Answered by Abdullah Anik Misra
Question: Can you explain the difference (however subtle) between barakah, hassanat and ni’mah (Surah Ad-Doha). They appear to be synonyms but when I read Quranic translations they’re not defined the same.
Answer: As salaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
May Allah Ta’ala reward you for your question, as it shows that you are pondering over the meanings of the words in the Qur’an, and to reflect on the Quran is a great worship indeed.
The words barakah, hasanaat, and ni’mah, in English, may sometimes all be translated generically as “blessings”. In Arabic, while different words can have similar meanings, it is said that exact synonyms do not exist; each word then, carries with it a unique deeper implication because of its distinct source.
The Meaning of “Ni’mah”:
Ni’mah is the closest of the three words to mean a specific blessing or bounty. It is a good situation or thing, which can be small or large, little or plentiful (Raghib al Isfahani, Mufradatul Quran). It is only called a ni’mah when the receiver is an intelligent being. Allah Most High says we could not enumerate all of His ni’mah’s even if we tried to count them (Quran, 14:34). When ascribed to Allah, it is also used in a general, singular sense to mean “the Divine Favour” which He has granted. It includes His signs, rewards, and beneficence that He has done to His creation.
The Meaning of “Barakah”:
Barakah generally means increase, growth and also, happiness. Al-Raghib mentions that its source-word denotes the large frontal area of a camel which firmly presses the earth below it when it kneels on the ground by folding its legs. Its derivatives imply establishment or staying firmly upon something, like when a hero stands one’s ground in battle or when a pool in the earth traps water (from flowing away). Barakah then, is the establishment of divine goodness in something; from whence it exudes cannot be sensed by people, nor can it be outwardly quantified, nor is it limited by anything, but rather, something with barakah in it is called mubaarak, and has an unexplainable increase and benefit in it from Allah. An example is when one gives charity, barakah enters one’s remaining wealth such that it increases in benefit without increasing in the actual amount. Barakah is not the specific blessing (ni’mah) itself, but an increase in that given bounty ( al-Qushayri, Tafseer ul Quran).
The Meaning of “Hasanah”:
Hasanah comes from a root word which implies something pleasant and desirable to the intellect, fancies and desires, or the physical senses. It denotes every delightful ni’mah, or bounty, which a person can obtain for his/her body, mind and soul. It is often translated as “the good” of this world and the hereafter, but also used to mean good words or deeds, perhaps because doing good, especially to others, beautifies one’s character and leads to a desired reward. Its opposite is something foul and evil in word and action. The good of this world are Allah’s ni’mahs (bounties), and the good of the next world is His Paradise (al-Suyuti, Tafseer al Jalalayn).
May Allah Most High give us barakah in the ni’mah’s of this world, as well as the hasanah of the next world, ameen!
Abdullah Anik Misra
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani