Alif lām mīm: God knows best what He means by these [letters].
Alif lām mīm: God knows best what He means by these [letters].
Alif lām mīm According to some people these isolated letters at the beginning of the sūra are among the ambiguous [verses] the interpretation taÌwīl of which is known only to God. They say every book has a mystery and the mystery of God in the QurÌān is these isolated letters. According to other people they are acronyms for His names: the alif is from the name “Allah” the lām indicates His name al-LaṬīf “the Subtle” and the mīm indicates His names al-Majīd “the Glorious” and al-Malik “the King”. It is said that God made an oath by means of these letters an honor they hold because they are the basic elements of His names and His speech. It is said that they are the names of sūras [of the QurÌān]. It is said that the alif indicates the name Allāh the lām indicates the name Jibrīl Gabriel and the mīm indicates the name Muḥammad ﷺ since this Book descended from God on the tongue of Gabriel to Muḥammad ﷺ. Among the [Arabic] letters alif is independent infaradat in its form because it does not connect to other letters in writing; all but a few of the letters connect. By contemplating this quality the servant becomes aware of the need of all creation for Him and His self-sufficiency from all. It is said that the sincere servant remembers from the status of the alif the absolute freedom of the Real سبحانه وتعالى from being particularized by place. All of the letters have a place in the throat the lip or the tongue etc. for articulation except alif. It is His “He-ness” huwiyyaand is not ascribed to any place. It is said that the allusion in [the alif] is to the servant's standing alone infirād for the sake of God سبحانه وتعالى so that he would be like the alif which is not connected to any letter and [he] would not abandon the state of standing straight and upright before Him. It is said that by His address alif the servant is called in his innermost self to withdraw infirād [his] heart to God most high. At His address lām he is asked to yield līn to Him in considering His due. On hearing the mīm he is asked to conform muwāfaqa to His command regarding that which has been entrusted to him.
It is said that each letter has a specific form and the alif is alone infaradat in its being a vertical line set apart from connection with other letters like it so He assigned the beginning of the Book for it. This is an allusion to the fact that anyone who has renounced [their] connection with simulacra amthāl and distractions ashghāl will attain the good fortune of sublime rank and will win the ultimate degree. He becomes worthy of speaking with the detached letters al-ḥurūf al-munfarida which are not combined following the custom of lovers sunnat al-aḥbāb in veiling the state and hiding the affair of [their] story from strangers. Their poet said: I said to her “stop” qultu lahā qifī She said “qāf.” qālat qāf She did not say “I have stopped waqaftu” so that no onlooker would see nor did she say “I will not stop lā aqif” out of respect for the heart of the beloved but rather she said [only] “qāf.” It is said that there are many expressions ʿibārāt for ordinary people ʿumūm and [many] symbols rumūz and allusions ishārāt for the elect khuṣūṣ. He made Moses hear His words in a thousand alf places while He said to our Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ “Alif...” and [Muḥammad] said “I was given the all-comprehensive words jawāmiʿ al-kalim and then the speech kalām was shortened for me.” Someone said: My master said to me “What afflicts youḍ” I said “Do you dislike meḍ” He said “Lām alif.”
Alif Lām MīmSahl said:Alif Lām Mīm is a name of God, Mighty and Majestic is He, and within it are meanings and attributes that people of understanding (fahm) know, not to mention the many meanings that it holds for the people of outward [knowledge]. If these letters are read separately, Alif stands for God’s assembling [things in their creation] (taʾlīf), Mighty and Majestic is He, for He brought together all things as He willed. The Lām stands for His pre-eternal grace (luṭfuhu al-qadīm) and the Mīm stands for His great glory (majduhu al-ʿaẓīm).Sahl said:Each book that God, Exalted is He, sent down contains a secret, and the secret of the Qurʾān is contained within the letters which open the sūras, because they are names and attributes, such as when He says Alif Lām Mīm [2:1; 3:1; 29:1 and 31:1], Ṣād [38:1], Alif Lām Rā [10:1; 11:1; 13:1; 14:1 and 15:1], Kāf Ḥā Yā ʿAyn Ṣād [19:1], Tā Sīn Mīm [26:1 and 28:1], Ḥā Mīm [41:1], ʿAyn Sīn Qāf. When these letters are brought together they make up the Greatest Name of God — that is, if a letter is taken from each [group] of the opening letters of the sūras, one after the other in the order that the sūras were revealed, that is, Alif Lām Rā, Ḥā Mīm, and Nūn, they form the divine name al-Raḥmān.’ Ibn ʿAbbās and Ḍaḥḥāk, on the other hand, said that Alif Lām Mīm means ‘I am God and I know’; while ʿAlī said that these are names [in the form of] ‘disconnected’ [letters], but if a letter is taken from each of the opening groups of letters, on the condition that it is not the same as the letter adjacent to it, and then they are assembled, they form one of the names of the Merciful. If this name is known and used in supplication, it will be the mightiest name by which the prayer of the supplicant who uses it will be answered.Sahl said:In the words Alif Lām Mīm,! That Book [2:1–2], Alif stands for God (Allāh), Lām stands for the servant (ʿabd), and Mīm stands for Muḥammad.
So, [through these letters] the servant may gain access to his Master from the position of affirming His oneness (tawḥīd) and by followingthe example of His Prophet. Sahl further said:I received [a tradition] on the authority of Ibn ʿAbbās according to which he said: ‘God, Exalted is He, has sworn that this Book which was revealed to Muḥammad is the book from God’s presence, Exalted is He. So He said: Alif Lām Mīm, That Book... [In these words], Alif stands for God (Allāh), Lām stands for Gabriel and Mīm stands for Muḥammad, thus God, Exalted is He, has taken an oath by Himself, by the angel Gabriel and by Muḥammad.’He also said:God, Exalted is He, extracted from His Greatest Name [Allāh] the letters Alif, Lām and Hāʾ and said: Indeed I am God, the Lord of the Worlds [28:30], and for [His creatures’] sake He derived a name from among His names and made it the name of His Prophet, and He derived from the end of the name of His Prophet the name of His prophet Adam. Thus He says: That is because God is the Patron [or Friend] of those who believe, and those who disbelieve have no patron [47:11] — except the Devil, that is, Satan.
(Alif. Lam. Mim. This is the Scripture) [2:1-2]. Abu ‘Uthman al-Thaqafi al-Za‘farani informed us> Abu ‘Amr ibn Matar> Ja‘far ibn Muhammad ibn al-Layth> Abu Hudhayfah> Shibl>Ibn Abi Najih> Mujahid who said: “Four verses from the beginning of this Surah were revealed about the believers, and two verses after these four were revealed about the disbelievers and thirteen verses after these last two were revealed about the hypocrites”.
The Discussion of the 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 from 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 we were made to stop and will proclaim,
ءَامَنَّا بِهِ كُلٌّ مِّنْ عِندِ رَبِّنَا
(We believe in it; all of it (clear and unclear verses) is from our Lord) (3:7).
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 judgment 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 are unable to produce something like the Qur'an, although it is comprised of the same letters with which they speak to each other. 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 addition, the Imam and scholar Abu Al-`Abbas Ibn Taymiyyah and our Shaykh Al-Hafiz Abu Al-Hajjaj Al-Mizzi agreed with this opinion. Al-Mizzi told me that it is also the opinion of Shaykh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah. KAz-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) (44:1) Sometimes, three letters were mentioned, such as,
(Alif Lam Mim (2: 1)) and four letters, such as,
(`Alif Lam Mim Ra) (13:1), and
(Alif Lam Mim Sad) (7:1).
Sometimes, five letters were mentioned, such as,
(Kaf Ha Ya `Ayn Sad) (19:1), and;
حـم - عسق
(Ha Mim. `Ayn Sin Qaf) (42:1-2).
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,
الم ذَٰلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لاَ رَيْبَ فِيهِ
(Alif Lam Mim) This is the Book (the Qur'an), wherein there is no doubt (2:1-2),
الم - اللهُ لا إلَهَ إلاَّ هُوَ اَلْحَيُّ القَيُّومُ نَزَّلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَٰـبَ بِالْحَقِّ مُصَدِّقاً لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ
(Alif Lam Mim. Allah! La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), Al-Hayyul-Qayyuum (the Ever Living, the One Who sustains and protects all that exists). It is He Who has sent down the Book (the Qur'an) to you (Muhammad ) with truth, confirming what came before it.) (3:1-3), and,
المص كِتَٰـبٌ أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكَ فَلاَ يَكُن فِى صَدْرِكَ حَرَجٌ مِّنْهُ
(Alif Lam Mim Sad. (This is the) Book (the Qur'an) sent down unto you (O Muhammad ), so let not your breast be narrow therefrom) (7:1-2).
Also, Allah said,
الر كِتَابٌ أَنزَلْنَٰـهُ إِلَيْكَ لِتُخْرِجَ النَّاسَ مِنَ الظُّلُمَـتِ إِلَى النُّورِ بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِمْ
(Alif Lam Ra. (This is) a Book which We have revealed unto you (O Muhammad ) in order that you might lead mankind out of darkness (of disbelief and polytheism) into the light (of belief in the Oneness of Allah and Islamic Monotheism) by their Lord's leave) (14:1),
الم - تَنْزِيلُ الْكِتَابِ لاَ رَيْبَ فِيهِ مِن رَّبِّ الْعَالَمينَ
(Alif Lam Mim. The revelation of the Book (this Qur'an) in which there is no doubt, is from the Lord of the `Alamin (mankind, Jinn and all that exists)!) (32:1-2),
حـم - تَنزِيلٌ مِّنَ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
(Ha Mim. A revelation from (Allah) the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful) (41:1-2), and,
حـم - عسق- كَذَٰلِكَ يُوحِي إِلَيْكَ وَإِلَى اَلَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكَ اللهُ اَلْعَزِيزُ اَلْحَكَيمُ
(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.) (42:1-3).
There are several other Ayat that testify to what we have mentioned above, and Allah knows best.
Alif lām mīm. That Book: these three letters constitute an allusion to the entirety of existence qua totality, because alif alludes to the essence of the one who is the first of existence, as has been mentioned; lām [alludes] to the active intellect, called Gabriel, who is the middle of existence receiving emanation from the principle [of existence] and overflowing upon the end [of existence]; mīm [alludes] to Muḥammad who is the last of existence with whom the cycle [of existence] comes full circle and [its last] is joined to its first, which is why he [Muḥammad] is the seal. He said, 'Verily time has come full circle back to its form on the day when God created the heavens and the earth'. According to one of the [pious] predecessors, 'The lām is made up of two alifs', in other words, analogous to the Essence together with its attribute of knowledge, which together constitute two of the three divine realms we have alluded to. It is thus one of God's Names, for each Name is made up of the Essence together with some [particular] attribute. As for mīm, this is an allusion to the Essence together with all of the attributes and the acts that have been veiled therein in the Muḥammadan form, which is God's Greatest Name, so that none knows this [Name] except the one who knows it. Do you not know how mīm, which is the form of the Essence, is veiled by Itḍ Mīm has a yāÌ and the yāÌ has an alif. The mysterious aspect of the letters of the alphabet is that there is no letter that does not contain an alif. This [explanation] is similar to the statement that the meaning [of these letters] constitutes an oath by God, the Knowing, the Wise. For Gabriel is the locus of manifestation of knowledge and is thus His Name the Knowing, while Muḥammad is the locus of manifestation of wisdom and is thus His Name the Wise. From this becomes manifest the meaning of the statement, 'In every one of His Names there are an infinite number of names. In the realm of wisdom, which is the realm of cause and effect, knowledge is not complete and is not perfected unless it is combined with the act whereupon it becomes a wisdom.
Therefore submission [to God] (islām) does not result simply by saying 'there is no god except God', unless it is combined with 'Muḥammad is the Messenger of God'. The meaning of this verse then is: alif lām mīm, that promised Book, in other words, the form of the all-comprehensive totality [of existence], suggested by the book of number mysticism (jafr), that subsumes everything promised to be with the Mahdī at the end of time. Only he will be able to read it as it really is. The [book of] number mysticism is the Tablet of Decree (lawḥ al-qaḍāÌ), which is the universal intellect (ʿaql al-kull), while the all-comprehensive is the Tablet of Determination (lawḥ al-qadar), which is the universal soul (nafs al-kull). The meaning then of the book of number mysticism and the all-comprehensive [totality] that contain everything that has been and that will be is like your saying sūrat al-Baqara and sūrat al-Naml.
[That Book] in it there is no doubt, upon verification of its truth. The implied sense of this statement is: by the Truth that is the totality qua totality because it is the clarification of that book whose coming the tongues of prophets and their scriptures have promised, as Jesus, peace be upon him, said: 'We bring you the revelation. But as for the interpretation, the Mahdī will bring it at the end of time'. The apodosis of the oath is omitted because it is indicated by that book, just as it is omitted in several instances in the QurÌān such as by the sun [Q. 91:1] and by those that wrest violently [Q. 79:1] and others. In other words [there is no doubt that] We shall indeed reveal that book promised in the Torah and the Gospel and it will be with Muḥammad, omitted because it is indicated by His words that Book. In other words, 'that Book made known in the preceding knowledge promised in the Torah and the Gospel is the truth such that there can be no doubt concerning it'.
A guidance for those who guard themselves, that is, guidance in itself for those who guard against depravities and the veils that prevent acceptance of the truth in it. Know that people in terms of [their status at] the end will be of seven kinds, for they are either fortunate or wretched. God says, some of them will be wretched, and [some] fortunate [Q.
[Q. 11:105]. The wretched ones will be 'those of the left [hand]', while the fortunate ones will either be 'those of the right [hand]' or 'those foremost, the ones brought near' [cf. Q. 56:8-11]. God says, and you will be three kinds…[to the end of] the verse [Q. 56:7]. As for those of the left [hand], they will either be the banished ones 'for whom the Word has proved true', and these are the people of the darkness and the universal veil that has been sealed upon their hearts from pre-eternity, as God says: and We have indeed urged unto Hell many of the jinn and mankind…[to the end of] the verse [Q. 7:179]. In the ḥadīth of the Lord: 'These I have created for the Fire and I am not concerned for them'. As for the hypocrites who had been prepared originally, receptive of illumination in accordance with [their] innate disposition (fiṭra) and the [first] creation [cf. Q. 56:62]; but their hearts have been veiled by the engulfing [cf. 83:14] that has been acquired by [their] acquisition of vices and the committing of acts of disobedience and the pursuit of bestial and predatorial acts, as well as [their] engaging in devilish plots, such that these corrupt miens and dark traits have become deep-rooted in their souls and have piled up upon their inner-hearts so that they are full of doubt, perplexed, wandering lost, their works have failed [cf. Q. 2:217] and their heads hang low [cf. Q. 32:12]. They will suffer a more severe chastisement and their state will be worse than the former group because of the incompatibility between the grip of their [original] preparedness and their [subsequent corrupted] state; both of these groups are the people of this world. As for those of the right [hand], they are either: the people of bounty and reward who have believed and performed righteous deeds for the sake of [attaining] Paradise, hoping for it and satisfied with it, and who 'find all that they did present' [cf. Q. 18:49] commensurate with their varying degrees [of merit]: all shall have degrees [of requital] according to what they have done [Q. 6:132]. Among these [last] are the people of mercy who remain upon the security of their souls and the purity of their hearts, who will take up their degrees of Paradise in accordance with their [individual] preparedness through the bounty of their Lord, not on account of their perfections as legacy of their works.
Or they [those of the right hand] are the people of pardon, who have 'mixed a righteous deed with another that was bad' [cf. Q. 9:102], and these [people] are [also] divided into two groups:
1) those who are immediately pardoned on account of the strength of their belief and that their bad deeds are not deeply rooted, because they did not engage in them often, and as a consequence of their repentance of these [deeds]: for such God will replace their evil deeds with good deeds [Q. 25:70];
2) those who will be chastised for a time commensurate with the extent to which acts of disobedience have become entrenched in them, until they are rid of the filth that they have earned and are saved, being the people of [God's] justice and requital: and those among these who have transgressed shall also be smitten by the evils of what they have earned [Q. 39:51]. But the [divine] mercy shall overtake them.
All three [of these groups] are the people of the Hereafter. As for the foremost (sābiqūn), they are either the lovers (muḥibbūn) or the beloved (maḥbūbūn). The loving are those who have struggled in the way of God a struggle worthy of Him [cf. Q. 22:78] and have turned penitently to Him a turning worthy of Him and whom He then guides to His ways. The beloved are the people of [His] pre-eternal providence whom He has elected and guided to a straight path. Both types are the people of God. The QurÌān thus is not a guide for the first group from among the wretched because of their refraining from receiving guidance on account of their non-preparedness; nor [is it a guide] for the second group because of the disappearance of their preparedness, and their transfiguration (maskh) and their total obliteration (ṭams) in their corrupt beliefs. These then are the people who will abide in the Fire, except what God wills. It [the QurÌān] thus remains a guide for the other five [groups] subsumed by 'the God-fearing'.
The beloved needs the guidance of the Book after his [initial] attraction (jadhb) and his arrival at the wayfaring to God on account of His saying to His beloved [Muḥammad]: Thus [it is] that We may strengthen your inner-heart with it [Q.
[Q. 25:32]; and His saying [to him]: And all that We relate to you of the accounts of the messengers that with which We might strengthen your inner-heart [Q. 11:120].
The lover, however, needs this [guidance] before the arrival and the attraction and afterwards in order to wayfare to God and in God. Therefore, the 'God-fearing' [mentioned] in this instance are the ones who are prepared, those who have remained upon their original innate disposition and have avoided the [heart-]engulfing idolatry and doubt because of the purity of their hearts and the integrity of their souls and the endurance of their primordial light, and have thus not broken God's covenant. Such fear of God (taqwā) precedes faith (īmān) but [also] contains other stages that come after it, as will be mentioned, if God wills.
Alif lām mīm.
Addressing one another with individual letters is one of the customs of lovers in their love. These are the lovers' secrets with each other so that no one watching will be aware.
Between them lovers have a secret not disclosed
by word, nor does creation have a pen to record it.
Of the sort of hidden message that He gave
not one will be given up for a hundred thousand lives.
In the scroll of friendship there is the imprint of a script whose interpretation none but the passionate read. In the secluded cell of friendship, there is mystery between friends whose murmur none but the recognizers know. In the picture-gallery of friendship there is a color of colorlessness that none but the enraptured have the eyes to see.
If you want to see the beauty of the beloved's face,
blind the eyes of your head and look with the eye of your intellect! [DS 495]
Though Moses heard a thousand words in a thousand languages, this mystery was given over to MuḤammad in the seclusion of Or closer [53:9] on the carpet of expansiveness: “Alif.”
I said to her, “Halt [qifī].” She said, “qāf.”
Those thousands of words came to Moses, but the veil stayed in place. This mystery came to MuḤammad at the moment of face-to-face vision. Moses heard the words but did not see the Speaker, MuḤammad heard the mystery while gazing on the Keeper of the Mystery. Moses in seeking was delighted with the seeking; MuḤammad in the Presence was delighted with the Friend. Moses had not found the pleasure of contemplation, so he did not know its taste. He had not gone beyond listening and remembering; his repose was in hearing, which is why He spoke so much to him. But MuḤammad had gone beyond the limit of hearing to the center point of togetherness. The jealousy of the Remembered did not leave him in the remembrance and the wave of light lifted him up from love, so remembrance became lost in the Remembered and love in the Light. The spirit was lost in face-to-face vision, and face-to-face vision is far from explication. When a heart finds delight in His grasp and is inundated by face-to-face vision, what will it do with reports? When the spirit rests in the embrace, why should it busy itself with much remembrance?
For him who must have face-to-face vision, reports are the bane.
Why would a heart alone with face-to-face vision cling to reports? [DS 110]
It has been said that Alif lām mīm caresses the paragon of the world in the tongue of allusion. It means, “Isolate [afrid] your secret core for Me, loosen [layyin] your limbs in My service, and stand [aqim] with Me, effacing your own traces and gaining proximity to Me!” O Master, pass all at once
beyond the curtain of Gabriel's intermediacy so that the attribute of passion may pull off the mask of inaccessibility and show you the wonders of the Treasuries and the pearls of the Unseen that He has prepared for you.
If Gabriel bothers you there, spill his blood-
pay Gabriel's blood-price from mercy's treasure. [DS 592]
O paragon, take one step outside of dust so that, when face-to-face vision gives you access, you will be all set and released from others. O paragon, what those chevaliers [the Companions of the Cave] drank down in sleep over three hundred nine years-drink it down in one moment in wakefulness, for the house is empty, and the Friend is yours.
It's night, there's wine, and the lover's alone-
get up and come, pretty idol, for tonight is our night.
It has been said that alif is an allusion to “I” [ana], lām to “My” [lī], and mīm to “from Me” [minnī].
I: It is I who am the Lord, I who join with the servant in love. I am the light of the name and the light of the message. I am the repose and ease [56:89] of hearts, I am the intimacy and rest of spirits.
My: Whatever was, is, and will be is all My kingdom and property, decreed by My prescription and subjugated to My determination. That which overpowers it is My command, that which penetrates into it is My will. It has its being by My keeping, it is preserved by My help.
From Me: Whatever has come has come from My power, whatever has gone forth has gone forth from My knowledge, whatever has been has been from My decree.
All this is to admonish the servants: “You should dismiss your own intellect and knowledge so that you may reap the fruit. Leave the work to Me so that you may take a portion.
Keep your service limpid so that you may gain access. Take veneration as your companion so that you may be worthy of the gateway. Sit upon the mount of love so that you may quickly reach the Presence. Keep your aspiration one-pointed so that you may look first upon the Friend.”
The Pir of the Tariqah, the beauty of the Folk of the Haqiqah, Shaykh al-Islām Anṣārī, has some fine words in unveiling the mysteries of alif and removing its curtain of obscurity. He said, “Alif is the imam of the letters and is well-known among the letters. Alif does not join with the other letters, but the other letters join with alif. Alif has no need of the other letters, but all the other letters need alif. Alif is straight. At first it is one, and at last one. It has one color, but words are many-colored. Alif is the cause of recognition, but its straightness does not accept any cause. In the place where it finds a place, no other letter finds a place, but each letter has a known station in the tablet. In reality it is together, but in gazing it is separate. It descends into each of the stations of the one, so all are one, and duality is unreal.”
It has also been said that each letter is a lamp lit from the Greatest Light. Each is a sun risen from the east of the Haqiqah that has advanced to the heaven of jealousy. All the attributes of the creatures and the opacities of mortal man are the veil of that light. As long as the veil is in place, hoping to find the light is an error.
The bride of the Qur'an will throw off her veil
once she sees the kingdom of faith empty of tumult. [DS 52]
Letters of the Arabic alphabet like Alif, Lam, Mim, called the mugatta'at, which are pre-fixed to a number of the Surahs of the Qur'an, were in common use in the Arabic literature of the period when the Qur'an was. revealed. The poets and rhetoricians made use of this style, and instances of this can even be found in the pre-Islamic prose and poetry which has survived. As their significance was appreciated by all concerned, none objected to or questioned their use, because it was no enigma to them. Even the bitterest opponents of the Qur'an, who never missed an opportunity, did not raise any objection against their use. But as their use was abandoned with the passage of time" it became difficult for the commentators to determine their exact meaning and significance. An ordinary reader, however, need not worry about their meanings because they make no difference as tar as the Guidance of the Qur'an is concerned.
Its simple meaning is: "No doubt, this is the Book of Allah", but it may also imply that this is the Book which contains nothing doubtful. It is not like the common books on metaphysics and religion which are based on mere speculation and guess-work. Therefore even their authors cannot be free from doubts concerning their own theories, in spite of their assertion that they are convinced of them. In contrast to them, this Book is based on the Truth: its Author is He Who possesses full knowledge of the Reality. Therefore, there is indeed no room for doubt about its contents.
That is, though there is nothing but guidance in this Book, there are a few pre-requisites for benefiting from it. The first pre-requisite is that one should be inclined to avoid vice, and should seek and practise virtue. But there is no guidance in the Qur'an for the people who do not bother to consider whether what they are doing is right or wrong, who follow the ways of the world or their own whims and lusts or move aimlessly in the ways of life.
The second condition for obtaining guidance from the Qur'an is that one must believe in the "unseen" -- those realities which cannot be perceived by the senses and which do not come within human experience and observation, e.g. the essence and attributes of Allah, Angels, Revelation, Heaven, Hell, etc. These things must be taken on trust from the experts (Prophets) just as we do in many cases in the physical world. Therefore, only such a person, who believes in the "unseen", can benefit from the Guidance of the Qur'an. As for the one who believes only in those things which can be seen, tasted and smelt, or can be measured and weighed, cannot get any guidance from this Book.
The third condition to benefit from the Qur'an is that one should be willing and ready to put into practice the teachings of the Qur'an. As the Salat ( Prayer) is the first and foremost obligatory duty enjoined by the Qur'an, it is the practical proof and permanent test of the sincerity of one's Faith. Therefore, after a person's profession of Islam, the moment he hears the call to the Prayer (which sounds regularly five times a day from every mosque in the Muslim world), he should join the congregation for the Salat, because this determines whether he is sincere in his profession or not. If he does not attend to the call and join the congregation, it is an indication that he is not sincere in his profession. It must also be noted that "iqama-tus-Salat¦(the establishment of Prayer is the comprehensive term. It means that Salat should be performed in congregation and that permanent arrangements should be made for it in every habitation; otherwise Salat will not be considered to have been established, even if every inhabitant of a place offers the Salat individually.
The fourth condition to benefit from the Qur' an is that one should be willing to part with one's money according to the instructions of the Book in order to render the rights of Allah and Man and should make monetary sacrifices for the cause of Islam which he has accepted.
The fifth condition is that one should believe in the truth of all those Books which Allah sent down by Revelation to the Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be His peace and blessings) and the Prophets before him at different times in different countries. Those who do not believe in any kind of guidance from Allah, cannot at all benefit from the guidance of the Qur'an. Likewise those who profess to believe in the necessity of guidance from Allah but do not turn to Revelation and the Prophets for it, or who dub their' own theories as "divine light", cannot obtain any guidance from it. Moreover, guidance is also denied to those who believe only in that revealed Book or Books in which their forefathers believed and reject all other guidance received from the same Source. Apart from all such people, the Qur'an guides only those who believe that they stand in need of Divine Guidance as well as admit that it does not come to every man individually but reaches humanity only through the Prophets and revealed Books.Then those who want guidance should not be slaves to any racial or national prejudices but should be seekers after truth and should submit to it wherever and in whatever form they find it.
This is the sixth and last condition. "Hereafter" is a comprehensive word which applies to the collection of many beliefs, which are as follows: (a) Man has not been created irresponsible in the world but he is answerable to Allah for all his deeds here. (b) The present world order is not everlasting, but has to come to an end at a time only known to Allah. (c) After the present order has been brought to an end, Allah will create a new world, when He will bring back to life all human beings, born from the beginning of creation till Resurrection, simultaneously and will call them to account for their deeds, and then will reward them justly accordingly to what they had done in the world. (d) Those, who will be judged as good by Allah, will go to Paradise, and those who will be judged as bad will be cast into Hell. (e) The criterion of success or failure is not the prosperity or adversity of this worldly life, but successful in actual fact will be he who comes out successful in Allah's final judgement, and failure he who is a failure there. Those who do not believe in the life-after-death with the above implications, cannot benefit from the Qur'an because the one who entertains' even the slightest doubt about these; not to speak of rejecting them, can never follow the way of life which the Qur'an prescribes.
And on his authority>'Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak>'Ali Ibn Ishaq al-Samarqandi>Muhammad Ibn Marwan>al-Kalbi>Abu Salih that Ibn 'Abbas said, concerning Allah's saying, Exalted is He, (Alif. Lam. Mim): 'Alif stands for Allah, Lam for the Archangel Gabriel (Jibril) and Mim for Muhammad. It is also said Alif stands for Allah's blessings (ala'uh), Lam for His kindness (lutfuh) and Mim for His dominion (mulkuh). It is also said that Alif stands for the beginning of the Name Allah, Lam for the beginning of His Name the Kind (al-Latif) and Mim for the beginning of His Name the Glorious (al-Majid). It is also said that only Allah knows the meaning of these disjointed letters; while some maintain that it is an oath that He made.