The Precedence of ‘Ulūm al-Qur’ān

The discussion on the Qur’an and knowing its different issues have been made from the very beginning, and throughout history, great personalities and scholars have always discussed together and exchanged ideas on this subject, thereby leaving behind them precious and invaluable works, and these pursuits continue unabated.

On the basis of existing documents, the first person to have dealt with the subjects of the Qur’an was Yaḥyā ibn Ya‘mir, a student of Abū ’l-Aswad Du’lī (died 89 AH). In the village of Wāsiṭ he wrote a book in the field of reading the Qur’an, including all the different styles of reading of the time. Thereafter, Ḥasan al-Baṣrī (died 110 AH) wrote a book about the number of verses of the Qur’an. Here, it is appropriate to mention in diagram the names of some of the pertinent researchers and authors up to the early 5th century AH along their works:

‘Abd Allāh ibn ‘Āmir Yaḥṣibī (died 118 AH)A treatise on the difference of ‘Uthmānī codices and a treatise on waqf[1] and waṣl[2] in the Qur’an
Shaybah ibn Naṣāḥ Madanī (died 130 AH)Al-Wuqūf
Abān ibn Taghlib (died 141 AH)A book in the field of different readings (qirā’āt)
Muḥammad ibn Sā’ib al-Kalbī (died 146 AH)A book on the legal rulings (aḥkām) of the Qur’an
Maqātil ibn Sulaymān (died 150 AH)A book about the allegorical verses (mutashābihāt)
Abū ‘Amr, ‘Alā’ ibn Zabān al-Tamīmī (died 154 AH)Waqf wa Ibtidā wa Qirā’āt
Hamzah ibn Ḥabīb (one of the Seven Reciters) (died 156 AH)A book in the field of different readings
Yaḥyā ibn Ziyād Farrā’ (died 207 AH)Ma‘ānī al-Qur’ān in three volumes; a book on the differences of the people of Kūfah, Baṣrah and Shām in manuscripts; Jam‘ wa Tathnīh fī ’l-Qur’ān
Muḥammad ibn ‘Umar Wāqidī (died 207 AH)Al-Gharīb on the sciences of the Qur’an and Ghalaṭ Rijāl
Abū ‘Ubaydah Mu‘ammar ibn al-Mathnā (died 209 AH)I‘jāz al-Qur’ān in two parts and Ma‘ānī al-Qur’ān
Abū ‘Ubayd Qāsim ibn Salām (died 209 AH)Faḍā’il al-Qur’ān, Al-Madṣūr wa ’l-Mamdūd in the field of different readings, Gharīb al-Qur’ān, Nāsikh wa Mansūkh, and I‘jāz al-Qur’ān
‘Alī ibn Madīnī (died 234 AH)A book on the circumstances of revelation (asbāb al-nuzūl)
Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad ibn ‘Īsā al-Ash‘arī al-Qummī (died circa 230 AH)Nāsikh wa Mansūkh
Abū Zar‘ah ‘Irāqī (died 264 AH)A thousand couplets (alfiyyah) on the extraordinary words of the Qur’an
Abū ‘Abd Allāh Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad ibn Sayyār (died 268 AH)Thawāb al-Qur’ān and Kitāb al-Qirā’ah
Abū Muḥammad ‘Abd Allāh ibn Muslim (Ibn Qutaybah) (died 276 AH)Ta’wīl Mushkil al-Qur’ān, Tafsīr Gharīb al-Qur’ān, I‘rāb al-Qur’ān wa Qirā’āt
Abū ’l-‘Abbās Muḥammad ibn Yazīd Mubarrad Naḥwī (died 286 AH)I‘rāb al-Qur’ān
Abū ‘Abd Allāh Muḥammad ibn Ayyūb ibn Ḍarīs (died 294 AH)Faḍā’il al-Qur’ān and a book on the Makkī and Madanī suwar (chapters of the Qur’an)
Abū ’l-Qāsim Sa‘d ibn ‘Abd Allāh al-Ash‘arī al-Qummī (died 299 AH)A treatise on the types of verses of the Qur’an
Muḥammad ibn Zayd Wāsiṭī (an Imāmī theologian) (died 307 AH)A book on the inimitability (i‘jāz) of the Qur’an
Muḥammad ibn Khalaf ibn Marzbān (died 309 AH)Al-Ḥāwi on the sciences of the Qur’an in 27 parts
Abū Muḥammad Ḥasan ibn Mūsā Nawbakhtī (died 310 AH)Al-Tanziyah wa Dhikr Mutashābihāt al-Qur’ān
Abū Bakr ibn Abī Dāwūd ‘Abd Allāh ibn Sulaymān Sijistānī (died 316 AH)The famous book Al-Maṣāḥif wa ’n-Nāsikh wa ’l-Mansūkh and a treatise on the different readings
Ibn Darīd Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn Ḥasan Azdī (died 321 AH)A book on gharīb al-Qur’ān
Ibn Mujāhid Abū Bakr Aḥmad ibn Mūsā (died 324 AH)Al-Sab‘ah fī ’l-Qirā’āt
Abū ’l-Barakāt ‘Abd al-Raḥmān Anbārī (died 328 AH)Al-Bayān fī I‘rāb al-Qur’ān wa ‘Ajā’ib ‘Ulūm al-Qur’ān
Thiqat al-Islām Muḥammad Ya‘qūb al-Kulaynī (died 329 AH)Faḍā’il al-Qur’ān
Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn ‘Azīz Sijistānī (died 330 AH)The famous book Gharīb al-Qur’ān
Abū Ja‘far Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad Naḥḥās (died 338 AH)I‘rab al-Qur’ān, Al-Nāsikh wa ’l-Mansūkh and Ma‘ānī al-Qur’ān
Abū Muḥammad Qaṣāb Muḥamamad ibn ‘Alī Karkhī (died circa 360 AH)Nukat al-Qur’ān
Abū Bakr Aḥmad ibn ‘Alī al-Rāzī Jaṣṣāṣ (died 370 AH)Aḥkām al-Qur’ān in three volumes
Abū ‘Alī al-Fārsī (died 377 AH)Al-Ḥujjah fī ’l-Qirā’āt
Abū ’l-Ḥasan ‘Ibād ibn ‘Abbās (died 385 AH)A book on the legal rulings of the Qur’an
Abū ’l-Ḥasan ‘Alī ibn ‘Īsā Ramānī (died 386 AH)Al-Nukat fī I‘jāz al-Qur’ān
Muḥammad ibn ‘Alī Adfū’ī (died 388 AH)Al-Istighnā’ on the sciences of the Qur’an in 20 volumes
Abū Sulaymān Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad Bustā Khaṭṭābī (died 388 AH)Bayān I‘jāz al-Qur’ān
Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn Ṭayyib Bāqlānī (died 403 AH)I‘jāz al-Qur’ān
Abū ’l-Ḥasan Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥusayn Sharīf al-Raḍī (died 404 AH)Talkhīṣ al-Bayān on the miracles of the Qur’an and Ḥaqā’iq al-Ta’wīl on the allegorical verses of the Qur’an
Abū Zar‘ah ‘Abd al-Raḥmān ibn Muḥammad (died circa 410 AH)Ḥujjat al-Qirā’āt
Habbat Allāh ibn Salāmah (died 410 AH)Al-Nāsukh wa ’l-Mansūkh
Abū ‘Abd Allāh Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad ibn al-Nu‘mānI‘jāz al-Qur’ān wa ’-Bayān

Among the most important extant works on the sciences of the Qur’an (‘Ulūm al-Qur’ān) are the two books Al-Burhān fī ‘Ulūm al-Qur’ān and Al-Itqān fī ‘Ulūm al-Qur’ān.

Al-Burhān fī ‘Ulūm al-Qur’ān was written by Imām Badr al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd Allāh ibn Bahādur Zarkashī. He was one of the most outstanding scholars (‘ulamā) and authorities of the 8th century AH. He was born in 745 AH in Cairo where he also resided and became an accomplished teacher in the different branches of Islamic sciences. He gave lessons in jurisprudence and issued religious edicts (fatāwā) according to the Shāfi‘ī school of jurisprudence. He passed away in 794 AH. Al-Burhān fī ‘Ulūm al-Qur’ān is the crème de la crème of the books on the subjects of ‘Ulūm al-Qur’ān. This book has combined comprehensiveness and completeness, on one hand, with brevity and satisfaction in expression, on the other. In this book, the subjects of ‘Ulūm al-Qur’ān reach up to 47 and in each of them every necessary point has been included.

The second book, Al-Itqān fī ‘Ulūm al-Qur’ān, was written by Jalāl al-Dīn ‘Abd al-Raḥmān al-Suyūṭī. He was born in Asyūṭ, Egypt, in 849 AH (and he passed away in 911 AH). He had written many invaluable works in all Islamic sciences including the sciences of adīth, exegesis (tafsīr) and others. Initially, he took the book of his teacher, Jalāl al-Dīn Balqīnī (died 824 AH), entitled Mawāqi‘ al-‘Ulūm, as the basis and wrote the book Al-Tabīr fī ‘Ulūm al-Tafsīr. In the said book he has compiled up to 202 subjects of ‘Ulūm al-Qur’ān. Then he found Al-Burhān fī ‘Ulūm al-Qur’ān by Zarkashī in the book of his teacher and based his book on it. He rewrote and revised it, adding so many subjects in it and supplied it with up to 80 terms on the sciences of the Qur’an.

The book Manāhil al-‘Irfān fī ‘Ulūm al-Qur’ān by Muḥammad ‘Abd al-‘Aẓīm Zarqānī is the most extensive book on the sciences of the Qur’an in recent time and the supreme body of Al-Azhar University in Egypt has endorsed the teaching of this book in the said university.

[1] Waqf: pausing during recitation of the Qur’an. [Trans.]

[2] Waṣl: continuous reading of the Qur’an. [Trans.]

(An excerpt from Muhammad Hadi Ma‘rifat, “An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’an,” trans. Mansoor Limba (, 2019), pp. 6-12)

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