How to Identify the Theme of a Surah: Sheikh Musa’id al-Tayyar

In part of a larger discussion on the themes of surahs, sheikh Musa’id al-Tayyar (professor of Qur’anic Studies at King Saud University in Riyadh and active researcher, teacher, and author on the Qur’anic sciences) wrote the following pieces of guidance regarding how to identify the themes of a surah:

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته ، أما بعد : فإن هذا الموضوع ( مقاصد السور ) من الموضوعات التي يَرِدُها العقل ، فيستنبط منها ما شاء الله ، ويفتح الله لمن شاء فيه ما شاء . وهو مرتبط بدرجة كبيرة ببعض الموضوعات الأخرى المتعلقة بالسورة ، مثل : ـ

al-Salam ‘alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh.

To proceed: This topic of the “themes of the surahs” is one of those topics which goes back to the intellect, so one derives whatever Allah allows in this topic, and Allah enables whomever He wills to do whatever He wills in this arena. And there is a significant connection between this topic and a number of other topics related to the surah, such as:

ـ 1 ـ اسم السورة ، أو أسماؤها إن كان لها أكثر من اسم ثابت ، ويُحرص على الاسم الوارد عن النبي ، فإنه ـ بلا شكَّ ـ ما سمَّى السورة إلا لحكمة ،وقد تكون هذه الحكمة في التسمية مرتبطة بمقصد السورة . ـ

1. The name of the surah, or names if it has more than one authentically attributed name. We should strive to find the name that the Prophet used for it, for there is no question that he gave it that name for a reason, and the reason for giving it that name may be connected to the theme of the surah.

ـ 2 ـ موضوعات السورة ، وقد حرص بعض المعاصرين على بيانها مثل الطاهر بن عاشور في تفسيره . ـ

2. The contents of the surah. Some contemporary scholars, such as al-Tahir ibn ‘Aashoor in his book of tafsir, have expended considerable effort in elucidating the contents of each surah.

ـ 3 ـ مكان نزول السورة ، إذ السور المكية ـ بجملتها ـ تعنى بما لا تُعنى به السور المدنية . ـ

3. The place in which the surah was revealed, for by-and-large the Makki surahs deal with different topics than the Madani surahs.

 ـ 4 ـ ما طرحه بعض المعاصرين مما يسمَّى بالوحدة الموضوعية للسورة . ـ

4. The idea proposed by some contemporary scholars known as “the through-line” – al-wahdah al-mawdu’iyyah – of the surah.

ويمكن طرح بعض الملاحظات على هذا الموضوع :

And perhaps some addition notes could be put forward regarding this field:

ـ 1 ـ أن بعض العلماء قد كانت لهم إشارات إلى هذا الموضوع ؛ كشيخ الإسلام ابن تيمية ، والشاطبي في موافقاته . ـ

1. Some scholars such as sheikh al-Islam ibn Taymiyah and al-Shatibi in his book al-Muwafaqat have included nods to these ideas.

ـ 2 ـ أن هذا الموضوع قابل للأخذ والردِّ في تحديد مقصد السورة ، فقد يرى باحث أن مقصد السور ة كذا ، ويرى الآخر أن مقصدها بخلافه ، إذ لا يوجد نصُّ تشريعي يدل على هذا أو ذاك ، فصار من محالِّ الاجتهاد . ـ

2. In this field, when it comes to efforts to pinpoint the theme of a surah, the answers may be accepted or rejected. For instance, one researcher may think that the theme of such-and-such surah was one thing, while another may conclude that its theme was something quite different. Since there is no primary source text to support either one of these positions, the field is one of scholarly deduction and reasoning.

ـ 3 ـ أنه مما يدخله التكلف كما دخل علم المناسبات . ـ

3. This field is given to stretching for far-fetched results, just as can happen in the field of ‘ilm al-Munasabatthe study of links and connections between ayaat and surahs.

ـ 4 ـ كما أنَّ السور الطوال لها مقاصد متعدده في الجملة ، وإن كان قد يغلب عليها مقصد معين . ـ

4. Although long surahs may contain a number of different themes throughout, it is still possible that one specific theme may be the most prominent.

[As found in this discussion]

For a variety of articles on this topic, please explore our Thematic Tafsir Article Index

See also: Principles and Examples of Analyzing the Themes of a Surah: al-Shatibi

See also: Thematic Tafsir: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh

See also: What is Meant by “The Themes of the Qur’an”: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

6 thoughts on “How to Identify the Theme of a Surah: Sheikh Musa’id al-Tayyar

  1. Pingback: ‘Ilm al-Munasabat and its Proper Place: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: Thematic Tafsir: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh | Tulayhah

  3. Pingback: What is Meant by “The Themes of the Qur’an”: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool | Tulayhah

  4. Pingback: Three Central Themes of the Qur’an: al-Shawkaani | Tulayhah

  5. Pingback: Links Between Surah Yunus and Surah Hud: Sheikh Muhammad al-Rabee’ah | Tulayhah

  6. Pingback: Principles and Examples of Analyzing the Themes of a Surah: al-Shatibi | Tulayhah

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