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Muqaddimah – Tafsir Nizam-ul-Quran – Preface – Part 1

August 30, 2009

In the present work, I have, with the help of God and His blessings, tried to uncover the nazm (coherence) in the Holy Quran. I intend to write a simple and self explanatory commentary on the divine book free from the differences that have arisen among the Muslims after the Holy Prophet (sws). I have sought to clarify each verse in the light of its precedents in the Book and have endeavoured to determine the coherence of the Surahs through careful analysis of the text in the light of the context. Thus having reached an interpretation, I have attempted to corroborate it by rational and factual evidence.

  1. Quranic Nazm

In order to uncover the nazm I have examined the depths of the discourse with penetrating insight. In my effort to explain the divine verses I have held fast to the Book of God. My sole guide is only the God Almighty who blessed me with knowledge and understanding (of the coherence in the Divine text). I have not borrowed this approach from anyone. However, I am not the first person to have tried to uncover the Quranic nazm. Many scholars in the past have directed their attention to the subject and some have even documented their findings. The polymath, Suyuti, mentions in his treatise alItqan:

Mentor of Abu-Hayyan, Allamah Abu Jafar Ibn Zubayr, compiled a book entitled al-Burhan fi Munasabat al-Suwar al-Quran (The Conclusive Proof Regarding the Correspondence in the surahs of the Holy Quran) which exclusively deals with this subject. One of our contemporaries, Sheikh Burhan al-Din Baqai has also specifically considered the coherence in the Holy Quran in his exegesis Nazm al-Durar fi Tanasub al-Ayi wa al-Suwar (Arrangement of the Pearls regarding the Correspondence of the Verses and the Surahs)

Suyuti also refers to one of his works, which, according to him, discusses the coherence in the verses and the surahs and other aspects of ijaz of the Holy Quran. In this connection, he says:

The knowledge of interrelationship is the most sublime science in rank. The exegetes have paid less attention to it only because of its difficulties. Imam Fakahr ad-Din al-Razi is one of those who have shown most interest in this science. He says: “ The greater part of the Quranic intricacies and wisdom is buried in the fine arrangement and correspondence of (Surahs and verses of the) Quran”

I have found Imam Razi`s following remarks in his commentary on the Quranic verse (41:44):

….had We made it an Ajami Quran….

The scholars have reported that this verse was revealed when the Quraysh obstinately remarked that why the Quran was not revealed in some non-Arab language. I believe that assumptions of this kind expose the Holy Quran to serious objections. It entails that the Holy Quran contains disjointed verses lacking any possible coherence. Rather, this admits of even severer objections on the Divine word, which, once validated destroy the status of the Holy Quran as a coherent discourse, far from being miraculous Word of God. I believe that this Surah is a sustained discourse right from the beginning to the end

After dealing with the theme of the Surah in a short and concise manner, he comments:

Every fair person can see that if the verse is interpreted the way we have, it becomes clear that the Surah is a coherent and well-knit discourse from the beginning to the end –  a discourse leading to a single objective. Such a commentary would naturally be better than what people have generally offered

This rounds off our survey of the viewpoints of the advocates of a case for some sort of coherence in the Holy Quran. All along, there have been other scholars who believed that the Holy Quran is devoid of any coherence. In this connection, Sheikh Izzuddin as-Salam says:

The Holy Quran came down piecemeal over a period of more than two decades, with different commandments issued for a variety of purposes. A book revealed in this fashion does not afford any correspondence in its components

We have seen that on the question of Quranic nazm there exist two schools both of which have supporters. I acknowledge the former view and adhere to it.

Through aforementioned facts, I intend to highlight two important points.

First, the earlier scholars did not altogether neglect the question of Quranic nazm. Rather, a group has discussed the issue carefully.

Second, discovering nazm in the Holy Quran is a difficult task which has scarcely been attempted. It is a treasure trove of which little has been discovered thus far.

In the beginning, God Almighty blessed me with an understanding of the internal coherence in Surah Al-Baqara and Surah Al-Qasas of the Holy Quran. The text of the Holy Quran itself guided me to this discovery and I did not resort to any resource external to it. By the grace of God, reciting the Holy Quran, my favourite book, has always been my cherished engagement. I too, many times, confronted the famous dictum the the Book, being revealed piece by piece, is actually a disjointed, incoherent discourse. The discovery of coherence in two longer Surahs, however, prompted me to expand the investigation to the rest of the Book. This dates back early days of my life. I was, at that time, pursuing my academic career. this kept me from devoting enough time to this investigation and doing an exhaustive survey of the entire Book. After ten years of inactivity, God again blessed me with an opportunity to resume work on the Holy Quran from this angle. Initial investigation lasted for about a year before I reached a definite conclusion. Later on, the idea to present the results of my investigation before the academic world struck my mind. This, however, I did not pursue realizing the importance of the task and its far-reaching consequences. Therefore, I continued repeatedly examining the Quranic text from this perspective for a long time. During the course of this exercise, I continuously beseeched God`s protection from ignorance and temptations of the self. Truth was there before me, clear and manifest, since long. It required urgent disclosure but I always desired to safely depart this world without rendering myself accountable for unveiling such a massive discovery. I wished to relieve myself of the responsibility for all the good or evil my work was bound to produce. However, the following considerations forced me to bear this responsibility in spite of my reservations:

  1. I observed that most differences in understanding the Quranic text owed themselves to the fact that the interpreters did not consider the Quranic nazm. Had they been clear on the orderly arrangement of the text  and were they exposed to the central themes of Surahs, all possibilities of difference would have been eliminated. All would have been jointly hoisting a common flag, holding fast to a single word -“a goodly tree, its root set firm, its branches reaching into the heavens”. Unfortunately, the differences could not be checked despite the fact the we, the Muslims, have been required to hold fast to the word of God Almighty who commands (3:103):

    And hold fast by the rope of Allah all together and be not disunited

    How can one expect to find a way out of differences in fundamental matters in such a state of affairs? People have considered the well-knit rope of Allah, which “falsehood may not come at from before or behind” – a pile of fragmented pieces. Each sect is interpreting the Holy Quran bespectacled with presupposed views, deviating from the escort of the text; whereas the order and arrangement of the Quran – the only guide to proper understanding if the text – is never resorted to. It is the only shield that keeps innovators from incorporating their whims in the text, prevents the strayed folk from grounding their waywardness in the Word of God and safeguards the Book from the onslaughts of the crooked people who wish to “remove the words from their context“. In the meantime such evil factions remain engaged in attacking the Word of God, from its front and from its back, and are mixing their whimsical inclinations with the truth.

  2. The heretics levelled objections against the Holy Quran. They claimed that the Books lacks anything of the sort of orderly arrangement. Muslim scholarship was expected to deliver the Word of God from such outrageous objections – concerning the like of which Almighty says (18:5):

    how grievous words come out of their mouths

    and (4:141):

    never will Allah grant to the unbelievers a way over the believers

    – and to unveil the truth. Quite unfortunately, their response has generally been concessive in this regard. This did not allow me to sit like an onlooker while the truth was subjected to suppression and falsehood hailed victory, especially when I was clear about the untenability of the objections raised by the heretics.

Muqaddimah – Tafsir Nizam-ul-Quran – Preface – Part 2

This is a rendering of English translation of Muqaddimah – Tafsir Nizam ul Quran by the permission of the translator, Tariq Mahmood Hashmi. Original version available here.

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