Cups and Containers
(Abārīq, akwāb, Āniya, Dalw, Jifān, kaʾs , Qawārīr, siqāya, ṣuwāʿ, Ṣiḥāf)

Hasan Spiker

The Qurʾān uses nine terms to refer to cups and containers: five (abārīq, akwāb, kaʾs, āniya, qawārīr) denote drinking cups of the dwellers of Paradise, one (ṣiḥāf) refers to a spacious bowl used to serve them food, two (siqāya, ṣuwāʿ) are used for this-worldly cups, and one (dalw) refers to the pail used to draw water from the well into which the brothers of Yūsuf had thrown him. In addition, a holding basin is mentioned using the term jifān, which is also one of the meanings of siqāya in Q 9:19.

Definitions and Usage

Paradisiacal Cups

Our knowledge of the Paradisiacal vessels is based on mere linguistic definitions, as Ibn ʿAbbās (3bh-68/619-688), Allah be well-pleased with him and his father, said, “There is nothing in this world of that which is in Paradise, except the names thereof” (Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Ḥādī, al-bāb al-tāsiʿ wa-l-arbaʿūna fī dhikr āniyatihim allatī yaʾkulūna fīhā wa yashrabūn; Qurṭubī, Tafsīr, sub Q 78:15-16).

  1. Abārīq (sing. ibrīq), an ewer with a slander spout and a handle (ʿurwa) (Zabīdī, Tāj), in contradistinction to a kūb, which has no handle (see below) (Samīn, ʿUmadat, bāb al-bāʾ, faṣl al-bāʾ wa-l-rāʾ). Abū Ḥanīfa (d. 150/767) likened the ibrīq to a kūz (a small jug) (Ibn Sīda, Mukḥkam). It is an Arabicized (muʿarrab) noun from Persian (Jawharī, Ṣiḥāḥ; Ibn Sīda, Muḥkam; Fayyūmī, Miṣbāḥ, sub b-r-q)—where its original meaning is either “the path of water” or “pouring water” (Jawālīqī, Muʿarrab, p. 120)—on the pattern of ifʿīl, so called because it glitters and sparkles (yabruqu) due to the purity of color (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr, sub Q 58: 18; Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Ḥādī, bāb al-tāsiʿ wa-l-arbaʿūna, fī dhikr āniyatihim, p. 193). It is used only once in Q 56:18, along with goblets (akwāb) and a cup (kaʾs), with which the immortal youth of Paradise would wait upon the Foremost, the dwellers of Paradise who are brought nigh (Q 56:10-11).
  2. Akwāb (sing. kūb): According to the great Kufan grammarian Yaḥyā b. Ziyād b. ʿAbd Allāh al-Farrāʾ (144-207/761-822), “al-kūb is a drinking-cup with a round top and no handle (udhun)” (Maʿānī); if it has a handle, it is called an ibrīq (Ibn Durayd, Jamhara;  Samīn, ʿUmda; faṣl al-kāf wa-l-wāw).” Abū al-Faḍl Jamāl al-Dīn Muḥammad b. Mukarram Ibn Manẓūr (630-711/1233-ca.1312) says the basic verbal form (“kāba—yakūbu”) means to drink from a kūb (Lisān, al-bāʾ, faṣl al-kāf), which is a mug without a handle or a spout (Fayrūzābādī, Qāmūs). It is used four times (Q 43:71; 56:18; 76:15; 88:14), always in reference to the dwellers of Paradise, for whom these cups are made of both gold and silver (Q 43:71 and 76:15 respectively).
  3. kaʾs, from the stem k-ʾ-s, denotes a cup along with the drink in it, if it does not contain the drink, it is not called a kaʾs (Farrāʾ, Maʿānī, sub Q 76:17; Jawharī, Ṣiḥāḥ; Zamakhsharī, Asās; Fayyūmī, Miṣbāḥ; Fayrūzābādī, Qāmūs, sub k-ʾ-s); without the drink, it is simply a vessel (ināʾ)” (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, sub Q 37:45; 76:17). According to al-Ḍaḥḥāk b. Muzāḥim (d. ca. 102/721), in every instance of its use in the Qurʾān, kaʾs means wine (al-khamr) (Ṭabarī; Ibn Abī Ḥātim, Tafsīrs, Thaʿlabī, Kashf, Zamakhsharī, Kashshāf, sub Q 37:45-46). All six occurrences (Q 37:45; 52:23; 56:18; 76:5,17; 78:34) of kaʾs are in the singular. Twice (Q 37:45, 56:18), the cup, that is the drink in it, is from a gushing spring; twice (Q 76:5, 17) the drink is said to be flavored with, once with kāfūr and once with zanjabīl (see Food and Drinks), once (Q 78:34), the kaʾs is described as overflowing (dihāq), that is, “it is ever completely and continuous full” (Ṭabarī; Qurṭubī, Tafsīrs), and in all cases, the drink causes neither idle talk nor incitement to sin (Q 52:23). Unlike the drinkers of this world, the dwellers of Paradise will “not discuss lowly or baseless matters while drinking” (Zamkhasharī, Kashshāf). The overflowing cup (Q 78:34) is drawn from a flowing spring (Q 37:45, Q 56:18) and the dwellers of Paradise are given to drink of a pure wine sealed (Q 83:25)—the seal thereof is musk. Let those who strive then strive for this! And its mixture is of Tasnīm, a spring whence drink those brought near. (Q 83: 26-28). The seal is explained as either an actual seal of musk, or the pure scent of musk, which will appear when the end of wine is reached (Ṭabarī; Qurṭubī; Rāzī, Tafsīrs). Ibn ʿAbbās said the drink from Tasnīm is “the most noble” of the drinks of Paradise (Ibn Ḥayyān, Baḥr) and ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Ibn Zayd b. Aslam, d. 182/789 said, “it has reached us that Tasnīm is a spring that flows beneath the Throne” (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr, sub Q 83:27).
  4. āniya (sing. ināʾ), from the root ʾ-n-y, is a vessel or receptacle (Jawharī, Ṣiḥāh; Samīn, ʿUmda, bāb al-hamza, faṣl al-alif wa-l-nūn); it has a further plural, al-awānī (Ibn Sīda, Muḥkam; Zabīdī, Tāj, sub ʾ-n-y). In Q 76:15, āniya is said to be made of silver, and there will circulate among them vessels of silver (bi-āniyatin min fiḍḍa) and cups of crystal. These are as white as silver and transparent like crystal (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr; Makkī, Hidāya). Alluding to the ethereal imagery of the “crystal-clear silver” (lit. crystal of silver) mentioned in Q 76:15-16 (And amongst them will be passed around silver vessels, and cups (akwāb) crystal-clear of silver, which they have apportioned to the measure [of their deeds]), al-Qurṭubī (d. 671/1273) comments: “Ibn ʿAbbās said: ‘There is nothing in this world of that which is in Paradise, except the names thereof’ ... [Moreover, this verse] does not negate vessels of gold, but what is intended is that they are given to drink from silver vessels, and they may also be given to drink from vessels of gold, for Allah Most High has said There shall be passed around them platters of gold, and cups (Q 43:71)” (Tafsīr, sub Q 76:15).
  5. qawārīr (sing. qārūra), from the root q-r-r (“to stay, to remain”); the verbal noun al-qarār denotes a thing or place where water gathers (mustaqarr al-māʾ) (Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān, al-rāʾ, faṣl al-qāf). In two consecutive verses, the drinking vessels of the denizens of Paradise (qawārīr) are described as combining the traits of transparency of crystal (ṣafāʾ al-qawārīr) and the whiteness of silver (Farrāʾ, Maʿānī; Ṭabarī, Tafsīr; Māwardī, Nukat). al-qārūr is a collective noun for a vessel containing any kind of drink (Ibn Sīda, Mukhaṣṣaṣ, bāb al-āniya li-l-khamr wa ghayrihā; Zamakhsharī, Fāʾiq, ḥarf al-qāf, p. 3:181). It is generally made of glass (zujāj) (Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān, al-rāʾ, faṣl al-qāf; Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr, sub Q 27:44); it is also used for a long-neck flask (Ibn Sīda, Mukhaṣṣaṣ, bāb al-āniya li-l-khamr wa ghayrihā). In Q 27:44, the floor of the palace of Prophet Sulaymān is said to be paved with qawārīr (“crystal) with water running underneath; its transparent smoothness was such that instead of crystal, it looked like water and the queen of Sabaʾ bared her ankles to walk over it, but it was “to test her intelligence” (Ṭabarī, Baghawī, Tafsīrs). “The raw material of crystal (al-qawārīr) of this worldly life is sand, but the raw material of qawārīr of Paradise is silver of Paradise and just as Allah transforms the dense sand into transparent crystal [in this world], in a like manner way, He is able to transform the silver of Paradise into a delicate crystal vessel (qārūra laṭīfa)” (Rāzī, Tafsīr, sub Q 76:15).
  6. Ṣiḥāf (sing. ṣaḥfa), from the stem “s-ḥ-f ”, is a large wide bowl (qaṣʿa ʿarīḍa) (Samīn, ʿUmda, bāb al-ṣād, faṣl al-ṣād wa-l-ḥāʾ); a spacious wide bowl (al-qaṣʿat al-muslanṭiḥa), the noun is also used for small natural ponds (manāqiʿ), where water gathers (Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs, kitab al-ṣād, bāb al-ṣādwa-l-ḥāʾ wa mā yuthallithuhumā). Exegetes mention that seventy thousand golden bowls will be circulated among the Believers, each bowl will contain a flavor and a food not present in any other bowl (ʿAbd al-Razzāq, Qurṭubī, Tafsīrs, sub Q 43:71). The remaining eight occurrences of the root refer to ṣuḥuf (Scriptures, Books, Scrolls, for which see Books).
    The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, instructed believers not to “drink from silver or gold vessels, and not to eat in plates of such metals (fī ṣiḥāfihā), for such things are for them (the disbelievers) in this worldly life and for you in the Hereafter.” (Bukhārī, kitāb al-ashriba, bāb āniyat al-fiḍḍa).

This-Worldly Cups (Siqāya and Ṣuwāʿ)

These two this-worldly drinking cups are mentioned in the Qurʾān in the context of a ruse in which one of the brothers of the Prophet Yūsuf, peace be upon him, was set up as having stolen the cup of the king of Egypt (for details of this incident, see Yūsuf): So when he had provided them with their provision, he put the drinking cup (al-siqāya) in his brother’s saddle-bag (Q 12:70). The noun siqāya, from the verbal root s-q-y, refers to a vessel used to drink water or give water. The normative sense of siqāya as a verbal noun is to “provide or give water” (cf. Q 15:22; 16:66; 23:21; 25:49; 72:16; 76:17; 77:27; 83:25), it is used in this sense in Q 9:19 (have you made the providing of water (siqāya) for the pilgrim …), where it refers to the place where pilgrims are given drink during the Hajj (Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs, al-sīn wa-l-qāf wa mā yuthallithuhumā), and metonymically may denote a cup in which one is given to drink, in which case it is glossed as ināʾ (Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān wāw-yāʾ, faṣl al-sīn al-muhmala).

“The drinking cup (siqāya) in Q 12:70 is the same object which is called ṣuwāʿ al-malik in Q12:72), its renaming [as siqāya] highlights its function of being used to give drink from it (yusqā bih), whereas its being called ṣuwāʿ emphasizes its usage as a measuring vessel (yuktāl bih)” (Rāghib, Mufradāt, sub s-q-y; Fayrūzābādī, Baṣāʾir, baṣīra fī-l-s-q-f, s-q-m wa-l-s-q-y).

The noun ṣuwāʿ, from the root s-w-ʿ, means “to gauge with the measure (ṣāʿ)” or “to collect” (e.g., wheat) with the measure, and the phrase “ṣuwāʿ al-malik” refers to the cup (ināʾ) of the king from which he drinks and can also be used for measuring; it can also be called “al-ṣāʿ” (Rāghib, Mufradāt, sub ṣ-w-ʿ; Muqātil, Tafsīr). There exists a variant reading from Abū Hurayra (d. 57/681) and Mujāhid (21-104/645-722) that has ṣāʿ instead of ṣuwāʿ (ʿUmar-ʿAbd al-Āl, Muʿjam al-qirāʾāt). Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad b. Jarīr al-Ṭabarī (224-310/839-923) says ṣuwāʿ is the ināʾ used by Yūsuf, upon him peace, to measure food for the people (Tafsīr, sub Q 12:72). Saʿīd b. Jubayr (45-95/665-713) holds that ṣuwāʿ is the Persian makkūk (drinking-cup), a vessel whose two sides are compressed such that they meet together (Samarqandī, Baḥr; Ibn Abī Ḥātim, Tafsīr); the polymath scholar, Jalāl al-Dīn ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Suyūṭī (849-911/1445-ca.1505) says that it is similar to makkūk, made of silver and one can drink therefrom (Durr, sub Q 12:72). Siqāya is the synonym of ṣuwāʿ, the drinking cup of the king [of Egypt] (Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs, al-sīn wa-l-qāf wa mā yuthallithuhumā).


Jifān (sing. jafna), from the root j-f-n, is used for a vessel for food (wiʿāʾ al-aṭʿima); it is also used to denote a small well (Rāghib, Mufradāt, sub j-f-n). Jafna is the greatest type of bowls (Ibn Sīda, Muḥkam, al-jīm wa-l-nūn wa-l-fāʾ, maqlūbuhu; Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān, al-nūn, faṣl al-jīm). According to Mujāhid, jifān is ṣiḥāf  (see above) (Māwardī, Nukat, Bayḍāwī, Tafsīr). The noun jifān is a hapax legomenon (Q 34:13); it describes the jinn’s activity in the service of Prophet Sulaymān, upon him peace (Muqātil, Tafsīr) making for him, among other things, “jifān ka-l-jawāb—bowl(s) like reservoirs” where jifān is explained as a huge bowl (Farrāʾ, Maʿānī), similar to water basins (ka-hayʾat ḥiyāḍ) used for watering camels (Māturīdī, Taʾwīlāt), the extent of which is compared to jawāb (sing. jābiya) large basins (Samarqandī, Baḥr).

Dalw (plural: adlin, dilāʾ, adlāʾ), from the root d-l-w, means to let down the pail [into a well] (Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs, sub bāb al-dāl wa-l-lām wa mā yuthallithuhumā, d-l-y; Rāghib, Mufradāt, sub d-l-w). The noun appears once (Q 12:19):  And there came a company of travelers; then they sent their water drawer, and he let down his bucket (dalwahu). It is described as a bucket with which one obtains water from a well (Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān, al-wāw-al-yāʾ, faṣl al-dāl al-muhmala, Azharī, Tahdhīb, bāb al-dāl wa-l-lām).


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See also

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