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Qur’anic Nazm
Imam Hamiduddin Farahi
(Tr. by:Tariq Haashmi)

Qur’anic Nazm1


No one in the past has studied the nazm in the Holy Qur’an in the sense that I have proposed. I am fully convinced of the originality of my approach to the nazm with which I have interpreted the text – an approach for which I do not find any precedent. My sole guide has been the blessings of God in the form of understanding granted to me of the coherence of the divine text. However, it is only fair to admit that I am not the only person to discuss the issue of Qur’anic nazm. Many scholars have directed their attention to the subject and even documented their findings. The polymath, Suyuti, mentions in his treatise al-Itqan:

أفرده بالتاليف العلامة أبو جعفر بن الزبير شيخ أبي حيان في كتاب سماه البرهان في مناسبة سور القرآن ومن أهل العصر الشيخ برهان الدين البقاعي في كتاب سماه نظم الدرر في تناسب الآي والسور

Mentor of Abu Hayyan, ‘Allamah Abu Ja‘far Ibn Zubayr, compiled a book exclusively dealing with this subject entitled al-Burhan fi Munasabah Suwar al-Qur’an (The Conclusive Proof regarding the Inter-Relationship between the Surahs of the Holy Qur’an). One of our contemporaries, Sheikh Burhan al-Din Baqa’i has also specifically considered the coherence in the Holy Qur’an in his work Nazm al-Durar fi Tanasub al-Ayi wa al-Suwar (The Arrangement of the Pearls regarding the Inter-Relationship Between the Verses and the Surahs ).2

‘Allamah 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 inimitability of the Holy Qur’an. In this connection, he says:

علم المناسبة علم شريف قل إعتناء المفسرين به لدقته وممن اكثر منه الإمام فخر الدين الرازي و قال الإمام إن أكثر لطائف القرآن مودعة في التربيتات والروابط

The discipline of inter-relationship [of the verses and the surahs] of the Holy Qur’an is the most sublime science. The exegetes have paid less attention to it because of its difficult nature. Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi is the only person who has shown more interest in this science. He says: “The greater part of the Qur’anic intricacies and wisdom is buried in the fine arrangement and correspondence of the [surahs and the verses of the] Qur’an.”3

I myself have found Razi’s following remarks on the issue of Qur’anic nazm in his exegesis of the Qur’an on the verse: “Had we made it an a‘jami Qur’an,” (41:44):

نقلوا في سبب النزول هذه الآية أن الكفار لأجل التعنت قالوا لولا نزل القرآن بلغة العجم فنزلت هذه الآية و عندي أن أمثال هذه الكلمات فيها حيف عظيم على القرآن لأنه يقتضي ورود آيات لا تعلق للبعض فيها بالبعض و أنه يوجب أعظم أنواع الطعن فكيف يتم مع إلتزام مثل هذا الطعن إدعاء كونه كتابا منظما فضلا عن إدعاء كونه معجزا بل الحق عندي أن هذه السورة من أولها إلى أخرها كلام واحد

[Scholars] have mentioned that the revelation of this verse was occasioned by the fact that the Quraysh obdurately questioned that why was the Qur’an not revealed in some non-Arabic language. I believe assumptions of this kind subject the Holy Qur’an to serious objections. It entails that the Holy Qur’an contains disjointed verses lacking any possible logical coherence. Besides, this admits of even severer objections on the divine word, which, once validated destroy the status of the Holy Qur’an as a coherent discourse, not to speak of it being an inimitable word of God. I believe that a surah is a cohesive discourse right from the beginning to the end.4

Afterwards he tersely deals with the theme of the surah and comments: 

كل من أنصف و لم يتعسف علم أنا إذا فسرنا هذه الآية على الوجه الذي ذكرناه صارت هذه السورة من أولها إلى آخرها كلاما واحدا منتظما مسوقا نحو غرض واحد فيكون هذا التفسير أولى مما ذكروه

ُEvery fair person can see that if the verse is interpreted the way we have, it becomes clear that it is a coherent and well-knit discourse from the beginning to the end – a discourse with a specific purpose. Such an explanation certainly would be better than what people have generally offered.5

This completes our survey of the viewpoints of the advocates of existence of coherence in the Holy Qur’an. There also simultaneously exists another group of scholars which believes that the Holy Qur’an does not contain any coherence. Consequently, Sheikh ‘Izz al-Din al-Salam says:

أن القرآن نزل في نيف و عشرين سنة في أحكام مختلفة شرعت لأسباب مختلفة و ما كان كذالك لا يتأتى ربط بعضه ببعض

The Holy Qur’an was revealed piecemeal over a period of more than two decades with different directives prescribed for a variety of purposes. A book revealed in this fashion does not admit of any harmony in its components.6

We have seen that on the question of Qur’anic nazm there exist two schools of thought, both of which have a following. I regard the former view to be correct and adhere to it.

Through aforementioned facts, I intend to point towards two important points.

First, the earlier scholars did not altogether neglect the question of Qur’anic nazm. In fact, one group of scholars has dealt with this issue with thoroughness.

Second, the quest to discover nazm in the Holy Qur’an is to tread a narrow path scarcely approached. Moreover, it is a treasure trove of which little has been discovered thus far.

Initially, God Almighty blessed me with understanding the arrangement and coherence of Surah Baqarah and Surah Qasas of the Holy Qur’an. The Holy Qur’an itself guided me to this discovery and I did not feel a need to resort to any source external to it. By the grace of God reciting the Holy Qur’an has always been my most cherished engagement that has continued to enchant me. I too many times confronted the famous dictum that the Book, being revealed piece by piece, is actually a disjointed, incoherent discourse but discovery of the coherence in two of its longer surahs prompted me to further this investigation in the rest of the Holy Qur’an. This dates back to the early period of my life. I was, at that time, pursuing my academic career. This kept me from devoting enough time to such an exhaustive survey. Thus, ten years elapsed in inactivity. Then God blessed me once again with an opportunity to resume work on the Holy Qur’an from this angle. Initial investigation lasted for more or less a year before I reached a definite conclusion. Later on, the idea to present the results of my investigation and enquiry before the public struck my mind. This, however, I did not pursue realizing the burden of responsibility and the far-reaching consequences of this task. Therefore, I continued to deliberate on the Qur’anic text from this perspective for a long time. During the course of this exercise, I continuously beseeched God’s protection from the evil temptations of the self and the pitfalls of ignorance even though the truth was there before me, clear and manifest, since long.  It demanded urgent disclosure but I always desired to safely depart from this world without rendering myself accountable for unveiling such a view and relieving myself of the responsibility for all the good or evil it was bound to produce. However, the following considerations forced me to bear this huge responsibility in spite of my reservations.

1. I observed that most differences in understanding the Qur’anic text owe themselves to the fact that the interpreters did not consider the Qur’anic nazm. Had they been clear on the orderly arrangement of the text and were aware of the central themes of the surahs, all possibilities of falling in difference would have been eliminated. They would have been jointly hoisting a single flag, firmly grasping a single word–a “goodly tree, its root set firm, its branches reaching into heavens.”7 The differences could not be checked despite the fact that we, Muslims, have been directed to hold fast to the word of God:

واعْتَصِمُواْ بِحَبْلِ اللّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلاَ تَفَرَّقُواْ (٣: ١٠٣)

And hold fast by the rope of Allah all together and be not disunited. (3:103)

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 – the truth in which “falsehood cannot enter from the front or from the rear”8 – a pile of fragmented pieces. Each group is interpreting the Holy Qur’an in the light of their presupposed views, deviating from the real context and background of the text; whereas the order and arrangement of the Qur’an – the only guide to proper understanding of the text – is never resorted. 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 crookedness of those who “sever the words from their context.”9 Meanwhile, such evil factions are successfully engaged in harming the word of God with every possible means and are mixing their whimsical inclinations with the truth.

2. The second important factor to force me to reveal my findings is the objections levelled against the Holy Qur’an by the heretics. They claim that the Book lacks order. Muslim scholarship was expected to deliver the word of God from such outrageous objections – concerning the like of which the Almighty says: “grievous are the words which come out of their mouths”10 “and never will Allah grant the disbelievers a way over the believers”11 – and to unveil the truth. Quite unfortunately, their response has generally been apologetic in this regard. This did not allow me to sit like an onlooker while the truth was being subjected to suppression and falsehood was hailing victory, especially when I was clear about the untenability of the objections raised by these heretics.

3. Moreover, it is an indisputable fact that coherence is a necessary part of every discourse. Without it one will lose a significant part of the meaning and implications of the discourse. A whole contains what we may call over and above the sum total of its parts. Grapes and the wine are certainly different things. That is why we see that if someone fails to understand the connections in the parts of a discourse a great reality about the discourse itself is lost upon him. His state would not be much different from that of the People of the Book concerning whom God says:

فَنَسُواْ حَظًّا مِّمَّا ذُكِّرُواْ بِهِ فَأَغْرَيْنَا بَيْنَهُمُ الْعَدَاوَةَ وَالْبَغْضَاء إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ (١٤:٥)

Thus they lost a part of that through which they were reminded [of religious truths]. Consequently we stirred up enmity and hatred among them till the Day of Resurrection. (5:14)

 I am afraid the enmity and antagonism that has broken out among the Muslims is the result of disregarding a greater part of the Holy Qur’an by ignoring the coherence in the Book. If this is the case then, God forbid, evil can hardly be curbed. The reason for this, as explained above, is that differing over the meaning of the word of God necessarily leads us to cherish different goals, and this will diversify our targets, and consequently we will share the fate of the People of the Book mentioned in the verse quoted above. The only difference is that they still had a chance to reform by believing in the Last Prophet (sws) and the Last Revelation of God still awaited them, whereas we have no other way than to turning to the Holy Qur’an itself.

We know that the Holy Qur’an, considering human weakness, places the alleviatory verses after the initial tough commands. Weakness is inherent in all human beings as indicated in the following verse:

وَلَقَدْ عَهِدْنَا إِلَى آدَمَ مِن قَبْلُ فَنَسِيَ وَلَمْ نَجِدْ لَهُ عَزْمًا (١١٥:٢٠)

And we covenanted with Adam previously and he forgot [our command]. Thus we did not find him well-committed. (20:115)

That the alleviatory verses have been revealed considering human weakness can be gleaned from the following verse of the Holy Qur’an:

الآنَ خَفَّفَ اللّهُ عَنكُمْ وَعَلِمَ أَنَّ فِيكُمْ ضَعْفًا (٦٦:٨)

Now God has lessened your burden [of responsibility] seeing that weakness has befallen you. (8:66)

This verse has been placed right after the original directive it has repealed. Similarly, there is a distance of many years between the time of revelation of the initial verses of Surah Muzzammil,12 bidding the Muslims to observe the night vigil, and the last verse of the surah,13 which serves to repeal it. Here, disregarding the difference in the period of revelation of both the directives, the verses repealing the earlier directive have been placed after the initial directive. The case of the verse regarding allowing sexual intercourse with one’s wife during the nights of Ramadan and the ones asking the believers to make a testamentary provision to their wives can also be cited to prove this point.14 The latter verse, as we have discussed in our commentary of the surah, was placed among the verses complementing the entire section. It was in fact very meticulously placed after the first complement in this regard. Such explanatory verses are generally followed by the statement:

كَذَلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللّهُ آيَاتِهِ لِلنَّاسِ (١٨٧:٢)

Thus does God make His verses clear to people. (2:187)

 This shows that such explanatory verses were the manifestation of the fulfillment of the divine promise made in Surah Qiyamah in the words ثُمَّ إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا بَيَانَهُ (75: 19) (Then upon Us is its explanation, (75:19)) and the divine response to the prayer taught to the Holy Prophet (sws) by the Almighty Himself in the Holy Qur’an in the words(20: 114)   رَّبِّ زِدْنِي عِلْمًا (Lord, increase my knowledge, (20:114)).

In the preceding paragraphs, we have endeavoured to substantiate the theory of coherence in the Holy Qur’an. The Hadith narratives also corroborate this thesis. Many narratives lead us to the conclusion that whenever a part of the Holy Qur’an was revealed, the Holy Prophet (sws) would direct his scribes to place it in a particular surah. It was thus put in its proper place under his direct supervision. Some other narratives tell us that when a surah was completed Gabriel would recite the whole surah before the Prophet (sws). In my opinion, this also constituted the fulfillment of the divine promise of the jam‘ (the compilation) and the qur’anahu (the recital) mentioned in Surah Qiyamah.15 It was this arrangement and recital which the Prophet (sws) was directed to follow.

It goes without saying that the order of the verses of the Qur’anic surahs is recognized by the entire ummah. All Muslim sects and schools have the same text with the same order of the verses in the surahs.

Another thing that corroborates my thesis regarding the Qur’anic nazm is the conviction of the people whose bosoms were opened by the Almighty to some of the fruits of the subtle arrangement of the Holy Qur’an and who have had a glimpse into some of the realities buried in the fine structure of the Book of Allah. These people know that the Book of Allah is a treasure trove of wisdom and wonders which can only be accessed through an analysis of its order and arrangement. This intensifies their thirst for investigation and improves their satisfaction and understanding, and they try harder and harder to unearth this treasure. God makes their endeavours succeed and they are able to get of it what is destined for them.  They are grateful to God on the horizons which open up for them in this regard. What is kept hidden from them, they attribute it to their own inability and lack of understanding on their part. It is a known fact that the Book of God is an ocean of knowledge whose wonders and treasures may never exhaust; for none can gather the sunlight and none can claim immunity to error with regards to understanding the Holy Qur’an. Such limitations do not put off the flame of their enthusiasm and their yearning to learn. Rather, they continue searching for the wealth of knowledge fully acknowledging whatever they can achieve through their efforts. Does not one see that those who have been bestowed some part of this knowledge have always thanked God for this unparalleled divine favour. Writes Imam Suyuti:

أن أول من أظهر علم المناسبة الشيخ أبوبكر النيشابورى و كان غزير في الشريعة والأدب و كان يقول على الكرسي إذا قرئ عليه لما جعلت هذه الآية إلى جنب هذه و ما الحكمة في جعل هذه السورة إلى جنب هذه السورة و كان يزري على علماء بغداد لعدم علمهم بالمناسبة

The first person to highlight the study of the inter-relationship [of the verses and the surahs of the Holy Qur’an] is Sheikh Abu Bakr Nishaburi. He was a great expert in Islamic law and belles-letters. He would then assume the chair and explain the Qur’anic verses read out to him and would point out the wisdom behind the placement of a certain verse next to another and of a certain surah alongside the other. He often condemned the scholars of Baghdad for their lack of knowledge of the correspondence and relationship between Qur’anic verses.16

Imam Suyuti has also recorded the following saying of Ibn ‘Arabi:

إرتباظ آي القرآن بعضها ببعض حتى يكون كالكلمة الواحدة متسقة المعاني منتظمة المباني علم عظيم لم يتعرض له إلا عالم واحد عمل فيه سورة البقرة ثم فتح الله لنا فيه فلم نجد له حملته و رأينا الخلق بأوصاف البطلة ختمنا عليه و جعلناه بيننا و بين الله

Inter-relating Qur’anic verses in a way that the whole text may appear as a well-arranged single composition is certainly a great discipline. Only one scholar has engaged himself in such enquiry. Working on this line of enquiry he showed the whole Surah Baqarah to be a coherent discourse. Then the Almighty opened this door for me by his grace and bounty. But I found that people do not appreciate this knowledge. The world is filled with foolish and un-enterprising people. This compelled me to keep this door sealed and keep it between me and God.17

Imam Razi, too, in his commentary, invariably thanks God for bestowing him with such grand knowledge. Makhdum Muha’imi’s commentary on the Holy Qur’an primarily deals with the explanation of the inter-relationship of the verses. He too thanks God for bestowing him with this understanding so profoundly, and expresses his sense of inability and infallibility in such a way that it cannot be lost upon any serious student of his commentary. He considers this knowledge merely his Lord’s bounty upon him and completely negates the worthiness of his contribution. I think it is because of this feeling of overwhelming gratitude and great humility that made him give his work the title of Tabsir al-Rahman wa Tasyir al-Mannan.

The above discussion fully reveals the degree of respect attached to this discipline by those bestowed with some insight into it. Obviously, these confessions must have sprung from their hearts after they had felt that the verses of the Qur’an are arranged in a very remarkable fashion. In the words of Sheikh Wali al-Din Malawi:

قد وهم من قال لا يطلب للآي الكريمة مناسبة لأنها على حسب الوقائع المفرقة و فصل الخطاب أنها على حسب الوقائع تنزيلا و على حسب الحكمة ترتيبا

Those who say that one must not look for interconnection between the verses of the Holy Qur’an for they were revealed in diverse situations are utterly wrong. The conclusive thing in this regard is that these verses, though revealed in response to specific circumstances, have been ordered [in the present arrangement of the Book] with perfect wisdom.18

An individual who senses the fragrance of a fine sequence in the Holy Qur’an, observes its beauty and feels it, cannot deny the presence of this reality i.e. nazm in it. However, those who hold that the book does not contain coherence and order merely because they have been unable to experience it are not to be blamed.

What I intend to bring before the eyes of the academic world does not call for this elaborate and lengthy discussion. Yet, I have gone this far in this preliminary discussion only because discovering the coherence in the Book demands great contemplation. If the proposition that the Book does not contain any nazm at all is etched in the mind, even before approaching it for interpretation, it would be impossible to tread a single step in this difficult realm laden with such misconceptions. Everything will look so strange and unfamiliar to the seeker that it would be hard for him to immerse himself into such an endeavor.

One may, however, ask that if the Qur’anic nazm is such a sublime science yielding great benefits then why did the Companions (rta) of the Holy Prophet (sws) maintained silence in this regard? Why did the Prophet (sws) himself not point towards this important tool of interpretation of the divine text? Our response to such a question would be that the Companions (rta) of the Holy Prophet (sws) were fully aware of the context of the verses. Most parts of the discourse addressed their issues and were revealed considering their circumstances. Had we lived in the same blessed time, the coherence would have been clear to us too. That is why we see that very little exegetical narratives have been transmitted on the authority of the Companions (rta) for the Qur’an was in their mother-tongue; it employed their style of expression and discussed their issues and problems. None of these three aspects is shared by us with them. This being true, how can one compare us with them with regards to the understanding of the coherence in the Qur’an! Yet, despite the great difference, we have certain indicators in the text, in the repetition of the verses, in the finality of the discourse, and in the presentation of the arguments – all of which provide guidance. These indicators continue to radiate light, which can help a keen and perceptive reader discern the nazm.

(Translated from Farahi’s Majmu‘ah Tafasir by Tariq Mahmood Hashmi)




1. Farahi uses the term nazm in a well-defined sense. He uses it in relation with the Holy Qur’an to mean both structural and thematic coherence of the book unlike his predecessors, who use the word, either for word-meaning relationship or a linear connection between the surahs and between the verses in the surahs of the Qur’an. (Translator’s Note)

2. Suyuti, al-Itqan fi ‘Ulum al-Qur’an, 1st ed., vol. 2 (Beirut: Dar Kitab al-‘Arabi, 1999), 216.

3. Ibid., vol. 2, 216.

4. Razi, Tafsir al-Kabir, vol. 27 (Tahran: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, n.d.), 133.

5. Ibid.

6. Suyuti, al-Itqan, vol. 2, 217.


أَلَمْ تَرَ كَيْفَ ضَرَبَ اللّهُ مَثَلاً كَلِمَةً طَيِّبَةً كَشَجَرةٍ طَيِّبَةٍ أَصْلُهَا ثَابِتٌ وَفَرْعُهَا فِي السَّمَاء (٢٤:١٤)

Do you not see how God compares a good word with a goodly tree, its root set firm, its branches reaching into the heavens. (14:24)


لَا يَأْتِيهِ الْبَاطِلُ مِن بَيْنِ يَدَيْهِ وَلَا مِنْ خَلْفِهِ (٤٢:٤١)

Falsehood will not enter it from the front or from the rear. (41:42)


الذين يُحَرِّفُونَ الْكَلِمَ عَن مَّوَاضِعِهِ. (٤٦:٤)

Those who remove the words from its context. (4:46)


كَبُرَتْ كَلِمَةً تَخْرُجُ مِنْ أَفْوَاهِهِمْ (٥:١٨)

Grievous are the words that come out of their mouths. (18:05)


وَلَن يَجْعَلَ اللّهُ لِلْكَافِرِينَ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ سَبِيلاً (١٤١:٤)

And never will Allah grant to the disbelievers a way over the believers. (4:141)

12. 73:1-6.

13. 73:20.

14. Reference is to the following two verses of the Holy Qur’an:

 أُحِلَّ لَكُمْ لَيْلَةَ الصِّيَامِ الرَّفَثُ إِلَى نِسَآئِكُمْ (١٨٧:٢)

It is permitted for you to lie with your wives on the night of the fast. (2:187)

وَالَّذِينَ يُتَوَفَّوْنَ مِنكُمْ وَيَذَرُونَ أَزْوَاجًا وَصِيَّةً لِّأَزْوَاجِهِم مَّتَاعًا إِلَى الْحَوْلِ غَيْرَ إِخْرَاجٍ (٢٤٠:٢)

And those of you who die leaving widows should bequeath a year’s provisions for their widows without causing them to leave their homes. (2:240)

15. Reference is towards the divine command:

إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا جَمْعَهُ وَقُرْآنَهُ (١٧:٧٥)

Verily upon us is its compilation and recital. (75:17)

For a detailed discussion of the meaning and implication of this verse see Farahi, Majmu‘ah-i Tafasir-i Farahi, tr. Amin Ahsan Islahi. 2nd ed., vol. 2 (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1991), 210-213.

16. Suyuti, al-Itqan, vol. 2, 216.

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid., vol. 2, 217.

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