Pepper, Timothy, ed. 2011. A Californian Hymn to Homer. Hellenic Studies Series 41. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_PepperT_ed.A_Californian_Hymn_to_Homer.2011.
1. Signs, Omens, and Semiological Regimes in Early Islamic Texts
While the gods address direct speech to some mortals in dreams and waking visions, to the collectivity their will is made known through signs and omens requiring the hermeneutic intervention of a skilled decoder. The faculty demanded of this decoder is above all noos, translatable as ‘mind’ or ‘mindfulness’ but shown more specifically by Nagy to consist in the allied powers of recognition (distinguishing the signifier from a welter of ambient phenomena) and interpretation (rendering into speech the information signified by it). And as Hector will hear from his comrade Polydamas, it is a faculty not equally present in all people:
τοὔνεκα καὶ βουλῇ ἐθέλεις περιίδμεναι ἄλλων·
ἀλλ’ οὔ πως ἅμα πάντα δυνήσεαι αὐτὸς ἑλέσθαι.
ἄλλῳ μὲν γὰρ ἔδωκε θεὸς πολεμήια ἔργα,
ἄλλῳ δ’ ὀρχηστύν, ἑτέρῳ κίθαριν καὶ ἀοιδήν,
ἄλλῳ δ’ ἐν στήθεσσι τιθεῖ νόον εὐρύοπα Ζεὺς,
ἐσθλόν, τοῦ δέ τε πολλοὶ ἐπαυρίσκοντ’ ἄνθρωποι,
καί τε πολέας ἐσάωσε, μάλιστα δὲ κ’αὐτὸς ἀνέγνω.
Just because the god granted that you excel in deeds of war
you wish also to excel in planning by knowing more than others.
But there is no way you can get everything all to yourself.
The god grants that one man excel in deeds of war
and another in dancing and another in playing the lyre and singing.
And for yet another man, far-seeing Zeus places nóos in his breast,
a genuine one; and many men benefit from such a man,
and he saves many of them, and he himself has the greatest powers of recognition.
Prophecy vs. Divination
52:30. Am yaqulūna Shāʿirun natarabbaṣu bi-hi rayba ’l-manūn
52:29. So make it known that you, by the grace of your Lord, are no soothsayer, nor are you possessed by jinns.
52:30. Or do they say [of you] “Poet! for whose downfall we lie in wait”? 
Being more frequent, the denial that the Qurʾān was the work of a sh āʿir (‘poet’) has attracted more attention than the concomitant disavowal of soothsaying. Whereas kāhin occurs only twice in the Qurʾān (52:29 and 68:42), sh āʿir occurs four times, its plural once more, and the affiliated verbal noun sh iʿr once again, each time in an unambiguously negative context.  This circumstance has led Michael Zwettler to remark that “the charge that the Prophet was a kāhin seems not to have been thought so grave or to have required so vehement a refutation as the one that he was a poet” (Zwettler 1978:157). Though this observatation rings true, it requires some explanation in light of the Qurʾān’s lack of similarity in form or content to the extant corpus of pre-Islamic Arabic poetry, and its resemblance to Arabian oracular speech. In resolution of this difficulty, Zwettler argues that what made Qurʾānic recitation confundible with poetic performance was not a generic resemblance but a linguistic one, in that the Qurʾān was delivered in the “non-vernacular, classical” Arabic language which was up to that point an exclusive vehicle for the performance of poetry, and thus “to the minds of Muḥammad’s hearers (and of Muḥammad himself) inextricably bound up with their total experience of poetry, so that they were quite unprepared to hear it enounced competently and coherently in any other genre of comparable length and artistry” (Zwettler 1978:158–160).
man ʿā sh a māt
wa-man māta fāt
wa-kullu mā huwa ātin āt
O people, gather together
and keep [this] in your memory:
Who lives, dies
and who dies is done with
and all the future holds will come to pass.
The utility of sajʿ was described by the orator ʿAbd al-Ṣamad b. al-Faḍl b. ʿĪsā b. Abān al-Raqāshī (d. ca. 200/815–816), as related by ʿAmr b. Baḥr al-Jāḥiẓ (d. 255/869):
Wa-lā sh araba wa-lā akala fa-mi th luhu yuṭall 
He is lying! He is! By God, I swear that it never raised its voice
Nor did it drink nor eat. Such a death calls for no vengeance.
Several features of the above statement could have invited the comparison to ritual kāhin speech—notably, its indulgence in repetition (“innahu . . . innahu”), oaths (“wa-’llāhi”), and, above all, rhyme. As such they hallmarks not only of the kāhin’s performance but, according to Toufic Fahd, of the oracular trance itself: “In origin, sajʿ denoted the kāhin’s entry into a trance, the oracular utterance issuing from this state, and then the stylistic form of this utterance.” The description given in Fahd’s landmark study La divination arabe is worth quoting in full:
Many examples of oracular sajʿ could be culled from the literature at large. Fahd quotes a number of them in La divination arabe, including one by the early Khuzāʿite soothsayer ʿAmr b. Luḥayy, which he singles out as an especially archaic specimen.  Alan Jones’s 1994 article “The Language of the Qurʾān” collects several more (Jones 1994:33–37). Below I offer an example of oracular sajʿ as represented in a tale from the Kitāb al-A gh ānī (ʽBook of Songs’) of Abu ’l-Faraj al-Iṣbahānī (d. 371/981), in which a man consults the soothsayers Shiqq and Saṭīḥ about his son-in-law’s identity. Saṭīḥ and Shiqq were kāhins of pre-Islamic renown to whom Islamic legend attributed fantastically long lives in order to draft them into stories of the Prophetic nativity (traditionally dated to 570 CE). The meaning of Saṭīḥ’s name (‘He who lies stretched out’) is variously understood to suggest prostration, fainting spells, or outright paralysis; early or late, Saṭīḥ came to be described as lacking the ability to move under his own power, or even lacking solid bones altogether (al-Ḥalabī 1989: 131–132). Shiqq’s name, meaning ‘Cleft’, appears all along to have denoted a being with only one arm, one leg, and one eye.  And yet the bizarrerie of these personages does not invalidate the following as a representative sample of pre-Islamic oracular speech:
wa-Qasiyyu ʿabdu Ībād
abaqa laylata ’l-wād
fī Wajjin dh āti ’l-andād
fa-wālā Saʿdan li-yufād
th umma lawā bi- gh ayri muʿād
“You have come about Qasiyy.
Qasiyy is a slave of Ībād
who fled by night to the the river
in the valley of Wajj of many idols
and joined with Saʿd in order to be free.
Then he concealed his unfriendlike behavior.”
wa-Qasiyyu min waladi Th amūda ’l-qadīm
waladathu ummuhu bi-’ṣ-ṣaḥrāʾa Barīm
fa-’ltaqṭahu Īyādun wa-huwa ʿadīm
fa-’staʿabdahu wa-huwa mulīm
“You have come about Qasiyy.
Qasiyy is a descendant of the Thamūd of old
whose mother bore him in the desert of Barīm.
Īyād took him in when he was destitute,
then punished his behavior by enslaving him.”
Āya vs. ṭāʾir
fa-ūdiyati ’l-Liwā fa-rimāli Līn
fa-ḥarjay Dh irwatin fa-qafā Dh ayālin
yuʿaffī āyahu salafu ’s-sinīn
Altered are the abodes at Dhū Dafīn,
and in the valleys of al-Liwā, and on the sands of Līn,
and in the two narrows of Dhirwa, and on the far side of Dhayāl
the bygone years have effaced their traces.
Or the āya can be an abstract ‘proof,’ as in the Muʿallaqa of al-Ḥārith b. Ḥilliza:
tun th alāthun fī kullihinna ’l-qaḍāʾ
Āyatun sh āriqu ’ sh – sh aqīqati i dh jā-
ʾat Maʿaddun li-kulli ḥayyin liwāʾ
He has had three proofs of our excellence,
each of them decisive:
One proof was [our valor at] the pass’s eastern end, when came
[the tribe of] Maʿadd with a banner for each of their clans.
It can also mean an intentionally deployed ‘signal’ as in the verse of al-Aʿshā (d. ca. 4/625):
ka-anna ʿalā sanābikihā mudāman
At the signal with which you drive on the horses, uncombed
as if their hooves had never known rest from their burdens …
The Qurʾān’s repudiation of al-ṭīra is most forcefully expressed in a single narrative template engaged in three separate sūras. This is the primal confrontation between God’s earlier messengers (two drawn from Hebrew scripture and one from Arabian tradition) and the disbelieving nations they were sent to warn.  Repeatedly, the disbelievers of old are heard to reject the prophetic warnings with the remark “We take you to be a bad omen,” paying for it in the end with their own destruction. Thus we hear of the Egyptians:
7:131. Fa-i dh ā jāʾathumu ’l-ḥasanatu qālū La-nā hā dh ihi wa-in tuṣibhum sayyiʾatun yaṭṭayyarū bi-Mūsā wa-man maʿahu a-lā inna-mā ṭāʾiruhum ʿinda ’llāhi wa lākinna ak th arahum lā yaʿlamūn
7:132. Wa-qālū Mahmā taʾtinā bi-hi min āyatin li-tasḥaranā bi-hā fa-mā naḥnu la-ka bi-muʾminīn
7:133. Fa-arsalnā ʿalayhimu ’ṭ-ṭūfāna wa-’l-jarāda wa-’l-qummala wa-’ḍ-ḍafādiʿa wa-’d-dama āyātin mufaṣṣalātin fa-’stakbarū wa-kānū qawman mujrimīn
[. . .]
7:136. Fa-intaqamnā minhum fa-a gh raqnāhum fī-’l-yammi bi-annahum kadhdhabū bi- āyātinā wa-kānū ʿanhā gh āfilīn
7:130. We beset the house of Pharaoh with famine and failure of crops in order that they might take heed.
7.131. For when good things came to them they said, “These are our due,” but when bad things befell them they augured ill of Moses and those who were with him. But no, the indicator of their fate lay with God, though most of them were unknowing.
7.132. And they said, “No matter what signs you bring in order to deceive us by, we will not believe in you.”
7.133. So We unleashed the flood over then, and the locust and the vermin, and the frogs and the blood: a variety of signs. But they remained proud, for they were a sinning people.
[. . .]
7.136. We took Our vengeance on them, and drowned them in the sea, because they challenged the truth of Our signs, and disregarded them.
Of the Thamūd who dwelt at al-Ḥijr we are told,
27:46. Qāla Yā qawmi li-ma tastaʿjilūna bi-’s-sayyiʾati qabla ’l-ḥasanati law lā tasta gh firūn Allāha laʿallakum turḥamūn
27:47. Qālū Aṭṭayyarnā bi-ka wa-bi-man maʿaka qāla Ṭāʾirukum ʿinda ’llāhi bal antum qawmun tuftanūn
[. . .]
27:51. Fa-unẓur kayfa kāna ʿāqibatu makrihim annā dammarnāhum wa-qawmahum ajmaʿīn
27.52. Fa-tilka buyūtuhum kh āwiyatan bi-mā ẓalamū inna fī dh ālika la- āyatan li-qawmin yaʿlamūn
27:45. To Thamūd we sent their brother Ṣāliḥ [commanding] that they “Worship God!” But they were a people divided into two warring factions.
27:46. He said, “O people! Why do you hasten what is evil, instead of what is good? Though you do not [now] seek God’s pardon, you may [yet] be forgiven.
27:47. They said: “We augur ill of you and those who are with you.” He replied: “Your fate’s indicator lies with God, but you are a people beguiled away.”
[. . .]
27:51. See, then, what sort of end their delusion came to: We destroyed them and their people altogether.
27:52. Yonder lie their dwellings, vacated on account of their sins. Truly, there is a sign in this for a knowing people.
Finally, the story is told of “the Village” (al-Qarya) identified with Antioch in Syria:
36:14. I dh arsalnā ilayhim i th nayni fa-ka dhdh abūhumā fa-ʿazzaznā bi- th āli th in fa-qālū Innā ilaykumu mursalūn. . . .
[. . .]
36:18. Qālū Innā taṭayyarnā bi-kum la-in lam tantahū la-narjumannakum wa-la-yamassannakum minnā ʿa dh ābun alīm
36:19. Qālū Ṭāʾirukum maʿakum a-in dh ukkirtum bal antum qawmun musrifūn
36:13. As an example, tell them of the people of the Village when messengers came to it.
36:14. When We sent them two, [the villagers] called them liars, and so We strengthened [them] with a third. They said, “Truly have we been sent to you as messengers”. . .
[. . .]
36:18. [The villagers] said, “We augur ill of you. If you do not desist we will truly stone you, and grievous punishment will befall you at our hands.”
36:19. [The messengers] said, “Your fate’s indicator is with you, if you only knew it—but you are a people who go too far.”
The pattern is clear: in each case, unbelievers fail to interpret the messengers as bringers of divine āyāt, instead taking the messengers’ very appearance in their midst as a bad omen, and so reject the message they were sent. Their failure is one of interpretation, in that it is caused by applying the wrong code—the oracular code—to the āyāt presented to them.
Conjectural though it is, Fahd’s description is hard to dismiss. Al-kihāna was, it seems, no monolith, but a constellated and localized field of practice, and perhaps for this reason figures less prominently in the narrative of emergent Islam than do the more organized tribal and mercantile institutions of the Ḥijāz.
17:14. Iqrāʾ kitābaka kafā bi-nafsika ’l-yawma ʿalayka ḥasīban
17:13. To every man’s neck We have fastened an indicator of his fate, and on the Day of Resurrection we will issue him a text which he will find spread open.
17:14. [And he will be told,] “Read your text! On this day it is all the accounting you need.”
Here the ṭāʾir is not only placed under God’s jurisdiction (as above at 7:131 and 27:47), but accompanies the text each person will be issued on the Day of Resurrection, indicating their earthly deeds and fated afterlife. If this usage does not exactly amount to an Islamic rehabilitation of the omen, it does at least show another rhetorical use for oracular vocabulary within the Qurʾān, which is to say a co-optional use. For even as the practice of al-ṭīra is forbidden to the Muslim community, the ṭāʾir is claimed by the Qurʾān as an indicator over which God’s control is complete. 
16:79. Have they not seen that the birds in the upper air are subservient [to Him]? They are held [aloft] by none but God: truly there are signs in this for those who believe.
Where ṭayr are mentioned in connection with any of the Biblical prophets, it is always in an oracular or magical context. David and Solomon were favored with armies of ṭayr who fought on their behalf (21:79); Solomon was even taught their language (27:16). Abraham is told to perform a rite involving four tame birds when he asks God about raising the dead (2:260), and (as at Genesis 40:16–19) Joseph is called on to interpret his cellmate’s ill-omened dream about birds (12:36–41). Most suggestive of all is the ṭayr of Jesus, which God will recollect in Sūrat al-Māʾida:
This verse draws notice for its summary of the so-called “Infancy Gospel of Thomas,” a collection of anecdotes about the boyhood deeds of Jesus whose Greek recension dates to the sixth century.  Along with its near double at Sūrat Āl ʿImrān 3:49, it may be numbered among several Qurʾānic engagements of post-canonical Christian material, of which Sūrat Kahf’s take on the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus (18:9–22) is perhaps the best-known example. As faithfully as the Qurʾān encapsulates these Christian stories, our attention is more attracted to the way they are Islamicized in their new setting, and made consistent with the ongoing semiological project of the Qurʾān. In the first place, God is heard to specify that Jesus’s miracles are performed “with My sanction” (bi-i dh nī). This phrase (a variation on the formulaic affirmation bi-i dh ni ’llāhi: “with God’s sanction”) is here found in series with the phrase bi-Rūḥi ’l-Qudusi, Arabic for τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἁγίῳ, viz. “[fortified] with the Holy Spirit” (as at Luke 10:21).  One might say of this nod to Christian usage that it eases the absorption of monotheist narrative into the fabric of the Qurʾān, and furthermore that it achieves this in a contained way that equates Jesus’s teachings to Islam instead of the other way around.
wa-a sh ʾamu ṭayri ’z-zājirīna sanīḥuhā
Get away from me then, at the winging of the ill-omened sanīḥ;
al-sanīḥ is the worst omen known to diviners.
Nor is there total agreement on which direction the sāniḥ and the bāriḥ take in their flight, but the leftward departure is usually indicated for √brḥ and a rightward one for √snḥ. Ibn Manẓūr explains this in terms of relative difficulty for the bow-hunter:
The binary valence given to the non-domestic in its self-revealing and self-concealing is from this perspective not surprising. The startled animal may be said to embody pure contingence, to which assigning negative and positive values is an irresistible reflex of “human speculation” (menschliches Auslegen). This same reflex will also explain why disagreement on their signification is so widespread.
The Qurʾān’s most obvious reference to this practice is in the eschatological motif of al-Zajra, the apocalyptic “Blast” or “Shout” that will ring out on the Day of Judgment (as at 37:19 and 79:13). If the Qurʾān does not name al-zajr in direct connection with Jesus at 5:110, his animation of the ṭayr may still be felt to recollect the traditional practice. The other miracles listed in the verse—revival of the dead, restoration of the blind and leprous—follow either by metonymy (where they are ranked in series with the animation of Jesus’s ṭayr) or by metaphor (where they are what is heralded by its miraculous flight).
Here the ṭayr’s co-option is complete, its semiological charge fully grounded in the normative sign of the āya. As mantic “omen” and Christological “proof” equally, the Qurʾān claims the incident of the ṭayr as an āya, bracketing the ṭayr within that claim, and announces the supercession of the pre-Islamic semiological regimes in which it formerly circulated.
“A beneficial word”
The faʾl “appears in very varied forms, ranging from simple sneezing, certain peculiarities of persons and things that one encounters, to the interpretation of the names of persons and things which present themselves spontaneously to the sight, hearing and mind of man.”  As such, fuʾūl are semiological events that, like āyāt, need no mantic interpretation for their meaning to be made manifest. They wear their content on their faces, or rather in their beholder’s: any name or word or thing that pleases or displeases can be interpreted as a positive or negative indicator of some endeavor’s advisability. Thus we read in al-Sīrat al-nabawiyya of one of the Prophet’s military campaigns:
Two reasons stand out as to why this method of divination would be accommodated in Islam where others are rejected. The first is that the faʾl leaves no gap between sign and sign-reader requiring a soothsayer’s hermeneutic intervention. The nature of the faʾl is to be instantly apprehended by its “addressee,” which is to say anyone who feels warned or encouraged by it. It neither requires interpretive mediation nor allows it, but is to all appearances transparent, and thus poses no threat to Islam’s semiological hegemony.
If the faʾl is a semiological event that the Prophet is empowered to produce or control, it finds its antecedent in the ṭayr Jesus animates in the Qurʾān. These irruptions of oracular idioms within the Qurʾān and sunna (i.e. the precedent of the Prophet’s behavior) demonstrate that even as Islamic spiritual authority defined itself in opposition to the oracular institutions of the Ḥijāz, some manipulation of contemporary oracular codes was nevertheless allowable. Insofar as the Prophet’s intervention into Arabian toponymy is explained as a safeguard against inauspicious fuʾūl radiating from the ignoble or insurrectionist place-name, we see the oracular code being manipulated in defense of Islam’s political legitimacy. In other cases, as where the Prophet is said to have disallowed the name Ghurāb (“Crow”) because of its negative ornithomantic associations, the oracular code is shut down altogether. 
Appendix: Good and Bad Omens in Lisān al- ʿ arab 
urajjī li-ḥubbi ’l-liqāʾi sanīḥan
My need for him was such that I left off
hoping for an omen, so great was my wish for [the actual]
The meaning here is “paying no attention to bird-omens, whether sāniḥ or bāriḥ.” But the verse has also been said to mean “I left off wishing for a good omen.”  Abū ʿAmr also says that for others the sāniḥ is a portent of evil, as in the line by ʿAmr b. Qamīʾa (d. ca. 540 CE):
The worst omen known to diviners is the sanīḥ.
And also in the verse of al-Aʿshā (d. ca. 4/625):
jarā la-humā ṭayru ’s-sanīḥi bi-a sh ʾami
Bishr protected them both from death, after
the bird of sanīḥ sped its ill omen to them.
The Bishr mentioned in this verse is Bishr b. ʿAmr b. Marthad, who was a hunting companion of al-Mundhir Māʾ al-Samāʾ (d. ca. 554 CE). On his [yearly] “Day of Evil,” it was al-Mundhir’s custom to kill the first person he came across. On that day, when two of Bishr’s cousins (sons of his father’s brother) appeared, al-Mundhir wanted to kill them, but Bishr pleaded their cause before him, and al-Mundhir gave them over to him.  And from Ruʾba come the rajaz verses:
wa-bāriḥātin lam taḥri tabraḥu
bi-ṭayrin ta kh bībun wa-lā tabraḥu
How many of those which present as sāniḥ
and those presenting as bāriḥ, which are not fulfilled!
In the omen is deception, and no indicator of ill fortune.
Shammar [b. Ḥamdawayh (d. 255/869)] said that Ibn al-Aʿrābī (d. 231/846) recited these lines with the last word as yasnaḥu, indicating good fortune and a blessing, as in the verse cited by Abū Zayd [al-Anṣārī (d. 215/830)]:
yajrī la-nā aymanuhu bi-’s-suʿūd
When the omen presents itself to us as a sāniḥ, I say
that its good fortune runs in our favor.
Abū Mālik [ʿAmr b. Kirkira] said that the sāniḥ is what blesses one, and that the bāriḥ is what announces a calamity, but that Zuhayr [ibn Abī Sulmā (d. early 7th c. CE)] interpreted them the other way around, as in the verse:
nawan ma sh mūlatan fa-matā al-liqāʾ
[The gazelles] presented as omens, and I said to them, “Oblige me
to cross the distance swept by the north wind—but when will
the encounter be?”
Here sunuḥ are glossed as gazelles of good omen, as well as bad. Among the Arabs, there were differing schools of interpretation brought to such portents; some understood the sāniḥ to bode well, and others took it as an evil portent. Al-Layth [ibn al-Muẓaffar (d. ca. 187/803)] cites the line:
The omens present you with the happiest of fortunes in the
“Who will be my sāniḥ, after my bāriḥ [has flown]?” is a proverbial expression [discussed ahead in art. √brḥ].
There came upon the two of them a bird signifying bad fortune.
There are some who dispute this. The plural of sāniḥ is sawāniḥ; [adjectival form] sanīḥ is its equivalent, as in the verse:
sanīḥun fa-qāla al-qawmu Marra sanīḥ
On the day we departed on course for their land, there flew
a sanīḥ, and the people said, “A sanīḥ passes by.”
Its plural is sunuḥ, as in the verse:
tamurru bi-hi ’l-bawāriḥu ḥīna tajrī
Do they come as auspicious sunuḥ, or as bad omens
do the bawāriḥ pass by, when they present?
min aṭ-ṭayri illa ’s-sāniḥāti wa-asʿadā
My two friends, you did not encounter and did not witness
any omens, except for the sāniḥ and [signs] happier still.
“And al-Nābigha [al-Dhubyānī (d. 602 CE)], who was also from the Najd, held the bāriḥ as an ill omen:
wa-bi- dh āka tanʿābu al- gh urābi ’l-aswad 
The bawāriḥ claim that our journey is tomorrow,
and that is the subject of the black crow’s croaking.
“And Kuthayyir [ʿAzza b. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān (d. 105/723)], who being from the Ḥijāz read the ill omen in the sāniḥ, has the verse:
Sawāniḥuhā tajrī wa-lā asta th īruhā
When bird-omens pass in a threatening way, I say,
“Their sawāniḥ are presenting,” and I do not rouse them.
“These are the original values. Ḥijāzī usage was later to spread to the Najd, from which we get the verse by Najdī poet ʿAmr b. Qamīʾa:
wa-a sh ʾamu ṭayri ’z-zājirīna sanīḥuhā 
Get away from me then, at the winging of the ill-omened sanīḥ
—sanīḥ is the worst omen known to diviners.”
ka-’ẓ-ẓabyatayni sāniḥun wa-bāriḥu
Shut up, you fractious hurler of barbs,
darting this way and that [in your speech] like two ominous gazelles!
—whereupon the woman went away, herself humiliated. Sanaḥa is also used of a thought or a line of poetry, meaning “it presented itself” or “occurred” [to the mind]. In one ḥadī th, ʿĀʾisha spoke of [her distaste for] passing in front of the Prophet when he was at prayer: Akrahu an asnaḥahu, [“I hate to pass before him”]. Where it is reported that [the first Caliph] Abū Bakr said to Usāma: A gh ir ʿalayhim gh āratan sanḥāʾa [“Make a surprise attack on them”], it means to “fall upon” someone, or to “occur,” as is said of an idea. (Of this instance, Ibn al-Athīr [d. 606/1210] says that saḥḥāʾan [“Make your attack an inundation”] is better attested.) Ibn al-Sikkīt (d. 244/858) has remarked: “Sanaḥa and sāniḥ are said of a thing which deters someone from their goal, repelling them and turning them away.”
jaʿaltuhā li-’llatī a kh faytu ʿunwānā
Such a need, like no other! I showed it to her,
concealing its object from her for whom I conceived it (?).
Al-sanīḥ is also the thread on which pearls are strung, before the pearls are strung on it. Afterwards, it is called an ʿiqd. Its plural is sunuḥ. According to al-Liḥyānī, in the expression sunuḥ al-ṭarīq it means “the middle” of a road. Al-Azharī says that for some speakers sanīḥ means “pearls and ornamentation”; and in speaking of women Abū Dūʾād [al-Iyādī, fl. 6th c. ] spoke the following verse:
gh ibba ’ṣ-ṣabāḥi ma ’l-a kh bār
They are excessive in ornament, and have no care for
what the breaking day’s news might be.
The derived [Xth- and Vth-form] verbs istasnaḥa and tasannaḥa are spoken in rare instances, as are [their anagrams] the similarly formed verbs istanḥasa and tanaḥḥasa. Their meaning is “to seek an explanation.”
sh abābu ’ḍ-ḍuḥā wa-’l-ʿīsu mā tatabarraḥu
[The ladies] are still troubled by their need, when the youths of the morning
have decamped, and the white-haired camels have stayed behind.
[IVth-form] Abraḥa is a transitive form. According to al-Azharī, bariḥa is said of a man when he leaves his place. The negative expression mā bariḥa, followed by an imperfect verb, is equivalent to mā zāla, meaning “to persist” in that action or state. (This expression also occurs in the imperfect—i.e. lā yabraḥu with following verb also in the imperfect, much like lā yazālu.) And when its object is a land or territory, as in bariḥa ’l-arḍa, it means to depart from it. In revelation [at Sūrat Yūsuf 12:80, Joseph’s brother says]: Fa-lan abraḥa ’l-arḍa ḥattā yaʾ dh ana lī abī: [“I will not depart from this land until my father gives me permission”]. And, God be Exalted [at Sūrat Ṭā Hā 20:91, Moses’s people say of the golden calf]: Fa-lan nabraḥa ʿalayhi ʿākifayni [“We will not relinquish it, but remain devoted”].
Secrecy was dispelled, for I could endure it no longer.
Here the poet’s disclosure of the matter is characterized as the departure of secrecy, or in other words its cessation. According to al-Azharī, the meaning of bariḥa ’l- kh afāʾu is that “secrecy came to an end.” It is also explained as “what was hidden became revealed, and was uncovered,” and that this sense comes from barāḥ al-arḍi, which means ground with no cover. The phrase is also glossed as “what I was concealing became revealed.” From this comes the expression found in ḥadī th: Jāʾa bi-’l-kufri barāḥan [“He made no concealment of his unbelief”], in which adverbial accusative barāḥan means “distinctly” or “openly”; another such expression is Jāʾanā bi-’l-amri barāḥan [“He made no concealment of the matter from us”]. Barāḥ (used adjectivally and substantively) is said of open land that is free of trees, dwellings, tillage or vegetation of any kind. And Barāḥi is a name of the sun, formed upon bariḥa as the indeclinable name Qaṭāmi is formed from qaṭama;  it is a name that describes the sun’s open visibility. The following lines were transmitted by Quṭrub (d. 206/821):
dh abbaba ḥattā dalakat Barāḥi
Here stood the two feet of Rabāḥ
who prolonged his journey until the sun went down.
Al-Farrāʾ (d. 207/822) gives this verse’s ending as bi-rāḥi, where rāḥ is the plural of rāḥa, i.e. the hand. The meaning here is that people’s hands were held to their eyes as they watched the setting sun. [There follows more debate on the verse’s original sense and vocalization.]
… passion is a drag for the one overcome by it.
The expression barḥun bāriḥun [“a bothersome bother,” “grievous grief,” etc.], like barḥun mubriḥun, is redoubled for emphasis and intensity. When used in an optative sense, the accusative case is preferred, but the nominative is allowable, as in the verse:
wa-muṣʿidatan barḥun li-ʿaynayka bāriḥu
So the white-haired camels hurry away with you, carrying you off
and bringing you back? Grievous grief in your eyes!
[This last phrase] functions as a curse and a proposition equally. Al-barḥ is malignance and vicissitude of fate. With the particle bi- before its object, [IInd form verb] barraḥa means to harass. And al-tabārīḥ [the plural of barraḥa’s verbal noun al-tabrīḥ] are “calamities.” Al-tabārīḥ are also defined as hardships of a toilsome life. The tabārīḥ of desire refer to its burning. The redoubled expression “I encountered from him barḥan bāriḥan” indicates “a great deal of vexation.” In ḥadī th we find the phrase “We met with al-barḥ from him”—that is, “harshness”—and in an account the people of Nahrawān [site of the Khārijites’ defeat at ʿAlī’s hands in 38/658], “They met with al-barḥ.” A poet said:
daʿāka ’l-hawā barḥun li-ʿaynayka bāriḥu
Does this inflame you? God grant you long life! All that
passion calls you to is grievous grief in your eyes.
ʿalayya wa-mā yaʾtī bi-hi ’l-laylu abraḥu
By day, I am overcome by much wailing and grief,
and what the night brings is more grievous still.
Although its lexical meaning derives from barraḥa, abraḥ is formed upon the root baraḥa. Otherwise it must be understood as an anomalous form like aḥnak, as in the phrase “the hungrier [aḥnak] of the two sheep” [anomalous in that there is no prior adjectival form like *ḥanīk for aḥnak to be the comparative of].
with him are sweat, toil and tumult.
marran saḥābun wa-marran bāriḥun taribu
Nay, it is only longing provoked by an encampment defaced
by the passage of rainclouds and dust-laden wind.
The epithet tarib [“dusty”] shows that al- bāriḥ is a summer wind and not a vernal wind. The winds of summer are always dusty.
wa-tāratan yaʾtīnahu sunūḥan
[At one moment] they present as ill omens, and bad augury
and [at another] they come as good omens.
abraḥti rabban wa-abraḥti jāran
I say to [my mount] at the beginning of the journey:
“You have astounded your lord and neighbor.”
Abraḥa’s meaning here is “to inspire wonder” and “to perform admirably.” Others give its meaning here as “You served nobly,” where the transitive meaning of abraḥa is “to honor” and “to magnify.” In his commentary on this same line of al-Aʿshā’s, Abū ʿAmr says that a thing or an event is said to have barḥā when it delights or astounds the speaker, and that marḥā is used the same way. Opinions differ as to whether abraḥti rabban here means “You ennobled your master,” “You have astounded your master,” or “You have served your master well.” Al-Aṣmaʿī’s judgment was for the meaning “You have gone beyond what was demanded.” Another gloss is that it means “to excel in stinginess or generosity”; abraḥa is said of one man who gives preference to another, or anything that confers a benefit.
… last night’s slumber got the best of him
some have said that bāriḥiyy [a relative adjective derived from al-bāriḥa] refers to the oppressive drowsiness that muddled his vigil. Others have commented that it simply means “the previous night.” The saying Mā a sh baha ’l-laylata bi-’l-bāriḥati [“How like this night is to last night!”] means “How like last night, most recent of the nights past and done with, is the night in which we find ourselves tonight.” Al-bāriḥa is the most recent of all the nights that have passed. “I met with him on al-bāriḥa,” or “al-bāriḥa the first.” Its meaning comes from bariḥa’s sense of “to pass or come to an end.” It has no diminutive form. Thaʿlab [b. Yaḥyā (d. 291/904)] said, “I am told that Abū Zayd said, ‘In the period between the rising of the sun and the beginning of its descent, you say [of a dream], “In my sleep tonight I saw . . .” After midday you say, “Last night I saw . . .” ’ ” In his Tales of the Grammarian of Baṣra, [al-Ḥasan b. ʿAbd Allāh] al-Sīrāfī (d. 368/979) reports these words of Yūnus: “The Arabs say, ‘Such and such a thing happened tonight’ until morning is over. At that point they say, ‘It happened last night.’ ”
I saw him fending off a harsh talking-to.
wa-lāqayta min ṣu gh rāhima ’bna Barīḥi
After a dalliance, your heart turned away from the elder of the two [sisters]
but you met with Ibn Barīḥ from the younger.
Another form of this expression is: “I met with Banāt Barḥ,” or “Banū Barḥ.”
I. Primary Sources
III. Poetry Collections
IV. Secondary Sources