zynn' and 'Abb" makes sense.

Consider a word 'selfish' which means 'Caring supremely or unduly for one's self'.... Is it derived from 'sell' and ''fish' which becomes 'selling the fish' after joining?

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