Salam ustaz. I heard that the surahs in the Quran are divided into several categories. What does it mean?
Waalaikumussalam. Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the many 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.
The order of the verses and surahs in the Quran is a tauqifi which means the order is revealed by Allah SWT to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH. It is neither the ijtihad of the Prophet PBUH nor is it the ijtihad of the companions of the Prophet PBUH. This is the consensus of the scholars as stated by Imam al-Suyuti. (Refer Asrar Tartib Al-Quran, pg. 42)
Imam al-Baihaqi states that the order of the Quran in the time of the Prophet PBUH is conserved until this day. (Refer Dalail Al-Nubuwwah,7/152; Al-Burhan Fi Ulum Al-Quran, 1/256, Al-Tajbir Fi Ilm Al-Tafsir by Imam Al-Suyuti, pg. 173)
This is in accordance with a hadith narrated by Uthman bin Abi Al-‘As. He said:
كُنْتُ عِنْدَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ جَالِسًا إِذْ شَخَصَ بِبَصَرِهِ ثُمَّ صَوَّبَهُ حَتَّى كَادَ أَنْ يُلْزِقَهُ بِالْأَرْضِ قَالَ ثُمَّ شَخَصَ بِبَصَرِهِ فَقَالَ أَتَانِي جِبْرِيلُ عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام فَأَمَرَنِي أَنْ أَضَعَ هَذِهِ الْآيَةَ بِهَذَا الْمَوْضِعِ مِنْ هَذِهِ السُّورَةِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَى وَيَنْهَى عَنْ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنْكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ
“I was sitting beside the Prophet PBUH when he suddenly widens his eyes in surprise, then he looks down and stare intently at the ground and his keen gaze makes me feel as if his eyes could touch the ground. Afterwards, the Prophet PBUH said: Jibril came to me and commanded me (by the command of Allah) to place this verse in this surah. The verse is إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَى وَيَنْهَى عَنْ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنْكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ (Surah al-Nahl: 90)”
Musnad Ahmad (17918)
Al-Jabari states, a surah is akin to a title where it contains the verses of the Quran and have a beginning and an end. Al-Jabari’s statement is cited by Imam al-Suyuti in his book al-Itqan. Imam al-Suyuti then states that the names of the surah in the Quran is tauqifi. (Refer Al-Itqan Fi Ulum Al-Quran, 2/347)
Coming back to the question asked, the surah of the Quran is categorized into four:
- Al-Sab’u Al-Tiwal
These names are not created by the scholars of the Quran. Their names and categories are mentioned by the Prophet PBUH himself. This is stated in a hadith by Wathilah bin al-Asqa’. The Prophet PBUH said:
أُعْطِيتُ مَكَانَ التَّوْرَاةِ السَّبْعَ وَأُعْطِيتُ مَكَانَ الزَّبُورِ الْمَئِينَ وَأُعْطِيتُ مَكَانَ الْإِنْجِيلِ الْمَثَانِيَ وَفُضِّلْتُ بِالْمُفَصَّلِ
“I was given Al-Sab’a Al-Tiwal to replace the Torah. I am also given AL-Miin to replace the Zabur. And I am also given Al-Mathani to replace the Bible. I am blessed more with Al-Mufassal.”
Musnad Ahmad (16982)
Syeikh Syu’aib al-Arnaut states that the sanad (chain of narrators) of this hadith is hasan. One of the narrators is ‘Imran bin al-Qattan who is also known as Ibnu Dawar. His narrations are accepted and most of the narrators are credible and trustworthy (thiqah). (Refer Musnad Ahmad cetakan Muassasah Al-Risalah, 28/188)
However, what does Al-Sab’u Al-Tiwal,Al-Miin ,Al-Mathani and Al-Mufassal mean?
- Al-Sab’u Al-Tiwalrefers to the seven long surahs in the Quran. The surahs are:
- Surah Al-Baqarah
- Surah Ali Imran
- Surah Al-Maidah
- Surah Al-Nisa’
- Surah Al-‘An’am
- Surah Al-Anfal
- Surah Al-Taubah
- Al-Miin means the surah with a hundred or a little bit more or near to a hundred verses. The surahs are; Surah Yunus,Surah Hud, Surah Yusuf, Al-Isra’, Al-Kahf, Surah Toha. Surah Al-Anbiya’, Surah Al-Qasas dan Surah Al-Hajj.
- Al-Mathani are surahs where the total verse of it is less than a hundred verses. Imam al-Zarkasyi states that it is named as Al-Mathani for the repeated narrations in the surahs in this category. (Refer Al-Burhan Fi Ulum Al-Quran,1/245)
- Al-Mufassal is the category after Al-Mathani. It is named as Al-Mafassal for there are numerous Al-Fasl which means the closing or verse divider between the surah and basmalah.
The scholars have differing opinions in determining which surah is the beginning of Al-Mufassal. Some state that it starts from Surah Qaf. Others state that it starts with Surah al-Hujurat. This is the opinion presented by Imam al-Nawawi. (Refer Manahil Al-‘Irfan Fi Ulum Al-Quran, 1/352). While contemporary commentary scholars such as Fadhl Hassan Abbas state that Al-Mufassal starts from Surah Muhammad. (Refer Itqan Al-Burhan Fi Ulum Al-Quran, 1/448).
As for Al-Mufassal, it is further divided into three. The first is long (Al-Tiwal). It is Surah al-Buruj. The second is the middle (Al-Awsat). It starts from surah al-Tariq until surah al-Bayyinah. The third is short (Al-Qisar). It starts from surah al-Zalzalah until surah al-Nas. (Refer Manahil Al-‘Irfan Fi Ulum Al-Quran, 1/352)
As a conclusion, the surahs in the Quran is divided into four categories which are Al-Sab’u Al-Tiwal, Al-Miin, Al-Mathani and Al-Mufassal. This is in accordance with the prophetic evidence from the Prophet PBUH. May this explanation give understanding to the questioner.