Friday, June 09, 2023 | Dhu al-Qaadah 19, 1444 H
clear sky
36°C / 36°C

Ancient Arabic proverbs: 5


And we continue our journey through meaningful ancient Arabic proverbs:

29) War is a Draw: this proverb is used to indicate that life is everchanging and nothing stays the same. It was famously used by Abu Sufyan after the Muslims loss to Quraysh in the Battle of Uhud (625 A.D). Riding his horse and coming across the defeated he shouted: “Days alternate and war is a draw!”. Referring to the loss they had the year before in the Battle of Badr.

30) Your Hands Tied and Your Mouth Blew: there was a man who decided to cross a river swimming. He brought a leather bag to aid him float, blew it and tied it. His friends advised him to blow it more and secure the knot better but he ignored them. He went swimming and when reaching midway, the knot untied and the air leaked out fast that he almost drowned. He shouted at his friends for help but all he got was: “Your hands tied and your mouth blew”, meaning that you’re responsible of your own acions.

31) Your Brother is Forced, Not Being a Hero: this was first said by the Prophet’s companion Amr ibn Al-Aa’s (573-664 A.D) when asked to fight Ali ibn Abi Talib, the Prophet’s cousin and the 4th Rashidun Caliph. It was the time of Fitnah Wars and the Prophet’s companions were divided between those who supported Ali and those who opposed him. Ali asked for someone from the opposing camp to challenge him. Mu’awiya – the leader of the opposing camp- kept asking for volunteers but no one dared to fight Ali, the Prophet’s cousin and a well-known fearless warrior. Mu’awiya finally picked Amr ibn Al-Aa’s – the most cunning man Arabia had known- who instantly refused but then was forced. He came face to face with Ali, and knowing that he was no match to this great war veteran, he dropped his sword saying: “Your brother is forced, not being a hero!” which made Ali laugh and walk away. Till now this proverb is used to indicate when doing something unwillingly.

32) Survive a Rajab and You’ll See Wonders: Rajab is the 7th month in the Arabic lunar calendar that is also considered one of the 4 sacred months where war is prohibited. It’s said that first who said this proverb was Al-Harith ibn Abbad who had recently divorced one of his wives because of his old age. She got married to a younger man that she loved more than Al-Harith. When the two men met, Al-Harith said: “Survive a Rajab and you’ll see wonders” meaning that the passing of time changes everything, even feelings.

33) The Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back: a man had a camel that he overloaded with luggage. There was a bundle of hay left that was the camel’s feed. The man loaded the bundle over the rest of the luggage straw by straw, till he reached the last one and the camel crumbled under the sheer weight of the luggage. This proverb is used when small actions accumulate to create a bigger problem that suddenly occurs.

34) Urqoob Timings: Urqoob was a man from Al-Amaleeq tribe who lived before the time of Prophet Moses. He was known for not keeping his word. Once he’d promised his brother the fruits of his own palm tree. When the fruit came, he promised the dates instead. And when the dates came, he plucked the fruits at night and kept it for himself. This proverb is used to describe people who never keep their word or never on time.

(To be continued....)

Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and author of The World According to Bahja. You can reach the authoer at

arrow up
home icon