Mysterious Letters
(3,165 words)

The alphabetic characters of the Arabic language (q.v.) that appear in non-verbal combinations at the beginning of certain sūras (q.v.) of the Qurʾān, just after the basmala (q.v.). The gift of “letters” came to the Arabian peninsula by way of a slow evolution of orthographies (see arabic script; calligraphy; orality and writing in arabia). While the whole story is quite complex, the cursive consonantal alphabet of twenty-eight letters in wh…

Cite this page
Massey, Keith, “Mysterious Letters”, in: Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān, General Editor: Jane Dammen McAuliffe, Georgetown University, Washington DC. Consulted online on 17 December 2018 <>

▲   Back to top   ▲