Come to prayer! (حَيَّ عَلَى الصَّلاةِ)‎ – What type of word is ‎حَيَّ‎?‎‎

Recently a reader asked me about the word حَيَّ. The word is used in the call of the Muezzin: Come to prayer! (حَيَّ عَلَى الصَّلاةِ). The word in question – حَيَّ – is a so-called اِسْم الْفِعْل. There is no clear translation for it. In fact, we have to deal with a “hybrid”. Let’s do some analysis.

Such words point to a verb and carry its meaning as well as its time and function.

There are some important things to know.

What are the specialities of such words?
  • Such a word is not a pure noun (اِسْم) only. Why? Other than nouns, a اِسْم الْفِعْل only conveys a meaning on itself when it is linked to time.
  • We also don’t call it a pure verb be­cause it does not carry the signs and markers of a verb, i.e., the usual endings.
  • All forms of a اِسْم الْفِعْل are indeclinable (مَبْنِيّ).
  • Furthermore, it is not affected by other parts of the sen­tence. In other words, it does not have a regent (عامِل) and doesn’t have a po­sition in إعراب.
  • However, a اِسْم الْفِعْل has governing power of a verb and works as a regent (عامِل). It can govern other words and in­duces cases – note the cases after such a word.
  • Therefore, it can carry a direct object (مَفْعُول بِهِ) in the accusative case (مَنْصُوب). This object, however, can never precede the اِسْم الْفِعْل. It has to be placed after.

In Arabic grammar books, the اِسْم الْفِعْل is classified by the tense/time it relates to. Therefore, we have three types (imperative, past tense, present tense). I only focus on the imperative here as this is the most common type.

The imperative mode (اِسْم فِعْل أَمْر).

Many exclamations have a cer­tain verbal force are given the equivalent of an imperative.



اِسْم الْفِعْل

Hush! Silence!



Stop! Give up! Let alone!



Come! Come to prayer! (حَيَّ عَلَى الصَّلاةِ)



Amen! (to hear/answer a prayer)

(اللَّهُمَّ) اسْتَجِبْ


Note: Christians use Amen a lot. Amen is probably of Aramaic origin: אמין, meaning strong, enduring, true, last­ing, eternal. In Hebrew, אָמֵן means so be it; truly. From Hebrew, it perhaps en­tered ancient Greek (ἀμήν) and from where it spread to other languages.


Muslims say ’Āmīn as well, for example, after having read the first Sura al-Fātiha (سُورة الْفاتِحة). Some linguists suggested that the آ – the Aleph Madd (أَلِف مَدّ) – is only there in the word آمِينَ to provide the fullness of the sound “a” (فَتْحة). What supports this idea is the fact that there is no word in Ara­bic following the pattern فَاعِيلٌ.

Make haste!


Hurry up to school! (هَيّا إِلَى الْمَدْرَسة)



Come here, bring here!

قَرِّبْ or اِقْتَرِبْ


Many common expressions fit into this category. They were origi­nally preposi­tional phrases (الْجَرّ وَالْمَجُرور) or adverbs of place (ظَرْف مَكان) but now have the meaning of an imperative. Grammari­ans call such expressions a اِسْم فِعْل مَنْقُول (transferred).


equivalent meaning

اِسْم الْفِعْل

There it is for you! (You take this!)Take it (خُذْها إِلَيْكَ)!


There is my hand for you!Take my hand (خُذْ يَدِي)!

هاكَ يَدِي!

Take the book (said to a woman)!You (f.) take (خُذِي)!

هاكِ الْكِتابَ!

Seize Karim!Seize Karim who is in front of!

عَلَيْكَ كَرِيمًا!

Take him!Take (خُذْ)!


Get away from me!Move away (اِبْتَعِدْ)!

إِلَيْكَ عَنِّي!

You must be honest!You have to (اِلْزَمْ)!

عَلَيْكَ الصِّدْقَ!

Move on! Forward!Move forward (تَقَدَّمْ)!


Backward!Fall behind! (تَأَخَّرْ)


Stay in your place!Stand firm! (اُثْبُتْ)


Notice in the examples the direct objects – the accusative case (مَنْصُوب)!

PS: My coming book Arabic for Nerds 2 will deal with stuff like that extensively.

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