A Note on Sound and Broken Plurals

Posted on: 25 April 2019

In regards to the difference between the sound and broken plural, in al-Bahr al-Muhit v. 3, p. 89, Imam Zarkashi said,

واعلم أن الأصوليين مصرحون بأن جمع السلامة للتكثير كالمؤمنين والكافرين وقسم سيبويه وغيره من النحويين الجمع إلى قسمين : جمع سلامة وهو للتقليل للعشرة فيما دونها وجمع تكسير وهو نوعان ما هو للقلة وهي أربع صيغ : أفعال وأفعُل وأفْعِلَة وفِعْلَة والباقي للتكثير إلخ

“Know! The scholars of usul al-fiqh stated that the sound plural is for a lot, like mu’minin and kafirin. While Sibaway and other grammarians divided the plural into two: (1) a sound plural which is used for a smaller amount, ten or less. (2) A broken plural which is of two types: (i) for a small amount, and they are four patterns af’al, fa’ul, af’ilah, fi’lah. (ii) And the rest are for a large amount.”

This difference is also observed in the writing of Ibn al-Subki in Raf’ al-Hajib v. 3, p. 85 where he points out that the grammarians agree on that the four mentioned forms of the broken plural and the sound plural are used for a lesser amount, and the broken plural for a greater amount. And also that the scholars of usul al-fiqh agree on the ‘umum [generality] of words like mushrikin and ahmal.

Ibn al-Subki relates a sort of reconciliation on this from Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni who mentioned that the grammarians approach is specific to a situation of tankir [the word is indefinite], and the usulis to that of ta’rif [when a word is definite].

That is a discussion which the usulis get into, i.e. the jam’ munakkar & ‘umum. Qadi Baydawi mentioned that it did not, الجمع المنكر لا يقتضي العموم. And in Nihayat al-Sul v. 2, p. 347, Isnawi [he is commentating on Baydawi’s words, Nihayat al-Sul is a commentary on Baydawi’s Minhaj al-Wusul] mentioned, أقول الجمع المنكر أي إذا لم يكن مضافا لا يقتضي العموم. While there also does seem to be some discussion on if there can be ‘umum without istighraq; continuing, Muhammad Bukhit al-Muti’i in the hashiyah ascribed the opinion that it does not imply ‘umum as that of the majority.

The discussion here on jam’ munakkar is perhaps a slight digression, while mentioning it is relevant in regards to Imam al-Haramayn’s reconciliation of the difference of opinion.

And Allah knows best.