In the verses 14:34 and 16:18 it states that if we count God’s blessings we will not be able to encompass them. While the translations for these expressions appear almost identical, there is a subtle difference that is worth reflecting upon.
Here is the word by word breakdown of the expression in 14:34:
[14:34] And He gives you all kinds of things that you implore Him for. If you count GOD’s blessings, you can never encompass them. Indeed, the human being is transgressing, unappreciative.
وَآتَاكُمْ مِنْ كُلِّ مَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُ وَإِنْ تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا إِنَّ الْإِنْسَانَ لَظَلُومٌ كَفَّارٌ
Notice that this verse uses the plural form of the word “blessing” which is “نِعْمَتَ”. Additionally, it uses the Arabic word تُحْصُوهَا which comes from the root ” ح ص ي ” which has to do with counting.
Now let’s contrast this with the expression in 16:18.
[16:18] If you count GOD’s blessings, you cannot possibly encompass them. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.
وَإِنْ تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَغَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ
And here is the word by word breakdown of the verse.
If we notice this time it uses the singular form of the term blessing “نِعْمَةَ”.
My understanding of this is that even if we attempt to encompass just a single one of God’s blessings we will never be able to fully appreciate it. To put this in perspective let’s read the following verses which constitute the prayer of Abraham to God.
[14:35] Recall that Abraham said, “My Lord, make this a peaceful land, and protect me and my children from worshiping idols. [14:36] “My Lord, they have misled so many people. As for those who follow me, they belong with me. As for those who disobey me, You are Forgiver, Most Merciful. [14:37] “Our Lord, I have settled part of my family in this plantless valley, at Your Sacred House. Our Lord, they are to observe the Contact Prayers (Salat), so let throngs of people converge upon them, and provide for them all kinds of fruits, that they may be appreciative. [14:38] “Our Lord, You know whatever we conceal and whatever we declare— nothing is hidden from GOD on earth, nor in the heavens. [14:39] “Praise be to GOD for granting me, despite my old age, Ismail and Isaac. My Lord answers the prayers. [14:40] “My Lord, make me one who consistently observes the Contact Prayers (Salat), and also my children. Our Lord, please answer my prayers. [14:41] “My Lord, forgive me and my parents, and the believers, on the day when the reckoning takes place.”
Now take in consideration that from this one person, Abraham, the impact he has had from his one single prayer for so many countless believers. Because God answered his one prayer, He has blessed generations of humans with the Salat, Hajj, and even the Quran, and Submission as a whole.
[2:127] As Abraham raised the foundations of the shrine, together with Ismail (they prayed): “Our Lord, accept this from us. You are the Hearer, the Omniscient. [2:128] “Our Lord, make us submitters to You, and from our descendants let there be a community of submitters to You. Teach us the rites of our religion, and redeem us. You are the Redeemer, Most Merciful. [2:129] “Our Lord, and raise among them a messenger to recite to them Your revelations, teach them the scripture and wisdom, and purify them. You are the Almighty, Most Wise.”
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