A few notes from an Arabist on the word “Amen”

A few notes from an Arabist on the word “Amen” March 24, 2019

 

Amen in Arabic
Amen!

 

Whereas, in English, we end our prayers with the Hebrew-derived word Amen, Latter-day Saint prayers in Arabic end in the obviously related word Amin (pronounced ah-MEEN) — or, to spell it in the ugly but fairly accurate transliteration system that I’ll be employing in this blog entry, aamiin.

 

Perhaps some will be interested to learn a bit about the range of meanings, in Arabic, for the root ’mn, which underlies that word amin.

 

There are two “Form I” verbs derived from the root, which I give here in the third person masculine perfect, the third person masculine imperfect, and their respective verbal nouns, using doubled vowels to indicate what would be, in Arabic, a lengthened vowel:

 

  1. amuna/ya’munu/amaana means “to be faithful,” “to be reliable,” “to be trustworthy.”
  2. amina/ya’manu/amn means “to be safe” or “to feel safe.”

 

The verbal noun amaana means not only “reliability,” “trustworthiness,” “loyalty,” and “fidelity,” but “honesty,” “integrity,” and “confidence.”

 

A ma’man is a “place of safety.”  A person who is “reliable” is said to be ma’muun (roughly, ma’-MOON), which, literally translated, means “trusted” or “relied upon,” or, alternatively, to be amiin (ah-MEEN).

 

The verbal noun amn means “safety,” “peace,” “security,” and “protection.”  Thus, the (United Nations) Security Council is the majlis al-amn.

 

The noun amaan overlaps in meaning with amn, but can also denote “immunity” and “assurance of protection.”  It can be said that someone or something is fii amaan Allaah, “in God’s care.”

 

The Form II verb derived from the root is ammana, which means “to reassure,” “to set s.o.’s mind at rest,” “to ensure,” “to safeguard,” “to guarantee,” “to confirm,” and so forth.

 

The Form II verbal noun, ta’miin (pronounced ta’-MEEN), indicates “securing,” “protection.”

 

There is no Form III verb from the root, and there are no Forms V, VI, VII, or IX (which latter is rare for most Arabic verbs, anyway).

 

The Form IV verb coming off of the root ’mn is a’mana, which signifies “to believe.”  Accordingly, the noun iimaan (pronounced ee-MAAN) is the common word for “faith” or “belief,” and a mu’min is a “believer.”  In the days when the caliphate was in existence, the caliph was often called the amiir al-mu’miniin (ah-MEER al-mu’-min-EEN) — “the prince of the believers” or “the commander of the faithful.”

 

The Form VIII verb is i’tamana, which conveys the meaning of “putting trust” in someone or something, “having faith” or “having confidence.”

 

Form X, ista’mana, picks up the meanings of Form VIII but can also signify “to ask for protection,” “to seek a  promise of security.”

 

So there is a rich network of meanings connected with the root ’mn in Arabic, which is a cognate language to modern and biblical Hebrew, and, thus, connected with our word Amen.

 

What does an Arabist think about during Sunday meetings?  Now, sadly, you may have an idea.

 

 

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