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In the Arabic languange, there are two forms of plural: one of them is the broken plural, and the other is rafa' plural according to a combination. For example, in the Qur'an, both kuffarun and kafiroona are used as the plural form of kafir (disbeliever). Similar examples can be found throughout the Qur'an and the hadith literature, and the Arabic language in general.

What is the difference between these two plural forms? Why is there a need to have two sets of plurals?

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Is it a general arabic question or in reference to Quran. If so, can you please provide reference to make the question more on topic. – muslim1 Dec 26 '12 at 4:51
its a general questions. as I am learning classical arabic, I encountered both forms of plurals. – HumayunM Dec 26 '12 at 5:09
Another StackExchange site dedicated for Arabic language is currently in definition stage. Follow it and you can bring up more questions once it is in Beta. – Tabrez Ahmed Dec 26 '12 at 6:20
@HumayunM this is a very good question, there are Ayats or Ahadith that can be found with these, if you search them up and add them to your question, it would then be more on topic. You see, it is off-topic here to ask general questions about Arabic, rather for it to be on topic it has to be related to either the Qur'an or a Hadith or anything else in Islam. See the questions under the Arabic Tag for examples. – مجاهد Dec 26 '12 at 6:37
I have taken the liberty of editing the question a bit for on-topicness, and added some Qur'an links for variant plural forms. See also this meta question: Should we allow questions regarding the Arabic language? – goldPseudo Dec 26 '12 at 13:32

There is no clear distinction. "Kafiroon" (كافرون) and "Kuffar" (كفار) are two different forms of plural. They can be considered as regular and irregular plural forms of the word "Kafir" (كافر).

The need for two forms of plural comes from the fact that not all nouns can be pluralized regularly. For example "Qualam" (قلم) is pluralized irregularly as "Aqlam" (أقلام), because it has no regular plural. Some words can be pluralized using both forms, like "Kafir" in your example.

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In the Qura'n in Surah Kafiroon, Allah (SWT) refers to disbelievers as "ya ayyuhal kafiroona" would it be the same as "ya ayyuhal kuffarun". My only motive is to learn and nothing else. May Allah has mercy on us. – HumayunM Dec 27 '12 at 3:32
@HumayunM It's "kaifroon", not "kafiroona". The only case in which you use the latter pronunciation is when you continue narration into the following ayah, saying "ya ayyuhal kafiroona la a'abudu ma ta'abodoon". – Hosam Aly Dec 27 '12 at 10:05

There is no difference between "Kafiroon" (كافرون) and "Kafiroona" (كافرونَ) in Suratul Massad. All the a in "Kafiroona" is is the punctuation (Fathah) that you do not pronounce, but you will pronounce it only if you continue to the next Ayah without stopping.

The I'rab of the word Kafiroon in Suratul Massad is it is a Badal (بدل) from (أي) or is a Na'it (نعت) for it. Kuffar in the 161 Ay of Suratu; Baqarah

إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ وَمَاتُواْ وَهُمۡ كُفَّارٌ أُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ عَلَيۡہِمۡ لَعۡنَةُ ٱللَّهِ وَٱلۡمَلَـٰٓٮِٕكَةِ وَٱلنَّاسِ أَجۡمَعِينَ (١٦١)

Is a Khabar (الخبر) because (هم) is the Mubtada' (المبتدأ).

Sources: I'rabul Qur'an Wa Bayanuh p1 and I'rabul Qur'an Wa Bayanuh p10

I hope I answered your question.

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To add to what the others have said: the sound (or "regular") masculine plurals are formed ONLY from nouns denoting persons (animate nouns). Inanimate nouns never have sound masculine plurals.

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"kuffarun" is used to emphasis they didn't only disbelieve but also spread kufr among people and oppressed Muslims in open. So kuffarun carry more hate and rage with them compared to kafiroona.

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would you please back your idea with more explanations, reasons and references? ;) – owari Dec 27 '12 at 20:56

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