A Relationship between Surah al-Ma’oon and Surah al-Kawthar: al-Zarkashi

In his famous handbook of the sciences of the Qur’an, sheikh Badr al-Deen al-Zarkashi – a student of the famous mufassir al-haafidh ibn Kathir – mentioned the following point:

وَمِنْ لَطَائِفِ سُورَةِ الْكَوْثَرِ أَنَّهَا كَالْمُقَابِلَةِ لِلَّتِي قَبْلَهَا لِأَنَّ السَّابِقَةَ قَدْ وَصَفَ اللَّهُ فِيهَا الْمُنَافِقَ بِأُمُورٍ أَرْبَعَةٍ الْبُخْلِ وَتَرْكِ الصَّلَاةِ وَالرِّيَاءِ فِيهَا وَمَنْعِ الزَّكَاةِ فَذَكَرَ هُنَا فِي مُقَابَلَةِ البخل {إنا أعطيناك الْكَوْثَرِ} أَيِ الْكَثِيرَ وَفِي مُقَابَلَةِ تَرْكِ الصَّلَاةِ {فَصَلِّ} أَيْ دُمْ عَلَيْهَا وَفِي مُقَابَلَةِ الرِّيَاءِ {لِرَبِّكَ} أَيْ لِرِضَاهُ لَا لِلنَّاسِ وَفِي مُقَابَلَةِ مَنْعِ الْمَاعُونِ {وَانْحَرْ} وَأَرَادَ بِهِ التَّصَدُّقَ بِلَحْمِ الْأَضَاحِيِّ فَاعْتَبَرَ هَذِهِ الْمُنَاسَبَةَ الْعَجِيبَةَ

One of the subtle points of surah al-Kawthar [108] is that it is like a counterpart to the surah that preceded it [i.e. surah al-Ma’oon – 107]. For in the previous surah, Allah had characterized the munaafiq [hypocrite] with four qualities:

1) stinginess,

2) abandoning the prayer,

3) performing the prayer only to be seen by others, and

4) withholding the zakah.

○ But then in this surah, as a counterpart to stinginess He mentioned:

إِنَّا أَعْطَيْنَاكَ الْكَوْثَرَ

Indeed, We have granted you al-Kawthar [108:1]

meaning: an abundance.

○ And as a counterpart to abandoning the prayer, He said:


so turn in prayer …

meaning: always be consistent in it.

○ And as a counterpart to the desire to be seen by people, He said:


… to your Lord …

meaning: for His pleasure, not for the sake of people.

○ And as a counterpart to withholding neighborly acts of kindness, He said:


… and sacrifice. [108:2]

and what is intended here is the charitable distribution of the sacrificial ‘Eid al-Adhaa meat.

So the parallels and the relationship between these two surahs is something amazing.

[al-Burhan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an 1/39]

See here for more of this discussion: Connections and Links between Surahs: al-Zarkashi

See also: A Benefit of General Language in Surah al-Duhaa: Sheikh ibn ‘Uthaymeen

See also: Four things for you and Three things against you

See also: “If there had been a concession for anyone in leaving off dhikr…”

See also: The Relationship between Supplication and Fasting: Tafsir ibn Kathir

7 thoughts on “A Relationship between Surah al-Ma’oon and Surah al-Kawthar: al-Zarkashi

  1. JazakAllah khair for this article.
    Coincidentally Nouman Ali Khan had discussed it somewhere.
    I had this one question stuck in my mind always. Is the relationship between surahs something that the companions of the Prophet S.A.W do or their successors or their successors. ?

    If not, then making realtionships between surahs is it an innovation?

    • You have asked a good question. This type of thing falls into the field of ‘ilm al-Munaasabaat [literally, the study of relationships]. This is a sub-field of tafsir, and is concerned with the relationships and connections between neighboring ayaat, passages of ayaat, or between surahs themselves, as well as overarching themes of a surah. The underlying idea behind the study of munaasabaat is that the ordering and arrangement of the Qur’an is meaningful and that Allah has placed the words, ayaat, and surahs of the Qur’an in their places with purpose and according to His wisdom and design.

      Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool has written a short but valuable work on the subject entitled [علم المناسبات في السور والآيات]. In it, he points to several examples of this field of knowledge in the time of the Prophet (ﷺ) and the early generations. One such example was when the Prophet (ﷺ) was making Hajj and it came time for the going back and forth between al-Safaa and al-Marwaa, so he said, “We will begin with what Allah began with” and recited the ayah, [إِنَّ الصَّفَا وَالْمَرْوَةَ مِن شَعَائِرِ اللَّـهِ] “Indeed, al-Safaa and al-Marwa are among the symbols of Allah” [2:158], and so they began with al-Safaa. So this is one example of the Prophet (ﷺ) explicitly placing importance on the ordering and arrangement of the Qur’an, and a basis for continued study of them.

      You can find mention of munaasabaat in many of the books of tafsir, though most of them only mention munaasabaat in limited amounts for reasons that Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh explains in his lecture [ﻤﻘﺎﺼد اﻟﺴور و أﺜر ذﻟك ﻓﻲ ﻓﻬم اﻟﺘﻔﺴﻴر]. However, some books do emphasize them, most notably the tafsir of al-Baqaa’ee. Some authors, such as al-Suyooti, authored entire works on the subject as well. And there has been a revived interested in munaasabaat in modern times, with a number of contemporary explanations of the Qur’an featuring them more centrally. InshaAllaah, I have translated and will be posting a few more articles dealing with munaasabaat in the coming months, with two or three of these coming from ibn Taymiyah.

      And by and large, discussing munaasabaat falls into the category of “opinion-based tafsir” (as opposed to “narration-based tafsir”), and opinion-based tafsir is divided into praise-worthy opinion-based tafsir and blame-worthy opinion-based tafsir based on certain conditions and factors. So some discussion of munaasabaat will be sound and good, while others will be errant and incorrect. And Allah is the granter of success.

      On another point, it appears that you are a person who values following the Sunnah and wants to avoid falling innovations. So, I feel that I must advise you against listening to Nouman Ali Khan and his explanations of the Qur’an. There are a number of reasons for this, but a very central and important one revolves around how he chooses to approach and explain the Qur’an. The proper sources for understanding the Qur’an are explaining the Qur’an by the Qur’an itself, explaining the Qur’an by the Sunnah of the Prophet (ﷺ), explaining the Qur’an by the statements of the Sahabah, and then after these explaining the Qur’an according to the pure Arabic language. However, Nouman Ali Khan’s approach to the Qur’an is primarily to explain it according to the Arabic language, in large part leaving these other sources and departing from narration-based tafsir based on the sources of our religion. What’s more though, rather than drawing on the rich wealth of opinion-based tafsir from Islamic scholars of the past and present who focused on the linguistic aspects of the Qur’an, Nouman Ali Khan largely turns away even from these sources in favor of western academic studies of “the Qur’an as literature”, a field which he pays homage to in the title of his forthcoming book. So, for anyone who wishes to understand the Qur’an as Allah meant it, as the Prophet explained and lived it, and as the Sahabah understood it and acted on it, I would sincerely and earnestly advise you against listening to Nouman Ali Khan. BaarakAllaahu feekum.

  2. Pingback: The Relationship between Supplication and Fasting: Tafsir ibn Kathir | Tulayhah

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