To look back to the original meaning of a word is to embark on more than just a linguistic voyage; in some cases, tracing a word back to its original meaning is actually the key to unlocking one of the treasures of the guidance of the Qur’an.
For example, Allaah said in the introduction to the story of Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him),
نَحْنُ نَقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ أَحْسَنَ الْقَصَصِ بِمَا أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ هَـذَا الْقُرْآنَ وَإِن كُنتَ مِن قَبْلِهِ لَمِنَ الْغَافِلِينَ
We relate to you, the best of stories (qasas) in what We have revealed to you of this Qur’an although you were, before it, among the unaware.
wherein the real secret behind Allah relating this story to us lies in none other than the word story itself.
The word being used for story in this verse is qissah قصة (pl. qasas قصص), is derived from the root qaaf-saad ق-ص. The primary connotation of this root is ‘to follow’. This meaning is further evidenced by the verse,
وَقَالَتْ لِأُخْتِهِ قُصِّيهِ
And she said to his sister, “Follow him”
wherein the mother of Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) told his sister to follow Musa after the family of the Pharoah had picked him from the river, and the word used by Allah for ‘follow’ in the verse was qusseehi قُصِّيهِ– also derived from the root ق-ص.
Similarly, the juridical term qisaas قصاص referring to the law of equality in punishment, is so called because it involves following in the footsteps of another – doing to one person what they have done to another.
And thus we find that the word qissah قصة (story) as has been used in the Qur’an has been chosen over all other synonyms (such as hadeeth حديث or hikaayah حكاية) because it indicates that the story is not being narrated for the sake of amusement or entertainment, but rather within the word itself lies the explanation that the story is being related for the reader to follow in the footsteps of the one being spoken about in the story… although you were, before it, among the unaware.