informs us that the sūrahs of the Qur’ān have been arranged in a certain
sequence: First the seven long sūrahs called the sab‘ tiwāl,
then the mi’īn sūrahs, then the mathānī and the mufassal at the end.
article, the authenticity of this narrative shall be
هشام بن إسماعيل الدمشقي ، عن محمد بن شعيب عن سعيد بن بشير ، عن قتادة ، عن أبي
المليح ، عن واثلة بن الأسقع ، عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال : أُعطيتُ السَّبعَ
الطُّوَل مكان التوراة ، وأُعطيت المئينَ مكان الإنجيل ، وأُعطيت المثاني مكان
الزَّبور ، وفُضلت بالمُفَصَّل
Wāthilah ibn al-Asqa‘ reports
from the Prophet (sws): “I have been given the seven tuwal in place of the
Torah, the mi’īn in place of the Injīl, the mathānī in place of the Psalms and
have been further blessed with the mufassal.”
In a separate text, ‘Abdullāh ibn
Mas‘ūd (rta) is reported to have said:
حدثنا معاذ بن هانئ ثنا إبراهيم بن طهمان ثنا عاصم عن المسيب
بن رافع قال قال عبد الله السبع الطول مثل التوراة والمئين مثل الإنجيل والمثاني
مثل الزبور وسائر القرآن بعد فضل
The seven tuwal are like the
Torah, the mi’īn like the Injīl, the mathānī like the
Psalms and all the remaining Qur’ān is furthermore.
III Criticism on the Narrative
A. Criticism on the Matn
1. No Explanation from the Prophet
There is no explanation from the
Prophet (sws) as to which sūrahs belong to each of the four categories of the
sab‘ tiwāl, the mi’īn, the mathānī and the mufassal respectively. Similarly, we
have no guidance from him regarding the meaning of the terms mi’īn, mathānī and
mufassal. As a result, people have attempted to give their own interpretations
in this regard which has mostly resulted in differing opinions.
According to al-Suyūtī,
one group believes that the first of these is Sūrah Baqarah and the last is
Another opinion recorded by al-Suyūtī
is that a narrative from Ibn ‘Abbās (rta) reported by al-Hākim and al-Nasā’ī
says that the sab‘ tiwāl are: Baqarah, Āl-i ‘Imrān, Nisā’, Mā’idah, An‘ām, A‘rāf.
The narrator forgot the seventh.
In a narrative from Sa‘īd Ibn Jubayr
reported by Ibn Abī Hātim and others and in a narrative from Ibn ‘Abbās (rta),
the seventh is Sūrah Yūnus, while according to a narrative in the book of al-Hakīm,
it is Sūrah Kahaf.
In the opinion of al-Bayhaqī, al-Zarkashī
it refers to sūrahs whose verses are more than a hundred or near to it.
In the opinion of al-Bayhaqī, they are sūrahs which have
less than hundred verses, but more than those of the mufassal sūrahs.
According to al-Farrā’, they are called mathānī because they are read more than
the tuwal and the mi’īn sūrahs.
Al-Suyūtī has recorded another opinion about the reason for them being called
mathānī: they form a pair to the mi’īn sūrahs.
In the opinion of al-Nikzāwī,
they are called so because in them anecdotes are repeated for the sake of
teaching a lesson and for informing us (وقيل لتثنية الأمثال
فيها بالعبر والخبر). In Jamāl al-qurrā’,
mathānī are sūrahs in which anecdotes are repeated. Still another opinion
recorded by al-Suyūtī
is that mathānī is a name applied to the Qur’ān as a whole and also to Sūrah
According to al-Suyūti,
they are placed after the mathānī sūrahs being among the shorter sūrahs and are
called so since there are a lot of divisions between the sūrahs because of the
basmalah. Others say that they are called so because they contain very few
abrogated verses and for this very reason they are also called the muhkam, as is
specified in a narrative in al-Bukhārī from Sa‘īd ibn Jubayr.
Al-Suyūtī goes on to say that there is a consensus that the last of these is
Sūrah Nās. However, about the first there exist the following twelve opinions:
i. Sūrah Qāf (50) (on the basis of
the Hadīth of ‘Aws ibn Hudyafah)
ii. Sūrah Hujurāt (49) (as specified by Nawawī)
iii. Sūrah Muhammad (47) (al-Māwardī has attributed this to the majority)
iv. Sūrah Jāthiyah (45) (attributed to Qādī ‘Iyād)
v. Sūrah Sāffāt (37)
vi. Sūrah Saff (61)
vii. Sūrah Mulk (67) (the above three are narrated by Ibn Abī Sayf in his Nukat al-tanbīh)
viii. Sūrah Fath (48) (narrated by Kamāl al-Dhumārī in his al-Sharh al-tanbīh)
ix. Sūrah Rahmān (55) (narrated by Ibn Sayyid in his notes on al-Mu’atta’)
x. Sūrah Insān (76)
xi. Sūrah Sabbaha (narrated by Ibn al-Firkāh from al-Marzūqī in his Ta‘līq)
xii. Sūrah Duhā (93) (narrated by al-Khattābī)
Another opinion about the mufassal as quoted in Imām Rāghib’s Mufradāt is that the last hizb (Sūrah Qāf (50) to Sūrah Nās (112)) of the Qur’ān is the mufassal.
goes on to say that within the mufassal sūrahs, there are long (tiwāl), medium (awsāt) and short (qisār) sūrahs. In the opinion of Ibn Ma‘an, the long ones end on Sūrah Nabā’ (78), the medium ones on Sūrah Duhā (93) and the short ones on the last sūrah of the Qur’ān.
2. Scheme of Sūrahs in the Qur’ān
Let us take a look at the table of sūrahs and the number of verses each has:
No of Verses
3. Āl-i ‘Imrān
17. Banī Isrā’īl
94. Alam Nashrah
A little deliberation on the above table reveals the following facts:
i. We cannot ascertain where the mi’īn sūrahs end,
after which the mathānī sūrahs begin. A simple glance at the table above will
show that the mi’īn sūrahs are not grouped together. They are rather erratically
arranged. One possibility is to regard Sūrah Sāffāt, the thirty-seventh sūrah
having 182 verses to be the last of the mi’īn sūrahs because after this there is
no sūrah which has more than a hundred verses.
However, two questions arise on this:
a. How can Sūrah Ra‘d which is the thirteenth sūrah
and has 43 verses, Sūrah Ibrāhīm which is the fourteenth sūrah and has 52
verses, Sūrah Hajj which is the twenty second sūrah and has 78 verses, Sūrah Nur
which is the twenty fourth sūrah and has 64 verses, Sūrah Furqān which is the
twenty fifth sūrah and has 77 verses, Sūrah ‘Ankabūt which is the twenty ninth
sūrah and has 69 verses, Sūrah Rūm which is the thirtieth sūrah and has 60
verses, Sūrah Luqman which is the thirty first sūrah and has 34 verses, Sūrah
Sajdah which is the thirty second sūrah and has 30 verses, Sūrah Ahzāb which is
the thirty third sūrah and has 73 verses, Sūrah Sabā’ which is the thirty fourth
sūrah and has 54 verses and Sūrah Fatir which is the thirty fifth sūrah and has
45 verses can be classified among the mi’īn sūrahs since each has much less than
a 100 verses?
b. How can Sūrah Shu‘arā’ which is the twenty sixth
sūrah having 227 and Sūrah Saffāt which is the thirty seventh sūrah having 182
verses be classified among the mi’īn sūrahs since each has much more than a 100
ii. If the mathānī sūrahs are the ones whose number
of verses is less than a hundred but is more than that of the mufassal sūrahs, a
simple look at the table will reveal that there are many mufassal sūrahs whose
number of verses is more than the mathānī sūrahs.
iii. Should the sūrahs having very close to a
hundred verses (eg. Hijr which has 99 verses and Maryam which has 98) be
classified among the mi’īn sūrahs or the mathānī?
3. Verse Number is not always Proportional to the
Since the verses of the Qur’ān are not of the same
size and length, the number of verses itself cannot become a standard to judge
the length of a sūrah. Thus there are verses which consist of just one word and
there are verses which consist of several sentences. Why then would the Prophet
(sws) use such a standard?
4. Contradiction in the Texts
Whilst some texts
report that the Prophet (sws) said that he has been given the mi’īn in place of
the Injīl and the mathānī in place of the Psalms, others
report the reverse ie: mi’īn in place of the Psalms and mathānī in place of the
Injīl. The narrative reported by Barā’
gives an entirely new scheme:
وعن البراء بن عازب أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال إن الله
أعطاني السبع الطوال مكان التوراة وأعطاني المبين مكان الإنجيل وأعطاني الطواسين
مكان الزبور وفضلني بالحواميم والمفصل ما قرأهن نبي قبلي
The Almighty has given me sab‘ tuwāl in place of the
Torah, the mubīn in place of the Injīl, the tawāsīn in place of the Psalms and
has further given me the hawamīm and the mufassal which no prophet before me has
Similarly, a narrative attributed to Anas ibn Mālik
also gives another scheme:
وأخرخ ابن نصر وابن مردويه عن أنس بن مالك قال سمعت رسول الله
صلى الله تعالى عليه وسلم يقول إن الله تعالى أعطاني السبع الطوال مكان التوراة
وأعطاني الراءات إلى الطواسين مكان الإنجيل وأعطاني ما بين الطواسين إلى الحواميم
مكان الزبور وفضلني بالحواميم والمفصل ما قرأهن نبي قبلي
Anas said that he heard the Messenger of God say: “I
have been given the al-sab‘ al-tiwāl in place of the Torah, the [sūrahs from
the] al-rā’āt to the tawāsīn in place of the Injīl, the sūrahs between the
tawāsīn and the hawāmmīm in place of the Psalms and have been further blessed
with the hawāmmīm and the mufassal – none of the prophets before me recited the
likes of them.
Moreover, the two narratives reported in al-Tabarānī’s
present the scheme in an incomplete manner.
B. Criticism on the Isnād
If all variants of the narrative attributed to the
Prophet (sws) are studied, it is found that three Companions: Wāthilah ibn al-Asqa‘,
Abū Umāmah and Thawbān narrate it from the Prophet (sws).
Their chains of narration can be summarized as follows:
1. Wāthilah ibn al-Asqa‘
Wāthilah ibn al-Asqa‘
Layth ibn Abī Sulaym
Muhammad ibn Hafs
Sa‘īd ibn Bashīr
Sa‘d ibn Qays
Following of these narrators are regarded as suspect
i. Qatādah ibn Di‘āmah
Qatādah is famous for tadlīs
and all variants of the narrative are his ‘an‘anah.
ii. Sa‘īd ibn Bashīr al-Azdī
According to al-Nasā’ī, he is da‘īf;
records that he has a very bad memory and makes a lot of errors and reports from
Qatādah narratives which do not have any corroboration. Al-‘Uqaylī
records that according to Yahyā ibn Ma‘īn, he is laysa bi shay’.
iii. ‘Imrān ibn Dāwar al-Qattān
records that in the opinion of Yahyā ibn Ma‘īn, ‘Imrān ibn Dāwar al-Qattān is
da‘īf and Ahmad ibn Hanbal says that he is hopeful that he may be sālih al-hadīth.
According to al-Nasā’ī
also, he is da‘īf. Ibn Hajar
records that he is sadūq and is forgetful.
records that ‘Abbās al-Dūrī reports from Yahyā ibn Ma‘īn that he is laysa bi al-qawī
and at another place Yahyā says that he is laysa huwa bi shay’ and that Yahyā
ibn Sa‘id al-Qattān did not consider him worthy of being narrated from;
similarly, at one instance, Abū Dā’ūd al-Sajistānī has calls him da‘īf and at
another he says that he has not heard anything bad about him.
iv. Layth ibn Abī Sulaym
One group of scholars has regarded him to be
suspect. According to Ibn Hibbān
in his last years, he had a bad memory and would not know what he was narrating,
would mix-up the chains of narration and make mursal narratives marfū‘ and
wrongly attribute reports to sound narrators; Ibn Hibbān goes on to add that
Yahyā ibn Sa‘īd al-Qattān, Yahyā ibn Ma‘īn, ‘Abd al-Rahmān ibn Mahdī and Ahmad
ibn Hanbal have forsaken him. He also adds that in the opinion of Ahmad ibn
Hanbal, he is da‘īf al-hadīth jiddan and makes many mistakes. According to al-Nasā’ī,
Ibn Hajar says that he is sadūq, mixes up a lot, is not able to distinguish
between his narratives and has been forsaken.
records that Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Ibn Abī Hātim and Abū Zur‘ah regard him to be
mudtarib al-hadīth and that Ibn Abī Hātim also regards him to be da‘īf al-hadīth.
records that Yahyā ibn Ma‘īn calls him to be munkar al-hadīth and Ibn Sa‘d and
Ya‘qūb ibn Shaybah regard him to be da‘īf al-hadīth
v. Sa‘d ibn Qays
He is majhūl. No information is available on him. He
could actually be Sa‘īd ibn Bashīr because in the given narratives Qatādah is
the teacher of both and Muhammad ibn Shu‘ayb is enlisted as a student of both.
After allسعد بن بشير could easily have become
سعيد بن قيس.
vi. Muhammad ibn Himyar
According to Abū Hātim
he is yukatabu hadīthuhū wa lā yuhtajju bihī. Ibn al-Jawzī
has recorded in his al-Mawdū‘āt that Ya‘qūb ibn Sufyān says that he is laysa bi
says about him: lahū gharā’ib wa afrād.
vii. Muhammad ibn Hafs al-Wassābī
Al-Dhahabī records that Ibn Abī Hātim abandoned him
when he was told that al-Wassābī was not attested to and that according to Ibn
Mandah, he is
It may also be noted that the al-Tabarī narrative
chain is broken because in the opinion of Ibn Abī Hātim, Muhammad ibn Hafs never
met Muhammad ibn
It may further be noted that in a narrative recorded
by al-Tabarī, one of the narrators below Sa‘īd ibn Bashīr is Dā’ūd ibn al-Jarrāh.
This seems to be an example of tashīf because there is no evidence of any Dā’ūd
ibn al-Jarrāh reporting from Sa‘īd ibn Bashīr or being the informant of the
subsequent narrator: Muhammad ibn Khalf al-‘Asqalānī. It seems that the actual
person who reports from Sa‘īd ibn Bashīr is Rawwād ibn al-Jarrāh because
authorities specify Sa‘īd ibn Bashīr as his teacher and Muhammad ibn Khalf al-‘Asqalānī
as his student.
In all probability, the word (داود) Dā’ūd could have
become (رواد) Rawwād.
2. Abū ‘Umāmah
Layth ibn Abī Sulaym
Fudayl ibn ‘Iyād
|Ahmad ibn Yūnus
|Muhammad ibn ‘Uthmān ibn Abī Shaybah
Following of these narrators are suspect:
i. Layth ibn Abī Sulaym
ii. Muhammad ibn ‘Uthmān ibn Abī Shaybah
Although some authorities have regarded him to be
trustworthy, here is what al-Dhahabī
records about him: ‘Abdullāh ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal, ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Usāman al-Kalbī,
Ibrāhīm ibn Ishāq al-Sawwāf and Dā’ūd ibn Yahyā say that he is a great liar and
Ibn Khirāsh says that he fabricates narratives. Ja‘far ibn Muhammad al-Tayālisī
says that not only is he a great liar, he attributes to people narrations which
are never reported by those who have actually heard them.
Thawbān, the mawlā of Muhammad (sws)
Abū Asmā’ ‘Amr ibn Marthad al-Rahbī
Shaddād ibn ‘Abdullāh
Yahyā ibn Abī Kathīr al-Yamāmī
Ayyūb ibn ‘Utbah al-Yamāmī
al-Hajjāj ibn Muhammad
Hilāl ibn al-‘Alā
‘Abdullāh ibn Muhammad ibn Muslim
Abū Bakr Muhammad ibn Hamdūn
Abū Muhammad al-Hasan ibn Ahmad al-Makhladī
Abū Ishāq Tha‘labī
Abū Sa‘īd Ahmad ibn Ibrāhīm al-Sharīhī
al-Baghwī (in his tafsīr)
In the above chain, Ayyūb ibn ‘Utbah is suspect.
records: in the opinion of Yahyā ibn Ma‘īn, he is laysa bi shay’ and his
narratives are nothing not even worth a penny and at another place he has called
him da‘īf. ‘Abdullāh ibn Ah#mad ibn Hanbal heard his father say that Ayyūb ibn
‘Utbah’s narratives from Yahyā ibn Abī Kathīr have discrepancies while from
others he is okay. (In this narrative, he narrates from Yahyā ibn Abī Kathīr)
Ibn Abī Hātim
records that in the opinion of Abū Zur‘ah, he is da‘īf.
Al-Bukhārī says that he is layyin.
Al-Nasā’ī says that he is mudtarib al-hadīth.
Ibn Hajar says the he is da‘īf.
Al-Mizzī records: ‘Alī ibn al-Madīnī, Ibrāhīm ibn
Ya‘qūb al-Juzjānī, ‘Amr ibn ‘Alī, Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Ammār al-Mawsilī
and Muslim ibn al-Hajjāj regard him to be da‘īf; al-‘Ijlī remarks about him:
yuktabu hadīthuhū wa laysa bi al-qawī; Ya‘qūb ibn Sufyān regards him to be da‘īf;
al-Dāraqutnī says: yutrak.
Here are the two mursal narratives:
Khālid ibn Mihrān
Ibn ‘Ulayyah Wuhayb
Ya‘qūb ibn Ibrāhīm ‘Abd al-A‘lā
al-Tabarī Ibn Durays
Abū Qilābah ‘Abdullāh ibn Yazīd died in 104/ 106 or 107 AH.
Moreover, Khālid ibn Mihrān is a mudallis and this narrative is an ‘an‘anah from him.
Though most authorities have regarded him to be a trustworthy narrator, in the opinion of Abū Hātim, he is: yuktabu hadīthuhū wa lā yuhtajju bihī.
Sa‘īd ibn Abī Hilāl
Layth ibn Sa‘d
‘Abdullāh ibn Sālih
Besides inqitā‘ (Sa‘īd ibn Abī Hilāl died in 149 AH),
another flaw in the chain is the existence of ‘Abdullāh ibn Sālih. Al-Dhahabī
records about ‘Abdullāh ibn Sālih: wa lahū manākīr. Al-‘Uqaylī
records that ‘Abdullāh ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal asked his father about ‘Abdullāh ibn
Sālih who replied that initially he was trustworthy but later he became dubious
(kāna awwala amrihī mutamāsikan thumma fasada bi ākharah), and that he is laysa
huwa bi shay’, and at another instance ‘Abdullāh ibn Ahmad says that his father
mentioned ‘Abdullāh ibn Sālih and censured him and expressed his disgust at him
(dhammahū wa karihahū) and said that he narrated a book or narratives from Layth
who narrated them from Ibn Abī Dhi‘b. However, Ahmad denied that he (Layth)
narrated anything from Ibn Abī Dhi‘b. Ibn Hibbān
says that he is munkar al-hadīth in the extreme sense (munkar al-hadīth jiddan)
and he would narrate things from trustworthy people which would not sound as
theirs. While explaining the reason for the existence of manākīr in his
narratives, Ibn Hibbān goes on to say that he had a neighbour who was an evil
person and that he (Ibn Hibbān) heard Ibn Khuzaymah say that this person would
fabricate narratives from ‘Abdullāh ibn Sālih. He would write these narratives
in a handwriting which would resemble that of ‘Abdullāh ibn Sālih and would
throw the pieces of paper on which it was written in his house among his books.
‘Abdullāh thinking that it was his handwriting would take these pieces and would
narrate the narratives written on them. According to al-Nasā’ī,
he is laysa bi thiqah. Al-Mizzī
records that when ‘Abd al-Mu’min ibn Khalaf al-Nasafī asked Sālih ibn Muhammad
about him, he replied that though Yayhyā ibn Ma‘īn regards him to be
trustworthy, to him he lies in hadīth (yakdhibu fī al-hadīth). In the opinion of
Ahmad ibn Sālih, he is muttahamūn laysa bi shay’. Al-Dhahabī
records that ‘Alī ibn al-Madīnī said that he had not narrated anything from
‘Abdullāh ibn Sālih. Ibn Hajar
records that he is sadūq kathīr al-ghalat and is reliable when he narrates from
his book (thabtun fī kitābihī) and is forgetful (kānat fīhi ghaflah).
Next, the chain of narration of the narrative
attributed to ‘Abdullāh ibn Mas‘ūd (rta) quoted earlier is reproduced below:
‘Abdullāh ibn Mas‘ūd
al-Musayyib ibn Rāfi‘
‘Āsim ibn Bahdalah
Ibrāhīm ibn Tahmān
‘Amr ibn Abī Qays
Mu‘ādh ibn Hānī Hukkām ibn Salim
al-Dārimī Muhammd ibn Humayd
In the above chain, following narrators are
considered suspect by authorities:
i. al-Musayyib ibn al-Rāfi‘
records that Ahmad ibn Hanbal said that al-Musayyib ibn Rāfi‘ has not heard
anything from ‘Abdullāh ibn Mas‘ūd (rta). Al-Mizzī
records that ‘Abbās al-Dūrī reports from Yahyā ibn Ma‘īn that al-Musayyib ibn
al-Rāfi‘ has not heard from any Companion of the Prophet (sws) except Barā’ ibn
‘Āzib and Abū Iyās ‘Āmir ibn ‘Abdah. Ibn Abī Hātim
says that according to his father, Abū Hātim, his narratives from ‘Abdullāh ibn
Mas‘ūd (rta) are mursal and at another instance he is said to have remarked that
al-Musayyib ibn al-Rāfi‘ has neither met Ibn Mas‘ūd (rta) nor ‘Alī (rta).
ii. ‘Āsim ibn Bahdalah
Authorities like Abū Hātim, Ibn ‘Ulayyah, Abū Ja‘far
al-‘Uqayli and al-Dāraqutnī are of the opinion that he does not have a sound memory.
The questions which arise on its text and the
weakness in the chain of narration of the variants of this narrative warrant
that it should not be accepted. It is perhaps because of these flaws that none
of the authors of the six canonical collections have included this narrative in