أعوذبِاللَّـهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ
[I Seek refuge in ALLAH from Shaitan - the accursed one]
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
[In The Name of ALLAH, The MOST GRACIOUS - THE MOST MERCIFUL]
The Discussion of Individual Letters
The individual letters in the beginning of some Surahs are among those things whose knowledge Allah has kept only for Himself. This was reported by Abu Bakr,`Umar, `Uthman, `Ali and Ibn Mas`ud. It was said that these letters are the names of some of the Surahs. It was also said that they are the beginnings that Allah chose to start the Surahs of the Qur'an with. Khasif stated that Mujahid said, "The beginnings of the Surahs such as Qaf, Sad, Ta Sin Mim and Alif Lam Ra, are just some letters of the alphabet." Some linguists also stated that they are letters of the Alphabet and that Allah simply did not cite the entire alphabet of twenty-eight letters. For instance, they said, one might say, "My son recites Alif, Ba, Ta, Tha..." he means the entire alphabet although he stops before mentioning the rest of it. This opinion was mentioned by Ibn Jarir.
The Letters at the Beginning of Surahs
If one removes the repetitive letters, then the number of letters mentioned at the beginning of the Surahs is fourteen: Alif, Lam, Mim, Sad, Ra, Kaf, Ha, Ya, `Ayn, Ta, Sin, Ha, Qaf, Nun.
So glorious is He Who made everything subtly reflect His wisdom.
Moreover, the scholars said, "There is no doubt that Allah did not reveal these letters for jest and play." Some ignorant people said that some of the Qur'an does not mean anything, (meaning, such as these letters) thus committing a major mistake. On the contrary, these letters carry a specific meaning. Further, if we find an authentic narration leading to the Prophet that explains these letters, we will embrace the Prophet's statement. Otherwise, we will stop where were made to stop and will proclaim,
The scholars did not agree on one opinion or explanation regarding this subject. Therefore, whoever thinks that one scholar's opinion is correct, he is obliged to follow it, otherwise it is better to refrain from making any judgement on this matter. Allah knows best.
These Letters testify to the Miraculous Qur'an
The wisdom behind mentioning these letters in the beginning of the Surahs, regardless of the exact meanings of these letters, is that they testify to the miracle of the Qur'an. Indeed, the servants (creation) are unable to produce something like the Qur'an, although it is comrised of the same letters with which they speak to each other.1 Az-Zamakhshari said that these letters, "Were not all mentioned once in the beginning of the Qur'an. Rather, they were repeated so that the challenge (against the creation) is more daring. Similarly, several stories were mentioned repeatedly in the Qur'an, and also the challenge was repeated in various areas (i.e., to produce something like the Qur'an). Sometimes, one letter at a time was mentioned, such as Sad, Nun and Qaf. Sometimes two letters were mentioned, such as
|Ha Mim (Chapter 44 Verse 1)|
Sometimes, three letters were mentioned, such as,
|Alif Lam Mim (Chapter 2 Verse 1)|
and four letters such as,
|Alif Lam Mim Ra (Chapter 13 Verse 1)|
|Alif Lam Mim Sad (Chapter 7 Verse 1)|
Sometimes, five letters were mentioned, such as,
|Kaf Ha Ya `Ayn Sad (Chapter 19 Verse 1)|
|Ha Mim. `Ayn Sin Qaf (Chapter 42 Verses 1-2)|
This is because the words that are used in speech are usually comprised of one, two, three, four, or five letters."
Every Surah that begins with these letters demonstrates the Qur'an's miracle and magnificence, and this fact is known by those well-versed in such matters. The count of these Surahs is twenty-nine. For instance, Allah said,
|(Alif Lam Mim) This is the book (the Qur'an), wherein there is no doubt (Chapter 2 Verses 1-2)|
|Alif Lam Sad. (This is the) Book (the Qur'an) sent down unto you (O Muhammad), so let not your breast be narrow therefrom (Chapter 7 Verses 1-2)|
Also Allah said,
|Ha Mim. `Ain Sin Qaf. Likewise Allah, the Almighty, the Wise sends revelation to you (O Muhammad) as (He sent revelation to) those before you (Chapter 42 Verses 1-3)|
There are several other Ayat that testify to what we have mentioned above, and Allah knows best.
Whatever good comes from this post is from Allah alone and any mistakes therein are mine - if found, please inform, ASAP, Insha Allah.
1.This opinion was mentioned by Ar-Razi in his Tafsir who related it to Al-Mubarrid and several other scholars. Al-Qurtubi also related this opinion to Al-Farra' and Qutrub. Az-Zamakhshari agreed with this opinion in his book, Al-Kashshaf.In addit ion, the Imam and scholar Abu Al-`Abbas Ibn Taymiyyah and our Shaykh Al-Haf iz Abu Al-Haj j aj Al-Mizzi agreed with this opinion. Al-Mizzi told me that it is also the opinion of Shaykh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah.