Introduction to the Tadabbur i Qur’an

Author: Dr. Shehzad Saleem

The Tadabbur-i-Qur’an is a monumental commentary of the Qur’an written by Amin Ahsan Islahi (d: 1997). Extending over nine volumes of six thousand pages, this masterful work was completed in a span of twenty two years. It is a unique commentary by a person no less unique. ‘Abide by the truth even if your shadow deserts you’, was his life-long motto and anyone who has had a chance to carefully read this commentary will testify that Islahi has tried his utmost to live up to this motto. He has tried to delve deep to ascertain the meaning and purport of the Qur’anic verses and has openly confessed where he has been unable to do justice with understanding some verse.

If Islahi’s mentor, the phenomenal Qur’anic scholar, Hamid Uddin Farahi (d: 1930) founded the view that the Qur’an possessed structural and thematic nazm (coherence; meaningful arrangement), it is Islahi who established in his commentary that this was actually correct.

The main features of the nazm elaborated by Islahi in this commentary may be summarized thus:

  1. The surahs of the Qur’an are divided into seven discrete groups. Each group has a distinct theme. Every group begins with one or more Makkan Surah and ends with one or more Madinan Surah. In each group, the Makkan Surahs always precede the Madinan ones. The relationship between the Makkan Surahs and Madinan Surahs of each group is that of the root of a tree and its branches.
  2. In every group, the various phases of the Prophet Muhammad’s mission are depicted.
  3. Two surahs of each group form a pair such that each member of the pair complements the other in various ways. Surah Fatihah, however, is an exception to this pattern: it is an introduction to the whole of the Qur’an as well as to the first group which begins with it. There are also some surahs which have a specific purpose and fall in this paired-surah scheme in a particular way.
  4. Each surah has specific addressees and a central theme around which the contents of the surah revolve. Every surah has distinct subsections to mark thematic shifts, and every subsection is paragraphed to mark smaller shifts.

Following is a brief description of the seven Qur’anic groups:

  • Group I – Surah Fatihah (1) – Surah Maidah (5)
    Central Theme: Islamic Law.
  • Group II – Surah An‘am (6) – Surah Tawbah (9)
    Central Theme: The consequences of denying the Prophet (sws) for the Mushrikin of Makkah.
  • Group III – Surah Yunus (10) – Surah Nur (24)
    Central Theme: Glad tidings of the Prophet Muhammad’s domination in Arabia.
  • Group IV – Surah Furqan (25) – Surah Ahzab (33)
    Central Theme: Arguments that substantiate the prophethood of Muhammad (sws) and the requirements of faith in him.
  • Group V – Surah Saba (34) – Surah Hujrat (49)
    Central Theme: Arguments that substantiate the belief of Tawhid and the requirements of faith in this belief.
  • Group VI – Surah Qaf (50) – Surah Tahrim (66)
    Central Theme: Arguments that substantiate the belief of Akhirah and the requirements of faith in this belief
  • Group VII – Surah Mulk (67) – Surah Nas (114)
    Central Theme: Admonition (indhar) to the Quraysh about their fate in the Herein and the Hereafter if they deny the Prophet (sws).

This is just a brief introduction of the thematic and structural coherence in the Qur’an as presented by Islahi in his Tadabbur-i-Qur’an. The masterpiece needs to be studied by every person who wants to understand the Qur’an so that he may have an idea of the giant leap forward it has brought about in the field of Qur’anic Exegesis.