Sura al-Tawba

From wikishia
Sura al-Tawba
Sura Number9
Revelation Number114
Verse Count129
Word Count2506
Letter Count11116\

This article is an introduction to the Sura al-Tawba; to read its text see text:Sura al-Tawba.

Sūra al-Tawba or al-Barāʾa (Arabic: سُورَة التَوْبَة) is the ninth sura of the Quran. It is a Madani sura of the Quran, located in juz' ten or eleven. It is called “al-Tawba” because some of its verses are about repentance. The name "Bara'a" (repudiation) comes from its first verse. Sura al-Tawba begins without "Bism Allah al-Rahman al-Rahim" (In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful). It commands Muslims to cut their ties to polytheists, and commands the Prophet (s) not to ask for the forgiveness of polytheists. The sura also talks about jihad against disbelievers and polytheists as well as zakat. According to hadiths, the Prophet (s) first entrusted Abu Bakr with the task of declaring this sura to polytheists, but he then cancelled Abu Bakr’s mission and left it to Imam 'Ali (a).

Well-known verses of Sura al-Tawba include the Verse of La-Tahzan (Do not grieve), al-Sadiqin Verse, al-Udhun Verse (Verse of Ear), and al-Nafr Verse. This sura also refers to the event of Dirar Mosque, the Battle of Hunayn, and the defiance of the decree to attend the Battle of Tabuk on part of some Muslims.


  • Naming

The sura has a number of names (up to fourteen), two of which are more famous: al-Bara'a and al-Tawba. The former, which occurs in most hadiths, is derived from its first verse, and the latter, which appears in some hadiths, is because it contains a number of verses about tawba (or repentance). Other names of the sura are as follows: Fadiha (scandalizing), Mukhziya (humiliating), Muba'thira (inquirer), Hafira (revealer), Munqira (divulger), Musharrida (scattering), and Munakkila (torturer).[1]

  • Order and place of revelation

Sura al-Tawba is a Madani sura of the Quran. In the order of revelation, it is the 114th (last) sura revealed to the Prophet (s). In the present order of compilation, it is the ninth sura of the Quran,[2] located in juz' ten and eleven.

  • Number of verses and other features

Sura al-Tawba has 129 verses, 2506 words, and 11116 letters. As for its length, it is one of the seven long suras (sab' tiwal); that is, a relatively large sura, which occupies about one juz' of the Quran.[3]

That Only Sura without Bism Allah

Unlike other Quranic suras, this sura does not begin with "Bism Allah al-Rahman al-Rahim" (In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful). Quranic exegetes have provided a number of reasons why this is so:

  • The sura was revealed after Sura al-Anfal, and hence, they count as one sura.[4]
  • "Bism Allah al-Rahman al-Rahim" is a verse of mercy and amnesty, while Sura al-Bara'a declares the repeal of amnesty, which does not square with "Bism Allah."[5]
  • According to a hadith from Ibn 'Abbas, 'Uthman said that the Prophet (s) did not say anything about the place of these two suras. Thus, we wrote them consecutively because both were revealed in Medina and were concerned with the same topic.[6][7]


Sura al-Tawba commands Muslims to cut their ties with polytheists and hypocrites, while its leaves the doors of repentance open to them. It commands believers to cut their ties to their polytheist family members and relatives, and orders the Prophet (s) not to ask for the forgiveness of polytheists, just as Prophet Abraham (a) repudiated his uncle when he was sure that he could not be led to the right path. Another theme of the sura is the Dirar Mosque, which was built by hypocrites, on which verses 107 and 108 of the verse were revealed.[8] The breach of the order to attend jihad on part of some Muslims and zakat] are other themes of the sura.[9]

Content of Sura al-Tawba[10]
The place of political groups in the Islamic government
The first part: verses 1-28
Requisite measures by the Islamic government against polytheist groups
The second part: verses 29-37
The Place of the People of the Book in the Islamic government
The third part: verses 38-110
The Islamic government’s fight against the hypocrites
The fourth part: verses 111-129
The relation between believers and the Islamic government
The first duty: verses 1-4
Revocation of political treaties made with polytheists
The first speech: verse 29
Fighting the conspirators from the People of the Book until they pay jizya
The first chapter: verses 38-80
Characteristics and conducts of the hypocrites
The second chapter: verses 81-110
The measures that should be taken by the Prophet against hypocrite groups
The first speech: 111-114
Characteristics of the believers
The second speech: 115-118
God’s grace for the believers
The third speech: 119-129
Duties of the believers
The second duty: verses 5-11
Declaration of war against polytheist conspirators
The second speech: verse 30-35
The reasons for fighting the People of the Book
The first characteristic: verses 38-49
Absence in battlefields
The first group: verses 81-96
Hypocrites who flee the battlefield
The first characteristics: verse 111
Sacrificing their lives and money in the way of God
The first subject-matter: 115-116
God is the master of believers
The first duty: 119
Observance of piety (or God-wariness)
The third duty: verses 12-16
Harsh treatment of leaders of conspiracies
The third speech: verse 36-37
Prohibition of fights in sacred months
The second characteristic: verses 50-52
Failure to sympathize with Muslims in troubles
The second group: verses 97-106
Bedouin hypocrites
The second characteristics: verse 112
Repentance and worshiping God
The second subject-matter: 117
God’s grace for the believers in the peak of their hardships
The second duty: 120-121
Not defying the commands of the Prophet
The fourth duty: verses 17-22
Prevention of polytheists from repairing the mosques
The third characteristic: verses 53-55
Pretending to donate in the way of Islam
The third group: verses 107-110
Conspirators from hypocrites
The third characteristics: verse 113-114
Repudiation of the polytheists
The third subject-matter: 118
God’s grace for the believers who repent
The third duty: 122
Attainment of religious awareness
The fifth duty: verses 23-27
Ending the relations of friendship with disbelievers
The fourth characteristic: verses 56-57
Pretending to be along with believers
The fourth duty: 123
Jihad against the opponents with strength and resoluteness
The sixth duty: verse 28
Forbidding the polytheists from entering al-Masjid al-Haram
The fifth characteristic: verses 58-60
Complaints about the way the Prophet distributes charities
The fifth duty: 124-127
Being influenced by the Quran, unlike the hypocrites
The sixth characteristic: verses 61
Insulting the Prophet
The sixth duty: 128-129
Having faith in a prophet who is benevolent toward them
The seventh characteristic: verses 62-63
False oaths to deceive the believers
The eighth characteristic: verses 64-66
Making plots against Islam and fear of their plots being divulged
The ninth characteristic: verses 67-72
Forbidding the right and enjoining the wrong
The tenth characteristic: verses 73-74
Making conspiracies against the Prophet
The eleventh characteristic: verses 75-78
Failure to comply with the vows they make to God
The twelfth characteristic: verses 79-80
Insulting the believers who pay charities in the way of God

Historical Stories and Narratives

  • Declaration of the repudiation of polytheists (verses 1-4)
  • Victory in the Battle of Hunayn and helping God (verses 25-26)
  • The Prophet’s (s) hiding in a cave when migrating to Medina (verses 40)
  • Dirar Mosque (verses 107-110)
  • Abraham’s request for the forgiveness of Azar (verses 114)
  • Three of the Prophet's companions defying the order to attend the Battle of Tabuk (verses 117-118)

Imam Ali (a) and the Mission of Declaring the Sura

According to Tafsir-i nimuna, almost all Muslim exegetes and historians agree that upon the revelation of Sura al-Tawba (or at least its opening verses), the treaties between the Prophet (s) and polytheists were revoked. In 9/630, the Prophet (s) commissioned Abu Bakr to declare the decree to all people during the Hajj season,[11] but he then cancelled Abu Bakr’s mission and commissioned Imam Ali (a) to declare the order to people in Mecca. The event is cited in many Sunni sources, albeit with slight verbal differences.[12] For instance, Ahmad b. Hanbal reports in his Musnad that the Prophet (s) sent Abu Bakr to declare Sura al-Tawba to people, but he then sent Ali (a) to take the message from him, saying: "this sura should only be declared by someone who is from me and whom I am from."[13] It should be noted that Imam 'Ali (a) himself appealed to this event as a proof for his superiority over other companions of the Prophet (s) and as evidence for his entitlement for the position of caliphate.[14]

Well-Known Verses

بَرَ‌اءَةٌ مِّنَ اللَّـهِ وَرَ‌سُولِهِ إِلَى الَّذِينَ عَاهَدتُّم مِّنَ الْمُشْرِ‌كِينَ ﴿١﴾ فَسِيحُوا فِي الْأَرْ‌ضِ أَرْ‌بَعَةَ أَشْهُرٍ‌ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّكُمْ غَيْرُ‌ مُعْجِزِي اللَّـهِ ۙ وَأَنَّ اللَّـهَ مُخْزِي الْكَافِرِ‌ينَ ﴿٢﴾

The opening verses of Sura al-Tawba are called Verses of Repudiation or Bara'a Verses, in which the ultimate rulings about the relations between Muslims and polytheists are issued.[15] In these verses, God commands the Prophet (s) and Muslims to publicly declare their repudiation of polytheists, to exit the treaties they had made with them, and to declare war against them if they do not convert to Islam.[16] The verses were declared to polytheists on the day of Eid al-Adha by Imam 'Ali (a).[17]

According to Quranic exegetes, the unilateral repeal of the treaty with Muslims was not abrupt. It was preceded by a breach on the part of polytheists. For this reason, by these same verses, the treaty with polytheists who had not breached their agreements was still respected by Muslims.[18] Moreover, those treaties are said to have been provisional from the beginning.[19]

According to Muhammad Jawad Mughniyya, the emphasis in these verses that polytheists in the Arabian Peninsula should be forced to convert to Islam or to prepare for a war is not incompatible with the fact that Islam should not be imposed on anyone, which is asserted in other Quranic verses. This is because polytheists in the Arabian Peninsula constantly breached their treaties and threatened the newly established Islamic community, which is why the ruling only applies to them.[20]

Verse of Siqayat al-Hajj

أَجَعَلْتُمْ سِقَايَةَ الْحَاجِّ وَعِمَارَ‌ةَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَ‌امِ كَمَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّـهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ‌ وَجَاهَدَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ ۚ لَا يَسْتَوُونَ عِندَ اللَّـهِ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ

In Shia and Sunni sources, there are many hadiths about the occasion of the revelation of this verse.[21] According to one hadith, which is deemed the most accurate by Tafsir-i nimuna,[22] a dispute occurred between Shayba and 'Abbas b. 'Abd al-Muttalib, the Prophet’s uncle. 'Abbas boasted about his position of "siqaya" (provision of water for hajj pilgrims) and Shayba boasted about his position of holding the Ka'ba’s key. Imam Ali (a) entered and said that his honor was his early faith and jihad in the way of God. Abbas was angered and complained to the Prophet (s). When Imam Ali (a) went to the Prophet (s), the above verse was revealed, in which faith and jihad are said to be superior.[23]

Verse of Jizya

قَاتِلُوا الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّـهِ وَلَا بِالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ‌ وَلَا يُحَرِّ‌مُونَ مَا حَرَّ‌مَ اللَّـهُ وَرَ‌سُولُهُ وَلَا يَدِينُونَ دِينَ الْحَقِّ مِنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ حَتَّىٰ يُعْطُوا الْجِزْيَةَ عَن يَدٍ وَهُمْ صَاغِرُ‌ونَ

Verse of "Do Not Grieve"

...إِذْ هُمَا فِي الْغَارِ إِذْ يَقُولُ لِصَاحِبِهِ لَا تَحْزَنْ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ مَعَنَا ۖ فَأَنزَلَ اللَّـهُ سَكِينَتَهُ عَلَيْهِ وَأَيَّدَهُ بِجُنُودٍ لَّمْ تَرَوْهَا

The Verse of "La Tahzan" or "do not grieve" concerns the Prophet's migration from Mecca to Medina.[24] When the Prophet (s) learned about the plot for his murder through revelation, he and Abu Bakr left Mecca toward Yathrib through a detour until they arrive in Thawr Cave, where they hid.[25]

Verse of Ear

وَمِنْهُمُ الَّذِينَ يُؤْذُونَ النَّبِيَّ وَيَقُولُونَ هُوَ أُذُنٌ ۚ قُلْ أُذُنُ خَيْرٍ‌ لَّكُمْ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّـهِ وَيُؤْمِنُ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَرَ‌حْمَةٌ لِّلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مِنكُمْ ۚ وَالَّذِينَ يُؤْذُونَ رَ‌سُولَ اللَّـهِ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

Al-Sadiqin Verse

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ وَكُونُوا مَعَ الصَّادِقِينَ

There are disagreements among Quranic exegetes over what is meant by "Sadiqin" (the truthful). Some Sunni exegetes believe that it refers to the Prophet (s) and his companions, but Shiite exegetes cite hadiths to show that it refers to Infallible Imams.[26]

Nafr Verse

وَمَا كَانَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لِيَنفِرُ‌وا كَافَّةً ۚ فَلَوْلَا نَفَرَ‌ مِن كُلِّ فِرْ‌قَةٍ مِّنْهُمْ طَائِفَةٌ لِّيَتَفَقَّهُوا فِي الدِّينِ وَلِيُنذِرُ‌وا قَوْمَهُمْ إِذَا رَ‌جَعُوا إِلَيْهِمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَحْذَرُ‌ونَ

Verse 122 of Sura al-Tawba is known as the Verse of Nafr. The verse is said to be Quranic evidence for the obligation of learning, the reliability or authoritativeness of Khabar al-Wahid[27] and fatwas issued by mujtahids.[28]

Verses of Jurisprudential Rulings

There are about fifteen verses in Sura al-Tawba, which count as ayat al-ahkam[29] (verses of jurisprudential rulings). Major rulings inferred by jurists from these verses include the rulings of zakat and the way it should be spent,[30] the rulings of jihad and three groups of people being exempt from it,[31] and impurity of polytheists.[32] Moreover, these verses are said to imply certain principles of jurisprudence and its principles. For instance, the Verse of Nafr is said to imply Khabar al-Wahid,[33] verse 115 is said to imply the presumption of innocence (asl al-bara'a),[34] and verse 91 implies the principle of benefaction (al-ihsan).[35]

Merits and Benefits

There is a hadith from the Prophet (s) to the effect that, on the day of resurrection, he would intercede for and testify in favor of those who recite Sura al-Anfal and Sura al-Tawba, since they are pure from hypocrisy, they are given ten rewards for every hypocrite (munafiq) man and woman in the world, he is purified from ten sins, ten degrees are added to his degrees, and the Throne and its bearers send greetings to him during his life in the world.[36] Imam al-Sadiq (a) is quoted as saying that those who recite Sura al-Anfal and al-Tawba every month, hypocrisy will never creep into their hearts.[37] Tafsir al-'Ayyashi makes the following comment on the latter hadith: such a person will live on heavenly tables together with Shias until people’s deeds in the world are reckoned.[38] It is recommended to recite Sura al-Tawba every month.[39]

There are hadiths in which certain benefits are attributed to the recitation of this sura, such as immunity from fire,[40] protection against wild animals[41] (by recitation of verses 128 and 129 of the sura).


In addition to exegeses of Sura al-Tawba in comprehensive books of Quranic exegsis, there are independent works that are devoted to the interpretation of this sura, including Dar sarzamin Tabuk: tafsir sura tawba (In the land of Tabuk: exegesis of Sura al-Tawba) by Ja'far Subhani Tabrizi, published by Bustan Kitab in Qom in 296 pages.


  1. Dāʾirat al-maʿārif Qurʾān al-karīm, vol. 9, p. 59-60.
  2. Maʿrifat, Āmūzish-i ʿulūm-i Qurʾān, vol. 2, p. 168.
  3. Khurramshāhī, Dānishnāmah-yi Qurʾān wa Qurʾān pazhūhī, vol. 2, p. 1238-1239.
  4. Ṭabāṭabāʾī, al-Mīzān, vol. 9. p. 146.
  5. Abū l-Futūḥ al-Rāzī, Rawḍ al-Jinān, vol. 9, p. 163.
  6. Ṭabrisī, Majmaʿ al-bayān, vol. 11, p. 5-6.
  7. Ibn ʿAbbas says: “I told ʿUthman why you have included Sura al-Baraʾa, which is a “miʾun” sura [suras with at least one hundred verses], among the seven long suras together with Sura al-Anfal which is one of al-Mathani, and why did you not write ‘Bism Allah’ between these two suras?” ʿUthman said: “When Quranic verses were revealed to the Prophet (s), he had the practice of telling the scribes of revelation to include those verses in such and such suras. Sura al-Anfal was one of the first suras revealed in Medina, and Sura al-Baraʾa was among the last suras revealed therein, and since these two suras involve the same stories [or similar contents], we treated Sura al-Baraʾa as a sequel of Sura al-Anfal. The Prophet (s) himself never said anything about this until he died. Thus, we included it among the long seven suras, without writing ‘Bism Allah’ between them.”
  8. Khurramshāhī, Dānishnāmah-yi Qurʾān wa Qurʾān pazhūhī, vol. 2, p. 1238-1239.
  9. Ṭabāṭabāʾī, al-Mīzān, vol. 9. p. 196.
  10. Khamagar, Muhammad, Sakhtar-i suraha-yi Qur'an-i karim, Mu'assisa-yi Farhangi-yi Qur'an wa 'Itrat-i Nur al-Thaqalayn, Qom: Nashra, ed.1, 1392 Sh.
  11. Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimūna, vol. 7, p. 275.
  12. Ibn Ḥanbal, Musnad al-Imām Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal, vol. 1, p. 183, vol. 2, p. 423; Nasā'ī, Khaṣāʾiṣ Amīr al-Muʾminīn ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib, p. 93; Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr al-Qurʾān al-ʿaẓīm, vol. 4, p. 107; Ibn Athīr, Jāmiʿ al-uṣūl, vol. 8, p. 660; Ṭabarī, Dhakhāʾir al-ʿuqbā, p. 69.
  13. Ibn Ḥanbal, Musnad al-Imām Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal, vol. 5, p. 178.
  14. Ṭabrisī, al-Iḥtijāj , vol. 1, p. 297.
  15. Mughnīya, Tafsīr al-Kāshif, vol. 4, p. 8.
  16. Ṭabrisī, Majmaʿ al-bayān, vol. 5, p. 5; Mughnīya, Tafsīr al-Kāshif, vol. 4, p. 8; Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimūna, vol. 7, p. 282.
  17. Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh al-Yaʿqūbī, vol. 2, p. 76.
  18. Ṭabāṭabāʾī, al-Mīzān, vol. 9. p. 147; Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimūna, vol. 7, p. 283.
  19. Ṭabrisī, Majmaʿ al-bayān, vol. 5, p. 5.
  20. Mughnīya, Tafsīr al-Kāshif, vol. 4, p. 9-10.
  21. Shūshtarī, Iḥqāq al-ḥaqq, vol. 3, p. 122.
  22. Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimūna, vol. 7, p. 321.
  23. Ḥākim al-Ḥaskānī, Shawāhid al-tanzīl, vol. 1, p. 320-330.
  24. Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimūna, vol. 7, p. 419.
  25. Ibn Hishām, al-Sīra al-nabawīyya, vol. 2, p. 126-129; Ibn Saʿd, al-Ṭabaqāt al-kubrā, vol. 1, p. 227-229.
  26. Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimūna, vol. 8, p. 181-183.
  27. Ākhund Khurāsānī, Kifāyat al-uṣūl, p. 298-299.
  28. Khoeī, al-Tanqīḥ, p. 66.
  29. Īrawānī, Durūs tamhīdīyya fī tafsīr āyāt al-aḥkām, vol. 1, 2, index of the book; Ardibīlī, Zubdat al-bayān, index of the book; Fāḍil Miqdād, Kanz al-ʿirfān fī fiqh al-Qurʾān, index of the book.
  30. Īrawānī, Durūs tamhīdīyya fī tafsīr āyāt al-aḥkām, vol. 1, p. 173-177; Ardibīlī, Zubdat al-bayān, p. 183.
  31. Īrawānī, Durūs tamhīdīyya fī tafsīr āyāt al-aḥkām, vol. 1, p. 225-243; Fāḍil Miqdād, Kanz al-ʿirfān, vol. 1, p. 228
  32. Īrawānī, Durūs tamhīdīyya fī tafsīr āyāt al-aḥkām, vol. 1, p. 95; Ardibīlī, Zubdat al-bayān, p. 37.
  33. Ākhund Khurāsānī, Kifāyat al-uṣūl, p. 298-299.
  34. Ākhund Khurāsānī, Kifāyat al-uṣūl, p. 298-299.
  35. Īrawānī, Durūs tamhīdīyya fī tafsīr āyāt al-aḥkām, vol. 2, p. 691.
  36. Ṭabrisī, Majmaʿ al-bayān, vol. 5, p. 6.
  37. Ṣadūq, Thawāb al-aʿmāl wa ʿiqāb al-aʿmāl, p. 241.
  38. ʿAyyāshī, Tafsīr al-ʿAyyāshī, vol. 2, p. 46.
  39. Kāshif al-Ghitāʾ, Kashf al-ghitāʾ, vol. 3, p. 471.
  40. Baḥrānī, al-Burhān, vol. 2, p. 727.
  41. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 2, p. 625.


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