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Session Four: Syntax in the Qur’an

October 14, 2008


Alhamdulillah after a long break, our bayyinah classes with brother Nouman started again! Here was last night’s gem:

Syntax in the Qur’an

We learned before that the Qur’an doesn’t compromise style or content; it maintains both aspects flawlessly.

Two simple examples from the Qur’an display this fact.

Allah azza wa jal says in Suratul Muddathir verse three:

وَرَبَّكَ فَكَبِّرْ

and declare the greatness only of your Rabb”

the letter wow (وَ) is usually translated as “and”, but this translation is over simplification. In the Qur’an, there are 21 ways وَ‘wa’ is used and one way is wow al musta’nifah, the wow that separates one sentence from another. In the English language, we would put a period and capitalize the next word in the sentence to show that a new one is beginning.

So this وَwow in the ayah is an indication of a new sentence, the sentence is:

رَبَّكَ فَكَبِّرْ

look at it more closely:

رب ب ك ف ك ب ب ر

Rabbaka-fa-Kabbir…when you look at it both ways! SubhanAllah! In English, this is called a “palindrome”, when a word is looked at backwards and forwards and has the same spelling. (race car, radar, mom etc).

In order to construct a palindrome, one would have to look up words, check their spellings, find their definitions, write it down a few times to see if it works and so on…a lot of work! BUT:

1- The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam was an Nabiyy al Ummiyy: he couldn’t read.

2- The Qur’an was not revealed as a written book; but it was oral.

3- The Qur’an was not edited, it was not revised, it was one attempt.

4- Furthermore, the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam didn’t even mention this literally miracle in his lifetime! He did not say: ‘look this ayah is a palindrome, become Muslim!’ This was discovered by the scholars of tafseer, who were so meticulous and intricate with the Qur’an that they counted how many letters, how many times this word comes, how many times that letter comes and more–The study of statistics in the Qur’an started in the second or third century.

The Qur’an is a challenge for humanity; it doesn’t compromise style and content so if someone intended to duplicate this book, they would have to have both. Race car has the style (of a palindrome), but it does not have the same content as Rabbaka faKabir.

Even if the humans and jinn were to get together, they chose any language, would they be able to create “Rabbaka faKabir” as a palindrome that contains both content and style?

And the irony is in the meaning of the ayah itself: declare the greatness only of your Rabb.

Allahu Akbar.

Another example of syntax are the verses where Allah ta’ala forbids killing children, He says in two surahs:

وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ مِنْ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَحْنُ نَرْزُقُكُمْ وَإِيَّاهُمْ

and do not kill your children because of poverty, We provide for you and them” (6:151)

وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ

and do not kill your children due to fear of poverty, We provide for them and for you” (17:31)

The essential difference between these verses are two words:

a) in the first ayah, Allah uses min (مِنْ) from, which is called harf ajal, it shows a reason that already exists.

b) in the second ayah, Allah uses khasyah (خَشْيَةَ) fear, this is not a reason but rather a fear something that will happen, which doesn’t exist yet.

So there are two different types of parents mentioned in these two verses:

a) Those who are already poor. (MIN) They already fear their own nourishment.

b) Those who fear poverty after children. (KHASYAH) They have a fear of providing for children.

When Allah azza wa jal speaks to the first group of parents, who are already worried about themselves, He promises that they will be taken care of (نَحْنُ نَرْزُقُكُمْ)–as they already are and also their children. We learn here that children are a cause of rizq (provision).

When He ta’ala addresses the second group, those whose fear is associated with children, Allah ta’ala mentions that He will take care of the children (نَحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ), and He will take care of you (the parents).

SubhanAllah! This analysis takes about 10 mins to explain, but Allah ta’ala only changes a few words to deliver the message.

May Allah ta’ala make us companions of the Qur’an, Ameen.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. stranger permalink
    October 14, 2008 3:36 pm

    SubhanAllah. This also shows that each time the verses are repeated, they mean something different. They are not redundant and meaningless. Just the difference of one word makes the address different.

  2. October 14, 2008 3:53 pm


    Allahu akbar!!!

    What a gem! This post really moved my heart and almost made me cry. SubhanAllah What a beautiful Kalaam, so perfect and so clear.

    JazaakiAllah Khairan


  3. October 14, 2008 7:10 pm

    Subhan Allah, the Quran is really amazing!
    Jazaki Allah khairan for sharing what you learn.

  4. October 15, 2008 3:53 pm

    Stranger: Very true! The most common “criticism” of the Qur’an is that it repeats too much, yet if we reflect and analyze this claim, we will realize that there is actually little repetition on the Qur’an.

    dailyreminders: wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullah, indeed, it is the most beautiful kalaam. wa lillahil hamd.

    brother Omar: wa iyyak, alhamdulillah!

  5. October 15, 2008 5:17 pm

    Jazakillahu khairan for sharing this!
    I really enjoyed it and benefitted from it 🙂

  6. October 16, 2008 9:56 am

    SubhaanAllah Amatullah, the palindrome!!! Amazing!

    Jazaaki Allah khayr 🙂

  7. October 16, 2008 11:17 am

    wa iyyakunna sisters 🙂

    Please make duaa for brother Nouman and Bayyinah Institute. May Allah ta’ala grant him tawfeeq, Ameen.

  8. serendipitouslife permalink
    October 18, 2008 6:49 am

    JazakAllahkhairun! This is very enlightening indeed.
    Since you have already whet the appetite by mentioning the number (21) of ways a ‘wa’ is used in the Quran, i really hope you can do a post exclusively on it, inshaAllah?

  9. October 18, 2008 9:49 am

    wa iyyaki ukhtee. InshaAllah when I learn all 21 ways, i’ll let you know 😀

    From the top of my head, I can only think of a few but i’d like to double check before I say anything inshaAllah.

  10. October 23, 2008 3:47 am

    Another ‘و’ that i’ve wondered often:

    Surah Zumer (39:71)

    وَسِيقَ الَّذِينَ كَـفَرُواْ إِلَى جَهَنَّمَ زُمَراً حَتَّى إِذَا جَآءُوهَا فُتِحَتْ أَبْوَبُهَا
    Surah Zumer (39:73)

    وَسِيقَ الَّذِينَ اتَّقَوْاْ رَبَّهُمْ إِلَى الّجَنَّةِ زُمَراً حَتَّى إِذَا جَآءُوهَا وَفُتِحَتْ أَبْوَبُهَا…..

  11. October 23, 2008 9:03 am

    jazaki Allahu khayran ukhtee, that example really sends chills down my spine subhanAllah…

    A brother at Imam Suhaib Webb’s site explained it very nicely here:
    jazah Allahu khayran.

  12. October 28, 2008 6:56 am


  13. July 3, 2009 2:28 pm

    Jazak Allah Khair for posting this. May Allah (swt) reward you for sharing.

  14. Smile permalink
    September 7, 2009 1:21 pm

    Do u have any other examples of palindromes? thanks

  15. Ahmed Muhammed permalink
    October 30, 2009 2:44 pm

    I heard about this while watching the Deenshow. It’s an amazing thing about the Qur’an that I’m just now recently finding out, and it has renewed my faith. Alhumdulilah!

  16. tabman permalink
    May 27, 2010 6:57 am

    Assalam u Alaikum,

    Does anyone know of any book or linguistic study about palindromes in Quran ? I guess some scholar in past must have done some work on this ?

  17. February 2, 2011 1:57 pm

    SubhaanAllah, this is Amazing. I studied symmetry as part of my design degree while I was in University and this would have been a great part of my work. Thank you for explaining this.

  18. February 23, 2014 2:49 pm

    Reblogged this on ilmsharif.


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