Why is the same verse repeated thirty-one times in the chapter of ar-Rahman? What is the wisdom behind it?

The Details of the Question

Why is the same verse repeated thirty-one times in the chapter of ar-Rahman? What is the wisdom behind it?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Verse 13 of the chapter of ar-Rahman:

"Then which of the favors of your Lord will ye deny?"

The word "fa" (then) connects the word or sentence after it with an appropriate previous word or sentence before it. The word ala means boons and favors as it is mentioned in the chapter of an-Najm.

To deny boons means to show ingratitude. It means to deny that a boon is a boon or to deny the association of the boon with the one that gives the boon or to deny both of them. For instance, they deny that teaching the Quran is a boon and that it is a boon given by Allah. There are also people who deny that creation, language, the earth and the sky, justice and scales are boons.

They do not deny that fruits, food items and aromatic things are boons but there are a lot of people who deny clearly or indirectly their association with Allah. Since men human beings and jinn are addressed, all of the creatures are included in it. The explanation of the word Rab (Lord) expresses severity in scolding. That is, O human beings and jinn! After listening to and seeing those various boons of your compassionate Lord, which one of them can you deny and show ingratitude? Is it possible to show ingratitude to the owner of such boons? 

The attitude of people in the face of this verse

According to what Hz. Jabir narrates,

"The Prophet (pbuh) came out to his Companions and recited the chapter of ar-Rahman from the beginning to the end; the Companions listened silently. Thereupon, the Prophet (pbuh) said, 

'I recited this before the jinn and their response was better than that of yours. When I came to these words: `Then which of the favors of your Lord will ye deny?', they said: Our Lord! There is nothing that we deny of Thy favor; to Thee is praise due.'" (1)

Therefore, it is stated that it is mandub for the listeners to say so when the verse "fa bi ayyi..." (Then which of the favors of your Lord will ye deny?) of the chapter of ar-Rahman is recited. (2)

The same verse is repeated thirty-one times in the chapter of ar-Rahman. Eight of them come after mentioning the superiorities of creation and the worldly and otherworldly issues, seven of them after the warnings about the states of Hell – this number is equal to the number of the gates of Hell – and eight of them after the qualities of Paradise – this number is equal to the number of the gates of Paradise. Thus, the following issue is indicated: A person who believes in the first eight things and acts accordingly will deserve to enter Paradise and be saved from Hell. (3)

Let us have a look at the words of the verse “Then which of the favors of your Lord will ye deny?”, which is repeated thirty-one times in the chapter of ar-Rahman:

"Ala'": This word, which means all kinds of boons, whether big or small, indicates endless grants of Allah, who is ar-Rahman (the All-Compassionate). The repetition of this word thirty-one times is in a very good harmony with ar-Rahman, which is the name and the first word of the chapter. Which one of the past and future boons whose examples Allah, who is ar-Rahman, shows in the chapter of ar-Rahman can be attributed to coincidence?

That this word is used with the question word "fa bi ayyi" (which) is an indication of the human beings and jinn, who are the addresses of the question, using their minds.

"Rabb" (Lord):  This word, which expresses teaching and training along with creating, indicates that it is impossible for all of the boons related to the religion, this world and the hereafter to emerge without the teaching of Allah. That the word "ala" 'is attributed to the name "Rabb" enlightens this fact truly. Accordingly, the meaning of the verse is as follows: "O people and jinn! Then which of the favors of your Lord (who has majesty and beauty) will ye deny?"

"Kuma": That the word Rabb is attributed to the dual pronoun “kuma” used for people and jinn emphasizes the same truth; it expresses that ar-Rahman, who created human beings and jinn, meets their material and spiritual needs. It indicates that the one that sends revelation for their spiritual stomachs and that displays thousands of boons for their material stomachs is their Lord, who is ar-Rahman, and that ingratitude shown this Lord, who is so benevolent, generous and merciful, is very bad.

To deny the boons of the Lord, who is merciful and who treats and grants so much, disturbs His lordship, distresses the mercy of His compassion; therefore, its penalty becomes severe.

"Tukadhdhiban": This word, which expresses lying and denial, is also used for ingratitude. The reason why the Quran prefers this word is that ingratitude and ungratefulness is a big crime that leads man to denial. For, not to thank for boons indicates that the boons are regarded as valueless. Despising boons means ignoring the favors of the owner of the boons and not to regard the one that gives the boons respectable. This is both ingratitude and ugly denial.

The wisdom behind the repetition of the verse

This verse, which is repeated thirty-one times, is located between both boons mentioned in the verse. With this, attention is drawn to the value of the boons that are mentioned, the endlessness of Allah’s boons is indicated and it is shown that it is very bad to deny those boons. It is a nice style to repeat the phrases against those who deny various boons by showing ingratitude.

A person who denies the favors done to him is addressed as follows: "Do you remember that you were poor and I helped you? You became rich after that. Do you deny it now? Do you remember that you had no clothes and I gave you clothes?" This style of speaking, which is regarded as warning, is an acceptable way of repetition in Arabic. (4)

According to Fakhruddin Razi, it is related to the repetition included in the previous chapter: After the penalty given to the previous nations is mentioned there, the following verse is repeated: "But how (terrible) was My Penalty and My Warning?" This verse is repeated four times there. The first one is the original verse; the other three verses are regarded as repetition. 

In the chapter of ar-Rahman, one original verse is repeated thirty times. A relationship between the number three and thirty can be noticed. In the chapter of al-Qamar, attention is drawn to the penalties given to the criminals but boons are indicated here.

"He that doeth good shall have ten times as much to his credit: He that doeth evil shall only be recompensed according to his evil: no wrong shall be done unto (any of) them." (5)

As this verse indicates, one good deed is rewarded ten times but a bad deed is punished only once. Thus, in the chapter of al-Qamar, the verse is repeated three times since penalties are mentioned there; in this chapter, the verse is repeated thirty times, which is tenfold of three, since boons are mentioned. (6)

Another wisdom behind this repetition is as follows: There are two kinds of boons. The first one is eliminating harms and the second one is obtaining benefits. Eight paradises, which are the best benefits, and seven hells, which are the worst harms, are mentioned here. The sum of these two numbers is fifteen. Since the addressees are of two types, when it is multiplied by two, the product is thirty, which is the number of the repetitions. (7)


1. See at-Tabari, XIII/123; al-Hakim, al-Mustadrak,  II/473; Dhahabi says this hadith is in compliance with the conditions laid by Bukhari and Muslim. See at-Talkhis (the same place in Mustadrak)
2. Elmalılı Muhammed Hamdi Yazır, Hak Dini, the interpretation of the chapter in question.
3. See Yazır, ibid.
4. See. al-Hazin, VII/138.
5. Al-Anam, 6/160.
6. See Razi, Mafatih, XXIX/96.
7. See Razi, ibid; Nursi, Mesnevî, 220-221. For the wisdoms behind repetions and other examples, see Nursi, Lemeat, 593-597; Mesnevî, 218-219; Lem'alar, 71; Şualar, 201-212.

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