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On The Origin Of The ‘Name' DAESH – The Islamic State In Iraq And as-Sham

January 2014

It seems more and more Western media are using the derogatory DAESH when they're talking about the Islamic State in Iraq and as-Shām (commonly known as ISIS).

As nobody seems to have the faintest idea what DAESH stands for, here's an attempt to explain.

The capitals in the word DAESH point out it is an acronym of some sort. And indeed if we single out the beginning letters of the Arabic name for ISIS : الدولة الاسلامية في العراق والشام

we get the Arabic: داعش

د = Dawlat (Nation)
ا = (al-) Islāmiyya
ع= (fī'l-) ‘Irāq
ش = (wa's-) Shām (Greater Syria or the Levant)

So, roughly transcribed to the Latin alphabet that leaves us wit DAESH. (The E stands for the ‘ayn in ‘Iraq)

At first the name DAESH was merely an acronym indeed. Activists and more moderate rebel coalitions used it as referral to Dawlat al-Islāmiyya fī al-Irāq wa s-Shām. But it didn't take long before all kinds of interpretations arose.

In se the Arabic word داعش doesn't even exist. But if we look at the tone of voice within circles (opposing ISIS) ever since they introduced the acronym, we might conclude the acronym has a double meaning.

Most likely ISIS opponents are referring to the Arabic verb دعس, meaning : to thread underfoot, trample down, crush (see The Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, p. 325 and 326)

Another theory is that the name refers to the Jāhiliyya (pre-Islamic) strife between two Arab tribes on the Arabian peninsula : داحس والغبراء

Dāhis wa'l-Ghabrā' can be literary translated as ‘felon and dust' (see http://ar.wikipedia.org/wiki/داحس_والغبراء ). This referral seems to have a more theological background yet it seems unlikely all sources using this would have in debt knowledge of the Jāhiliyya.

 

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