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One of the features of the Quranic language which blows my mind… the use of past tense

Arabic students always have this question.

  • Student: “Why are you translating this past tense word as future tense?”
  • Teacher: “Because it has to do with the Day of Judgement.”
  • Student: “But it’s past tense?!”

*Here we go*

In the Quran, we find that sometimes Allah uses ‘past tense’ verbs to describe the Day of Judgement.

“The command of Allah (Day of Judgement) has come” [16:1]
أتى أمر الله

Allah uses the past tense to describe the future. Why?

Two reasons.

1) What’s the difference between the past and the future? We are certain of the past-  it has happened already. If I moved from Texas to Seattle… There’s no doubt because it has already happened. If I tell you tomorrow I will move to Antarctica… you will have doubts about my ability to do so because it’s in the future and there is uncertainty. So the past is certain, the future is uncertain. Allah compares the Day of Judgement to a past even to show how certain it is.

2) Allah created time. To Him it is all the same. Past. Present. Future. 

Allah especially uses the past tense when talking about something in the future that is inevitable. Also especially when talking about the events that seem really wondrous and out of this world.

Now that’s deep.

What do you think? Share your reflections below!