He learned it from his mom (according to him, she would say it a lot) when he was “around four or five years old,” when he was in Jerusalem. He said that you would use this proverb to tell somebody to “follow through while the opportunity still exists.”
Original Script: اضرب الحديد وهو حامي
Transliteration: Odrob al hadid ou houeh hami
Literal Translation: Hit the iron while it’s hot
Smooth Translation: Hit the iron while it’s still hot
When I first heard the proverb from him two years ago, when I was trying to find a summer job, I did not need an explanation to know that he was telling me to follow through without delay; the image of a blacksmith shaping red-hot iron, as well as the common knowledge that hot metal is easier to shape than cold metal, got the point across. Until he explained it to me today, I thought that one would say it to tell someone to follow through while it is still fresh, or to not stop something while you are already in the right mindset. I would often use it to justify why I could not stop midway through something–I did not want to have to heat up the iron again. Even if I had not heard my informant’s explanation, I would still think that this proverb shows that there is an imperative in Arabic culture to finish what you started in a time-efficient manner.