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The مقطعات حروف Huruf Muqatta’at
The مقطعات حروف 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.