Surah Yunus (Jonah) 10 : 1

بِسْمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ الٓر ۚ تِلْكَ ءَايَٰتُ ٱلْكِتَٰبِ ٱلْحَكِيمِ


 Muhsin Khan
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
Alif, Lām, Rā. These are the verses of the wise Book.

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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Frequency of Root words in this Ayat used in this Surah *

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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We learn from hadith the Surah was revealed in Makkah. But there are some people who are of the opinion that some of its verses were revealed at Madinah. This is however a superficial view. The continuity of the theme clearly shows that this does not comprise isolated verses or discourses that were revealed at different times and on different occasions. On the contrary it is from the beginning to the end a closely connected discourse which must have been revealed at one sitting. Besides this the nature of its theme is itself a clear proof that the Surah belongs to the Makkan period. [Ref: Mawdudi]

Some consider it to have been revealed after Surah al-Isra [17] and before Hud [11] – which would place it around year 11 of Prophethood.[Ref: Ibn Ashoor, Tahrir wa Tanwir]

8. Reasons for Revelation

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We have no hadith in regard to the time of its revelation but its subject matter gives clear indication that it must have been revealed during the last stage of the Prophet’s residence at Makkah. For the mode of the discourse suggests that at the time of its revelation the antagonism of the opponents of the Message had become so intense that they could not tolerate even the presence of the Prophet and his followers among themselves and that things had come to such a pass as to leave no hope that they would ever understand and accept the Message of the Prophet. This indicates that the last stage of the Prophet’s life among the people had come and the final warning like the one in this Surah had to be given. These characteristics of the discourse are clear proof that it was revealed during the last stage of the Movement at Makkah. Another thing that determines more specifically the order of the Surahs of the last stage at Makkah is the mention (or absence) of some open or covert hint about emigration (Hijrah) from Makkah. As this Surah does not contain any hint whatsoever about this it is a proof that it preceded those Surahs which contain it. Now that we have specified the time of its revelation there is no need of repeating its historical background because that has already been stated in Surah 6: al-An’am (The Grazing Livestock) and  Surah 7: al-A’raf (The Elevations).

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


Overview (Verses 1 - 2)

This sūrah is a single unit, difficult to divide into sections and subunits. In this respect it is similar to Sūrah 6, Cattle, which takes up Volume V of this work. However, each of the two sūrahs has its own distinctive character. This sūrah also flows in successive waves to inspire our hearts, choosing various rhythms for its address. It wonders at the outset how the unbelievers received the Qur’ān, the new revelation from on high, and follows this with scenes of the universe which reflect the truth of God’s creation and His control of the universe. This is followed with scenes of the Day of Judgement. It reflects on how people react to the events they witness and on the fate of earlier communities. Its other themes have already been referred to in the Prologue.
If we have to divide the sūrah into sections, then the first one occupies more than its first half and this flows with perfect ease. This is followed by a short account of the Prophet Noah and his mission, and a brief reference to the prophets sent after him, before giving an account of the history of the Prophet Moses and a reference to the Prophet Jonah and his community. These accounts and references form another section. The final verses in the sūrah form a section of their own. In view of the nature of this sūrah, we will attempt to discuss it in groups of waves addressing related themes.
This first section begins with three individual letters, Alif, Lām, Rā, in the same way as Sūrahs 2, 3 and 7 discussed in Volumes I, II and VI respectively. We explained in our commentary on these earlier sūrahs our view about why these sūrahs begin with such individual letters. To recap, from a linguistic point of view, these three individual letters form a subject while the predicate is the sentence that follows: ‘These are verses of the divine book, full of wisdom.’ (Verse 1)
The sūrah then refers to a number of things which reflect the wisdom to which reference is made in the description of this book, the Qur’ān. These start with a revelation to God’s Messenger so that he could warn all people and deliver a piece of happy news to the believers. It refutes the objection voiced by some people that God has chosen a human being to be the recipient of His revelations. It also refers to the creation of the heavens and the earth and how their affairs are conducted and regulated, as well as making the sun a source of bright light while the moon reflects light. Mention is also made of the stages the moon goes through and how people use these to calculate the years and measure time. The alternation of the night and day is also mentioned by way of reference to the wisdom involved in such alternation.
After presenting these scenes, the sūrah moves on to speak of those who do not reflect on such miracles and who do not expect to meet with their Lord, who creates and regulates all things. It refers to the black end that awaits those who choose to remain unaware of the import of God’s creation and, by contrast, the perfect happiness that is in store for believers. The sūrah also refers to the wisdom behind delaying the punishment till its appointed day. Had God decided to speed up the awful result of their work, they would immediately face their end.
The sūrah then reflects on the attitude of human beings to good and evil. It shows how they appeal earnestly to God to lift their suffering, and how they forget Him after He has responded to their appeals: they unhesitatingly go back to their old, errant ways. In short, they take no lesson from what happened to earlier communities who met their doom.
Although the fate of those communities was clear to the Arabs whom the Prophet Muĥammad addressed, calling on them to accept God’s message, the unbelievers asked the Prophet to bring them a different Qur’ān or change parts of it. They would not consider that the Qur’ān was revealed by God, and as such admits no change or modification. They worshipped idols which could bring them no benefit and cause them no harm, and they relied on no sound proof to support their beliefs. At the same time they denied God in spite of the revelations they received from on high supporting the call to believe in Him alone.
Furthermore, they demanded miracles, ignoring the clearly miraculous nature of the Qur’ān itself, and turning a blind eye to all signs scattered in the world around them confirming that God is the Lord of the universe.
This first passage then portrays a vivid example of how people receive God’s grace and how they react when hardship or disaster befalls them. This is given in a scene that is full of life, with people boarding ships that go easily in the sea before they face a raging storm that brings them into contact with ferocious waves from every direction.
This passage then draws another scene which describes the deceptive fleeting nature of this life, and how all its glitter vanishes in an instant, while people are dazzled by its brightness, unaware of the impending doom. At the same time, God calls on them to seek the life of peace, security and reassurance which does not end suddenly, like the present life. He states that all these signs are explained for a definite purpose: ‘Thus do We spell out Our revelations to people who think.” (Verse 24) It is such people who understand God’s wisdom in His creation and the way He conducts and regulates all matters.
Something to Marvel at
“Alif. Lām. Rā. These are verses of the divine book, full of wisdom.” (Verse 1) These are three letters of the Arabic alphabet from which all the verses of this divine book that is full of wisdom are composed. The unbelievers deny that God revealed this book to His Messenger. Furthermore, whilst they realize that these are the letters of their language, they are unable to produce a single verse similar to what the Qur’ān contains. In fact the sūrah includes a challenge to them to do so. Yet their inability to take up that challenge does not lead them to reflect that the thing which God’s Messenger has and they lack is the revelation he receives from on high. Had it not been for revelation, he would have had the same difficulty, and would have been unable to compose out of these letters that are available to all a single verse like the Qur’ān.
“These are verses of the divine book, full of wisdom.” (Verse 1) It is indeed a wise book which addresses human beings with what suits human nature. It portrays in the present sūrah some aspects that are always true of human nature, reflected across every generation. In its wisdom it calls on those who remain unaware to wake up and reflect on the signs they see all around them in the wide universe, in the heavens and the earth, in the sun and the moon, in the night and day, in the fate of earlier communities and how they had responded to the appeals of their messengers, and in everything that points to the great power that conducts and regulates all existence.
“Does it seem strange to people that We have inspired a man from their own midst: ‘Warn all mankind, and give those who believe the glad tidings that they are on a sound footing with their Lord?’ The unbelievers say: ‘This is plainly a skilled enchanter.’” (Verse 2) This is a rhetorical question which wonders at the attitude which considers the very concept of revelation strange.
Every one of God’s messengers was received with the same disbelieving question: “Has God sent a human being as His messenger?” (17: 94) This question stems from the fact that people do not appreciate the value of ‘humanity’ which they themselves represent. They find it hard to believe that a human being could be chosen as God’s messenger and that God sends down to him revelations, commanding him to make the way of guidance for others clear. They imagine that God would send an angel or some other creature belonging to a category superior to mankind. They do not realize how God has honoured man, and part of that honour is that man is well qualified to bear God’s message, and that God chooses certain human beings with whom He has this special relationship.
At the time of the Prophet Muĥammad (peace be upon him), this was the main point of contention among the unbelievers who refused to believe in his message. The same was true of the unbelievers of earlier generations and communities. In this modern age of ours, some people invent a similarly absurd doubt. They wonder: how does contact happen between a human being with his limited physical nature and God who is totally unlike everything else and whose nature is unlike the nature of everything He has created?
Such a question cannot be asked except by one who fully comprehends the nature of God Himself with all its aspects, and who also understands all the characteristics God has given to man. No one in his right mind, aware of the limitations of his reason, would make such a claim. Such a person knows that the characteristics of human nature are still being discovered today, and that scientific discovery has not come to an end. Beyond the reach of human perception and understanding there will always remain worlds unknown to man.
What this means is that human beings have latent potential known only to God. God certainly knows best to whom to assign His message. Knowing this ability is beyond all people and it may even be unknown to the person who is chosen for the task, until that choice is made. God, who has breathed of His soul into man knows every little detail of every nature. He can endow any human being with the ability to undertake this unique contact and bond in a way which can be appreciated only by those who experience it.
A number of contemporary commentators on the Qur’ān have endeavoured to prove the fact of revelation through scientific means so as to make it easier to understand. We however object to this approach. Science has its own scope and domain, and it has certain tools to suit its domain and to move within its scope. Science has not even claimed to have arrived at any certainty with regard to the spirit and human soul, because it is well beyond its domain. The spirit is not subject to the sort of material experiment which science can make. Therefore, those scientific disciplines that work within recognized scientific principles have avoided discussion of anything relating to the spirit. So-called ‘spiritual studies’ are merely attempts that have doubtful methods and very suspicious aims. The only way to arrive at any certainty in this area is to refer to the only sources of certainty which we have, namely, the Qur’ān and the Ĥadīth. We take any statement in these two sources at its face value, without adding anything to it or modifying it in any way and without drawing any conclusion on the basis of analogy. Addition, modification and analogy are all mental processes, but in this area the human mind is outside of its domain, and has no suitable tools to work with.
“Does it seem strange to people that We have inspired a man from their own midst: Warn all mankind, and give those who believe the glad tidings that they are on a sound footing with their Lord?” (Verse 2) This is in a nutshell the purpose of revelation: to warn people of the consequences of their disobedience and to deliver happy news to the believers as to the outcome of their obedience. This inevitably includes an outline of the duties that are to be fulfilled and the prohibitions to be avoided. The warning is addressed to all mankind, because it should be conveyed to all people, who must be made aware of the consequences of their actions. The happy news though is given only to the believers.
Indeed all human beings need to be warned so that they are aware of what may happen to them when they reject God’s message and refuse to follow His guidance. On the other hand, only the believers receive the happy news of reassurance and of being on firm ground. The connotations generated here by the Arabic text all point to a general atmosphere of warning. The believers are ‘on a sound footing’ which means that they are sure of their steps, unhesitating, unshakeable even during the most worrying of times. They are “on a sound footing with their Lord,” in a presence where believers find reassurance and safety while others worry as they contemplate their impending doom.

12. External Links

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