Meaning And Use Of The Article Al In Arabic

I have heard Javed Ghamidi sahib explain that alif-laam in Arabic is the definite article and is the same as 'the' of English. From a lecture by him posted on http://www.tv-almawrid.org, I got the impression that, according to him, it is always used as a definite article. I am finding this difficult to reconcile with alif laam's other uses and would like to find out about his response. Alif-laam, according to my limited understanding, is used both as a definite article as well as an article to indicate a genus, referred to as al-laamu jins. In that usage, the sentence, such as al-rajulu khayrun mina lmar`ati would mean "man is better than woman" in general and not necessarily specify a particular man and woman. In Quran, one sees examples of this too. For instance, in verse 2:83, orphans, needy and people are referred to as al-yatama, al-masakeen and an-naas, all referring to general categories and not specific to a particular group. I would like to understand when Mr. Ghamidi explains the first few verses of Surah Taubah, how can one understand that being an alif-laam MUST imply that it is specific mushrikeen and not general to all mushrikeen. I understand that based on the textual context and context of revelation, one can argue either way, but I am more interested in understanding the linguistic aspect of it. A related but separate question is that if we use al-mushrikeen to understand the polytheists of the Prophet’s (pbuh) time only, then I will also request you to consider the verses of Quran that command Muslims to pay due rights of orphans (such as 2:220 and 4:2) that use the word al-yataama. However, we do not understand them to be specific to the orphans of Prophet Muhammad's time, but rather commandments that are general for orphans of all times.

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