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Length of Surahs
Imam Hamiduddin Farahi
(Tr. by:Tariq Haashmi)


Some of the earlier scholars of the ummah have maintained that certain shorter sūrahs are equivalent to one-third of the Holy Qur’ān. Some others they characterized as “the completing ones”. Sufyān bin ‘Uyaynah, for example, is of the opinion that Sūrah Fātihah completes the the salāh because it provides complete knowledge. Imām Shāfi‘ī has said that only Sūrah al-‘Asr would have sufficed for guidance. Those endowed with understanding do not fail to appreciate this fact regarding at least some of the shorter sūrahs. A full survey and deep appreciation of the entire Qur’ān would reveal the shorter a sūrah is in content, the more pregnant with meaning it is. In their small size they contain such profound treasures of wisdom that if they are unveiled, sheets and sheets of scrolls would not be enough to record them. 

The Holy Qur’ān has adopted this style of putting great wisdom in smaller sūrahs for the following reasons:

1. First and perhaps the most important factor is that the overwhelming human need for religious truths and their importance in human life demands that fundamental principles of religion are always kept alive in the minds of the people. This in turn demands that such principles are put in such comprehensive and cogent expressions that they become part of one’s language like proverbs. They must be easy to express by tongues in direct proportion to their weight and meaningfulness in mind because such principles if expressed in lengthy discussions, are prone to be lost upon the audience.

2. Another important factor is that in the beginning of any preaching mission, people do not find much inclination to what it aims at teaching. Minds are usually receptive at this stage neither for the minute details of the directives impressed upon them nor for the elaborated discourse. This entails that at this early stage they are only taught what can be briefly expressed in cogent and compact wise sayings. Once these seeds of cogent and comprehensive expressions sprout up, they are watered by requisite details because by that time hearts and minds of the audience grow tenacious and ready to assimilate more knowledge.

3. The Arabs were very fond of rhymed and rhythmical speech. To them, terseness and brevity were necessary characteristics of a fine discourse. Therefore, in the earlier phase, the Holy Qur’ān attracted them by employing their cherished style of expression.

4. The soothsayers of Arabia usually composed their discourses in terse rhythmical prose. Arabs would give attentive ears to such speech of the soothsayers. They would thus consider this mastery of expression a supernatural phenomenon. To them such language really gushed forth from some metaphysical power. The Qur’ān therefore adopted this style of expression in the beginning so that they did not consider it strange.

As regards the greatness of the shorter sūrahs in terms of their being loaded and pregnant discourse ……………..1

(Translated from Farāhī’s Majmū‘ah Tafāsīr by Tariq Mahmood Hashmi)



1. This all important discussion too could not be completed by the author. However, a careful study of Farāhī’s exegesis of the shorter surāhs reveals that even one of the shortest surāhs, Kawthar, is an ocean of meaning. (Islāhī)

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