Non-Canonical Recitations Can Help Explain the Qur’an: al-Zarkashi

It is well-known to those familiar with the Qur’an that there are multiple canonical recitations (qiraa’aat) which are all authentic based upon meeting certain conditions and which add to the meaning of the Qur’an while not contradicting one another. Following from this, there are also non-canonical (shadh) recitations which do not meet these conditions for acceptance but can still be found within the books of tafsir and the sciences of the Qur’an. Some orientalists and missionaries attempt to use the mere existence of these non-canonical recitations to cast doubt on the authenticity of the Qur’an as a whole. This translated excerpt from the great scholar Imam al-Zarkashi explains one source of these non-canonical recitations and their value in understanding the Qur’an.

Badr al-Deen Muhammad al-Zarkashi, a student of the great mufassir Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir, is most well-known for authoring an extensive handbook for the Qur’anic sciences, al-Burhan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an. What follows is one section from his chapter dealing with the Qiraa’aat [variant Qur’anic recitations]:

الأمر الثامن : قال أبو عبيد في كتاب ” فضائل القرآن ” : إن القصد من القراءة الشاذة تفسير القراءة المشهورة وتبيين معانيها ; وذلك كقراءة عائشة وحفصة : ( حافظوا على الصلوات والصلاة الوسطى صلاة العصر ) ( البقرة : 238 ) . ـ

The eighth issue: In his book Fadhaa’il al-Qur’an, Abu ‘Ubayd wrote:

One point behind a non-canonical recitation of the Qur’an is to act as an explanation of a well-known canonical recitation and to clarify its meaning. That is like the recitation transmitted from ‘A’ishah and Hafsah:

حَافِظُوا عَلَى الصَّلَوَاتِ وَالصَّلَاةِ الْوُسْطَىٰ صلاة العصر

Strictly guard the prayers, especially the middle prayer – the ‘asr prayer [compare to 2:238]

وكقراءة ابن مسعود ( والسارق والسارقة فاقطعوا أيمانهما ) ( المائدة : 38 ) . ـ

Or like ibn Mas’ood’s recitation:

وَالسَّارِقُ وَالسَّارِقَةُ فَاقْطَعُوا أيمانهما

and the male and female thief – cut off their right hands [compare to 5:38] Continue reading


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

Muhammad al-Zarkashi, the author of a famous work on ‘uloom al-Qur’an, mentioned the following point of benefit therein:

وَعَادَةُ الْقُرْآنِ الْعَظِيمِ إِذَا ذَكَرَ أَحْكَامًا ذَكَرَ بَعْدَهَا وَعْدًا وَوَعِيدًا لِيَكُونَ ذَلِكَ بَاعِثًا عَلَى الْعَمَلِ بما سبق ثم يذكر آيات التوحيد والتنزيه لِيُعْلَمَ عِظَمُ الْآمِرِ وَالنَّاهِي . وَتَأَمَّلْ سُورَةَ الْبَقَرَةِ وَالنِّسَاءِ وَالْمَائِدَةِ وَغَيْرَهَا تَجِدْهُ كَذَلِكَ . ـ

A recurring feature of the Qur’an is that when it mentions some legislative rulings, it will then follow that up with a promise and/or a threat so that this could be an incentive to act on what was just mentioned. It will then mention verses on the subject of Allah’s sole right to be worshiped and His freedom from any faults or defects in order that the greatness of the One sending these commands and prohibitions might be known.

Consider surah al-Baqarah, al-Nisaa’, al-Maa’idah and others as well and you will find this pattern.

[al-Burhan fee al-‘Uloom al-Qur’an pg. 40]

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

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

See also: How to Contemplate the Qur’an: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

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

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. Continue reading

A Relationship between Surah al-Ma’oon and Surah al-Kawthar: al-Zarkashi

In his famous handbook of the sciences of the Qur’an, sheikh Badr al-Deen al-Zarkashi – a student of the famous mufassir al-haafidh ibn Kathir – mentioned the following point:

وَمِنْ لَطَائِفِ سُورَةِ الْكَوْثَرِ أَنَّهَا كَالْمُقَابِلَةِ لِلَّتِي قَبْلَهَا لِأَنَّ السَّابِقَةَ قَدْ وَصَفَ اللَّهُ فِيهَا الْمُنَافِقَ بِأُمُورٍ أَرْبَعَةٍ الْبُخْلِ وَتَرْكِ الصَّلَاةِ وَالرِّيَاءِ فِيهَا وَمَنْعِ الزَّكَاةِ فَذَكَرَ هُنَا فِي مُقَابَلَةِ البخل {إنا أعطيناك الْكَوْثَرِ} أَيِ الْكَثِيرَ وَفِي مُقَابَلَةِ تَرْكِ الصَّلَاةِ {فَصَلِّ} أَيْ دُمْ عَلَيْهَا وَفِي مُقَابَلَةِ الرِّيَاءِ {لِرَبِّكَ} أَيْ لِرِضَاهُ لَا لِلنَّاسِ وَفِي مُقَابَلَةِ مَنْعِ الْمَاعُونِ {وَانْحَرْ} وَأَرَادَ بِهِ التَّصَدُّقَ بِلَحْمِ الْأَضَاحِيِّ فَاعْتَبَرَ هَذِهِ الْمُنَاسَبَةَ الْعَجِيبَةَ

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 is something amazing.

[al-Burhan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an 1/39]

See here for more of this discussion: Connections and Links between Surahs: al-Zarkashi

See also: A Benefit of General Language in Surah al-Duhaa: Sheikh ibn ‘Uthaymeen

See also: Four things for you and Three things against you

See also: “If there had been a concession for anyone in leaving off dhikr…”

See also: The Relationship between Supplication and Fasting: Tafsir ibn Kathir