Is it true that it is makruh to pronounce names of surah directly like saying Surah al-Baqarah, Surah al-Nisaa’ and others? And we should state them in an indirect manner like saying ‘a surah which states on al-Baqarah (female cow)’ or ‘a surah which states on al-Nisaa’ (on women)’ or others. Hope for an explanation on this matter.
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
Definition of surah (السورة)
Imam Ibn Kathir states that the scholars have differing opinions about the meaning of the phrase ‘surah’, which is from which word it derives from. Some are of the opinion that it is taken from the phrase (الإبانة- clear) and (الارتفاع- high). So, it seems like (al-Quran) will transition through them (these surahs) from one position to another. Some are of the opinion that it is due to its honour and high position like (سور البلد) which is a high wall around a country. Some are of the opinion that it is due to its perfection (complete and comprehensive). This is because the Arabs name a flawless camel as surah. However, according to Imam Ibn Kathir himself, there is a possibility that it is a compilation consists of its verses like it is named (سور البلد) because it consists of its houses and areas in the stated country. (See Tafsir al-Quran al-‘Azim, Dar Ibn al-Jauzi, 1/141-142)
The ruling of pronouncing names of surah
There is a narration from Imam al-Bukhari in his sahih from al-A’masy, where it is stated:
سَمِعْتُ الحَجَّاجَ، يَقُولُ عَلَى المِنْبَرِ: السُّورَةُ الَّتِي يُذْكَرُ فِيهَا البَقَرَةُ، وَالسُّورَةُ الَّتِي يُذْكَرُ فِيهَا آلُ عِمْرَانَ، وَالسُّورَةُ الَّتِي يُذْكَرُ فِيهَا النِّسَاءُ، قَالَ: فَذَكَرْتُ ذَلِكَ لِإِبْرَاهِيمَ...
I heard Al-Hajjaj saying on the pulpit, "The Sura in which Al-Baqara (the cow) is mentioned and the Sura in which the family of `Imran is mentioned and the Sura in which the women (An-Nisa) is mentioned." I mentioned this to Ibrahim,
Sahih al-Bukhari (1750)
In another narration, there are additional phrases:
عَنِ الْأَعْمَشِ، قَالَ: سَمِعْتُ الْحَجَّاجَ، يَقُولُ: لَا تَقُولُوا سُورَةُ الْبَقَرَةِ، قُولُوا: السُّورَةُ الَّتِي تُذْكَرُ فِيهَا الْبَقَرَةُ، فَذَكَرْتُ ذَلِكَ لِإِبْرَاهِيمَ...
Al-A 'mash said: "I head Al-Hajjaj say: 'Do not say Surat Al-Baqarah, say: 'The Surah in which the cow (Al-Baqarah) is mentioned."' I mentioned that to Ibrahim
Sahih Muslim (1296)
Based on the narrations, we know that some salaf (past) scholars are of that opinion.
This is stated by Imam al-Nawawi which states that some scholars said that it is makruh to pronounce names of surah directly like surah al-Baqarah, surah Ali Imran and others. However, by stating ‘The Surah in which Al-Baqarah (the cow) is mentioned and the Surah in which the family of `Imran is mentioned and the Surah in which the women (An-Nisa) is mentioned’ and others.
However, the sahih opinion is that it is permissible to pronounce surah al-Baqarah, surah Ali Imran, surah al-Nisa’, surah al-Maidah and the same for the rest of other surahs and it is not makruh to do so. This is the opinion of majority of the scholars among salaf (past scholars) and khalaf (contemporary scholars).
(See al-Tibyan fi Adab Hamalah al-Quran, Dar Ibn Rejab, pg. 119 and al-Azkar, Dar Ibn Hazm, pg. 208)
Coming back to the question presented, we are inclined to the opinion that it is not prohibited to state the names of surah directly like surah al-Baqarah, surah Ali Imran and others and it is not makruh to do so. This is because there are many hadiths and salaf opinions which indicate its permissibility and not wrong to do so.
Among them is the narration of Abu Mas’ud al-Ansari RA where the Prophet PBUH said:
الآيَتَانِ مِنْ آخِرِ سُورَةِ الْبَقَرَةِ مَنْ قَرَأَهُمَا فِي لَيْلَةٍ كَفَتَاهُ
Anyone who recites the two verses at the end of Surah al-Baqara at night, they would suffice for him.
Sahih al-Bukhari (4008) and Sahih Muslim (807)
The same is the words of the Companions themselves like the words of Ibn Mas’ud RA:
مِنْ هَا هُنَا وَالَّذِي لاَ إِلَهَ غَيْرُهُ قَامَ الَّذِي أُنْزِلَتْ عَلَيْهِ سُورَةُ الْبَقَرَةِ صلى الله عليه وسلم
By Him, except Whom none has the right to be worshipped, here (at this place) stood the one on whom Surat-al-Baqra was revealed (i.e. Allah's Messenger (ﷺ))
Sahih al-Bukhari (1750)
Imam al-Bukhari put a chapter in his sahih which the chapter of who are of the opinion that it is not wrong to pronounce surah al-Baqarah and certain and certain surah. (See Sahih al-Bukhari, 6/194). Imam Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani states that this chapter is a sign to reject them with the opinion that it is makruh to pronounce the names of surah. Also, a rejection to those of the opinion that it is prohibited to pronounce names of surah (in a direct way) except by saying 'The Surah in which the cow (Al-Baqarah) is mentioned’ and etc. (See Fath al-Bari, 9/87)
Based on the above arguments and discussions, we conclude that it is not wrong to pronounce names of surah directly like surah al-Baqarah, surah Ali Imran, surah al-Maidah and the like, also, it is not makruh to do so like the opinion of the majority of the scholars among salaf and khalaf.
Lastly, we pray to Allah SWT to give us the correct understanding to us in religion. Ameen.