A Common Theme of the Disconnected Letters: Sheikh ibn ‘Uthaymeen

Sheikh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen was asked the following question:

 السؤال: أشكل عليَّ حين قلت بأنه لا يوجد في القرآن شيء لا يعرفه أحد من علماء الأمة أو أجمع الناس على عدم معرفته، فماذا نجيب على الحروف المقطعة (ألم)، و(ق)، و(يس)، وغيرها مما كان فيه الخلاف وأشكل على أهل العلم؟ ـ

Question: I was confused when you said that there is nothing in the Qur’an which none of the scholars of this ummah know or which no one of mankind understands. So how do we respond when it comes to the Disconnected Letters [al-Huroof al-Muqatta’ah] – alif lam meen, qaf, ya seen, and other such things – which have been the subject of differing and which have been difficult for some of the scholars?

الجواب: نجيب على هذا أنه لا إشكال في هذا إطلاقاً؛ لأن الله تعالى قال: ﴿بِلِسَانٍ عَرَبِيٍّ مُبِينٍ ﴾[الشعراء:195] ومن المعلوم أن هذه الحروف دون تركيبها كلمات ليس لها معنى، (ق) ليس لها معنى، (ص) ليس لها معنى، (ن) ليس لها معنى، (ألم) ليس لها معنى، فهي بمقتضى اللسان العربي ليس لها معنى، لو قال لك الرجل العربي: (ق) وهو يريد الحرف الهجائي هل له معنى؟ ليس له معنى، إذا كان ليس لها معنى والله -عز وجل- أخبرنا أن القرآن نزل بلسان عربي مبين علمنا أنه ليس لها معنى، لكن على هذا يبقى عندنا إشكال: كيف يكون في القرآن ما ليس له معنى والقرآن حق؟ نقول: نعم ليس لها معنى في ذاتها، لكن لها معنى في غرضها ومغزاها، كأن الله -عز وجل- إذا قال (ق)، (ن)، (ص) وما أشبه ذلك كأنه يقول: هذا الكتاب العظيم الذي أعجزكم أيها العرب لم يأت بحروف جديدة، فالحروف التي فيه هي الحروف التي تركبون منها كلامكم، ومع ذلك أعجزكم؛ ولهذا قال شيخ الإسلام ابن تيمية: لا يوجد سورة مبدوءة بهذه الحروف إلا وبعدها ذكر القرآن، أو ما لا يعلم إلا بالوحي. ـ

Response: We respond by saying that there is no problem regarding this issue at all, for Allah has said:

بِلِسَانٍ عَرَبِيٍّ مُّبِينٍ

In the plain Arabic language [26:195]

and it is well-known that these letters do not carry any meaning when they are not arranged together into words. Qaf does not have any meaning, Saad does not have any meaning, Noon does not have any meaning, Alif Lam Meem does not have any meaning. So these things, according to the Arabic language, do not have any meaning of their own. If an Arabic-speaking person were to say to you, “Qaf” and all he meant by it was a letter of the alphabet, does that carry any meaning of its own? No, it does not have any meaning of its own. So it does not carry any meaning of its own, and Allah has informed us that the Qur’an was sent down in the clear Arabic language, teaching us that these do not carry any meaning.

However, this leaves us with a problem: How is it that the there is something in the Qur’an which does not carry any meaning while the Qur’an itself is the truth? We would say: Yes, it is true that these do not carry any meaning in-and-of-themselves, however they do carry meaning in their purpose and their significance. When Allah says Qaf or Noon or Saad or the likes of these, then it is as if He is saying: This is the marvelous Book which you – O Arabs – are incapable of replicating or producing. It has not come with any new letters; the letters which it uses are the same letters which you use to construct your speech, yet despite this you are incapable of producing the likes of it.

It was along these lines that sheikh al-Islaam ibn Taymiyah said: One can see that every surah that begins with the Disconnected Letters follows up those letters by mentioning the Qur’an or by mentioning something which could only be known through divine revelation.

هل فهمت القاعدة؟ نبدأ من الأول: في سورة البقرة: ﴿الم ۞ ذَلِكَ الْكِتَابُ﴾ [البقرة:1-2]. في سورة آل عمران: ﴿الم ۞ اللَّهُ لا إِلَهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ الْحَيُّ الْقَيُّومُ﴾ [آل عمران:2]. في سورة الأعراف: ﴿المص ۞ كِتَابٌ أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكَ﴾ [الأعراف:2]. في سورة يونس: ﴿الر تِلْكَ آيَاتُ الْكِتَابِ الْحَكِيمِ﴾ [يونس:1]. في سورة هود: ﴿الر كِتَابٌ أُحْكِمَتْ آيَاتُهُ ثُمَّ فُصِّلَتْ مِنْ لَدُنْ حَكِيمٍ خَبِيرٍ﴾ [هود:1]. في سورة يوسف: ﴿الر تِلْكَ آيَاتُ الْكِتَابِ الْمُبِينِ﴾ [يوسف:1]. في سورة إبراهيم: ﴿الر كِتَابٌ أَنزَلْنَاهُ إِلَيْكَ لِتُخْرِجَ النَّاسَ مِنْ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ﴾ [إبراهيم:1] وهلم جراً. ـ

Did you understand this principle? Let’s start from the beginning. In surah al-Baqarah:

الم * ذَٰلِكَ الْكِتَابُ

Alif Lam Meem * This is the Book … [2:1-2]

In surah Aal ‘Imraan:

الم * اللَّـهُ لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْحَيُّ الْقَيُّومُ

Alif Lam Meem * Allah – there is no deity worthy of worship except Him, al-Hayy, al-Qayyoom. [3:1-2]

In surah al-A’raaf:

المص * كِتَابٌ أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكَ

Alif Lam Meem Sad * [This is] a Book revealed to you… [7:1-2]

In surah Yunus:

الر ۚ تِلْكَ آيَاتُ الْكِتَابِ الْحَكِيمِ

Alif Lam Ra . These are the verses of the clear Book [10:1]

In surah Hood:

الر ۚ كِتَابٌ أُحْكِمَتْ آيَاتُهُ ثُمَّ فُصِّلَتْ مِن لَّدُنْ حَكِيمٍ خَبِيرٍ

Alif Lam Ra . [This is] a Book whose verses are perfected and then presented in detail from [one who is] Wise and Acquainted. [11:1]

In surah Yusuf:

الر ۚ تِلْكَ آيَاتُ الْكِتَابِ الْمُبِينِ

Alif Lam Ra . These are the verses of the clear Book. [12:1]

In surah Ibrahim:

الر ۚ كِتَابٌ أَنزَلْنَاهُ إِلَيْكَ لِتُخْرِجَ النَّاسَ مِنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ

Alif Lam Ra . [This is] a Book which We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], that you might bring mankind out of darknesses into the light… [14:1]

and so on.

في الروم: ﴿الم ۞ غُلِبَتْ الرُّومُ ۞ فِي أَدْنَى الأَرْضِ ﴾ [الروم:1-3] لكن فيها علم الغيب ﴿وَهُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ غَلَبِهِمْ سَيَغْلِبُونَ﴾ [الروم:3] وعلم الغيب لا يكون إلا بالوحي، في العنكبوت: ﴿الم ۞ أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَنْ يُتْرَكُوا أَنْ يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لا يُفْتَنُونَ﴾ [العنكبوت:1-2] ليس فيها ذكر القرآن لكن فيها ذكر من حملوا الإيمان: ﴿أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَنْ يُتْرَكُوا أَنْ يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لا يُفْتَنُونَ ۞ وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ ﴾[العنكبوت:2-3]. ـ

In surah al-Room, there is:

الم * غُلِبَتِ الرُّومُ * فِي أَدْنَى الْأَرْضِ

Alif Lam Meem* The Romans have been defeated * In the nearest land... [30:1-3]

however this contains knowledge of the unseen:

وَهُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ غَلَبِهِمْ سَيَغْلِبُونَ

…but they, after their defeat, will be victorious. [30:3]

and knowledge of the unseen can only be attained through divine revelation.

And in surah al-‘Ankaboot:

الم * أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَن يُتْرَكُوا أَن يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ

Alif Lam Meem * Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tried? [29:1-2]

This does not contain any mention of the Qur’an, however it does contain a mention of those who had eemaan:

أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَن يُتْرَكُوا أَن يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ * وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ

Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tried? * But We have certainly tried those before them [29:1-2]

فكانت هذه الحروف الآن هي بنفسها ليس لها معنى، لكن لها مغزى وغاية وحكمة عظيمة، وهي أن هذا القرآن الذي أعجزكم يا معشر العرب من أين جاء؟ جاء بحروف جديدة لا تعرفونها أو بالحروف التي أنتم تركبون الكلام منها، الثاني أو الأول؟ الثاني، وهذا واضح. ـ

So on their own these Disconnected Letters do not carry any meaning, however they do have significance, they do have a purpose, and there is reason behind them. And that is that this Qur’an which you – O Arabs – are incapable of replicating, where did it come from? Did it come with brand new letters which you did not know, or did it come with the very same letters that you use to make your own speech? Is it the latter or the former? The latter, of course.

وقد روي هذا عن مجاهد بن جبر -رحمه الله- أعلم التابعين في تفسير القرآن. ـ

And this has been relayed from Mujaahid ibn Jabr (may Allah have mercy on him), who was the most knowledge person regarding the tafsir of the Qur’an among the Taabi’oon.

[al-Liqaa’ al-Shahri #3. Retrieved from the sheikh‘s website here.]

See also: The Disconnected Letters: Sheikh Saalih al-Fawzan

See also: Do the Disconnected Letters Carry Meaning?: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh

For more statements from Sheikh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen and other contemporary scholars regarding the books of tafsir, see About the Books of Tafsir

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2 thoughts on “A Common Theme of the Disconnected Letters: Sheikh ibn ‘Uthaymeen

  1. Pingback: Do the Disconnected Letters Carry Meaning?: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: The Disconnected Letters: Sheikh Saalih al-Fawzan | Tulayhah

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