Re: Explanation of letters in Qur'an.

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Posted by Jonah on February 01, 1998 at 07:20:39:

In Reply to: Explanation of letters in Qur'an. posted by Goli Martha Collestan Young on January 30, 1998 at 08:18:38:

In the Iqan, 202-203, Baha'u'llah writes: "In the beginning of His Book He saith: "Alif. Lam. Mim. No doubt is there about this Book: It is a guidance unto the God-fearing." [Qur'an 2:1] In the disconnected letters of the Qur'an the mysteries of the divine Essence are enshrined, and within their shells the pearls of His Unity are treasured. For lack of space We do not dwell upon them at this moment. Outwardly they signify Muhammad Himself, Whom God addresseth saying: "O Muhammad, there is no doubt nor uncertainty about this Book which hath been sent down from the heaven of divine Unity. In it is guidance unto them that fear God." Consider, how He hath appointed and decreed this self-same Book, the Qur'an, as a guidance unto all that are in heaven and on earth. He, the divine Being, and unknowable Essence, hath, Himself, testified that this Book is, beyond all doubt and uncertainty, the guide of all mankind until the Day of Resurrection."

In Dawnbreakers, 156, Nabil relates: "...Still another was Mirza Aqay-i-Rikab-Saz. He became so enamoured of the Bab on that day that no persecution, however severe and prolonged, was able either to shake his convictions or to obscure the radiance of his love. He, too, attained the presence of Baha'u'llah in Iraq. In answer to the questions which he asked regarding the interpretation of the Disconnected Letters of the Qur'an and the meaning of the Verse of Nur, he was favoured with an expressly written Tablet revealed by the pen of Baha'u'llah. In His path he eventually suffered martyrdom.

There has been much discussion of this issue for virually the entire history of Islam. There have been many speculations but no clear conclusions. A three-page summary can be found in the revised trans. of the Qur'an by Yusuf Ali, appendix 1. I'll excerpt from this appendix:

"A number of conjectures have been made as to their meaning. Opinions are divided as to the exact meaning of each particular letter or combination of letters, and it is agreed that only Allah knows their exact meaning....The whole [Qur'an] is a Record for all time. It must necessarily contain meanings that only gradually unfold themselves to humanity....These initials have a meaning which will be understood in the fullness of time." Yusuf Ali then goes on to examine some of the arithmetic combinations of these letters, relates them to phonetics, and compares suras with the same combinations of letters, but without any real answers. You can find many theories propounded, but all are mere speculation.

Annemarie Schimmel, in _Deciphering the Signs of God: A Phenomenological Approach to Islam_, p. 152, writes "A very special role was atributed to the groups of unconnected letters which precede a considerable number of Suras and whose meaning is not completely clear. Thus, many mysterious qualities were ascribed to them; they could also be seen as pointing to the special names of the Prophet...or other secret abbreviations....These isolated letters were often used in religio-magical contexts, and...they can be found in talismans engraved in agate...or inscribed in metal bowls for healing water.

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