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What’s the Story of Disjointed Letters in the Quran?

04 December, 2021
Q As-Salamu `alaykum! I want to know the meaning of the disjointed letters in the Quran such as “Alif Lam Mim”.

Answer

Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. 

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.


In this fatwa:

There are different views regarding the meanings of the disjointed letters in the Quran as follows:

1- Allah refers to the fact that the Quran consists of the like of these letters.

2- These letters indirectly denote that though being part of their own language, the Quraish tribe failed to produce the like of the Quran.

3- These letters stand as a proof of the authenticity of the words that occur after them.


The eminent Muslim scholar, Dr. `Abdul-Fattah `Ashoor, Professor of the Exegesis of the Qur’an at Al-Azhar Univ., states:

Interpreting Disjointed Letters in the Quran

Alif Lam Mim” [and the like] are separate or disjointed letters that many Quranic surahs start with.

Scholars have different opinions regarding the meaning of these disjointed letters. The most correct opinion is that Allah refers to the fact that the Quran consists of the like of these letters. Allah challenge the People of Quraish to produce the like of the Quran, which is of Arabic letters, and they failed to produce its like. They failed to produce 10 surahs, a single surah, or even a verse.


This sheds light on the fact that the Quran is the word of Allah. No one can produce it, even the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself who was an eloquent man.

Allah Almighty says: 

{Say: Verily, though mankind and the Jinn should assemble to produce the like of this Quran, they could not produce the like thereof though they were helpers one of another.” (Al-Israa 17:88)

Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “In every divinely-revealed book there is a divine secret; in the Quran, it is these letters.”

Ibn Abbas said that these letters stand as a proof of the authenticity of the words that occur after them.

We read Az-Zamakhshari’s Kashshaf: “These letters indirectly denote that though being part of their own language, the Quraish tribe failed to produce the like of the Quran.”

Some scholars adopt the view that these letters are names of the surahs (chapters of the Quran) in which they occur.

📚 Read Also: Inimitability of Quran: Meanings and Types

In another place, we find that these letters are an aspect of the challenge to the disbelievers (to produce the like of the Quran). Although the Prophet (PBUH) was illiterate, he brought something very unique in every aspect.

May Allah guide you to the best and direct you to that which pleases Him, Amen.

Almighty Allah knows best.

Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date