Why are 4 chapters called chapters of qul (say)?

The Details of the Question

- Why are the chapters of al-Kafirun, al-Ikhlas, an-an-Nas and al-Falaq are called four chapters?
- What are the virtues and benefits of reading those chapters?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

There are 114 chapters (chapters) in the Quran. Five of them start with the command (qul قُلْ) “say”. They are the following chapters: al-Jinn, al-Kafirun, al-Ikhlas, al-Falaq and an-Nas.

The command “Say” means “report it exactly, say it and also apply it”.

Those five chapters, which begin with the command “qul (say)”, are called Qalaqit. (1)

Those five chapters are called “Qalaqil” (2) in some sources and “Maqulat” (3) in some other sources.

The chapters al-Kafirun, al-Ikhlas, al-Falaq and an-Nas are also called “Four Quls” (4).

As it is understood, such a naming was made based on the fact that the beginning word of the chapters is common.

The chapters of the Quran have individual names but some chapters are regarded as a group and given a common name. The names of the chapters in the Quran were known at the time of the Prophet (pbuh). When anything from the Quran was revealed, the Prophet (pbuh) would call the scribes and say to them, “Write these verses in the chapters in which such and such things are mentioned. (5)

Besides, it is understood from various hadiths that calling more than one chapter with a common name was first practiced by the Prophet (pbuh).

Giving a common name to more than one chapter is due to various similarities among those chapters. For, some chapters resemble and evoke one another in terms of disjointed letters (huruf al-muqatta’a) at the beginning, their contents, their rhymes and the number of verses.

That similarity caused those chapters to be given common names.

For example, the chapters whose first words start with the root s-b-h have been made into a group; the chapters such as Taha, an-Najm, al-Maarij, al-Qiyamah, an-Naziat, Abasa, al-A’la, ash-Shams, al-Layl, ad-Duha and al-Alaq, which have similar rhymes, have been made into a group among themselves.

Sometimes the same group of chapters was given several common names. For example, the seven chapters that start with the disjointed letters of “Ha-mim” are named as “Hawamim”, “Arais”, “Lubabul-Quran” and “Ravdatu Damithat”.

In addition, some names could be the common names of separate groups of chapters. For example, “Lubabul-Quran” is used for both Hamims and Mufassals (short chapters); “Muqashqishitan”, on the other hand, is given as a common name given to the chapters of al-Ikhlas and al-Kafirun, as well as the chapters of al-Falaq and an-Nas.

Some chapters are grouped with a common name due to their virtues for the people who cannot read the whole Quran, and they are advised to be read in the hadiths of the Prophet (pbuh).

For example, Muawwidhatayn consisting of the chapters of al-Falaq and an-Nas, or Muawwidhat consisting of the chapters of al-Ikhlas, al-Falaq and an-Nas, or Musabbihat starting with the root word s-b-h are of that type.

Those chapter groups have been shown as a shortcut for those who cannot read the whole Quran; thus, Muslims’ ties with the Quran are aimed to be kept warm.

al-Ikhlasayn

“Ikhlasayn” which means “two Ikhlases” is the common name of the chapters of al-Kafirun and al-Ikhlas. (6) According to Elmalılı, the chapters of al-Kafirun and al-Ikhlas are called “Ikhlasayn” in the narration from Ibn Umar and Hz. Aisha. (7)

Tawhid (oneness) and belief, which are among the main topics of the Quran, were sought by scholars in the content of the chapters too; consequently, this common name was given to the chapters of al-Ikhlas and al-Kafirun (8) because their main emphasis was on belief in the oneness of Allah.

In this context, it is stated in a narration that the chapter of al-Kafirun keeps people away from polytheism. (9) Therefore, the name “Ikhlasayn” was deemed appropriate for those two chapters since they describe only Allah and belief in Allah and they purify people from all kinds of polytheism.

Muawwidhat

Muawwidhat is the common name of the chapters of al-Ikhlas, al-Falaq and an-Nas. (10)

They are the chapters with which refuge is taken. (11) According to a narration from Hz. Aisha, when the Prophet (pbuh) went to bed every night, he would cup his palms and read “Qul huvallahu ahad”, “qul audhu birabbilfalaq” and “qul audhu birabbinnas”, and then wipe every part of his body that his hands could reach starting from his head and face; he would repeat it three times. (12)

The Prophet (pbuh) said, “qul audhu birabbilfalaq and qul audhu birabbinnas are Muawwidhat.” (13)

All the three chapters we call muawwidhat start with the command “say” and come one after another. The Prophet named those chapters as Muawwidhat and Qawafil (convoys). (14)

Muawwidhatayn

Muawwidhatayn, which means “two things with which to take refuge”, is a name given to the chapters of al-Falaq and an-Nas. (15)

According to a narration, when the Prophet (pbuh) stopped by a person who was performing a prayer, he said, “Read Muawwidhatayn in your prayer.” (16)

According to the narration of Ibn Amir, the Prophet (pbuh) said, “Read Muawwidhatayn after every prayer” or “Read Muawwidhatayn because you cannot read anything similar to it.” (17)

“Muawwidhatayn” is among the chapters that Muslims are recommended to read most in their daily lives. In this context, we see that the Prophet (pbuh) insisted on advising people to read Muawwidhatayn for protection. Two of those recommendations are as follows:

“Take refuge in Allah with these two chapters (al-Falaq and an-Nas). There is no other chapter like them with which one can take refuge and ask for help.” (18)

“Verses similar to Muawwidhatayn have never been revealed to me.” (19)

The reason why those two chapters are called Muawwidhatayn is, as the name suggests, that they explain from what to take refuge in Allah.

Muqashqishitan

Muqashqishitan is the common name of the chapters, al-Ikhlas and al-Kafirun. For, they two drag away sins just as tar cures scabies. (20)

Since that name is based on the hadith of the Prophet (pbuh), it is tawqifi (unchangeable). In addition, some tafsir scholars mention the chapters of al-Falaq and an-Nas with that common name. (21)

As stated before, another common name for the chapters of al-Ikhlas and al-Kafirun is “al-Ikhlasayn”; both names were given for similar reasons.

Mentioning the chapters with a common name expresses one hundred and fourteen chapters in a shorter form. In addition, grouping the chapters with a common name is another reflection of the division of the Quran.

The chapters that the Prophet (pbuh) grouped with a common name in particular are presented as an alternative suggestion for Muslims who could not read the whole Quran, and their virtues are emphasized.

Gathering more than one chapter under a common name and dealing with them in detail in addition to naming the chapters one by one can be considered as an indication of how much Muslims have been engaged in the Quran throughout history. For, each name given to the chapters manifested as a result of both the pleasure of reading and understanding the Quran and the effort to study it intensely.

References:

1) Jalaluddin Dawwani (d. 908/1502) has a book containing the tafsir of those chapters.
2) see Birışık, “Sûre”, DİA, XXXVII, 539.
3) Khurramshahi, Kur’ân Bilimi, pp. 292–93.
4) Khurramshahi, Kur’ân Bilimi, p. 291.
5) Zarkashi, al-Burhan, I, 296; Ghanim Qadduri al-Hamad, Muhadarat fi Ulumil-Quran, Daru Imar, Umman 2003, p. 87.
6) Abdülhamid Birışık, “Sûre”, DİA, İstanbul 2009, XXXVII, 539.
7) Elmalılı Muhammed Hamdi Yazır, Hak Dini Kur’ân Dili, Eser Kitabevi, İstanbul 1971, IX, 6216; however, the source of that narration could not be found. see Bestami Gözalan, Elmalılı Tefsirindeki Hadislerin Tahrici (Volumes VII, VIII and IX.), Selçuk Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü, (Unpublished Master’s Thesis), Konya 2007, p. 207.
8) Muhsin Demirci, Tefsir Terimleri Sözlüğü, MÜİFV Yayınları, İstanbul 2009, p. 106.
9) Darimi, Sunan, Fadailul Quran 23 (3469); Muhammad b. Abdillah al-Hatib at-Tabrizi, Mishqatul-Masabih, Maktabatul-Islami, Damascus 1979, Fadailul-Quran, 53 (2161);  Naysaburi, al-Mustadrak, Fadailul-Quran, 2129.
10) Kirmani, Sahihul-Bukhari bi Sharhil-Kirmani, Daru Ihyait-Turathil-Arabi, Beirut 1981, Vol. XIX, 25; Ahmad b. Ali b. Hajar al-Asqalani, Fathul-Bari bi Sharhi Sahihil-Bukhari, Darul-Ma’rifa, Beirut, nd., IX, 60 (5017)
11) Elmalılı, Hak Dini Kur’ân Dili, IX, 6351.
12) Abu Abdillah Muhammad b. Ismail al-Bukhari, al-Jamius-Sahih al-Matbaatus-Salafiyya, Cairo 1400, Fadailul-Quran, 14, 5017.
13) Bayhaqi, Shuabul-Iman, Tazimul-Quran, 2339.
14) Jalaluddin as-Suyuti, Tanasuqud-Durar fi Tanasubis-Suwar, (thq. Abdulqadir Ahmad Ata), Darul-Kutubil-Ilmiyya, Beirut, 1986, p. 147.
15) as-Sahawi, Jamalul-Qurra, I, 39; Ibn Ashur, at-Tahrir, XXX, 623, 631.
16) Duraysi, Fadailul-Quran, Hadith No: 294.
17) Suyuti, Jamiul-Ahadith, I, (Hadith No: 3718–19)
18) al-Harawi, Kitabu Fadailil-Quran, p. 270; Duraysi, Fadailul-Quran, Hadith No: 293.
19) al-Harawi, Kitabu Fadailil-Quran, p. 271.
20) Firuzabadi, Basair, I,548; Biqai, Nazmud Durar, XXII,344; Ibn Ashur, at-Tahrir, XXX, 579.
21) Abul-Qasim Mahmud b. Umar az-Zamakhshari, al-Kashshaf an Haqaiki Ghawamidit-Tanzil wa Uyunil-Aqawil fi Wujuhit-Ta’wil, Riyad 1998, VI, 469; Qurtubi, al-Jami’, XXII,533; Shihabuddin as-Sayyid Mahmud al-Alusi, Ruhul-Maani fi Tafsiril-Quranil-Azim wa Sab’il-Mathani, Daru Ihyait-Turathil-Arabi, Beirut nd., XXX, 285
Note: For detailed information related to common chapter names, see Hikmet Koçyiğit, Ortak Sûre İsimleri, Uludağ Üniversitesi İlâhiyat Fakültesi Dergisi, Vol: 21, Issue: 2, 2012, pp. 43-67.

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