At least regarding the grammar of the sentence, the Arabic sentence الصَّلاةُ خَيْرٌ مِن الْنَّوْمِ means “prayer is better than sleep”.
You might know that in Sunni Islam there is a special line that the muezzin says if he calls people to come to pray during dawn: الصَّلاةُ خَيْرٌ مِن الْنَّوْمِ (as-salatu khayrun min an-nawm). This is only said for the الْفَجْر-prayer (fajr).
This is an interesting grammatical construction. We do not use the regular اِسْم التَّفْضِيل ism -al-Tafdeel) here, following the pattern: أَفْعَل – which would denote a comparative or superlative meaning.
So why do we translate the word with a comparative meaning?
The word خَيْرٌ is usually translated as good, which is correct. But it also has another meaning – the meaning of a اِسْم تَفْضِيل.
The word خَيْر has the same meaning as أَحْسَن – better.
Let us have a closer look at some examples:
|Prayer is better than sleep.||الصَّلاةُ خَيْرٌ مِن الْنَّوْم|
|Work is better than laziness.||الْعَمَلُ خَيْرٌ مِن الْكَسَلِ|
|He is better than…||هُوَ خَيْرٌ مِنْ|
|I am not better than the student.||لَسْتُ خَيْرًا مِن الطَّالِبِ|
What is the DNA of the word خَيْر?
The word for better was originally أَخْيَر – but it was changed into خَيْر.
This happened a long time ago as in the Qur’an, خَيْر is already used in the meaning of better.
The word comes from the root خ – ي – ر. The corresponding I-verb is خارَ.
Watch out for the correct plural:
|good; excellent/better; best||خِيار or أَخْيار||خَيْر|
|good; blessing; good thing||خُيُور||خَيْر|
There are other words which follow the same logic as خَيْرٌ, for example, the word شَرٌّ (bad or evil), but it is less common.
|She is worse than… (Notice that there is no feminine form of شَرٌّ .)||…هِيَ شَرٌّ مِنْ|
Be careful: If you use خَيْرٌ or شَرٌّ in a إِضافة-construction, they have the meaning of the superlative.
|(the) best student||خَيْرُ طَالِبٍ|
- In Arabic you don’t use the definite article although it has a definite meaning in English.
- As it is a إِضافة-construction, the word خَيْر doesn’t get nunation.