Can We Write Notes and Highlight Ayah(s) in the Quran (English with Arabic Text)?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick


Can one write notes, commentary, tafsir, and highlight (verses) in the Quran?


In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate.

May Allah alleviate our difficulties and bless us with all forms of goodness, Amin.

While requiring some clarification, highlighting (verses), writing notes, commentary, and tafsir, in the Mushaf (the more appropriate term to refer to a copy of the Quran), is permissible, and Allah knows best.

Revering the Quran

The Quran must be respected and revered in all its forms and expressions, whether written, spoken, read, or other.

Part of revering the Quran is observing the Sacred Rules related to the Mushaf. These laws include but are not limited to, that the Mushaf must not be touched by a person in an impure state or recited by a person in a state of sexual defilement (janaba).

The Shafi‘i School on What Counts as Mushaf

The Shafi‘i School, however, does not consider these rules to apply to books in which there is a combination of Quran (Arabic) and other than the Quran (including translation of the Quran), wherein the Quran makes up less than 50% of the book’s contents. This would include tafsir literature and translations of the Quran. [Nawawi, Majmu‘; Bujayrami, Hashiya]

The Companions and Writing in the Mushaf

Some of the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them), who were scribes of the Quran, sometimes wrote additional notes in their personal copies of the Mushaf.

For example, Sayyida ‘Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) wrote the verse, “Observe the (five obligatory) prayers—especially the middle prayer—and stand in true devotion to Allah.” (Quran, 2:238) She then added “and the ‘Asr (late-afternoon) prayer” as an explanation of “the middle prayer” because she believed that it was permissible for her to do so. [Baji, al-Muntaqa Sharh al-Muwatta’]

Ubayy Ibn Ka‘b (Allah be pleased with him) also included non-Quran writing into his personal Mushaf, including the words of the Qunut prayer and tafsir (exegetical) notes. [ibid.]

Erase Everything Except the Quran

Some views claim that making notes in the Mushaf is prohibited. The primary evidence used to espouse this is the opinions of some of the Companions (Allah be pleased with them) which express this, and the hadith of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), “Do not write anything from me; whoever has written anything from me other than the Quran, let him erase it and narrate from me, for there is nothing wrong with that.” [Muslim]

According to Imam Nawawi, one of the reasons for the above prohibition was that writing the Prophet’s explanatory words, exegesis, and hadith (Allah bless him and give him peace) on the same page as the Quran may have led to confusion about what is part of the Quran and what is not especially since the revelation and official writing of the Quran had not yet finished. [Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim]

Similar to the above explanation, one should also understand the opinions of those Companions who prohibited any extra-Quranic writing from the Mushaf. The final form of the Mushaf was established and spread in the time of Sayyidina ‘Uthman (Allah be pleased with him), hence the extra caution by the Companions during this early period wherein confusion was a genuine risk, and Allah knows best.

Please refer to this answer to the same question for another contemporary opinion on this issue by a leading scholar of the Quran.

I pray this is of benefit, and that Allah guides us all.
[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar Shaykh Taha Karaan.

Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.

He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.

Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and has completed his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.