“…and Allāh will not punish them while they seek forgiveness.” وما كان الله معذبهم وهم يستغفرون
What do I love about the mufassir? He is a keen observer of the innocuous, and will unabashedly ask such questions as, “Why would Allāh use the verb يستغفرون instead of the noun مستغفرون?” and “Is there a difference?” With this thread of thought, the mufassir unravels wisdoms from the folds of language. A noun does what a verb cannot, and a mufassir will hunch over grammar books to study these subtleties. While a verb is fleeting and temporary, a noun escapes the clutches of time and sprawls into permanency. “You are a runner” (noun) tells of your consistency; your disciplined routine that molds your identity, your habit, your character. A mere “you run” (verb), on the other hand, suggests sporadic attempts. You run, but not often. Perhaps when the weather is pleasant and your Netflix account is expired. Or something like that.
When applying this noun-verb concept to Qur`ān, the Language Buff unravels a wisdom that evades Casual Reader. Read that verse one more time, will you? “…and Allāh will not punish them while they seek forgiveness.” Ah, the fleeting, temporary verb, “yastaghfirūn.” The Language Buff mufassir learns that Allāh doesn’t divert punishment exclusively from [مستغفرون] the habitual seekers of forgiveness. No, no, His raḥma encompasses much more than that. Rather, He diverts punishment from the occasional repenter; the sporadic forgiveness-seeker. Those who hurriedly and half-heartedly utter استغفر الله after prayer, with only a flicker of sincerity, before rushing to catch the next Netflix film.
Such is our Rabb, subḥānah, jalla wa ʿalā. He is satisfied with token gestures. When our characters fall short of virtue, when our attempts fall short of habit, when we owe Him so much more, yet give Him much less, He makes a promise: your fleeting, temporary `istighfār for His abounding raḥma. It’s that simple.