Divine Speech

Divine Speech Part 3 – Intricate Word Choice in the Qur’an


Literary gems are highlighted. Charity is quantified in a metaphorical comparison with the term sumbala: an ear of grain spent in the path of Allah gives birth to 7 ears, with 100 grains inside each. In His own way, He multiplies its rewards. 

Two terms for the heart are identified in connection to maternal love in the story of the Musa (AS). A healthy heart is one of love, belief, and fear of Allah. Antithetical to it is a sick heart qualified by hatred, jealousy, and discord.

The interplay of word choice is found in Quranic concepts of “justice,” “peace,” and “purification.” Their source is in the Divine attributes and the contrast of meaning surfaces when they are subject to human limitations.

1. Two different expressions for “Ears of grain”

Sunbula is an ear of grain. 

Sunbulaat is the plural= ears of grain

Sanaabil is another form of plural of ears of grain.

In Arabic, it is common to have different forms of plurals:

e.g. Kafir also has different plurals, we can say Kafiroon or Kuffaar or Kaffara.

e.g. Nabi has the plural nabiyyoon, Anbiyaa

What is the difference between these plurals?

Sanaabil is considered a strong plural, while Sunbulaat is relatively weak. The powerful plural is used when something is stronger in number, while the weaker plural is used when something is less in number.

The Qur’an uses ears of grain only thrice, but it is used both times when referring to “seven”. The number is the same. Allah used the weak plural for the story of Yusuf AS because it implied that food would not be enough for seven years because of drought, so there would be a deficiency.

When Allah says in Surah baqarah that you spend very little, and Allah will multiply it manifold for you, so here Allah uses the strong plural. This refers to the barakah of spending.

2. Two different plurals for “blessings”

Nimah means blessings

Anum= plural meaning blessing (weak plural)

Niam= Many many blessings. (strong plural)

Ibrahim AS was described as Anum (weak plural). Why did Allah use Anum although he was very grateful?

He realised onto you His blessings, the one you can see and the ones you cannot. Here Niam, the strong plural is used.


In another Ayah, Allah says that if you were to count the favour of Allah, you wouldn’t be able to count them. It means we cannot even count one nemat properly.

And He gave you from all you asked of Him. And if you should count the favor of Allah , you could not enumerate them. Indeed, mankind is [generally] most unjust and ungrateful. (14:34)

Ibrahim AS achieved a remarkable feat by spending his entire existence in shuker. Even if  we spend our entire lives in counting the nemat, it can still not compete with HIS nemat, because we can never thank Allah enough. It is not possible for us to enumerate all of them.

3. The difference between the sky and the skies

Saarioo=  rush

Sabiqoo= race

When do we run faster? When we are racing i.e. Sabiqoo, so this is more intense

And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous.Who spend [in the cause of Allah] during ease and hardship and who restrain anger and who pardon the people – and Allah loves the doers of good; (3:133-134)

The first ayah: Jannah is the size of the skies (Samawaat= seven skies) and Earth. It is for the people who have taqwa. Not every muslim is a muttaqi although we all strive to get it. These are the people who spend money when its difficult, and who swallow their anger, and they also pardon people. These group of people is very small because of the associated conditions. So only a few people can meet these conditions.

Race toward forgiveness from your Lord and a Garden whose width is like the width of the heavens and earth, prepared for those who believed in Allah and His messengers. That is the bounty of Allah which He gives to whom He wills, and Allah is the possessor of great bounty. (57:21)

The second ayah: that its size is like the sky (Samaa= everything above) and the Earth. Apparently, we think Samawaat is the plural and Samaa is singular, but in reality, Samawaat    is limited while Samaa has a broader meaning. And when Allah uses Samaa, the word SABIQOO is used which means we should race. It is for people who believe in Allah and the messenger, so this is a larger group of people. This Jannah is an open invitation and it is a bigger favour from Allah. The doors are wide open so here Allah adds that this is a FAVOUR from Allah.

4. Two different words for “selection”

The Qur’an uses three words for choice/selection.

1. Ikhtiar اختيار= comes from khayr i.e. good. So this Ikhtiar is when we make a choice based on the good of something

2. Istafa اصطفى = for a personal choice, without any outside influence. It was entirely from you. It comes from safwa meaning pure, so its a pure choice.

Allah used the word Istifaa for choosing RasulAllah SAWW and angels, and Quraysh used to object why the Quran came to an Arab, and Jews argued that why did the Quran not come to them, and they also complained about Jibreel AS bringing the Quran. Allah is saying it was HIS personal and pure choice. 

3. Ijtibaa اجتبى = choice based on qualifications

e.g. If someone applies for a job, we look at his qualifications and CV to figure out if he’s suited for this job. In an interview process, you make a choice based on qualification.

If we go to the store to buy something e.g. chocolates,  we just pick the chocolate we like irrespective of qualification. Similarly, if we buy clothes for ourselves, it just depends on our personal preference and choice

Allah says HE chose us to be Muslims. Ijtibaa is a choice based on qualifications, so it means that we had some abilities within us. We may think we are incapable, but Allah believes in us MORE than we believe in ourselves e.g. if we apply for a job and think that we do not meet the qualifications, but the interviewer still gives us the job and tells us that HE thinks we are worthy for the job, although we don’t meet the apparent qualifications. 

And strive for Allah with the striving due to Him. He has chosen you and has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty. [It is] the religion of your father, Abraham. Allah named you “Muslims” before [in former scriptures] and in this [revelation] that the Messenger may be a witness over you and you may be witnesses over the people. So establish prayer and give zakah and hold fast to Allah. He is your protector; and excellent is the protector, and excellent is the helper. (22:78)

Allah says struggle the way I deserve it. Do as much struggle as I am worthy off. By saying that, Allah made us unqualified for this job, as this is a task we cannot claim to do. Allah says that He chose us for this task, and adds that HE will make it easy for us. This makes us feel relaxed for a moment, but then Allah immediately says that it is the religion of your father Ibrahim AS. How can that be easy? Ibrahim AS had the most difficult struggles e.g. jumping into the fire, putting a knife to the throat of his son, leaving his family in the desert. Allah is trying to say that HE made such difficult and impossible tasks easy for Ibrahim AS, then what to worry about our small tasks? Allah can make them easy for us.

We have to ask ourselves: What does Allah seen in us that we can’t even see in ourselves? It makes us develop the desire to find our hidden abilities and talents. No two people are the same. Everyone has unique strengths and abilities.

5. Two different words for “heart”

There are 2 words for ‘heart’ used in the Qur’an & both carries different meaning:

1. [Qalb] is the typical word for ‘heart’; it comes from the word [taqallub] which means to change because the heart is constantly changing / beating. Figuratively, our feelings & emotional states also change.

2. [Fu’ad] is not used in normal circumstances; it comes from [fa’ada] which means roasting meat on an open flame. So this word is used to describe a heart that is intensified and on fire – when a heart is overwhelmed by any extreme emotions.

Fu’ad: “Sorry, I didn’t really mean it.”

Verily! The hearing, and the sight, and the heart [fu’ad], of each of those one will be questioned (by Allah). [Al-Israa’ 17:36]

 On Judgment Day, we will be questioned about what we heard, what we saw, & our heart [fu’ad]. Why does Allah s.w.t. mention the excited heart in this Ayah? Here is one of its benefits:

Imagine you’ve had a really bad day at work. You’ve got yelled at by your boss, you’re tired & stressed out. On top of that, on your way back home, you got stuck in traffic. For a really long time. When you finally got home… guess who gets to be the recipient of your bad mood? Your spouse. Later on when you’ve calmed down, you say: “Sorry, I had a really bad day. I didn’t mean what I said. What happened just then wasn’t me. That wasn’t my [qalb]. That was just my [fu’ad].”

Sometimes when we get really angry, we say things we don’t mean. When we’re excited, we do things that we shouldn’t have done. Some of us have a very short temper and get agitated easily. Then to justify what we did, we say things like:

“I get like that sometimes.”

“That wasn’t really me, it was just the hormones.”

“It was a difficult time, you can’t hold it against me.”

Does one think that they can give such an excuse on Judgment Day?

Allah says in this Ayah that He s.w.t. will interrogate about our hearing, seeing & our [fu’ad]. There will be no excuses. “I didn’t really mean it” STILL got recorded anyway & we will be asked about it. So one of the important lessons of this Ayah is that we don’t get to blame our excited emotional state in order to justify our bad behavior or mistakes. We don’t get to say, “I was really scared, that’s why I lied.” “I was really angry, that’s why I hit you.” Not good enough. Our [fu’ad] will still be interrogated.

This is the precision & perfection of Kalamullah. [Fu’ad] is mentioned so we don’t get away with anything. If only Qalb was mentioned, we could have gotten away with it.

The Heart of the Mother of Musa AS.

And the heart [fu’ad] of the mother of Musa became empty [from every thought, except the thought of Musa]. She was very near to disclose his (case, i.e. the child is her son), had We not strengthened her heart [qalb], so that she might remain as one of the believers. [Al-Qasas 28:10]

Both [qalb] & [fu’ad] are used in this Ayah. When the mother of Musa a.s. put her baby in the water, her heart was emptied as she could not see her baby anymore. The overwhelming emotions, fear, sadness and stress was so extreme that her heart was described as Fuad – intensified. Allah says she almost gave up her secret. It is not possible for a mother to see her baby in danger or in the hands of someone  who could possibly harm the baby.  The first impulsive reaction is that she would immediately rush towards her baby without even realising it.

Allah s.w.t. says Musa’s mother was so close in exposing her secret & the ONLY thing that stopped her & strengthened her heart was because of Allah’s intervention – notice that the word [qalb] is used at this point. Allah tied and strengthened her heart as she was not capable of such sabr on her own. It is Allah s.w.t. who calmed her [fu’ad] into [qalb] and the entire psychological transformation through Allah’s intervention is captured with just these 2 words.

All human beings will suffer emotionally traumatic experiences & sometimes we are convinced that we will never be able to recover from it. Sometimes, we are so hurt by certain people that we do not want to think about them again in our lives, or see them. We cannot forgive and forget. We feel that our hearts are scarred and it is impossible to let go of the scars and move on. But this Ayah teaches us that Allah s.w.t. can intervene & give us a peace of mind & heart; to let us heal so we can move on. Allah gave peace to the heart of Musa AS’s mother after the traumatic experience, so Allah can do the same to us. Musa AS’s mother was not a prophet, but Allah gave her qalb sukoon.

Our heart has love for Allah and love for the people around us. All positive and negative emotions live inside our heart. If we have negative feelings towards others, we cannot go to Allah with a Qalb e Saleem.

Fu’ad: The Good Kind!

Usually at the beginning of our endeavour to serve the Deen, we get really enthusiastic like doing a da’wah project or helping out those who are in need. But over time, as weeks or months or years pass by, we get totally burned out. In comparison to that, Rasulallah s.a.w. didn’t serve Islam part-time like we do. He s.a.w. was committed full-time yet his zeal, energy & enthusiasm to serve the Deen never burned out.

And those who disbelieve say: “Why is not the Qur’an revealed to him all at once?” Thus (it is sent down in parts), that We may strengthen your heart [fu’ad] thereby… [Al-Furqan 25:32]

Allah s.w.t. gave him s.a.w. a heart that always remains [fu’ad], through the Qur’an, to serve the Deen. So here’s the gem: If we want to have a passionate heart when it comes to matters or serving the Deen, we need to have a strong relationship with the Qur’an – it is our fuel to keep our hearts going.

6. The word MISR

Misran= countryside

Misra= Egypt

Musa AS helped Bani Israel escape Firaun. Allah gave them clouds that would follow and protect them. Allah gave them Mann o Salwa. They got tired of eating Mann o Salwa over and over again and went to Musa AS to tell him they missed the food of Egypt.

In Egypt, they faced:

1. humiliation of slavery 

2.they were stuck/unable to progress

3. they had to face the rage/wrath/zulm of Firaun as he used to kill their babies

Musa AS was shocked that they asked for the food they used to ask in Egypt (the time of their prison). Musa AS said: go to Misran (it means countryside, but actually Musa AS was being sarcastic and using a word similar to Misr to allude to the fact they were asking for another Egypt again). 

And [recall] when you said, “O Moses, we can never endure one [kind of] food. So call upon your Lord to bring forth for us from the earth its green herbs and its cucumbers and its garlic and its lentils and its onions.” [Moses] said, “Would you exchange what is better for what is less? Go into [any] settlement and indeed, you will have what you have asked.” And they were covered with humiliation and poverty and returned with anger from Allah [upon them]. That was because they [repeatedly] disbelieved in the signs of Allah and killed the prophets without right. That was because they disobeyed and were [habitually] transgressing. (2:61)

When they went there, they were slapped with humiliation, being trapped, and they drew upon themselves rage (of Allah). They faced again what they had faced in Egypt. 

7. Musa AS’s address to the nations vs the address of Isa AS

Isa AS did not address the nation as his nation, while Musa AS did address them as his own. This is because one is only considered to be of a nation if his father is of that nation. Isa AS had no father and was born of virgin Maryam AS, so Allah protected that pure birth of Isa AS in the Quran.

8. Two words for Justice

Allah says if A and B are fighting, C should make peace as a third party.

If C made peace, and then A fight again, then B and C should fight A because they violated the agreement.

If A stops fighting and wants to make peace again, then C should make peace between A and B with justice, and not be unfair.

And if two factions among the believers should fight, then make settlement between the two. But if one of them oppresses the other, then fight against the one that oppresses until it returns to the ordinance of Allah. And if it returns, then make settlement between them in justice and act justly. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.(49:9)

Allah didn’t use the word justice initially. In the beginning, C was just a peace negotiator and had no personal preferences. But, when A violated the agreement and you became involved in the fight, you would be angry and probably biased against A.. C is angry because the agreement was violated, and disrespect was shown towards it. He is also angry because he was involved in the fight. This is why Allah reminded C to do justice!

Allah says make settlement between them in justice, and act justly. Why did Allah say it twice?

1. ADL=justice. It is open/public/transparent. The court is called Adalat because its open.

2. Qist=lack of injustice. It could be public or private

The matter was initially involved privately as it was between Momineen/ Muslims, to avoid any public embarrassment. But, when A took advantage of it and broke the agreement, now the justice needs to be done publicly (ADL), to prevent future violations and also to make sure it is fair. ADL is more about justice on a communal level.

QIST has more to do with individual moral compass. Allah loves those who are MUQSIT (just, privately and publicly). We should be fair in all our dealings and relationships.

9. To filter out/ cleanse

Yumahissa= Allah may cleanse/purify those who believe.

This ayah is about the Battle of Uhud in which many Sahaba were martyred. Allah says he put muslims through this scenario so he could cleanse those who believe.

تمحيص Tamhees is used when we purify gold. Gold has to be melted into liquid to remove all the impurities. It is not the same as cleaning dishes or clothes, those tasks are much easier. By using Tamhees, Allah is saying believers have to be put through a flame in order to be cleansed fully.

Hypocrites got exposed through the difficult tests at Uhud. Allah called the hypocrites impurities through this imagery. Their impurity was deeply embedded within Muslims, and the only way to remove them was to use intense heat. So Allah called the Sahaba gold and the hypocrites filth.


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