Imām al-Shātibī’s Ḥirz al-Amānī | The Chapter of Istiʿādhah


This is a continuation of the explanation of Imām al-Shātibī’s famous poem on the 7 Qirāʾāt: حرز الأماني ووجه التهاني في القراءات السبع.  In this poem, Imām al-Shātibī, may Allāh have mercy upon him, documents the rules of 7 of the 10 authentic Qirāʾāt, i.e. the Qirāʾah of Nāfiʿ, Ibn Kathīr, Abū ʿAmr, Ibn ʿĀmir, ʿĀim, al-Kisāʾī, and Ḥamzah.  The explanation of the Introduction, the first 94 lines of this text, was featured here, by Sh. Muhammad Saleem Ghaibie.  Please make sure to carefully study this Introduction so that the rest of the text can be understood clearly.

باب الاستعاذة

The Chapter on the Istiʿādhah

After the Introduction to the 7 Qirāʾāt, their Imāms, and explaining the codes used in his text, Imām al-Shātibī with the Chapter on the Istiʿādhah, which involves seeking refuge with Allāh, from Shayṭān, the Accursed.  This chapter precedes all other chapters due to the fact that the recitation always begins with seeking refuge with Allāh.

95.  If you intend to recite the Qurʾān at any time, then always say the Istiʿādhah aloud, seeking refuge with Allāh from Shayṭān, according to what was documented by the Qurrāʾ.

Every time and at any time one wishes to recite the Qurʾān in any Qirāʾah, from any part of the Qurʾān, regardless if it is at the beginning of a Sūrah or in the middle of it, then one must say the Istiʿādhah aloud, as was documented by all the Qurrāʾ.  As for saying it silently, then this is preferred when one is reciting to one’s self, or in the prayers.

96.  As it appears in Sūrat al-Naḥl in the easiest form; and if you do more than this, affirming the divinity of your Lord, then you are not amongst the ignorant or neglectful.

The meaning of الاستعاذة is to say: أَعُوذُ بِاللَّهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ.  It is not an actual verse in the Qurʾān, by itself, according to the consensus of the scholars.    The command to say the Istiʿādhah is mentioned in Sūrat al-Naḥl, verse 98: 

فَإِذَا قَرَأْتَ ٱلْقُرْءَانَ فَٱسْتَعِذْ بِٱللَّهِ مِنَ ٱلشَّيْطَٰنِ ٱلرَّجِيمِ ۝٩٨

So when you recite the Qur'an, [first] seek refuge in Allah from Satan, the expelled [from His mercy].

This form of saying the Istiʿādhah is the easiest one, and the bare minimum requirement for beginning the recitation, involving the least amount of words and letters.  And if preferred, one can increase the wording of the Istiʿādhah by mentioning some of the Names and Attributes of Allāh تعالى, affirming His divinity and freedom from any comparison with the creation, such as saying:

أَعُوذُ بِاللَّهِ السَّمِيعَ العَلِيمِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ

Anyone who does this is considered free of ignorance or neglect.  This is because he has gone a step further in affirming the divinity of his Lord, declaring His freedom from any deficiency.  

97.  And they mentioned the exact words of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم that he did not increase the wording; however, if this report was authentic, then the matter would not have remained general.

This line gives an indication of Imām al-Shātibī’s knowledge of Ḥadīth, for there were some reports mentioned that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم did not increase in the wording of the Istiʿādhah, but they were considered to be weak reports.  Of these reports was a narration by Ibn Masʿūd who recited to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and said: أَعُوذُ بِاللَّهِ السَّمِيعَ العَلِيمِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ, to which the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم replied, “O Son of Umm ‘Abd, say: أَعُوذُ بِاللَّهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ.”  Another report states that on the authority of Nāfiʿ from Jubayr bin Mutʿim that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم used to say: أَعُوذُ بِاللَّهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ.  However, these two narrations are weak.

In addition to this, the narrations which mention an increase in the wording of the Istiʿādhah are authentic.  It was narrated by Abū Saʿīd al-Khudrī that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, when he would stand in the night (for prayer), he would say: أَعُوذُ بِاللَّهِ السَّمِيعَ العَلِيمِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ مِن هَمزِهِ وَنَفخِهِ وَنَفثِهِ.  

Imām al-Shātibī referred to the weakness of these narrations by saying that if these narrations were authentic (meaning those which did not involve an increase in the wording of the Istiʿādhah mentioned in Sūrat al-Naḥl), then the general ruling of the verse would not have remained, the wording would have been very specific and there would not have been any other allowable alternative for it.  In other words, no addition or deletion would have been allowed.  These weak narrations are contradicted by narrations which are much more authentic which mention slight variations in the wording of the Istiʿādhah.  Therefore, the verse in Sūrat al-Naḥl gives us an indication of what should be said in general, whether we increase or decrease the wording, as long as the meaning and intent is clear.

There are three main ways that the Istiʿādhah can be worded:

  1. أَعُوذُ بِاللَّهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ (and this is what is most common form, using the same words in the command given in Sūrat al-Naḥl).
  2. أَعُوذُ بِاللَّهِ السَّمِيعَ العَلِيمِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ
  3. أَعُوذُ بِاللَّهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ

98.  And there are a lot of details that can be found regarding it (the Istiʿādhah) in the branches of Uṣūl (Fiqh, Ḥadīth or Qirāʾāt); so do not turn away from these (sources), lofty in status, providing shade.

Here the هـ in فِيهِ may be referring to the Istiʿādhah, that there is much that has been said about it and its branches will become obvious to the student in the books which are the Uṣūl or primary sources of this science of Qirāʾāt such as الإيضاح by Abū ʿAli al-Ahwazī, and الكامل by Abul-Qāsim al-Hudhalī and others.  The student should refer to these books and not turn away from the correct opinion which is obvious and clearly proven.  The Imām referred to this by his saying بَاسِقًا which means high and lofty, i.e. lofty speech, and مُظَلِّلَا which is that which has shadow due to it having many branches and leaves.  It is also said that what he meant by Uṣūl is the science of Uṣūl al-Fiqh because of the speech related to the Islamic texts, so in this case the هـ in فِيهِ is referring to لَفْظَ الرَّسُولِ the words of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم or to النَّقْلُ the report, or to all of what was previously mentioned together.

99.  And hiding it (saying it silently) is a separation which our experts rejected; yet how many a youth such as al-Mahdawī applied this (saying it silently)!

This is the first place where the codes are mentioned in the poem, because the letter ف is the code for Ḥamzah and the letter ا is the code for Nāfiʿ (both blue in color), there is an underlying meaning being given as well as an exterior one.  The underlying decoded meaning is that saying the Istiʿādhah quietly has been narrated from Ḥamzah and Nāfiʿ, and the و in the word وعاتنا is for separation (واو فاصل) and it comes again in وكم i.e. this is the end of the decoded ruling.

As for the outer meaning of this line, then the word فَصْل may mean one of two things:

  1. The first is that the Istiʿādhah being recited silently is a section of the recitation, and our scholars and experts came across this particular narration from Nāfiʿ and Ḥamzah but rejected it and did not act upon it for their (Nāfiʿ‘s and Ḥamzah’s) recitations.
  2. The second is that Imām al-Shātibī used the word فَصْل to clarify the wisdom behind saying the Istiʿādhah silently, and this is that it is the separation between what is from the Qurʾān and what is not from it.  In this second meaning, أباه وعاتنا does not however mean that the experts rejected it being a separation between the Qurʾān and other than it, as they only rejected it being recited silently, because saying it aloud is making the sign of the recitation obvious, similar to the talbiyah and the takbeeraat of Eid being done aloud.

From the benefits of saying the Istiʿādhah aloud is that anyone listening will become silent for the recitation from the beginning of the recitation without having missed any of it; since, if the Istiʿādhah is done silently the listener will not know about the recitation except after having missed some of what was recited.  This meaning is the difference between recitation outside of the Ṣalāh and during the Ṣalāh, because Istiʿādhah is recited silently in Ṣalāh due to the congregation already being silent from the beginning of the Ṣalāh.

Then Imām al-Shātibī indicated with his saying وكم من فتى that there is still however a strong group of this science who chose to say the Istiʿādhah quietly and justified this, and mentioned from among them was al-Mahdawī, who was Abul-ʿAbbas Aḥmad bin ʿAmmār, a Muqriʿ and Mufassir, and the author of some well known books.  The هـ in فيه is referring to إخفاء (saying the Istiʿādhah silently), and أعملا i.e. he used critical thinking in his decision.

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