Different Levels of the Qiraa’aat: al-Suyooti

Inside his famous manual to the Qur’anic sciences, in the chapter on the different levels of transmission of the Qur’an, Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti followed up a long quote and accompanying discussion of some words from ibn al-Jazari on the best definition of the authentic qiraa’aat by writing:

قلت : أتقن الإمام ابن الجزري هذا الفصل جدا ، وقد تحرر لي منه أن القراءات أنواع : ـ

I, al-Suyooti, say: Imam ibn al-Jazari really excelled in this discussion, and from it I derived that the qiraa’aat can be divided into the following categories:

الأول : المتواتر : وهو ما نقله جمع لا يمكن تواطؤهم على الكذب ، عن مثلهم إلى منتهاه ، وغالب القراءات كذلك . ـ

First: al-Mutawaatir, which are those that have been transmitted by such a large group of people that it is not possible for them all to have conspired to produce something false, and this large group likewise transmitted it from another large number of people, and so on down the chain. The majority of the qiraa’aat fall into this category.

الثاني : المشهور : وهو ما صح سنده ولم يبلغ درجة التواتر ، ووافق العربية والرسم ، واشتهر عند القراء فلم يعدوه من الغلط ولا من الشذوذ ويقرأ به ، على ما ذكر ابن الجزري ويفهمه كلام أبي شامة السابق . ومثاله : ما اختلفت الطرق في نقله عن السبعة ، فرواه بعض الرواة عنهم دون بعض ، وأمثلة ذلك كثيرة في فرش الحروف من كتب القراءات كالذي قبله ، ومن أشهر ما صنف في ذلك ” التيسير ” للداني ، وقصيدة الشاطبي ، وأوعبه ” النشر في القراءات العشر ” وتقريب النشر كلاهما لابن الجزري . ـ

Second: al-Mashhoor, which are those which 1) have a sound chain of transmission but do not reach the level of being al-mutawaatir, 2) are in line with the rules of Arabic and the written script of the ‘Uthmani Mushaf, and 3) are well-known among the leading reciters and they have not declared them to be mistakes or shaadh recitations but instead do recite them. This aligns with the previous statements of ibn al-Jazari mentioned and what is understood from Abu Shamah.

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Types of al-Munasabat: al-Suyooti

In part of his chapter on al-Munasabat – the links and connections different parts of the Qur’an – in his famous handbook to the Qur’anic sciences, Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti provided the following invaluable guidance for identifying the links and connections between different sections of a surah:

ـ [طريقة طلب المناسبة] ـ
A Method for Identifying Munasabat

وقال الشيخ ولي الدين الملوي : الذي 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 انتهى . ـ

Sheikh Wali al-Deen al-Malawi said:

For every ayah, the first thing one ought to search for is: is this ayah a completion of what came before it, or is it an independent idea? Then, if it is an independent idea, how it is related to what came before it?

There is tremendous knowledge to be found in doing this.

And the same approach can be applied to the surahs: one searches for how they connect to what came before them and what will follow.

القاعدة : قال بعض المتأخرين : الأمر الكلي المفيد لعرفان مناسبات الآيات في جميع القرآن هو : أنك تنظر إلى الغرض الذي سيقت له السورة ، وتنظر ما يحتاج إليه ذلك الغرض من المقدمات ، وتنظر إلى مراتب تلك المقدمات في القرب والبعد من المطلوب ، وتنظر عند انجرار الكلام في المقدمات إلى ما يستتبعه من استشراف نفس السامع إلى الأحكام واللوازم التابعة له ، التي تقتضي البلاغة شفاء الغليل بدفع عناء الاستشراف إلى الوقوف عليها ، فهذا هو الأمر الكلي المهيمن على حكم الربط بين جميع أجزاء القرآن ، فإذا عقلته تبين لك وجه النظم مفصلا بين كل آية وآية ، وفي كل سورة سورة انتهى . ـ

A General Principle:

One of the latter-day scholars said:

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How Was the Arrangement of Ayaat and Surahs Decided?: al-Suyooti

In his famous manual of the Qur’anic sciences, al-Itqaan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an, Imam Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti dedicated one chapter to the collection and arrangement of the Qur’an. Inside this chapter there were two sub-sections discussing 1) the arrangement of ayaat within the surahs and 2) the ordering of the surahs in the Qur’an. Below we have translated sheikh Muhammad Bazmool’s abridgement of these two sections:

فصل [في ترتيب الآيات ] . ـ
Chapter on the Ordering of Ayaat

الإجماع والنصوص المترادفة على أن ترتيب الآيات توفيقي ، لا شبهة في ذلك . ـ

There is unanimous consensus and all of the texts are agreed that the arrangement and ordering of ayaat in the Qur’an is something divinely ordained; there is no doubt about this.

أما الإجماع : فنقله غير واحد ، منهم الزركشي في البرهان ، وأبو جعفر بن الزبير في مناسباته ، وعبارته : ترتيب الآيات في سورها واقع بتوقيفه – صلى الله عليه وسلم – وأمره من غير خلاف في هذا بين المسلمين . انتهى . ـ

As for the consensus on this matter, it has been mentioned by more than one scholar, including al-Zarkashi in al-Burhan and Abu Ja’far ibn al-Zubayr in his book on the munasabat. Abu Ja’far put it this way:

The arrangement of the ayaat within the surahs was done in exact accordance with the way of the Prophet and according to his instructions, and there is no disagreement about this point among the Muslims.

ومن النصوص الدالة على ذلك إجمالا : ما ثبت من قراءته – صلى الله عليه وسلم – لسور عديدة ، تدل قراءته – صلى الله عليه وسلم – لها بمشهد من الصحابة : أن ترتيب آياتها توقيفي وما كان الصحابة ليرتبوا ترتيبا سمعوا النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – يقرأ على خلافه ، فبلغ ذلك مبلغ التواتر . ـ

And out of the texts which generally prove this point, there are those authentic texts regarding the Prophet’s recitation of numerous surahs which shows that his recitation was something witnessed by the Sahabah. From this we understand that the arrangement of the ayaat was something divinely ordained and that it would not be fitting for the Sahabah to arrange the ayaat in any order other than the order that they heard the Prophet recite them in, and the order in which the Prophet recited the ayaat is something which has been independently transmitted through a wide number of chains. Continue reading

The Beginnings and Ends of Surahs: al-Suyooti

In his handbook to the Qur’an sciences, Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti devoted two chapters to discussing the beginnings of surahs and the endings of surahs. After detailing ten different types of openings of surahs, he then delved into the following discussion, spanning the two chapters:

وقال أهل البيان : من البلاغة حسن الابتداء ، وهو أن يتأنق في أول الكلام ، لأنه أول ما يقرع السمع فإن كان محررا أقبل السامع على الكلام ووعاه ، وإلا أعرض عنه لو كان الباقي في نهاية الحسن ، فينبغي أن يؤتى فيه بأعذب اللفظ وأجزله وأرقه وأسلسه ، وأحسنه نظما وسبكا ، وأصحه معنى ، وأوضحه وأخلاه من التعقيد والتقديم والتأخير الملبس ، أو الذي لا يناسب .ـ

The scholars of rhetoric have said that one aspect of eloquence is to have a good beginning, i.e. to be eloquent in the beginning of one’s speech. That is because if the first thing that one hears is moving, that encourages the listener to pay more attention and to retain what he is hearing. Otherwise, he may turn away from it, even if the rest of it until the end is good. So one should bring the sweetest, most articulate, most moving,  most fluid speech and the best organization and form, and the most accurate, clearest, and most pure from any complication or confusing organization or anything else that is not fitting.

قالوا : وقد أتت جميع فواتح السور على أحسن الوجوه وأبلغها وأكملها ، كالتحميدات وحروف الهجاء والنداء وغير ذلك .ـ

They said that the beginnings of each surah come with the best, most eloquent and most perfect of ways, such as praises, the disconnected letters, calls, and so on.

ومن الابتداء الحسن نوع أخص منه يسمى : براعة الاستهلال ، وهو أن يشتمل أول الكلام على ما يناسب الحال المتكلم فيه ، ويشير إلى ما سيق الكلام لأجله ، والعلم الأسنى في ذلك سورة الفاتحة التي هي مطلع القرآن ، فإنها مشتملة على جميع مقاصده ، كما قال البيهقي في شعب الإيمان : أخبرنا أبو القاسم بن حبيب ، أنبأنا محمد بن صالح بن هانئ ، أنبأنا الحسين بن الفضل ، حدثنا عفان بن مسلم ، عن الربيع بن صبيح ، عن الحسن ، قال : أنزل الله تعالى مائة وأربعة كتب ، أودع علومها أربعة منها : التوراة ، والإنجيل ، والزبور ، والفرقان ، ثم أودع علوم التوراة والإنجيل والزبور والفرقان القرآن ، ثم أودع علوم القرآن المفصل ، ثم أودع علوم المفصل فاتحة الكتاب ، فمن علم تفسيرها كان كمن علم تفسير جميع الكتب المنزلة . ـ

There is a more specific type of a good opening, which is called Bara’ah al-Istihlal. This is when the beginning of a discourse contains something related to the topic under discussion and pointing to the overall purpose of the speech. The clearest example of this is surah al-Fatihah, which is like a forward to the Qur’an, for it contains all of its themes. This is just as al-Bayhaqi said in Shu’b al-Iman:

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The Best Definition of the Authentic Qiraa’aat: al-Suyooti

Near the beginning of his discussion of the qiraa’aat (multiple recitations of the Qur’an) in his famous manual on the Qur’anic sciences, Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti wrote:

وأحسن من تكلم في هذا النوع إمام القراء في زمانه ، شيخ شيوخنا أبو الخير بن الجزري ، قال في أول كتابه ” النشر ” : كل قراءة وافقت العربية ولو بوجه ، ووافقت أحد المصاحف العثمانية ولو احتمالا ، وصح سندها ، فهي القراءة الصحيحة التي لا يجوز ردها ولا يحل إنكارها ، بل هي من الأحرف السبعة التي نزل بها القرآن ، ووجب على الناس قبولها ، سواء كانت ، عن الأئمة السبعة ، أم عن العشرة أم عن غيرهم من الأئمة المقبولين ، ومتى اختل ركن من هذه الأركان الثلاثة أطلق عليها ضعيفة أو شاذة أو باطلة ، سواء كانت عن السبعة أم عمن هو أكبر منهم . ـ

The best person who has spoken on this topic was the Imam of the reciters during his time, the teacher of our teachers, Abu’l-Khair ibn al-Jazari. In the beginning of his book al-Nashr, he wrote:

Any qiraa’ah which

1) is in line with the rules of Arabic, even if not the most common usage,
2) is in alignment with one of the ‘Uthmani Mushafs even if it is not the most direct reading, and
3) has a sound chain of transmission

then it is an authentic qiraa’ah which is not permissible to reject nor is it allowed to disparage. On the contrary, it is part of the seven ahruf in which the Qur’an was revealed and it is mandatory for the people to accept it regardless of whether it comes from one of the seven leading reciters, one of the ten leading reciters, or any other accepted leading reciter. Continue reading

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:

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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