Types of أل “al” in Arabic

This was a question asked by one of our followers in our Q&A group (check the end of the post to join). 


Could you please explain all the various uses of

 لام التعريف (ال)

in Al Quran Al Kareem?


Tayyib. أل المعرفة, as it is known, is broken into three types. 

1. The first type should be familiar to everyone and it is known as الاستغراق. For example, the alif and laam in الحمد لله. 

Now, what does استغراق mean here? It takes the meaning of *encompassing everything* of the word it is attached to.  So الحمد essentially means any and all types of praise. Basically, if you replace it with the word كل, then you know that it is استغراق. 

الحمد لله = كل حمد لله. 

2. The second type is known as تعريف الجنس. And it is speaking about a particular noun as a whole/as a species – and it is not specific. For example, the verse in the beginning of Yusuf: 

وأخافُ أن يأكلَه الذئبُ

Prophet Ya’qub عليهما السلام was afraid of a wolf eating Prophet Yusuf. Notice how the alif and laam is attached. Ya’qub wasn’t speaking about a particular wolf, but rather “wolf” as a species – meaning generally. This alif and laam للجنس tells us that. 

3. The third type is known as تعريف العهد. It is applied to a نكرة word that was once ambiguous, and now becomes clear who/what is being spoken about.

So for example, if we had a class together and you said جاء مدرس. I wouldn’t know which teacher came, it is unclear. But if you said جاء المدرس, then it is clear that OUR teacher came. We have an understanding that there is a specific teacher that teaches the class, and it is specified at this point who you were speaking about without having to further elaborate. 

The أل العهدية has 3 types to it: 

a. The example we mentioned above is known as عهد ذهني. The understanding is in your head who is being spoken about. Example from Quran can be found in Surah Tawbah. When Allah spoke about The Prophet عليه الصلاة والسلام and Abu Bakr رضي الله عنه (make sure to make dua for them verbally),

إذ هما في الغار 

“…When they both were in the cave…” which cave is it? Allah didn’t need to explain because we know from studying the seerah it was the cave in jabal thawr when they were running away from the Quraysh. The أل here clarifies that to us, and we realize it in our ذهن ج. أذهان. 

b. The second type of أل العهدية is known as عهد حضوري. This is used to specify that the noun occured at the time of the speech. Example from Quran in Surah Maa’idah: 

اليوم أكملت لكم دينكم…الخ 

“Today I have completed your religion…” meaning this present day, the day of Arafah. 

Otherwise it could mean, “The day I completed your religion…” in this context you don’t get the meaning of a specific day aka Arafah. 

c. The third type of أل العهدية is known as عهد ذكري. This is used to reference the same noun that was previously mentioned before. Example in Surah Nur:

مثل نوره كمشكوة فيها مصباحٌ المصباحُ في زجاجة. 

Do you see how after Allah mentions the lamp that there is a stop. Then Allah begins again by mentioning the lamp with أل.

Hope this was clear…wallahu alam.

Written by:

Abu Awzaa’ee Abdus-Salaam
Makkah Al-Mukarramah
7th of Dhul-Qi’dah, 1438

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