Update

I have not updated this for a while, as I found unicode was incomplete with regard to displaying the Qur'an. As unicode was the method I was using for encoding, it did not appear that I was on the right path.

I had one of those aha moments (I shall not use revelation in this context) the other night when I realised the flaw in my approach. It is not just unicode which is insufficient, it is also the method used to draw fonts.

Unicode can, but does not at present, manage the choice between the final form of mim, the choice of sukun forms and the alif hints, but the rendering method cannot handle vowel marks above both the lam and alif of a lam-alif combination.

What is required is a rules based approach to rendering the complete Quran'ic script. I hope to be able to devote some time to this in the near future. I shall not use unicode, but a tag system, which can be translated into the best unicode present as (or if) it evolves.

The opening will be encoded something like this:

ba.kasra.sin.sukunopen.mimmedial.kasra

In the time since I began this, someone else has created another unicode rendering, which I shall compare to the versions I currently have and hopefully use it as a more accurate rendering. My approach this time will be to use the yusuf ali translation as the seed, marking out phrases within the arabic unicode, and holding both in a database, along with the markup. I am hoping this approach will save me a lot of work by avoiding having to rework the arabic markup for re-used phrases.

 
The qur'anic code is an unsolved mystery.

Many think they have the key to the puzzle, but it remains the most mystifying part of the Qur'an.

What does it mean, Alif-Lam-Mim?

A one thousand four hundred year old conundrum, but can it be solved? And are we meant to solve it?

The Qur'anic code

Much has been written about the letters prefixing some of the surahs (chapters) in the Qur'an (Koran). However, none of this writing has produced a definitive answer about what these letter prefixes mean. Some have accepted that they are an unsolvable mystery known only to God; others have delved into numerical analysis and 'discovered' that everything in the Qur'an is somehow divisible by nineteen.

I accept neither that the mystery is unsolvable, nor that everything is divisible by nineteen, despite the huge amount of '19' related miracles found. Having worked for three years on another cunning mystery, I found it amazing what people discovered that wasn't actually there (myself included). The problem with 19 is that every 19th investigation will yield something divisible by 19. This does not make each one a miracle, even though some of the findings do indeed appear to be so.

What is the Qur'an?

It is the word of God, the holy book of Islam and the final revelation to mankind. It was delivered over a period of twenty two years, between 610 and 632 AD, through the prophet Mohammed. Only after his death was the Qur'an written down, though instructions for its compilation from an otherwise oral tradition were left by the Prophet.

Many confounding theories over the correctness of the text exist. Some claim there were seven different readings, others that parts were forgotten, and that they were meant to be forgotten as they were superseded by subsequent revelation. One claim is that two verses were added at the end of Surah 9 by the compilers, to honour the Prophet. Each of these, and many more claims, are supported by the practices, recollections and sayings of the prophet and his companions, recorded and known as the Sunnah (actions of the Prophet) and Hadith (sayings of the Prophet).

What is the code?

The Qur'an is composed of 114 surahs. Some of these surahs are prefixed with between 1 and 5 arabic letters, as shown in the table below.

SurahPrefixSurahPrefixSurahPrefix SurahPrefixSurahPrefixSurahPrefix
120TH39 587796
2ALM2140HM 597897
3ALMSd2241HM 607998
42342HM'ASnQ 618099
52443HM 6281100
62544HM 6382101
7ALM26TSM45HM 6483102
827TS46HM 6584103
928TSM47 6685104
10ALR29ALM48 6786105
11ALR30ALM49 68N87106
12ALR31ALM50Q 6988107
13ALMR32ALM51 7089108
14ALR3352 7190109
15ALR3453 7291110
163554 7392111
1736YSn55 7493112
1837 56 7594113
19KHY'ASd38Sd57 7695114

The arabic alphabet is composed of 29 letters including Hamza, and 29 of the 114 surahs are prefixed with 14 of these letters. The alphabet is shown below, reading right to left. Alif is the first letter, and Ya the last. Hamza is shown after the Ya.

The prefixed letters have been suggested to be phonetic sounds, keys, letter values and gematical (or gematrial) values. Gematria is the assignation of numerical values to alphabetic letters: a system in use long before we had arabic (0 to 9) numerals. They are called arabic as they came to Europe through the Islamic Mathematician Al Khwarizami, although he got them from the Hindus.

In the days before arabic numerals, the islamic alphabet itself had a different letter order from that shown above, so the gematical/gematrial values are as follows. Gematria applies equally to many alphabets before arabic numerals, i.e. greek, latin and hebrew. gematria does not extend to Roman numerals I=1, V=5, X=10, C=100 etc, which originated similarly to tally marks, but the idea is the same - a letter represents a number.

Alif Ba Jim Dal Ha Wa Za Ha Ta Ya
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Kaf Lam Mim Nun Sin Ayn Fa Sad Qaf Ra
20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 200
Shin Ta Za Kaf Dhal Dad Tha Ghayn Hamza  
300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1000 1  

Numbers and prefixes in other traditions

114 is the same number as the sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas, a comparatively rough rendering of Christ's sayings, thought by some to be the 'Q' book from which other gospels were derived. I have also heard mention of the psalms of David being prefixed with letter 'codes'. 19 is considered a foundational number in Buddhism, and it is a prime number.

The long first step

To be able to analyze the Qur'an it must be computerized and done so accurately.

Rendering the Qur'an in unicode is a particularly difficult task for two reasons:

  1. It is written in an older style of Arabic than is currently used, with many additions to help the reader with pronunciation
  2. Unicode does not fully support the style of the Qur'an, and the various implementations of unicode in modern computer fonts do not necessarily adhere fully to the unicode standard.

A few gotchas I have come across

The result is far from ideal when compared to a modern Qur'an, but according to some sources, the original rendered Qur'an had no hamzas, no pronunciation marks, and in some cases no dots to help differentiate the letters. Some of these early Qur'ans are available for viewing at the British Library's website (http://www.bl.uk)

Here is the output so far in XML with three english translations from Yusuf Ali, Shakir and Pickthall. Completed Surahs show as a hyperlink. Those not yet completed are plain text.

1. Al Fatiha - The Opening
2. Al Baqarah - The Heifer
3. Al Imran - The Family of Imran
4. An Nisaa - The Women
5. Al Ma'ida - The Table Spread
6. Al An'am - Cattle
7. Al A'raf - The Heights
8. AL Anfal - Spoils of War
9. At Tauba - Repentance, or Baraat - Immunity
10. Yunus - Jonah
11. Hud - The Prophet Hud
12. Yusuf - Joseph
13. Al Ra'd - The Thunder
14. Ibrahim - Abraham
15. Al Hijr - The Rocky Tract
16. An Nahl - The Bee
17. Bani Israil - The Children of Israel, or Al Isra - The Night Journey
18. Al Kahf - The Cave
19. Maryam - Mary
20. Ta Ha
21. Al Anbiyaa - The Prophets
22. Al Hajj - The Pilgrimage
23. Al Muminun - The Believers
24. An Nur - Light
25. Al Furqan - The Criterion
26. Ash-Shu'araa - The Poets
27. An Naml - The Ants
28. Al Qasas - The Narration
29. Al 'Ankabut - The Spider
30. Ar Rum - The Romans
31. Luqman - Luqman the Wise
32. As Sajdah - Adoration
33. Al Ahzab - The Confederates
34. Saba - Sheba
35. Fatir - Originator, or Malaika - The Angels
36. Ya Sin
37. As Saffat - Those Ranged in Ranks
38. Sad
39. Az Zumar - The Groups
40. Al Mumin - The Believer
41. Ha Mim, or Fussilat
42. Ash Shura - The Consultation
43. Az Zukhruf - Gold Adornments
44. Ad Dukhan - Smoke, or Mist
45. Al Jathiya - Bowing the Knee
46. Al Ahqaf - Winding Sand Tracts
47. Muhammad
48. Al Fath - Victory
49. Al Hujurat - The Inner Apartments
50. Qaf
51. Az Zariyat - The Winds that Scatter
52. At Tur - The Mount
53. An Najm - The Star
54. Al Qamar - The Moon
55. Al Rahman - The Most Gracious
56. Al Waqi'a - The Inevitable Event
57. Al Hadid - Iron
58. Al Mujadila - The Woman who Pleads
59. Al Hashr - The Gathering
60. Al Mumtahana - The Woman to be Examined
61. As Saff - Battle Array
62. Al Jumu'a - The Assembly (Friday) Prayer
63. Al Munafiqun - The Hypocrites
64. Tagabun - Mutual Loss and Gain
65. At Talaq - Divorce
66. At Tahrim - Holding something to be forbidden
67. Al Mulk - Dominion
68. Al Qalam - The Pen, or Nun
69. Al Haqqa - The Sure Reality
70. Al Ma'arij - The Ways of Ascent
71. Nuh - Noah
72. Al Jinn - The Jinn
73. Al Muzzammil - Folded in Garments
74. Al Muddathir - One Wrapped Up
75. Al Qiyimat - The Ressurection
76. Ad Dahr - Time, or Al Insan - Man
77. Al Mursalat - Those Sent Forth
78. An Nabaa - The Great News
79. An Nazi'at - Those who Tear Out
80. 'Abasa - He Frowned
81. At Takwir - The Folding Up
82. Al Infitar - The Cleaving Asunder
83. At Tatfif - Dealing in Fraud
84. Al Inshiqaq - The Rending Asunder
85. Al Buruj - The Signs of the Zodiac
86. At Tariq - The Night Visitant
87. Al A'la - The Most High
88. Al Gashiya - The Overwhelming Event
89. Al Fajr - Dawn
90. Al Balad - The City
91. Ash Shams - The Sun
92. Al Lail - The Night
93. Ad Dhuha - The Glorious Morning Light
94. Al Inshirah - The Expansion
95. At Tin - The Fig
96. Iqraa - Read, or Al Alaq - The Leech-like Clot
97. Al Qadr - The Night of Power
98. Al Baiyina - The Clear Evidence
99. Az Zilzal - The Convolution
100. Al Adiyat - Those who Run
101. Al Qari'a - The Day of Clamour
102. At Takathur - Piling Up
103. Al Asr - Time through the Ages
104. Al Humaza - Scandalmonger
105. Al Fil - The Elephant
106. Quraish - The Quraish
107. Al Ma'un - Neighbourly Needs
108. Al Kauthar - Abundance
109. Al Kafirun - The Disbelievers
110 An Nasr - Help
111. Al Lahab - The Flame
112. Al Ikhlas - Purity of Faith
113 Al Falaq - The Dawn
114 An Nas - Mankind