(2:7) The Subtlety in Allah’s Words

Quran Reflections by Imam Tom Facchine & Talha Ghannam

خَتَمَ ٱللَّهُ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ وَعَلَىٰ سَمْعِهِمْ ۖ وَعَلَىٰٓ أَبْصَـٰرِهِمْ غِشَـٰوَةٌۭ ۖ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌۭ ٧

Allah has sealed their hearts and their hearing, and their sight is covered. They will suffer a tremendous punishment.

Before reading this, make sure you watch the video!

A wonderful reflection on the subtlety in meaning between two very similar descriptions given in the Quran. Two words so similar in meaning but carry a noticeable difference when understood fully. This is the perfection within the Quran.

I often get asked how can one begin their own reflection within the Quran. How do they uncover such “aha” moments like the one in this video. It’s true that we should be cautious about our limitations, but the Quran itself calls us to reflect on it ourselves in order to uncover and connect with its meaning.

One of the most effective ways to do this is to use tools to guide you on what to do. One of the most powerful of these is “Words chosen”; a tool which points you to pause and think why a specific word has been used in a Quranic verse by Allah ﷻ. Much like the analysis in this video, every word has a specific usage for a specific reason. To change it would bring a deficiency to the Quran, and it is with that we approach the words of Allah ﷻ to understand why this word has been chosen.


As a simple starting point, start by analysing the word itself, understanding everything there is to know about it and the context it is used. For example, the word apple is seemingly clear in its meaning with no explanation required, and many will read the word and never pause to reflect on it. Yet, to truly understand the word, we would want to describe it with as much detail as possible, such as its:

  • Shape: the roundness of it with its peculiar, thin stem that connects it to the tree, so easily broken when plucked and brittle enough to let go when ripe
  • Colour: it comes in 3 variances, yellow, green or red, but each are as sweet as each other
  • Structure: the apple is made up of a thin peel which protects it and is also its most healthy part, a sweet and juicy middle which carries the flavour, and its core
  • Interactions: The first bite sounds a crunch that is so distinct, it is instantly recognisable.

As you can see, the above gives much more vivid detail of an apple which can be used to understand the choice of the word. For example, if a metaphor is given to describe a relationship as an apple, an analogy can be drawn to how the thin protective surface hides the sweetness of the middle, how its grown on the tree of its parents only to let go when the time is right etc.

There are countless other ways to describe an object, but the table attached lists some of the more obvious ones to consider (see table attached):


Next, after understanding the word itself, we can swap the word used for a different word and see the impact it has on the sentence. By replacing the word for another, we can see more clearly what impact the original word had in the sentence, and what meaning Allah ﷻ wished to convey. As with anything, there are layer to how deep this can be done, but everyone can relate to it at some level. As a start, there are 5 broad ways you can do this, illustrated in the following diagram:

1 – Synonym / Similarities

Whilst commonly understood to be the “same”, synonyms are words which carry similar meaning by sharing most of the aspect of the original word. Here, we broaden out its usage to look at “similar” words, considering alternative words which share similarities with the originals even if not exactly the same. This is particularly useful when considering nouns which do not have an obvious synonym .

E.g. Chocolate

  • Candy Bar (same word used in America to refer to chocolate)
  • Sweet (as they are both sweets)

2 – Antonym / Opposites

Antonyms considers words which have the opposite meaning to what has been used. However, like synonyms, we broaden the meaning to words which have an opposite meaning in some regard to the word which has been used.

E.g. Chocolate

  • Fruit (as chocolate is unhealthy),
  • Car Part (as it is not edible),
  • Protein Bar (as it is not tasty)

3 – General

Words which are in category above the word. This would make the word more generic than the one used. This can vary in level, with some being more general than others.

E.g. Chocolate

  • Snack
  • Food (more general)

4 – Specific

Words in a category beneath the word. This would make the word use more specific, and can vary in the level of specificity

e.g. Chocolate:

  • Milk Chocolate
  • Dairy Milk (more specific)

5 – Alternative

A replacement word which has no direct similarity, but shares some relationship with the original word. The easiest way to do this is to consider the word within the sentence, then see what word you can put instead that would fit in well but is not related to the existing one

e.g. Chocolate

  • Crisps (its something that can be eaten instead, but not related)
  • Vegetable (more general; its can also be eaten, but is a more general category)
  • Biryani (even broader relation, related in that they are both food, but otherwise dissimilar)

This is an opening to help you reflect on the Quran. There are countless other tools you can use yourself, one I will expand on in future episodes. Let us know your thoughts, and share any reflections you make using the tool we outlined.


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