Interpreting the Disjointed Letters of the Holy Quran (2/4)

Interpreting the Disjointed Letters of the Holy Quran (2/4)

Interpreting the Disjointed Letters of the Holy Quran (1/4)

8.1Alif Lam Mem (ا ل م)


Meaning: Power; Shepherd; Water. Hence, Water coming from Mighty Shepherd, Revelation from Allah, i.e. Quran.


Alif[2]: Aleph or Alif in Hebrew means ox. The pictographic description is also in sync with the phonetic name’s meaning. Since an ox was considered a symbol of huge power and might, its ideographic meaning is quite straightforward. Here it can be interpreted as a symbol for powerful or mighty.

Lam[3]: Lam in Arabic is actually Lamed in Hebrew, which means Shepherd’s staff or an Ox goad. Pictogram is also in sync. Moreover, various evolutionary scripts of both Hebrew and Arabic languages, including Arabic’s contemporary script, were always written in stark resemblance to an actual staff. Here it can be interpreted as a symbol signifying the person of Shepherd.

Alif Lam: As disjointed letters whenever Alif or Lam have occurred in the Quran, they have always occurred together as a pair, and in the same sequence; and neither ever alone. This points to the possibility of them acting as a unit to signify a single entity. Hence, they can be interpreted in combined form as Mighty Shepherd or Powerful Shepherd; which is the characteristic name of God (Allah) in Abrahamic religions. Describing God as a mighty shepherd is a recurring motif in the Bible[4]. As a matter of fact, Alif Lam (i.e. Hebrew: אל) is used as a possessive noun/suffix in Hebrew names in the Bible – and by Jews even today – as a customary habit[5]. Thus wherever Alif Lam has occurred, it means God; i.e. the Mighty Shepherd.

Mem[6]: Mem meant water in Hebrew and the same is confirmed by its pictographic description. The evolutionary scripts all conform to the form of a wave of water. Hence, it can mean a single wave of water as well as depict a body of water. Here, it does mean water but from the angle of a purifying substance. This attribute of water is established in Abrahamic religions.

Alif Lam Mem: Analysing as a compound entity it becomes obvious that it is symbolizing the holy book depicted as water from God being sent for purification and guidance of the believers. Hence, it is a symbolic name of the Quran. There is circumstantial evidence in the incidental chapters that confirms this meaning. In the chapters that begin with this disjointed letter combination, the very next verse at some places starts with ‘This book’[7]or ‘The book’[8]‘These verses are of the book…’[9], where ‘This, The & These’ are determiners clearly pointing to the book mentioned in the preceding verse comprising of disjointed letters. Similarly at some places the very following verses clearly declare it to be guidance for those who wish to purify themselves[10]. Moreover, since the disjointed letters imply two facts: that it is from God and that it is guidance for those who wish to purify themselves, hence if at one place the focus is on it being guidance for purification seekers[11], at another the focus is on it being from God[12]. These cues confirm the deducted meanings of the disjointed letters to a significant degree.

Relevance with Incident Chapters: This combination of disjointed letters occurs in the start of those chapters that either begin with, or contain near to the beginning, a subject of those seeking purification. These chapters are: 2, 3 and 29-32.

8.2Alif Lam Mem Tsade (
ا ل م ص)

Meaning: Quran and those who broke the law of the Sabbath.


Alif Lam Mem: Please see serial ‎8.1 above.

Tsade: [13] (צ, ص) is from among those characters pictographic roots of which are disputed; and thus resultant ideographic divergence is but natural. The pictogram preferred here is the fish hook. Tsade, as a word in both Hebrew and Arabic, points to hunting, hence this interpretation seems more appropriate than others. Moreover, the chapter this particular combination of disjointed letters occurs in contains the story of a tribe famed in Jewish tradition that violated the law of Sabbath[14]. This tribe was residing near a body of water and used to fish on the day of Sabbath despite being clearly forbidden to do so. Hence, interpreting Tsade as a fishing hook and using it as a symbol in the start seems perfectly appropriate to the subject matter of the incident chapter. Thus, Tsade has been used as a logogram here, as opposed to an ideogram.

8.3Alif Lam Ra (ا ل ر) & Alif Lam Mem Ra (ا ل م ر)


Meaning: Might; Shepherd; Wisdom; i.e. Wisdom coming from the Mighty Shepherd, thus Quran. With Mem coming before Ra, it is an indication of guidance + wisdom, yet the cumulative meaning is still Quran.


Alif Lam: Please see serial ‎8.1.

Ra[15]: Pictogram of Ra is that of a human head. In Hebrew the complete phonetic name is Resh which means head. Applying formulaic adjustments for equation with Arabic it becomes Ras which also means head. The most probable ideographic concept a human head can functionally symbolize appears to be that of wisdom and intelligence.

Alif Lam Ra: Hence the combination signifies wisdom that has come from the Mighty Shepherd. This, just like Alif Lam Mem, is another characteristic name that seems very befitting to the Quran. Just like there guidance for purification was the focused attribute, here it is wisdom and intelligence to save oneself from the punishment that awaits in the hereafter. The verses that immediately follow this combination in incident chapters clearly mention wisdom or intelligence as the central theme. Moreover, just like there were two aspects to Alif Lam Mem, here too at some places focus is on wisdom and at others focus is on the book’s revelation by God.

Alif Lam Mem Ra: In chapter 13, mem has been increased before ra to signify both attributes of the Quran, i.e. wisdom and guidance.

Relevance with Incident Chapters: This combination of disjointed letters has occurred in those chapters that narrate the stories of ancient prophets and the consequences those nations suffered for denying their prophethood. These chapters are: 10-15. Although Quran is filled with such cautionary tales and various other chapters narrate them, however this is a sustained back-to-back salvo of chapters that contains these tales as a central theme from the specific angle of cautioning Quran’s direct audience of the consequences they should be ready for in case they deny the message brought by Muhammad (peace be upon him). Thus in these chapters God is goading them to ‘use their heads’ and fear the looming consequences even if they do not wish to purify themselves by following the guidance. In chapter 13, since the text combines guidance for purification with the thematic warnings, therefore Mem (م) has been added to the tally. It can be said thus that this chapter is dual-coloured, i.e. partly like Alif Lam Mem (ا ل م) and partly like Alif Lam Ra (ا ل ر).

8.4Kaf Ha Ya Ayin Tsade (
ک ھ ی ع ص)

Meaning: Spread hand; Lo & behold; Working hand; Vision; Piety. Lo & behold! The Supplication, and Pious people who were Dexterous Visionaries.


Kaf [16]: It is Kaf (כ) in Hebrew. Pictographic description is that of a stretched hand with palm facing upwards, exposing the hollow of the bent hand. The phonetic name also means palm/hand in Hebrew and Arabic. The fact that stretched hand depicts supplication is a no-brainer; as in asking someone of something. Herein it is clearly a symbol depicting Prophet Zachariah’s (Peace be upon him) extended supplication with which the incident chapter[17]opens.

Ha[18]: It is He (ה) in Hebrew. While its pictographic roots are disputed (unknown, some say), the meaning it represents in Hebrew has been popularly taken to be ‘Lo & Behold’, i.e. when a person is awed by suddenly seeing a remarkable thing. Ha (ھا) in Arabic also has the same function and has been used in this sense in the Holy Quran more than once. Here it has come to express admiration for Zachariah’s prayer, symbolized by the preceding disjointed letter.

Ya[19]: It is Yod (י) in Hebrew. Pictographic description is that of an extended arm, as in doing something. Yod in Hebrew means hand; although hand in the ancient sense covered the entire/fore arm including hand. Same is its meaning in Arabic. Ideographically, here it has been used to depict skill and dexterity.

Ayin[20]: It is Ayin (ע) in Hebrew as well. Pictogram is of an eye, which is also the meaning of its phonetic name in both languages. Ideographically, it depicts vision and knowledge.

Tsade: Please also see serial ‎8.2. An alternate phonetic name of this letter is Tsadiq (ץאדק/صادق). It has been considered a misnomer by some lexicologists, who though do not deny its existence, rather argue that it could have emerged due to insufficient pause between pronouncing Tsade and the very next letter in the alphabetic order, i.e. Qof. This is a weak explanation. The alternate name could be explained by another phenomenon as well, which has not been duly considered by these lexicologists. Tsadiq, in both languages means a pious, devout, God-fearing person. This meaning can directly be deduced from the original phonetic name Tsade, which basically means hunting. In Abrahamic tradition, concepts like slavery, prison, to bind etc. have historically been considered as implying obedience and devotion when expressed as relationship between man and God. In this vein ‘been hunted and captured by God’ seems to be the sense exuding from Tsade, i.e. to hunt. Hence, the alternate name Tsadiq would have come into being to depict ‘piety’ from this angle. Therefore, at this instance or occurrence, Tsade is symbolic for pious persons.

Kaf Ha Ya Ayin Tsade: Hence the first two letters signify the “Zachariah’s prayer, lo & behold”; while the last three signify the ‘Devout Dexterous Visionaries’ that have been mentioned consecutively in the incident chapter. This latter symbolism is corroborated by another verse[21]of the Holy Quran, which calls these prophets as ‘people having hands and eyes’, which is a literary way to say ‘talented, skilled and knowledgeable people’[22].

Relevance with Incident Chapter: The chapter starts with the long supplication of prophet Zachariah which he chanted for asking God for an heir/son. Kaf Ha perfectly captures this incidence. Then after the chapter is done with ‘John the Baptist’ (Zachariah’s son; for want of whom he supplicated) and Jesus (and Mary), the content segues into short back-to-back mentions and praises of various prophets. Ya Ayin Tsade are an ornate symbolism of this aspect of the chapter.

8.5Tua Ha (
ط ہ)

Meaning: Lo and behold the serpent, i.e. Moses (peace be upon him).


Tua [23]: It is Tet (ט) in Hebrew. While pictographic description diverges, factoring in the meaning of Tet, i.e. big snake/serpent, logogram of a snake has been preferred. Moreover, written script in both languages (ט, ط) has always resembled, and even presently resembles a snake standing on its tail, with the rest of the tail spun around. Here the reference is unequivocally towards Moses’ staff that used to turn into a serpent as a miracle given to him for debating with Pharaoh.

Ha: Please see ‎8.4 above.

Tua Ha: Hence Tua Ha has been used in this chapter[24]in the same sense as Kaf Ha in the previous chapter. Lo and behold the snake is a straightforward interpretation.

Relevance with Incident Chapter: Almost the entire chapter is a biography of Moses and his people, the Bani Israel, in his lifetime. Hence the aptness of the disjointed letters is obvious.

8.6Tua Sin Mem (
ط س م) and Tua Sin (ط س)


Meaning: Snake; Teeth; Water. Snake with its fangs out and the parting of the sea, i.e. Moses’ story.


Tua: Please see serial ‎8.5.

Sin [25]: It is Shin (ש) in Hebrew. Pictogram is that of teeth, probably even the two front teeth. Meaning in both languages is also tooth. Here it combines with preceding Tua to symbolize a snake with its fangs out ready to bite. This is a beautiful depiction of Moses and his story.

Mem: Please also see 8.1. Here Mem is symbolizing the famous incident of Moses parting the sea with his staff, his nation passing through it and then Pharaoh along with his entire army drowning by joining of the parted water.

Relevance with Incident Chapters: Chapters are 26-28. Chapters 26 and 28 narrate Moses’ story in detail which includes the parting of the sea incident. Whereas, chapter 27 starts with only a brief summary of Moses’ story, which does not include the incident of parting sea or Pharaoh’s drowning. Hence Mem has been left out.

8.7Ya Sin (ی س)

Meaning: Fist; Teeth; A punch to the teeth.


Ya: Please see serial ‎8.4. Although it has not been explicitly spelt out by any authentic lexicon, the hand at the end of the arm in Yod’s pictogram appears to be a fist. This deduction is also aided by the fact that there is already another letter, i.e. Kaf, which depicts the open hand. Hence, it would not make much sense to have another letter serving the same purpose. The closed fist is a common symbol for a punch to hit somebody. Therefore, Ya is herein symbolizing delivering a punch/blow.

Sin: Please see serial ‎8.6.

Ya Sin: Hence the combination signifies the act of delivering a blow to the teeth. This in turn can metaphorically signify retaliation or an announcement of initiation of hostility.

Relevance with Incident Chapter: Drawing relevance of these disjointed letters with the chapter (i.e. Ch.36) they are incident on is a bit tricky. Not because of any factual incongruity; but rather due to the literary expertise it demands to perceive/demonstrate. The chapter conveys a very gloomy picture about the state of affairs that the prophetic invitation campaign of Muhammad (pbuh) had resulted in at Mecca, before his Hijrat[26]to Medina. This chapter, in between the lines, recognizes and states that many of the direct addressees of this invitation had deliberately denied the message and were now inclined to resort to violence, and perhaps even murder, to counteract it. An intimate reading reveals therefore that this chapter is an announcement of the next stage of the campaign that was invariably going to be fierce and vicious, and that the fait accompli punishment of God had become but inevitable. The symbolic depiction by punch to the teeth aptly conveys this tone.

8.8Tsade (ص)

Meaning: My devout servants.

Explanation: Please see Tsade in serial ‎8.2 and ‎8.4. It is used here in the ideographic sense of piety.

Relevance with Incident Chapter: This chapter (i.e. Ch.38) is very similar to the latter part of Kaf Ha Ya Ayin Tsade (Ch.19) in the sense that back-to-back incidences of prophets have been communicated. Tsade, therefore captures this ambience beautifully.

Interpreting the Disjointed Letters of the Holy Quran (3/4)


[1]Although Arabic and Hebrew are right-to-left languages, but since this research paper is being presented to English speakers the pictograms are presented left-to-right here.

[2]Ges: page I; Fu: page 1; Kl: page 1.

[3]Ges: page CCCCXXI; Fu: page 712; Kl: page 291.

[4]At several places either God is directly called as shepherd or God’s people are called as sheep. For instance see,,-As-Shepherd.

[5]Like Israel is actually ‘ישראל’ in Hebrew, i.e. it ends with an Alif Lam (AL) unlike EL in English.

[6]Kl: page 308; Fu: 756; Ges CCCCXLIII.

[7]Like, Chapter 2 Verse 2.

[8]Like, Chapter 32 Verse 2.

[9]Like, Chapter 31 Verse 2.

[10]Like, Chapter 2 Verses 2-5.


[12]Chapter 32 Verse 2.

[13]Fu: page 1168; Har: page 592.

[14]Chapter 7 Verses 163-166.

[15]Encyclopedia Judaica: volume 17, page 226, see ‘Resh’; Kl: page 600; Fu: page 1266.

[16]Fu: page 627; Kl: page 268.

[17]Chapter 19.

[18]Ges: page CCXI; Encyclopedia Judaica: volume 8, page 506, see ‘He’;

[19]Ges: page CCCXXV; Fu: page 527; Encyclopedia Judaica: volume 21, page 379, see ‘Yod’.

[20]Encyclopedia Judaics: volume 2, page 760, see ‘Ayin’.

[21]Chapter 38 Verse 45.

[22]Actually the Holy Quran has painted the picture of prophets as people who weren’t recluse or unskilled, only worried about the hereafter, as had become normative of God-fearing people. Quran has rather painted them as people who were highest skilled in worldly arts as well as far-sighted and street-smart people.

[23]Encyclopedia Judaica: volume 19, page 654-655, see ‘Tet’; Fu: page 50; Ge: page CCCXVI.

[24]Chapter 20.

[25]Fu: page 1322; Kl: page 633.



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