Exegesis of the ḥuruf al-muqaṭṭaʿa: Polyvalency in Sunnī Traditions of Qur'anic Interpretation

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This paper seeks to explore the wide range of interpretations resulting from the ḥurūf al-muqaṭṭaʿa or ‘the disconnected letters’ of the Qur'an. Typically considered a paradigmatic case of the mutashābih in the Qur'an, exegetes have expended much time and energy speculating over the meaning(s) of these enigmatic graphemes. From the earliest exegetes to the later tradition, a chorus of possibilities and theories are encountered. The traditions of interpretations themselves are a testament to the Qur'an's interpretive plurality throughout the centuries. This paper looks at the long tradition of broadly Sunnī Muslim interpretation in regards to the disconnected letters to uncover the historic expansiveness of Qur'anic hermeneutics. Linguistic, mystical and encyclopaedic approaches are especially highlighted for the sake of emphasising diversity. The paper concludes with an exploration of the ‘limits’ of interpretation as determined by the exegetes in response to the disconnected letters.


Copyright 2012 Centre of Islamic Studies, SOAS

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Journal of Qur'anic Studies

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Nguyen, Martin. "Exegesis of the ḥuruf al-muqaṭṭaʿa: Polyvalency in Sunnī Traditions of Qur'anic Interpretation." Journal of Qur'anic Studies 14, no. 2 (2012): 1-28. doi:10.3366/jqs.2012.0053.



Peer Reviewed