The Seven Oft-Recited (sab’ al-mathani)
And We have bestowed upon you the seven oft-repeated (verses) [sab’an min al-mathani] and the grand Quran. (hijr:87)
- In verse 87 of Surat al-hijr the conjunction ‘and’ connects the term al-Quran to the preceding term sab’ al-mathani. Since the terms cannot be synonymous and since al-Quran is preceded by sab’ al-mathani, the latter must be a separate term and cannot be explained by al-Quran. Because sab’ al-mathani is mentioned first, this also indicates that it enjoys greater significance than the Quran in Allah’s act to bestow upon humankind divine instructions about the universe.
- The number ‘seven’ in the term sab’ al-mathani [lit. ‘the doubledseven”] is further proof of our thesis that the term Seven Oft-Recited is different from al-Quran, as the Quran consists of more than just seven verses.
- In spite of their separate nature, the two terms still share one generic root.
the common denominator between al-Quran and umm al-kitab is their shared origin of being both revealed from God, even though they designate two different realms of the divine text. What links seven-mathani and al-Quran is that both reveal the same information about the universe, although they do it in entirely different ways such as in (Zumar:23) In the verse, the term kitab is indefinite, ‘a book’, implying that in this instance the text does not refer to all revealed verses of the Book.
It is qualified by the two adjectives ‘ambiguous’ (mutashabih) and ‘repeated’ (mathani), from which we infer that the book of seven- mathani consists of both ‘ambiguous’ and ‘repeated’ verses. It proves once more that seven-mathani differs from al-Quran, because the Quran consists only of ‘ambiguous’ verses. Moreover, the first line of the verse defines seven-mathani as ‘most beautiful’ [or the ‘best narrative”], implying that the Quran is only ‘narrative’, whereas seven-mathani is the ‘best narrative’.
What, then, is seven-mathani exactly? It contains the number seven (sab’a) and the adjective mathani, ‘repeated’, and indeed it literally means ‘seven times twice-repeated’. But it also connotes the sense of something that ‘holds two different things together’, ‘from two ends’ or ‘two borders. It points to the ability of connecting ‘one end to the other’. Since each chapter of the Book has a beginning and an end, that is, is located between two borders, the term points us to the chapters’ two ‘ends. What we find there is what is conventionally called the ‘abbreviated’ or ‘disconnected’ letters (al-muqata’at).
Interestingly, they occur in seven different combinations, which are as follows:
1) Alif-Lam-Mim-Ra” (which also occurs as Alif-Lam-Mim and Alif-Lam-Ra),
6) ta”-Sin-Mim (which also occurs as ta”-Sin),
The so-called abbreviated letters, introducing their chapters, are correctly numbered either as verse one or as one and two. It is either:
a) Noon. By the [qalam] and the (record) which (men) write. [Qalam:1] or
b) ha-Mim * ‘Ain-Sin-Qaf. [Shara:1–2]
The second verse in b), in which the letters are both verse 1 and 2, demonstrates that these letters are not just cut off from the rest of the chapter, and should not be seen as cryptic initials or meaningless Arabic signs which are there for no apparent function. Instead, we should regard them as expressing the chapter’s message, in a different linguistic format.
If we count the number of letters in these seven combinations, we arrive at the number eleven:
1- Alif 2- sad 3- Kaf 4- Ya” 5- ta” 6- ta” 7-ha” 8-Mim 9-Ra” 10-Ha” 11-Sin
Our thesis is that these eleven letters are not just letters of the Arabic alphabet, or any other alphabet, but are rather graphemes of phonetic utterances that can be found in all other languages that exist on earth. Human language, in general, is based on eleven basic forms of laryngeal or labial sounds that human beings can utter. As pure utterances they do not carry a specific meaning; hence, the exclusion of the letter Dal which, at least in Arabic, is not meaningless if uttered but, because it is homonymic to dall, may connote ‘significant’. If these utterances were letter combinations of the Arabic language, we would surely find among the many million Arabic native speakers at least one who could provide us with an explanation of them. But the truth of the matter is that they do not mean anything in Arabic or any other language since they are simply utterances of the human voice