فَرَدَدْنَاهُ إِلَىٰ أُمِّهِ كَيْ تَقَرَّ عَيْنُهَا وَلَا تَحْزَنَ
And thus We brought him (Musa) back to his mother, so that she might he comforted, and that she grieve no longer, and that she might know that God’s promise always comes true – even though most of them don’t know!
The phrase كَيْ تَقَرَّ عَيْنُهَا is generally translated as “so that she might be comforted,” but this oversimplification in translation overlooks the beauty of this description, which is also used in other places, such as a Dua in Surah Furqan:
وَالَّذِينَ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا هَبْ لَنَا مِنْ أَزْوَاجِنَا وَذُرِّيَّاتِنَا قُرَّةَ أَعْيُنٍ وَاجْعَلْنَا لِلْمُتَّقِينَ إِمَامًا
And those who pray: “O our Lord! Make our spouses and our offspring to be a joy to our eyes…”
In this case, the same expression, قُرَّةَ أَعْيُنٍ, is translated as a joy to our eyes, as opposed to a comfort. So what does this intriguing expression actually mean? Taken literally, قُرَّةَ أَعْيُنٍ means coolness of the eye, but even that seems like a somewhat abnormal description in these contexts.
To understand the saying, we must look to the Arab culture of the time, which inevitably intertwines with the language. The Arabs split tears (yes, the wet things that come out of our eyes) into two categories. The first of those categories was tears of happiness and overwhelming joy. The tears that naturally well up when we’re reunited with people we care about or love deeply after long lengths of time. The second of those categories was tears that come of anguish, suffering, sadness, and pain. The tears of happiness were known as cool tears, whereas the tears of pain were known as hot, or warm tears.
When we look at these Ayaat with this understanding, they hold much more emotional value. Yes, the coolness of the eyes of Musa’s mother alludes to comfort and gladness, but it also describes how that happiness expressed and exerted itself. It describes her tears of joy as she held her son after he’d been cast into a river and taken into the palace of the Pharaoh.
In the second example, this phrase of cool tears illustrates tranquility and thankful joy. It describes tears that come from suddenly realizing how beautiful something is, in this case the blessing of a righteous family. Perhaps walking into a room and witnessing your young son or daughter praying on their own, or appreciating the care and efforts of your spouse. This Arabic background adds a whole new layer of expression and emotion to these Ayaat, and allows us to connect with them in our own hearts.
We ask Allah to keep our tears cool, our smiles wide, and our hearts open. Ameen.