Al-Quran Surah 78. An-Nabaa, Ayah 33

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وَكَوَاعِبَ أَتْرَابًا


Asad : and splendid companions well-matched,16
Khattab :

and full-bosomed maidens of equal age,

Malik : and young women of their own age,
Pickthall : And maidens for companions,
Yusuf Ali : Companions of Equal Age; 5906
Transliteration : WakawaAAiba atraban
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Asad   
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Asad 16 For the above rendering of atrab, see surah {56}, note [15]. As regards my rendering of kawa'ib as "splendid companions", it is to be remembered that the term ka'b - from which the participle ka'ib is derived - has many meanings, and that one of these meanings is "prominence", "eminence" or "glory" (Lisan al-'Arab); thus, the verb ka'ba, when applied to a person, signifies "he made [another person] prominent", "glorious" or "splendid" (ibid.) Based on this tropical meaning of both the verb ka'ba and the noun ka'b, the participle ka'ib has often been used, in popular parlance, to denote "a girl whose breasts are becoming prominent" or "are budding": hence, many commentators see in it an allusion to some sort of youthful "female companions" who would entertain the (presumably male) inmates of paradise. But quite apart from the fact that all Qur'anic allegories of the joys of paradise invariably apply to men and women alike, this interpretation of kawa'ib overlooks the purely derivative origin of the above popular usage - which is based on the tropical connotation of "prominence" inherent in the noun ka'b - and substitutes for this obvious tropism the literal meaning of something that is physically prominent: and this, in my opinion, is utterly unjustified. If we bear in mind that the Qur'anic descriptions of the blessings of paradise are always allegorical, we realize that in the above context the term kawa'ib can have no other meaning than "glorious [or "splendid"] beings", without any definition of sex; and that, in combination with the term atrab, it denotes, "splendid companions well-matched" - thus alluding to the relations of the blest with one another, and stressing the absolute mutual compatibility and equal dignity of all of them. See also note [13] on 56:34.

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Yusuf Ali   
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Yusuf Ali 5906 The second is maidens of Equal Age.

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