Which Surahs were Revealed in Installments or All at Once: al-Suyooti

In part of his famous handbook on the Qur’anic sciences, al-Itqan, sheikh Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti included a chapter on which parts of the Qur’an were revealed all at once and which parts were revealed in installments. What follows is the slightly abridged form of this chapter, as found in sheikh Muhammad Bazmool’s abridgement of al-Itqan:

النَّوْعُ عَشَرَ : مَا نَزَلَ مُفَرَّقًا وَمَا نَزَلَ جَمْعًا
Chapter 10: What was Revealed in Parts and What was Revealed All Together

الْأَوَّلُ – ما نزل مفرقا – غَالِبُ الْقُرْآنِ‏ . ‏ وَمِنْ أَمْثِلَتِهِ فِي السُّوَرِ الْقِصَارِ‏ : ‏ اقْرَأْ أَوَّلُ مَا نَزَلَ مِنْهَا ، إِلَى قَوْلِهِ : ‏ ‏مَا لَمْ يَعْلَم . ‏ وَالضُّحَى أَوَّلُ مَا نَزَلَ مِنْهَا ، إِلَى قَوْلِهِ : ‏ ‏فَتَرْضَى‏ ‏ كَمَا فِي حَدِيثِ الطَّبَرَانِيِّ . ـ

The first category – the surahs which were revealed in installments – accounts for most of the Qur’an. Some examples of this in the smaller surahs include:

اقْرَأْ

Recite … [96:1]

which went from that first part of it to be revealed until

مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ

… that which he did not know [96:5]

and surah al-Duhaa [93], which went from its beginning until Continue reading

The Reasons for Making the Qur’an Into Divisions of Surahs: al-Suyooti

Imam Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti dedicated one chapter of his famous handbook of Qur’anic sciences, al-Itqan, to discussing the number of surahs, ayaat, words and letters in the Qur’an. Part of this chapter included the following points of benefit related to why the Qur’an has been divided into surahs:

فَائِدَةٌ : قِيلَ : الْحِكْمَةُ فِي تَسْوِيرِ الْقُرْآنِ سُوَرًا تَحْقِيقُ كَوْنِ السُّورَةِ بِمُجَرَّدِهَا مُعْجِزَةً وَآيَةً مِنْ آيَاتِ اللَّهِ ، وَالْإِشَارَةُ إِلَى أَنَّ كُلَّ سُورَةٍ نَمَطٌ مُسْتَقِلٌّ . فَسُورَةُ يُوسُفَ تُتَرْجِمُ ، عَنْ قِصَّتِهِ ، وَسُورَةُ ” بَرَاءَةٌ ” تُتَرْجِمُ عَنْ أَحْوَالِ الْمُنَافِقِينَ وَأَسْرَارِهِمْ ، إِلَى غَيْرِ ذَلِكَ . وَسُوِّرَتِ السُّوَرُ سُوَرًا طِوَالًا وَأَوْسَاطًا وَقِصَارًا ; تَنْبِيهًا عَلَى أَنَّ الطُّولَ لَيْسَ مِنْ شَرْطِ الْإِعْجَازِ ، فَهَذِهِ سُورَةُ الْكَوْثَرِ ثَلَاثُ آيَاتٍ ، وَهِيَ مُعْجِزَةٌ إِعْجَازَ سُورَةِ الْبَقَرَةِ ، ثُمَّ ظَهَرَتْ لِذَلِكَ حِكْمَةٌ فِي التَّعْلِيمِ وَتَدْرِيجِ الْأَطْفَالِ مِنَ السُّورِ الْقِصَارِ إِلَى مَا فَوْقَهَا تَيْسِيرًا مِنَ اللَّهِ عَلَى عِبَادِهِ لِحِفْظِ كِتَابِهِ . ـ

A Point of Benefit: The wisdom behind dividing the Qur’an into surahs is to realize the fact that a surah is miraculously inimitable on its own and is one of Allah’s signs, as well as indicating that each surah has its own independent and unique nature. For surah Yusuf deals with the story of Yusuf, while surah al-Baraa’ah deals with the situations and hidden natures of the munafiqoon, and so on.

Furthermore, the surahs have been fashioned into long, medium and short lengths, which alerts us to the fact that length is not a prerequisite for being miraculously inimitable. Surah al-Kawthar is only three ayaat but it is just an inimitable as surah al-Baqarah.

Moreover, the wisdom of these divisions becomes even more clear when it comes to teaching these surahs to children and gradually moving them from shorter to longer and longer surahs, which is something that Allah has done to make it easier for His servants to memorize His Book.

قَالَ الزَّرْكَشِيُّ فِي الْبُرْهَانِ : فَإِنْ قُلْتَ : فَهَلَّا كَانَتِ الْكُتُبُ السَّالِفَةُ كَذَلِكَ ؟ . قُلْتُ : لِوَجْهَيْنِ ، أَحَدُهُمَا : أَنَّهَا لَمْ تَكُنْ مُعْجِزَاتٍ مِنْ جِهَةِ النَّظْمِ وَالتَّرْتِيبِ . وَالْآخَرُ : أَنَّهَا لَمْ تُيَسَّرْ لِلْحِفْظِ . ـ

al-Zarkashi wrote in al-Burhan: Continue reading

Parts of the Qur’an that were Revealed Multiple Times: al-Suyooti

Imam Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti included the following chapter in part of his famous handbook on the Qur’anic sciences, al-Itqan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an. What follows is the slightly abridged form of this chapter in sheikh Muhammad Bazmool’s condensed edition of al-Itqan:

النَّوْعُ الثالث والعَشَرَون : مَا تَكَرَّرَ نُزُولُهُ . ـ
Chapter 23: Parts of the Qur’an that were Revealed Multiple Times

صَرَّحَ جَمَاعَةٌ مِنَ الْمُتَقَدِّمِينَ وَالْمُتَأَخِّرِينَ بِأَنَّ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ مَا تَكَرَّرَ نُزُولُهُ . ـ

A large number of both the earlier and later scholars have explicitly stated that parts of the Qur’an were revealed more than once.

قَالَ ابْنُ الْحَصَّارِ : قَدْ يَتَكَرَّرُ نُزُولُ الْآيَةِ تَذْكِيرًا وَمَوْعِظَةً ، وَذَكَرَ مِنْ ذَلِكَ خَوَاتِيمَ سُورَةِ النَّحْلِ ، وَأَوَّلَ سُورَةِ الرُّوم‏ِ . ـ

Ibn al-Hassaar said:

An ayah might be revealed more than once to serve as a reminder and exhortation. Some examples of this are the end of surah al-Nahl and the beginning of surah al-Room.

وَذَكَرَ ابْنُ كَثِيرٍ مِنْهُ آيَةَ الرُّوحِ . وَذَكَرَ قَوْمٌ مِنْهُ الْفَاتِحَةَ . وَذَكَرَ بَعْضُهُمْ مِنْهُ قَوْلَهُ : مَا كَانَ لِلنَّبِيِّ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا الْآيَةَ [ التَّوْبَةِ : 113 ] . ـ

Ibn Kathir listed the ayah al-Rooh [17:85] as another example, and some have also mentioned surah al-Fatihah as another example. Some have also mentioned Allah’s statement:

Continue reading

The Sources for Determining What Has Been Abrogated: al-Suyooti

Sheikh Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti brought the following topic in the midst of his discussion on the Naasikh and Mansookh verses:

تنبيه : قال ابن الحصار : إنما يرجع في النسخ إلى نقل صريح عن رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – ، أو عن صحابي يقول : آية كذا نسخت كذا . قال : وقد يحكم به عند وجود التعارض المقطوع به من علم التاريخ ، ليعرف المتقدم والمتأخر . قال : ولا يعتمد في النسخ قول عوام المفسرين ، بل ولا اجتهاد المجتهدين من غير نقل صحيح ، ولا معارضة بينة ; لأن النسخ يتضمن رفع حكم وإثبات حكم تقرر في عهده صلى الله عليه وسلم والمعتمد فيه النقل والتاريخ دون الرأي والاجتهاد . قال : والناس في هذا بين طرفي نقيض ، فمن قائل : لا يقبل في النسخ أخبار الآحاد العدول ; ومن متساهل يكتفي فيه بقول مفسر أو مجتهد . والصواب خلاف قولهما . انتهى . ـ

An important point: ibn al-Hassaar said:

When it comes to abrogation, one should only rely on an explicit statement transmitted from Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) or from one of the Sahabah saying, “Such-and-such ayah abrogates such-and-such ayah.”

He also said:

In cases of conflicting texts which cannot be reconciled, one could resort to information about historical events in order to know which text came earlier and which came later to make a judgement of abrogation.

He went on to say: Continue reading

Links Between the Beginnings and Ends of Surahs: al-Suyooti

In part of his chapter on the munasabat [connections and links between ayaat and surahs] in his famous handbook on the Qur’anic sciences, Imam al-Suyooti mentioned the following:

من هذا النوع مناسبة فواتح السور وخواتمها ، وقد أفردت فيه جزءا لطيفا سميته مراصد المطالع في تناسب المقاطع والمطالع . ـ

Another type of munasabat are those between the beginning of a surah and its conclusion. I have written a work specifically focused on this category of munasabat entitled Maraasid al-Mataali’ fee Tanaasub al-Maqaati’ w’al-Mataali’.

وانظر إلى سورة القصص كيف بدئت بأمر موسى ونصرته ، وقوله فلن أكون ظهيرا للمجرمين [ القصص : 17 ] . وخروجه من وطنه ، وختمت بأمر النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم بأن لا يكون ظهيرا للكافرين ، وتسليته عن إخراجه من مكة ، ووعده بالعود إليها لقوله في أول السورة إنا رادوه [ القصص : 7 ] . ـ

Consider how surah al-Qasas begins with with the story of Moosaa, his helping the man in the market, his statement:

فَلَنْ أَكُونَ ظَهِيرًا لِّلْمُجْرِمِينَ

So I will never again be a helper to the criminal wrong-doers [28:17]

and his leaving his homeland. Then it ends with commanding the Prophet to not be a helper to the disbelievers and giving him some consolation for his leaving Mecca. And Allah also gives him a promise that he will return to Mecca in His statement:

إِنَّا رَادُّوهُ

… Indeed, We shall bring him back … [28:7]

قال الزمخشري : وقد جعل الله فاتحة سورة قد أفلح المؤمنون وأورد في خاتمتها إنه لا يفلح الكافرون [ المؤمنون : 117 ] . فشتان ما بين الفاتحة والخاتمة . ـ

al-Zamakhshari said: Allah placed Continue reading

The Great Virtue of Tafsir: al-Suyooti

In his landmark handbook on the Qur’anic sciences, Imam Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti included a chapter on the great merit of the field of tafsir – Qur’anic exegesis – which he concluded with the following words:

وقد أجمع العلماء أن التفسير من فروض الكفايات ، وأجل العلوم الشرعية . ـ

The scholars have unanimously agreed that tafsir is one of the sciences which must always be studied and learned by a portion of the community and that it is the most important field of study in this religion.

قال الأصبهاني : أشرف صناعة يتعاطاها الإنسان تفسير القرآن . بيان ذلك أن شرف الصناعة إما بشرف موضوعها مثل الصياغة ، فإنها أشرف من الدباغة ، لأن موضوع الصياغة الذهب والفضة ، وهما أشرف من موضوع الدباغة الذي هو جلد الميتة . وإما بشرف غرضها مثل صناعة الطب ، فإنها أشرف من صناعة الكناسة ، لأن غرض الطب إفادة الصحة ، وغرض الكناسة تنظيف المستراح . وإما لشدة الحاجة إليها كالفقه ، فإن الحاجة إليه أشد من الحاجة إلى الطب ، إذ ما من واقعة في الكون في أحد من الخلق إلا وهي مفتقرة إلى الفقه ، لأن به انتظام صلاح أحوال الدنيا والدين ، بخلاف الطب فإنه يحتاج إليه بعض الناس في بعض الأوقات .ـ

al-Asbahani said:

The most noble endeavor that a person can undertake is the tafsir of the Qur’an. That becomes clear when one considers that the virtue of an endeavor can come from one of several things: Continue reading

An Example of Reconciling Multiple Reports on the Reasons for Revelation: al-Suyooti

In many of the books of tafsir, a single ayah might come with several different narrations about its sabab al-nuzool – “the reason for revelation” – or the event or question that led to this ayah being revealed. To many readers, this can be confusing. In the midst of a larger discussion about how to approach and deal with these different reports, Imam Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti provides the following example of how to use the science of hadith grading to determine which reports can be relied upon.

وإن ذكر واحد سببا وآخر سببا غيره ، فإن كان إسناد أحدهما صحيحا دون الآخر فالصحيح المعتمد … ـ

If one person mentions one reason for revelation and another person mentions a different reason for revelation, if the chain of narration for one of these reports is authentic while the other is not, then the one with the authentic chain is taken to be the reason for revelation. …

ومن أمثلته – أيضا : – ما أخرجه ابن جرير وابن أبي حاتم ، من طريق علي بن أبي طلحة ، عن ابن عباس أن رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – لما هاجر إلى المدينة ، أمره الله أن يستقبل بيت المقدس ففرحت اليهود ، فاستقبله بضعة عشر شهرا – وكان يحب قبلة إبراهيم – فكان يدعو الله وينظر إلى السماء ، فأنزل الله : فولوا وجوهكم شطره [ البقرة : 150 ] فارتاب من ذلك اليهود ، وقالوا ( ما ولاهم عن قبلتهم التي كانوا عليها ) ! فأنزل الله : قل لله المشرق والمغرب [ البقرة : 115 ] وقال : فأينما تولوا فثم وجه الله . [ البقرة : 115 ] ـ

… Another example of this is

(1) what ibn Jarir and ibn Abi Hatim reported through the route of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talhah from ibn ‘Abbaas that

when Allah’s Messenger migrated to al-Madinah Allah commanded him to face Jerusalem, which was something that pleased the Jews. So he prayed facing Jerusalem for somewhere between ten and twenty months – although he used to love the qiblah of Ibrahim – while he was asking Allah and looking towards the sky. So then Allah revealed

فَوَلُّوا وُجُوهَكُمْ شَطْرَهُ

so turn your face towards it [2:150]

This raised some misgivings among the Jews, who said, “What caused them to turn away from the qiblah that they used to follow?” So then Allah revealed

وَلِلَّـهِ الْمَشْرِقُ وَالْمَغْرِبُ

And to Allah belongs the east and the west. [2:115]

and He said Continue reading

What to do when Multiple “Reasons for Revelation” are Mentioned for the Same Ayah?: al-Suyooti

In his famous manual of the Qur’anic science, Imam Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti included a chapter dealing with the sub-field of the Asbab al-Nuzool or the “Reasons for Revelation”. He dedicated one part of that chapter to how describing how to approach multiple differing reports of the reasons for revelation about a single ayah, providing copious examples. Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool condensed this section to its core contents, which we have translated below:

المسألة الخامسة‏ [إذا تعددت أسباب النزول] : ـ

The Fifth Issue: What to do When Multiple “Reasons for Revelation” are Mentioned?

كثيرا ما يذكر المفسرون لنزول الآية أسبابا متعددة ، وطريق الاعتماد في ذلك أن ينظر إلى العبارة الواقعة : ـ

It frequently happens that the mufassiroon will mention multiple reasons for the revelation of a single ayah. A reliable way to approach such a situation is to look at the wording used:

فإن عبر أحدهم بقوله : نزلت في كذا ، والآخر : نزلت في كذا ، وذكر أمرا آخر ، فقد تقدم أن هذا يراد به التفسير لا ذكر سبب النزول ، فلا منافاة بين قوليهما إذا كان اللفظ يتناولهما . ـ

○ If one person used the phrase, “It was revealed about such-and-such” and another said, “It was revealed about such-and-such” while mentioning another situation, then we have already explained that the intended meaning of this phrase is an explanation of the ayah, not mentioning the reason for its revelation. Therefore there is no conflict between the two statements if they both used this wording.

وإن عبر واحد بقوله : نزلت في كذا ، وصرح الآخر بذكر سبب خلافه فهو المعتمد وذاك استنباط . ـ

○ If one person used the phrase, “It was revealed about such-and-such” while another person explicitly mentioned a reason for revelation contrary to that, then the explicit statement should be taken to be the reason for revelation while the other one is just someone deriving a point or benefit related to the ayah.

وإن ذكر واحد سببا وآخر سببا غيره ، فإن كان إسناد أحدهما صحيحا دون الآخر فالصحيح المعتمد . ـ

○ If one person mentions one reason for revelation and another person mentions a different reason for revelation, if the chain of narration for one of these reports is authentic while the other is not, then the one with the authentic chain is taken to be the reason for revelation. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

A Primer on Abrogation: al-Zarkashi

In his landmark manual of the Qur’anic sciences, sheikh Badr al-Deen al-Zarkashi mentioned the following important discussion in his chapter on naasikh and mansookh – abrogated and abrogating – verses:

قسم بعضهم النسخ من وجه آخر إلى ثلاثة أضرب

Some scholars have taken another approach to categorizing abrogation, resulting in three categories:

الأول : نسخ المأمور به قبل امتثاله ، وهذا الضرب هو النسخ على الحقيقة ، كأمر الخليل بذبح ولده ، وكقوله تعالى : إذا ناجيتم الرسول فقدموا بين يدي نجواكم صدقة ( المجادلة : 12 ) ثم نسخه سبحانه بقوله : أأشفقتم ( المجادلة : 13 ) الآية . ـ

One: Abrogation of a command before it could be carried out, which is indeed abrogation. An example of this would be the command for Ibrahim to sacrifice his son, or Allah’s statement:

إِذَا نَاجَيْتُمُ الرَّسُولَ فَقَدِّمُوا بَيْنَ يَدَيْ نَجْوَاكُمْ صَدَقَةً

When you [wish to] privately consult the Messenger, present before your consultation a charity. [58:12]

which Allah then abrogated by saying:

أَأَشْفَقْتُمْ

Have you feared … [58:13]

until the end of the ayah.

الثاني : ويسمى نسخا تجوزا ، وهو ما أوجبه الله على من قبلنا كحتم القصاص ولذلك قال عقب تشريع الدية : ذلك تخفيف من ربكم ورحمة ( البقرة : 178 ) وكذلك ما أمرنا الله به أمرا إجماليا ثم نسخ ، كنسخه التوجه إلى بيت الله المقدس بالكعبة ، فإن ذلك كان واجبا علينا من قضية أمره باتباع الأنبياء قبله ، وكنسخ صوم يوم عاشوراء برمضان . ـ

Two – which can only be loosely called “abrogation” – is what Allah had mandated on those before us, such as the decree of legal retribution. It was in this vein that immediately after the legislation of blood-money Allah said:

ذَٰلِكَ تَخْفِيفٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَرَحْمَةٌ

This is an alleviation from your Lord and a mercy. [2:178]

And likewise what Allah commanded in general terms and then abrogated, such as His abrogation of facing towards Allah’s Sacred House in Jerusalem by facing instead towards the Ka’bah, for that had been something binding on us under His commandment to follow the previous prophets. Another example of this is the abrogation of fasting the Day of ‘Aashooraa’ by fasting Ramadan. Continue reading