'al' means 'the' in Arabic, much like ה in Hebrew.

But what about the abundance/ frequency of 'al' in الحرم الشريف, the latter in the sense of the English proper noun 'Temple Mount'? Can any of the 'al'-s be omitted without losing the meaning 'Temple Mount'? I often see and hear the transliteration 'Haram al-Sharif', and less often 'al-Haram al-Sharif', but when looking up arabic terms for 'Temple Mount' it's never with exactly one 'al', but two 'al'-s. What is the general principle here?

1 Answer 1


شريف is an adjective, meaning "noble, excellent".

In Arabic (and Hebrew) definite noun phrases require the article on adjectives as well as the head.

  • Arabic: So indefinite noun phrase would be 'حرم شريف' ? And the transliteration 'Haram al-Sharif' wrong (incomplete), as it better be 'al-Haram al-Sharif' for 'Temple Mount' ?
    – user44903
    Mar 12 at 18:00
  • Hebrew: 'Temple Mount' is הַר הַבַּיִת , isn't it? (Exactly) one Hebrew definite article in conjunction with Status constructus. (By the way: If I were to add בְּ (preposition 'in') to הַר הַבַּיִת, where exactly to place the בְּ ? I suppose it replaces the הַ inheriting its ַ , correct? )
    – user44903
    Mar 12 at 18:22
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    @user44903: as you say, the Hebrew is a phrase of two nouns, the head in the construct state. Only the qualifier takes definite marking. And no, if you add a preposition, it attaches to the whole phrase, i.e. to the head, so you get בְּהַר הַבַּיִת This is a fundamentally different syntactic construction from a noun qualified by an adjective. In Hebrew that would be "hehar hagadol" (I may have the first vowel wrong, my Hebrew is rusty) - 'the mountain the big' = "the big mountain", and if you wanted the preposition be-, that would indeed coalesce with the first -ha (but not the second).
    – Colin Fine
    Mar 12 at 19:15
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    I would hazard a guess that it's because they recognise the initial al- and remove it in translation, but aren't aware that the second al- is also part of the definit marker, or that removing one but not the other makes it look like a different construction in Arabic.
    – Colin Fine
    Mar 13 at 15:09
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    @user44903 - I completely agree with Colin Fine. Just note how Wikipedia uses 'the Haram al-Sharif, or al-Ḥaram ash-Sharīf' in the 1st sentence here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_Mount#Haram_al-Sharif — it looks like for them 'Haram al-Sharif' is an English word/term which gets its article acc. to the rules of English, while 'al-Ḥaram ash-Sharīf' is a transliterated Arabic phrase with all of its articles Arabic-style.
    – Yellow Sky
    Mar 13 at 21:19

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