Recently a story appeared (English, Hebrew) about part of an Ottoman-era pipe found in Jerusalem with the words in Arabic القلب لغة المحبوب. (A picture of the pipe-piece is included with the story, but it is unfortunately of such low resolution that it borders on being useless.) The Arabic words are said to mean in the English version, “Heart is language for the lover,” which, being pretty shabby English, is supplied with the interpretation, “love is language for the lovers;” still not very good English. In the Hebrew version, both times a translation is given, it’s the same: האהבה היא שפת האוהבים, that is, something equivalent to the English “interpretation”, with “heart” becoming “love” and “lovers” being plural and made to be agents rather than patients. To be clear, the last word in the original Arabic sentence is singular and passive, and since a definite singular noun (like indefinite plural nouns) can have a generic meaning in English, I see no reason to change “lover” to “lovers”. In addition, while “lover” is not completely wrong, better would be “beloved”. Now to the meaning of قلب (cf. Lane pp. 2553-2554): it is probably a stretch to go from “heart” to “love”, as in both the English and Hebrew versions of this report. Something along the lines of “sincerity” or “intimacy” is probably meant. So, lest I be accused of deriding someone else’s translation without offering one of my own for someone else’s derision: “Sincerity is the beloved’s language.” If Spanish is the loving tongue (which I do not necessarily concede), the pipe must be the loving smoke. (Note that in the song “Spanish is the Loving Tongue,” we hear a few times “mi corazón”, that is, “my heart” in the meaning of English “sweetheart“.)
I’ll take this opportunity to point out a few studies dealing with smoking in Ottoman-ruled lands:
- Aimee C. Bouzigard, Archaeological Evidence for the Consumption of Tobacco and Coffee in Ottoman Arabia, M.A. thesis, East Carolina University, 2010.
- James Grehan, “Smoking and ‘Early Modern’ Sociability: The Great Tobacco Debate in the Ottoman Middle East (Seventeenth to Eighteenth Centuries),” American Historical Review 3 (2006): 1352-1377.
- Cheryl Ward and Uzi Baram, “Global Markets, Local Practice: Ottoman-period Clay Pipes and Smoking Paraphernalia from the Red Sea Shipwreck at Sadana Island, Egypt,” International Journal of Historical Archaeology 10 (2006): 135-158.
A number of pictures and drawings of pipes from various parts of the world and various time periods will be found in:
- Alfred Dunhill, The Pipe Book (1924, rev. ed. 1969).
- Sander L. Gilman and Zhou Xun, eds., Smoke: A Global History of Smoking (London: Reaktion Books, 2004).
The subject of tobacco aroused the literary and legal acumen of a number of Muslim writers, most famously perhaps ˤAbd al-Ġanī al-Nābulsī (1641-1731), but there are many other works, several of which are anonymous. Most of these texts remain only in manuscript. As just two collection examples, note W. Ahlwardt’s catalog of Arabic manuscripts at Berlin, vol. 5 (Berlin, 1893), nos. 5486-5496 (including ḥašīš), and some texts in the Daiber Collection at the Institute of Oriental Culture, the University of Tokyo, which is searchable here.
As a final and tangential note, I add that more recent Gǝˤǝz manuscripts occasionally have anti-smoking notes. To my knowledge, nothing on this has been published, but you can see some references by searching the EMML manuscripts in HMML’s catalog.