إذا الشَّعبُ يومًا أرَادَ الحَيَاة
فَلا بُدَّ أنْ يَستَجيبَ القَدَر
This verse is comprised of a conditional sentence: “If the people one day desired to live / then fate must answer their call.” In Arabic, there are two ways to say “if”: إن and إذا. However, there is a difference between them. إن is used when talking about something that might happen, or something that is not likely to happy. On the other hand, إذا is used when talking about something that will happen.
The poet is making a powerful statement here. He’s not only saying that fate will answer the people’s call if they choose to fight for their right to live, but also that they undoubtedly will choose to fight.
The ف at the beginning of the second line is used to introduce جواب الشرط (the answer of the conditional). It has a similar meaning to “then” in English.
The sentence لا بد أن يستجيب القدر is the answer of the conditional. لا here is لا النافية للجنس, i.e. the لا that negates a group of something. The word جنس refers to a class, group, or kind of something. For example, you can say الجنس البشري, i.e. humankind.
Let’s look at this example: لا رجلاً في البيت
What this sentence is saying is, “[There’s] no man in the house.” It negates the existence of any and all men—“man” as a category/group—in the house.
The word بد means “escape”. The phrase لا بد says that there’s no kind of escape that can happen, i.e. it negates the existence of the possibility of escape.
Now, let’s go back to our sentence: لا بد أن يستجيب القدر. To be able to understand the structure of this sentence, the best thing to do is to go back to its original structure.
What does this mean?
Arabic is a structural language. Sentences are constructed like formulas. Imagine that we have a formula where X + Y = Z. Now imagine Y = A + B. We can replace Y with A + B and say that X + A + B = Z. However, the original formula is X + Y = Z. Arabic sentences function in a similar manner. Sentences with لا بد often have the formula لا بد + حرف جر + مصدر + فاعل. In other words, you start with لا بد, add a preposition, a verbal noun, then finally the subject.
The original structure of our sentence is as follows: لا بد من استجابة القدر.
One of the most common ways the original structure changes is that the مصدر is replaced with something else.
Note that while a مصدر is a verbal noun, the word مصدر literally translates to “source”. In our example, the word استجابة is the مصدر, i.e. source, of يستجيسب. The أنْ is called أنْ المصدرية, and it replaces the مصدر with its verb. (We covered أنْ المصدرية in another post.)
So now we have لا بد من أن يستجيب القدر. However, the preposition من loses its function and is therefore omitted. This is a rule: when a preposition is followed by أنْ, it can be omitted. This is another way of saying that when there’s a preposition and a مصدر, and the مصدر is replaced with أنْ and a verb, the preposition loses its function, as it no longer has a noun attached to it, and can therefore be omitted.
So we arrive at لا بد أن يستجيب القدر.
Notice that the sentence makes more sense when translated literally from its original structure. لا بد أن يستجيب القدر literally translates to, “[There’s] no escape that fate answers.” However, from its original structure, لا بد من استجابة القدر, it literally translates to, “[There’s] no escape from fate answering.”