Last updated on January 3rd, 2024 at 05:58 am

During the recitation of the Quran, you would have encountered some combination of Arabic letters, such as “Alif Laam Meem,” which is at the beginning of the Surah Baqarah– the second Surah of the Holy Quran. However, have you ever wondered about the significance and the meaning behind these types of words?

Before diving into the understanding of these words, it is important to note that not only Surah Baqarah has such words, but other Surahs in the Holy Quran have been found to involve them. For instance, Surah Ali ‘Imran and Surah Al Hijr are some of the many Surahs where you encounter these words.

Similarly, many other combinations of Arabic letters exist, including “Alif Laam Raa” or “Yaa Seen,” at the beginning of previously mentioned Surahs. For those who may not be aware, these words are known as “Huroof e Muqatta’at” (Mysterious letters of the Quran). Huroof refers to “words” in Arabic, while Muqatta’at means “shortened.”

These ‘disjointed letters’ have been studied in-depth by religious scholars and academics over centuries. However, there is no agreement on what these letters mean or signify. There are several theories regarding the purpose and meaning behind Huroof e Muqatta’at, all of which are worth mentioning and will be discussed in detail below.

One aspect of Huroof e Muqatta’at that all scholars concur with is that these words have a meaning and a purpose, as is true with the rest of the Holy Quran. It is a complete Book unique in its content, message, and the manner of its revelation and compilation.

The Holy Quran is the word of Allah Almighty ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى). Every word and letter of the Holy Book has a meaning and purpose deeper than our limited human knowledge can comprehend. It is not only the ultimate Book of Guidance but also a miracle sent from Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) sent down to Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ).

It is unsuitable to assume we will understand everything in the Holy Quran. There are some mysteries and secrets that Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) has not even disclosed to His beloved Messengers (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ). He is, after all, Al-Aleem, the All-Knowing ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى).

Statistics for Surah-al-Baqarah

No. of Ayats No. of Words No. of Letters No. of Rukus Type of Surah Situated in Para Tarteeb-e-Nazool Tarteeb-e-Tilawat
286 6140 26249 40 Madni 1-3 87 2

What are Haroof-e-Muqatta’at?

Of 114 Surhas of the Holy Quran, 29 are started with Huroof e Muqatta’at. These Surahs consist of both Makki and Madni Surahs with only two being Madni (Surah Baqarah and Surah Al-Imran), while all others are Makki. Their meanings, however, are unclear and only known to Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى).

As narrated by Muhammad bin Ka’b Al-Qurazi: “I heard ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud saying: ‘The Messenger of Allah said: “[Whoever recites a letter] from Allah’s Book, then he receives the reward from it, and the reward of ten the like of it. I do not say that Alif Lam Mim is a letter, but Alif is a letter, Lam is a letter and Mim is a letter.” – Jami at-Tirmidhi (2910)

It is customary to join letters in Arabic to make meaningful words, yet the hadith quoted above clearly indicates that these letters must be pronounced individually.

One characteristic of Huroof e Muqatta’at is that these combinations of Arabic letters are written together but read separately. For instance, یس is read as ya-seen, الم is read as alif-laam-mim, etc. Moreover, another name that is widely known for Huroof e Muqatta’at is “Fawatih” (opener), as they are seen at the beginning of the following Surahs:

Number Surah’s name Muqatta’at
01 Al-Baqarah ʾAlif Lām Mīm
02 Āl Imrān ʾAlif Lām Mīm
03 Al-Aʿrāf ʾAlif Lām Mīm Ṣād
04 Yūnus ʾAlif Lām Rā
05 Hūd ʾAlif Lām Rā
06 Yūsuf ʾAlif Lām Rā
07 Ar-Raʿd ʾAlif Lām Mīm Rā
08 Ibrāhīm ʾAlif Lām Rā
09 Al-Ḥijr ʾAlif Lām Rā
10 Maryam Kāf Hā Yā ʿAin Ṣād
11 Ṭā Hā Ṭā Hā
12 Ash-Shuʿārāʾ Ṭā Seen Mīm
13 An-Naml Ṭā Seen
14 Al-Qaṣaṣ Ṭā Seen Mīm
15 Al-ʿAnkabūt ʾAlif Lām Mīm
16 Ar-Rūm ʾAlif Lām Mīm
17 Luqmān ʾAlif Lām Mīm
18 As-Sajdah ʾAlif Lām Mīm
19 Yā Sīn Yā Seen
20 Ṣād Ṣād
21 Ghāfir Ḥā Mīm
22 Fuṣṣilat Ḥā Mīm
23 Ash-Shūrā Ḥā Mīm; ʿAin Seen Qāf
24 Az-Zukhruf Ḥā Mīm
25 Ad Dukhān Ḥā Mīm
26 Al-Jāthiya Ḥā Mīm
27 Al-Aḥqāf Ḥā Mīm
28 Qāf Qāf
29 Al-Qalam Nūn

 

While 29 chapters of the Holy Quran begin with these mysterious letters, there are just 14 of these Huroof e Muqatta’at. Some of the Huroof e Muqatta’at appear at the beginning of multiple Surahs. For example, Alif Laam Meem is the opening for six chapters of the Holy Quran.

Alif Laam Meem, as a result, is the opening for Surah Baqarah, Surah Al-Imran, Surah Ankabut, Surah Rum, Surah Luqman, and Surah Sajdah. Similarly, other Huroof e Muqatta’at are repeated, like Ha Meem also appearing at the beginning of six Surahs. Alif Laam Ra opens up five Surahs, and Ta Seen Meem comes at the beginning of two Surahs of the Quran.

Notice how 29 chapters of the Holy Quran begin with these mysterious letters, and it is important to note that there are 29 alphabets in Arabic. This is no coincidence; these letters have a linguistic significance, though the real meaning remains elusive.

The Huroof e Muqatta’at vary in their length as well. Some are just a single letter, like ‘Sad,’ ‘Qaf,’ and ‘Noon’ found at the beginning of Surah Sad, Surah Qaf, and Surah Qalam, respectively. Others are two-lettered, like Ta Ha, Ya Seen, and Ha Meem.

The longest Huroof e Muqatta’at are five-lettered, Kaf Ha Ya Ain Saad and Ha Meem Ain Seen Qaf. Again, these variations and arrangements have a special meaning we are unaware of.

What Is the Meaning of Alif Laam Meem?

Over the past centuries, numerous theories and interpretations have surrounded the meaning of Alif Laam Meem, known as Huroof e Muqatta’at. These theories have been proven to be beneficial to Muslims to understand the meaning, but their true meaning is only known exclusively by Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى). Therefore, Muslims never concluded these meanings.

However, many previous scholars have believed there is a link between these letters and the text found in Surahs, suggesting that this connection serves as a means to interpret their meaning.

In addition, it is also believed that these combinations of Arabic letters are deliberately included within the Surahs to convey a message from Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) to humanity that highlights the impossibility of replicating the nature of the Holy Quran and its verses. A verse of the Holy Quran that supports this belief is:

“And if you be in doubt whether the Book We have sent down to Our Servant is from Us or not, then produce, at least, one Surah like this. You may call all your associates to assist you and avail yourselves of the help of anyone other than Allah. If you are genuine in your doubt, do this.” – Al-Baqara (2:23)

In Surah Baqarah, this verse mentions the incapacity of previous disbelievers to produce a book comparable to the Holy Quran.  This idea is one of the many theories and interpretations regarding the meaning of Huroof e Muqatta’at, which is a combination of Arabic letters.

Another theory surrounding the meaning of Alif Laam Meem is that it represents an abbreviation of Allah’s names, with ‘Alif’ symbolizing Allah, ‘Laam’ as Lateef, and ‘Meem’ denoting Majeed— 3 of Allah’s 99 names. This theory could hold some validity, but a question arises as to why only these particular names are selected.

It is important to note that there is no trusted source to believe that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was aware of the meaning of Alif Laam Meem, while there is no mention of that in various books of Hadith or the Holy Quran.

Theories Relating to Huroof e Muqatta’at

There is no consensus regarding the purpose of Huroof e Muqatta’at, but there are several theories. Many scholars have hypothesized why these letters exist and what they could mean. Here are just a few of these theories:

· Names of Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى)

It is well known that there are ninety-nine names of Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى), collectively called the Asma-ul-Husna. These names reflect the attributes of Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى). These tell us about our Lord and Creator. Hazrat Ibn Abbas (رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ) is of the opinion that these disjointed letters represent Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى)’s hidden attributes. He was the cousin of the Holy Prophet (ﷺ) and was an authoritative commentator on the Holy Quran.

These letters symbolize the names of Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) that are not known to us. In short, the Huroof e Muqatta’at is the Ism e Azam or the Greatest Name of Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى). According to sources Ism e Azam is the Name of Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) that is only known to the Prophets (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ).

The theory seems to have some value since Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) frequently makes use of Asma ul Husna in the Holy Quran. But we cannot be 100% sure that is the case since we do not have any authentic source, like the Holy Quran or sayings of the Holy Prophet (ﷺ).

A related theory is that joining these disjointed words makes up the Names of Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى). For example, combining Alif Laam Ra Ha Meem and Noon makes Al-Rahman, which is a popular Name of Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى). The issue is that no other combination makes another Asma ul Husna we know. So, Alif Laam Meem Kaaf Ain Ghain’s meaning is unclear if we follow this theory.

· Names of The Holy Prophet Muhammad ()

Some consider the Huroof e Muqatta’at to be letters that refer to the Holy Prophet (ﷺ). The Holy Prophet (ﷺ) also has ninety-nine names. These, again, are the beautiful attributes of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). Those who support this theory point to the fact that both Ta Ha and Ya Seen are among the ninety-nine names of the Holy Prophet (ﷺ).

This could be valid since Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) directly addresses or mentions the Holy Prophet (ﷺ) numerous times in the Holy Quran. So, it is not out of the question that the Huroof e Muqatta’at are used for the Holy Prophet (ﷺ). At the same time, aside from the two mentioned, Ta Ha and Ya Seen, there is no evidence that any of the other Huroof e Muqatta’at was ever used to refer to the Holy Prophet (ﷺ).

Another related theory is that Alif Laam Meem’s meaning relates to the revelation of the Holy Quran. It is suggested that Alif stands for Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى), the author of the Quran. Laam is the last letter of Hazrat Jibril (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ)’s name and represents the entity that acted as the intermediary between Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) and the receiver of the Message, that is the Prophet (ﷺ). Finally, Meem is the first letter of the name of the receiver, Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ).

The issue with this proposition is that it only explains Alif Laam Meem, whereas there are thirteen other Huroof e Muqatta’at. Rendering this theory incomplete at best.

· Alternative Names for the Quran

Some scholars conclude that disjointed letters refer to the Holy Quran. This is because Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) does refer to the Holy Quran by different names such as Kitab e Mubeen or al Kitab. People argue that Huroof e Muqatta’at refers to the Quran itself because, after each instance where these letters are used, it is followed by a mention of the Holy Quran.

Additionally, some of the Huroof e Muqatta’at have been designated as names of the Surah they occur in, for example, “Surah Qaf” and “Surah Saad.” This theory may be correct, but again. There is no way of telling if that is the case or not.

· Secret Code

Some believe that Huroof e Muqatta’at, like Alif Laam Meem, is a secret code and only Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) knows the true meaning behind these. These letters hide a special meaning and are a manifestation of Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى)’s infinite knowledge and wisdom.

The letters have been linked to numerology. People have also tried to decode the letters to form meaningful sentences, though no manner of decoding has provided consistent results.

· The Enigma of Language

The Quran is in Arabic and was sent to a nation that prided itself on its eloquence and use of language. The use of Huroof e Muqatta’at could be a literary technique that the Arabs were well aware of or used as a means to gain attention. These disjointed letters command attention as they go against the conventional rules of the Arabic language.

It also challenges those who denied the Message and claimed that the Holy Quran was not the word of Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى). Finding a piece of literature comparable to the Quran in its content and language is impossible. The use of words and literary techniques in the Holy Quran are unique. Huroof e Muqatta’ at are among how Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) makes it clear that the Holy Quran is a Divine Book.

Benefits of the Huroof e Muqatta’at

Decoding Alif Laam Meem’s meaning is not really within the scope of our limited human knowledge. It is better to know that these are part of the Divine word of Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى), which means that they are full of benefits for us.

Invoking these letters gains us the pleasure and goodwill of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) ) because reciting even a single letter of the Holy Quran provides us with the blessings of Allah Almighty ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى). It does not matter if we know Ali Laam Meem meaning in Urdu or English; what matters is that we repeat these letters frequently to gain Allah‎ (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى)’s favor and surely, He ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) will grant us what we desire.

Words of the Holy Quran have a lot of power; the same goes for the Huroof e Muqatta’at. They have healing properties and can provide peace when recited with humility and reverence.

Conclusion

To sum it all up, Alif Laam Meem in Arabic and other Huroof e Muqatta’at have remained a mystery over these past centuries, with many theories and interpretations of different Sufis and scholars regarding their meanings, all of which are not supported by proper and trusted sources. As mentioned earlier, we could only believe that Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) only and truly knows its meaning.

One clear thing is that Huroof e Muqatta’at is a mystery to mere humans. The letters have been studied and researched by hundreds and thousands of scholars, yet no single theory has been agreed upon to be true.

Most academics have been inconclusive in their endeavors and have failed to explain the true nature of these disjointed letters. Is it a code? A linguistic technique? The truth about what these letters are and why they have been used in the Holy Quran and the specific chapters they appear before; all these answers are with Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى).

The Holy Quran is truly a miracle. It has been over fourteen hundred years, yet a comparable text has not been produced. This is a testament to the Divine nature of the Holy Quran. There are many mysteries and secrets that the Quran encapsulates, some of which we have just started to comprehend due to the advances made in science and technology.

At the same time, the Holy Quran humbles us as well. Despite the advances in science and learning, mysteries within the Holy Book still confound us. Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى), through the Quran, highlights the limitations of human comprehension.

Huroof e Muqatta’at, like Alif Laam Meem, embodies Allah’s limitations on our ability to know. We pride ourselves on the advances we have made in science and technology. Still, at the same time, we have not been able to figure out what a string of alphabets that have been used widely in a language spoken by millions could mean in a Book that is fourteen centuries old.

Alif Laam Meem are not just letters; they represent the infinite knowledge that Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) holds. It is worth noting the significance of Alif Laam Meem benefits and that of similar letters rather than delving into their meaning because the meaning is hidden and known to Allah ‎(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) alone.