Difference between سَنَة & عَام
By Keys To Knowledge @K2KNYC
A question asked by one of our followers in our Q&A group (check the end of the post to join). Question: Ustadh, why is Allāh azzawajal using both سنة and عام here to refer to ‘years’? Is there a difference between the two?
وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا نُوحًا إِلَىٰ قَوْمِهِۦ فَلَبِثَ فِيهِمْ أَلْفَ سَنَةٍ إِلَّا خَمْسِينَ عَامًا فَأَخَذَهُمُ ٱلطُّوفَانُ وَهُمْ ظَٰلِمُونَ
And indeed We sent Nuh (Noah) to his people, and he stayed among them a thousand years less fifty years [inviting them to believe in the Oneness of Allah (Monotheism), and discard the false gods and other deities], and the Deluge overtook them while they were Zalimun (wrong-doers, polytheists, disbelievers, etc.). (29:14)
Excellent question. It is said that the word سنة is used to refer to years of hardship while عام is used to refer to years of ease.
So in this verse:
وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا نُوحًا إِلَىٰ قَوْمِهِۦ فَلَبِثَ فِيهِمْ أَلْفَ سَنَةٍ إِلَّا خَمْسِينَ عَامًا فَأَخَذَهُمُ ٱلطُّوفَانُ وَهُمْ ظَٰلِمُونَ “And indeed We sent Nuh (Noah) to his people, and he stayed among them a thousand years less fifty years…” (29:14)
950 yearsسَنَةٍ refers to the years spent calling his people to Tawheed and the ridicule & hardships he faced while doing so.
The last 50 years refer to the time spent after Allah saved him from his people.
The Salaf differed as to how long Nuh (alayhis-salaam) actually lived.
Qataadah said: he lived for 950 years
Ibn Abbas said: 1050 years – Ibn Kathir said this is the closest to the truth and Allah knows best.
Ka’b al-Ahbaar said: 1020
Wahb bin Munabbih said: 1400
and there are other statements from the Salaf as well. Based on these statements, we see that some of the Salaf didn’t understand the verse to mean that Nuh’s lifespan was 950 years only. Instead, that time frame mentioned in the Quran referred to time of his da’wah.
What supports this view is the wordage in the verse itself:
وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا نُوحًا إِلَىٰ قَوْمِهِۦ فَلَبِثَ فِيهِمْ “Allah SENT Nuh TO his people and he lived among them…” This clearly refers to how many years he spent as a messenger and not how long he li