Posted by Jonah on April 01, 1999 at 08:58:03:
In Reply to: Al-Muqatta'at (abbreviated letters) in Al-Qur'an posted by Loren Henson on March 30, 1999 at 22:40:06:
Hi, Loren. I recently sent the following email to students in one of the Wilmette Institute courses. While somewhat tangential, it might help in places. -Jonah
One of the Tablets under study for unit 5, which most of you should be finishing up now, is the the Lawh-i-Ayiy-i-Nur (Tablet of the Verse of Light), otherwise known as Tafsir-i-Hurufat-i-Muqatta'ih (Interpretation of the Isolated Letters).
Taherzadeh summarizes this Tablet as follows:
"It was revealed in Arabic, in honour of Mirza Aqay-i
-Rikab-Saz, a native of Shiraz who laid down his life in
the path of Baha'u'llah and is one of the martyrs of the Faith
...He requested Baha'u'llah to interpret for him a certain verse
of the Qur'an and to explain the significance and the inner
meanings of the isolated letters which appear in the beginning
of certain chapters of that Book--letters which had puzzled
many of the divines and students of the Qur'an." (vol. 1, p. 125)
I have a couple of resources on this Tablet. First, I have an article by Robert T. Cameron, "The Disconnected Letters of the Qur'an and the Significance of the Number Nineteen." I don't know him personally and haven't yet secured permission to share this article, but once I've gotten in touch with him I should be able to share it. Second, I've compiled four short excerpts on the topic, below. These are (1) an excerpt from the Kitab-i-Iqan; (2) an excerpt from Dawnbreakers; (3) a footnote from Yusuf Ali's trans. of the Qur'an; (4) a paragraph from a very good book on Sufism.
In the Kitab-i-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 virtually 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.
All of the above treat just the subject of the disconnected letters. The "Light Verse" is another kettle of fish altogether! If anyone is doing a project on this, let me know and I'll assemble more sources.
this topic is closed - post at bahai-library.com/forum