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Why Doesn’t Surat At-Tawbah Start With Bismillah?

02 May, 2022
Q Dear scholar, as-Salamu `alaykum! Could you explain why Surat At-Tawbah does not start with Bismillah?


Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. 

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All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

In this fatwa:

  1. Surat At-Tawbah or ‘repentance‘, exposes the true qualities of the hypocrites and threatens them with a woeful doom. It is a stern warning made in the strongest terms.
  2. Hence, an opening which stresses divine mercy and compassion does not seem particularly fitting to the subject matter of the surah.
  3. Therefore, the surah does not start with the phrase “Bismillahi Ar-Rahmani Ar-Rahim“, which comes at the beginning of every other surah in the Quran.
  4. To recite this phrase at its beginning is forbidden because it constitutes an addition to the Quran, which is not part of it.

In his well-known, The Meaning of the QuranSayyed Abu Al-A`la Al-Maududi states:

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There are two names for Surat At-Tawbah; i.e. At-Tawbah and Bara’ah. It is called At-Tawbah because it enunciates the nature of Tawbah (repentance) and mentions the conditions of its acceptance. The second name, Bara’ah (Release), is taken from the first word of the Surah.

This is the only Surah of the Quran to which the Basmalah is not prefixed. Though the commentators have given different reasons for this, the correct one that which has been given by Imam Ar-Razi is that the Prophet himself did not dictate it at the beginning of the surah.

Therefore, the Companions did not prefix it and so did their successors. This is a further proof of the fact that utmost care has been taken to keep the Quran intact so that it should remain in its complete and original form.”

Almighty Allah knows best.

Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.