Sunday, 14 June,

Were Harūt and Marūt Angels or Kings?

Posted in (02) Tafsīr Sūraħ Al Baqaraħ, Articles in English, Sciences of Qira'āħ (Qur'ānic Recitations) tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 7:51 pm by Ibn Abi Ukhti

بسم الله الرحمان الرحيم

السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته

الحمد الله

Allāh سبحانه و تعالى tells us,

وَاتَّبَعُوا مَا تَتْلُو الشَّيَاطِينُ عَلَىٰ مُلْكِ سُلَيْمَانَ ۖ وَمَا كَفَرَ سُلَيْمَانُ وَلَـٰكِنَّ الشَّيَاطِينَ كَفَرُوا يُعَلِّمُونَ النَّاسَ السِّحْرَ وَمَا أُنزِلَ عَلَى الْمَلَكَيْنِ بِبَابِلَ هَارُوتَ وَمَارُوتَ ۚ وَمَا يُعَلِّمَانِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ حَتَّىٰ يَقُولَا إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ فِتْنَةٌ فَلَا تَكْفُرْ ۖ فَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مِنْهُمَا مَا يُفَرِّقُونَ بِهِ بَيْنَ الْمَرْءِ وَزَوْجِهِ ۚ وَمَا هُم بِضَارِّينَ بِهِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ ۚ

“They followed what the Shayāṭīn (devils) gave out (falsely of the magic) in the lifetime of Sulaymān (Solomon). Sulaymān did not disbelieve, but the Shayāṭīn (devils) disbelieved, teaching men magic and such things that came down at Babylon to the two angels, Hārūt and Mārūt, but neither of these two (angels) taught anyone (such things) till they had said, “We are only for trial, so disbelieve not (by learning this magic from us).” And from these (angels) people learn that by which they cause separation between man and his wife, but they could not thus harm anyone except by Allāh’s Leave…”[1]

The word Allāh سبحانه و تعالى has used to mention about the Hārūt and Mārūt is الْمَلَكَيْنِ. The root of this word is مَلَكَ which means an Angel.  But, Imām al-Baghawī رحمه الله mentions in his tafsīr that cAbdullāh bin cAbbās رضي الله عنهما, Al-Ḥasan رحمه الله and Imām Fakhrud-Dīn ar-Rāzī رحمه الله mentions that aḍ-Ḍaḥḥāk رحمه الله used to recite the word as الْمَلِكَيْنِ [2]whose root is مَلِكَ with a kasraħ on lām rather than fatḥaħ.  This fact is also mentioned in Tafsīr al-Kashshāf by Imām az-Zamakhsharī

One might wonder, the Qur’ān is in different recitations? The answer to this question is yes, it has reached to us in ten different but authentic Qiracāħ. Before we study the variant recitation of the verse, lets give a brief introduction to the different Qiracāħ of the Qur’ān.

A Qiracāħ is, for the most part, a method of pronunciation used in the recitations of the Qur’ān. These methods are different from the seven forms or modes (ḥurūf) in which the Qur’ān was revealed. The seven modes were reduced to one, that of Quraysh, during the era of Caliph cUthmān رضي الله عنه when he ordered that the Qur’ān be copied in the Qurayshī dialect and distributed among the Islāmic centers of the time. Hence, only the Qurayshī mode remains today and all of the methods of recitation are based on this mode. The various methods have all been traced back to the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم through a number of the Ṣaḥābaħ رضي الله عنهما who were most noted for their Qur’ānic recitations. That is, these Ṣaḥābaħ رضي الله عنهما recited the Qur’ān to the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم or in his presence and received his approval. Among them were the following: Ubayy ibn Kacb, cAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib, Zayd ibn Thābit, Ibn Mascūd, Abū ad-Dardā’, and Abū Mūsa al-Ashcarī رضي الله عنهما. Many of the other Ṣaḥābaħ رضي الله عنهما learned from these masters. cAbdullāh Ibn cAbbās رضي الله عنهما, the master commentator of the Qur’ān among the Ṣaḥābaħ رضي الله عنهما, learned from both Ubayy and Zayd رضي الله عنهما. [3]

Among the next generation of Muslims, referred to as the Tabicūn there arose many scholars who learned the various methods of recitation from the Ṣaḥābaħ رضي الله عنهما and taught them to others. Centers of Qur’ānic recitation developed in Madīnaħ, Makkaħ, Kūfaħ, Baṣraħ, and ashShām (Greater Syria), leading to the evolution of Qur’ānic recitation into an independent science.[4] By the mid eighth century CE, there existed a large number of outstanding scholars, all of whom were considered specialists in the field of recitation. Most of their methods of recitation were authenticated by chains of reliable narrators, ending with the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم. Those methods on each level of their chain were called Mutawātir and were considered to be the most accurate. Those methods in which the number of narrators were few or one on any level of the chain were referred to as Shādh.

However, some of the scholars of the following period began the practice of designating a set number of individual scholars from the previous period as being the most noteworthy and accurate reciters. By the middle of the tenth century CE (6th century AH), it became a popular convention to limit the number of best reciters to seven, since this number coincided with the number of ḥurūf in which the Qur’ān was revealed.

Similarly, during this period the number of schools of Islāmic law (Madhhab) were reduced to the famous four after a period in which there were many. The first to limit the number of authentic reciters to seven was the cIrāqī scholar, Abū Bakr ibn Mujāhid رحمه الله (d. 936 CE), and those who wrote books on Qiracāħ after him followed suit.[5] This limitation is not an accurate representation of the classical scholars of Qur’ānic recitation. There were many others who were as good as the seven and a number who were greater than them. In fact, the classification of scholars was really a classification of how well their methods of recitation were preserved. Hence, the famous seven were those early scholars from different generations whose methods of recitation had the most chains of narrators with many narrations on each level of the chain. However, there were other classical scholars whose methods of recitation were just as authentically (Mutawātir) recorded as the famous seven. A list of the ten scholars of Qur’ānic recitation whose methods were best preserved is as follows:

1. Abū cAmr ibn al-cAlā (d. 771 CE/154 AH) of Baṣraħ

2. Ibn Kathīr (d. 738 CE/119 AH) was among the students of the Ṣaḥābaħ رضي الله عنهما of Makkaħ.

3. Nāfic (d. 786 CE/169 AH) was originally from Iṣfahān, and his recitation, as transmitted by Warsh (d. 812 CE/196 AH), was of Madīnaħ.

4. Ibn cĀmir (d. 737 CE/118 AH) was the chief judge (Qāḍī) of Damascus during the reign of al-Walīd ibn cAbdul Mālik, who, along with the other Umayyad caliphs, made that city his capital.

5. cĀṣim (d. 746 CE/128 AH) of Kūfaħ was the narrator of the dominant recitation in current use. His narration, as transmitted by Ḥafṣ, is the most common method of narration used in the Muslim world today with the exception of Africa.

6. Ḥamzaħ (d. 773 CE/156 AH) of Kūfaħ.

7. Al-Kisā’ī (d. 805 CE/189 AH) of Kūfaħ was one of the foremost grammarians. He played a major role in the formulation of Arabic grammar rules.

8.  Abū Jacfar (d. 750 CE/132 AH) of Madīnaħ.

9. Yacqūb (d. 820 CE/204 AH) of Baṣraħ.

10. Khalaf (d. 844 CE/229 AH) of Baghdād رحمهم الله

At the same time that scholars of ḥadīth laid down conditions to determine the authenticity of statements or actions attributed to the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم, scholars of Qur’ānic recitation also formulated conditions to facilitate critical analysis of the existing recitations. For any given recitation to be accepted as authentic (Ṣaḥīḥ), it had to fulfill three conditions. If any of the conditions were missing, such a recitation was classified as Shādh (unusual). The first condition was that the recitation have an authentic chain of narration; that is, that the chain of narrators had to be unbroken, that the narrators were known to be righteous, and that they were known to possess good memories. It was also required that the recitation be conveyed by a large number of narrators on each level of the chain of narration below the level of the Ṣaḥābaħ رضي الله عنهما (the condition of Tawātur). Narrations which had authentic chains but lacked the condition of Tawātur were accepted as explanations (Tafsīr) of Ṣaḥābaħ رضي الله عنهما, but were not considered as methods of reciting the Qur’ān. As for narrations which did not even have an authentic chain of narration, they were classified “bāṭil” (false) and rejected totally.

The second condition was that the recitations’ variations match known Arabic grammatical constructions. Unusual constructions were verified by their existence in passages of pre-Islamic prose or poetry.

The third condition required the recitation to coincide with the script of one of the copies of Qur’ān distributed during the era of Caliph cUthmān رضي الله عنه. Hence, differences which result from dot placement (e.g. taclamūn and yaclamūn) are considered acceptable, provided the other conditions are met. If no support for an unusual condition could be found, the recitation of that construction would be classified Shādh. [6]

This classification did not mean that all aspects of the recitation were considered Shādh; in fact, none of the accepted ten methods are totally free from some Shādh constructions. Shādh narrations of this type also serve as explanations for the authentic narrations, as they are obviously statements of the Ṣaḥābaħ رضي الله عنهما.

Now back to the issue of variant recitation.  The answer to this question is that it is an odd recitation that has was rejected by Imām Aṭ-Ṭabarī رحمه الله although it was transmitted in authentic chain from cAbdullāh bin cAbbās رضي الله عنهما. This recitation is both Shadhaħ and Mashhuraħ at the same time as it is a recitation that that is according to Arabic language and match the writings of the cUthmānī script written words that comes in authentic chain but did not reach level of Tawātur.  And, it is not one of the ten famous Qiracāħ that are known famously. This ayaħ’s tafsīr been disputed by the scholars of the past so it is not possible to say which of the tafsīrs is stronger. And indeed, Allāh سبحانه و تعالى knows best.


[1] Sūraħ al-Baqaraħ, 2:102

[2] Mcālim at-Tanzīl

[3] Al-Itqān

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

2 Comments »

  1. A Sister said,

    Assalamu Alykum

    Seeking your opinion on this – when should one consult tafseer ar-Razi and Zamakhshari, Dr. Bilal mentioned that these can be considered for research purposes…

    BarakAllahu Feek

    • Ibn Abi Ukhti said,

      Wa ‘Alaykum Assalam Wa RahmatuLlah,

      I don’t use them much for the very fact they are tafsirs written in the time when these two scholars were Mu’tazilis. I am sure that al-Imam Fakhruddin ar-Razi رحمه الله came back to Ahlus Sunnah but I have no idea about the other Imam as he was known to be the leader of the Mu’tazilah.

      The tafsir of al-Imam ar-Razi رحمه الله is more like, an encyclopedia of Natural Sciences. He discusses issues of astronomy and mathematics. Nevertheless, he excelled in grammatical sciences and thus it’s a good source for linguistics and Arabic grammar. He also discusses fiqh issues of different madhahib. [At-Tafsir wal Mufassirun 1/298-304]

      Tafsir of az-Zamakhshari is considered to be a literary masterpiece. His miraculous aspects of the Qur’an were the most detailed and extensive written, and his discussions of the beauty of the Qur’anic rhyme, rhythm, and eloquence the most comprehensive. Az-Zamakhshari uses his his mastery of the Arabic language to interpret the Qur’an according to Mu’tazili thought. Verses which conflict handling of legal issues is brief and unbiased, and he rarely uses Isra’iliyaat. [At-Tafsir wal Mufassirun 1/437-489]

      And, Allah سبحانه و تعالى knows best.


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