In Episode VII of Parallel Universe: Alternate Etymologies, our investigation will deal with the concept of “harm" and four synonymous terms: Ail, ill, daru/daeru (obsolete), & injury) in both the Arabic and English languages.

Following the usual etymologically comparative investigation, the research will seize the opportunity to touch upon the concept of harm in comparative law and how it was handled historically in various legal systems in the West and in Islam.. 


Harm: Is defined as wrong; evil, physical or psychological injury or damage.  From the Old English: hearm.


1- Old English:. Hearm / harm (c. 1000)  and Classical Arabic _`rm
2- Old English: E3lian (Ail) and Classical Arabic _`yl
3- Middle English: ill (1200) and Classical Arabic  _`ll_
4- Old English: Daeru (c.900) and Classical Arabic _ drr_
5- Medieval Latin : Injuria (1382) and Classical Arabic  _Juwr_

6- Medieval Latin: illa-tio (c.1080- 1155) Used here as a verification tool.

A comparative glossary of various terms standing for "harm" in Arabic and English provides us with a well defined and astonishingly etymological match in five instances. (See attached JPEGs below:) 

The only difference is the preferred choice of the term for legal purposes.  In the case of Old and Modern English, hearm/harm is the most conventional used term, while in case of the Classical Arabic _drr_ prevails.


Old English: hearm "hurt, evil, grief, pain, insult," from Proto Germanic: *kharmaz (cf. Old Norse harmr, Old Frisian: herm, German: harm "grief, sorrow, harm"). The verb is from Old English hearmian "to hurt,". 



Old English:e3lian (1)"to trouble, plague, afflict," Hypothetical reconstruction: from Proto-Germanic *azljaz (cf. Old Englishe3le "hideous, loathsome, troublesome, painful;" Gothic a3ls "shameful, disgraceful," a3liþa "distress, affliction, hardship," us-a3ljan "to oppress, afflict"), from Proto Indo-European*agh-lo-,suffixed form of base *agh- "to be depressed, be afraid." Ailment formed in Eng. 1706. 




The close connection established between all five terms is a most remarkable finding.  Consequently, the result of this investigation complicates the Indo-European etymological situation in their hypothetical reconstructions from Proto Germanic: *azljaz & *kharmaz; these are decisively trumpeted as fictitious since all of the Arab examples are from the Classical language which precedes both Old English and Medieval Latin. 


INJURY:  1382, from Anglo-French injurie "wrongful action," from L. injuria "wrong, hurt," noun use of fem. of injurius "wrongful, unjust," from in- "not" + jus (gen. juris) "right, law" (see jurist). Injure (v.) assumed to be a back-formation first recorded 1583; the earlier verb was injury (c.1484). 

The fifth example: the Medieval Latin term injuria, which was hypothetically reconstructed as "not" + jus (gen. juris) is equally challenged on the following basis: 

The phrase Corpus Juris Roman (2) was not used by the Romans but by the twelfth- and thirteenth-century European canonists and Romanists who extrapolated the concept from the work of those who, one or two centuries earlier, had discovered the old Justinian texts and taught them in the European Universities. 

See LAW & REVOLUTION - The formation of the Western Legal tradition, By Harold J. Berman. Harvard University Press 1983, pp. 9. (excerpt included in the attached JPEG below

Hitherto, The Justinian Corpus Juris Romani's authenticity had escaped the keen criticism of western historians. In lieu of this discovery, it would appear that the terminology found in the Latin text was in fact plagiarized. By incorporating legal terminology, which is conspicuously absent from Classical Latin, we are beginning to recognize the fraud. 

As it turns out, the legal terminology in the Justininan Code was often borrowed from Classical Arabic sources. The middle Ages were obviously deceived by this huge forgery. A verification of this assertion can be found in this episode below. 


In the derived Arabic _`lah_  from the same root that gave us `ll /ill above, we find an important legal and philosophical term which in Arabic means: cause or inference. This term has been borrowed outright into Medieval Latin as Illa-tio (see attached JPEG). Its original source is found in the Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence). It appears that the Arabic term was eagerly adopted in civil legal codes of the middle Ages, albeit without any acknowledgment by western historians to its Arabic sources.

By this means we reach the origin of the synonymous words which stand for “harm”and still live on in one form or another in the languages of today. Whether they persist by direct tradition or whether, by way of loan words, they have taken on a new semantic life. In the following segment this can be better demonstrated as we turn to comparative law.


The various legal systems in the world rest on the powerful distinction between those actions that cause harm to another individual and those actions that do not. 

In the West, that conduct known as the harm principle, is regarded as an expression of individual liberty, which generates no liability under either the civil or criminal law.

The harm principle was thoroughly articulated in John Stuart Mill's On Liberty. (3)

Mill argued that the sole purpose of law should be to stop people from harming others and that should people want to participate in victimless crimes, crimes with no complaining witness, such as gambling, drug usage, engaging in prostitution, then they should not be encroached in doing so. 

Today, the harm principle is in part the basis for certain political stances of the United States Constitution and Libertarian Parties. 

This harm/no-harm distinction cannot he dismissed as some idle legal convention, for it also strikes a nerve in ordinary social conversation. "Keep your hands to yourself" and "mind your own business". These are clear and powerful messages that essentially help convey basic western ideas about individual liberty: "each of us has separate domains, and no one is allowed simply to butt into some domain properly reserved to another."

By contrast, justice in Islamic law is paramount as it is considered the cornerstone of the established legal principles of "al-Fiqh", the Islamic Jurisprudence. This principle is enshrined in the following Shariy`ah injunction: “God enjoins justice and charity” (Al-Nahl 16:90). 

In Islam, the word _`adl_ evokes strong feelings; it is a complex virtue with many facets. For the transgressor, it means getting what is deserved, i.e. punishment which is then an indispensable element of effective justice for those who have done something wrong.

But justice also means having one's rights respected and not being subjected to oppression. Where there is corruption, self-interest, greed, prejudice, and lack of moral leadership we find "travesties of justice".   Properly used, justice is a vehicle for creating fairness, security and harmony in families, communities and nations. It deters crime and opposes cruelty, tyranny, and oppression. 

In the Shariy`ah, justice _`Adl _ meaning equity, fairness and charity is either the acquisition of benefit or the prevention of harm. The basic principle in these matters is social justice which is illustrated by the following Shariy`ah rules:

la dirar wa la dirar in Islam

 "there shall be no harming of one man by another,
in the first instance nor a requital "

Historically, from its onset, Islamic law has consistently openly addressed the serious issues of prevention of harm and sought to correct actions that constitute harm to the dignity of humankind.  Human life and respect for it, has been stressed in Islam unstintingly, regardless of age or gender.. 

When harm touches a man, he calls on Us, lying on his side or sitting down or standing up ; but when remove WE remove his  affliction, he passes though he had not called on to US an account  of the harm which did  touch him; thus is made fair seeming unto the transgressors what they do. . (Yunus 10:12)

Hence,  as a general rule, Islam forbids all forms of harm, be it physical, mental, emotional or spiritual: ”Abandon all harm , whether committed openly or in secret.” (Suwrah al- An`am 6.120)


Abuw Bakr (rA`) was the first Muslim ruler to formulate the following policy in the form of strict rules to be adhered to by the Muslim army setting out to conquer Syria from the Byzantines. These became an integral part of the Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence)

"Stop, O people, that I may give you ten rules for your guidance in the battlefield. Do not commit treachery or deviate from the right path. You must not mutilate dead bodies. Neither kill a child, nor a woman, nor an aged man. Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful. Slay not any of the enemy's flock, save for your food. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them alone."

In Islamic law, Muslim forces may not loot travelers, doing so would be contrary to the spirit of Jihad, nor do they have the right to use the local facilities of a conquered people without their consent. If such a consent is obtained, the Muslim army is still under the obligation to pay for use of such facilities.

Islam forbids Muslims to harm civilian areas of conquered lands, prohibits Muslims from pillaging residential areas, harming the property of non-combatants, the destruction of trees, crops, livestock and farmlands. However, Islamic law allowed the confiscation of military equipment and supplies captured from the camps and military headquarters of the combatant armies.

At the dawn of the 21 th c., we are witnessing a world on the verge of global conflict.  The threats of a clash between civilizations are very real.  One would hope to believe that those engaged in conflicts would have the fortitude to abide by sensible and humane rules like those initiated by Islam 1400 years ago, and we as Muslims should be the first ones to set a good example for the world.


To be continued. 


 (1) The Anglo-Saxon letter  _3_   in the above Old English word e3lian is the alternate form of the letter yogh [3/g] which was based on a letter used at the time of writing Old English. The letter Yogh was rarely used and was nothing more than a variant of i or u

Today it can be substituted for g a modern writing of Old English.  A  late-developing letter in English called ipsilon in German, upsilon in Greek, the English name is of obscure origin. The sound at the beginning of yard, yes, yield, etc. is from Old English words with initial g- as in got and y- as in yet, which were considered the same sound and often transcribed as a character that looks something like 3 (but with a flat top and lower on the line of text), known as yogh. The system was altered by French scribes, who brought over the continental use of -g- and from the early 1200s used -y- and sometimes -gh- to replace 3

 Justinian I, Emperor of the eastern Roman Empire, allegedly gathered the law of centuries past into a format that would enable his subjects to learn, understand, and apply the law in a uniform manner. In so doing, for a western point of view, he gave the law a form and function that continues to this day. Until recently it was assumed that his Code gathered into one place the opinions of the great Roman jurists, and collected legislation passed as far back as Hadrian in the second century A.D.

The Code was discovered under suspicious conditions twenty-or-so years before William conquered England. The code was allegedly  "found" by someone, somewhere in the dark recesses of a library in what is now Italy (probably in Rome) . The Code composed of a set of books which passed as written about 500 years earlier in what was then called Constantinople but is now known as Istanbul. Constantinople was the seat of government for the Eastern Roman Empire. Upon its discovery, Justinian's Code was the most widely used code of law until the Emperor Napoleon commissioned the Napoleonic Code in 180. Comprehensive and systematic Roman civil law became a model to western Europeans struggling to create their own legal systems.

(3) Mill defines the harm principle in Chapter One as follows:
"The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right... The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign."







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