Connections and Links between Surahs: al-Zarkashi

In his well-known manual of the Qur’anic sciences, Burhan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an, sheikh Badr al-Deen al-Zarkashi dedicated an early chapter to the discussing the munasabat, or relationships and connections between different verses and surahs of the Qur’an. After defining the topic, discussing some of its history and mentioning some of the different opinions regarding this field of study, he wrote the following:

قال : والذي ينبغي في كل آية أن يبحث أول كل شيء عن كونها مكملة لما قبلها أو مستقلة ، ثم المستقلة ما وجه مناسبتها لما قبلها ؟ ففي ذلك علم جم ، وهكذا في السور يطلب وجه اتصالها بما قبلها وما سيقت له ” . ـ

He [Wali al-Deen al-Malwi] said:

What one ought to do with every ayah is first to look at whether this functions as a completion of what came before it of as an independent ayah on its own. Then, if it is an independent ayah on its own, how does it relate to the ayah before it? There is considerable knowledge to be found in this. And it is like this for the surahs too; one should look for how each is linked to what preceded it and how it supports it.

قلت : وهو مبني على أن ترتيب السور توقيفي ، وهو الراجح كما سيأتي ، وإذا [ ص: 134 ] اعتبرت افتتاح كل سوره وجدته في غاية المناسبة لما ختم به السورة قبلها ، ثم هو يخفى تارة ويظهر أخرى كافتتاح سورة الأنعام بالحمد ، فإنه مناسب لختام سورة المائدة من فصل القضاء ، كما قال سبحانه : ( وقضي بينهم بالحق وقيل الحمد لله رب العالمين ) ( الزمر : 75 ) وكافتتاح سورة فاطر بـ ( الحمد ) أيضا ، فإنه مناسب لختام ما قبلها من قوله : ( وحيل بينهم وبين ما يشتهون كما فعل بأشياعهم من قبل ) ( سبأ : 54 ) ، وكما قال تعالى : ( فقطع دابر القوم الذين ظلموا والحمد لله رب العالمين ) ( الأنعام : 45 ) . ـ

I say: This is based on the understanding that the ordering and arrangement of the surahs is something which is fixed and not up for debate, which is the strongest position on the matter as we will discuss later. And if you were to consider the beginnings of each surah, you would find that it has an amazing connection to the ending of the previous surah. Sometimes this connection would be hidden and other times it would be clear.

○ Take for example the way surah al-An’aam [06] opens with praising Allah, for this is a connection to the way that surah al-Maa’idah [05] ends with Allah enacting the final judgement on His creation. This is just as Allah says:

وَقُضِيَ بَيْنَهُم بِالْحَقِّ وَقِيلَ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

And all the creatures will be judged with the truth. And it will be said, “all praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all creation.” [39:75]

And this is also like how surah Faatir [35] opens with praise, as it is connected to the end of the previous surah where Allah says:

وَحِيلَ بَيْنَهُمْ وَبَيْنَ مَا يَشْتَهُونَ كَمَا فُعِلَ بِأَشْيَاعِهِم مِّن قَبْلُ

And barrier will be placed between them and what they desire [i.e. repentance], as was done with their kind before [34:54]

And also with Allah’s statement:

فَقُطِعَ دَابِرُ الْقَوْمِ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا ۚ وَالْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

So the people that committed wrong were eliminated. And all praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds. [6:45]

وكافتتاح سورة الحديد بالتسبيح ، فإنه مناسب لختام سورة الواقعة للأمر به . ـ

○ And there is also how surah al-Hadeed [57] opens with tasbeeh (praising Allah), for this is a connection to how surah al-Waaqi’ah [56] ends with a command to make tasbeeh.

وكافتتاح سورة البقرة بقوله : ( الم ذلك الكتاب لا ريب فيه ) ( الآية : 1 و 2 ) ، فإنه إشارة إلى ( الصراط ) في قوله : ( اهدنا الصراط المستقيم ) ( الفاتحة : 6 ) كأنهم لما سألوا الهداية إلى ( الصراط المستقيم ) قيل لهم : ذلك الصراط الذي سألتم الهداية إليه هو ( الكتاب ) وهذا معنى حسن يظهر فيه ارتباط سورة البقرة بالفاتحة ، وهو يرد سؤال الزمخشري في ذلك . ـ

○ And there is how surah al-Baqarah [02] opens with Allah’s statement:

الم * ذَٰلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لَا رَيْبَ ۛ فِيهِ ۛ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ

Alif Laam Meem * That is the Book about which there is no doubt – guidance for the muttaqoon [2:1-2]

For this is pointing back to “the path” in Allah’s statement:

اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ

Guide us to the Straight Path [1:6]

It is as if when they asked for guidance to “The Straight Path”, it was then said to them, “That path which you were asking to be guided to is ‘The Book’.” This is a good understanding which illuminates the connection between surah al-Baqarah [02] and surah al-Fatihah [01], and this understanding also rebuts the question which al-Zamakhshari posed about the word “that”.

وتأمل ارتباط سورة ( لإيلاف قريش ) بسورة الفيل ؛ حتى قال الأخفش : اتصالها بها من باب قوله : ( فالتقطه آل فرعون ليكون لهم عدوا وحزنا ) ( القصص : 8 ) . ـ

○ And consider the connection between surah Li-eelaaf Quraysh [106] and surah al-Feel [105]. al-Akhfash even said: The link between these two is the same kind of link as in Allah’s statement:

فَالْتَقَطَهُ آلُ فِرْعَوْنَ لِيَكُونَ لَهُمْ عَدُوًّا وَحَزَنًا

And the family of Fir’awn picked Moosaa out of the river, so that he would come to be an enemy and source of grief for them [28:8]

[i.e. the letter laam both in the beginning of surah Quraysh and in the middle of this ayah from surah al-Qasas carry the meaning of the eventual outcome of something. So the eventual outcome of the destruction of Abraha’s army was the safety of the the Quraysh, just as the eventual outcome of Fir’awn saving Moosaa was that Moosaa came to be an enemy to him. And Allah knows best.]

ومن لطائف سورة الكوثر أنها كالمقابلة للتي قبلها ; لأن السابقة قد وصف الله فيها المنافق بأمور أربعة : البخل ، وترك الصلاة ، والرياء فيها ، ومنع الزكاة ، فذكر هنا في مقابلة البخل : ( إنا أعطيناك الكوثر ) ( الكوثر : 1 ) أي الكثير . وفي مقابلة ترك الصلاة [ ص: 135 ] ( فصل ) أي دم عليها ، وفي مقابلة الرياء ( لربك ) أي لرضاه لا للناس ، وفي مقابلة منع الماعون : ( وانحر ) ، وأراد به التصدق بلحم الأضاحي ، فاعتبر هذه المناسبة العجيبة . ـ

○ 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 are truly amazing.

وكذلك مناسبة فاتحة سورة الإسراء بالتسبيح ، وسورة الكهف بالتحميد ; لأن التسبيح حيث جاء مقدم على التحميد ، يقال : سبحان الله والحمد لله . ـ

○ And similarly, there is the connection between how surah al-Israa’ opens with tasbeeh (exaltation) and how surah al-Kahf opens with tahmeed (praise), because tasbeeh regularly comes before tamheed. For instance, one says, “SubhanAllaah w’al-Hamdulillaah“.

وذكر الشيخ كمال الدين الزملكاني في بعض دروسه مناسبة استفتاحهما بذلك ما ملخصه : أن سورة بني إسرائيل افتتحت بحديث الإسراء ، وهو من الخوارق الدالة على صدق رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ، وأنه رسول من عند الله ، والمشركون كذبوا ذلك وقالوا : كيف يسير في ليلة من مكة إلى بيت المقدس ! وعاندوا وتعنتوا وقالوا : صف لنا بيت المقدس ، فرفع له حتى وصفه لهم . والسبب في الإسراء أولا لبيت المقدس ليكون ذلك دليلا على صحة قوله بصعود السماوات ، فافتتحت بالتسبيح تصديقا لنبيه فيما ادعاه ; لأن تكذيبهم له تكذيب عناد ، فنزه نفسه قبل الإخبار بهذا الذي كذبوه ، وأما الكهف فإنه لما احتبس الوحي ، وأرجف الكفار بسبب ذلك أنزلها الله ردا عليهم ، وأنه لم يقطع نعمته عن نبيه صلى الله عليه وسلم ، بل أتم عليه بإنزال الكتاب فناسب افتتاحها بالحمد على هذه النعمة . ـ

○ And in one of his lessons, sheikh Kamaal al-Deen al-Zamlakaanee mentioned a connection between the openings of these two surahs, which I will summarize here:

That surah Bani Israa’eel [i.e. surah al-Israa’] opens by mentioning the Night Journey, which is one of the supernatural events which points to the truthfulness of Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) and that he is a messenger from Allah. But the disbelievers denied that and said, “How could he have traveled from Mecca to Jerusalem in one night?!” So they opposed him and badgered him, saying, “Describe Jerusalem for us,” so he described it for them. And the reason why the Night Journey to Jerusalem took place first was in order that that could be a proof of the truthfulness of his claim to have ascended into the heavens. So this surah begins with tasbeeh [Allah exalting Himself above any fault] as a form of affirmation of the Prophet’s claims, since his people belied him out of obstinance. So Allah cleared himself of faults before informing them of this thing which they denied.

As for surah al-Kahf, Allah had withheld some revelation from the Prophet for a time, which led the disbelievers to spread some false rumors, and so Allah revealed this surah in refutation of them and to show that He had not cut off His blessings from His Prophet (ﷺ). On the contrary, He had completed the blessing on him by revealing the Qur’an. So it was fitting that this surah would open with praise in response to this blessing.

ـ [ ص: 136 ] وإذا ثبت هذا بالنسبة إلى السور ، فما ظنك بالآيات وتعلق بعضها ببعض ! بل عند التأمل يظهر أن القرآن كله كالكلمة الواحدة . ـ

So then, now that relationships and connections between different surahs has been well-established, what do you think about ayaat and their links to one another?! Truly, if you were to ponder over it, it would become clear to you that the entire Qur’an is like a single word.

[al-Burhan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an 1/133-136]

See also: ‘Ilm al-Munasabat and its Proper Place: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh

See also: The Arrangement of the Final Chapters of the Qur’an: Ibn Taymiyah

See also: The Arrangement of the Qur’an: Tafsir ibn Kathir

See also: A Recurring Sequence in the Qur’an: al-Zarkashi

Read more posts about al-munaasabaat, or the connections and relationships among ayaat and surahs, here.

11 thoughts on “Connections and Links between Surahs: al-Zarkashi

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