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Ni’mah – Br Nouman Khan

September 29, 2008

Bismillah walhamdulillah

I happened to ask br Nouman (may Allah preserve him, Ameen) a question on Qur’anic vocabulary, and he gave me this awesome gem as an example to show that Qur’anic vocab is all about quality, not necessarily quantity:

Vocabulary in the Qur’an is an intricately connected web of terms that, if not given their full due, will lead to a profound loss in meaning.  For example, the word Ni’mah in Arabic is commonly translated ‘blessing’.  It comes from the word ‘nu’oomah’ which literally means softness.  A blessing according to Arabic literary tradition, therefore, is something that causes softness or comfort in life or something that takes the place of a harsh/ rough object or circumstance.  Furthermore, there are two plurals for ni’mah in Arabic, ‘ni’am’ and ‘an’um’.  Allah has used both in the Qur’an in two separate occasions.  A concise study of vocabulary will yield that both mean the same thing but a deeper look will reveal that one of them is a minimal plural (jam’ qillah) while the other is a wholesome or plentiful plural (jam’ kathrah).

When Ibrahim alayhi salaam thanks Allah for His blessings, the word ‘an’um’ is used which is a minimal plural. (referring to the ayah: شَاكِرًا لِأَنْعُمِهِ, thankful for Allah’s Blessings 16:121) This tells us that no matter how grateful a slave of Allah gets, even as grateful as our great father Ibrahim alayhi salaam, he can’t possible show gratitude for ALL of Allah’s favors since they can’t possibly be counted.

وإن تعدوا نعمة الله لا تحصوها

And if you count the ni’mah of Allah, never will you be able to count them.’ (14:34)

How can you thank Allah for something you can’t even count? On the other hand, when Allah mentions His favors, He uses the word ‘ni’am’ which alludes to the totality of Allah’s favors.

I’m sharing this as an example to illustrate that the Qur’an’s vocabulary isn’t quantifiable in simple terms. Quality, when it comes to the Qur’anic vocabulary far outweighs quantity.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 2, 2008 12:15 am

    mashaAllah, barak Allahu feeki for posting this. I feel like I’m taking his class all over again😛

    Very beneficial.

  2. October 2, 2008 1:12 pm

    wa feeki barak Allah!

    Alhamdulillah, indeed very beneficial!

  3. January 21, 2011 11:41 pm

    Mash’Allah excellent article. I have a youtube video explaining the difference b/w ni’mah and barakah which are both used for the word blessing. The video can be watched here:

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