Muqatta’at consist of one or more letters with which twenty nine Surahs of the Quran open after Bism Allah al-Rahman al-Rahim (In the Name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful). These letters are recited separately, such as “Alif. Lam. Mim.” at the opening of Surah Al-Baqarah.
Some say Muqatta’at are to demonstrate the miracle of the Quran, which conveys the word of God with these very letters of the alphabet.
This can be the case because out of the 29 Surahs that begin with these letters, in 24 Surahs Muqatta’at are followed by a statement about the Quran being a miracle.
Some of the views expressed by scholars about Muqatta’at are as follows:
1- The Holy Quran is a divine miracle that has been written with the very letters of the alphabet. Everyone has access to the letters of the alphabet and if anyone has doubts about the Quran being a miracle should be challenged to use these very letters to produce a miracle like the Quran.
2- The letters are the name of the Surah that begins with them.
3- The letters are secrets between God and the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
4- The letters are a kind of divine oath.
The first view seems to be the best one because out of the 29 Surahs that begin with these letters, in 24 Surahs Muqatta’at are followed by a statement about the Quran being a miracle. In Surah Al-Baqarah, for instance, after Muqatta’at there is reference to the greatness of the Book of God: “Alif. Lam. Mim. This Book, there is no doubt in it, is a guide to those who guard (against evil)”.
And that is the case in Surah Ash-Shura: “Ha. Mim. Ayn. Sin. Qaf. Thus does Allah, the Mighty, the Wise, reveal to you, and (thus He revealed) to those before you.” That is to say, the Book of God has been revealed with these very letters that all humans have access to. Can men, too, produce such a miracle with these letters?
God, the Almighty, creates humans, beautiful birds and various other animals and plants and flowers with earth whereas humans can make pottery and things like that with earth. That is the same with the letters of the alphabet. Only God can make such a miracle using these letters.
According to Imam Sajjad (AS), the Quraysh and Jews accused the Holy Prophet (PBUH) of having made the Quran and attributed it to God, and addressing them to disprove them, God said: “Alif. Lam. Mim. This Book, there is no doubt in it…”