Session Eight pt 2: Weakening and Empowering a Statement
In Arabic, there are means in which you can empower a statement and also weaken it in degrees. Allah ta’ala says:
وَلَئِن مَّسَّتْهُمْ نَفْحَةٌ مِّنْ عَذَابِ رَبِّكَ لَيَقُولُنَّ يَا وَيْلَنَا إِنَّا كُنَّا ظَالِمِينَ
“And if a breath of the Torment of your Rabb touches them, they will surely cry: “Woe unto us! Indeed we have been wrongdoers.” (21:46)
The ayah begins with:
لَئِن – “if“, a sentence discussing reality is greater than one discussing a possibility–so this sentence starts of weak, because it is referring to if this would occur, it has not happened yet.
مَّسَّتْهُمْ – “it touched them“, this is a fi’l* . Grammatically when a statement begins with an ism* it is more powerful than when it comes with a fi’l. This word is already past tense= something that has already occurred once. Present tense and future tense continues, but past test is weaker, therefore less.
Furthermore, there are many words to describe the act of touching/hitting someone in Arabic, such as “daraba” (to strike) and “laqiya” (to meet/clash). This ayah however uses the least degree of contact, something that barely touches you: مَّسَّ ‘mass’ .
Already this statement is very weak: the weakest possible beginning of a sentence, the weakest possible structure and tense, and the weakest possible form of contact.
Then Allah says:
نَفْحَةٌ – “a wind, whiff”. Nafhatun is a wind that is barely noticeably cool wind. If this was a warm wind, then it would be a lafhah.
This statement has gotten weaker and weaker: Even if the slightest cool breeze touched them once….
مِّنْ عَذَابِ– from punishment. The coolest breeze is a breeze of punishment. Allah ta’ala says: Nafhatun min athaab , a breeze FROM the punishment: another way of weakening the statement.
Whose punishment? Allah ta’ala does not say His punishment, or the punishment of the Fire, but He chooses: رَبِّكَ– your Rabb. In the Qur’an, Rabb comes with the mention of mercy (rahmah). Rabb is: The Owner, The Provider, The Cherisher, The Sustainer–when describing the punishment, He uses the most lenient of Names and even more so He says: your Rabb: the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam). Allah ta’ala could have said Rabb al ‘Aalameen: Rabb of all that exists because then the people would be worthy of punishment, but rather Allah ta’ala mentioned the one whom He is MOST Merciful too: Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam.
The first half of this ayah shows us that there is no way you could punish someone less: it’s the least contact, only a part of the breeze and not from the whole breeze, and when He sends the punishment, it is from your Rabb. This is a microscopic punishment.
How about the other half of the ayah?
لَ– certainly, with this first letter there is already emphasis.
لَيَقُولُنَّ– surely they would definitely say. If you want to double emphasize this word, you add a noon mushaddah: yaqoolunn. If you want to triple emphasize this word, you add the ‘la”, la yaqoolunna: they will say again and again, over and over:
إِنَّا –indeed We, this word isإِنَّ in (indeed) and ناnaa (we) fused together: these people are so desperate. The nature of humans is that when they are punished they tend to blame others, but when the punishment is so intense, so severe, their cognitive ability to lie is lost and they have no other option but to tell the truth.
كُنَّا ظَالِمِينَ –we had always been wrongdoers. The pain of these people is making them remember all of the wrong and sins they committed that they forgot about.
Before the Day of Judgment, these people blame others for the punishment BUT if a whiff, a breeze from the punishment simply touched them, they would cry out.
*fi’l: a word stuck in time. (past, present or future).
*ism: a person, place, thing, idea, adjective, adverb and more.