Qur'an talks of Prophet Noah's age in 29:14 as follows.

And We certainly sent Noah to his people, and he remained among them a thousand years minus fifty years, and the flood seized them while they were wrongdoers.

Why does it say thousand years minus fifty years rather than directly saying 950 years? More precisely, what I'd like to ask is how should we understand this verse ? Does it literally mean Prophet Noah lived for 950 years or might it have a figurative meaning?

  • 2
    Maybe it is just a more poetic way of saying it.
    – The Z
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 19:28
  • 6
    "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." - its not that weird. You're just too used to the decimal system. There have been many ways of counting through history if you look into it. Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 20:14
  • Numbers aren't usually figurative. Qur'an is being precise. Knowing that after so many years of preaching a prophet of Allah only had enough people to put in a single ship gives is fascinating in the sense of religion ie that a prophet of Allah and his people were heavily outnumbered. But ultimately as to why not just say 950. I don't know. Just as @MoziburUllah said it could be a figure of speech, because it's really close to a thousand and Allah wants us to ponder that people will get tested over and over. Don't complain for 950 days of test as others have been tested for 950 years
    – Thaqalain
    Commented Dec 8, 2020 at 13:43
  • @Honey: The Qu'ran and the Bible can be read in many ways and numbers can be figuarative. After all, they are figures. Commented Dec 12, 2020 at 4:31
  • Not really an answer: "a thousand years minus fifty years" It is actually beautiful. Just think about French nowadays: "99" is actually "four times twenty and ten and nine = 4 x 20 + 10 + 9". So 1000+ years ago, they used the beautiful number 1000 as a reference for the age, and they adjusted it with a subtraction. It still makes more sense than French. At least as a way of thinking, it might even be related to the Roman numerals: 950 = (1000 - 100) + 50 = (M - C) + L = CML. Or breaking the rules a little: 950 = 1000 - 50 = LM
    – virolino
    Commented Dec 10, 2021 at 22:49

3 Answers 3


The reason Allah said "a thousand years except fifty" instead of "nine hundred and fifty years" may be three-fold from the point of view of eloquence:

  1. Giving an exception gives more sense of accuracy. If someone just said "a hundred years," a person is more likely to think this is simply an estimate rather than when someone who says "a hundred years except one month." So, it is possible this phrasing gives a higher sense of accuracy, and Allah wants to emphasize that he actually lived this long.

  2. The purpose of mentioning how long he lived is to emphasize how patient Nuh (AS) was with his people. With that goal in mind, the phrase mentioning "thousand" holds more of a punch and has a larger effect to emphasize the length of his time.

  3. It's simply an easier phrase to say and understand than nine hundred ninety five. Part of eloquence is to say things in the simplest and most vivid way.

I would also add that this phrase sounds more "weird" in English than it is in Arabic. Part of it sounding weird is the repetition of the word "year." However, the word for "year" is not repeated in Arabic. Allah uses two synonyms for year in the verse so a word is not repeated. Sadly, there is no synonym for "year" in English, so it is hard to demonstrate how it sounds.

And Allah knows best,


Why is the age of Noah strangely mentioned in Qur'an 29:14? Verse 14 of Surah Al-Ankabut is mentioned. God says: (We sent Noah to his people and he stayed among them for a thousand years except fifty years); “And We sent Noah to his people, and he remained among them a thousand years, minus fifty.” The interpretation of "a thousand years but fifty years" - while it might have said 950 years from the beginning - refers to the greatness and length of this time; Because the number "thousand", in the form of "thousand years", is a very large number for the "period of propaganda".

The appearance of the above verse is that this amount was not the whole life of Noah (pbuh) - although the current "Torah" mentions this number for the whole period of the life of Noah (pbuh), (1) but after the flood there is another period of life According to some commentators, it was three hundred years. Of course, this long life is very large on the scale of the lives of our time and never seems natural, the amount of life in those days may be different from today, in principle, the people of Noah, as some evidence shows, life They had a long life, and in the meantime, the life of Noah (pbuh) himself was extraordinary, which also shows that the structure of human existence allows him to live a long life. (2) (1): "Torah", Genesis, Chapter 9.

Ref.: https://makarem.ir/main.aspx?lid=0&typeinfo=42&catid=29285&pageindex=215&mid=318279


the same way when the quran mention the duration of the people of the cave. the quran mention 300 added 9 instead of 309 years straight away. from what i read, it is due to the intercalation months when we use unisolar calendar. About the same way as the jew and chinese calendar

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