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THE MYSTIC LETTERS OF THE KORAN

Ache new student who comes to the study of the Arabic text of the
Koran is more or less perplexed by the problem of the mystic letters
which stand at the head of many of the Suras. Thus we fnd:
1
ALR at the head of Suras 1! 11! 1"! 1#! 1$.
AL% & & & & "! '! "(! '! '1! '".
AL%R & & & & 1'.
AL%S & & & & ).
*% & & & & #! #1! #'! ##! #$! #+.
*%,S- & & & & #".
S & & & & '..
TS & & & & ").
TS% & & & & "+! "..
T* & & & & ".
- & & & & $.
K*/,S & & & & 1(.
0 & & & & +..
/S & & & & '+.
And after listenin1 to the 2ariety of interpretations one,s Arabic
Shei3h can pro2ide for them! one is inclined to say! as %ohammed
himself said of other matters in the Koran! &none 3noweth the
interpretation sa2e 4od.&
"
5oth %oslem and non6%oslem scholars! howe2er! ha2e been
dili1ent in see3in1 an interpretation! and the in7uiry has exercised
such di8erent types of mind as A2icenna
'
and Siyuti
#
amon1
%oslem scholars! and Spren1er
$
and 9ran: 5uhl
+
amon1 ;hristians.
<t would be proftless to set out in detail the speculations of %oslem
commentators. <t is su=cient to notice that they fall rou1hly into
two types! >1? those who treat the letters as mystic si1ns! and >"?
those who attempt some rational interpretation of them. The
Tur3ish translator of <bn Khaldun! e. 1.! represents the frst type.
&4od!& he says! &has placed these letters at the head of se2eral
Suras as a sort of defance@ it is as if *e had said to them! AThese
are the elements of which the Koran is composed! ta3e them and
ma3e of them a boo3 e7ual to it in style!B&
)
or accordin1 to
Cama3hshari as <bn Khaldun 7uotes him D &They indicate that the
style of the Koran is carried to such a de1ree of excellence! that it
defes e2ery attempt to imitate it@ for this boo3 which has been sent
down to us from hea2en is composed of letters. All men may 3now
them e7ually well! but this e7uality disappears when! in order to
express their ideas they want to use these same letters
combined.&
.
A 2ariety of this type is the attempted symbolic interpretation of
them. Thus Siyuti
(
7uotes some who held that - stands for Qaf! the
mountain that encircles the earth! or for the sea on which the
throne of the All6merciful rests. Ethers a1ain! he tells us! fnd a
numerical symbolism in them! e.1.! AL%R e7uals ")1! to which
2arious mystical si1nifcations can be attached!
1
while others
thou1ht they were mystic words of hea2enly lan1ua1e by which
4abriel used to call the Frophet,s attention! or words which the
Frophet used to call the attention of his hearers. Ethers still found in
them specimens of the hea2enly ori1inal of the Koran! or exhibitions
of the phonolo1y of the Arabic lan1ua1e.
11
An example of the second type is Siyuti! who in his Itqan
1"
1i2es
2arious su11estions as to the possible meanin1s! basin1 his
remar3s on <bn ,Abbas and other early authorities whose wor3s are
now lost to us. Thus he 7uotes <bn ,Abbas to the e8ect that the
letters K*/,S at the head of Sura xix stand for the f2e attributes of
4od!
1'
Karim >1racious?! Hadi >the 4uide?! hakYm >the
wise?! 'alim >the Learned?! Sadiq >the Ri1hteous?. So AL%S stands
for Ana 'Llahu 'rrahManu 's-Samad! >< am 4od the %erciful the
Gternal?. 5aidawi also follows this line of interpretation! e.1.! in his
commentary on Sura xiii he says that AL%R means Ana 'Llahu
a'liMu w'aRa ><! 4od! 3now and see?.
1#
Hnder the same 1roup would
fall the su11estion that the letters si1nify the rhyme or rhymes on
which the Suras were ori1inally built e.1. the 0 Suratu! ,l6-alam
>lx2iii?! would indicate the -un, -in rhyme that runs throu1h it.
1$
Fractically all %oslem interpretations insist that the mystic letters
are part of the ori1inal Koran as it was re2ealed to %ohammed!
1enerally basin1 their claims on the words that so follow the si1ns!
&These are the si1ns of the clear boo3.& >Sura xii! etc.?! the ob2ious
reply to which is that they always stand at the head of the Suras
and ne2er in the midst of them! thou1h many are confessedly
composite Suras.
%odern Guropean attempts at interpretation may be 4olius,
su11estion
1+
that they were scribe,s mar3s@ thus AL% would stand
for Amara Li Muhammed >%ohammed commanded me?! and K*/,S
head of Sura xix would be the mar3 of a Iewish scribe and stand for
the *ebrew. Ko* /a,aS >thus he directed?
1)
. The most famous
su11estion! howe2er! up to recent days! was that of 0Jlde3e! who in
the frst edition of his Geshihte des Q!rans >1.+?!
1.
su11ested
that when Caid ibn Thabit was at wor3 editin1 the Koran for o=cial
publication! and was piecin1 to1ether the fra1ments recei2ed from
di8erent 7uarters! he preser2ed in some of the more important
fra1ments thus recei2ed! the initials of the persons from whom he
recei2ed them. Thus AL%R mi1ht stand for Al6%u1hira! or T* for
Talha and so on. Later! howe2er! he went bac3 on this! and in his
article on the &Koran& in the ninth edition of the "n#l!$aedia
%ritannia
1(
he followed E. Loth,s su11estion that the letters 1o
bac3 to %ohammed himself and ha2e some intentionally mystic
si1nifcation. Loth,s ar1ument appeared in an article in &'MG for
1..1
"
on Tabari,s ;ommentary on the Koran! where he criticises
0Jlde3e,s earlier &mono1ram& theory! and states his own! opinion
that they were due to Iewish inKuence >sein1 that they almost
in2ariably appear in %edina Suras! where Iewish inKuence was
stron1! and not in %eccan Suras! where it was practically non
existent?! and of the same nature as the mystic f1ures and symbols
of the Iewish Kabbala.
"1
Loth also thou1ht that the 3ey to the
symbols would be found in the openin1 words of the Suras to which
they are attached! a su11estion which! as we shall see in a
moment! has borne most important fruit in more recent
in2esti1ation.
Aloys Spren1er
""
fa2oured the mono1ram theory of the letters! but
not 0Jlde3e,s 2ariety. Ta3in1 the K*/,S at the head of Sura xix! he
noted that this Sura dealt with the histories of ;hrist and of Iohn the
5aptist! and that it was the Sura which %ohammed,s ambassadors
recited to the Kin1 of Abyssinia. So Spren1er su11ested that the
letters there stand for a ;hristian symbol! much after the same
style as <0R< ><esus 0a:arenus Rex <udaeorum? as used amon1
;hristians. Thus he would read 'Isa 'n (asari maliku'l Yahidi#in! and
ta3in1 the most prominent letters in each word
"'
we
fnd 'Isa 1i2es '(asari 1i2es S! malik 1i2es K! and Yahudi#in 1i2es
*/@ so K*/,S. All of which is 2ery far fetched and improbable.
*artwi1 *irschfeld in the last chapter of his (ew Researhes int!
the )!m$!siti!n and "*e+esis !f the K!ran!
"#
ta3es up a1ain and
ma3es a stron1 case for 0Jlde3e,s ori1inal theory. A1ainst the idea
that the letters 1o bac3 to %ohammed himself! he ma3es the
conclusi2e point! that if that were so! then %ohammed must ha2e
had some share in the arran1ement of the Suras! for it is ob2ious
from a 1lance at the table of the si1ns that there is some
connection between them and the numerical order of the Suras.
And of course! all our e2idence is directly opposed to the Frophet
ha2in1 had anythin1 to do with the collection and arran1ement of
his re2elations. Startin1 from the fact that there are only twenty6
nine occurrences of these letters! and all of them at the head of
composite Suras! *irschfeld elaborates 0Jlde3e,s ori1inal
su11estion.
"$
<n e2ery case he treats the AL of these letters as the
Arabic article al and 1i2es as his su11estions as to the names of the
persons represented by the letters:D
%DAl %u1hira
SD*afSa
RDAl CubeiR
KDAbu 5aKr
*DAbu *ureira
0D,Ethma0
TDTalha
SDSa,d b. Abi La77as
*D*udaifa,
,D,Emar >or ,Ali! or <bn ,Abbas! or ,Aisha?.
-D-asim b. Rabi,a.
*ans 5auer made a new be1innin1 at the solution of the problem in
1("1 in an article in 2ol. lxx2 of &'MG.
"+
Etto Loth in the article we
ha2e already mentioned laid it down that the letters were certainly
to be considered as abbre2iations of well63nown -ur,anic
expressions! and himself made certain su11estions of a solution in
this direction! e. 1.! that AL%S stood for Sirat AL6%ista7im!
")
but his
method herein is almost as arbitrary as that of Spren1er! and lies
under the serious condemnation that it ma3es the symbols more
unintelli1ible than the words for which they are abbre2iations!
whereas the essential point of an abbre2iation is that it be as clear
and intelli1ible as the words for which it stands. <s there any more
certain way of interpretin1 them as abbre2iationsM 5auer thin3s
there is! startin1 from the fact that four >or perhaps f2e? of these
mystic letters! 2i: /S! S! -! T*! >and maybe 0? are at present used
as Titles of the Suras in which they occur! he writes! &0ow the Titles
of the Suras for the most part consist of more or less stri3in1 catch
words which are ta3en from the Suras concerned! so we would
consider the abo2e cases as abbre2iations of in1enious catch6words
also!& *e then 1oes on to 1i2e some su11estions as to possible
solutions. Thus!D
/S of Sura xxx2i he interprets as an abbre2iation of /aS,a >he who
runs?!
".
of 2erse 1(.
S of Sura xxx2iii is similarly the Safnatu of yerse ' &the char1ers&
which so interested the %oslem commentators >e.1. 5aidawi 2. 1.?.
- of Sura 1! he refers to Qarinuhu >he who is at his side?
"(
of 2erse
"" and "+.
T* of Sura xx he ta3es as two names! not one! the T is for Tuwa of
2erse ."! the holy 2alley in which 4od appeared to %oses@ and * is
for *arun! the biblical Aaron who is mentioned se2eral times in this
Sura.
0 of Sura lx2iii is for ma,(in >the demented? which in a way is the
subNect of the Sura.
0ow this is a 2ery bi1 step on the way! but it is not 7uite
satisfactory! in that it still lea2es some thin1s un6explained! and has
no consistent theory as to the reason of the si1ns bein1 these.
The most recent in2esti1ation is that of Gduard 4oossens in an
article &Hrsprun1 und 5edeutun1 der Koranischen Si1len& published
in the latest fascicule of 2ol. xiii of 'er Islam. 6 >pp. 1(16
""+?
'
4oossens a1rees that the si1ns must be considered as
abbre2iations! and the wor3 of the collector! or may be some later
redactor of the Koran! but he claims that he has a consistent
principle for explainin1 them! a principle that will do away with the
arbitrariness of pre2ious su11estions as to their interpretation.
Seein1 that they all stand at the be1innin1 of Suras! and ne2er
within the Text! he ma3es the frst point! that they may be
concei2ed of as some sort of introduction to the Suras. They would
thus be abbre2iations of some such technical introduction as the
5ismillah. 0ow what sort of a technical introduction besides the
5ismillah are we li3ely to fnd at the head of a SuraM 4oossens
points out that each Sura already has such in its title! e. 1. Sura ii is
called &Al65a7ara!& Sura 2i &Al6Anfal!& Sura xii &/usuf& and so on.
*ere he fnds the 3ey to the problem. Le 3now that the present
names for the Suras were not always or uni2ersally accepted! for
there is still 1ood tradition for the currency of other names for some
of them@ e. 1.! Sura ix in our editions is called &At6Tauba!& but there
is another name &Al65ara,a& current in Tradition@ Sura x2ii &Al6<sra,&
is also 3nown as &5ani <srail!& and Sura xxxii! &As6SaNda!& as &Al6
%adaNi,!& etc.& Also at the present day the names di8er somewhat in
di8erent parts of the <slamic world: e. 1.! Sura xl! which in the east
is called &Al6%u,min!& is widely 3nown in the west as &Al64hafr!& and
similarly Sura xl2ii! &%ohammed!& as &Al6-ital!& etc. This 2ariety of
names! 4oossens ar1ues! must ha2e been much 1reater in the past
than it is now! when e2erythin1 <slamic has become so stereo6
typed! and so he proposes to re1ard the letters in 7uestion as
remains of old names which once were current.
'"
Supposin1 then that they are abbre2iations of old Titles for the
Suras! what principle are we 1oin1 to use to sol2e the riddle of their
meanin1M 4oossens says we shall probably fnd it by examinin1 the
titles at present in use to disco2er the principle on which they were
1i2en. Gxaminin1 these! we notice! that with the exception of Sura i
and cxii
''
the Titles are in2ariably chosen from words occurrin1
within the Suras themsel2es! in se2enty two cases it is the frst
word!
'#
or one of the frst words that is chosen! and in the
remainin1 forty it is some stri3in1 word occurrin1 further on in the
Sura. This is a characteristically Semitic procedure!
'$
and su11ests
that the same principle would apply to earlier selections of Titles.
0ow when we loo3 a little more closely at this! we fnd the
remar3able fact that of the Suras with mystic letters! only se2en are
found amon1 the se2enty6two named from the be1innin1 of the
Sura! and of these se2en! four! 2i:. 6 xx >T*?! xxx2i >/S?! xxx2iii >S?
and 1 >-?! are themsel2es the Titles of their Suras! lea2in1 us only
three! 2i:. xxx >AL%?! xli >*%? and lx2iii >0?. Ef these! xxx and xli
belon1 to 1roups! and lx2iii has a special reason! as we shall see
later@ so the conclusion is forced on us that the se2enty6two are so
well and clearly distin1uished by their namin1 that any other name
for them hardly e2er comes into 7uestion! whereas there is and has
been much more uncertainty about those named from within the
Sura.
An ob2ious obNection here crops up. <f these letters are
abbre2iations of old Titles! how does it come about that in one case
>ALR? there are f2e Suras with the same letters! and in two cases!
>AL%? and >T*? there are six of themM <s it li3ely that so many
di8erent Suras would ha2e had the same nameM 4oossens
pro2isionally answers this by pointin1 out that it does not follow
that the abbre2iation in e2ery case is for the same name. Thus to
ta3e AL%! it mi1ht be used as the abbre2iation of no less than
fourteen of the present names of Suras!
'+
all of which be1in with
AL%.
Thus we are ready now to ta3e up the 7uestion of the indi2idual
si1ns. Le are to see3 the explanation of each one in its own Sura!
loo3in1 for a personal name or some other stri3in1 word! 3ey6word!
in the Sura! and loo3in1 for it sooner in the body of the text than at
the be1innin1. 4oossens, interpretations are as follows:
0. Sura lx2iii. Schwally had already pointed out
')
that there is an
Arabic tradition in the %ufaddaliyat that this 0 is for Al-Hut D &the
fsh& from the 0orth Semitic nun D fsh.
'.
0ow in lx2iii #.! Ionah is
called Sahi- al nun! and Sura xxi. .) 3nows him as dhu 'n-(un. Thus
we are on 2ery safe 1round in interpretin1 0 as an abbre2iation for
&Al60un!& and this forms a 3ey for the further solutions.
-. Sura 1. of which it is the name. <n %orocco at the present day
this Sura is 3nown as .Al-Ma,id,. a name ta3en from the second
word in the Sura. Lhen we loo3 at the precedin1 word we fnd that
it is -ur,an! and here is our - for us.
/S. Sura xxx2i. This Sura is used at %oslem funerals! and yet there
is in the contents of the Sura no apparent 1round for this usa1e. 5ut
when we loo3 at Sura xxx2ii we fnd it full of eschatolo1ical matter!
Nust such as we should expect to be used at obse7uies. Sura xxx2ii
is in fact the dies irae of <slam. *ow is it then that Sura xxx2i is used
instead of xxx2iiM 4oossens su11ests that they were once Noined
to1ether. They both ha2e the same rhyme! sa2e for the introductory
2erses of xxx2ii >1611?! and if we omit these introductory 2erses we
fnd that xxx2ii 1" Noins ri1ht on with the end of xxx2i. 0ow in xxx2ii
1' we come upon the name of one of the ser2ants of 4od! Glias /Al
Yas0 2 1"' or Al Yasin! 2 1'! a name un3nown to the Arabs who
made out of it Al-Yasin! >parallel with Al-'Amran? as is still done in
%orocco. *ere then is the /s!
'(
an abbre2iation of a personal name
and fttin1 in with our principle.
S. Sura xxx2iii. The unitin1 of the two pre2ious Suras left us with
2erses 1611 of Sura xxx2ii on our hands@ 4oossens thin3s they
ori1inally belon1ed at the head of Sura xxx2iii where they ft on e
xcellently. The S would then come from the frst word of the
Sura! .As-Sa1at. and its present use as the name of the Sura fts in
exceedin1ly well with the theory@ the S at the head of Sura xxx2iii!
which has no other name! bein1 a tradition of the ori1inal place of
the ele2en 2erses there.
ALR. Suras x@ xi@ xii@ xiii >AL%R?@ xi2@ x2. These all >except xiii? deal
with the same subNect! the history of the Apostles whom 4od had
throu1hout the a1es sent to man3ind to warn them! e. 1. Sura x
deals with D 0oah! %oses! Aaron and Ionah.
Sura xi deals with D 0oah! *ud! Salih! Abraham! Lot! Shu,eib! and
%oses.
Sura xii deals with D Ioseph and the sons of Iacob.
Sura xi2 deals with D %oses! 0oah! *ud! Salih! and Abraham.
Sura x2 deals with D Abraham! Lot! Shu,eib >to %idian? and Salih >in
the 2alley Al6*iNr?
%oreo2er they are 3nown by the names of the Apostles D Sura x D
Ionah@ xi D *ud@ xii D Ioseph@ xi2 D Abraham@ x2 D Al6*iNr >i.e.
Salih?@ and they all ha2e much the same introduction. Thus
4oossens thin3s they once formed a Sura61roup 3nown as the
Apostle61roup! and called by the 1eneral name .Al-Rusul,. i. e.! the
Apostles! and arran1ed in Erder of their len1th. Later each of them
became 3nown by its own prominent Apostle,s name! but the ALR
attached to them all preser2ed the old tradition.
Sura xii stands a little out of the 1roup! its introduction bein1 the
only apparent connection it has with them. <t mentions no indi2idual
Apostle! but it does more than once refer to the pre2ious Apostles in
1eneral. So maybe AL%R is but .Al-Mursal.! a participle from the
root RSL! of %ohammed is called .Al Mursal. in 2erse #'.
AL% Suras ii iii! xxix! xxx! xxxi! xxxii. Li3e the pre2ious set of Suras
these are arran1ed accordin1 to their len1th! and also probably
once formed a 1roup! which the redactor di2ided into two because
of the unusual len1th of ii and iii! which accordin1 to his principle of
arran1ement needed to ta3e a place near the be1innin1. 9or such a
1roup the word Mathal forms the connectin1 lin3! and this would
su11est for AL% the meanin1 .Al-Mathal.D the parable. Le need
not follow 4oossens in his wor3in1 this out in detail for each Sura.
#
AL%S. Sura 2ii. <n 2erse 1 we come across the
word Sawwarnakum >we fashioned you? which lin3s on with the
well63nown name of 4od .Al Musawwir. >the 9ashioner? found e.1. in
Sura lix. "#. 0ow as <slamic tradition explains this S as .Al-
Musawwir,. and as we fnd in 2. 1)( of this Sura 2ii the statement!
&Allah,s are the most excellent titles!& we are fairly safe in this
identifcation.
K*/,S Sura xix. This is a composite Sura. Oerses 16'#@ #"6)$ are
connected by similarity of rhyme! and deal with the history of the
Frophets! Iohn! Iesus! Abraham! %oses! <srael and <dris. Oerses '$6
#1 are an interpolation about Iesus in a di8erent rhyme. Oerses )+
to the end are also in di8erent rhyme! and loo3 li3e a later
embellishment. This su11ests that this lon1 list of si1ns is also
composite! and 4oossens unra2els them as follows: /
D Yah#a >Iohn?! , D ,Isa >Iesus?. That clears up two of the sections.
The third section 2. )+ 8. is a fra1ment of a sermon of %ohammed
to the %eccans! and was once 3nown as .Ad'-'alal. >the Grror?! so
this 1i2es us our S.
#1
5ut what of the K*M There is clearly nothin1
with which they can be related in Sura xi@ but if we loo3 for a
moment at Sura x2iii! we fnd its name is .Al-Kahf. and that is also a
composite Sura containin1 stories much after the style of Sura xix.
So the conclusion is that they formed one Sura! and the K* at the
be1innin1 of our 1roup of si1ns is explained.
#"
T*. Sura xx. <f we ta3e the two letters as an abbre2iation of one
word! there is no li3ely word in the Sura! but if we separate them!
the two ob2ious words are those 5auer had already su11ested! 2i:.
T D 2uwa! and * DHarun. Frof. 4rimme ma3es a su11estion here
which may be an impro2ement on this! *e thin3s that the T of 2uwa!
ha2in1 been made the Title of the Sura! and not bein1 understood!
was 1i2en in pronunciation the feminine D ah endin1.
TS%. Suras xx2i! xx2ii >TS? and xx2iii. This would loo3 li3e another
1roup! and 5auer notices that they all be1in with the story of %oses!
so that the % of at least two of them mi1ht be from Musa >%oses?.
<n xx2i 4oossens fnds the S in .Ash-Shu'ara'. &the poets!& of 2.
""#
#'
which has 1i2en the Sura its name! and the T in the South6
Arabian 2ud! the mountain of 2. +'.
Sura xx2ii deals mostly with Solomon! so it is natural fnd the S
in Sulaiman! and the T would be for the 2air >the 5irds? who play
such a prominent part in the Solomon story.
There is much more di=culty with Sura xx2iii and 4oosens almost
1i2es it up in despair. 9or the T he su11est Adh-'hill. >the Shadow?
of 2. "#
##
or .Attur. >the mountain? of 2. "(! #+! or .At-2in. >the
clay?. S there is only .Ash-Shatil' >the 5rin3? of 2. '@ and the %
either Musa! or Mid#an >2. "1! ""! #$?.
*%. Sura xl@ xli@ xlii >*%,S-?,@ xliii@ xli2@ xl2@ all ha2in1 the same
characteristic introduction. They form an eschatolo1ical 1roup and
doubtless the *% has the same meanin1 in each case.
#$
>5auer
noticed that words for *ell! 3ahannam, 3ahlm, (ar occur particularly
fre7uently in these Suras! and 4oossens notes further that they
remar3 on the dreadful Hamim >the boilin1 water? which is to be so
essential a part of the punishments in the life beyond.
#+
So he
reads *% from that as perhaps a typical word for future
punishment.
Sura xlii is peculiar in ha2in1 in addition to the *% the 1roup ,S-. <t
is to be noticed that in writin1 the two 1roups are6always 3ept
separate. *% of course would ob2iously lin3 up with the rest of the
1roup! and 4oossens a1rees with 5auer followin1 Schwally
#)
and
Loth
#.
in ta3in1 the ,S- as an abbre2iation of &la,alla ,s6sa,ata 7arib,
>maybe the hour D !f the hamim' D is near? of 2. 1+.
#(
That is the complete list! and students of the Koran will 1reet it with
mixed feelin1s. Some of the identifcations certainly appear 2ery
dubious! and at times one wonders whether the author has escaped
the arbitrariness of which he char1es others. 5ut there can be no
doubt whate2er that this is the bi11est ad2ance yet made toward
the solution of the problem! and we cannot but feel that here at
least we ha2e the ri1ht line to follow if e2er an entire solution of the
mystery can be obtained. Pisco2eries li3e %in1ana,s of fra1ments of
seemin1ly pre6Ethmanic Korans
$
1i2e us hope that there may yet
come to hand manuscript e2idence that will 1i2e us yet older
tradition and more certain e2idence. The present writer has tried
this present theory on some A:hari6trained Shei3hs in ;airo! and
while they are forced to admit the co1ency of some of the
ar1uments! they all fall bac3 on the position that these letters are
part of the 2ery word of 4od written from all eternity on the
Freser2ed Table! whereas this theory would ma3e them out to be
the wor3 of man.
4oossens 1oes on to discuss the probable ori1in and date of the
si1ns! and their relation to the orderin1 of the Suras! lin3in1 on
a1ain here with 5auer,s paper in &'MG. 5ut this e7ually fascinatin1
and important discussion! must be postponed for a later issue.
)air!, "+#$t4
ART*HR IG99GR/.
1
The arrangement followed here is that of Nldeke-Schwally Geschichte des Qorans, II 68 69.

iii !, "#t see $aidawi thereon.


%
Arrisala Annairuziyya. &onst. 198. a'#d (irschfeld New Researches, '. 1)1.
)
Itqan. 'assim. Nldeke-Schwally iia, *+ ff. de'ends mostly on the It,an for the acco#nt of -oslem inter'retations.
!
Des Leben and die Lehre des Mohammad. $d. II 18 ff. See also Journal o Royal Asiatic !ociety o "en#al. .. '.
8+.
6
/-onogrammerne i 0oranen,/ in ''. %-%) of $ests%rit i Anlednin# of 1rof. 2. Simonsens *+ aarige 3dselsdag,
&o'enhagen. 19%.
*
Les &rol'#om(nes, tr. $aron de Slane. iii 68, n. i.
8
)*. cit. iii 68. $aron de Slane notes that whereas 4amakhahari deals at length with these mysterio#s letters in his
commentary on the second S#ra, this 'artic#lar remark ,#oted "y I"n 5hald#n is not fo#nd there.
9
)* cit.
1+
Sale mentions this method of inter'retation in ca'. iii of his &reliminary Discourse. 6'. 6) to the latest edition, whose
'agination is ,#oted thro#gho#t this article.7
11
Sale o*. cit. '. 6).
1
I #se the &airo edition in two 8ol#mes. 9.(. 1%19: It is tr#e that Siy#ti mentions 8ario#s other e.'lanations which
"elong more 'ro'erly to the first ty'e, "#t his own 'osition I ;#dge to "e that of the second ty'e.
1%
<thers, howe8er, think they are titles of the 1ro'het. Nldeke-Schwally II *1, from It,an. Nldeke=s note here is
interesting.
1)
iii, 1)! of my edition.
1!
This seems a most #nlikely sol#tion, and I ha8e "een #na"le to trace its origin. -y 9ra"ic Sheikh in &airo knows it
well, and can enter into long e.'lanations of it, "#t he does not remem"er on whose a#thority it is gi8en. >odwell also
knew of it.
16
is in his 9''endi. to ?r'eni#s= Arabic Grammar, ,#oted "y Sale, &reliminary Dis. co#rse. '. 6).
1*
The &handos ?dition of Sale writes this as +ob yaas@ which is re'eated in the most recent edition, that of Sir ?.
2enison >osa. cf. '. 6!.
18
'. 1! ff.
19
>e'rinted as the second essay in his )rientalische, !%izzen, 189. 6There he writes /9t one time I s#ggested that
these letters did not "elong to -ohammed=s te.t, "#t might "e the monograms of 'ossessors of codices, which thro#gh
negligence on the 'art of the editors, were incor'orated in the final form of the 5oranA "#t I now deem it more 'ro"a"le
that they are to "e traced to the 1ro'het himself as S'renger and Both s#''ose... -ohammed seems to ha8e meant these
letters for, a mystic reference to the archety'al te.t in hea8en. To a man who regarded the art of writing, of which at the
"est he had "#t a slight knowledge, as something s#'ernat#ral, and who li8ed amongst illiterate 'eo'le, an 9$& may
well ha8e seemed more significant then to #s who ha8e "een initiated into the mysteries of this art from o#r childhood.
The 1ro'het himself can hardly ha8e attached any 'artic#lar meaning to these sym"olsA they ser8ed their '#r'ose if they
con8eyed an im'ression of soemnity and enigmatical o"sc#rity./7
+
-DMG 8ol. ...8 !88 ff. The section /2ie -onogramme/ ''. 6+%-61+.
1
(irschfeld 'oints o#t, howe8er, 6New Researchs '. )7, /that Cewish mysticism of this kind does not go "ack as far
as the 'eriod in which these initials were written./

Leben. ii. 18 n. i.
%
It is c#rio#s to note that it is not necessary in a Semitic lang#age to choose the initial letters for making an
a""re8iation. 9 (e"rew e.am'le is in the memoria technical <aN2aD, #sed to denote the "ooks s#''osed "y Cewish
tradition to ha8e "een written "y the /-en of the Dreat Synagog#e./ 8iE. ?Eekiel, the -inor 1ro'hets, 2aniel, ?sther.
To form 0aN2aD, they ha8e taken the fo#rth (e"rew letter in .ze%iel, the second in /The Twel8e/, the first in 2aniel,
and the second in /roll of ?sther./
)
Bondon 19+, ''. 1)r ff.
!
The most interesting 'iece of e8idence in fa8or of this is the fact that in a $ritish -#se#m M! of 9l 2ani=s
&ommentary, the letters T( at the "ead of S#ra .. are followed "y the common -#slim 'hrase /on Fhom "e 'eace,/
which of co#rse co#ld only "e #sed in reference to 'ersons. 6This is e8idently a reference to Ta-(a #sed as a name for
-ohammed, cf. Bane=s /-odern ?gy'tians,/ cha'. ..ii, '. )6 of ed. in ?8eryman=s Bi"rary. 2. $. -acdonald.7
6
/G"er die 9nordn#ng der S#ren #nd H"er die geheimnis8ollen $#chsta"en im 0oran/. (is theory of the order of the
S#ras is as interesting as his theory of the letters, "#t does not concern #s here.
*
-DMG ...8 '. 6+9. See the criticism on his s#ggestions in Nldeke-Schwally.
8
This was (a"i" the car'enter, according to $aidawi 6i8. 1867, who re'ro8ed their idolatry, and th#s yes/a here co#ld
in some sense "e looked on as a 'ersonal name.
9
$aidawi 68. 9%7 inter'rets this in 8. as the angel who has charge o8er him and in 8. 6 !! Satan.
%+
Doossens says that his theory was worked o#t in the s#mmer of 19+ and talked o8er with his teacher 1rof. Drimme,
who enco#raged him to ela"orate it d#ring the a#t#mn of the same year as an 9cademic dissertation. Th#s, tho#gh it has
a''eared later, it is chronologically earlier than (ans $a#er=s disc#ssion of the ,#estion.
%1
3lHgel gi8es them in the Ta"le of &ontents to his +orani 0e1tus arabicus, Bei'Eig.
%
In s#''ort of this 'ro'osal he 'oints o#t that a statistical e.amination of the S#ras re8eals that ;#st those S#ras whose
names ha8e 8aried the most are those which ha8e an a""re8iation at the "eginning.
%%
Doossens= e.'lanation of these two e.ce'tions is that the first one was gi8en its s'ecial name as the /<'ening/ S#ra
of the 5oran, and S#ra c.ii, as a sort of &redo or s#ccinct 'rofession of faith, was 'laced last. S#ras c.iii and c.i8,
which are only incantations, were added later as a kind of 9''endi.. This e.'lanation follows I"n -as=#d, as 'reser8ed
in the $ihrist.
%)
9s in the (e"rew names for the "ooks of the 1entate#ch, e. g. Denesis /$ereshith/ /in the "eginning./
%!
1rof Drimme s#ggests this, as a way o#t of the diffic#lty of ii Sam. i 18. If we take /the $ow/ to "e the name of the
song taken from 8. , we can read the (e"rew te.t witho#t any emendation, /he "ade them teach the children of C#dah
=the $ow=,/ i.e. the song which then follows.
%6
i.e. 8A ..iiiA ...8A .lA l8iiiA l.i l.iiiA l.8iiA l..A l..iiiA l..i8A l..8iiA l...ii, c8ii.
%*
Nldeke-Schwally, II.*+, Doossens confesses that it was this note of Schawally=s that first '#t him on the track of his
idea for the inter'retation of these signs.
%8
$aidawi calls this S#ra, N#n, and inter'rets it as /9l-(#t,/ 8. 1)%.
%9
Doossens, howe8er, has a tendency to fa8or $a#er=s reading as not needing the com"ination of the two S#ras.
)+
..i. is called /the S'ider/ and in 8. )+ we find ='ara"le of the S'ider./ ... is all a"o#t the signs and mathal of 9llah,
...i contains the amthal 6'l#. of mathal7 of B#,man to his son. ii is also f#ll of 'ro8er"s and a'othegms, and iii may "e
named from 8. 11% or 8. !, or the 9B- might "e from 2Al3/amran2/. ...ii gi8es the greatest diffic#lty, and if it "e too
great a stretch of the imagination to class it in the mathal-gro#', Doossens s#ggests its ancient title was 2Al3Mada4i/2 I
the "eds, which tradition gi8es #s as so alternati8e title for the S#ra.
)1
In 9ra"ic scri't the difference "etween S and 2 is only the matter of a dot as also "etween (, 5h, C. and T, 4 etc., and
s#ch diacritical marks did not e.ist in the old &#"e al'ha"et, so the a"o8e identification 'resents no diffic#lty on that
gro#nd.
)
There are two other 'oints in fa8or of this 8iew I 617 that S#ra .i. shows the characteristic "eginning of a new
section of a S#ra, "#t not of a new S#ra, whereas S#ra .8iii has this introd#ctionA 67 the length of S#ra .i. deranges the
system of ordering the S#ras according to length, whereas the #niting of them "oth "rings it to the re,#isite length.
)%
9gain the difference "etween S and Sh is a matter of dots only.
))
So also "etween T and 2h.
)!
Note also they follow one another in order of length.
)6
Jide .l *%A .li8 )6, )8A .ii %) 6in connection with /friend,/ another meaning of hamim. cf. .i 197.
)*
Nldeke-Schwally, II *%.
)8
-DMG ...8 '. 6+9.
)9
&#rio#sly eno#gh tradition tells #s that I"n -as=#d=s co'y read only S0. which is got "y dro''ing the La/alla which
is only an introd#ctory 'article.
!+
Lea5es rom three Ancient Qu/rans. Bondon, 191).
0he Muslim 6orld, 8ol. 1%@ 19), ''. )*-6+.