How the Sahabah Used to Divide the Qur’an: Tafsir ibn Kathir

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir began his tafsir of surah Qaaf (50) with the following discussion of how many of the Sahabah used to divide their nightly recitation of the Qur’an:

وهذه السورة هي أول الحزب المفصل على الصحيح ، وقيل : من الحجرات . وأما ما يقوله العامة : إنه من ( عم ) فلا أصل له ، ولم يقله أحد من العلماء المعتبرين فيما نعلم . والدليل على أن هذه السورة هي أول المفصل ما رواه أبو داود في سننه ، باب ” تحزيب القرآن ” ثم قال : حدثنا مسدد ، حدثنا قران بن تمام ، ( ح ) وحدثنا عبد الله بن سعيد أبو سعيد الأشج ، حدثنا أبو خالد سليمان بن حبان – وهذا لفظه – عن عبد الله بن عبد الرحمن بن يعلى ، عن عثمان بن عبد الله بن أوس ، عن جده – قال عبد الله بن سعيد : حدثنيه أوس بن حذيفة – ثم اتفقا . قال : قدمنا على رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – في وفد ثقيف ، قال : فنزلت الأحلاف على المغيرة بن شعبة ، وأنزل رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – بني مالك في قبة له – قال مسدد : وكان في الوفد الذين قدموا على رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – من ثقيف ، قال : كان رسول الله [ – صلى الله عليه وسلم – ] كل ليلة يأتينا بعد العشاء يحدثنا – قال أبو سعيد : قائما على رجليه حتى يراوح بين رجليه من طول القيام – فأكثر ما يحدثنا ما لقي من قومه قريش ، ثم يقول : لا سواء وكنا مستضعفين مستذلين – قال مسدد : بمكة – فلما خرجنا إلى المدينة كانت سجال الحرب بيننا وبينهم ، ندال عليهم ويدالون علينا . فلما كانت ليلة أبطأ عن الوقت الذي كان يأتينا فيه ، فقلنا : لقد أبطأت عنا الليلة ! قال : ” إنه طرأ علي حزبي من القرآن ، فكرهت أن أجيء حتى أتمه ” . قال أوس : سألت أصحاب رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – : كيف تحزبون القرآن ؟ فقالوا : ثلاث ، وخمس ، وسبع ، وتسع ، وإحدى عشرة ، وثلاث عشرة ، وحزب المفصل وحده . ـ

This surah [surah Qaaf] is the first surah of the mufassal section of the Qur’an according to the correct opinion, though some say surah al-Hujurat is.

As for what some of the common folk say, that the mufassal section begins from Juz’ ‘Amma’, there is no basis for this and not a single scholar of repute has voiced this position as far as I know.

The proof that surah Qaaf is the beginning of the mufassal section is what Abu Dawud transmitted in his Sunnah collection, under the chapter of “The Division of the Qur’an”. He said:

… Aws ibn Hudhaifah said: We came upon the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) in a delegation of Thaqif. The signatories of the pact came to al-Mughirah ibn Shu’bah as his guests. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) made Banu-Malik stay in a tent of his.

Musaddad – who was in the delegation of Thaqif which came to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) – said: The Prophet used to visit and talk with us every day after the night prayer.

Abu Sa’id said: He remained standing for such a long time (talking to us) that he put his weight sometimes on one leg and sometimes on the other due to his long stay. He mostly told us how his people, the Quraysh, behaved with him. He would say, “We were not equal; we were weak and degraded at Mecca. When we came over to Medina the fighting began between us; sometimes we overcome them and at other times they overcome us.”

One night he came late, not coming at his usual time. We said to him, “You came late tonight!” He said, “I was completing my nightly portion of reading from the Qur’an and I didn’t want to come until I had finished it.”

Aws said: I asked the Companions of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ): How do you divide the Qur’an for daily recitation? They said: Three, five, eleven, thirteen, and the mufassal surahs.

ورواه ابن ماجه عن أبي بكر بن أبي شيبة ، عن أبي خالد الأحمر ، به . ورواه الإمام أحمد عن عبد الرحمن بن مهدي ، عن عبد الله بن عبد الرحمن ، هو ابن يعلى الطائفي به . ـ

And ibn Maajah also transmitted this … . as did Imam Ahmad … .

إذا علم هذا ، فإذا عددت ثمانيا وأربعين سورة ، فالتي بعدهن سورة ” ق ” . بيانه : ثلاث : البقرة ، وآل عمران ، والنساء . وخمس : المائدة ، والأنعام ، والأعراف ، والأنفال ، وبراءة . وسبع : يونس ، وهود ، ويوسف ، والرعد ، وإبراهيم ، والحجر ، والنحل . وتسع : سبحان ، والكهف ، ومريم ، وطه ، والأنبياء ، والحج ، والمؤمنون ، والنور ، والفرقان . وإحدى عشرة : الشعراء ، والنمل ، والقصص ، والعنكبوت ، والروم ، ولقمان ، و ” الم ” السجدة ، والأحزاب ، وسبأ ، وفاطر ، و يس . وثلاث عشرة : الصافات ، و ” ص ” ، والزمر ، وغافر ، و ” حم ” السجدة ، و ” حم عسق ” ، والزخرف ، والدخان ، والجاثية ، [ ص: 393 ] والأحقاف ، والقتال ، والفتح ، والحجرات . ثم بعد ذلك الحزب المفصل كما قاله الصحابة رضي الله عنهم . فتعين أن أوله سورة ” ق ” وهو الذي قلناه ، ولله الحمد والمنة . ـ

So if you understand this, then the number in the hadith comes up to 48 surahs [excluding surah al-Fatihah], and thus what comes after that is surah Qaaf.

To make this clear:

The Three are:

  • al-Baqarah (02)
  • Aal ‘Imran (03)
  • al-Nisaa‘ (04)

The Five are:

  • al-Maa’idah (05)
  • al-An’aam (06)
  • al-A’raaf (07)
  • al-Anfal (08)
  • Baraa’ah (09) [i.e. surah al-Tawbah]

The Seven are:

  • Yunus (10)
  • Hud (11)
  • Yusuf (12)
  • al-Ra’d (13)
  • Ibrahim (14)
  • al-Hijr (15)
  • al-Nahl (16)

The Nine are:

  • Subhan (17) [i.e. surah al-Israa’, also sometimes referred to as surah Bani Israa’eel]
  • al-Kahf (18)
  • Maryam (19)
  • Taha (20)
  • al-Anbiyaa’ (21)
  • al-Hajj (22)
  • al-Mu’minoon (23)
  • al-Noor (24)
  • al-Furqaan (25)

The Eleven are:

  • al-Shu’araa’ (26)
  • al-Naml (27)
  • al-Qasas (28)
  • al-‘Ankaboot (29)
  • al-Room (30)
  • Luqman (31)
  • Alif Lam Meem Sajdah (32)
  • al-Ahzab (33)
  • Saba’ (34)
  • Faatir (35)
  • Yaasin (36)

The Thirteen are:

  • al-Saffaat (37)
  • Saad (38)
  • al-Zumar (39)
  • Ghaafir (40)
  • Ha Meem Sajdah (41) [i.e. surah Fussilat]
  • Ha Meem ‘Ayn Seen Qaaf (42) [i.e. surah al-Shooraa]
  • al-Zukhruf (43)
  • al-Dhukhan (44)
  • al-Jaathiyah (45)
  • al-Ahqaaf (46)
  • al-Qitaal (47) [i.e. surah Muhammad]
  • al-Fath (48)
  • al-Hujuraat (49)

Then after that comes the mufassal section [surah Qaaf (50) through surah al-Nas (114)], just as the Sahabah said, may Allah be pleased with them.

So therefore it is clear that the first of the mufassal surahs is Qaaf, as we have stated – and to Allah belongs the praise.

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 7/392-393]

To explore the translated explanations of these surahs on this website, please visit: Tafsir by Surah

See also: The Themes of Surah Qaaf and When to Recite it: Tafsir ibn Kathir

See also: Can one take more than one month for reading the Qur’an with contemplation?: Sheikh bin Baaz

See also: What is the minimum amount of time to complete reciting the Qur’an: Sheikh bin Baaz

See also: “The best of you are those who learn the Qur’an and teach it”: ibn Kathir

See also: What to Recite in the Prayers: Sheikh bin Baaz

See also: Etiquette of Reciting and Listening to the Qur’an: ibn ‘Uthaymeen

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4 thoughts on “How the Sahabah Used to Divide the Qur’an: Tafsir ibn Kathir

  1. Pingback: What to Recite in the Prayers: Sheikh bin Baaz | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: Can one take more than one month for reading the Qur’an with contemplation?: Sheikh bin Baaz | Tulayhah

  3. Pingback: What is the minimum amount of time to complete reciting the Qur’an: Sheikh bin Baaz | Tulayhah

  4. Pingback: The Themes of Surah Qaaf and When to Recite it: Tafsir ibn Kathir | Tulayhah

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