The Arrangement of the First Five Surahs of the Qur’an: al-Suyooti

In part of his discussion the munasabat – the connections between ayaat and surahs – in his famous handbook on the Qur’anic sciences, Imam Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti included the following passage. It mentions the links between the first five surahs of the Qur’an as well as some of the main themes found in each:

ـ [ ص: 226 ] قال بعض الأئمة : وسورة الفاتحة تضمنت الإقرار بالربوبية والالتجاء إليه في دين الإسلام ، والصيانة عن دين اليهودية والنصرانية . ـ

○ Some scholars have said: Surah al-Fatihah is comprised of 1) affirming Allah’s lordship, 2) seeking refuge with Him in the religion of Islam, and 3) protection against the Jewish and Christian religions.*

وسورة البقرة : تضمنت قواعد الدين . ـ

Surah al-Baqarah is comprised of the foundations of this religion.

وآل عمران : مكملة لمقصودها ، فالبقرة بمنزلة إقامة الدليل على الحكم وآل عمران بمنزلة الجواب عن شبهات الخصوم ، ولهذا ورد فيها ذكر المتشابه لما تمسك به النصارى ، وأوجب الحج في آل عمران ، وأما في البقرة فذكر أنه مشروع وأمر بإتمامه بعد الشروع فيه . ـ

○ Aal ‘Imran is the completion of al-Baqarah‘s aim. al-Baqarah was like the a presentation of the evidence for a ruling while Aal ‘Imran is like a response to the doubts brought up by a contentious listener. It is for this reason that Aal ‘Imran mentioned many doubtful matters that the Christians cling to. Also, the Hajj was made mandatory in Aal ‘Imran [c.f. 3:97] while in al-Baqarah it was only mentioned as being legislated. So He commanded them to perform it in a complete way after they had embarked upon it.

وكان خطاب النصارى في آل عمران أكثر ، كما أن خطاب اليهود في البقرة أكثر لأن التوراة أصل ، والإنجيل فرع لها ، والنبي صلى الله عليه وسلم لما هاجر إلى المدينة دعا اليهود وجاهدهم . وكان جهاده للنصارى في آخر الأمر كما كان دعاؤه لأهل الشرك قبل أهل الكتاب . ـ

It was the Christians who were most addressed in Aal ‘Imran, just as it had been the Jews who were most addressed in al-Baqarah. That is because the Tawrah was the root while the Injeel was a branch off of that root. Also, after the Prophet migrated to al-Madinah he invited the Jews to Islam and then fought against them, while fighting against the Christians only came later. And likewise his calling the people of Shrik to Islam came before his calling the Ahl al-Kitaab.

ولهذا كانت السور المكية فيها الدين الذي اتفق عليه الأنبياء ، فخوطب به جميع الناس ، والسور المدنية فيها خطاب من أقر بالأنبياء من أهل الكتاب والمؤمنين ، فخوطبوا بيا أهل الكتاب ، يا بني إسرائيل ، يا أيها الذين آمنوا . ـ

Following from, you find the Makki surahs mentioning the religion that all of the prophets held to and addressing all people, whereas you find the Madani surahs addressing the believers and the Ahl al-Kitaab who already believed in those prophets, and so these surahs address the people by saying “Ahl al-Kitaab…”, “O Children of Israa’eel…”, or “O you who have eemaan…”.

وأما سورة النساء : فتضمنت أحكام الأسباب التي بين الناس ، وهي نوعان : مخلوقة لله ، ومقدورة لهم كالنسب والصهر ، ولهذا افتتحت بقوله : اتقوا ربكم الذي خلقكم من نفس واحدة وخلق منها زوجها ثم قال واتقوا الله الذي تساءلون به والأرحام . فانظر هذه المناسبة العجيبة في الافتتاح وبراعة الاستهلال حيث تضمنت الآية المفتتح بها ما أكثر السورة في أحكامه : من نكاح النساء ومحرماته ، والمواريث المتعلقة بالأرحام ، وأن ابتداء هذا الأمر كان بخلق آدم ، ثم خلق زوجه منه ، ثم بث منهما رجالا كثيرا ونساء في غاية الكثرة . ـ

○ As for surah al-Nisaa’, it is comprised of rulings for the connections between people. And these connections fall into one of two categories: 1) the connections which Allah created, and 2) the connections which have been subsequently decreed for them. Examples could include 1) connections of lineage or 2) the link of being an in-law, respectively. It is in this vein that the surah begins with Allah’s statement:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُوا رَبَّكُمُ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُم مِّن نَّفْسٍ وَاحِدَةٍ وَخَلَقَ مِنْهَا زَوْجَهَا

O mankind, have taqwa of your Lord who created you all from a single soul and created its mate from it … [4:1]

and then He says:

وَاتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ الَّذِي تَسَاءَلُونَ بِهِ وَالْأَرْحَامَ

… and have taqwa of Allah by Whom you ask for your reciprocal rights, and have taqwa of the wombs … [4:1]

So consider this incredible connection at the very outset of the surah and the artistry of its beginning. This opening ayah encompasses most of the rulings found in this surah. It includes points such as which women one can and cannot marry and the inheritors linked through the wombs, and that the beginning of this entire enterprise was with the creation of Adam and then the creation of his wife from him, and then a great number of men and women came forth from the two of them.

وأما المائدة فسورة العقود تضمنت بيان تمام الشرائع ، ومكملات الدين والوفاء بعهود الرسل ، وما أخذ على الأمة ، وبها تم الدين ، فهي سورة التكميل; لأن فيها تحريم الصيد على المحرم الذي هو من تمام الإحرام ، وتحريم الخمر الذي هو من تمام حفظ العقل والدين ، وعقوبة المعتدين من السراق والمحاربين الذي هو من تمام حفظ الدماء والأموال ، وإحلال الطيبات الذي هو من تمام عبادة الله تعالى ، ولهذا ذكر فيها ما يختص بشريعة محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم كالوضوء والتيمم والحكم بالقرآن على كل دين ، ولهذا أكثر فيها من لفظ الإكمال والإتمام ، وذكر فيها أن من ارتد عوض الله بخير منه ، ولا يزال هذا الدين كاملا ، ولهذا ورد أنها آخر ما نزل لما فيها من إشارات الختم والتمام . وهذا الترتيب بين هذه السور الأربع المدنيات من أحسن الترتيب . ـ

○ As for al-Ma’idah, it is the surah of contracts and it is contains a thorough explanation of the legislated rulings, a completion of the religion and a fulfillment of the promises of the messengers and the pledges of the previous nations. This a surah of completion, and with it the religion was completed [c.f. 5:3]. That is because its contents include:

  • a prohibition against hunting game animals for those undertaking pilgrimage, which is part of the completion of the ritual condition of the pilgrim
  • a prohibition of intoxicants, which is part of the completion of safeguarding one’s intellect and religion
  • a punishment for criminals such as thieves and militants, which is part of the completion of safeguarding blood and wealth
  • a declaration that all good foods are permissible, which is part of the completion of worshiping Allah.

Also in this vein, the surah mentions certain matters which are particular to the sharee’ah of Muhammad such as wudhoo’, tayammum, and taking the Qur’an as a judge for the entire religion. That is why you find so many instances of words indicating completeness and fulfillment throughout this surah. And it also mentions that Allah will replace whoever turns away from the religion with others who are better [c.f. 5:54], and so this deen continues in that state of completeness. In fact, it has been transmitted that this surah was the last thing to be revealed due to the all indications of finality and completion that it contains.

So, the ordering of these four madani surahs is an example of truly excellent arrangement.

[al-Itqaan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an 2/226]

*Translator’s Note: In an earlier part of the same chapter, al-Suyooti brought several examples of links between the ending of one surah and the beginning of the next, including this one on the link between the beginning of surah al-Baqarah and the end of surah al-Fatihah:

وكافتتاح سورة البقرة بقوله الم ذلك الكتاب فإنه إشارة إلى الصراط في قوله اهدنا الصراط المستقيم كأنهم لما سألوا الهداية إلى الصراط ، قيل لهم : ذلك الصراط الذي سألتم الهداية إليه هو الكتاب ، وهذا معنى حسن يظهر فيه ارتباط سورة البقرة بالفاتحة . ـ

Another example is that Allah opens surah al-Baqarah by saying:

الم * ذَٰلِكَ الْكِتَابُ

Alif Laam Meem * That is the Book … [2:1-2]

which is a reference 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 Path it was said to them, “That Path which you asked to be guided to is this Book.” This is a sound interpretation which clearly shows a link between surah al-Baqarah and surah al-Fatihah.

[al-Itqaan 2/225]

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

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

See also: Connections and Links between Surahs: al-Zarkashi

See also: Central Themes of Surah al-Baqarah: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

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

See also: The Themes and Contents of Surah Maryam: ibn Taymiyah

See also: An Overview of Surah al-Dhariyat (51): Ibn Taymiyah

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One thought on “The Arrangement of the First Five Surahs of the Qur’an: al-Suyooti

  1. Pingback: The Link Between Seeking Forgiveness and Receiving Aid: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool | Tulayhah

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