University of Oxford

Implied Meaning in Verses: An Analysis of Implicature in the Surah al-Fatihah (chapter 1 of koran)


(An Analysis of Implicature in the al-Fatihah)



This research investigates the implied meaning of surat al-Fatihah from Implicature standpoint. Although it is stated that Pragmatics deals with normal “situation” where the utterance (text) is uttered (produced), it is still possible to analyze texts like verses, even though verses are “abnormal”, since they were not uttered by normal human. This research finds that those verses contain God’s intentions to be confessed in some aspects by human. They also imply deeper meaning that can be obtained as education for the sake of future life.

Keywords: implicature, implied meaning, verses, Qur’an, al-Fatihah.

1. Introduction

Qur’an is one, and the last one, of the holy books sent by God to the human through His messenger, Muhammad. Nowadays, the translations of Qur’an can be found in this world easily. However, up to this time, this holy book has not been analyzed from pragmatics point of views. We may also find a lot of Qur’an interpretation by Muslim experts, but the interpretations were based on the literal meaning of the texts. This research is conducted, therefore, to begin the analysis of verses of Qur’an from pragmatics point of view.

Verses analysis from pragmatics point of view is possible, since pragmatics approaches are applicable for almost all languages known in the world. This analysis does not base on the assumption that God might intend something else by saying something else differently. This analysis is based on assumption that there are more meanings implied in the verses text that can be obtained; make the text becomes more meaningful, and to understand God’s intention deeper than what is written.

This research will analyze some sequenced verses of Qur’an (1 to 7) taken from al-Fatihah, from the view point of Implicature. The original aim of this research is to investigate the implied meaning of verses.

Those verses are translated into Indonesian and English before they are analyzed. However, the original form of verses (Arabic) is also presented.

Some syntactical issues those are specifically found in Arabic such as why God uses this word and that word is another problem and not to be analyzed in this regard. Those verses will be analyzed after translated into Indonesian and English. By doing so, the bases of the analysis assumption are the convention of Indonesian language and English language, not Arabic language.

This research is hoped to begin the verses analysis through “pragmatics spectacles.” This research is not done to add verses meaning, or to change it. Again, this is only for the sake of our deeper understanding of verses. As the very beginning research on this regard, this research only takes seven verses. The next research is hoped to do more.

2. Review of the Literature

2.1.First thing first

The first thing to question is that “is verse a text?” Then we must answer first “What is text?” the general definition of text given by Eggins (2004:23-24) as any passage, spoken or written, of whatever length, that does form a unified whole. The definition of verse given in Oxford Dictionary is short numbered division of a chapter in the Bible (read: holy books). By looking at two definitions above, it can be seen obviously that verses are actually text, regardless of who created it and for whom it was created.

Qur’an is a holy book that is written as the attempt to keep the God’ Saying. Qur’an is primarily spoken text that was written. In relationship with the former statement, however, the untold entities in the verses cannot be ignored such as the major participants and settings. That is, this research will analyze the verses as spoken text that involves participants and settings.

The question (is verse a text?) has been answered. The next important issue is that to question the difference of the verse text and the general text, as will be mentioned later on. Verses, or in more general word, revelation, is God’s saying to His messengers. From this point, it is obvious that there are two major participants; they are God as the sender, and messenger as the addressee.

The sender role is that to convey such conditions or information those are packaged in utterances and the addressee role is that to unpack those utterances to obtain the conditions or information in it.

However, in its process of construction, Qur’an for instance, was not in the original fact of sequence. For the example, historically, the first verse God sent was verses 1 of al-Alaq (96), however the mushaf distributed for long time until now is begun by al-Fatihah. Another thing is that verses are not written by God, and none is qualified to proof logically that God “said” things. What we have to do is standing on our belief (read: Iman) that God said that.

In the verses writing process, it is very reasonable to say that verses are actually “a narration”; God might tell things to His messengers, but physically, those messenger who have written those verses. It is assumed that verses as indirect speech or reflective speech, in which the messenger as the reflector.

2.2.Holy Book or Verses as Multiple Genre Text

We turn to the discussion of the distinction of verse and general text. Texts are categorized in genres, and by looking at the verse text structure, it is likely to say that verses (Qur’an in this case) contain multiple genres.

Qur’an contains argumentative; there are a lot of verses contained God’s argumentations (for example 3:79; 2:23; 6:93, and so on) since we understand argumentative as a text which contains argumentation. Qur’an contains expository; it mostly contains this genre because its function is to give explanation and direction (for example 6:88; 9:79, and so on) since we understand expository that way (see Tarigan, 1994). Qur’an also contains imperative; there are so many verses begun with imperative (for example 5:95; 2:264; 22:1, and so on). Qur’an also contains narrative; there are so many verses contained stories (for example 12:7-end) in the holy books, especially Qur’an, God tells a lot of the stories of messengers and all of those are narrative.

Here we see that Qur’an contains multiple text genres that might be different with other types of textbook. It is quite hard (if not impossible) to do genre-based analysis on verses, since it does not stand on particular genre. It is also possible to state that verses are the multifunctional text, because it deals with multiple problematic situations in our life.

Physically, Qur’an, and verses in it, is text that contains explicit and implicit meaning that is obtainable. In analyzing the verses, it will be better if the analyzer attempt to “remove” the metaphysic elements of the verses. What we can do is that to see the implicit meaning of the verses by looking at the word choice, collocation, and some other physical evidences.

However, as mentioned, this research will stand on the Indonesian and English language convention. It is realized that there will be weaknesses regard to the original setting evidence where the verses are created. This may cause some weaknesses in term of internal validity of the research, but it still stand on the assumption that the text meaning is still obtainable through other approaches, that is, pragmatics.


Implicature is one of topics discussed widely in pragmatics discussion. There are two types of implicature; conventional and conversational implicature. Conventional implicature is a non-truth conditional inference, which is not deductive in any general, natural way from the saying of what is said, but arises solely because of the conventional features attached to particular lexical items and/or linguistics construction (Huang, 2007).

Conversational implicature is a set of non-logical conditional inference, which contains conveyed messages, which are meant without being part of what is said in the strict sense. It is derived from the saying of what is said via the co-operative principle and its component of maxims of conversation (Huang, 2007).

According to Griffiths (2006:134), conversational implicatures are inferences that depend on the existence of norms for the use of language, such as widespread agreement that communicators should aim to tell the truth.

The main similarity between conventional and conversational implicature is that neither makes any contribution to truth conditions. On other hand, there are a number of important differences between conventional and conversational implicature. First of all, conventional implicatures are not derived from the co-operative principle and its component maxims, but are attached by convention to particular lexical items or linguistic constructions. They are, therefore an arbitrary part of meaning, and must be learn ad hoc. By contrast, conversational implicatures are derived from co-operative principle and its attendant maxims. Hence, they are non-conventional by definition, that is, they are motivated than arbitrary (Huang, 2007:56).

Grice (Huang, 2007; Griffiths, 2006; Thomas, 1995) proposed four maxims of co-operative principle after he identified some of the communicational norms and showed how they are involved in the reasoning that makes it possible for utterances to convey rather more than is literally encoded in the underlying sentences. Those maxims are:

Quality      : try to be truthful when communicating.

Quantity    : give appropriate amounts of information, not too little and not too much.

Manner      : utterances should be clear: brief, orderly and not obscure.

Relevance  : contributions should be relevant to the assumed current goals of the people involved.

Grice believes that people should communicate this way, to generate a meaningful and intended conversation. Communication proceeds as if speakers are generally guided by these maxims.

What we can take from this is that in conversation, or in communication in general, there are norms that engage the communicators. We have to do communication in a “straight line” as well as possible, and to make our addressee understand our intended message. Simply, we have to be cooperative in doing communication.

However, it is frequently found that someone says “A” but he means “B”; in other words, he intends something else by saying something else. In other hand, “A” is not “B”, or if-A then-B, vice versa. Means that people frequently communicate not in what Grice believes. Lot of times people state more than what they mean, or even state less than what they mean. Here, Thomas (1995) mentions that there must be two levels of meaning; expressed meaning and implied meaning. There must be implied meaning in utterance that is assumed as deeper meaning, something that lies beyond the words used to construct the utterance.

To understand the implied meaning, the communicators should have similar common ground or basic knowledge about what they are communicating that time. They, of course, communicate in different way than as stated “being engaged in norms” but they can understand each other.

2.4.Implied Meaning in Verses

Implicatures are implied meaning of utterance, the speaker meaning that in times are different with the meaning of the words used in the utterance construction. It is assumed that text, since it is constructed by words, and as it is having the producer, has its implied meaning as well as utterances in verbal communication or conversation.

If it is so, it is possible that verses, as texts, will also have implied meaning that is different or deeper than what is expressed.

To say that verses contain implied meaning is true, since God as the Speaker has His intention in His utterances. Even, verses in Qur’an are divided into two general types; has-explicit meaning verses and has-implicit meaning verses. The former is called muhkamat and the later is called mutasyabihat (see Qur’an 3:7).

Has-explicit meaning verses are verses that can be understood easily, or the meanings are explicit. Meanwhile has-implicit meaning verses are verses, which need to be analyzed deeper and sometimes God is the only one knower of the truth meaning of the verses.

However, in this case, we look verses as text which as mentioned by Thomas (1995) as having expressed (or literal) meaning and implied meaning. God might use easy-understood words but we may need to understand those words in higher level, to capture the deeper meaning.

As text, verses certainly have deeper and broader meaning (or upgradable meaning) than what is written. Therefore, it can be assumed that each verse might have two levels of meaning at once. Here, we will analyze seven verses in al-Fatihah (the first letter of Qur’an) to capture the implied meaning, the deeper and broader meaning of the verses.

3. Methods of Investigation

In this part, we will briefly discuss the methods used in the research. The discussion will be divided into two parts; method of data collection and method of data analysis.

3.1.Method of Data Collection

The only data in this research is the text of verses, especially seven verses of Qur’an (al-Fatihah), firstly we locate the site of data. This locating site is the first step of data collection (Creswell, 1997). As mentioned before, this research aims to investigate the implied meaning in al-Fatihah, therefore, the main data is the verses text of al-Fatihah itself. Although we also include some other verses, those included verses are only supporting data to support our analysis.

This research is categorized as document analysis, since it employs texts or documents as the data analyzed. Document is one of the data forms (Creswell, 1997:121). We include verses as the document and this is based on its form as text. As a library research, documentation is the main attempt done by the researcher. Documentation here means an attempt to collect documents (texts) those are relevant to the research topic.

After locating (or defining) the main data of the research, because the data is originally written in Arabic language, the data then is translated into English and Indonesian. To obtain English version, we collect documents from the English translation al-Qur’an and to obtain Indonesian version, we take document from Indonesian translation al-Qur’an (al-Qur’an dan Terjemahan) that is widely distributed in bookstores and can be found easily. Because of the lack of research done in this topic, it is quite difficult to find related previous research.

3.2.Method of Data Analysis

After data are collected, those data are analyzed from Pragmatics point of view, especially Implicature. As mentioned that the data are texts, then, those texts are transcribed and the researcher will attempt to rise up the implied meaning of texts by using implicature.

There will be crosscheck among texts. The interpretation of our version will be compared with the interpretation from other’s version. Briefly, the process of analysis is described as follows:

Firstly, each verse will be described in its original form (Arabic), and then the English and Indonesian translation will follow.

Secondly, each verse will be interpreted by looking at the possible implied meaning by utilizing implicature principles.

Thirdly, each interpretation will be compared with other versions of interpretation to see whether or not the similarity (or difference) exists. However, in this stage, the compared version of interpretation will not be narrowed as conclusion, just for comparison.

Fourthly, after all verses are interpreted pragmatically, this research will attempt to draw a point to conclude the result of interpretation.

4. Discussion

In this section, each verse will be interpreted one by one through pragmatics point of view, especially implicature.

a. First Verse

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

In the name of God, the Most Gracious,  the Most Merciful

Dengan menyebut nama Allah Yang Maha Pengasih, lagi Maha Penyayang

This verse is started by a resuscitation of dimension “in” that can be logically concluded that the sayer (not God) is “outside” before stating “in the name…” this is a kind of invitations to people who believes in God, to “come in” into “God’s name.” in the name of God implies a confession of the reader or sayer and at the same time God becomes the One is holding responsibility on the sayer. By stating “in the name of God”, the sayer is aware that he is under God’s full control. The two next phrases contain scalar implicature “most” that implies the highest and the most superior on having characters “gracious” and “merciful.” The complete implied meaning of the first verse is “I am under God’s full control Who has the highest and the most superior on having Gracious and Merciful characters.” If the verse was uttered by God, then this is invitation from God and at the same time an order by implying say “who is not under My control will not have impact from My Graciousness and Mercifulness.”

b. Second Verse

الحمد لله رب العالمين

Praise be to God, the Lord of the Universe

Segala puji bagi Allah, Tuhan semesta alam,

“Praise be to God” implies meaning that God must be praised, or He is praiseworthy. However, in Indonesian, the word “segala” is the scalar implicature that means nothing more than it. This also means that nothing is praiseworthy than God. The next “the Lord of the Universe” also a scalar implicature that implies the broadness of the infinite power of God. If this verse was uttered by God, then this is a kind of declarations that no power in this world is higher than His.

c. Third Verse

الرحمن الرحيم

The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

Yang Maha Pengasih lagi Maha Penyayang,

Again, He states that He is the most superior on having Graciousness and Mercifulness. It seems like He emphasizes this two characteristics. He wants human understand that He is not persecutor but He is the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful. However, without coming into His name, human will not be under His Graciousness and Mercifulness.

d. Fourth Verse

مالك يوم الدين

Master of the Day of Judgment

Yang menguasai hari pembalasan

This verse entails that there must be “Day of Judgment” and the Master will be God. In Indonesian, the phrase “Yang Menguasai” means who possesses the Day. Furthermore, none will have power in the Day. Does it mean that He is not the master of other days? This implicature is cancelled by returning to the previous verse, which states that He is the Lord of Universe. This means that God is the Master of everything in this world, including days.

e. Fifth Verse

إياك نعبد وإياك نستعين

You alone we worship, and You alone we ask for help

Hanya kepada Engkaulah kami menyembah dan hanya kepada Engkaulah kami mohon pertolongan;

The pronoun “You” infers God Himself. If this was uttered by God, then this implies that God wants human pray this way. He wants human know that He is the One who is properly curtseyed and He is the only one Who can give help to human. This also means that before He teaches this way, human did not curtsey Him. Ibnu Katsir mentions that this verse refers to what happened earlier; that is, people curtseyed Idols (Latta, Uzza, and Manatta) and they prayed help from those idols. Furthermore, in Indonesian, phrase “hanya kepada Engkaulah…” contains scalar implicature that implies nothing more can be curtseyed and give help, but God.

f. Sixth Verse

اهدنا الصراط المستقيم

Guide us to the straight way;

Tunjukilah kami jalan yang lurus,

Still, God teaches human to ask Him for direction. This implies that God declares He is the Director of Universe, including human. He teaches that He is the only one Who will direct human, and it is assumed that nothing can do more than God in this regard. The phrase “straight way” or “jalan yang lurus” entail that there is “not straight way” or “jalan yang tidak lurus.” In line with this, we can see another verse in Quran (17:72):

ومن كان في هذه أعمى فهو في الآخرة أعمى وأضل سبيلا

That means: who is blind-heart in this world then he will be being lost in the world (and the day after). Furthermore, the “not straight way” and what is “straight way” is defined in the next verse. It seems like this verse violates maxim of quantity, since it does not give explanation of what is “straight way”.

g. Seventh Verse

صراط الذين أنعمت عليهم غير المغضوب عليهم ولا الضالين

The way of those whom you have blessed, not of those who have deserved anger, nor of those who stray.

Jalan orang-orang yang telah Engkau anugerahkan nikmat kepada mereka; bukan jalan orang yang dimurkai dan bukan jalan mereka yang sesat.

This last verse is the continuation of the previous verse. This verse answers our question what is the “straight way”, and the answer is “the way of those whom You have blessed.” Who is blessed? The blessed is that who “come in” into His name, who is aware that God is the One of Gracious and Merciful, who is aware that God is the only one Helper, who believes that God is the Master of Judgment Day, who believes that God is praiseworthy and proper to be curtseyed. Then, what is the “not straight way”? the answer is “those who have deserved anger, and who stray.” Who are they? who do not “come in” into His name, who are not aware that God is the One of Gracious and Merciful, who are not aware that God is the only one Helper, who do not believe that God is the Master of Judgment Day, who do not believe that God is praiseworthy and proper to be curtseyed. The last verse cancels the violating of maxim quantity stated previously.

5. Conclusion

By looking at the discussion above, it can be concluded that those verses are uttered as education from God to human. The verses contain a lot of scalar implicature that emphasize  the superiority of God. God uttered those verses to teach human how to behave in human life. He also emphasizes what will be happened if human do not obey what He teach. Those verses also contain directions, commands, or orders. As we can see that those verses contain pressure value, but God used His words “The Most Gracious and The Most Merciful” twice to emphasize and to persuade human that He is not a persecutor. God wants human to be like what He wants they to be.


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Originally published in ZPJ: Free Access Journal of Philosophy of Language and Education Online