Are all of the verses in the Quran equal? Are any of them superior to others?

Details of the Question
Are all of the verses in the Quran equal? Are any of them superior to others?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

There is no clear information about the superiority of the verses in the Quran. In some hadiths, the superiority/virtue of some chapters and verses are mentioned.

Some scholars hold the view that some verses are superior and that some verses are more valuable than others in terms of their meaning. (1)

Some verses are regarded as valuable in terms of their content. One of these issues is the verses that describe Allah in all aspects.

When the verses that are mentioned in terms of superiority are in question, the verses that describe Allah are the first ones that come to the mind. The verses that describe Allah in the Quran are: ayat-al-kursi (2/255) the last three verses of the chapter al-Hashr (59/22-24), the chapter of al-Ikhlas (112/1-4) and other verses and chapters regarding the issue.

In his work, “Ahkamu’l-Qur’an” Ibnu’l Arabi says the reason why ayat-al-kursi is superior to the most valuable verses is the fact that its meaning and wisdom are great. (2)

Ghazali classifies the text of the Quran under three headings based on the information it contains:

1) The sciences (knowledge) in the top level: In this level, the verses that describe Allah are included. Ghazali defines those verses as the most important ones and as the verses that have no alternatives whatsoever. (3)

2) The sciences (knowledge) in the middle level: The decrees and judgments are included in this level.

3) The sciences (knowledge) in the lowest level: The stories and narrations that are stated to give information. (4)

As it is stated in the hadith of the Prophet: “The chapter of al-Ikhlas is equivalent to one third of the Quran”(5), it is emphasized that al-Ikhlas is superior to the other chapters and verses. The chapter al-Ikhlas expresses the belief of oneness, which is the foundation of the religion, in the best way.

To believe in the meaning and content of this chapter and to meditate on it prevent a person from polytheism and always remind him of oneness. The chapter expresses it concisely, comprehensively, laconically and fluently in four verses; it includes the divine knowledge and all of the details regarding Islamic creed. According to a narration reported by Anas, the Prophet said,  “... read the chapter al-Ikhlas every night because it is equivalent to one third of the Quran”(6). The phrase, “it is equivalent to one third of the Quran” emphasizes that the chapter al-Ikhlas is superior in terms of meaning and rewards.

One of the verses that describe the personality and attributes of Allah perfectly, clearly and concisely is ayat-al-kursi. Its meaning gives the properties of the divinity that constitutes the basic topic of the Quran.This verse is the most valuable and virtuous verse of the Quran in terms of the meaning it contains. The Prophet stated the following in a hadith: Ayat-al-kursi is the master of the Quran.”(7)  The following is also stated in the hadith: “... O Ali! Teach this to your children, family and neighbors. No verse greater than this has been sent down.”(8)  That Allah introduces Himself with His own names is stated as follows in a hadith: “The greatest name of Allah is in three places: They are the chapters of al-Baqara, Aal-i-Imran and Taha.” Hisham explains it as follows: Allah introduces Himself with His beautiful names with the verses “Allahu la ilaha illa huwa’l hayy…” (Allah! there is no Allah but He―the living…) in al-Baqara (9), “Alif lam mim, Allahu la ilaha illa huwa’l-hayyul qayyum” (Alif Lam Mim. Allah! There is no Allah but He―the Living, the Self-Subsisting Eternal) in Aal-i-Imran (10), and “Wa anati’l-wujuhu li’l-hayyi’l-qayyum” ((All) faces shall be humbled before (Him)― the Living, the Self-Subsisting, Eternal) in Taha(11). Ibn Kathir states that the expressions that honor Allah are present in those verses. (12)

Abu Hurayra says that there is a peak of everything and that the peak of the Quran is the chapter al-Baqara. He also says that the most valuable verse in it is ayat-al-kursi. (13)

H. Yazır holds the view that the superiority of some verses in terms of some aspects is not contradictory to the equivalence of the verses from the point of vie that they are all words of Allah. (14)

The following is stated in a hadith reported by Abu Said b. Al-Mualla: “al-Fatiha is the loftiest chapter of the Quran; it is the sab’ al-mathani (seven repeatedly recited verses), and the Great Quran.” (15)

Al-Fatiha is a chapter that contains the summary of the Quran and that expresses it shortly and concisely. It is known that it is called “umm” (mother) because it is the beginning chapter and the origin. Therefore, it is called Ummu’l-Qur’an (the Mother of the Quran) or Umm’l-Kitab (the Mother of the Book).

It is stated that the chapter includes praising Allah, describing Him as having fame and honor, expressing His oneness and proposal for His help and guidance. (16) Besides, it is remarkable that one of the characteristics that differentiates it from other chapters is it is cure for all kinds of problems.

Footnotes:

1. Abu Zayd, Nasr Hamid Muhammad, İlahi Hitabın Tabiatı, translated by Mehmet Emin Maşalı, Kitabiyat Neşriyat, Ankara 2001, p. 343

2. Suyuti, Jalaluddin Abdurrahman, al-Itqan fi Ulumi’l-Qur’an, II, p. 158, published by Mustafa al-Babi'l-Halabi, Egypt, 1951.

3.Ghazali, Abu Hamid Muhammad, Jawahiru’l-Qur’an, published by Matbaatu Kurdistan al-Ilmiyya, Egypt 1329, p. 29

4. Ghazali, ibid, p. 25

5. al-Bukhari, Abu Abdillah Muhammad b. Ismail, Sahih al-Bukhari, Fadailu’l-Qur’an, published by Matbaatu’l-Kubra al-Amiriyya, Bulaq 1312, v VI, p. 189

6. Tirmidhi, Abu Isa Muhammad b. Isa b. Thawra, Sunanu’t-Tirmidhi, Thawabu’l-Qur’an, Matbaatu’l- Mustafa al-Babi, Cairo 1965, p. 168/2899

7. Tirmidhi, ibid, Fadailu’l-Qur’an, p. 157/2878

8. Ibn Hanbal, Abu Abdullah Ahmad b. Muhammad, al-Musnad, published by al-Matbaatu'l-Maymamiyya, Egypt 1313, v V, p. 142, 178

9. al-Baqara, 2/255

10.Aal-i-Imran, 3/1-2

11. Ta-ha, 20/111

12.Sabuni, Muhammad Ali, Safwatu’t-Tafasir, translated by Sadreddin Gümüş, Ensar Neşriyat, İstanbul 1990,v I, p. 302-303

13.Suyuti, al-Itqan, II, 153; Tirmidhi, ibid, Thawabu’l-Qur’an, p. 157/6744

14.Yazır, Elmalılı Muhammed Hamdi, Hak Dini Kur’an Dili, Azim Dağıtım,İstanbul n.d., X, p. 125

15.Bukhari, ibidi, Tafsiru'l-Qur'an, v VI, p. 17

16.Maturidi, Abu Mansur Muhammad b. Muhammad, Translations from Tawilatu’l-Qur’an, translated by Bekir Topaloğlu, Araştırma Vakfı Yay., İstanbul 1995, p. 10-11

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