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Quranic Terminology: The Term (Dubur) and Its Derivations


Quranic Terminology: The Term (Dubur) and Its Derivations


Published in January 5, 2019

Translated by: Ahmed Fathy





 We tackle in this article the Quranic/Arabic term (Dubur) and its derivations: (Dabar, Tadabur, Idbar, and Adbar); the figurative and literal meanings of these words (verb and nouns) in English refer loosely to the English words "behind", ''bottoms'', ''back(s)'', ''to flee/move away'', "to retreat", "to ponder/reflect" and ''to regulate".


Firstly: within figurative meanings regarding being defeating in battles:

1- The Lord God says the following about the disbelievers:

1/1: "Or do they say, "We are united, and we will be victorious"?The multitude will be defeated, and they will turn their backs." (54:44-45).

1/2: "They will do you no harm, beyond insulting you. And if they fight you, they will turn their backs and flee, then they will not be helped." (3:111).

1/3: "If those who disbelieve had fought you, they would have turned their backs and fled, then found neither protector nor helper." (48:22).

2- This warning is addressed to believers within self-defense battles: "O you who believe! When you meet those who disbelieve on the march, never turn your backs on them. Anyone who turns his back on them on that Day, except while maneuvering for battle, or to join another group, has incurred wrath from God, and his abode is Hell - what a miserable destination!" (8:15-16).

3- This is in the context about hypocrites during the siege of Yathreb by the confederates: "Although they had made a pledge to God, in the past, that they will not turn their backs. A pledge to God is a responsibility." (33:15).

4- This is in the context about believers during the battle of Hunayn: "God has given you victory in numerous regions; but on the day of Hunayn, your great number impressed you, but it availed you nothing; and the land, as spacious as it was, narrowed for you; and you turned your backs in retreat. " (9:25).


Secondly: within figurative meanings regarding fleeing and running away:

1- About Moses, we quote the following verses.

1/1: "Throw down your staff." But when he saw it quivering, as though it were one of the jinn, he turned around not looking back. "O Moses, do not fear; the messengers do not fear in My presence."  (27:10).

1/2: "Throw down your staff." And when he saw it wiggling, as if it were one of the jinn, he turned his back to flee, and did not look back. "O Moses, come forward, and do not fear, you are perfectly safe." (28:31)

2- The sinners/disbelievers will try to flee on the Last Day, but in vain: "The Day when you willturn and flee, having no defender against God..." (40:33).


Thirdly: literally denoting the word (behind):

1- Within the story of Lot, the angels commanded Lot, his family members (except the disbelieving wife), and believers with him never to look back or behind them when they leave their village which was about to be smitten and destroyed by the Lord God: ""Travel with your family at the dead of the night, and follow up behind them, and let none of you look back, and proceed as commanded."" (15:65).

2- Within the story of Joseph, the Potiphar's wife dragged Joseph's shirt from behind: "As they raced towards the door, she tore his shirt from behind...If his shirt is torn from the front: then she has told the truth, and he is the liar. But if his shirt is torn from the back: then she has lied, and he is the truthful." And when he saw that his shirt was torn from the back,..." (12:25-28).

3- Night comes directly after/behind the day (and vice versa) all the time; one of them retreats and the other comes alternating till the end of days: "Nay! By the moon. And the night as it retreats." (74:32-34).


Fourthly: figuratively used to indicate rejection:

1- About rejecting the Quran.

1/1: "And We drape veils over their hearts, preventing them from understanding it, and heaviness in their ears. And when you mention your Lord alone in the Quran, they turn their backs in aversion." (17:46).

1/2: "Then he turned back and was proud. And said, "This is nothing but magic from the past." (74:23-24).

2- About rejecting the divine guidance.

2/1: About the rejection by hypocrites, we read: "Those who reverted and turned their backs after the guidance became clear to them - Satan has enticed them..." (47:25).

2/2: The following is about the rejection by disbelievers.

2/2/1: "You cannot make the dead hear, nor can you make the deaf hear the call if they turn their backs and flee." (27:80).

2/2/2: "You cannot make the dead hear, nor can you make the deaf hear the call when they turn away." (30:52).

2/3: About rejecters on the Last Day: "...It is a Raging Fire...It invites him who once turned his back and fled." (70:15-17).

3- The people of Abraham turned their backs to him as they rejected his call to monotheism.

3/1: "He said to his father and his people, "What are you worshiping? Is it false gods, instead of Allah, that you want?...But they turned their backs on him, and went away." (37:85-90).

3/2: Abraham said the following: "By Allah, I will have a plot against your idols after you have turned away on your backs."" (21:57).

4- Moses' Pharaoh turned away in order to plot, scheme, and conspire.

4/1: "But he denied and defied. Then turned his back, and tried. And gathered and proclaimed." (79:21-23).

4/2: "But he turned away in his location, and said, "A sorcerer or a madman." " (51:39).

4/3: "Pharaoh turned away, put together his plan, and then came back." (20:60).


Fifthly: to literally denote the bottoms/buttocks or derrières of human beings:

1- "If only you could see, as the angels take away those who disbelieve, striking their faces and their bottoms: "Taste the torment of burning."" (8:50).

2- "How about when the angels take them at death, beating their faces and their bottoms?" (47:27).


Sixthly: being "behind" Quranic verses means to reflect/ponder on them deeply:

 We have covered this topic, about the best way to reflect on Quranic verses within their local and general contexts and cognates/derivations of the term/notion which is examined or under study within the whole Quranic text, in our book, in English, titled "How to Understand the Holy Quran" found on the following link: (, and within two lengthy English articles found on these links:

1- The Lord God says the following to Muhammad while addressing all believers, in all eras, indirectly: "A blessed Book that We sent down to you, that they may ponder its Verses, and for those with intelligence to take heed. " (38:29).

2- The Lord God, in the following contexts, denounces the disbelievers who reject the Quran.

2/1: "Do they not ponder the Quran? Had it been from any other than God, they would have found in it much discrepancy." (4:82).

2/2: "Will they not ponder the Quran? Or are there locks upon their hearts?" (47:24).

2/3: "Have they not pondered the Word? Or has there come to them what came not to their forefathers of old?" (23:68).


Seventhly: the literal sense of (to regulate) and (to manage/govern):

1- The Quranic figurative expression about the Lord God establishing Himself on the Throne shows total control of the universe and measuring/planning/governing its affairs and items.

1/1: "Your Lord is God, who created the heavens and the earth in six days, then settled over the Throne, governing all things. There is no intercessor except after His permission. Such is God, your Lord - so serve Him. Will you not reflect?" (10:3).

1/2: "Say, "Who provides for you from the heaven and the earth? And who controls the hearing and the sight? And who produces the living from the dead, and produces the dead from the living? And who governs all things?" They will say, "God." Say, "Will you not be pious?"" (10:31).

1/3: "God is He who raised the heavens without pillars that you can see, and then settled on the Throne. And He regulated the sun and the moon, each running for a specified period. He manages all affairs, and He explains the signs, that you may be certain of the meeting with your Lord." (13:2).

1/4: "He regulates all affairs, from the heavens, to the earth. Then it ascends to Him on a Day the length of which is a thousand years by your count." (32:5).

2- The angels execute the Lord God's orders and commands.

2/1: The angels are described here: "And those who regulate things." (79:5).

2/2: This is why in some verses, regulating matters is ascribed to both the Lord God and the angels, and in some other verses, to the angels only or to the Lord God only. This is exemplified in the topic of death when angels of death take the souls of dying people.

2/2/1: "God created you; then He takes you away by death..." (16:70).

2/2/2: "God takes the souls at the time of their death, and those that have not died during their sleep. He retains those for which He has decreed death, and He releases the others until a predetermined time. In that are signs for people who reflect." (39:42).

2/2/3: "Say, "The angel of death put in charge of you will reclaim you. Then to your Lord you will be returned."" (32:11).

2/2/4: "...when death overtakes one of you, Our envoys take him away, and they never fail." (6:61).

2/2/5: "How about when the angels take them at death, beating their faces and their bottoms?" (47:27).



 There is a difference between the Quranic terms Adbar (back or behind) and Idbar (the noun derived from the verb "to flee" or "to move away").

1- "...and proclaim the praises of your Lord before the rising of the sun, and before sunset. And glorify Him during the night, and behind/after prostrations." (50:39-40).

2- "...and proclaim the praises of your Lord when you arise. And glorify Him during the night, and after the stars move away." (52:48-49).

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