A Narrative on the Placement of
Sūrah Anfāl (8) and Sūrah Tawbah (9)
in the 'Uthmānic Collection of the Qur'ān
A narrative informs us that 'Uthmān (rta) exercised his own judgement in placing Sūrah Anfāl (8) and Sūrah Tawbah / Barā'ah (9) together when the Qur'ān was written in his times; since he had no guidance regarding this from the Prophet (sws), he considered them to be a single sūrah because of similarity of the topics of both sūrahs.
In this article, an analysis of this narrative shall be attempted.
II. A Typical Text
Following is a typical text of the narrative:
حدثنا محمد بن بشار حدثنا يحيى بن سعيد ومحمد بن جعفر وبن أبي عدي وسهل بن يوسف قالوا حدثنا عوف بن أبي جميلة حدثنا يزيد الفارسي حدثنا بن عباس قال قلت لعثمان بن عفان ما حملكم أن عمدتم إلى الأنفال وهي من المثاني وإلى براءة وهي من المئين فقرنتم بينهما ولم تكتبوا بينهما سطر بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم ووضعتموها في السبع الطول ما حملكم على ذلك فقال عثمان كان رسول الله ما يأتي عليه الزمان وهو تنزل عليه السور ذوات العدد فكان إذا نزل عليه الشيء دعا بعض من كان يكتب فيقول ضعوا هؤلاء الآيات في السورة التي يذكر فيها كذا وكذا وإذا نزلت عليه الآية فيقول ضعوا هذه الآية في السورة التي يذكر فيها كذا وكذا وكانت الأنفال من أوائل ما أنزلت بالمدينة وكانت براءة من آخر القرآن وكانت قصتها شبيهة بقصتها فظننت أنها منها فقبض رسول الله eولم يبين لنا أنها منها فمن أجل ذلك قرنت بينهما ولم أكتب بينهما سطر بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم فوضعتها في السبع الطول قال أبو عيسى هذا حديث حسن صحيح لا نعرفه إلا من حديث عوف عن يزيد الفارسي عن بن عباس ويزيد الفارسي قد روى عن بن عباس غير حديث ويقال هو يزيد بن هرمز ويزيد الرقاشي هو يزيد بن أبان الرقاشي ولم يدرك بن عباس إنما روى عن أنس بن مالك وكلاهما من أهل البصرة ويزيد الفارسي أقدم من يزيد الرقاشي
Muhammad ibn Bashshār narrated to us; he said that Yahyā ibn Sa'īd and Muhammad ibn Ja'far and Ibn Abī 'Adi and Sahl ibn Yūsuf said that 'Awf ibn Abī Jamīlah narrated to us; he said that Yazīd al-Fārisī narrated to us from Ibn 'Abbās: "I asked 'Uthmān: 'What made you position together Sūrah Anfāl which is among the mathānī and Surah Barā'ah which is among the mi'ūn and not write the basmalah between them and you placed the two among the sab' tuwal. What induced you to do this?' 'Uthmān replied: 'There were times in the life of the Prophet (sws) when many sūrahs would be simultaneously revealed to him. When something would be revealed to him, he would call some of those who used to write [in front of him] and say: "Place this [section of verses] in the sūrah in which such and such an incident is mentioned," and [similarly] when [a single] verse would be revealed, he would say: "Place it in the sūrah in which such and such an incident is mentioned." Sūrah Anfāl was among the first sūrahs revealed in Madīnah, and Sūrah Barā'ah was the last sūrah revealed and both mentioned the same topic. So I thought that Sūrah Barā'a was part of Sūrah Anfāl and the Prophet (sws) died without specifying this. So, because of this, I positioned them together and did not write the basmalah and placed the two among the sab' tuwal.'"Abū 'Īsā said: This narrative is hasanūn sahīhun; we only know it through 'Awf who reports it from Yazīd al-Fārisī who reports it from 'Abdullāh ibn 'Abbās. And Yazīd al-Fārisī has more than one narrative from Ibn 'Abbās and it has been said that he is Yazīd ibn Hurmuz and Yazīd al-Raqqāshī is in fact Yazīd ibn Abān al-Raqqāshī, and he has not met Ibn 'Abbās. He has narrated from Anas ibn Mālik and both of them belong to Basrah and Yazīd al-Fārisī lived much earlier than Yazīd al-Raqqāshī.
III. Criticism and Analysis
A. Criticism on the Text and its Analysis
1. Internal Contradiction
According to Rahmānī, there exists a strong internal contradiction within the narrative.
The narrative clearly says two things:
i. When verses which would be part of some sūrah would be revealed to the Prophet (sws), he would have them written in it.
ii. Sūrah Barā'ah which was revealed later was not made part of Sūrah Anfāl which was revealed earlier.
These two premises when combined clearly show that Sūrah Barā'ah was not part of Sūrah Anfāl. If this is the case, then how could 'Uthmān (rta) have argued from the fact that since the two sūrahs had a similar topic, he had placed them together. It is highly unlikely, in fact, impossible for 'Uthmān (rta) to have said this when he already had clearly said that the two sūrahs were revealed at different times and the Prophet (sws) never told the Companions (rta) that they were part of each other. The absence of any such specification by the Prophet (sws) obviously means that the two are not part of one another.
As far as the similarity of the topic itself is concerned, Rahmānī says that two things need to be understood:
i. There are many sūrahs of the Qur'ān in which this similarity exists.
ii. This similarity could have been of some use had the Prophet (sws) himself not decided about the placement of the two sūrahs. When he did not combine them and even gave them two distinct names, this similarity is of no consequence at all.
This seems to be a valid objection raised by Rahmānī.
2. Sūrah Tawbah and Sūrah Anfāl are Distinct Sūrahs
Al-Tahāwī, while analyzing this narrative,says that it shows that in the opinion of 'Uthmān (rta), Sūrah Anfāl and Sūrah Tawbah were a single sūrah while Ibn 'Abbās (rta) was of the opinion that the two were distinct sūrahs. He goes on to conclude that the opinion of Ibn 'Abbās (rta) is correct. Some of the main reasons he cites in this regard are the following:
i. The Companions (rta) would divide the Qur'ān in seven portions. When once they were asked by Aws ibn Hudhayfah about this division, they replied:
نُحَزِّبُهُ ثَلاَثَ سُوَرٍ وَخَمْسَ سُوَرٍ وَسَبْعَ سُوَرٍ وَتِسْعَ سُوَرٍ وَإِحْدَى عَشْرَةَ سُورَةً وَثَلاَثَ عَشْرَةَ سُورَةً وَحِزْبَ ما بين الْمُفَصَّلِ وَأَسْفَلَ
We divide it into [seven portions thus:] three sūrahs, five sūrahs, seven sūrahs, nine sūrahs, eleven sūrahs, thirteen sūrahs and then the last portion which extends from the mufassal to the end.
While referring to the above narrative, al-Tahāwī says that only if Sūrah Anfāl and Sūrah Tawbah are considered to be two distinct sūrahs does the scheme of sūrahs spelled out in the above narrative hold good.
ii. The fact that Sūrah Anfāl and Sūrah Tawbah were revealed at different times shows that they are distinct sūrahs. While the former was revealed at the time of the battle of Badrand the latter was the last complete sūrah to be revealed:
حدثنا فَهْدٌ قال ثنا أبو الْوَلِيدِ الطَّيَالِسِيُّ قال ثنا شُعْبَةُ قال ثنا أبو إِسْحَاقَ سمعت الْبَرَاءَ يقول آخِرُ آيَةٍ نَزَلَتْ يَسْتَفْتُونَكَ قُلْ اللَّهُ يُفْتِيكُمْ في الْكَلاَلَةِ وَآخِرُ سُورَةٍ نَزَلَتْ بَرَاءَةٌ
Abū Ishāq said: "I heard Barā ibn 'Āzib say: 'The last verse to be revealed was [َيسْتَفْتُونَكَ قُل اللهُ يُفْتِيْكُم فِي الكَلَالةَ] and the last sūrah revealed was Sūrah Barā.'"
iii. The following narrative shows that the Qur'ān has been arranged in a specific manner:
حدثنا يَزِيدُ بن سِنَانٍ قال ثنا أبو دَاوُد الطَّيَالِسِيُّ قال ثنا عِمْرَانُ الْقَطَّانُ عن قَتَادَةَ عن أبي الْمَلِيحِ الْهُذَلِيِّ عن وَاثِلَةَ بن الأَسْقَعِ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قال أُعْطِيتُ مَكَانَ التَّوْرَاةِ السَّبْعَ وَأُعْطِيتُ مَكَانَ الزَّبُورِ الْمَئِينِ وَأُعْطِيتُ مَكَانَ الإِنْجِيلِ الْمَثَانِيَ وَفُضِّلْت بِالْمُفَصَّلِ
Wāthilah ibn al-Asqa' says that the Prophet (sws) said: "I have been given the sab' in place of the Torah, the mi'īn in place of the Psalms and the mathānī in place of the Injīl and have been further given the mufassal."
Now the fact that Sūrah Anfāl belongs to the mathānī sūrahs and Sūrah Tawbah belongs to the tiwāl sūrahsitself shows that they are two distinct sūrahs.
Rahmānībesides presenting some of the narrativesquoted above to support the view that Sūrah Anfāl and Sūrah Tawbah are two distinct sūrahs, also refers to the following narratives for this purpose:
وأخرج الطبراني في الأوسط عن علي رضي الله عنه قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم المنافق لا يحفظ سورة هود وبراءة ويس والدخان وعم يتسألون
It is recorded in the al-Awsatof al-Tabarānī that the Prophet (sws) said: "A hypocrite can never learnSūrah Hūd, Sūrah Barā'ah, Sūrah Yāsīn, Sūrah Dukhān and Sūrah 'Amma Yatasā'alūn."
وأخرج سعيد بن منصور والحاكم وصححه والبيهقي في سننه عن أبي ذر رضي الله عنه قال دخلت المسجد يوم الجمعة والنبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يخطب فجلست قريبا من أبي بن كعب رضي الله عنه فقرأ النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم سورة براءة
Abū Dharr (rta) said: "I entered the mosque on a Friday when Muhammad (sws) was delivering the sermon. I went and sat near Ubayy (rta). The Prophet recited Sūrah Barā'ah."
وأخرج أبو عبيد وسعيد بن منصور وأبو الشيخ والبيهقي في الشعب عن أبي عطية الهمداني قال كتب عمر بن الخطاب رضي الله تعالى عنه تعلموا سورة براءة وعلموا نساءكم سورة النور
'Umar ibn Khattāb (rta) had written the directive: "Learn Sūrah Barā'ah and teach your women Sūrah Nūr."
Rahmānī concludes that all the above quoted narratives show that Sūrah Barā'ah and Sūrah Anfāl were distinct and well-defined sūrahs in the time of the Prophet (sws). They were not part of one another and the Companions fully knew it. Even the question asked by Ibn 'Abbās (rta) in the narrative under discussion also shows that they were two distinct sūrahs. Rahmānī says that in the presence of all this evidence and all these reports, this narrative cannot be accepted.
This point shows that the two sūrahs were distinct entities and it is unlikely that 'Uthmān (rta) had not known this fact.
B. Criticism on the Chain
1. Suspect Narrators
It is pointed out that Yazīd al-Fārisī and 'Awf ibn Abī Jamīlah who exist in all the variants of the narrative are suspect. Following are the details.
i. Yazīd al-Fārisī
Rahmānīand Ahmad Shākirsay that according to reports of the rijāl authorities, the personality of Yazīd al-Fārisī, the sole narrator from Ibn 'Abbās (rta), is suspect. Following are these reports.
قال لي على قال عبد الرحمن يزيد الفارسي هو بن هرمز قال فذكرته ليحيى فلم يعرفه
Alī [ibn al-Madīnī] told me: " 'Abd al-Rahmān [ibn al-Mahdī] said that Yazīd al-Fārisī is Yazīd ibn Hurmuz." I mentioned this fact to Yahyā [ibn Sa'īd al-Qattān], and he did not corroborate it.
Ibn Hajar records:
وقال بن أبي حاتم اختلفوا هل هو يزيد الفارسي أو غيره فقال بن مهدي وأحمد هو بن هرمز وأنكر يحيى بن سعيد القطان أن يكونا واحدا وسمعت أبي يقول يزيد بن هرمز هذا ليس بيزيد الفارسي هو سواه
Ibn Abī Hātim said: "People have differed whether [Yazīd ibn Hurmuz] is Yazīd al-Farisi or someone else. Ibn Mahdī and Ahmad say that he is Ibn Hurmuz, while Yahyā ibn Sa'īd al-Qattan has rejected the fact that these two are the same. And I have heard my father say that Yazīd ibn Hurmuz is not Yazīd al-Fārisī; he is a different person. Ibn Hurmuz is the father of 'Abdullāh ibn Yazīd ibn Hurmuz."
Al-Bukhārī has mentioned Yazīd ibn Hurmuz in his Al-Du'afā'al-saghīr.
Shākir and Rahmānī conclude from the above data that Yazīd al-Fārisi is not a well known person and authorities like Ibn al-Mahdī, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and al-Bukhārī are not certain whether he is Yazīd ibn Hurmuz or someone else. They go on to say that with such weakness, this narrative stands rejected especially when it casts doubts on an established fact which is known through tawātur.
Rahmānīfurther points out that very little information is found about Yazīd al-Fārisī in rijāl books; the only thing known is that he narrates from Ibn 'Abbās (rta) and that Abū Hātim comments about him are: lā ba'sa bihī. Moreover, Imām al-Bukhārī and Imām Muslim have not taken any narrative from him. He finally concludes by askingt how can such a narrative be then accepted especially when it negates established facts.
ii. 'Awf ibn Abī Jamīlah
Rahmānīsays that though the muhaddithūnhave generally regarded 'Awf ibn Abī Jamīlah to be a trustworthy person, however, we find the following details about him:
وحكى العقيلي عن بن المبارك قال والله ما رضي عوف ببدعة واحدةحتى كانت فيه بدعتان قدري شيعيوقال الأنصاري رأيت داود بن أبي هند يضرب عوفا ويقول ويلك يا قدري وقال في الميزان قال بندار وهو يقرأ لهم حديث عوف لقد كان قدريا رافضيا شيطانا
Al-'Uqaylī narrates from Ibn Mubārak: "He did not restrict himself to a single religious innovation: instead he was afflicted with two of them: He believed in determinism and was a Shiite." And al-Ansārī said: "I saw Dā'ūd ibn Abī Hind beating 'Awf and saying: 'Cursed be you, O Believer of Determinism!'" And it is reported in Mīzām al-i'tidāl that Bundār while narrating the Hadīth of 'Awf told people that he believes in determinism, is a rāfidīand a devil. 
Rahmānī also refers to the fact that Imām Muslim in the introduction to his al-Jāmi' al-sahīhhas regarded 'Awf as trustworthy, but at the same time has said that the narratives reported by him are not as sound as the ones reported by some other of his contemporaries.
Rahmānī goes on to assert that since from this narrative the view of the masses of the Shiites(as opposed to their scholars) receives support and since the only person to report this narrative from Ibn 'Abbās (rta) is a Shiite, hence in accordance with the principlecoined by Hadīth authorities, this narrative shall not be accepted especially when it is against authentic Ahādīth and established facts.
Before I analyze the information presented on the two suspect narrators 'Awf and Yazīd by Rahmānī and Shākir, consider the following additional information on these two narrators.
i. The claim that Yazīd al-Farisī is present in the chains of narration of all the variant texts is not accurate. The texts quoted by al-Tahāwī in his Sharhma'ānī al-āthār,al-Bayhaqī in his Dalā'il al-nubuwwahand by the author of Kitāb al-mabānīhave the name Yazīd al-Raqqāshī instead in their chains of narration.
Regarding the existence of Yazīd al-Raqqāshī in the chain of narration, the following comments of al-Tirmidhī have already been referred to:
ويزيد الفارسي قد روى عن بن عباس غير حديث ويقال هو يزيد بن هرمز ويزيد الرقاشي هو يزيد بن أبان الرقاشي ولم يدرك بن عباس إنما روى عن أنس بن مالك وكلاهما من أهل البصرة ويزيد الفارسي أقدم من يزيد الرقاشي
And Yazīd al-Fārisī has narrated some narratives from Ibn 'Abbās and it has been said that he is Yazīd ibn Hurmuz and Yazīd al-Raqqāshī is in fact Yazīd ibn Abān al-Raqqāshi, and he has not met Ibn 'Abbās. He has narrated from Anas ibn Mālik and both of them belong to Basrah and Yazīd al-Fārisī lived much earlier than Yazīd al-Raqqāshī.
In other words, according to al-Tirmidhī, the name of Yazīd al-Raqqāshī has been erroneously placed here by some narrators. The person who does exist in the chain is Yazīd al-Fārisī.
ii. As far as 'Awf ibn Jamīlah is concerned, besides the jarhquoted on him by Rahmānī, here is some more from other sources:
Abū Zur'ah and al-'Uqaylī have mentioned him in their respective books both titlled al-Du'afā'.
قلت فعوف بن أبي جميلة قال ليس بذاك
I asked: "[What about] 'Awf ibn Abī Jamīlah?" He [al-Dāraqutnī]replied: "laysa bi dhaka."
عوف بن أبي جميلة الأعرابي يتناول بيمينه ويساره من رأي البصرة والكوفة
'Awf ibn Abī Jamīlah al-A'rābī would [carelessly] accept narratives from his right and left from the opinion of the [people of] Basrah and Kūfah.
قال بعضهم يرفع أمره إنه ليجيء عن الحسن بشيء ما يجيء به أحد
Some of them are of the opinion that he is not trustworthy. He narrates from al-Hasan what no one else ever has.
iii. Yazīd al-Fārisī
Ibn Hajar records:
Yazīd al-Fārisī al-Basrī is maqbūl.
iv. Yazīd ibn Hurmuz
Besides al-Bukhārī, (as referred to earlier), Abū Hātim also regards Yazīd ibn Hurmuz to be a suspect narrator:
يزيد بن هرمز المدني الفقيه كذا سماه أبو حاتم و قال ليس بقوي
Abū Hātim has called Yazīd ibn Hurmuz a Madinite jurist and said that he is laysa bi qawī.
However, among those who regard him to be trustworthy are Yahyā ibn Ma'īn, Abū Zur'ah, Ibn Sa'd, Ibn Hibbānand al-'Ijlī.
On the basis of the above information, we now analyze the credibility of 'Awf and Yazīd:
i. 'Awf ibn Abī Jamīlah
The overall jarhon 'Awf seems to be strong.
There can be three possibilities regarding who Yazīd is:
a. Yazīd al-Raqqāshī
b. Yazīd al-Fārisī
c. Yazīd ibn Hurmuz
It is highly unlikely that he is Yazīd al-Raqqāshī as pointed out earlier by al-Tirmidhī. Moreover, if anyone does insist on his name, then a vast number of rijāl authorities have regarded him to be a suspect narrator as pointed out earlier.
If Yazīd al-Fārisī is Yazīd ibn Hurmuz as contended by some authorities,then since Yazīd ibn Hurmuz has been regarded suspect by al-Bukhārī and Abū Hātim (see above), two very respectable Hadīth authorities, the jarhon him seems strong even though authorities like Ibn Sa'd, Abū Zur'ah and Yahyā ibn Ma'īn have regarded him as trustworthy.
If Yazīd al-Fārisī is distinct from Yazīd ibn Hurmuz,then the weakness in Yazīd al-Fārisī, as pointed out by Rahmānī, lies in the fact that muhaddithūnlike al-Bukhārī and Muslim have not accepted narratives from him. Ibn Hajar has used the word maqbūl.Ahmad Shākir and Dr Qal'ajī say that he is majhūl.
One can conclude on the basis of the above analysis that the weakness of the two narrators: 'Awf and Yazīd seems to be reasonably established.
Al-Bānī, without citing any reasons has classed the narrative as da'īf.
Another point worthy of note is that Ahmad Shākir also points out that in the Bulāq edition of al-Tirmidhī (2:182-183), the words quoted by al-Tirmidhī are hasanunsahīhunand says that the addition sahīhunis incorrectly attributed to al-Tirmidhī because in the authentic editions and manuscripts of al-Tirmidhīthese words are not found. He also refers to the fact that al-Suyūtī,al-Mundhirīand the text of al-Tirmidhī found in 'Abd al-Rahmān Muhaddith Mubārakpurī's commentary on Sahīhal-Tirmidhīhave only recorded the word hasanun.
Others who have pointed out this anonymity of Yazīdal-Farisī include al-Zurqānī, Qattān, Shu'ayb al-Urna'ūt and Dr 'Abd al-Mu'tī.
IV. Further Criticism
Following is a shortened schematic illustration of the chain of narration of the narrative:
'Abdullāh ibn 'Abbās (rta)
'Awf ibn Abī Jamīlah
According to al-Tirmidhī,this narrative is solely reported by one individual each after Ibn 'Abbās (rta). In other words, the narrative is technically gharīb.
A gharīb narrative on such an important issue of the Qur'ān casts doubt on the authenticity of its contents.
Secondly, the narrative speaks of certain categories of sūrahs: the sab' tuwal, mi'īn and mathānī. Nowhere is this division defined by either the Qur'ān or by any sound narrative attributed to the Prophet (sws). While it can be concluded from the name mi'īn that it implies sūrahs which have about a hundred verses, there is nothing decisive on the basis of which one can conclude what mathānī sūrahs are.Thus, for example, in the opinion of al-Bayhaqī, they are sūrahs which have less than hundred verses, but more than those of the mufassal sūrahs. According to al-Farrā', they are called mathānī because they are read more than the tuwal and the mi'īn sūrahs. Al-Suyūtī has recorded another opinion about the reason for them being called mathānī: they form a pair to the mi'īn sūrahs. In the opinion of al-Nikzāwī, they are called so because in them anecdotes are repeated for the sake of teaching a lesson and for informing us. In Jamāl al-Qurrā', mathānī are sūrahs in which anecdotes are repeated. Still another opinion recorded by al-Suyūtī is that mathānī is a name applied to the Qur'ān as a whole and also to Sūrah Fātihah.
Authorities also differ about the connotation of sab' tuwal (the seven long sūrahs). According to al-Suyūtī, one group believes that the first of these is Sūrah Baqarah and the last is Sūrah Barā'ah. Another opinion recorded by al-Suyūtī is that a narrative from Ibn 'Abbās (rta) reported by al-Hākim and al-Nasā'ī says that the sab' tuwal are: Baqarah, Āl-i 'Imrān, Nisā', Mā'idah, An'ām, A'rāf. The narrator forgot the seventh. In a narrative from Sa'īd ibn Jubayr reported by Ibn Abī Hātim and others and in a narrative from Ibn 'Abbās (rta), the seventh is Sūrah Yūnus, while according to a narrative in the book of al-Hakīm, it is Sūrah Kahf.
The objections on the text and chain of the narrative do not render it worthy of any consideration.