During the recitation of the Quran, you would have come across 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 many Surahs where you encounter these words.
Similarly, many other combinations of Arabic letters exist, including “Alif Laam Raa” or “Yaa Seen,” located 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.”
What are Haroof-e-Muqatta’at?
Of 114 Surhas of the Holy Quran, 29 are started with Huroof e Muqatta’at. These Surahs consists of both Makki and Madni Surahs with only 2 of them being Madni (Surah Baqarah and Surah Al-Imran), while all other are Madni. 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 (ﷺ) 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)
One of their characteristics 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:
|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|
|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|
|23||Ash-Shūrā||Ḥā Mīm; ʿAin Seen Qāf|
|25||Ad Dukhān||Ḥā Mīm|
What Is the Meaning of Alif Laam Meem?
Over the past centuries, there have been numerous theories and interpretations surrounding the meaning of Alif Laam Meem known as Huroof e Muqatta’at. These theories have been proven to be beneficial to Muslims in order to understand the meaning but their true meaning is only known exclusively by Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى). Therefore, Muslims never arrived at a conclusion for these meanings.
However, many previous scholars have held the belief that there is a link between these letters and the text found in Surahs, suggesting that this connection serves as a mean to interpret their meaning.
In addition, it is also believed that these combinations of Arabic letters are deliberately included within the Surahs in order 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 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 to an extent, 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 in the Holy Quran.
To sum it all up, Alif Laam Meem 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.