on the 100,000 “or more”


When the Quran (37.147) refers to God sending Jonah to 100,000 “or more” it seems to be in close conversation with the Bible.  This reference follows a verse (37.146) in which the Quran has God proclaim how he made a “yaqtīn” tree sprout over Jonah.  Similarly the Bible has a “castor-oil plant” (some sort of gourd, Hebrew qīqāyōn; Jonah 4:6) sprout over Jonah before it has God tell him:

“You are concerned for the castor-oil plant which has not cost you any effort and which you did not grow, which came up in a night and has perished in a night.  * So why should I not be concerned for Nineveh, the great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, to say nothing of all the animals?” (Jonah 4.10-1).

So why does the Quran speak of 100,000 or more?  The Arabic translated here as “or more” is aw yazīdūn, a phrase which matches the rhyme of verses around such such as 37.144 yub3athūn and 37.149 al-banūn.  It could be that the Quran did not want to emphasize the precise number (perhaps its audience already knew the tradition of 120,000?) and it was instead concerned with a phrase that would match the alternating rhyme ( here the rhyme goes between ūn and īn).  Wa-Allah 3alam! Gabriel

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