I know there are numerous opinions on the Muqatta'at, and there is another question already asked here on that topic. But there is a particular theory which occurred to me, and I wanted to know if there is any history of this theory in Islamic scholarship, and whether it makes any sense.

The theory is that the Muqatta'at are actually roots (triliteral or otherwise), or else as words derived from those roots. Considering for example Sura 2:1 there is alif-lam-meem. Is that a valid triliteral root in Arabic? I know in Hebrew it is a valid root, with a root meaning of "bind", and derived meanings of "silenced", "mute", etc. Doesn't الم mean pain, trouble, distress, etc in Arabic?

Could this theory be extended to the other disjointed letters? Does the theory make any sense?

  • You can find detail information about the muqattaat letters: mukattaa.blogspot.com
    – user756
    Commented Nov 3, 2012 at 12:51

7 Answers 7


Allah u A'lam (Allah knows best). Allah subhanahu Wa Ta'ala has said:

هُوَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَنزَلَ عَلَيۡكَ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبَ مِنۡهُ ءَايَـٰتٌ۬ مُّحۡكَمَـٰتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَـٰبِهَـٰتٌ۬‌ۖ فَأَمَّا ٱلَّذِينَ فِى قُلُوبِهِمۡ زَيۡغٌ۬ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَـٰبَهَ مِنۡهُ ٱبۡتِغَآءَ ٱلۡفِتۡنَةِ وَٱبۡتِغَآءَ تَأۡوِيلِهِۦ‌ۗ وَمَا يَعۡلَمُ تَأۡوِيلَهُ ۥۤ إِلَّا ٱللَّهُ‌ۗ وَٱلرَّٲسِخُونَ فِى ٱلۡعِلۡمِ يَقُولُونَ ءَامَنَّا بِهِۦ كُلٌّ۬ مِّنۡ عِندِ رَبِّنَا‌ۗ وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّآ أُوْلُواْ ٱلۡأَلۡبَـٰبِ (٧)

He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book: in it are verses basic or fundamental (of established meaning); they are the foundation of the Book: others are not of well-established meaning. But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is not of well-established meaning. Seeking discord, and searching for its interpretation, but no one knows its true meanings except Allah, and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: "We believe in it; the whole of it is from our Lord"; and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding. (7)

Surah Aal Imran Ayah 7

From this Ayah it is clear that whoever has perversity in their hearts, they are the ones seeking interpretation of these Ayahs, Alif lam meem, Noon, Ha Meem and the others. It is also clear from this Ayah that only Allah knows the true interpretation of these Ayahs. So it does not matter how many theories there are, no matter what theories are chosen as logical or something, we would never know if it is true or not. Only Allah knows the true meaning. It is also clear from the Ayah that only those who are grounded in knowledge, are the ones who say: "We believe in it; the whole of it is from our Lord".


I found a website by a guy who uses this theory of Hamidudin Farahi, that the Huruf al-Muqattat are actually a sort of table of contents for the entire Sura they precede. He bases it on the fact that Arabic letters eventually lost their individual meaning. For example, Ya in Arabic means nothing. Arabic word Yadd means hand. Interestingly, the Hebrew letter Yodd means the same thing. This Semitic similarity is the basis for his interpretative. Check it out.


It's very intriguing. It's similar to what your theory is, but not exactly the same.


Bismillahi arrahmani arrahim

This is indeed an interesting post. There is a theory around according to which Holy Quran is a translation of Jewish or Christian documents. For instance it says for the "Alif Lam Ra'" that it is an acronym of "amer li rabbi" = my rabbi (or sheikh) has told me (in Hebrew).

Beware of those theories for two reasons:

1) Their aim is to refute the authenticity of Koran

2) Their argument has a huge flaw: if a word exists in Hebrew or Aramaic (Syriac) it does not mean that it is not Arabic It just means that it is merely a cognate. Semitic languages share +90% of roots when it comes to verbs and nouns.

The effort should rather be focusing on getting the essence of the world and its meaning back in the time of the prophet sala llaho alayhi wasalam.

This is not a direct answer to your question but I wanted to make the point given the fact that I am familiar with aplogestic works in Christianity and Judaism that aims at refuting the Islamic faith.

Wallaho aelam


not exactly roots. It's paleo-hebrew, the signature of Allah-Elohim or Father in heavens, whatever you like to call Him. Arabs have made a mistake, because this is not classical arabic. This is old hijaz (it's ancient arabic) and a pure form of arabic. When we talk about purity in semitic languages, we do not mean a refined version of the language used for poetry, but an abjad without vowels. (the Quran itself did not have vowels). Neither Quran nor the Torah had vowels and people had to add them in order to understand how to pronounce it. So, you take the signature of God in pure semitic abjad where every letter has a meaning, alif=the ox=the strong=God. Lam=lamed= ox goad (the symbol of power-authority)=throne. Mim=mem=water. And you make a sentence: alif-lam-mim: God makes the throne on the water.

How do we know it is right? Because that's islam. That is what you need to know in islam, that God made the throne on the water first! (did we say first? yes, that's RA, rosh, the head meaning first, so, here's how we translate alif,lam,mim,ra= god makes the throne on the water first. Let's take another sura, sura Taha, where God chooses to make his existence manifest to Pharaoh, so pharaoh will beg to be saved. Ta=at this turning point, Ha=here i am, behold.

In sura mariam, Zechary asks for a righteous child (qaf= left hand opened -you who beg from me, ha=behold, ya- yod-closed right hand, god gives you, ein=fountain , sad= justice- trails that others will follow. So, we make a full sentence: "you who ask, behold, god grants your request, spring-fountain of righteousness that others will follow".

it is important to understand this text is in the old hijazi dialect. Not just arabic. Not classical arabic. (dhaalika kitabu la rayba fee- dhaalika is an indicator of old hijaz dialect). Arabic is not the same everywhere and you need to know the place and time to make sure you understand. Houris for example are not women. You might be shocked but the tits are knuckles. bihourin= righteous, those who help the prophets, 72 righteous who will join again in the afterlife. This is talking about waters, not sex (marriage means unification under the same rule). Or HAJAR-the stone, this is Hagar, the mother of Arabs. You might have heard the hadith that stones will tell muslims to kill the jews, or a stone stole the clothes of Moses. No stone stole anything that day, a descendant of Agar did that, and descendants of Hagar -hagarenes will ask muslims for help. Or the "chains and fetters", this is to make you steadfast in religion, it talks about waters, again,not about prisoners. Do not a trust a word from those uncivilised people. They do not even know their own language.


In Letter Theory we have a similar theory, We say every alphabet letter have a meaning and root meanings come from letter meanings. We also have this in Hebrew. So as a letter theorist I should say k.t.b have a similar meaning to KTB but under a combiner function like f. f(k.t.b)=KTB or f(a.l.m)=ALM I dont know if you are interested in this topic but you can see the link below for more: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4508328


Maybe I should answer you NO! Whatever that they be they are not, in general, Arabic or Semitic roots! Some of such Mughatta'aat's only comprise one single letter, like "Qaaf" (ق) in [50:1], "Nun" (ن) in [68:1] and "Sad" (ص) in [38:1]. Do you think these be roots? What about "Kaf Ha Ya 'Ain Sad" (کهیعص) in [19:1]?

However, you may like to think about another subject, why a single alphabet may be read like a word, e.g. why do we say Qaf to mean "ق", from where do "a" and "f" come into its name? Why its name differs from its sound? Also a same thing can be asked about all the Arabic alphabets and even alphabets in many and maybe all the other languages. Why we call it an alphabet if it is already read as a word? Maybe they and their combinations are only acronyms for words which are actually sound like how we read them now for Mughatta'aat's? Maybe there are words that we don't know and there is no entrance for them in any dictionary but they exist? It may be the case! Yes, some Shia Muslims believe e.g. the alphabet "Qaf" (ق) is name of a mountain, the name of the mountain itself is Qaf, not Q alone, that is, قاف instead of only ق ! The mountain is introduced in Shia Ahadith as a mountain which is the root for every earthquake, the blue colour of sky is due to its reflection of sun light and it is located in the fourth Earth (see here to know more about the Seven Skies and Seven Earths according to the teachings of Alhlol-Beyt --peace be upon them--). Anyway, I only know that we have a science of numbers and a science of alphabets and these you can find in Shia Ahadith from Ahlol-Beyt --peace be upon them-- whom the Shia Muslims believe to be the firmly-grounded-in-knowledge introduced in Quran and then by the holy prophet --peace be upon them--. Then you may be able to judge a single word, not only Mughatta'aat's in Quran, as a acronym representing a sentence! This is particularly the case for the name of the prophet David --peace be upon him--, actually Davood. Then you may find a hidden strength in the language Arabic and may understand better why Allah has chosen this language for His last and most complete divine book.



@mujahid I believe every verse (and in general everything we do) had two meanings, one that is equal/linear/fundamental meaning where as other meaning are relative/nonlinear/vague.

And yes I also believe (as @ali) that those are actually blue print of the whole surah that follows it.

Everything in made up of a combination of triangle(s) and circle (s). Even characters are no expectation. So ALIF "ا" is made of eight triangles vertically aligned. LAM "ل" is made up eight triangles and a half circle. Where as MEEM "م" is a full circle and eight triangles.

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