Salam alikoum brothers and sisters,

When reading Quran I often see the word عذاب translated as punishment. Now, I'm from Moroccan origin and I speak Arabic in a dialect form. What I understand of the word عذاب is suffering and misery. When I look at translation of the word on online dictionaries, I see the same meanings as how I understand it. So why is the word punishment used instead of suffering or misery? If the meaning should be punishment, isn't that the Arabic word عقاب should be used?

Jazakoum Allah kheir.


Wehr/Cowan translate the noun عذاب as "pain, torment, suffering, agony; torture, punishment, chastisement, castigation". The semicolon ";" separates two semantic strands: The suffering that you feel, and the suffering that you inflict on others.

  • Thanks for your post, but the Quran is a serious book that can not just be translated by a dictionary. The word عذاب is a serious word that needs good understanding of the meaning in several contexts. Thank you. – AndaluZ Mar 3 '15 at 10:55

It's hard to give a general translation for this word, so it's translation will depend on the context therefore i would like to distinguish some of the meanings i found in an article (see my source below) and explain both words العذاب and العقاب and their origins.

The word العذاب in the Quran

On the meaning and origin of العذاب in Arabic language:

it means to cause hard/big pain and suffering, and it's used to punish, some linguists say: it meant originally hitting or beating and was expended to anything which refers to some kind of hardness or distress up to torture!

In the Quran you'll find this word or a derivative of it like verbs (26 times), nouns and active participle (8) quoted in more then 300 times and with 9 different meanings according to tafsir sources:

  1. As the punishment in afterlife, and this is the most used meaning for example in the description of Jahanam and to qualify the punishment of afterlife as harder then the one in dunya.
  2. As the punishment in this life (dunya) like here
  3. As the punishment of zina here and here
  4. As transforming or defacing
  5. As killing and ablation
  6. As hunger and famine
  7. As despoil and loss of assets, fortune etc.
  8. As tearing out feathers and cutting a wing of the hoopoe (al-hudhud/hodhod) and finally
  9. As the torment of the grave

The word العقاب in the Quran

On the meaning and origin of العقاب in Arabic language:

the origin of this word is عقب which means succeeding or following. So it's used to say that something will come later or to let something be followed by an other. This is why our Messenger (peace be upon him) was called العاقب because he was the last Prophet who came! On the other hand it's also an expression of the hardness and difficulty that's why العقبة (the steep path) which is usually in mountains is called so as it's difficult to pass. Therefore it's also used to express hardness and distress

In the Quran you will find this word as the noun "العقاب" and some of it's derivative like العاقبة, العقبى, and as a verb and they have been quoted with 6 different meanings:

  1. As العذاب and this is the most used meaning like in and in.
  2. As a gain or profit.
  3. As the killing.
  4. As the equivalent (in return) = To give back as you were given or return the like!
  5. As العاقبة = the aftereffect at the end of something.
  6. As العقبى = refuge

This was my translation, so take it with care!

And Allah knows best!

See also in this Source (in Arabic) for more information!

  • In Moroccan Arabic we use 3oqoba as punishment because you don't follow the rules of school or don't listen to your parents. Al3aqba means a steep path. 3adab means suffering or misery. If I'm suffering than I say like "Ana m3addab". So if one doesn't act as Allah recommends you, you'll be suffering yourself. But that's how I understand, wa Allah a3lam. – AndaluZ May 13 '16 at 12:11
  • 1
    @AndaluZ Thanks, but you don't need to teach me Moroccan Arabic, as i grow up with it. I just wanted to show that there's no fix translation, as it depend on the context of the verse! – Medi1Saif May 18 '16 at 13:59

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