Wednesday, 12 April 2017

SURAH AL-NABA' (78): 33

وَكَوَاعِبَ أَتْرَابًا

Yusuf Ali: companions of equal age

Maududi: maidens of equal age

Sahih International:

And full-breasted [companions] of equal age

Muhsin Khan:
And young full-breasted (mature) maidens of equal age;

Dan perawan-perawan yang sebaya umurnya;

Indonesian: Gadis-gadis montok yang sebaya

Ibn Kathir:

﴿حَدَآئِقَ وَأَعْنَـباً - وَكَوَاعِبَ أَتْرَاباً ﴾
(And vineyards, and Kawa`ib Atrab,) meaning, wide-eyed maidens with fully developed breasts. Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and others have said,
(Kawa`ib) "This means round breasts. They meant by this that the breasts of these girls will be fully rounded and not sagging, because they will be virgins, equal in age. This means that they will only have one age.'' The explanation of this has already been mentioned in Surat Al-Waqi`ah.

Muhammad Asad: and splendid companions, well matched.

For the above rendering of atrab, see surah {56}, note [15]. As regards my rendering of kawa'ib as "splendid companions", it is to be remembered that the term ka'b - from which the participle ka'ib is derived - has many meanings, and that one of these meanings is "prominence", "eminence" or "glory" (Lisan al-'Arab); thus, the verb ka'ba, when applied to a person, signifies "he made [another person] prominent", "glorious" or "splendid" (ibid.) Based on this tropical meaning of both the verb ka'ba and the noun ka'b, the participle ka'ib has often been used, in popular parlance, to denote "a girl whose breasts are becoming prominent" or "are budding": hence, many commentators see in it an allusion to some sort of youthful "female companions" who would entertain the (presumably male) inmates of paradise. But quite apart from the fact that all Qur'anic allegories of the joys of paradise invariably apply to men and women alike, this interpretation of kawa'ib overlooks the purely derivative origin of the above popular usage - which is based on the tropical connotation of "prominence" inherent in the noun ka'b - and substitutes for this obvious tropism the literal meaning of something that is physically prominent: and this, in my opinion, is utterly unjustified. If we bear in mind that the Qur'anic descriptions of the blessings of paradise are always allegorical, we realize that in the above context the term kawa'ib can have no other meaning than "glorious [or "splendid"] beings", without any definition of sex; and that, in combination with the term atrab, it denotes, "splendid companions well-matched" - thus alluding to the relations of the blest with one another, and stressing the absolute mutual compatibility and equal dignity of all of them. See also note [13] on 56:34

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