Cushions
(arāʾik, muttakaʾ, namāriq, rafraf, surur)

Gibril Fouad Haddad

Cushions in this article refers to various kinds of casings of silk and brocade stuffed with soft material and spread on the couches of Paradise for the relaxation and comfort of its dwellers.Seven Qurʾānic terms mention these items of refinement and comfort sixteen times.

Arāʾik

The noun arāʾik, singular arīka, from the stem ʾ-r-k, defined as “a decorated cushioned bed (sarīr munajjad) in a tent” (Jawharī, Ṣiḥāḥ),“a nuptial canopy (ḥajala) over a couch/bed” (Ibn Durayd, Jamhara;Ṣāḥib, Muḥīṭ, 6:322;Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs;Qatāda and Mujāhid in Ṭabarī,sub Q 76:13) “of pearl and ruby” (Mujāhid, sub Q 36:56), is mentioned five times, three as the object of reclining upon (muttakiʾūn/īn) (Q 18:31, 36:56, 76:13) and twice as upon canopies, gazing in a single sura (Q 83:23, 83:35).“Abū ʿAwsaja said, arāʾik are cushions” (Māturīdī, Tafsīr, sub Q 18:31, 36:57);this is the lexicographer and litterateur Abū ʿAwsaja Tawba b. Qutayba al-Hujaymī al-Samarqandī, the student of the major linguist ʿAbd al-Malik b. Qurayb al-Aṣmaʿī (123-216/741-831) (Samʿānī, Ansāb, 1:257 §168,sub al-Ushtābdīzkī). “Arīka cannot be other than a bed (sarīr) in a tent with its upholstery (shawār) andpadding(najd)” (Ibn al-Anbārī, Zāhir, 1:454 §397).The word is said to come from Ethiopic (Ibn al-Jawzī, Funūn, p. 351) and is sometimes included among the Arabized vocables of the Qurʾān (Suyūṭī, Muhadhdhab, p. 38, sub arāʾik).

A foundational hadith spoken by the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, at the time of the conquest of Khaybar (7/628), states:

Soon will a man say, leaning on his arīka with his stomach full, as he hears my hadith: “Between us and you there is the Book of Allah. Whatever licit matter we find [stipulated] in it we hold licit; whatever unlawful matter we find [stipulated] in it, we hold unlawful.” Behold! Truly, whatever the Messenger of Allah declares prohibited is just like what Allah declares prohibited (Dārimī, ʿAlāmāt al-nubuwwa, al-Sunna qāḍiya ʿalā Kitāb Allāh; Abū Dāwūd, Sunna, luzūm al-Sunna); I swear by Allah that I have commanded,exhorted,and forbidden you many matters in the amount of the Qurʾān or more (Abū Dāwūd, al-Kharāj wal-fayʾ wal-imāra, taʿshīr Ahl al-dhimma idhā ikhtalafū bil-ijārāt).

“He was referring to the Kharijites and Rafidites who clung to the externals of the Qurʾān and disregarded the Sunan in which is kept the exposition of the Book, reaping confusion and error…. By ‘leaning on his arīka’ he meant lovers of apathy and easy living who keep to their homes and do not pursue learning, day and night, and acquire it from where it can be acquired” (Khaṭṭābī, Māʿālim, 4:298, Sharḥ al-Sunna, al-nahy ʿan al-jidāl fīl-Qurʾān).


Muttakaʾ

The singular noun muttakaʾ, from the stem w-k-ʾ which denotes pressuring or leaning on something such as a walking staff or a cushion (Farāhīdī, ʿAyn; Zamakhsharī, Asās), is defined as“a place to sit and eat with pillows and cushions (al-namāriq wal-wasāʾid)” (Tafsīrs of Ṭabarī, Thaʿlabī, Māwardī, Wāḥidī), and is mentioned once, in the verse And when she heard of their scheming she sent for them and prepared for them a banquet on couches (Q 12:31), glossed in full in the entry Childhood and Youth. In addition to the three already mentioned verses (Q 18:31, 36:56, 76:13), w-k-ʾ cognates are used in six more verses as the verb yattakiʾūn (Q 43:34) and the present participle muttakiʾīn (Q 38:51, 52:20, 52:54, 55:76, 56:16) in the sense of “reclining” on beds and couches (surur, furush).

Some read the word as mutkan, mutk meaning the citron (utrujj) in Ethiopic (Ibn ʿAbbās in the Tafsīrs of Ṭabarī and Ibn Abī Ḥātim; Mujāhid, Tafsīr,sub Q 12:31; Ibn ʿAbbās, Ibn ʿUmar, Ibn Jubayr, Mujāhid, Qatāda, Ḍaḥḥāk, Kalbī, Naṣr from ʿĀṣim, Ibn Hurmuz, Abū Rawq, Abū Rajāʾ al-ʿUṭāridī, Ibn Yazdād from Abū Jaʿfar, Jaḥdarī, Abān b. Taghlib, and Aʿmash according to one narration, while Ibn Masʿūd, Muʿādh and al-Aʿraj read it matkan: Khaṭīb, Muʿjam, 4:241, sub Q 12:31); “and everything that is sliced with a knife is called mutk” (Muqātil, Tafsīr; Ḍaḥḥāk and ʿIkrima in Ṭabarī). Unlike muttakāʾ, which is originally Arabic, mutk is therefore counted as Arabized (muʿarrab) (Suyūṭī, Muhadhdhab, p. 85, sub muttakaʾ).This irregular reading (qirāʾa shādhdha), however,was strenuously rejected: “The muttakaʾ is the numruq one leans upon [see next section]. Some people claimed it is the citron, and this is the biggest falsehood on earth; but there might be citron offered as part of the muttakaʾ food” (Abū ʿUbayda, Majāz; endorsed by Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, sub Q 12:31).


Namāriq

The noun namāriq, singular numruqa/nimriqa, a fuʿlula derivation from the stem n-m-r with an added final qāf (the namira being a sewn covering) (Fārābī, Dīwān, 2:49, sub fuʿlul; Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs),glossed as cushions (Jawharī, Ṣiḥāḥ; Zajjāj, Maʿānī, sub Q 88:15), or as striped tapered cushions, wider at the back, for riders to sit on (Azharī, Tahdhīb), occurs once, in the verse and cushions in rows (Q 88:15) in the sense of “huge cushions lined up on top of carpets in the dialect of Quraysh specifically” (Muqātil), “cushions and arm rests (al-wasāʾid wal-marāfiq)” (Ibn ʿAbbās in Ṭabarī and Ibn Abī Ḥātim) “in the fashion of the dais of kings” (Ṭabarsī, Majmaʿ). “Thus are cushions spread out in this world, so they were made desirable in the Hereafter as well” (Māturīdī).The gloss of namāriq as cushions is therefore an exclusive and unanimous one (Wāḥidī, Wasīṭ).


Rafraf

The singular noun rafraf, from the stem r-f-f, used in the two senses of sucking (maṣṣ) and movement (ḥaraka) including flashing (barīq) as in the onomatopeic rafrafa or fluttering of a bird’s wings (Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs; Zamakhsharī, Asās), is the most polysemic term of this list and refers to “the side of a small tent, a piece of fabric sewn to the bottom of a coarse tent, the groves of Paradise, couches and carpets, seats and cushions” (Azharī, Tahdhīb; cf. Māwardī, Nukat, sub Q 55:76); “fine silk garments” (Ibn Sīda, Mukhaṣṣaṣ, 4:74, al-busuṭ wal-namāriq wal-furush); “the sides of a shield and what dangles from them” (Fārābī, Dīwān, 3:101, sub faʿlal),“greenfabrics used to make bed sheets (maḥābis)”(Jawharī, Ṣiḥāḥ; Ṭabarī, sub Q 55:76), “strewn tree-leaves” (Rāghib, Mufradāt), “armrests” (marāfiq, Ṭabarī; Thaʿlabī), “cushions” (Zajjāj; Ibn Abī Zamnīn; Zamakhsharī; etc.).It is mentioned once in Q 55:76, reclining on a green rafraf, which the Shāfiʿī Kurdish exegete, hadith scholar, legal theorist, prosodist and poet Mullā Shihāb al-Dīn Aḥmad b. Ismāʿīl b. ʿUthmān al-Shahrazūrī al-Gūrānī (813-893/1410-1488, fourth Ottoman Shaykh al-Islam and teacher to the Sultan Muḥammad al-Fātiḥ) glossed as“cushions of green silk, because it is a color that brings happiness; also called thus are wide carpets (busuṭ), tent hems, and every green garment” (Gūrānī, Ghāya).

The word rafraf is associated with the gloss of one of the events that took place during the Prophet’s Night Journey and Ascension, upon him blessings and peace, whereupon He saw some of the greatest signs of his Lord [or: He saw, of the signs of his Lord, the greatest, cf. Nawawī, Sharḥ, Īmān, maʿnā qawl Allāh ʿazza wa-jall wa-laqad raʾāhu nazlatan ukhrā] (Q 53:18): “He saw a green rafraf that had filled the firmament” (Ibn Masʿūd in Bukhārī, Tafsīr, Q 53:18). This hadith was interpreted as (i) the sight of Jibrīl, upon him peace, in his celestial form (Ibn ʿAṭiyya),“wearing a green tunic/two green tunics” (Tirmidhī, Tafsīr, wa-min Sūrat al-Najm, rated ḥasan ṣaḥīḥ; Abū Yaʿlā, Musnad, 8:434-435 §5018); (ii) or Jibrīl sitting on top of a carpet (bisāṭ) or couch (firāsh) (Bayhaqī, Asmāʾ, 2:351 §925, cf. Ibn Sīda, Mukhaṣṣaṣ, 4:73, al-busuṭ wal-namāriq wal-furush); (iii) “possibly also Jibrīl spreading all his wings the way a garment is spread” (Khaṭṭābī, Aʿlām, 2:1491),“which is patently far-fetched” (Ibn Ḥajar, Fatḥ, 6:316, Badʾ al-khalq, dhikr al-malāʾika).


ʿAbqarī

Q 55:76 also mentions the quadriliteral-stem (ʿ-b-q-r) collective nounʿabqarī, glossed as carpets (Ibn Sīda, Mukhaṣṣaṣ, 4:73, al-busuṭ wal-namāriq wal-furush), specifically thick ones (al-ṭanāfis al-thikhān, Ṭabarī, sub Q 55:76) with pictorial motifs (“ʿUmar, may Allah be well-pleased with him, would prostrate on a ʿabqarī,” Abū ʿUbayd, Gharīb, 1:62; Bayhaqī, Sunan, 2:612 §4283), also glossed as synonymous with zarābī (Tafsīrs of Mujāhid, Muqātil, ʿAbd al-Razzāq, etc.) (see two sections down), thus denothing cushions as well.

ʿAbqar is also a place name for (i) a town in Yemen famous for theirpictorial embroidery (washy)oftextiles (Abū ʿUbayd, Gharīb, 1:61, 2:110; Ibn Sīda, Muḥkam), whence “ʿabqarī in other than Qurʾān is clothes obtained from ʿAbqar” (Māturīdī, Tafsīr); and (ii) a desert spot famed for its jinns (Farāhīdī, ʿAyn; Ibn Durayd, Jahmara).

The term became generic for anything or anyone with superlative attributes (Ibn Fāris, Mujmal, 3:676; Thaʿlab, Majālis, 2:302 §366). The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, recounted a dream in which he saw ʿUmar pull water from a well better than anyone: “I never saw any clan’sʿabqarī do more accomplished work” (Bukhārī, Manāqib, manāqib ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb; Muslim, Faḍāʾil, faḍāʾil ʿUmar raḍiya Allāhu ʿanh).


Surur

The plural noun surur, singular sarīr, from the stem s-r-r which denotes hiding (whence sirr, secret), purity and stability (Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs), is defined as beds (Ibn Sīda, Muḥkam), dominion and bliss (al-mulk wal-niʿma) (Jawharī, Ṣiḥāḥ), “that upon which one sits due to surūr, joy that is kept private (mā yankatim min al-faraḥ), as behooves the denizens of bliss” (Rāghib, Mufradāt), and also—in a unique gloss—simply as “cushions” (wasāʾid) (Māwardī, Nukat, sub Q 42:20) (see Blessings, Bounties and Favors of Allah; Happiness and Sadness). It is mentioned in six verses all describing the couches of Paradise (15:47, 37:44, 42:20, 43:34, 56:15, 88:13).


Zarābī

The plural noun zarābī, singular zarbiyya (Ibn Sīda, Muḥkam), glossed as “cushions” only by the lexicographers (Ibn Durayd, Jamhara; Ibn Fāris, Mujmal, 1:451; Fayyūmī, Miṣbāḥ) and as synonymous with namāriq (Jawharī, Ṣiḥāḥ) or with ʿaqbarī (Ibn Sīda, Mukhaṣṣaṣ, 4:74, al-busuṭ wal-namāriq wal-furush), comes from the stem z-r-b which points to the sense of shelter (Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs). The fifth Qurʾānic hapax with muttakaʾ, namāriq, rafraf and ʿabqarī, it occurs in one verse, and cushions scattered (mabthūtha) (Q 88:16), in the sense of “many and sundry” (kathīra mutafarriqa, Maqāyīs, sub b-th-th), as part of a longer description of Paradise.The exegetes gloss it as “wide carpets” (ṭanāfis, busuṭ) (Muqātil, sub Q 55:76, 88:15; Zajjāj, sub Q 55:76; Ibn Abī Ḥātim, sub Q 88:16), “fringed, velvety carpets” (ṭanāfis mukhmala); it is counted among the “rare words of the Qurʾān”(Abū Ḥayyān, Tuḥfa, p. 77).


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See also

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