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As far as I can see, the words "Kafiroon" and "Kafireen" is translated the same. There are also different similar words like "Muslimoon" and "Muslimeen".

What is the difference between a word ending with "oon" and the same word ending with "een"?

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In Arabic, a noun can be in one of three cases of E'raab إعراب (which is something related to grammar and context, affects tashkeel, spelling, and pronunciation): raf' (the noun is then called marfoo'), nasb (mansoob), and jur (majroor).

Since E'raab is related to context, then it changes according to meaning. For example, according to if the noun is the subject (actor) the verb, or the object the verb. A subject of the verb is usually marfoo', while the object of the verb is usually mansoob. (The meaning of the noun itself is not changed, but the meaning of the context is changed, I'll give some examples below).

On the other hand, a noun can be in one of three count cases:

  • Singular: In our example it's كافر (pronounced Kafir in the silence form, which means the noun ends with neither damma, nor fatha, nor kasra, but silence). In this case, the E'raab case changes only the tashkeel and pronounciation of the noun; If the noun is marfoo' then it ends with damma كافرُ (damma is a light pronounced O); if majroor it ends with kasra كافرِ (kasra is a light pronounced E); if mansoob it ends with fatha كافرَ (fatha is a light pronounced A). In fact it's difficult to write the pronounciations in English letters here.

  • Dual, in this case the noun referes to two enitites, this doesn't exist in english, instead plural is used. The E'raab case mainly changes the spelling of the noun here, it attaches either Alef and Noon ان or Yaa and Noon ين to the end of the singular form of the noun. If the noun is marfoo' then Alef and Noon ان is attached, so in our example it becomes كافران (Kafiraan); if the noun is mansoob or majroor, then Yaa and Noon ين is attached, and the final letter of the singular form has a fatha, so in our exmaple it becomes كافرَين (Kafirain).

  • Plural, in this case the noun referes to three or more. Just like in english, plural can be either regular prular or irreular prular:

    • Irregular plural (called jam' Takseer جمع تكسير in Arabic) has no general rule in Arabic (like in English), an example is that Kafir كافر does has an Irregular plural form, and it's كُفّار Kuffar. Irregular plurals are treated in matter of E'raab just like singular nouns.
    • Regular plural can be either masculine or feminine:
      Feminine regular plural جمع مؤنث سالم: it's formed by attaching Alef and Taa ات to the end of the singular noun, in our example it becomes كافرات (Kafiraat in the silence form). The E'raab case changes the tashkeel and pronounciation: if the noun is marfoo' then it ends with damma كافراتُ, if mansoob or majroor then it ends with kasra كافراتِ.
      Masculine regular plural جمع مذكر سالم: THIS IS WHAT WE WANT (FINALLY :D) The E'raab case mainly changes the spelling of the noun here, it attaches either Wao and Noon ون or Yaa and Noon ين to the end of the singular form of the noun. If the noun is marfoo' then Wao and Noon ون is attached, so in our example it becomes كافرون (Kafiroon); if the noun is mansoob or majroor then Yaa and Noon ين is attached, and the last letter in the singular form has kasra, so in our example it becomes كافرِين (Kafireen).

Examples of how :

قُلْ أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَالرَّسُولَ ۖ فَإِن تَوَلَّوْا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْكَافِرِينَ

Sahih International

Say, "Obey Allah and the Messenger." But if they turn away - then indeed, Allah does not like the disbelievers (Kafireen).

Surat 'Āli `Imrān - 32

In the above Aya, Kafireen is the object of the verb "like".

يُرِيدُونَ أَن يُطْفِئُوا نُورَ اللَّهِ بِأَفْوَاهِهِمْ وَيَأْبَى اللَّهُ إِلَّا أَن يُتِمَّ نُورَهُ وَلَوْ كَرِهَ الْكَافِرُونَ

Sahih International

They want to extinguish the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah refuses except to perfect His light, although the disbelievers (Kafiroon) dislike it.

Surat At-Tawbah - 32.

In the above Aya, Kafiroon is the subject of the verb "dislike".

Hope that's clarifying enough (and sorry for writing a journal!).

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The answer is technical. The short answer is that, semantically, they have exactly the same meaning; it's a difference of syntax.

In Arabic, words can be three (and sometimes, four) cases: marfoo' (ending with damma), majroor (ending with kasra), and mansoob (ending with fatha). There are some more details here which are not relevant to this answer.

In this case, the word "kafiroon" (with waw, noon) is in the marfoo' form. That usually means (among other things) that it's the subject of the sentence, or the doer of the action.

Kafireen (yaa, noon) is the majroor and mansoob forms. It usually means (among other things) that it's the receipient of an action, or it's modified by a preposition -- a word like "from," "to," etc. (Harf Al-Jarr in Arabic).

Anyway, this form (using waw/noon vs. yaa/noon) applies to all masculine plurals; commonly in the Qur'an, you will see:

  • Muslimoon / Muslimeen
  • Kafiroon / Kafireen
  • Muttaqoon / Muttaqeen
  • Muhsinoon / Muhsineen
  • etc.
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It is just declension (i'rab) at work. It is the change in ending of a noun or verb by which its grammatical case is identified. Arabic heavily uses this. In English too there is declension. For example, the sentences "I hit you" and "You hit me". Here "I" changed to "me" to indicate it is the object of the action. Hope you get the idea.

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All grammatical changes, by very definition, are meaningful. Explanations of the question at hand with reference to E'raab are fine, but remain inadequate because these normally (rather universally) fail to mention an additional important layer of meaningfulness:

Plurals with "wao-noon" ending (e.g."Kafiroon" & "Muslimoon" etc.) refer to every individual of a group, while plurals with "yaa-noon" ending (e.g. "Kafireen" & "Muslimeen" etc.) refer to the group as a whole.

Consider this example, very explicit in the aspect of meaningfulness that I have pointed out:

3:28 لَا يَتَّخِذِ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الْكَافِرِينَ أَوْلِيَاءَ مِنْ دُونِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَمَنْ يَفْعَلْ ذَلِكَ فَلَيْسَ مِنَ اللَّهِ فِي شَيْءٍ

The ayah juxtaposes الْمُؤْمِنُونَ with الْمُؤْمِنِينَ and also with الْكَافِرِينَ. It is essentially stating that "Momin" individuals should not seek patronage (/sponsorship /protection etc.) of "Kaafir" groups when the patronage of "Momin" groups is available to them. Indeed here the context clearly indicates that الْكَافِرِينَ and الْمُؤْمِنِينَ have the signification of organized sovereign groups.

4:151 أُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْكَافِرُونَ حَقًّا وَأَعْتَدْنَا لِلْكَافِرِينَ عَذَابًا مُهِينًا

This ayah juxtaposes كَافِرُونَ with كَافِرِينَ. The context of this ayah (as well as the previous ayah) makes it abundantly clear that كَافِرُونَ here is signifying individuals while كَافِرِينَ is signifying a collective.

The Quran abounds with examples. I mention just two:

3:52 قَالَ مَنْ أَنْصَارِي إِلَى اللَّهِ قَالَ الْحَوَارِيُّونَ نَحْنُ أَنْصَارُ اللَّهِ ءَامَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَاشْهَدْ بِأَنَّا مُسْلِمُونَ

Here "Muslimoon" is clearly indicating individuals of a group;

10:84 وَقَالَ مُوسَى يَاقَوْمِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ ءَامَنْتُمْ بِاللَّهِ فَعَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلُوا إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُسْلِمِينَ

and here "Muslimeen" is clearly referring to an organized group of "Muslims."

There are literally hundreds of ayahs in the Quran encompassing dozens of root-words. In my considered opinion they lead to the conclusion that I have stated above.

Indeed this literary mechanism has been very powerfully used by the Quran to express its message. To my knowledge this is the only mechanism through which the Quran differentiates between individuals of a group, and the group as an entity.

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  • Do you have any evidence for your claims? please share it. The given examples actually don't necessarily hold for your description. – Sassir 22 hours ago
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They are both Sound Plural. The Ya or Waw ending depends on the overall rhyme scheme of the Sura. It is much easier to memorize this way.

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