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Deciphering the Qur'an: كهيعص Surat Maryam, verse 1, Syriac in the Qur'an and the response of the Arabs

Reader comment on item: Study the Koran?

Submitted by dhimmi no more, Jan 7, 2019 at 13:03

Dr Pipes,

كهيعص Kaf, Ha, Ya , 'Ayn, Sad, or Surat Maryam 1 has no meaning.

al-Tabari provided 14 different meanings to those mysterious letters that the reader of the Qur'an will find in many Quranic Suras. al-Tabari starts his tafsir by telling the readers that واختلف اهل التاويل or "al-Mufasereen did not agree" which means that al-Tabari had no idea what these mysterious letters mean.

The implications here are enormous: Why would al-Tabari in the 3rd century of Islam seems to have no idea about what the Qur'an is really saying. Common sense would dictate that Muhammad's generation would have understood what these letters mean, but the meaning must have been lost 300 years later. There must have been a disconnect between 7th century Arabia, when the Qur'an was "revealed", and 9th century Mesopotamia where al-Tabari wrote his Tafsir. Or the Quranic text was meant to be a text that was the domain of another religious tradition (The Syriac tradition) and it was acquired by Muslims and the meaning of the text was explained by Persians the likes of al-Tabari that had no link to 7th century Arabia. The end result is the meaning of كهيعص was lost.

Christoph Luxenberg believes that the siglum كهيعص is from Syriac ܟܒܝܪ ܗܘ ܝܗ ܥܠܝܐ ܨܒܐܘܬ (kabbir hu yah 'ellaya sbaot) which in Arabic it would be: كبير هو الرب العلي الصباوت (Kabbir Huwa al-Rabb al-'Ali al-Saba'ut)
Or: Great is the Lord the exalted the Sabaoth (powerful)

Luexeberg describes Surat Maryam (up to verse 33) as a liturgical text and as an introduction to such text كهيعص is a perfect introduction to such text

Enter a very interesting Arab young man is exploring the languages of the older religious traditions that pre-date Islam be it Judaism or Syriac Christianity. He correctly believes that Muslims should be aware that much of the Qur'an is linked to these older civilizations and languages. And here is a video where he explains this siglum كهيعص


The response of the viewers is mixed: many are in denial as expected. However, many viewers are very interested in his findings and are open to the idea of discovering the origins of their holy text even if these origins do not fit well with the Islamic orthodoxy

I suspect that no sane Muslim would have posted such video some 20 years ago so there is hope


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