Approaching the Quran

Approaching the Quran

The following is based off of a talk I gave at UTSC on March 8th 2018. The talk was entitled, “Approaching the Quran”.

Every verse of the Quran can serve as an index to centuries of discussion amongst exegetes. All these discussions occur between various scholars each adopting potentially different approaches to understanding the Quran. The purpose of this post is to highlight a few of these approaches in a practical manner by discussing a fragment of verse 89 of sūrat al-Naḥl. The verse is as follows,

…وَ نَزَّلْنا عَلَيْكَ الْكِتابَ تِبْياناً لِكُلِّ شَيْ‏ءٍ…

…We have sent down the Book to you as a clarification/explanation of all things1

There have classically been two major understandings of this fragment, although there are many more understandings than that. The first understanding asserts that the Quran is comprehensive of all knowledge and sciences. That is, the Quran contains information relevant to subjects such as philosophy, the natural sciences etc. in addition to its content related to the guidance of humans towards God. The second view is of a more minimalist nature and asserts that the Quran necessarily contains what is relevant for humans to be guided to God and therefore does not necessarily contain information or references pertaining to unrelated subjects.

In what follows, I will cover each view sequentially, detailing proponents of each view, discussing the approaches taken by different scholars to reach each view and furthermore discussing areas where these views are applied. At the end I will mention some other possible thoughts on this verse. Continue reading “Approaching the Quran”

  1. Al-Naḥl 16:89, some translators translate the word tibyān/تبيان as clarification while others translate it as explanation

Al-Itqān: Meccan and Medinan Chapters

Al-Itqān: Meccan and Medinan Chapters

In a previous post I introduced “Al-Itqān fī ‘Ulūm al-Qurān” by al-Suyūṭī. I have recently been reading through some chapters of the book and have found many interesting discussions. What follows is a summary of al-Suyūṭī’s discussion on Meccan and Medinan chapters.

Importance of Knowing the Location of Revelation

Many scholars have attested to the importance of knowing the location of revelation of the chapters of the Qurān, particularly for an exegete. This is because knowing where a chapter was revealed can aid one in knowing when the chapter was revealed. This in turn can assist one in determining if that chapter has verses that can act as abrogating verses for other verses. This is according to the view that abrogating verses must come after the verses that they abrogate.

It should be noted that al-Suyūṭī only mentions a few benefits for studying the location of revelation of different chapters. Perhaps the most important reason to study the location of revelation of different chapters is that such knowledge provides necessary context when interpreting different verses. Many verses can be understood very differently if taken to have been revealed later on in the Prophet’s life versus earlier on in his life. In short, any sort of added context aids in the understanding of a text.

Definitions of Meccan/Medinan

To begin with, it should be noted that the words, “Meccan” and “Medinan” have been defined in 3 different ways. That is there are three different understandings of what these words mean which are as follows. Continue reading “Al-Itqān: Meccan and Medinan Chapters”

LQS 4: Asbāb al-Nuzūl – The Causes of Revelation

LQS 4: Asbāb al-Nuzūl – The Causes of Revelation
و كلهم آتيه يوم القيامة فردا

And each of them will come to Him alone on the Day of Resurrection1

This post is the seventh in a series of summaries of Āyatullah Hādī Ma’rifat’s book entitled, Āmūzish ‘Ulūm Qurānī (Learning the Qurānic Sciences). For an introduction to Āyatollah Hādī Ma’rifat and his works, click here. To read the previous post which covered Sheikh Yūsufī Gharavī’s critique of the suspension of revelation (fatrah), click here.

The fourth chapter of sheikh Ma’rifat’s book discusses what are commonly referred to as asbāb al-nuzūl (causes of revelation) (s. sabab al-nuzūl). He defines a sabab al-nuzūl as, that which caused the Qurān to be revealed to address it2.

The asbāb al-nuzūl are typically documented in the form of narrations. The main work that is typically mentioned in the context of this subject is that of Wāhidī Nishapūrī (d. 468 AH/1076 AD) entitled, Asbāb al-Nuzūl al-Qurān. This work largely serves as the foundation of other Sunni works concerned with narrations of asbāb al-nuzūl such as Suyūtī’s (d. 911 AH/1505 AD), Lubāb al-Nuqūl fī Asbāb al-Nuzūl, which in addition to being largely composed of narrations taken from Wāhidī is also a much later work3.

As for Shia works, narrations related to the reason/cause for the revelation of certain verses can be found in the Four Books.

There are many examples of instances in which narrations of asbāb al-nuzūl aid one in understanding a verse of the Qurān. One such example which is often quoted in books about the Qurānic sciences is that of surah al-Baqrah, Verse 158 which is as follows: Continue reading “LQS 4: Asbāb al-Nuzūl – The Causes of Revelation”

  1. Maryam 19:95
  2. Ma’rifat, al-Tamhīd fī ‘Ulūm al-Qurān v. 1 pg. 267
  3. There is a lack of works written specifically about narrations related to asbāb al-nuzūl; for a more comprehensive survey of works related to asbāb al-nuzūl refer to, Andrew Rippin, The Exegetical Genre “asbāb al-nuzūl”: A Bibliographical and Terminological Survey

LQS 1: The Sources for Qurānic Research

LQS 1: The Sources for Qurānic Research

This post is the first in a series of summaries of Ayatollah Haadi Ma’rifat’s book entitled, “Amouzish Ulum Qurāni” (Learning the Qurānic Sciences). For an introduction to Ayatollah Haadi Ma’rifat and his works, click here.

In the first chapter of his book, Ayatollah Ma’rifat provides a basic introduction to the Qurānic sciences[1] and then introduces some of the first works that were written pertaining to the Qurānic sciences as well two famous works that were written later on, namely, “al-Burhan fi Ulum al-Qurān”, by Badr al-Deen Zarkashy and “al-Itqān fi Ulum al-Qurān”, by Jalāl al-Deen Suyuti. In what follows, I hope to provide a brief introduction to these works as well as some other works that have been written in the field of the Qurānic sciences.

During the first few centuries after hijra, most works written in relation to the Qurānic sciences pertained to individual subjects rather than many subjects together. Perhaps the first known book to be written in this field was by Yahya bin Ya’mar, a student of Abu Aswad al-Du’ali who himself was a student of Imam Ali. Continue reading “LQS 1: The Sources for Qurānic Research”