Language is dynamic – sometimes it is impossible to do word-by-word translation of certain phrases without losing their actual meaning. This is particularly true for figures of speech. Someone who asks me, “What’s up?” isn’t asking me in a literally sense – the person is asking how I am, not what’s up there over your head? Similarly, Ancient Arabic has figures of speech and the Qur’an uses them too. So in order for us to understand the actual meaning of the Ayat, we have to know how these idioms were used in ancient times.
VERBAL IDIOMS PART 1 – COOLNESS OF THE EYES
Literally, coolness of the eyes would probably mean placing banana peels over our eyes 🙂 What does it actually mean in Ancient Arabic?
- Tears of immense joy – There are 2 expressions in the Arab idioms: The eyes becoming cool, and the eyes becoming warm. “May Allah warm his eyes” is actually a curse which means may that person suffer so much sadness the he shed tears out of sorrow. Whereas “Cooling the eyes” is the opposite, to mean shedding tears out of happiness and joy.
- Finding refuge & relief – The Arabs when travelling in the desert would wrap their face as a protection from sandstorms. But they couldn’t afford to cover their eyes without losing their vision, so they would say “My eyes are becoming warm.” And when they finally found a cave, they would say “My eyes are becoming cool.”
- The word also means when something stays in one place.
We find this figure of speech several times in the Qur’an:
1. [Surah Al-Furqan 25:74] “Our Lord! Bestow on us from our spouses and our offspring the coolness of the eyes…”
What this du’a means is that we ask from Allah for our spouses and children to be the coolness of our eyes from the outside storm. The outside world is full of stress, problems and difficulties, and our refuge and relief from that storm is our home. But sadly, how opposite is the state of our homes today? The storm isn’t happening outside of our homes, rather it’s happening inside. This du’a teaches us to ask from Allah for peace, tranquility and not just a happy home, but a home that makes us so happy that it makes us cry. What a beautiful du’a.
2. [Surah Ta-ha 20:40] “…So We restored you to your mother, that she might cool her eyes and she should not grieve…”
When Fir’aun’s soldiers were approaching, the mother of Musa a.s. put her baby (i.e. Musa) in the river to save him. She saw her baby floating away from her, and her heart became so deeply distraught and distressed, not knowing what would happen to him. So when she was finally reunited with her baby, by the will of Allah, she began to cry… And that cry was not a cry of sadness, it was out of immense happiness. This reunion between a mother and child is captured beautifully by this phrase in the Qur’an.
3. [Surah Al-Qasas 28:9] “And the wife of Fir’aun said: “A comfort [coolness] of the eye for me and for you. Kill him not, perhaps he may be of benefit to us, or we may adopt him as a son…”
Fir’aun’s wife was in an abusive relationship, perhaps both psychologically & physically. She didn’t have any place to turn to, except Allah s.w.t., because the police, government – in general everyone – was owned by Fir’aun. When she discovered Musa a.s. in the river, she picked him up, brought him to Fir’aun and said [paraphrasing]: “When I look at the baby, my eyes stay on him.” She couldn’t take her eyes away from Musa a.s.; she found her relief. Even Fir’aun, the same tyrant who ordered for a military campaign to kill thousands of babies, experienced the same and they ended up adopting Musa a.s.
4. This figure of speech is also found in hadith. Remember when Musa a.s. spoke directly to Allah s.w.t.? There can never, ever be anyone else more important and more beloved than our Rabb. So we know for sure that this is a memory that Musa a.s. will never, ever forget! But what did Allah s.w.t. command? Allah s.w.t. said to Musa a.s.:
Verily! I am Allah! None has the right to be worshipped but I, so worship Me, and perform As-Salat for My Remembrance.” [Surah Ta-ha 20:14]
The REAL way to remember Allah s.w.t. is through prayer. And our beloved Rasulallah s.a.w. said “The coolness of my eyes is in Salah.” *1
Those who have a clean heart are more sensitive than others; it really hurts when someone speaks to them in a foul language. Our beloved Rasulallah s.a.w., the best of mankind, heard foul language, curses, allegations, being mocked at, being made fun of by the Quraish Every-Single-Day. But he s.a.w. never stopped, he still made da’wah to the same people continuously, and their hatred and aggressiveness only got worse each day. He s.a.w. was in this storm all the time, but when he enters Salah… that is when he found his relief. The coolness of his s.a.w. eyes is placed in the Salah. It completely changes our perspective what Salah should really mean to us.
The idea about crying in our prayers is true. Usually we cry when we listen to Ayat about the Hellfire or Judgment Day. But the Qur’an should also make us cry that cools our eyes… When we listen to Ayat about Allah’s gifts and rizq, His Mercy and forgiveness, how Allah s.w.t. protects us… they should move us to tears of joy.
*1 : Sunan an-Nasa’i | http://sunnah.com/nasai/36/2
Notes extracted from the Divine Speech Seminar [Verbal Idioms] by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan. Please let me know of any mistakes. Also subscribe to Bayyinah TV!