Commentary on the "Isolated Letters"

By Nabil Fares

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #26
Bosch Bahá'í School: California, USA
November 26–28, 1999
(see list of papers from #26)

    Twenty-nine Súrihs of the Qur'án start with one or more letters of the Arabic alphabet right after the invocation (In the Name of God the Beneficent the Merciful). These letters are known as the "Isolated Letters." Muslims believe that these letters are distinct to the Qur'án. It is believed that these letters contain and conceal meanings and cryptic secrets, which the eloquent and most knowledgeable Arabs resigned that the knowledge and understanding of the human beings are incapable of comprehending its inner meaning and essence, except for Muhammad the Prophet. Nevertheless, some Muslim scholars claimed that these letters embody God's names, His characteristics, deeds, verdicts, and signify His decrees. Other Muslim scholars mapped these letters to the Arabic numerology (abjad notation), and came up with all sorts of ideas, hypotheses, and postulation. Any even-handed reader will see that all these attempts are mere presuppositions and full of contradictions.

    Aqa Mirza Aqay-i-Rikab-Saz, who became the first Bahá'í martyr of Shíraz, requested Bahá'u'lláh to interpret for him a certain verse of the Holy Qur'án and to reveal the inner meanings of the isolated letters appeared at the beginning of certain surihs. Bahá'u'lláh revealed a momentous Arabic tablet known as Lawh-i-Ayiy-i-Núr (Tablet of the Verse of Light), also known as Tafsír-i-Hurúfát-i-Muqatta'ih (Interpretation of the Isolated Letters), in his honor.

    In this lengthy tablet Bahá'u'lláh expounded some of the mysteries of knowledge, and the jewels of wisdom enshrined within the isolated letters of the Qur'án. Bahá'u'lláh draws a parallel among the previous dispensations, prescribes their unfoldment, describes the tribulations heaped on the manifestations of God; states that the believer's true spiritual progress is conditioned upon the progressive unfoldment of one's own inner state; indicates that every religion prophesies the following one; reflects on the divine love and the station of true lover of God; glorifies the station of the faithful, and the patience onto God.

    Bahá'u'lláh also reveals the mysteries enshrined in some of the "Isolated Letters" such as Alif Lam Mim, Baa, Sad. In doing so He connects the mysteries in the Arabic abjad to the human soul, spirit and body; to the four elements of creation fire, wind, water and earth; to the chemistry and the natural elements of the earth; and to human beings.

    This paper will cover the following:

    1. The importance of the Tafsír-i-Hurúfát-i-Muqatta'ih

    2. Observations on the study of the Tablet

    3. The significance and historical circumstances of the revelation of the Tablet

    4. Major themes of the Tablet

    5. Index to the Tablet

    6. A suggested course of study for the Tablet

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