This expository paper treats the subject of the mysterious ‘Disconnected Letters’ (الحروف المقطّعة) in Islam’s most sacred text, the Qur’ān. The subject is approached in the following manner: first, an explanation and overview of the letters and their importance are delineated. Secondly, an overview of the main theories surrounding their significance and import are presented from historical and contemporary points of reference, and employing both Muslim and Orientalist scholarly research. Finally, I expand on my own theory as to their importance and meaning, before making a few recommendations and proposals for future research in this area.
The central aim of this paper is to provide a comprehensive overview of the different theories, both traditional and contemporary; surrounding what is a fascinating and engaging topic in Qur’ānic and Islamic Studies. It is hoped that interested parties conducting research in the areas of Arabic linguistics and comparative hermeneutics will find the information useful as a springboard for further research. It is also hoped that pedagogues, students and researchers in the area of inter-religious dialogue will find this document useful as an aid to bridging the gap between what they know and what they ought to know about Muslim textualism.
This paper should be considered a general exposition of the subject matter and a guide as to the extent of research into the significance of these letters. However, it is by no means exhaustive, and it does not claim to provide an in-depth treatment of the letters themselves from an orthographical, philological, semantic or semiotic point of reference. Interested parties wishing to conduct further research into the topic with regard to one of these or other specialist academic disciplines should refer to the comprehensive bibliography and the suggestions for further research.