Notes Regarding Qur’anic Knowledge


1.     The Nature of Qur’anic Knowledge

Our principle is, is that

“All sciences resort back to the Qur’an”

Reason: This is because every science formulated in Islam was

  1. Formulated because of the Qur’an
  2. Formulated as a result of understanding the Qur’an.

Example: All of the sub sciences of Hadeeth like jarh wa t’adeel, ilmu-rijaal, and all of the sciences formed to understand both the matn and the isnaad are all in order to authenticate and understand the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah. And the purpose of understanding the Sunnah of the messenger of Allah is to properly understand the Qur’an and to arrive at what was intended by Allah. The same with Fiqh and all of its categories as well as usoolul-fiqh, all of them are formed in order for us to understand the Qur’an as it was intended.

There are at least eighty sciences that have evolved, by the hands of the scholars, in the sciences of the Qur’an

2.     Types of Surah

The opinion of the jamhoor (majority) of the scholars is that there are two types of surah in the Qur’an. They consist of either being

  1. Madani
  2. Makki

Some authoritative figures have classified a third category and this category is called the category of

  1. Ikhtilaaf (differed upon: i.e. whether it is Makki or Madani)

It is the view of this author that utilizing this third category is beneficial for students because knowing what surah are differed over will bring such a student to be aware when scholars pontificate their view of where that “differed upon” surah was revealed and so as to calm his confusion. If the student is not aware of what is differed upon, then it is feared that the student may fall into confusion in the wake of coming into contact with conflicting opinions of the relied upon authoritative figures (ulema) in the realm of tafseer.

It is best to start off with the differed upon surah (ikhtilaaf)

They consist of

  • Faatiha
  • Falaq
  • Naas
  • Mutaffifeen
  • Ikhlaad
  • Rahmaan
  • R’aad
  • Bayyinah
  • Taghaboon
  • Zalzalah
  • Qadr
  • Saff

As for the confirmed and established view of Makki surah, then there are 82. After this, there are 20 some odd surah classed as Madani surah.

3.     Differences Between Makki and Madani

There are distinct differences between these surah.

With Makki surah, they are characterized as

  1. Short (the reason being that in the times of Makkah, people did not desire to hear the revelation, thus short reminders were more profitable in calling the people to the truth)
  2. Information was projected very shockingly in order to instill awe and fear into the hearts
  3. Information was presented through base logic conceptions. This is where tawheed along with the reality of the nubuwah of Muhammad comes into play as well as the life of the hereafter based off of what we earn of this life
  4. It nourishes the intellect with narrating historical accounts and we can add with this the stories of the prophets
  5. It enlightens the creation about their creation and about the creation of all things.

As for Madani surah, they are characterized as

  1. Longer (because now the people are listening willfully)
  2. It deals with legislation (tashree) and thus is not utilizing logic or making it pertinent to employ logic because once the soul believes in the faith, it has surpassed the realm of logic and does not question the commands as being either logical or not, but rather the mentality behind faith is with regards to seeking Allah’s pleasure.
  3. Deals with the entire social sphere of society and government, foreign policy, and how diplomacy is to be conducted, both domestically and globally.

4.     Statistical Information of the Qur’an

We unanimously say that “there are six thousand plus by all accounts, and after that we all bounce” meaning it is differed upon as to the exact numerical number of ayaat. The reasons for this are due to a number of issues, particularly with regards to how a scholar understood what was to constitute an ayah or not. And trivial facts of this nature are of no essential concern that warrants partisanship or any extreme acts of aggression.

As for the number of words in the Qur’an, one view is that it is 77,349. However there are other opinions that have a different number. Likewise in this issue, there are reasons for disagreement, mostly linguistical which does not warrant any form of essential differing over.

As for the number of letters in the Qur’an, then one opinion by Mujaahid is that it is 321,180 letters. Other opinions claim that it is 323,015 and 340,740. Again, as explained above, these are based on details of no essential significance to cause hardship or partisanship over.

5.     Division of the Qur’an into Parts

In order to examine this topic, one is forced to refer to Hajjaaj bin Yusif ath-Thaqafee, a controversial figure in Islamic history. So it is pertinent to mention some historical facts of this man and his actions. Hajjaj bin Yusif was the Governor appointed by the Khalifa of the Muslims Abdul-Malik bin Marwaan bin Hakam al-Umayee. He was a tabi’ee. Due to political scenarios in the climate at the time, Hajjaaj unleashed a reign of what we could understand as terror in order to secure the leadership of Abdul-Malik bin Marwaan. He was the one responsible for catapulting the K’aba in Makka, and responsible for having killed an unfortunate amount of companions including some of the leading or high ranking companions such as Abdullahi bin Umar and Abdullah ibn Zubayr. What made his image worse was the peculiar manner he went about his campaign. An example of this was his dragging Abdullahi bin Umar making tawwaaf around the K’aba and cutting off Abdullah bin Zubayr’s head and hanging him upside down. The actions taken by Hajjaaj gave reason for some of the tabi’een like Sa’eed ibn Jubayr to give the verdict that Hajjaaj was a kaafir and out of the fold of Islam.

However, aside from these actions, the other actions that people are unaware of for the most part are that Hajjaaj was not only a haafidh of the Qur’an, but he was also an expert in the Arabic language. What is really going to shock people is when they learn some of the positions Hajjaaj fulfilled in the preservation of the Qur’an.

It was Hajjaaj bin Yusif himself who put the diacritical marks on the Qur’an. It was he who gathered an assembly of experts of the Qur’an (hufaadh) to gather some statistical data of the Qur’an.

Some of the facts produced by the team of hufaadh are the following

a.     The middle of the Qur’an

The middle of the Qur’an was determined to be in the 19th ayah of suratul-Kahf

b.     The Qur’an broken in 3 parts.

From the beginning of the Qur’an till the hundredth ayah of suratul-taubah (or baraa) marks the first third of the Qur’an

From this point till the hundred and first ayah of suratul-shurah denotes the second third of the Qur’an

From this point till the end of the Qur’an entails the last 3rd of the Qur’an

c.     The Qur’an in seven parts

From the beginning of the Qur’an till the 55th ayah of suratu-nisaa

From the last point till the 147th ayah of suratul-‘Araaf

From the last point till the 35th ayah of suratu-ra’ad

From the last point till the 34th ayah of suratul-hajj

From the last point till the 36th ayah of suratul-ahzab

From the last point till the 6th ayah of suratul-fath

From the last point till the end of the Qur’an

d.     The Qur’an broken in 4 parts

From the beginning of the Qur’an till the end of suratul-an’aam

From the last point till the 19th ayah of suratul-kahf

From the last point till the end of suratu-zumar

From the last point till the end of the Qur’an

e.     The Qur’an broken in 30 parts

Perhaps the most famous breaking of the Qur’an into parts is the 30 parts, called juz, that is mostly adopted throughout the Muslim world.

The overall purpose for breaking the Qur’an into these parts was so that Muslims can read these parts in a day. This was because in the view of the companions, they did not allow 40 days to go by without having read the Qur’an. Likewise, the prophet alaihi salatu salam commented on reading the Qur’an in a single day saying that this leaves no room for the reader to ponder and reflect. Thus the type of reading to be performed is one of reflection and introspection of our personal selves and breaking the Qur’an down into these parts is what will make reading the Qur’an simpler for people to plan their readings.

6.     The meaning of surah

There is a difference of opinion as to what the term “surah” means. Some say it means elevation and height. Some say it implies moving from one stage to another. Some say it means walls surrounding a city.

The conclusive meaning in reference to the Qur’an signifies that a particular portion of the text of the Qur’an is fortified by the wall it is defined as i.e. the surah.

7.     The meaning of ayah

It is a sign or a marker that separates from one point to another. Ayah lexically means something amazing.

In the Qur’an, it is a phrasal clause differentiating it from one statement to another

8.     The meaning of kalima

It literally means a word and it can be as small as two letters or as long as ten letters.

9.     The Qur’an containing non Arabic words

Al-Qurtubee discusses this in depth in his tafseer but a conclusive summary of it is that the Qur’an does contain non Arabic words that are unilaterally applied by various languages; however there are no non Arabic expressions.