An effort in f a c i l i t a t i o n

Story of a Qur’anic word: Of sins and tail!

بسم الله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله

اللَّهُمَّ اغْفِرْ لِي ذَنْبي is a popular du’aa. It means ‘O Allah! Forgive me my sins.’

ذَنْب is the Arabic word for Sin. It also “refers to both acts of indecency and self-harm”. 

The deeper meaning of this word is highlighted by Br. Asim Khan in his book, ‘The Kingdom of God’, which is a Tafseer on Surah al Mulk:

“From the root of this word we find the word dhanab ذَنَب which means a tail, like the tail of a fox. In Arabic literature, the tail of animal symbolises embarrassment. It could then be said that the dhanb type of sins are ones that cause embarrassment and shame to the person. 

The word dhanab is also used figuratively to mean ‘to follow around’ as a tail follows the animal. Perhaps this could deepen our understanding of the dhanb as, therefore, to sins that haunt a person for many years later. From this perspective, we can see why Moses, wen being told to return to Egypt after spending many years in exile, explained: 

وَلَهُمْ عَلَيَّ ذَنبٌ فَأَخَافُ أَن يَقْتُلُونِ “but they have a claim due to sin (dhanb) against me, so I fear that they will kill me”(Surah Ash-Shu’ara 26:14)

Here, I would like to quote an inspiring ayah from Surah Az-Zumar: 

قُلْ يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِن رَّحْمَةِ اللَّهِ ۚ

 إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ

In this comforting ayah, Allah tells His Messenger, Prophet Muhammad, Peace be upon him, to “Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” (Surah Az-Zumar: 39: 53) 

ذُنُوب being the plural of ذَنْب (sin) Allah categorically declares that He forgives all sins. What a ray of hope in the otherwise dark clouds. Your embarrassment is gone. Your shame, your fear and the haunting aspect of your sin is replaced by hope, positivity and assurance.  

Hope and optimism is further strengthened when we reflect over the meaning of Al-Afuww, one of the beautiful names of Allah, which means Allah is the One Who completely erases the sins of His servant so much so that its’ traces are also removed. 


May Allah forgive all our sins in this blessed month of Ramadhaan.

Thanks and Jazakallaahu Khayra for reading this post.

Baarakallaahu Feekum.

Related posts:

Reflecting on the Du’aa of Laylatul Qadr


Reference & Courtesy: See Page 54, The Kingdom of God, A fully illustrated commentary on Surah al Mulk by Asim Khan & Published by islamic-foundation.com and kubepublishing.com 



April 6, 2022 - Posted by | Reflections | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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