Arabic Meaning For Ru’b, Fear, Terror?

Arabic Meaning For Ru’b, Fear, Terror?

Mohamad Mostafa Nassar


Some have attempted to twist certain verses of the Quran and Hadith to mean something it has never intended to say. Take for example this verse:

“Sahih International: [Remember] when your Lord inspired to the angels, “I am with you, so strengthen those who have believed. I will cast terror (ru’ba – لرُّعْبَ) into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.” –  Qur’an 8:12

The ‘terror’ that is mentioned in this verse, critics like to interpret it and convey to readers the following definition:

“Violence committed or threatened by a group to intimidate or coerce a population, as for military or political purposes.” (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

However, the Arabic word ‘ru’b’ (رُعْب) does not have that meaning at all. When the Arabic word is used in the Quran or Hadith literature, it just means fear, alarm and fright in the hearts enemy. As the following Arabic-English dictionaries explain:

Arabic-English Lexicon – Edward William Lane:

(رُعْب) an inf. N. of 1, in senses pointed out above. (M, A, Msb, TA.) – A threat, or threatening. (K.) – A charm or charming, or a fascination or fascinating, by magical enchantment [or by the eye] or otherwise. (k.) – A rhyming prose of the Arabs. (k.) (الرُّعْبَ) – (S. A, Msb, K) and ruhb, (A, Msb, K) both said to be inf. Ns., (TA,) or the former is an inf. N. of الرُّعْبَ as intrans. (K, TA) or as trans., (A, MA,) and the latter is a simple subst.,

(TA,) or each of them is a simple subst., (Msb, TA,) fear, fright, or terror: (S, A, Msb, K or fear that fills the bosom and heart; as Er-Raghib and Z have indicated, following Aboo- Alee and IJ: or the utmost fear or terror. (TA.) One says, الرُّعْبَ … He did that from fear, not from desire. (A.) = Also the former, The socket of the head of an arrow; part into which the head enters, over which are the twists of sinew; syn … pl رُعْبًا. (K.) …” [1]

Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic: Arabic-English – Hans Wehr:

“رُعْب ru’b fright, alarm, dismay
ir’ab frightening, intimidation
ra’ib dreadful, horrifying, terrible …” [2]

Wortabet’s Arabic-English Dictionary – Wortabet William Thomson:

“To be frightened رُعْب
To terrify
Fright, fear, causing fear, terrifying” [3]

Arabic English Dictionary for the use of students – Reverend. F. J. G. Hava, S. J.:

“To tremble with fear الرُّعْبَ

To compose rhyming prose. To make spells. To fill a vessel). To cut up (a camel’s hump).

To terrify a. o… Incantation, spell. Rhyming prose…” [4]

Al-Mawrid A Modern Arabic-English Dictionary – Dr. Rohi Baalbaki

“الرُّعْبَ fright, fear, terror, panic, scare, horror, dread, angst, alarm, dismay …” [5]

An Arabic-English vocabulary – Donald Andreas Cameron:

“… or رُعْب, ra’ba, or irta’ba, he trembled with fear.
ro’ab, fear, trembling.
ra’da, it thundered; ra’d, thunder.” [6]

The Student’s, Arabic-English Dictionary – F. Steingass, P.h.D.:

“رُعْب ra’ab, INF. Ra’b, frighten, terrify; threaten; fill a basin; cut off; INF. Ru’b, coo loudly; frighten; be afraid, fear; – II INF. Tar’ib, IV. INF. Ir’ab … be afraid, fear.
رُعْب ru’b, fright fear…” [7]

So when we read Arabic-English dictionaries, we see that the word ‘ru’b’ (ru’ba) does not have the same meaning as critics want us to believe. Looking at the context for Quran 8:12, the verse was revealed concerning the Quraysh whom persecuted Muslims for thirteen long years, and when they were exiled out of Makkah, they were still hounded by the Quraysh, eventually it led to the battle of badr, which this verse (Q8:12) speaks about. So God in a sense puts fear into the hearts of the Quraysh whom oppressed and persecuted innocent people.

This Arabic word is also in following Quranic verses: 3:151, 18:18, 33:26, 59:2 and Hadith literature. [7]


[1] Arabic-English Lexicon by Edward William Lane (London: Willams & Norgate 1863) page 1104
[2] Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic: Arabic-English [Third edition – 1976] By Hans Wehr, page 345
[3] Wortabet’s Arabic-English Dictionary by Wortabet William Thomson, with the collaboration of Rev. John Wortabet M.D. and Professor Harvey Porter Ph. D., [Fourth edition – Librairie du liban Beirut], page 217
[4] Arabic English Dictionary for the use of students [Byrut – Catholic press, 1899, By the Rev. F. J. G. Hava, S. J., page 249
[5] Al-Mawrid A Modern Arabic-English Dictionary [Dar el-Ilm Lilmalayin – seventh edition 1995] by Dr. Rohi Baalbaki, Page 588
[6] An Arabic-English vocabulary for the use of English students of modern Egyptian Arabic By Donald Andreas Cameron, page 103
[7] The Student’s, Arabic-English Dictionary [London: Printed by W. H. Allen And Co., 13 Waterloo Place. S.W] By F. Steingass, P.h.D. Page 420
[8] This word is also described in the Bible and in the Arabic Van Dyke Translation:
New International Version
“Strike them with terror, LORD; let the nations know they are only mortal.” – Psalms 9:20