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Quranic Grammar - The Particle alif (أ)

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The particle alif (أ), or more accurately the hamza, is used as an interrogative prefix or as a particle of equalization. Although the interrogative sense is used far more frequently (over 500 occurances) it is the rarer equalizational sense which is used first in the Quran, in verse (2:6) of sūrat l-baqarah:

Sahih International: Indeed, those who disbelieve - it is all the same for them whether you warn them or do not warn them - they will not believe.

The Interrogative alif Prefix

The prefixed alif is an interrogative particle (همزة استفهام) used to form a question and is usually translated as "is", "are", or "do". The dependency graph for verse (95:8) below shows an example of this use of the alif prefix. In general, both the particle hal (هل) and the alif may be used to form an interrogative sentence, although the prefixed alif is not usually used with with the definite article.

 (95:8:4)
l-ḥākimīna
(of) the Judges?
 (95:8:3)
bi-aḥkami
(the) Most Just
 (95:8:2)
l-lahu
Allah
 (95:8:1)
alaysa
Is not

Fig 1. An interrogative alif in verse (95:8).

The alif of Equalization

The prefixed alif of equalization (همزة التسوية) occurs six times in the Quran, with the first use of this particle at (2:6:6) shown below. This usage of the prefixed alif is not interrogative and instead indicates equality. This particle is usually translated as "whether".

(2:6:6)
a-andhartahum
whether you warn them

Fig 2. The alif of equalization in verse (2:6).

The six uses of this particle are at (2:6:6), (7:193:9), (14:21:28), (26:136:4), (36:10:3), and (63:6:3). In each of these verses, the noun sawāon ("the same") is also used.

See Also

Language Research Group
University of Leeds
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