Sunday, November 16, 2014

Word of the Day: “Dabiq”

[Update 16 Oct 2016]    As for the pronunciation, BLUF:



Since the name of this ill-omened Syrian village is once again in the news, as the purported site of the latest ISIL beheadings,  and as the media are still mispronouncing it, here once again is some orthoëpic guidance.

[Original post 23 Oct 2014]
The name of ISIL’s English-language magazine -- its answer to al-Qaeda’s uninspiring Inspire -- is mysteriously titled Dabiq.   I hope to explain this as time permits, but in the meantime there is a narrowly linguistic matter,  à la “ISIS or ISIL?”: namely, how to pronounce the word.  As it is currently being misprononced in the media, I thought I’d weigh in before the error spreads.

(That's "Caliphate" to you & me)

The Arabic is دابق , with a long initial vowel and a short final vowel.  Accordingly, a narrow transcription would be Dâbiq.   The d here is the plain (unemphatic, non-pharyngealized) consonant; hence the long â has a relatively light or fronted character.  Pronounce the word

     DA - bik

with accent on the first syllable, whose vowel is like that in cat.  The second syllable is like Bic (the name of the ballpoint pen), or Bick (the Hayes-Bickford, near Harvard Square, where I had my first traumatic encounter with what Cantabridgeans consider “regular coffee”), not like beak.

As for why the Islamic State would name its European-language outreach magazine in so obscure a way as Dabiq,  and why they would proclaim (probably falsely) that the latest beheadings took place in the hamlet of that name -- Ah, thereby hangs a tale, with roots deep in History!

The reference is to a Prophetic Tradition (a Hadîth), according to which apocalyptic end-time events will involve an episode in that otherwise obscure hamlet. 

لاَ تَقُومُ السَّاعَةُ حَتَّى يَنْزِلَ الرُّومُ بِالأَعْمَاقِ أَوْ بِدَابِقَ

[For the full hadith, cf.]

But there are hundreds of Hadith, even thousands;  and this one is by no means among the better-known. 

Nor does its content specially favor ISIL’s agenda as opposed to any other Muslim’s.  For that, the following motif is far more telling:

Drown like dogs, infidels

Noah’s flood is acknowledged in Islamic tradition, but does not bulk large.   Its use here by the Islamic State  is pure gloating and minatory schadenfreude:  Everyone is going to die, smitten by the wrath of Allah, apart from one precious remnant (to belong to which, it helps to have a low-numbered IS party-card).

Why, then, of all the titles one might have chosen, choose this obscure one?  We ask this simply as a student of rhetoric.

[tbc …]

[Update, Ash Wednesday, 2015]  In the latest terror incident in Tunisie, a group which, a while back, pledged allegiance to ISIL, killed four policemen.  The group is being reported as Phalange Okba Ibn Nafaâ, Okba Ibn Nafaa Brigade and various other renditions.   A proper transcription would be Katîbat `Uqba ibn Nâfi`, or `Uqbah ibn Nâfi` Brigade.   (Here the circumflexes, for which you may also substitute a macron, indicate a long vowel, which affects the stress:  thus, it is the first syllable of Nâfi`that stressed.)  In Arabic:

عقبة بن نافع

So who is this gentleman, for whom the brigade is named?  
Not, as one might suppose, some recent martyr who is being commemorated (such is the style of Palestinian groups, for instance).   Rather, the group has reached all the way back to the 600s A.D. -- the first few years of the Islamic era. Uqba ibn Nafi was a Crusading Muslim general who led the conquest of the Maghreb, after his famous uncle had conquered Egypt.
Here they are  smiling for their group portrait:

Hi mom!
This harking back to the earliest days of Islam, is typical of Salafis, and is in line with the choice of Dabiq for the magazine.


Incidentally… A similar point may be made w.r.t. that large-font word that headlines the very first issue of Dabiq:  “Khilafah”.   It means ‘caliphate’, and is pronounced “khee-LAFF-a” (where the kh- denotes the final sound of Bach, or the initial sound of chutzpah.)  But the point is -- since there is already a perfectly serviceable English word for this, why use a transliterated Arabism?
It all goes towards establishing a self-isolating identity for Salfist-takfiri Muslims.  Thus again and again, in English text, you’ll see them denounce “kuffar” (pron. koo-FAHR), which simply means ‘infidels’.  Or they’ll text about “making dua”, where dua (phonetically more narrowly, du`aa) means ‘prayer’.   The devotees simply wish to mark themselves off as different.   For a discussion of the socio-theology of that stance, see our discussion of    الولاء والبراءة

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