Land of Israel and Jewish heritage
A series from the book written by Naveed Anjum
Origin and Derivation of the Word “Canaan”
There are a number of possible derivations of the word Canaan. The most significant are given below:
- The English name, Canaan, is said to have come, ultimately, from the Hebrew, then Latin, Canaan. The Hebrew, Canaan, has obscure origins. One suggestion connects it with the non-Semitic Hurrian term, Kinahhu, found at Nuzi (c. 1450 BC). It refers to the color purple, which is said to be the meaning of the name, Phoenician, which also is often used as a synonym for Canaan.
- A very simple etymology reveals that “Can” means low and “Aram” means high. Thus, a literal meaning for Canaan is “lowland.” This word was applied first to Sidon, the lowland of classical Phoenicia, and by extension to the whole region.
- A third possibility is that the name, Canaan, derives from the Semitic root *k-n-‘, which means “to be subdued” or “to be humbled,” and is possibly connected with the above meaning of “low.”
- The most authentic and most widely accepted etymology of the word, Canaan, is the Biblical derivation accepted mutually by Jews, Christians and Muslims. The Bible attributes the name, Canaan, to the son of Ham and grandson of Noah. His offspring correspond with the names of various ethnic groups in the land named Canaan, as listed in the “Table of Nations” (Gen. 10), where Sidon is named as Canaan’s firstborn son. These descendants were to be subdued by the descendants of Shem.
Therefore, only those facts will be considered that are held mutually by both Jews and Muslims. In this scenario, the biblical definition, which Muslims also believe, is the most authentic of all. Later in this chapter, I will show some passages from Islamic resources that also use the word “Canaan” for the Land of Israel, although the Quran does not contain the word Canaan.
Before discussing the arrival of Abraham, forefather to the Jews, in the land of Canaan, it is very important to first scrutinize the identity of those people who already resided there. Were they lawfully living there according to God’s decision? It is absolutely essential to determine the lawful or unlawful residence of those people living in Canaan when Abraham arrived and, later, his progeny as the Israelites. For this reason, it is necessary to explore God’s decision regarding those people living in Canaan when Abraham’s descendants, following their Exodus from Egypt with Moses (Musa in Islam), returned as the nation of Israel. The Jewish Bible is very clear about those people; however, Muslims believe above all in Islamic resources. Therefore, I intend to establish my proofs from Islamic resources. Even if modern-day “Palestinians” attempt to tie themselves to those original people who dwelt in the land upon the arrival of Abraham and the nation of Israel, these modern-day “Palestinians” absolutely in the land unlawfully according to Islamic resources.
Before getting involved in the details of Abraham’s arrival and discussing the lawful residence of the Canaanites dwelling in the land at the time of Abraham, Moses, and the Israelites, I will reveal some crucial facts to readers about certain stories in the Quran and the term, “Israeliyat,” in Islam.
(To be continued…)