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56:9 The Idiom of the right and left

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And the Companions of the Left Hand,- what will be the Companions of the Left Hand?

[Lit., “those [or “the people”] of the left side”. Similarly to the use of the expression maymanah
as a metonym for “attaining to what is right”, the term mash’amah is used to denote “losing
in evil” (e.g., in 90:19). The origin of both these metonyms is based on the belief of the
pre-Islamic Arabs that future events could be predicted by observing the direction of the flight
of birds at certain times: if they flew to the right, the event in question promised to be
auspicious; if to the left, the contrary. This ancient belief was gradually absorbed by linguistic
usage, so that “right” and “left” became more or less synonymous with “auspicious” and
“inauspicious”. In the idiom of the Qur’an, these two concepts have been deepened into
“righteousness” and “unrighteousness”, respectively.]


Asad, Muhammad (1980). The Message of the Quran.

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