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Quranic stylistics

A stylistic study of the consonant Șād () in three Qur’anic chapters:
Șād (38), Maryam (19) and Al A‘rāf (7)

Dr. Ahsan ur Rehman
Associate Professor, Department of English,
Faculty of Languages and Literature, Islamic Research Institute (IIU), Islamabad.
Email: ahsan-ur-rehman@iiu.edu.pk, 


One strikingly common element seems to bind three different chapters Șād with letter Șād, Al’raf with alif lam meem Șād  and Maryam with kaf ha ya ‘ain Șād and placed far away in the Qur’anic text: number 38, 7 and 19 respectively by the letter Șād, which is prefixed to all the three chapters. Suyuti (d.911.H) in his Itqan writes that chapters with prefixed letters have words with these letters initially, medially or finally. Noldeke (1860: 603-610) in the same spirit pointed out regarding Ha meemain seen qaf,. Jeffery (1924:8) quoted, “Goossens agrees with Bauer following Schwally and Loth  in taking the 'SQ as an abbreviation of "la'alla 's-sa'ata qarib' (may be the hour — of the hamim' — is near). Rehman (2008) working on these lines discusses that there were significant patterns of ALM (alif lam meem) templates in the respective chapters.

This article seeks to find out whether the templates found in these chapters are randomly placed or make semantic and stylistic patterns with the letter Șād for three Qur’anic chapters, i.e. Șād/ 38, Maryam/ 19 and Al a’raf /7. It concentrates on the occurrence of the letter and the cohesive and coherent links that exist in these chapters with reference to it.  Șād has been chosen from these chapters as it is the common radical and therefore deserves more attention. Other radicals will be dealt in later works. The article uses linguistic techniques of text analysis and is purely descriptive in nature. It also uses the “foregrounding” of Leech and his model of anatomy of language (1980: 37) to describe the role of the letters.  It is an attempt to revisit the Qur’anic text with modern tools of phonology, Kaye (1989) and morphology, Katamba (1989). Once the traces are found, they are linked through stylistic analysis to show the significance of these occurrences.

2 Background

In Arabic language, alphabet has a specific character. They not only embed the respective phonemes but also stand for different meanings. For example, alif the first alphabetic letter stands as a derivational source for ‘’ulfa’ love, ‘alf’ thousand and ‘aleef’ lover. Alif means ‘cow’ and it also stands for the number one.  Similarly, noon stands for fish. Jeffery (1924) quoted Schwally that there is an Arabic tradition in the Mufaddaliyat that this N (noon) is for Al-Hut, and  ‘ain   stands for the chief of the tribe as well as eye and water spring (see Ferozabadi  d. 813). This characteristic was well known to Arab poets when they wrote poems, for example, the following verse plays on the special meaning of ‘qaf’.

“Qultu laha qifi fa qalat li qaf” (Allubab,1998:257).

(I asked her to stop and she said I stopped)

The poet uses the letter /q/, the glottal, four times in the verse and every time with a difference. Such a line shows the command of a poet over the use of sound. It reflects the consciousness of the poet regarding the use of a single letter ‘qaf’ for poetic economy and beauty. Similarly, this article expands on the earlier existing phenomenon of the use of letters in different literary contexts and shows how the same phenomenon is repeated in three of the chapters, i.e. Șād, Maryam (Mary) and Al a’ra:f of the Holy Qur’an.

2.1 The letter Șād ()

Arabic alphabets are basically divided into two linguistic categories; grammatical and lexical. Letters such as alif, lam and meem are lexical as well as grammatical; however, letters such as /Șād/ and /ra/ are purely lexical, i.e. they have only lexical words to begin. This factor gives these letters a more limited role to play in the text as compared to the other counterparts.

Salam (1994: 57) writes about the letter Șād that it is produced at the tip of the tongue which is light, raised and whistling sound with unvoiced quality. The sound of the letter ‘Șād’ by the structure offers an open vowel rhyming pattern that is different from ‘meem’ which contains a long close vowel. It is also different from ‘lam and ‘kaf’ which have different rhyming endings /m/ and /f/. 

A survey of the chapter Șād shows that a galaxy of words has been put together with /sa/ used initially, medially and finally rather than such alternatives that do not contain this phoneme. For example, ‘as habal ‘aika’ ‘the people of the forest’ has been used instead of ‘qaumi sho’aib ‘the people of Sho’aib’ and saafinat has been used in place of khail ’ for horses’.  We can see that if these alternatives are not used, the whole music of the chapter is disturbed and the specific pattern of this chapter is also lost. This gives a specific character to these words as they fit in the scheme of things more beautifully with respect to the rhyme, rhythm and other phonological effects of the chapter Șād. At the same time, these choices give a special identity to this chapter. Moreover, a closer look at the said chapters reveals that the words chosen do not just make a cohesive bundle, but contribute to the main themes of these chapters. Four main areas have thus been identified, first, contribution to the tone and rhythm, second, development of the main theme, third, the development of the narrative and fourth, the intratextual and intertextual links. First, we discuss the rhyme scheme in more details in the following section.

2.2 Șād and the Rhyme Scheme of the chapter Șād

This chapter, then, presents a musical effect that is comprised of rising vowel plus other consonants to give the end rhyme this peculiar effect. From verse number 2 till verse 66, this scheme is dominantly followed. For recitation, this scheme is suitable and provides a sweet melody. End rhymes like, shiqaq, manas, kazzab, ujab, yurad, ikhtilaq, ‘azab, wahhab and asbab provide good examples in this regard but yurad 7, sirat, jiyad 31, asfad 38, absar 45,dar 46 akhyar 47,48,nafaad 54, and mihad 56 especially contribute to it. Commenting on the selection of عجاب instead of, عجيب   Rauf (2004) writes,

There is a shift from the morphological form of the adjective(عجيب)-amazing)in Q11:72/ Q50:2 to the adjective( عجاب-curious) Q38:5.The adjective عجيبis on the pattern of (فعيل)…similarly the adjective( عجاب)is on the pattern of (فعال) that has been employed in word-final co text sentences such as Q38:2-4,6,like (شقاق –dissension (مناص – escape )’ (p.61).

My observation is that the alternative selection is in keeping with the rising rhyme scheme of the letter (ص) and this phenomenon has consistently been traced in all the chapters with these letters. This reminds us of the definition of parallelism where the writer ‘insists on a particular choice’ although other choices within the language are available. And this continues till verse 66. Thus, the dominant end rhyme tallies with Șād, i.e. 66 verses.

2.3 Șād and the main theme of chapter (semantic implications)

The main theme of chapter Șād seems to be patience and perseverance, ‘sabr’. This chapter touches on the theme of patience and perseverance from every angle. For example the disbelievers say,

Wasbiru ‘ala ’alihatikum/6

Stand by your gods.

All the Prophets in the chapter are legendarily known for their patience and perseverance, for example, the prophet Ayub,

Wajadnahu sabira/44

We found him patient


Ibrahim, IsHaq,  Ya’qub, Ismail, yasa’a and Zulkifl

Abraham, Isac, Jacob, Ishmail, Joshua and Dhul Kifl

Kullum minal akhyar/47

All were the chosen ones.

Thus, patience is foregrounded not only in the theme of the text but also in the prefixed letter which is cohesively tied to sabr, ’patience’. In the next section, we see how Șād (the letter) and dhikr (remembrance) are related,

2.4 Șād and the structure of the chapter (Șād and dhikr ‘remembrance’)

                The chapter also has a marked occurrence of the word /dhikr/, the remembrance. It is striking as it occurs in the second and the penultimate verses. In the very first verse:

Șād wal Qur’an I zidhikr/1

Șād and Qur’an  the reminder.

The disbelievers declare,

‘a unzila ‘aliahiz dhikra min bainina/4

Does the reminder come to him amongst us?

God says,

Bal hum fi shakkim min dhikri/8

Nay, but they are in doubt about my reminder.

The Qur’an is called,

Kitabunn ‘anzalnahu mubarakan liyaddabbaru ‘ayatihi  wa li yatazakkara’ulul ’albab/29

Book revealed to you for the pondering of signs and remembrance of the people of wisdom.

Haza dhikrun/49

This is the reminder.

In huwa illa dhikrul lil ‘a:lamin./87

This is but a reminder for the worlds.

This consistent occurrence and juxtaposition compels one to look for links between the letter Șād  and dhikr. This relationship is expressed,

‘aqimissalata li dhikri , /20:14

Establish prayer for my remembrance.

Iza nudiya lissalatit min yaumil jum‘a fas ‘au ila dhikrillah /62:10

When you are called for the prayer on Friday, hurry to the dhikr of Allah.

Qad aflaHa man tazakka wa zakarasma rabbihi faȘalla.

Succeeded is the one who purified and remembering the name of his lord he prayed.          

This point to a coherent relationship between salah and dhikr.

In depth relationship between the letter Șād  and dhikr can be seen if we have a look at the different important words that begin with the letter in the Holy Quran. For Example,


Table 1 words beginning with Șād.

Salah                   Prayer

Saff                       Lines

Sirat                     The way

Sabr                  Patience

Sidq                      Truth

Sadr                      The Chest, The heart


If we analyze each of the above given words, we find that all of these have significance in reminding one to the remembrance of God, the consciousness of oneself and righteousness. For example, salah ‘prayer’, saff  ‘lines in the prayer’ and dhikr ‘remembering God’ are related  cohesively as well as coherently and Quran itself is related to salah and dhikr. Therefore, all these words are interrelated and interconnected semantically, thematically and phonologically. This creates a special aesthetic beauty in the communication of the message leading very tacitly to the extreme form in sajda of salah, (prostration in prayer) which is also present in verse 24 of this chapter: when David (the prophet) is reminded of the teachings and he falls prostrate to ALLAH. The prostration of David reminds us the first sajda of angels which declared man as the vicegerent on earth. The defiance by Iblees ‘the disappointed’ on the other hand sent him asunder from the Divine forces which always obey and never dare disobey. Sajda occurs in prayer on the one hand and leads to other Sajdas of the Holy Quran on the other. Sajda is the extreme form of submission and obedience and therefore links this chapter to Salah and Dhikr both (see 1.11 for more details). 

One after the other, all prophets mentioned in chapter Șād called people of obedience. The theme of obedience is reinforced by Abraham/Ibrahim’s unmatched obedience 2:131 Thus, the chapter is inter-knit with the theme of dhikr; obedience by the letter Șād. We note that there is an enhanced occurrence of this letter. We also note that dhikr is the component of the 2nd verse of this chapter after the letter Șād . It is also interesting that both the elements of the verse, Șād and dhikr have an enhanced occurrence. Dhikr occurs 11 times in this chapter while the common occurrence of dhikr in other chapters is far less, for example, in chapter 37, Saffat, a relatively longer one the word dhikr occurs only three time, and  no occurrence in  chapter 36, Yasin: a chapter of almost equal length to this.  This draws our attention to the connection between Șād and dhikr and we feel obliged to analyze dhikr further.

Table 2 Dhikr and its meaning

Dhikr means remembrance in a spirit of reverence.

Dhikr is also used for recital

The celebration of the presence of Allah is also known dhikr

It also has the meaning of





Special meaning is Qur’anic revelation 

      e)  Dhikr is also used for devotional exercises used by certain ‘sufis’ ‘mystics’.


Al Faraid Durriya (1986:182)

The two tables above, 1 and 2 can be synthesized into the following table 3.

Table 3









The above table shows that the initial juxtaposition of Șād  and dhikr  in 38:2 is not a random placing, but is supported by other parallel occurrences and deserves deeper anaylisis.  As can be noted in table 3, Șād is thus semantically related to dhikr. If this is the case, we may have support from other chapters with Șād prefixed. This leads us to the study of the other two chapters where Șād is one of the prefixed letters: Maryam and al a’raaf.

The study of the remaining two chapters reveals that they also make /dhikr/ as the dominant theme. In the following section, we note how this happens. Before going into other chapters, however, we note one of the sub themes which is also cohesively related to Șād and which was first pointed out by Suyuti. (d.911.H).

2.5 Șād and the disputes ‘ khaȘman’

Dispute is one of the sub themes of this chapter and three events; the story of two brothers having  a debate over distribution of wealth /21. The fight of the people of fire/64 and the fight of the high ups regarding the creation of man are reported and all these work as reminder; dhikr in this chapter. All have the radical Șād in them as a cohesive factor.

Wa hal ‘ataka  naba’ul khasmi/21

Did the news of dispute reach you?

Khasmani baghaaba’duna ‘ala ba’d/22


Inna zalika la  Haqqun takhasumu ‘ahlinnar/64

The dispute between the people of fire

Mak kana li min ‘ilmun iz yakhtasimun/ 69

I have no news of the dispute of the high

2.5.1 Dhikr in the chapters Maryam and al a’rāf 

It is interesting to note that dhikr appears in the first verse of the remaining two chapters under discussion after the prefixed letters.

Dhikro rahmati rabbika ‘abdahu zakariyya /19:/2

Remember the blessings of your Lord on His slave Zakariyya

Kitabun ’unzila ’ilaika fa laa takun fi sadrika Harajun minhu li tunzira bihi wa dhikra lil mo’minin. /7:2

The book revealed to you so that there remains no doubt in your heart to warn and remind the believers. Just to remind the reader that the element Șād  was initially juxtaposed with /dhikr/ in the chapter Șād and from then it occurs consistently in all the three chapters with this letter. In this chapter the word dhikr occurs 16 times. This theme of Dhikr pervades these two chapters just like chapter Șād  .

2.5.2 Dhikr in the chapter Maryam

As discussed with reference to /dhikr/ in chapter Șād   and al a’raaf, we note a very consistent use of dhikr with the narratives of the Prophets, The chapter begins with the word /dhikr/

1-   ذكر رحمت ربك عبده زكريا.

dhikru rahmatu rabbika abdahu zakariyya 

  And as discussed different Prophets’ introduction comes with the word dhikr,

2-  وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ مَرْيَمَ

wazkur fil kitabi

3-  وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ 
      wazkur fil kitabi ibrahima

4-  وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ مُوسَى

      wazkur fil kitabi musa

5-  وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِسْمَاعِيلَ 

     wazkur fil kitabi ismail

6-  وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِدْرِيسَ

     wazkur fil kitabi idreesa

  This makes /dhikr/ the foregrounding feature of the chapter Maryam, ‘Mary’. This is thus the intertextual link in all the three chapters under discussion. We can now move to the element of Sād in Maryam, ‘Mary’.

2.5.3       Dhikr  and nasiHa in chapter  Al a’rāf

In this chapter the main theme of dhikr is coupled with nasiHa, good advice. These two elements forefground themselves in this chapter. Dhikr occurs 16 times in al a’raaf, it occurs  with different variations and also becomes part of the alternative word’ nasiHa’ ( good advice) which is coherently linked to the meaning of dhikr, (to remind) and cohesively to Șād for its medial radical Șād . /na, sa Ha/.

Aw ‘ajibtum ‘an ja’akum dhikrun min rabbikum/43

Repeated in/69 by Hood,

and Salih,

Wazkuru /74 and fazkuru/74

The same tone continues in Lot and Shoiab’s addresses when they say,

Wazkuru iz kuntum qalilan/86

Remember when you were few,

The above examples establish /dhikr/ as the main theme of the two chapters, Maryam and a’raaf. The next foregrounding feature is nasiHa.

2.5.4 Foregrounding:  element in Al a’rāf

The foregrounding feature in this chapter is the use of /na,sa,Ha/. All the Prophets in ala’raf  are called nasiHin  for example the first story of Adam and Satan’s encounter, the word/ nasiHa/ finds expression as the Satan says,

Inni lakuma la min an nasiHin /7: 21

Verily I am of those who wish you well indeed.

The Prophet Noah said,

Wa ‘ansaHu lakum / 7:62

And I guided you

Hood said,

‘ana lakum nasiHun ‘amin/ 7 : 68

I am a good advisor for you.

And when the Doom came  upon the people of Salih and the people were destroyed he turned away and said,

Wa nasaHtu lakum wa likin la tuHibbunan nasiHin./7:79

I guided you but you do not like good guides.

Similarly, Shoiab said,

Wa nasaHtu lakum/7:94

I gave you good advice.

The above examples from al a‘raaf establish the foregrounding word /nasiHa/  and dhikr in different context reminding what Suyuti (Ibid) said regarding the use of prefixed related words. This phenomenon is further supported by parallel uses of many other words which on the one hand supports the theme and on the other hand works as a cohesive link.

2.5.5 General use of Șād in Al a’rāf

In this chapter, Șād occurs for the third time and in the fourth letter; alif la:m meem sa:d. A survey of this chapter reveals how the collections of different variants from Arabic language that involve the /s/ phoneme have been put together.

For the making of man, the word sawwar’ to make’ is used. The standard word in other chapters is, ja’ala, ‘to make’ used in Baqara/30. The word sagheer is used for Satan while he calls himself min an nasiHeen, means from good advisors. In other chapters, the variable, rajeem, used in hijr/17, a cursed, and iblees, Baqara/34, the despondent are preferred. The word saghirin, humbled by Moses is applied for the magicians of Pharaoh’s court. All these variables make use of the Șād   phoneme.

Prophets and their events carry the special feature of Șād   factor. When Adam and Eve commit the mistake, they begin to cover themselves, Tafiqa Yakhsafani/23. The Prophet tells the story (qissa), yaqussoona ‘alikum ’ayati (tell you stories) /35. The Prophet Mohammad ( s.a.w.a.w.s) is called Sahibihim ( their friend)/184, the normal title ‘rasool’ is employed in other chapters of the Quran. The name of Prophet SaliH begins with Șād    and suits the cohesive use of Șād   very well. So does the vocative address, Ya salih/77. When the wrath came, they got turned,  fasbaHoo.. jasimin ( They got overturned/78). Salih said to them, nasaHtu lakum….la tuHibbun nasiHeen.( I gave you good advice, but you do not like reformer. This pattern is repeated with the narrative of all prophets.  Lot’s discourse makes good use of Șād  , ‘do not create chaos after reforms’ ( ba’da islaHiha/85, and do not stop the paths( siraat)/86 or stop(tasuddoo/86 and  be patient fasbiroo/87 , till the wrath came and fasbiHoo/91( they became overturned). He said to them nasaHtu lakum/93( I gave you good advice). Allah says, ’asabnahum (I made them suffer)/100. We tell them the story, God says, ( naqussu/101. Moses threw his ‘asa (staff)/, 107,112 and that turned the magicians saghirin (small) /112. When the magicians surrendered, Pharaoh said, la ‘usallibannakum/124, (I must crucify you) they asked for patience (sabr/126. Moses asked his people to do the same, ’asbiroo/128. The people of Pharaoh were caught by losses ‘naqs’ of fruit./130. When they were tested  (tusibhum)/131, but they failed. 

Moses passed by a nation that worshipped ’asnaam (statues)/138. Moses said to Haroon ’aslih (reform)/142. Moses went to see God and fell sa’iqa (struck by lightening)/143. God said to Moses, ‘I raised you among people’/ ’asTafaituka/144 and gave everything with details ( tafsila/145.

Other general descriptive statements also utilize the same Șād   factor; verses were explained ‘mufassilat’ and the Israelites were patient (Sabir)/137. We (God) demolished all that Pharaoh built (kana yasna’o) /137and the proud will be turned away(sa ‘asrif) and ‘usibu ( I put to test) whom I want. I (God) will lessen the burdens (israhum)/157, of those who help the Prophet nasaruhu/157. In the earth, SaliHeen (reformers and ghair SaliHeen (non reformers)/168 passed so musliHeen’s deeds are not wasted/170. (We explain the signs) Nufassilul ayat /174, so faqsusalaihimul qasas (tell them the story /176. All kind of help, naSar is from Allah, /192.  When Qur’an is recited people must  ansitoo, be silent’, /204. Similar word sumut (silence) is used in /194.

The proud are the asHabunnar( people of fire) and find their fate in the book of naseeb /37. Evil is drawn from the sudoor ‘hearts’ of those who do ‘amalissaliha( good deeds). Seven times the noun ‘asHabunnar and asHabulJannah (people of fire and people of gardens) has been repeated. The book has been explained (fass alnahu) /52 and people are not expected to create ‘fasaad’(chaos) after islaH (reforms). Verses have often been repeated and explained (nusarriful ayat),58. The Prophet is nasiH/68 and the people challenge him for truth asking, (‘in kuntum sadiqin( if you are truthful ) /70).

Thus, we can see how the Șād element rides the whole chapter. It occurs in the above variables initially, medially and finally. In fact, the whole story of the chapter can be told with Șād   words only. Many other examples still remain to be quoted. It seems as if there is an inexhaustible source of the use of letter Șād   here which works as a cohesive force that binds the text together. Words for which other variables are available, however, the Șād   variables are preferred and thus the challenge of Qur’an is linguistically materialized which presents an unparalleled example of a serious text that binds itself by cohesive and coherent strings. 

2.5.6  Șād in Maryam (Mary)

                If the foregrounded features of chapter Șād and Al a’raaf are sabr, patience, perseverance and nasiHa, ‘well wishing’. This chapter foregrounds the features of the sidq ‘truthfulness’ and sincerity /khuloos/ of the Prophets, so it reminds us,

Wazkur fil kitabi Ibrahim innahu kana siddiqan nabiyya/41

Call to mind through this Divine writ, Abraham, he was a man of truth.

About Isac and Jacob,

Wa  ja’alna lahum lisana sidqin ‘aliyya/ 19:50

We granted them a lofty power to convey the truth

And about Ismail/54

Innahu kana sadiqal wa’di wa kana rasulan nabiyya/19:54

Call to mind through this Divine writ, Ishmael, he was always true to his promise andwas an apostle of God..

Innahu kana mukhlasan wa kana rasulan nabiyya/: 1951

Moses was sincere and was of the sent Prophets.

And Idris,

Innahu kana siddiqan nabiyya/19:56

Behold he was a man of truth.

The constant mentioning of sidq/truth with every Prophet and the Sād prefixation to the chapter cannot go unnoticed by any student of stylistics. Its significance is inherently understood by the language conscious and deserves deeper analysis. The above analysis is a step in these directions which shows that all the events are cohesively interlinked by the /Șād / factor. Thus, all the Prophets and events have been foregrounded by their truth and sincerity: consonance with the Șād element in the text.

3 Comparison of Șād Distribution in Chapter Șād   and Mary (Maryam) and Al A’rāf

3.1 Narratives of the Prophets

In a chapter after the necessary preface of hymn about the Creator, the holy Quran normally relates the stories of prophets. These stories make the main structure of the chapter and go with the overall theme. The first of these verses normally reflects the basic identity of the style of that chapter. For a stylistic study these lines would be certainly important as these introduce a new event. What is noteworthy, that these lines make a small unit of the chapter which itself makes a larger part of the holy Quran like a brick making a wall and the wall itself making a part of the whole structure.

          These areas are especially noteworthy with respect to the style of the holy Quran in general and the style of that chapter in particular. An example from chapter  nineteen will elaborate the above point further. 

 We note that every reference begins with wazkur’ remember’. The association was discussed with Șād. In the second chapter under discussion every reference begins with wazkur fil kitab, thus adding kitab to it. This is discussed below:

1-   ذكر رحمت ربك عبده زكريا.

 dhikru rahmatu rabbika abdahu zakariyya

2-   وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ مَرْيَمَ

wazkur fil kitabi

3-   وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ

      wazkur fil kitabi ibrahima

4-   وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ مُوسَى

      wazkur fil kitabi musa

5-   وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِسْمَاعِيلَ

      wazkur fil kitabi ismail

6-   وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِدْرِيسَ

      wazkur fil kitabi idreesa

To remind our readers the examples from chapter Șād are given below:

 وَاذْكُرْ عَبْدَنَا أَيُّوبَ

wazkur ‘abdana ayyub

وَاذْكُرْ عَبْدَنَا دَاوُود 

wazkur ‘abdana dawud

وَاذْكُرْ عِبَادَنَا إبْرَاهِيمَ

wazkur ‘ibadana ‘ibrahim

وَاذْكُرْ إِسْمَاعِيلَ وَالْيَسَعَ

wazkur isma’il  wal yasa

The basic similarity between the two patterns leads to confirm the above statement regarding Prophets’ stories. Both the patterns share this element of dhikr and have the Șād letter prefixed in the beginning. Descriptively speaking, it can be concluded that the relation between Șād and dhikr already established with reference to chapter Șād seems to be holding. A survey of this chapter with reference to the letter Sād gives many interesting facts which are discussed below:

3.2 General elements of Șād in‘Mary’/  Maryam’  

Many words with Șād radical find their way in this chapter that support the Șād, cohesion and consonance. Words like sabiyya, qasiyya, sirati mustaqeem, jabbaran ‘asiyya, souma, saliyya, siddiqan nabiyya, ada’us  and salah provide a cohesive support throughout this chapter working as intratextual as well as intertextual links.

                If we look at this chapter from the angle of Sād  related words, we find that the similarity of theme is maintained. For example, the word sidq (truth) has been repeated in four lines, 41,50,54,56 with reference to different prophets. In the same way the word siraat (path) 36, soum (fasting) 26, salah (prayer) 31, 55, 59  siraat (path) 43 and saalihat (the virtuous) 96 bring this similarity forward. Other words, such as sabiyya 12’wisdom at early age, Qasiyya 22 ‘ far off place, asiyya 14, 44 ‘ haughty’ and saliyys 70,’ deserving fire’ provide  supporting homogenous environment for the sa phoneme.  This provides cohesive links that exist between the letter Șād, in chapter Șād and Mary.

See the beauty of the name of Zakariyya that it shares with the first word dhikr. Although dhal and za in Arabic have a clear phonemic value, their similarity for a linguist cannot be ignored. Both ddhikr  and  Zakaria are nouns; abstract and proper respectively. Both have historical, thematic and phonological relationship and this relationship is brought out in this verse.

3.3 Organization of the three chapters

3.3.1 Șād

                The structure and organization of this chapter can now better be understood. It begins with dhikr and ends with ddhikr. It discusses different Prophets for their ‘sabr’ and ddhikr. It discusses the opponents of the Prophets for what they forgot of the remembrance of God. Thus one can see that letter Șād’ has a special role in the overall organization of the chapter.

3.3.2 Maryam

The chapter Maryam ‘Mary’, on the other hand begins with Dhikr and continues with the mentioning of different Prophets whose ‘sidq’ truthfulness is emphasized. It links the whole chapter by wazkur fil kitabi and then mentions the truthfulness and sincerity accordingly.

3.3.4 Al a’rāf

The chapter Al a’raaf also opens with Dhikr and different Prophets one by one. For the believers, the narrator of the story also mentions the story of the creation where Satan after being expelled from Paradise as ‘Saghira’ ‘mean’  swears to them that he was from the well wishers, ‘nasiHin’.

The story of Prophet Noah begins in verse/59. The Prophet warns his people and emphasizes his role ‘wa’ansaHa lakum’. The people refuse to Noah’s advice who reminds them again saying,  Fazkroo ‘alaa’Allahi. The story of Hood is next who also warns the people in exactly similar fashion and tells them inni lakum nasihun amen. ’The same narrative templates composing of five to six verses are repeated for different Prophets; Hood /65, SaliH/73, Lot/80, Shoiab/85. All these narratives in this chapter have a set pattern, whereby these follow a beginning of the reminding of the people by a certain Prophet, their refusal, their doom and the final address by the Prophet. In all these extracts have one thing is common; every one begins with nasiHa, talks about dhikr and ends in the doom of the people. This gives a paralleled structure to the whole chapter and is the leading, foregrounding factor.

                  Thus the organization of the stories in the chapter follows a very structured pattern in which the  /Dhikr/nasiHa have a very prominent role to play. As discussed earlier both are connected to the Șād  factors. We therefore have cohesive and coherent links in the text that lead to the role of Șād in the organization of the text.

As alif lam and meem are also part of the prefixed letters in this chapter and they have a role to play, we leave this topic here and pick it up in another paper.

What is important to note is that all the three chapters show these links of structure of organization along with other factors already mentioned.

4 Prostrations

Every Muslim is aware of the relation between Șālah (prayer) and sajda (Prostration). Șālah is incomplete without sajda. We have already talked about the link between the consonant Șād, Șālah and dhikr with regard to organization of these three chapters, one more striking feature is noticed: the presence of places called, Prostration, ’sajda’. When a reader reads these areas, he immediately bows down or does so later. This makes prostration the most interactive place in the Qur’an. These areas are not many in the Qur’an, fourteen or sixteen according to some traditions. This is a small number looking at the overall figure of one hundred and fourteen chapters in the Qur’an. However, in all these chapters mentioned there is a prostration place. This is indeed significant, as sajda also occurs in every salah and we have already established link in early discussion between salah , ddhikr and the letter Șād.

5 Conclusion

The above study shows that the Șād prefixed chapters use the radical in different manners and there is a certain affinity of Șād related words and phrases in these chapters which Rehman (2008) established with reference to Alif lam and meem in the six related chapters. The study also shows that all the three chapters mentioned above have a common theme of dhikr which is foregrounded. On the other hand, every chapter has an individual angle of dhikr such as sabr’ perseverance in chapter Șād , sidq ‘truthfulness in Maryam ‘Mary’ and well wishing characters, al a’raaf,  Moreover, the prefixed letter Șād has a role in organization of the three chapters of great Prophets emphasized.

For a student of Qur’anic stylistics, it is an amazing phenomenon where one consonant provides cohesive as well as coherent links that bind three apparently different chapters. For translators or readers of the Qur’an, it is inevitably important to take stock of these factors in translations as  without these much of the cohesive links  and beauty  of the hidden message is difficult to convey. This study, thus, leads to the significance of mentioning the letter Șād in the beginning  of these chapters which links them not only cohesively but also coherently providing an inimitable and untranslatable aspect of the Qur’anic text.


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49 Curiously enough tradition tells us that Ibn Mas'ud's copy read only SQ. which is got by dropping the La'alla which is only an introductory particle.

To download a pdf version of this article in English click here and for Urdu click here.

The manuscript has also been translated  into Arabic by Dr. Faizan ur Rehman (drfaizan.609@gmail.com). To access it, click here.

For a detailed explanation of this concept by the same author click here.

An Urdu review of this work entitled " 
حروف مقطعات --- ایک تحقیقی جائزہ " by Shaykh Altaf Ahmad (aksefikr@yahoo.com) has been published in Daily Azadi From Swat. Read
Part I (06.09.2013) and Part II (07.09.2013) from the Editorial section [Mirror links: Part I and Part II].

To access the full thesis by Dr. Ahsan ur Rehman entitled "Morphophonemic patterns In the prefixed chapters of the Holy Qur'an: A stylistic approach" click here [Mirror link].

This work is linked to the main article Muqatta'at

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اللهم صل على محمد وعلى آل محمد
كما صليت على إبراهيم وعلى آل إبراهيم إنك حميد مجيد
اللهم بارك على محمد وعلى آل محمد
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