Yasir Qadhi: The Causes of Revelation – Part 1

Toward a Better Understanding of The Quran
Series: The Sciences of the Quran
By Reading Islam Staff

Sheikh Yasir Qadhi
Sheikh Yasir Qadhi

Part 2

Welcome to another episode of our fascinating series “The Sciences of the Quran”.

I’m your host Yasir Qadhi.

Now one thing that we are learning as we study the various sciences of the Quran, and it is a point that I want to mention here briefly, is the amount of information that we have about the external matters of the Quran which the average Muslim might not even think is important or relevant to know. But in further inspection we understand how important it is to understand.

In other words, the care and details with which the knowledge of the Quran has been preserved, not just the actual verses, not just the actual recitation, but even when it was revealed, how it was revealed, and who it was revealed for. And this shows us if we know so much information about the Quran, how then can the Quran itself not have been preserved? In other words, if the external information from the Quran and to the Quran have been preserved, then the Quran itself have also been preserved, and of course the response to that is indeed that it has.

One of the Essential Sciences of the Quran

In today’s episode, we will mention one of the most important sciences that is needed in understanding the Quran. It is a bit of an advanced science so we have to make a short summary of it, and it is a science that is essential and required to get a proper understanding of the Quran, but it requires much explanation and we don’t have time for that, but what we can’t explain in total we don’t leave in total either, we are supposed to summarize and explain.

The topic we are going to explain today is a topic that we call in Arabic asbab-ul-nuzul, or the causes of revelation. The causes of revelation, or the cause of revelation, is defined to be the specific event or occurrence that was the direct cause of the revelation of a particular verse or chapter of the Quran. In other words, something happens here on earth, and because of it Allah Almighty reveals Quran. So the cause of revelation is an immediate cause that precedes the revelation of the verse by a very short timeframe.

There is no educated guess when it comes to the cause of revelation

It must be pointed out that most of the Quran does not have a specific cause of revelation. So we don’t know exactly why the chapter of Al-Fatihah was revealed, or maybe there was no specific reason for it to have been revealed. It was just revealed for the guidance of mankind, and that’s perfectly fine, but a number of times, many, frequently, hundreds of times an incident occurred and to cater to that incident to solve the problem that had arisen to answer the questions that are raised, Allah Almighty reveals Quran. And so this is what we call the cause of revelation.

This classification, this understanding, immediately tells us that the cause of revelation cannot be guessed. There is no educated guess when it comes to the cause of revelation. The only recourse of information that we have regarding the cause of revelation is that what the companions themselves tell us. If not the Prophet (peace be upon him) then the companions themselves explicitly state that this happened, and Allah Almighty revealed such a verse to cater to it. Therefore we have to understand that it’s not in the realm of ijtihad, unlike our previous lesson which was about Makki and Madani. Makki and Madani we can get as we said from two sources: either the companions themselves, or we can try to make an educated guess, but when it comes to causes of revelation there’s no such thing as an educated guess. All what we can do is rely upon the statements of the companions.

It’s also possible that a number of verses were revealed to cater to the same situation. In other words, we have multiple causes of revelation. We have multiple reasons for the verse to have been revealed. Now sometimes when you look at this multiple reasons, we find that one of them is unauthentic while the other is authentic, so we just neglect the one that is not authentic. But sometimes we find a number of incidents that occurred and all of which are claimed to be the cause of revelation of a particular verse.


Let me give you one example. One example is that it is narrated that a certain companion by the name of Helal ibn Umayyah accused his own wife of committing adultery. And the ruling had been up until that time that if you accuse another woman of committing adultery you had better bring four witnesses. If you don’t bring four witnesses, then you are going to be punished for slandering a woman.

But Helal came home one day and he saw– we seek Allah’s refuge- and he saw this evil act and he couldn’t help but say that “O messenger of God. She is my wife and I can’t now go to her now that I have seen her betraying me. I’ve seen her with another man. What do you expect me to do?” And so Allah Almighty revealed in the Quran that those of you who accuse their wives of adultery, they have this option.

So Allah revealed it responding to Helal ibn Umayyah’s dilemma. And the dilemma was as we said that he couldn’t remain married to a woman that he knew was not faithful and disloyal to him. He knows it, he has seen it. And he said “O Messenger of Allah, a man sees his own wife committing an evil act, the act of fornication. Should he go and find four witnesses? This is my wife now, how can I go and find four witnesses?”

And so the Prophet (peace be upon him) couldn’t do anything because there was no revelation revealed, until Allah revealed a verse in the Quran which is verse number 6 of chapter 24 Al-Nour where Allah says what means:

{Whenever a man accuses his wife of fornication, then he has to swear four times that he is telling the truth, and the fifth time that the curse of Allah is upon him if he is lying. And the woman can get out of the punishment if she swears four times that he is the one who is lying, and that the anger of Allah is upon her if she is the one that’s lying}.

So both of them have the option of doing this because in Arabic mutual cursing - or li`aan - there’s a cause of revelation, and the cause of revelation is Ibn Ummayah’s situation.                              

Watch Part 1 of Sheikh Yasir Qhadi’s Talk

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Related Links:
Quran in Focus (Folder)
Today's Quran: The Same Revelation?
Introduction to the Qur`an
Quran Chapters: Divinely Revealed Names?
Suhaib Webb: Do We Need a Modern Tafsir?

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