The Sources for Qurānic Research

This is a guest post that has been taken from the Light of the Furqan blog.

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.The book, as described by ibn Attiyah, concerned itself with the different readings of the Qurān and was comprised of the differences that could be noted between the masāhif (scripts of the Qurān) that were being used during his time[2][3]. This book was written during the latter half of the first century after hijra as Yahya bin Ya’mar passed away around 90 A.H.[4]

After Yahya bin Yamar’s book, numerous works were written that pertained to various topics in the Qurānic sciences such as abrogation, the inimitable nature of the Qurān and the different readings of the Qurān. Some of the companions of our Imams are famed for their efforts in this field such as Abān bin Taghlab who was a companion of Imam al-Sajjad, Mohammad al-Baqir and al-Sadiq[5]. He is known for having narrated a reading of the Qurān. Other famous works that were written in the first few centuries after hijra are works such as al-Masahif by Ibn Abi Dawud which dealt with the history of the compilation of the masahif, as well as al-Saba’by Ibn Mujahid who famously limited the number of reliable readings of the Qurān to 7[6].

After a period of time, more collective works began to be written in the field of the Qurānic sciences. That is, scholars began to write works that dealt with many topics collectively. One of these famous works was that of Badr al-Deen Zarkashy, entitled, “al-Burhān fi Ulum al-Qurān” (The Burhan[7] concerning the Sciences of the Qurān). Zarkashy was a Shāfi’ee scholar who lived in Egypt, he died in 794 AH[8]. His work was one of the first works to deal with the different Qurānic sciences in a collective manner and affected many works that came later on[9]. Zarkashy dealt with many subjects in his work such as the contexts of revelation, the meanings of individual words within the Qurān etc.

Soon after Zarkashy, Jalal al-Deen Suyuti wrote his priceless work in the field of the Qurānic sciences, named, “Al-Itqān fi Ulum al-Qurān” (The Perfect Guide to the Sciences of the Qurān). Suyuti was also a Shāfi’ee Egyptian scholar who authored many valuable and important works, his work on grammar is popularly studied within the seminary. In terms of sciences related to the Qurān, he has written numerous valuable exegeses such as, “al-Dur al-Manthur fi Tafseer al-Ma’thoor”, and, “Tafseer al-Jalālayn”. He has also written a work that provides records of many of the exegetes who lived before him, named, “Tabaqāt al-Mufassireen”. Suyuti had read Zarkashy’s work on the Qurānic sciences by the time he wrote al-Itqān[10]. His book is very well known because he provided thorough and detailed discussions for the topics that Zarkashy had discussed and in addition to that, he introduced discussions that Zarkashy had not mentioned.

In addition to the above mentioned books, there are hundreds and thousands of other works that have been written concerning the Qurānic sciences. The above mentioned works comprise just a small selection of some of the most important and influential works within the Qurānic sciences. These works, amongst others, are what scholars refer to and study when performing research concerning the Qurānic sciences.

This first chapter of Ayatollah Ma’rifat’s introduces some of the main works used in the Qurānic sciences and although it provides a very basic description of such works, it serves an important function. That is, understanding and recognizing the sources that are used as references and sources of research can help one critically think about the material that is being presented. For example, later on in his book, Ayatollah Ma’rifat, when discussing the mushaf of Imam Ali, gives reference to a narration in Hashim Bahrani’s, “al-Burhān fi Tafseer al-Qurān”, which was written in the 11th century AH, over a thousand years after the death of the Prophet. Recognizing this fact would lead one to think that it is very unlikely for something like the mushaf of Imam Ali to not have been mentioned until such a time in our works. Thus, it would be of much more value if the reference would be an earlier source, such as a historical work or one of the early ahadith collections such as al-Kafi.

The above was a brief summary along with some additions of the first chapter in Ayatollah Haadi Ma’rifat’s book, “Amouzish Ulum Qurān”. In future posts, God willing, I hope to follow his book topically and provide an introduction/summary for each of the discussions within the book.

[1] According to Ayatollah Ma’rifat, the science of exegesis of the Qurān is separate from the Qurānic sciences as the Qurānic sciences do not deal with the actual interpretation and understanding of the text itself, thus the science of exegesis and works pertaining to it will not be discussed.

[2] al-Mahvar al-Wajeez fi Tafseer al-Kitab al-Azeez, Ibn Attiyah, pg. 50

[3] This book was written after Uthman’s time, the mushaf had been standardized by then and copies of the masāhif had been distributed to different cities. As will be discussed in more detail within the future, according to some accounts these individual manuscripts contained spelling mistakes which caused different readings of the Qurān. Yahya bin Ya’mar’s book detailed these differences.

[4] al-Tabaqāt al-Kubra, ibn Sa’ad, v.7, pg. 260

[5] Mu’jam Rijāl al-Hadith, Ayatollah Khoei, v.1, pgs. 143-154

[6] al-Tamheed fi Ulum al-Qurān, Ayatollah Ma’rifat, v.1, pgs. 19-20

[7] Burhān may be translated as a “definitive proof”, thus the title of the book would be, “The Definitive Proof concerning the Sciences of the Qurān”

[8] Introduction to al-Burhān fi Ulum al-Qurān, Ahmad Ali Abi al-fadhl al-Damyāti

[9] Before Zarkashy’s work, there were exegeses in which the Qurānic sciences would be briefly discussed. Typically, they would be discussed as part of the preface to the exegesis. Also, it seems that works that dealt with the Qurānic sciences in a collective manner existed before Zarkashy’s time, however they were lost. Mention of such works can be found in Syed Ibn Tāwus’s work entitled, “Saad al-Su’ud”.

[10] al-Itqān fi Ulum al-Qurān, Suyuti, pg. 35 – 37

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