By Waqaar Butt

One of the things I find most fascinating about the Arabic language is the use of synonyms to give similar meanings with a touch of nuance.

For example, Qur’anic Arabic describes a ‘friend’ in ten (or more) different ways! Something which an English translation will never be able to reflect. I thought to myself, why would you have ten or more words (completely different words too!) to mean the same thing? It can only be for something of utmost importance, to allow us to assess what kind of friends we have and make.

Here are the ten words to consider:

1. Wali (ولي) – a protector, a mentor. One who helps you in times of need.
2. Qareen (قرين) – from the verb ‘qarana’ meaning to conjugate. One who has similar tastes to you and likes to do the same things.
3. Khadhool (خذول) – One who pretends to be your friend but is in reality ‘fake’, deserts you when required. Also a description for Shaytan.
4. Hameem (حميم) – from the verb ‘ahamma’ meaning ‘to warm’. A friend who makes you emotional.
5. Waleejah (وليجة) – A friend who is very deep, intimately involved in all your affairs and you can trust this friend.
6. Sadiq (صديق) – from the word ‘truthfulness’. One who will never forsake you and has no ulterior motives in the friendship.
7. Khalil (خليل) – a description of Ibrahim (as). One who is very close and their absence is painful.
8. Khadn (خدن) – a type of friendship which is romanticised and influential in the wrong way.
9. Sahib (صاحب) – one who is constantly concerned about you and means well for you. Commonly used now in colloquial Arabic.
10. Bitanah (بطانة) – from the word ‘batn’ meaning ‘stomach’. The one whom you can trust with the deepest of secrets.

And I am sure there are more. This has been adapted from a Nouman Ali Khan lecture. The point being: what type of friend are we? And what type of friends do we have?


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