The original word
The word masdar (مَصْدَر) linguistically means means "source" and from the perspective of Arabic linguistics it denotes the word which all other derived verbs and nouns originally came from. There has been a debate by Arabic linguists as whether this original word was in fact the verbal noun or the verb
The verbal noun is a noun that denotes an action devoid of a time frame For example: eating, sleeping, reading, writing are all considered verbal nouns.
If we say " Eating adequate fruit and vegetables is essential for preventing a wide variety of health conditions". The word Eating is denotes the act of eating without a specific time frame linked to it.
In Surat Al Naba, Allah (Most High) says:
وَجَعَلْنَا نَوْمَكُمْ سُبَاتًا
And made your sleep [a means for] rest
Once again sleep denotes the act of sleeping without an associated time frame.
A verb on the other hand denotes an action with a time frame.
such as in the sentence
نَامَتْ فَاطِمَةُ في منى
Fatimah slept in Mina ( when she perfromed Hajj)
Here a past tense verb is used to indicate that her sleep took place in the past and the act has been complete.
Which word is the source?
The strongest opinion which most scholars hold today is that the original word is the verbal noun. One of the proofs for this is that Adam (peace be upon him) was taught the names as mentioned in Surat Al Baqarah ayah 31.
وَعَلَّمَ آدَمَ الْأَسْمَاءَ كُلَّهَا
And He taught Adam the names - all of them
"all of them" is for added emphasis and refers to all the names that allowed Adam (AS) to fullfil his role as the vicegerent ( Khalifah) of Allah (Most high) on earth.
How to find the masdar of a word?
In the Hans Wehr dictionary the verbal noun can be easily found by looking at a verb entry.
|As shown above the word in brackets is the Masdar|
More than one Masdar
It is also important to note that a 3 letter root can have more than one Masdar. For example we have the verb قَرأَ " He read". This 3 letter root actually has 2 masdars or source words. They are:
قِرَاءَةٌ and قُرْآن
The following video explains why two source words exist with respect to the Quranic linguistic miracle.
Teacher at the Sibaway Institute