Manal Universe

I saw vs. I see

The Quran is incredibly precise in its choice of words. Contrary to average composition, it doesn’t randomly toss words around to convey only a general sense of the intended meaning. Rather, each word meaningfully conveys specific detail and suits its context perfectly.

The Quran’s references to the dreams of Ibrahim AS and Yusuf AS serve as prime examples of this specificity. Allah narrates Yusuf speaking to his father:

يَاأَبَتِإِنِّيرَأَيْتُأَحَدَعَشَرَكَوْكَبًاوَالشَّمْسَوَالْقَمَرَرَأَيْتُهُمْلِيسَاجِدِينَ

O my dear father! I saw in a dream eleven stars, as well as the sun and the moon prostrating to me

12:4

The choice of the past tense “saw” or “رَأَيْتُ” is appropriate here because Yusuf AS only had the dream once, and was simply telling his father about that one time.

Ibrahim AS speaks about his dream in a slightly different way when sharing it with his son, Ismael:

قَالَ يَا بُنَيَّ إِنِّي أَرَىٰ فِي الْمَنَامِ أَنِّي أَذْبَحُكَ فَانْظُرْ مَاذَا تَرَىٰ

O my dear son! I see in a dream that I should sacrifice you: consider, then, what you think of this

37:102

He says “أَرَىٰ” meaning that he “sees” in his dream, using the present tense. This subtle utilization of the present tense conveys the meaning of repetition, and persistence. When Ibrahim AS says he “sees” in his dream, it suggests that he’s had the dream multiple times, and that it has continuously haunted him to the point where it has actually become his current state of reality.

This usage lines up with what we know of Ibrahim AS’s story. He saw the dream to kill his son, and at first, the horror caused him to delay its realization. Because of this, Allah continued to show him the dream over and over.

This continuous witnessing of the dream led him to eventually fulfill Allah’s command, and thus raised him to the status of a leader amongst all people.

We ask Allah to allow us to appreciate the beauty of his book and raise us by his obedience as he raised Ibrahim AS. Ameen.

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