Discovering miracles in the Quran’s language

In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful

As Muslims, we know with certainty that the Quran is revealed by our Creator for the guidance of all humankind. Generations of scholars over hundreds of years have expounded upon its wisdom, a seemingly infinite well of insight that no single person can fully absorb in their lifetime. This wisdom can be further unearthed by analyzing the Quran’s miraculous language, as well the chronological order in which its chapters were revealed to build a unified theory of human existence.

Qaf (ق) is an Arabic letter that is pronounced by blockage in the throat, followed by a release. Its sound refers to a separation or popping. In terms of its meaning, it is an objective letter. This objectivity is derived from distinction based on separation, similar to how the sound of the letter is uttered. For instance, the Quranic word Furqan (criterion from truth and falsehood) is literally separated by qaf. Ha (ح), on the other hand, is pronounced by a deeper tightening of the throat that still leaves a passage of air.

The meaning that each letter carries is also tied to where it is pronounced in the air passage. Here, letters that communicate deep meanings are also formulated deep within the throat. The letters ha and ‘ayn (ع) are said from the deepest part of the throat. Al-Khalil ibn Ahmad al-Farahidi, who produced the first dictionary for Arabic, named his book after this letter: Kitab al-‘Ayn. The letter itself is the same Arabic word for “spring” or source of water.

The letter ha is pronounced as deeply in the throat as ‘ayn, except that ha allows some passage of air whereas the letter ‘ayn does not. This allows the letter ha to both communicate and represent deeper, subtler meanings. The phonetic meaning of ح  is related to the sound of life, in language it refers to subjective meanings and feelings. Words that start with this letter include hass or sense (حس), hubb or love (حب), hadd or limit (حد), huzn or grief (حزن), and harr or heat (حر). This letter communicates especially well the meanings of the heart.

The concept of Haqq or truth (حق) in the Quran is based on the unification of meaning and reason, mind and heart, and objectivity and subjectivity. This unification of truth is in the word itself, where the objective qaf confirms the subjective ha. Faith is primarily in the inner-heart and it is verified by external observations that consistently reinforce the natural meanings of monotheism.

In the Quran, Allah uses the letter qaf at the beginning of a chapter that emphasizes the objectivity of Islam’s message. Surat Qaf highlights the confusion and flimsy ground upon which arguments separating outward observation from the internal purposes they serve to validate the subjective meanings of faith:

بَلْ كَذَّبُوا بِالْحَقِّ لَمَّا جَاءَهُمْ فَهُمْ فِي أَمْرٍ مَّرِيجٍ

Rather, they deny the truth when it came to them, so they are in a state of confusion.

Surat Qaf 50:5

The chapter then renews the Quran’s invitation for people to reevaluate their worldviews in light of the evidence in nature pointing to the Unity of the Creator:

أَفَلَمْ يَنظُرُوا إِلَى السَّمَاءِ فَوْقَهُمْ كَيْفَ بَنَيْنَاهَا وَزَيَّنَّاهَا وَمَا لَهَا مِن فُرُوجٍ

Do they not look at the heavens above them, how We built it and made it beautiful and it has no rifts?

Surat Qaf 50:6

In the second part of the chapter, Allah tells us it is not for lack of evidence that people deny the truth of monotheism, instead it is their subjective inner dialogues that stubbornly continue to rationalize false beliefs for themselves:

وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ وَنَعْلَمُ مَا تُوَسْوِسُ بِهِ نَفْسُهُ ۖ وَنَحْنُ أَقْرَبُ إِلَيْهِ مِنْ حَبْلِ الْوَرِيدِ

We have certainly created humankind and We know what he whispers to himself. We are closer to him than his jugular vein.

Surat Qaf 50:16

These subjective inward intentions that turn people away from the truth are called illness of the heart. Examples of those illness are envy, hypocrisy, stinginess, hatred, arrogance, and showing off. If left unchecked, these spiritual diseases may lead to unbelief (kufr), which will result in the ultimate destruction of the heart.

Scholars in Islam have agreed that it is an obligation for each Muslim to work on cleaning their hearts from these illnesses. No human being, besides the Prophets themselves, is safe from them no matter how outwardly religious or pious they appear. Essential to this process of cleansing the heart is knowing how to do it. The order in which chapters of the Quran were revealed can tell us something about the right method of purification.

After Surat Qaf, Allah revealed three more chapters, each teaching us steps along the path of healing our hearts. Surat al-Balad instructs us to perform such good actions as require great effort, patience, sacrifice, as well as compassion for others. Such deeds must necessarily overcome one’s own selfish ego or unhealthy attachment to the world in order to be carried out. Moreover, their accomplishment strengthens one’s faith by conforming oneself outwardly to their inward experiences recognized as true:

فَلَا اقْتَحَمَ الْعَقَبَةَ وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا الْعَقَبَةُ فَكُّ رَقَبَةٍ أَوْ إِطْعَامٌ فِي يَوْمٍ ذِي مَسْغَبَةٍ يَتِيمًا ذَا مَقْرَبَةٍ أَوْ مِسْكِينًا ذَا مَتْرَبَةٍ ثُمَّ كَانَ مِنَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْمَرْحَمَةِ

Yet he has not broken through the steep pass. What can make you know what is the steep pass? It is freeing a slave, or feeding in a day of famine, an orphan of kinship or a needy person in misery. Then, being among those who have faith and enjoin each other to patience and mercy.

Surat al-Balad 90:11-17

Next, Surat al-Tariq directs us to acknowledge our own limitations and weaknesses, our dependency upon Allah and inevitable subjection to His Judgment on the Day of Resurrection, as personal humility is one of the supreme virtues in Islam:

فَلْيَنظُرِ الْإِنسَانُ مِمَّ خُلِقَ خُلِقَ مِن مَّاءٍ دَافِقٍ يَخْرُجُ مِن بَيْنِ الصُّلْبِ وَالتَّرَائِبِ إِنَّهُ عَلَىٰ رَجْعِهِ لَقَادِرٌ يَوْمَ تُبْلَى السَّرَائِرُ فَمَا لَهُ مِن قُوَّةٍ وَلَا نَاصِرٍ

Let humankind look at what he was created from. He was created from a fluid ejected, emerging between the backbone and ribs. Verily, He is able to restore him to life, on a Day the secrets will be put on trial. There will be no one with power to help him.

Surat al-Tariq 86:5-10

Thirdly, Surat al-Qamar encourages us to regularly reflect upon the meanings of the Quran, which contains profound insight from the stories of the Prophets, as a source of spiritual healing:

وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا الْقُرْآنَ لِلذِّكْرِ فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ

We have certainly made the Quran easy to remember, so are there any who will be reminded?

Surat al-Qamar 54:22

Scholars of Islam do not typically derive meanings from the phonetic pronunciation of Quranic letters or the chronological order in which chapters were revealed. However, meanings we derive from this type of analysis are explicitly validated elsewhere in the Quran.

Iman or faith is inversely related to the spiritual illness of one’s heart; faith increases as the illnesses of the heart are confronted and cured. Allah has described the believers as those who are afraid to disobey their Creator, humbly recognizing their own faults, using the verses of Allah to purify themselves, and striving to do righteous deeds:

إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الَّذِينَ إِذَا ذُكِرَ اللَّهُ وَجِلَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَإِذَا تُلِيَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتُهُ زَادَتْهُمْ إِيمَانًا وَعَلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ يَتَوَكَّلُونَ الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ حَقًّا ۚ لَّهُمْ دَرَجَاتٌ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ وَمَغْفِرَةٌ وَرِزْقٌ كَرِيمٌ

Verily, the believers are only those who, when they are reminded of Allah, their hearts tremble, and when His verses are recited to them, it increases their faith. They trust in their Lord, those who perform prayer and spend in charity from what We have provided them. They are believers in truth. They will have status before their Lord, forgiveness, and noble provision.

Surat al-Anfal 8:2-4

In these verses, the believers engage in the three activities from Surat al-Balad, Surat al-Tariq, and Surat al-Qamar. Namely, they expend effort in doing the right thing, remain humble before their Creator, and utilize the Quran to purify their hearts. This very same lesson can be discovered just by examining the deeper phonetic meanings of the Quran’s divine speech and the chronological order in which these lessons were revealed to the Prophet (ṣ).

In sum, the Quran, as we know, is a miracle from Allah and contains wisdom far beyond the capability for a person to absorb in their lifetimes. There is no end to what the Quran can teach us. An important avenue of research is to investigate how the Quran’s Arabic letters themselves and the order in which chapters were revealed can convey subtle meanings perhaps unnoticed by previous generations. While such meanings must be validated by traditional scholarly methodologies and may not reveal new information per se, it is nonetheless beneficial to highlight these discoveries as further evidence of the Quran’s divine origin and the truthfulness of Islam’s worldview.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.