In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious,
the Ever Merciful.
This is [Surah] Alif Lam Mim1.
This is the Book of God2.
There is no doubt in this fact3.
[O Prophet] this is [proving to be] guidance for those [Jews4
from among your addressees] who fear God5;
those who are professing faith [in certain realities] without observing
[them]6, and establishing
the prayer7 and spending [in
Our way] from what We have given them8.
Those who are believing in what has been revealed to you and in what was
revealed before you, and, in reality, are certain of the Hereafter9.
It is these who were the rightly guided [before] and it is they who shall
[now] be among the successful [also]. (1-5)
1. The Huruf-i-Muqatta‘at
abbreviated letters), found at the beginning of some surahs, are actually
the names of the respective surahs. The way they are placed in the beginning
of some twenty nine surahs of the Qur’an and the way they are referred
to by the demonstrative pronouns ‘’
(dhalika) and ‘’
: (tilka) show that they are the names of the respective surahs
of which they are a part. Consequently, many of these surahs are called
so, for example Taha, Yasin,
However, there remains the question of why the surahs are called by these
abbreviated letter. Many scholars have attempted to answer the question
but what they have come up with is not very satisfactory.
1930 AD), a scholar of the sub-continent, has presented an explanation
which might hold the key to the problem. (For details see Appendix A)
2. Sometimes, a word
becomes specific for an exalted entity of its genre as has happened here
in the case of the word ‘book’: It denotes the Book of God. Also this usage
is not new. The words ‘Bible’ and ‘Scripture’ both are use for Books of
God. In Greek, ‘Bible’ means ‘book’. and in Latin, ‘Scripture’ also means
3. That is there is
no doubt in the fact that this is the book of God. The implication being
that what the Jews of Arabia (see note 4) have before them is the promised
Book. Hence they better profess faith in it, lest they would face the wrath
of the Almighty.
4. The basic addressees
of this surah are the Jews of the Prophet’s times. These initial
verses contain subtle reference to this fact which becomes gradually very
evident as later in verse forty of this surah their name is disclosed.
5. From here begins
a mention of certain attributes of the righteous among the Jews who had
accepted faith in the Prophet Muhammad (sws). These attributes are directly
opposite to the ones that were found in the Jews as a nation in those times.
At various places, the Qur’an has alluded to these attributes. They
contended that they would believe in God only if they were able to see
Him (2:55). They abandoned the prayer (19:59) and instead of spending in
the way of Allah went as far in its negation as urging people to miserliness
(4:37). They openly acclaimed disbelief in other Books of God and maintained
that they would only profess faith in what was revealed to them (2:91).
Their belief in the Hereafter was nothing more than a dogma and in fact
possessed a great greed to live forever (2:92-4).
6. The implication
being that they accept certain realities without observing them because
their existence can be intellectually deduced. For example, they may not
be able to see God; the Day of Judgement too may be concealed from their
eyes, nor have they witnessed Gabriel revealing the Divine Message to the
Prophet (sws). Yet, they believe in all these because present in the Qur’an,
in their nature and intuition and in the various phenomena of nature are
signs which testify to these realities. They may be beyond the perception
of senses but they are certainly not beyond the perception of reason.
7. It is not said that
they ‘offer the prayer’. On the contrary, the expression ‘establish the
prayer’ is used. The expression means that they safeguard the prayer and
are steadfast in it.
8. The prayer and spending
in the way of Allah are the two foremost virtues in the eyes of the Qur’an.
While the former links a person to His Creator, the latter links him to
his fellow human beings. The Prophet Jesus (sws) is reported to have said
something which is very similar in its essence:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart with
all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law
and the Prophets hang on these two commandments’. (Matt. 37-40)
9. The implication being
that contrary to the Jewish people as a whole, these people are certain
of the Hereafter.
is the ‘’ (enunciative)
of a suppressed ‘’
(inchoative). Consequently, the first verse can be parsed as ‘’.
ii. The demonstrative
pronoun ‘’ refers
to the name of the surah mentioned in the earlier verse.
iii. The following
verses, for example, can be cited for the use of the word ‘’
as ‘the Book of God’:
And those who hold fast to the Book and establish the prayer.
So if you [O Muhammad] are in doubt concerning that which
We have revealed unto you, then ask those who are reading the Book
before you. (10:94)
Those to whom We have the Book recognize him [--Muhammad—]
as they recognize their sons. (2:146)
iv. The word ‘’
is in the state of ‘’
(accusative of state) from the demonstrative pronoun ‘’.
Example of similar use can be seen in the following verses:
We have bestowed on them a Book which we imbued with knowledge,
a guide and blessing to true believers. (7:52)
This is Surah [Alif Lam Mim]. These are the verses
of the Wise Book, a guide and blessing to the righteous. (31:1-3)
v. This verse is generally
taken to mean that there is no doubt in this book: whatever it says and
claims are the absolute truth. If parallels of this verse are taken into
consideration, one comes to the conclusion that this meaning is not implied
here. On the contrary, what is implied is that the divinity of the Book
is beyond doubt; is revealed by none other than the Almighty and it is
the very Book that the Jews had been promised. Some of the parallel verses
This is Alif Lam Mim The revelation of the Book is no doubt
from the Lord of the worlds. (32:1-2)
This is [Surah] Hammim. The revelation of this Book
is from Allah, the All-Mighty, the Knowing. (40:1-2)
For more references see 45: 1-2, 46:1-2.
In other words, the antecedent of the genitive pronoun in ‘’
is the previous sentence and the understood meaning is: ‘’.
The fact that the Jews had been promised
a book is evident from the following verses:
And when there came to them [the Jews], a Book [this Qur’an]
from Allah in accordance with the predictions that were with them regarding
this book and they were invoking Allah in order to gain victory over
those who disbelieved, then when there came to them that which they had
recognized, they disbelieved in it. So let the curse of Allah be on the
The Old Testament says:
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from
among their brothers; I will put My words in his mouth, and he will tell
them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to My words that
the prophet speaks in My name, I myself will call him to account. (Deuteronomy,
vi. The particle ‘’
in the expression ‘’
denotes a ‘’
(nomen locus). Examples of this usage can be seen in the following verses:
Those who fear their Lord though they cannot see Him and
dread the Day Judgement. (21:49)
You can warn only those who fear God, though they cannot
see Him. (35:18)
vii. This is a noun
sentence, which does not have a time frame. Its time frame is determined
by the context. Consequently, here it has been translated keeping in view
the fact that it is righteous among the Jews of the Prophet’s times who
are addressed in this initial portion of the surah. Before the revelation
of the Qur’an, they were on the right path because they whole heartedly
followed their scriptures and after the revelation of the Qur’an they
accepted it since their own scriptures testified to the coming of such
a book; hence now also they shall be among the successful.
The Huruf-i-Muqatta‘at: Those
who are aware of the history of the Arabic alphabet know that it is derived
from the Hebrew alphabet, which itself has its roots in the alphabet used
in ancient Arabia. Farahi (d: 1930), a Qur’anic scholar from
the subcontinent, is of the view that the letters of this parent alphabet
as used in English and Hindi do not represent phonetic sounds only, but,
as the Chinese alphabet, symbolize certain meanings and objects and usually
assume the shape of the objects and meanings they convey. He goes on to
assert that it was these letters which the early Egyptians adopted and
after adapting them according to their own concepts founded the Hieroglyphic
script from them. The remnants of this script can be seen in the tables
of the Egyptian Pyramids.
There are some letters whose meanings
have persisted to this day, and the way they are written also somewhat
resembles their ancient forms. For example, it is known about the Arabic
letter ‘’ (Alif)
that it means a cow and was represented by a cow’s head. The letter ‘’
(Bay) in Hebrew is called Bayt and means Bayt (house) as
well. The Hebrew pronunciation of ‘’
(Jim) is Jaymal which means Jamal (camel). ‘’
(Tuay) stands for a serpent and is written in a serpent’s shape
also. ‘’ (Mim)
represents a water wave and also has a similar configuration.
Farahi presents Surah Nun
support of his theory. The letter Nun, even in today’s alphabet denotes
its ancient meaning of fish. In this Surah, the Prophet Jonah (sws) has
been addressed as Sahibu’l-Hut (Companion of the Fish) that is he
who is swallowed by a whale. Farahi opines that it is because of this reference
that the surah is called Nun. He goes on to say that if one keeps in consideration
the example given above, it is quite likely that the abbreviated letters
by which other surahs commence are placed at the beginning of the surahs
to symbolize a relation between the topics of a particular surah and their
own ancient connotations.
Some other names of the Qur’anic surahs reinforce
Farahi’s theory. Surah Taha, for example, begins with the letter ‘
’ (Tuay) which represents a serpent, as is indicated before. After a brief
introduction the tale of Moses (sws) and his rod which is transformed into
a snake is depicted in it. Other Surahs as Tasin and Tasin Mim, which begin
with the letter Tuay, also portray this miraculous episode.
Surah Baqarah, which begins
with the letter ‘’
(Alif), is another example which further strengthens
It is indicated before that the letter ‘’
(Alif) had the meaning of a cow associated with it and is represented by
a cow’s head.
Surah Baqarah, as we all know, contains the anecdote
of a cow and its sacrifice.
Another aspect of the Surahs which
begin with the same letter is a similarity in their topics and even in
their style and construction. For example, all Surahs which begin
with ‘’ (Alif)
basically deal with Tawhid (monotheism). It would be appropriate
here to point out that the letter ‘’
(Alif) also stood for Allah, the One and Alone.