The Concept of “ladun” in the Qur’an


First published in Arabic in Al-Manhal Magazine, 1999, vol. 61, no. 560, pp 26-29.

The combined facts that the Qur’an was revealed by Allah and that it is the last divine Book mean that it must be a unique Book. The divine origin of this Book has differentiated it from any other book, and made it a Book that no one can emulate: 

Or do they [the disbelievers] say: “He [Muhammad] has forged it?”. Say [O Muhammad!]: “Then bring a sura (chapter) like this and invite whom you can besides Allah, if you are truthful [in your claim] (10.38).

The Qur’an cannot be emulated by any human being or jinn. In fact, even if all humans and jinn got together to create a qur’an, they would fail: 

Say [O Muhammad!]: “If the human beings and the jinn get together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not bring the like of it, even if they backed up each other with help and support” (17.88).

The fact that the Qur’an is the last of Allah’s Books has made it a Book whose miracles will continue to unfold until the Day of Resurrection, and has distinguished it even from previous divine Books.

Among the miraculous attributes of this unique Book is that there is a meaning and wisdom behind each sura, verse, and word in it. This is elucidated in this verse: 

Alif; lam; ra’; This is a Book whose verses have been perfected, then made plain, min ladun1 (from the ladun of) One who is Wise, All-aware (11.1).

This description applies also to every letter in the Qur’an, each of which Allah has purposefully chosen. The proof on this comes from the Qur’an itself which contains verses each consisting of letters only. Only Allah knows the full meaning of these letters. For instance, suras 2 and 3 both start with a verse that consists of the letters “alif, lam, mim; sura 7 starts with the verse “alif, lam, mim, sad“; and sura 19 starts with the verse “kaf, ha’, ya’, ‘ayn, sad“.

These facts about the Qur’an teach us that we must treat the Qur’an with reverence, and study it with complete belief that Allah has embedded wisdom in every part of it.

After this short introduction, let’s start our attempt to study the Qur’anic meaning of the word ladun“.

The word “ladun” occurs eighteen times in seventeen different verses. It is always preceded by the preposition “min” (“from”), as in the following verses:

Our Lord! Make not our hearts to deviate after You have guided us, and grant us mercy min ladunka (from Your ladun); surely You are the Bestower (3.8). Allah does not do injustice even of the weight of an atom, and if there is a good deed He multiplies it and gives min ladunhu (from His ladun) a great reward (4.40).

And say [O Muhammad!]: “My Lord! Let me enter by the gate of truth, and let me exit by the gate of truth, and grant me min ladunka (from Your ladun) a helping authority (17.80).

The Arabic word “‘inda“, which is also used in the Qur’an, is close in meaning to “ladun“. If we look up first “‘inda” in the lexicon, we find that is defined as a “noun donating the time and place of occurrence. It occurs either as an adverb or in the genitive form governed by the preposition ‘min’“. The word “ladun“, on the other hand, is defined as an “adverb denoting place or time in the sense of ‘‘inda‘, but which implies more closeness and intimacy. It can occur in the genitive form governed by the preposition ‘min’“. Clearly, there is a great deal of similarity between the words “ladun” and “‘inda“, but it is also clear that there is a significant, albeit subtle, difference between them.

The use of “ladun” in writing is not as common as that of “‘inda“. However, when used, “ladun” is used in the same way as “‘inda“, and in similar contexts. Writers focus on the great deal of similarity between the meanings of “ladun” and “‘inda“, and ignore the subtle difference between them. These two words appear in writings as two synonymous words, with no distinction between them.

The substantial and clear similarity between “ladun” and “‘inda” and people’s use of them as synonymous must not lead us to the wrong conclusion that they have the same meaning in the Book of Allah. It has already been noted that Allah purposefully and wisely chose each and every word and letter in the Qur’an, so the exegete must take into consideration the use of “ladun” or “‘inda” in a verse when interpreting it. Allah gives a special meaning to “ladun” that is different from the general, broader meaning in which He uses the word “‘inda“, despite the similarity between them. So what is the special sense that distinguishes “ladun” from “inda” in the Qur’an?

Allah has revealed to us the special meaning of “ladun” in the following verses: 

And We did not create the heaven, the earth, and what is between them in play (21.16). Had We wished to take a pastime, We would have made it min ladunna (from Our ladun), if We ever did (21.17).

Allah tells us in the first verse that His creation of “the heaven, the earth, and what is between them” was no playful act, but an act of creation with truth. He created everything with His wisdom, and appointed for the heaven and the earth a purpose to fulfill until the Day of Resurrection:

Do they [people] not reflect within themselves: Allah did not create the heavens, the earth, and what is between them but with truth, and for an appointed term! Many people deny the meeting of their Lord (30.8).

We did not create the heaven, the earth, and what is between them in vain; that is the opinion of those who disbelieve, so woe to those who disbelieve from the Fire (38.27).

We did not create the heavens, the earth, and what is between them save with truth, and for an appointed term; and those who disbelieve turn aside from what they are warned of (46.3).

On the Day of Resurrection, the whole universe will be changed:

On the Day when the earth shall be changed into a different earth, and the heavens also, and they [the people] shall come forth before Allah, the One, the Supreme (14.48).

Clearly, the phrase “the heaven, the earth, and what is between them” in verse 21.16 above refers to the whole of the creation. Then in verse 21.17, Allah tells us that had He wanted to have a pastime, which He would not, He would have chosen that from “His ladun“, not using the creation of “the heaven, the earth, and what is between them“. Now, if the phrase “the heaven, the earth, and what is between them” refers to all of the creation, then the phrase “min ladunna (from Our ladun)” must refer to the divine entity Himself and nothing else. Before “the heaven, the earth, and what is between them” there was nothing other than Allah, the first and ever-existing: 

Say [O Muhammad”]: “He is the First and the Last, the Outward and the Inward” (from 57.3).

Without creating “the heaven, the earth, and what is between them” there would have been nothing other than Allah, the First, the Self-Sustained. Thus, Allah tells us in verses 21.16-17 that the idea that the creation of “the heaven, the earth, and what is between them” was some kind of a pastime is misguided. Had He wanted to have a pastime – which He would never do – He would not have needed to create anything, as He would have had that pastime “min ladunna (from Our ladun)“, i.e. from His divine presence. Obviously the verses do not imply that Allah could have sought a pastime, but stress that the creation of the universe was not a playful act.

It is, thus, clear that Allah differentiates between “ladun” and “inda” in the Qur’an, using the former to things that are very close to Him, while using the latter in a broader sense. When attributed to Allah, the word “ladun” refers to special things that come directly from Him. If the referent was mercy, then it is direct mercy from Allah (from His ladun); if it was knowledge, then it is direct knowledge from Him; and so on. For instance, Allah describes the Qur’an a Book from His ladun:

Alif; Lam; Ra’; This is a Book whose verses have been perfected, then made plain, min ladun (from the ladun of) One who is Wise, All-aware (11.1).

The Qur’an is derived from the knowledge of Allah’s ladun, which no creature can reach without Allah’s help: 

Say [O Muhammad!]: “If the human beings and the jinn get together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not bring the like of it, even if they backed up each other with help and support” (17.88).

In the eighteen occurrences of the word “ladun” in the Qur’an, we see it attributed to other than Allah only in one verse. Significantly, Allah is not the direct user of the word in this sense, as it occurs in a speech by Prophet Moses in his dialog with the righteous and wise man (who is referred to in hadith and exegesis literature as “Khidhr”): 

He [Moses] said: “If I ask you about anything after this, keep me not in your company; indeed you have received an excuse min ladunni (from my ladun)” (18.76).

As for the word “‘inda” in the phrase “min ‘inda“, its use in the Qur’an is not restricted to referring to what is “min ‘inda (from)” Allah, as we can see in the following two verses which are direct speech by Allah: 

Many of the People of the Book wish that they could turn you [O you who believe!] back into disbelievers after your faith, out of envy min ‘indi (from) themselves, after the truth has become manifest to them; but pardon and forgive, until Allah accomplishes His purpose. Allah is able to do all things (2.109).

What! When a misfortune befell you [O you who believe!], and you had certainly afflicted [the disbelievers] with twice as much, you began to say: “Whence is this?” Say [O Muhammad”]: “It is min ‘indi (from) themselves; Allah is able to do all things” (3.165).

Among the verses in which “ladun” occurs, and which expound the special Qur’anic meanings of this word, are those that contain Zacharias’ prayer to Allah to give him offspring. When this noble Prophet realized that the food that Mary was receiving was coming “min ‘inda (from) Allah“, he asked Allah to intervene and miraculously give him offspring as He gave Mary food. He asked for that “min ladun Allah (from Allah’s ladun)“: 

Her Lord accepted her [Mary] with a goodly acceptance, made her to grow a goodly growth, and made Zacharias her guardian. Whenever Zacharias went into the sanctuary where she was, he found that she had sustenance. He said: “O Mary! Whence comes this [sustenance] to you?” She answered: “It is min ‘indi (from) Allah. Allah gives to whom He pleases without measure” (3.37). There did Zacharias pray to his Lord and said: “My Lord! Grant me min ladunka (from Your ladun) goodly offspring. You are the Hearer of prayer” (3.38).

He [Zacharias] said: “My Lord! My bones wax feeble and my head is shining with grey hair, and I have never been evil in my prayer to You, my Lord (19.4). I fear my relatives after me, and my wife is barren, so give me an heir min ladunka (from Your ladun or from You)” (19.5).

Allah answered Zacharias’ prayer with a miracle, giving him a son, Prophet John: 

And the angels called to him [Zacharias] as he stood praying in the sanctuary: “Allah gives you glad tidings of [a son whose name is] John, confirming, with a word from Allah, honorable, chaste, and a Prophet from among the righteous” (3.39).

[It was said to him]: “O Zacharias! We bring you tidings of a son whose name is John; we did not create someone similar to him before” (19.7).

Allah stresses that John was given by a mercy from His ladun as He refers to the compassion that He bestowed on John from His ladun

[It was said to John]: “O John! Take hold of the Book with might”. And We gave him Wisdom while still a child (19.12). And compassion min ladunna (from Our ladun), and purity; and he was dutiful (19.13).

Thus, Zacharias asked for offspring min ladun Allah, and Allah answered his prayer by giving him John “from His ladun“, i.e. with direct, miraculous intervention that caused the old Zacharias and his old and barren wife to have a child.

Among the verses that shed light on the meaning of “ladun” in the Qur’an are those that describe the encounter between Prophet Moses and Khidhr. It is related in hadith literature that one day Moses was asked: “Who is the most knowledgeable person?”. He replied “I am”. Allah was displeased that Moses attributed knowledge to himself rather than to Allah, so He ordered him to go on a journey to make him meet a more knowledgeable man. The latter was described by Allah as follows: 

One from among Our servants whom We had granted mercy min ‘indina (from Us) and whom We had taught knowledge min ladunna (from Our ladun) (18.65).

This knowledge from Allah’s ladun is the kind of knowledge that Allah confers only on the elite of His servants. The Qura’nic story then sheds more light on the nature of this very special knowledge. When Moses met Khidhr he asked him to accompany him saying: 

Shall I follow you that you may teach me right knowledge of what you have been taught? (from 18:66).

But Khidhr knew in advance, by virtue of his knowledge that came min landun (from the ladun of) Allah, that Moses was not going to be able to accompany him, so he replied: 

You shall not be able to bear with me (from 18.67). How shall you be able to bear with that which you have no knowledge of? (18.68).

However, Moses still wanted to accompany Khidhr and promised not to object to him: 

He [Moses] said: “Allah willing, you shall find me that I bear with you and do not disobey any order of yours” (18.69).

During his staying with Khidhr, Moses could not resist, despite his promise, objecting to three actions that Khidhr took. Khidhr damaged, with no apparent reason, a boat whose owners had agreed to take them both on board for free; then he killed a young boy, also with no apparent reason; and finally, he built, with asking for remuneration, a wall that was about to collapse in a village whose people had refused to entertain them. After Moses’ third objection, Khidhr decided that it was time that they parted company, as the purpose of that encounter was fulfilled. He explained to Moses his actions that he could not understand: 

He [Khidhr] said: “This shall be separation between me and you; now I will explain that which you could not bear with (18.78). As for the boat, it belonged to poor people who worked on river. I wanted to render it unserviceable because there was a king behind them who was taking every boat by force (18.79). And as for the boy, his parents were believers and we feared lest he should oppress them by rebellion and disbelief (81.80). And we desired that their Lord might replace him for them with one better in purity and nearer to mercy (18.81). And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city, and there was beneath it a treasure belonging to them. Their father had been righteous, and Your Lord desired that they should come to their full strength and should bring forth their treasure as a mercy from their Lord. I did it not do it upon my own command. This is the interpretation of that which you could not bear with” (18.82).

These verses shed light on the phrase “min ladun“, as we see that the knowledge from His ladun that Allah gave to Khidhr allowed this righteous servant to realize and comprehend matters that remained hidden even to a great Prophet, Moses, whom Allah had also conferred knowledge and wisdom on, and spoken to.

The delicate distinction in the Book of Allah between words that appear to be similar in meaning, such as “ladun” and “‘inda“, is another miraculous aspect of the Qur’an. This is another reminder of the veneration that we must have for this great Book that is full of secrets, and the honor and respect with which we must treat it.


1 Transliterated Arabic words are set in italics, and transliterated Qur’anic Arabic words are set in italics bold green.

Copyright © 2007 Louay Fatoohi
All Rights Reserved.



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