chapter  7
Hapaxes in the Qurʾān: identifying and cataloguing lone words (and loanwords)
Pages 54

In spite of the attention devoted by classical and medieval Muslim exegetes and modern scholars to the rare, unusual, diffi cult, and loan (or so-called “foreign”) words in the Qurʾān, there has been very little discussion of these within the larger contexts of Sūra structure, Qurʾānic literary structure, and Qurʾānic poetics. One item in particular that has not excited any substantial interest but which can contribute in important ways to analyses of these issues is the frequency of hapax legomena in the Qurʾān. A hapax legomenon (often just hapax, pl. hapaxes, for short), literally something “said only once,” is a word or form, sometimes even a phrase or expression, that appears only once in a text, author, or corpus. 3 Hapax legomena are, to be sure, occasionally signaled by modern scholars of the Qurʾān but such mention is usually incidental to discussions of loanwords and emendations. 4 I am not aware, however, of any sustained discussion or analysis of hapaxes individually or as a group in classical or medieval scholarship, and only aware of two works dedicated to them in modern scholarship – a hard-to-fi nd catalog produced by a religious scholar in Cairo in 2002, 5 and a 2008 University of Vienna

dissertation. 6 And whereas the 1905 Jewish Encyclopedia has an article on hapaxes in the Hebrew Bible, 7 there is no article on hapaxes in either the Encyclopaedia of Islam or the Encyclopedia of the Qurʾān , though the latter does – in keeping with both Muslim and Western scholarly interests – include a comprehensive article on “Foreign Vocabulary.” 8

And yet, the identifi cation, cataloguing, and study of hapaxes is an important aspect of the study of major texts, authors, and corpora. 9 The studies that have been possible thanks to the existence of hapax lists for other works – the Hebrew Bible, the epistles of Paul, and the works of Boccaccio, for instance – suggest strongly that once such a listing is available for the Qurʾān, a great deal might be learned about the Qurʾān, linguistically, literarily, and rhetorically. 10 When a word or root occurs in several places or in several contexts in the Qurʾān, its meaning can usually be established with some degree of certainty; when a word or root occurs only once or in only one context, meaning is far more diffi cult to establish, in particular if the word has no cognates. A list of hapaxes can be a valuable guide to the cruxes of the Qurʾān. A listing of hapaxes can also help put scholars in a better position to answer a number of important questions about the Qurʾānic lexicon and Qurʾānic rhetoric, among them (but evidently not limited to): Why do certain words appear only once? Is the list of hapaxes larger or smaller than elsewhere? Is their distribution random? Do they appear in particular places and contexts, e.g. exhortation versus description, beginning versus middle, Mecca Sūras versus Medinan, and so on?