Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2 : 1

بِسْمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ الٓمٓ

Translations

Basic Translation
Alif, Lam, Meem.

Qur'an Dictionary

Click word/image to view Qur'an Dictionary
Word Arabic word
(2:1:1)
alif-lam-meem
Alif Laam Meem

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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The مقطعات‎ حروف Huruf Muqatta’at

The مقطعاتحروف Huruf Muqatta’at "disjointed letters" are combinations of between one and five Arabic letters appearing at the beginning of 29 out of the 114 Surahs of the Quran (approximately 33% of Surahs). The letters are written together like a word, but each letter is pronounced separately. Some of these are a complete Ayat in it of themselves whilst others are part of a longer Ayat (some qurra number the endings of Ayat differently).  There is only one instance, Surah 42: Shura (Ha Mim, Ayn Sin Qaf), where the disjointed letters are part of two separate Ayaat.

Meaning of the Muqatta’at

A group of scholars refrained from interpreting Ayaat which contain Huruf Muqatta’at and it was not narrated that the Prophet explained them. It is preferable to say Allah knows better about what they mean. However, it was narrated that some of the scholars, even amongst the Sahabah, did interpret them and they differed in their interpretation. 

Some of the scholars who tried to discover the wisdom behind these letters said; these letters mentioned at the beginning of Surahs point to the miraculous nature of the Qur’an, and implies that all mankind is unable to match it, even though it is composed of the letters that they use in their daily speech.

Ibn Kathir writes, "The individual letters in the beginning of some Surahs are among those things whose knowledge Allah has kept only for Himself. This was reported from Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali and Ibn Mas’ud. It was said that these letters are the names of some of the Surahs. The wisdom behind mentioning these letters in the beginning of the Surahs, regardless of the exact meanings of these letters, is that they testify to the miracle of the Qur'an. Indeed, the servants are unable to produce something like the Qur'an, although it is comprised of the same letters with which they speak to each other."

One of the benefits of these letters is a rhetorical benefit; O you disbelievers, how come you cannot come up with a similar Qur'an to this one? Aren't these the same letters you use in your daily speech? So why can't you produce a similar Qur'an if it is not from Allah?

We do not know their true meaning and this humbles mankind - people who recite letters in their daily speech but they do not have full knowledge of the meanings of all words. In Surah al Fatihah, we asked Allah to 'guide us to the upright path'. These letters show that we cannot be guided by our own will and we need Allah's help. The letters show that we cannot know and understand everything, so we should put more hope and reliance upon Allah. Allah lets us know that if you really want to get guidance from this Book - you will have to ask Allah to give you understanding of this religion, you cannot know it of your own accord. So an arrogant attitude will prevent you from true knowledge, and submission to Allah will open the doors for true understanding.

Analysis and Figures

There are 29 Surahs that have the Huruf Muqatta’at. These are:

1. Surah 2: al-Baqarah - Alif Lam Mim الم

2. Surah 3: ale-Imran - Alif Lam Mim الم

3. Surah 7: al-A'raf - Alif Lam Mim Sad المص

4. Surah 10: Yunus - Alif Lam Ra الر

5. Surah 11: Hūd - Alif Lam Ra الر

6. Surah 12: Yusuf - Alif Lam Ra الر

7. Surah 13: ar-Ra'd - Alif Lam Mim Ra المر

8. Surah 14: Ibrahim - Alif Lam Ra الر

9. Surah 15: al-Hijr - Alif Lam Ra الر

10. Surah 19: Maryam - Kaf Ha Ya Ain Sad كهيعص

11. Surah 20: Ta Ha - Ta Ha طه

12. Surah 26: ash-Shuʿara - Ta Sin Mim طسم

13. Surah 27: an-Naml - Ta Sin طس

14. Surah 28: al-Qasas - Ta-Sin Mim طسم

 15. Surah 29: al-Ankabut  - Alif Lam Mim الم

16. Surah 30: ar-Rum  - Alif Lam Mim الم

17. Surah 31: Luqman -  Alif Lam Mim الم

18. Surah 32: as-Sajdah - Alif Lam Mim الم

19. Surah 36: Ya Sin - Ya Sin يس

20. Surah 38: Saad - Saad ص

21. Surah 40: Ghafir - Ha Mim حم

22. Surah 41: Fussilat - Ha Mim حم

23. Surah 42: ash-Shura - Ha Mim; Ain Sin Qaf حم عسق

24. Surah 43: Az-Zukhruf Ha Mim حم

25. Surah 44: ad-Dukhan - Ha Mim حم

26. Surah 45: al-Jathiya Ḥā Mīm حم

27. Surah 46: al-AHqaf - Ha Mim حم

28. Surah 50: Qaf - Qaf ق

29.Surah 68: Al-Qalam - Nun ن

Four Surahs are named after their Muqatta'at letters, Surah Ta-Ha (20), Ya-Sin (36), Sad (38) and Qaf (50).

14, 14 and 14

Of the 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet, exactly one half appear as Muqatta'at, either singly or in combinations of two, three, four or five letters. The most frequent are Alif Lam Mim and Ha Mim, occurring six times each.

The 14 letters that are used as Muqatta'at are; alif أ, ha هـ, Ha ح, ta ط, ya ي, kaf ك, lam ل, mim م, nun ن, sin س, ayn ع, saad ص, qaf ق, ra ر.

The 14 letters that are not used are; ba ب, ta ت, tha ث, jeem ج, kha خ, dal د, dhal ذ, zal ز, dzha ظ, dhad ض, ghayn غ, fa ف, sheen ش, waw و.

Interestingly, there is also a total combination of 14 patterns used;

1. Alif Lam Mim الم

2. Alif Lam Mim Sad المص

3. Alif Lam Ra الر

4. Alif Lam Mim Ra المر

5. Kaf Ha Ya Ain Sad كهيعص

6. Ta Ha طه

7. Ta Sin Mim طسم

8. Ta Sin طس

9. Ya Sin يس

10. Saad ص

11. Ha Mim حم

12. Ha Mim; Ain Sin Qaf حم عسق

13. Qaf ق

14. Nun ن

Combinations of 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 letters.

a.    Three Surahs begin with only one letter:

(i)    Surah 38: Sad with Sad

(ii)   Surah 50: Qaf with Qaf

(iii)  Surah 68: Qalam  with Nun

b.    The combination of two letters occurs in 10 Surahs:

Three of them occur only once each:

(i)   Surah 20: Ta Ha  has Ta Ha

(ii)  Surah 27: al Naml has Ta Seen

(iii) Surah 36: Ya Sin  has Ya Seen

Ha Meem occurs in seven consecutive Surahs from Surah 40 to Surah 46:

(i)    Surah 40: Ghafir

(ii)   Surah 41: Fussilat

(iii)  Surah 42: ash-Shura 

(iv)  Surah 43: az-Zukhruf 

(v)   Surah 44: ad-Dukhan 

(vi)  Surah 45: al-Jathiyah 

(vii) Surah 46:al-Ahqaf 

c.    There are three combinations of three letters each occurring in 14 Surahs. 

Alif Laam Meem occurs in six Surahs

(i)   Surah Al Baqarah  2

(ii)  Surah Ali ‘Imran  3

(iii) Surah Al ‘Ankabut  29

(iv) Surah Al Rum  30

(v)  Surah Luqman  31

(vi) Surah Al Sajdah  32

Alif Laam Ra   occurs in six consecutive Surahs: Surah 10 to Surah 15:

(i)    Surah Yunus  10

(ii)   Surah Hud  11

(iii)  Surah Yusuf  12

(iv)  Surah Al Rad  13

(v)   Surah Ibrahim  14

(vi)  Surah Al Hijr  15

Ta Seen Meem  occurs in two Surahs:

(i)   Surah Al-Shura  26

(ii)  Surah Al-Qasas  28

d.    Combination of four letters occurs twice:

(i)   Surah Aaraf  7: Alif Laam Meem Sad

(ii)  Surah Ar-Ra`d  13: Alif Laam Meem Ra

e.    Combination of five letters occurs twice:

(i)   Surah Maryam  19 begins with Kaf Ha Ya Ayn Sad

(ii)   Surah Al-Shura  42 begins with Ha Meem Ayn Seen Qaf

 

Some reflections on the Disjointed Letters - حروف مقطعات‎ Huruf Muqatta’at

The human body is composed of various fundamental elements that are found in nature. Clay and dust are composed of the same fundamental elements. Yet it would be absurd to say that a human being is exactly the same as the dust. We can all have access to the elements that are found in the human body, and add a few gallons of water, which is the constitution of the human body. We know the elements in the human body and yet we are at a loss when asked the secret of life.

Similarly the Qur’an addresses those people who reject its Divine authority. It tells them that this Qur’an, is in your own language, and over which the Arabs took pride. It is composed of the same letters that the Arabs used to express themselves most eloquently. The Arabs were very proud of their language and Arabic was at its peak when the Qur’an was revealed. With the letters Alif Lam Mim, Ya Sin, Ha-Mim, etc., (in English we would say A, B, C, D) the Qur’an challenges mankind to produce a Surah  similar to the Qur’an, in beauty, elegance, accuracy and truth, if they doubt its authenticity.

Initially, the Qur’an challenges all the men and jinn to produce a recital like the Qur’an and adds that they would not be able to do it even if they backed each other. This challenge is mentioned in Surah Isra (17:88) and in Surah Tur (52:34). Later the Qur’an repeats the challenge in Surah Hud (11:13) by saying produce ten Surahs like it and later in Surah Yunus (10:38) produce one surah like it and finally the easiest challenge is given in Surah Al-Baqarah (2:23).

"And if ye are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant, then produce a Surah like thereunto; and call your witnesses or helpers (if there are any) besides Allah if your doubts are true. But if ye cannot – and of a surety ye cannot – then fear the fire whose fuel is men and stones – which is prepared for those who reject faith." (2:23-24).

The Arabs are noted for their rhetoric ability, eloquence and meaningful expression. Just as the constituents of the human body are known to us and can be obtained by us, the letters comprising the Qur’an, such as Alif Lam Mim are known to us, and used frequently to formulate words. Life cannot be created by us, even if we possess knowledge of the constituents of the human body. Similarly we cannot capture the same eloquence and beauty of expression, accuracy and truth that we find in the Qur’an, despite knowing the letters that constitute the Qu’ran. The Qur’an thus proves its Divine origin.

2. Linguistic Analysis

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3. Surah Overview

4. Miscellaneous Information

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5. Connected/Related Ayat

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6. Frequency of the word

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7. Period of Revelation

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The scholars are unanimous that Surah al-Baqarah is Madani and that it was the first Surah revealed in Madinah. [Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani in Fath al-Bari no. 160/8].

Despite it being the first Surah to be revealed in Madinah, it contains Ayaat from a later period also. In fact, according to Ibn Abbas [as mentioned in Ibn Kathir] the last Ayat revealed to the Prophet was Ayat no. 281 from Surah al-Baqarah and this occurred 8 days or so before his death [which corresponds to the year 11 Hijri].

8. Reasons for Revelation

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In order to understand the meaning of this Surah, we should know its historical background:

1. At Makkah, the Quran generally addressed the polytheist Quraysh who were ignorant of Islam, but at Madinah it was also concerned with the Jews who were acquainted with the creed of Monotheism, Prophethood, Revelation, the Hereafter and Angels. They also professed to believe in the law which was revealed by God to their Prophet Moses, and in principle, their way was the same (Islam) that was being taught by Prophet Muhammad. But they had strayed away from it during the centuries of degeneration and had adopted many un-Islamic creeds, rites and customs of which there was no mention and for which there was no sanction in the Torah. Not only this: they had tampered with the Torah by inserting their own explanations and interpretations into its text. They had distorted even that part of the Word of God which had remained intact in their Scriptures and taken out of it the real spirit of true religion and were now clinging to a lifeless frame of rituals. Consequently their beliefs, their morals and their conduct had gone to the lowest depths of degeneration. The pity is that they were not only satisfied with their condition but loved to cling to it. Besides this, they had no intention or inclination to accept any kind of reform. So they became bitter enemies of those who came to teach them the Right Way and did their utmost to defeat every such effort. Though they were originally Muslims, they had swerved from the real Islam and made innovations and alterations in it and had fallen victims to hair splitting and sectarianism. They had forgotten and forsaken God and begun to serve material wealth. So much so that they had even given up their original name “Muslim” and adopted the name “Jew” instead, and made religion the sole monopoly of the children of Israel. This was their religious condition when the Prophet went to Madinah and invited the Jews to the true religion. That is why more than one third of this Surah has been addressed to the children of Israel. A critical review of their history, their moral degeneration and their religious perversions has been made. Side by side with this, the high standard of morality and the fundamental principles of the pure religion have been put forward in order to bring out clearly the nature of the degeneration of the community of a prophet when it goes astray and to draw clear lines of demarcation between real piety and formalism, and the essentials and non-essentials of the true religion.

2. At Makkah, Islam was mainly concerned with the propagation of its fundamental principles and the moral training of its followers. But after the migration of the Prophet to Madinah, where Muslims had come to settle from all over Arabia and where a tiny Islamic State had been set up with the help of the ‘local supporters’ (Ansar), naturally the Quran had to turn its attention to the social, cultural, economic, political and legal problems as well. This accounts for the difference between the themes of the Surahs revealed at Makkah and those at Madinah. Accordingly about half of this Surah deals with those principles and regulations which are essential for the integration and solidarity of a community and for the solution of its problems.

After the migration to Madinah, the struggle between Islam and disbelief (Kufr) had also entered a new phase. Before this the Believers, who propagated Islam among their own clans and tribes, had to face its opponents at their own risk. But the conditions had changed at Madinah, where Muslims from all parts of Arabia had come and settled as one community, and had established an independent city state. Here it became a struggle for the survival of the Community itself, for the whole of non-Muslim Arabia was bent upon and united in crushing it totally. Hence the following instructions, upon which depended not only its success but its very survival, were revealed in this Surah:

a. The Community should work with the utmost zeal to propagate its ideology and win over to its side the greatest possible number of people.

b. It should so expose its opponents as to leave no room for doubt in the mind of any sensible person that they were adhering to an absolutely wrong position.

c. It should infuse in its members (the majority of whom were homeless and indigent and surrounded on all sides by enemies) that courage and fortitude which is so indispensable to their very existence in the adverse circumstances in which they were struggling and to prepare them to face these boldly.

d. It should also keep them ready and prepared to meet any armed menace, which might come from any side to suppress and crush their ideology, and to oppose it tooth and nail without minding the overwhelming numerical strength and the material resources of its enemies.

e. It should also create in them that courage which is needed for the eradication of evil ways and for the establishment of the Islamic Way instead. That is why God has revealed in this Surah such instructions as may help achieve all the above mentioned objects.

At the time of the revelation of Al-Baqarah, all sorts of hypocrites had begun to appear. God has, therefore, briefly pointed out their characteristics here. Afterwards when their evil characteristics and mischievous deeds became manifest, God sent detailed instructions about them. [REF: Mawdudi]

9. Relevant Hadith

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10. Wiki Forum

Comments in this section are statements made by general users – these are not necessarily explanations of the Ayah – rather a place to share personal thoughts and stories…

11. Tafsir Zone

 

12. External Links

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