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Quran talks about prophets coming to nations. And it usually uses two words for this:

  1. آتاهم; come to them
  2. جائتهم; he came to them

Is there a strength difference between these two?

For example, can we say جائتهم means prophets came more seriously, they preached more, and brought more signs and miracles?

The words (آتاهم/come to them), (جائتهم/he came to them) are used in :

64:6

ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّهُۥ كَانَت تَّأْتِيهِمْ رُسُلُهُم بِٱلْبَيِّنَـٰتِ فَقَالُوٓا۟ أَبَشَرٌ يَهْدُونَنَا فَكَفَرُوا۟ وَتَوَلَّوا۟ ۚ وَّٱسْتَغْنَى ٱللَّهُ ۚ وَٱللَّهُ غَنِىٌّ حَمِيدٌ

That was because their messengers used to come to them with clear proofs, but they said ˹mockingly˺, “How can humans be our guides?” So they persisted in disbelief and turned away. And Allah was not in need ˹of their faith˺. For Allah is Self-Sufficient, Praiseworthy.

61:6

وَإِذْ قَالَ عِيسَى ٱبْنُ مَرْيَمَ يَـٰبَنِىٓ إِسْرَٰٓءِيلَ إِنِّى رَسُولُ ٱللَّهِ إِلَيْكُم مُّصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَىَّ مِنَ ٱلتَّوْرَىٰةِ وَمُبَشِّرًۢا بِرَسُولٍ يَأْتِى مِنۢ بَعْدِى ٱسْمُهُۥٓ أَحْمَدُ ۖ فَلَمَّا جَآءَهُم بِٱلْبَيِّنَـٰتِ قَالُوا۟ هَـٰذَا سِحْرٌ مُّبِينٌ

And ˹remember˺ when Jesus, son of Mary, said, “O children of Israel! I am truly Allah’s messenger to you, confirming the Torah which came before me, and giving good news of a messenger after me whose name will be Aḥmad.”1 Yet when the Prophet came to them with clear proofs, they said, “This is pure magic.”

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    It would be more helpful if you shared corresponding verses!
    – Sassir
    Sep 24 at 22:34

1 Answer 1

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Different Sources of Arabic

We have three major primary sources of the Arabic language:

  1. Usage of the Quran

  2. Explanations of the early Muslims

  3. Usage of the Arabs, which can be further divided into:

    a. Ahadith (Usage of the Prophet)

    b. Poetry

    c. Usage of the rest of the Arabs in conversation

Secondary sources of Arabic include the linguists and early dictionaries. They are secondary because they derive their explanation from the aforementioned primary sources.

I could find no dictionary mentioning a difference between أتى and جاء. It is obviously difficult to check the usage of the Arabs of the time today. I could not find any explanation from the early Muslims that differentiated them.

Existence of Synonyms

The scholars differed about whether synonyms truly exist. Ibn Taymiyyah was of the opinion that true synonyms cannot exist. There is always a slight difference in meaning between two words whether we know it or not.

If someone adopts the opinion that synonyms can exist, he could simply say the two words are synonymous and be done with it. If someone adopts the position they cannot exist, then he could try to find some sort of difference.

Possible Difference

Since most of the sources do not indicate any difference to us, we are left with the Quran, Ahadith, and poetry.

Some people, looking at the different usage of the Quran and Ahadith for the two words, concluded that جاء indicates something that took more effort than أتى. This is based on their observation that Allah usually uses جاء in the Quran to indicate a coming that took more effort than أتى.

This would be classed as tafsir of the Quran from the Quran, and it is not determining something new about the Quran from a source outside it.

It is also possible for someone to analyze poetry to see how the poets used the two words, but I have not seen someone do that.

Whatever you do, any difference you determine would never be extremely conclusive or definitive because the proposed difference is too minute to measure precisely. Someone can think one situation is difficult and another can think it is easy. So, it depends on the reader to an extent and his own assessment of Allah's usage in the Quran.

And Allah knows best.

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