The Divisions of The Noble Qur’an
There are four modules in this chapter:
- Division to Makki and Madani chapters.
- Division of the Qur’an into chapters.
- Division of the chapters of the Qur’an.
- Miscellaneous divisions of the Qur’an.
4.1 Count of the verses of the Qur’an.
4.2 What a verse constitutes.
4.3 Benefits of knowing the verse.
4.4 Ways to recognize the signs of a verse.
4.5 Laws pertaining to the order of the verses in the Qur’an.
Division of Makki and Madani Chapters
The period between the receiving prophethood and the demise of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was approximately 23 years. Of this ten years were spent in Makkah prior to the hijrah and thirteen in Madinah after the hijrah. It was during this period that the revelation of the Qur’an was completed. Taking this into consideration one can therefore appropriate two distinct categories; Makki chapters and Madani chapters.
The following questions arise from this introduction:
- Which chapters were revealed in Makkah?
- Which chapters were revealed in Madinah?
- How is a chapter considered to be Makki or Madani?
- Are there ways of knowing which chapters are Makki and Madani?
- What are the characteristics of each?
- What discerns one from the other?
Hereunder lie the answers to these questions:
- The chapters revealed in Makkah, as reported by ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas (d. 68) radiya Llahu ‘anhuma, are as follows:
|1.||Surah al ‘Alaq||28.||Surah al Quraysh||55.||Surah al An’am|
|2.||Surah al Qalam||29.||Surah al Qari’ah||56.||Surah al Saffat|
|3.||Surah al Duha||30.||Surah al Qiyamah||57.||Surah al Luqman|
|4.||Surah al Muzzammil||31.||Surah al Humazah||58.||Surah al Saba|
|5.||Surah al Muddathir||32.||Surah al Mursalat||59.||Surah al Zumar|
|6.||Surah al Lahab||33.||Surah al Qaf||60.||Surah al Ghafir|
|7.||Surah al Shams||34.||Surah al Balad||61.||Surah al Sajdah|
|8.||Surah al A’la||35.||Surah al Tariq||62.||Surah al Shura|
|9.||Surah al Layl||36.||Surah al Qamar||63.||Surah al Zukhruf|
|10.||Surah al Fajr||37.||Surah al Sad||64.||Surah al Dukhan|
|11.||Surah al Sharh||38.||Surah al A’raf||65.||Surah al Jathiyah|
|12.||Surah al ‘Asr||39.||Surah al Jinn||66.||Surah al Ahqaf|
|13.||Surah al Kawthar||40.||Surah al Yasin||67.||Surah al Dhariyat|
|14.||Surah al Takathur||41.||Surah al Furqan||68.||Surah al Ghashiyah|
|15.||Surah al Ma’un||42.||Surah al Isra||69.||Surah al Kahf|
|16.||Surah al Fil||43.||Surah al Maryam||70.||Surah al Nahl|
|17.||Surah al Kafirun||44.||Surah al Taha||71.||Surah al Nuh|
|18.||Surah al Ikhlas||45.||Surah al Shu’ara||72.||Surah al Ibrahim|
|19.||Surah al Najm||46.||Surah al Naml||73.||Surah al Ambiya|
|20.||Surah al ‘Abas||47.||Surah al Qasas||74.||Surah al Mu’minun|
|21.||Surah al Qadr||48.||Surah al Fussilat||75.||Surah al Ra’d|
|22.||Surah al Hajj||49.||Surah al Yunus||76.||Surah al Tur|
|23.||Surah al Fatir||50.||Surah al Hud||77.||Surah al Mulk|
|24.||Surah al Buruj||51.||Surah al Yusuf||78.||Surah al Haqqah|
|25.||Surah al Tin||52.||Surah al Hijr||79.||Surah al Ma’arij|
|26.||Surah al Naba’||53.||Surah al Nazi’at||80.||Surah al Infitar|
|27.||Surah al Inshiqaq||54.||Surah al Rum||81.||Surah al ‘Ankabut|
|82.||Surah al Rahman||83.||Surah al Takwir|
This count makes it evident that the chapters revealed in Makkah Mukarramah are 83 besides some verses within these chapters which were revealed in Madinah Munawwarah.
- The chapters revealed in Madinah, as reported by ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas (d. 68) radiya Llahu ‘anhuma, are as follows:
|1.||Surah al Mutaffifin||16.||Surah al Munafiqun|
|2.||Surah al Baqarah||17.||Surah al Nur|
|3.||Surah al Anfal||18.||Surah al Mujadalah|
|4.||Surah Al ‘Imran||19.||Surah al Hujurat|
|5.||Surah al Ahzab||20.||Surah al Tahrim|
|6.||Surah al Mumtahinah||21.||Surah al Jumu’ah|
|7.||Surah al Nisa||22.||Surah al Taghabun|
|8.||Surah al Zilzal||23.||Surah al Saff|
|9.||Surah al Hadid||24.||Surah al Fath|
|10.||Surah al Muhammad||25.||Surah al Ma’idah|
|11.||Surah al Dahr||26.||Surah al Tawbah|
|12.||Surah al Talaq||27.||Surah al Waqi’ah|
|13.||Surah al Bayyinah||28.||Surah al ‘Adiyat|
|14.||Surah al Hashr||29.||Surah al Falaq|
|15.||Surah al Nasr||30.||Surah al Nas|
Adding the Makki and Madani surahs gives us a total of 113 chapters. It is known and been mentioned by the scholars that the chapters of the Qur’an total 114. The reason for this discrepancy is that Surah al Fatihah has not been included above.
The reason Surah al Fatihah has been counted separately is due to reports supporting its revelation twice; once in Makkah and once in Madinah. The favoured opinion however is that it was revealed in Makkah.
- The three schools of thought when considering a chapter to be Makki or Madani.
a. The first and most famous school of thought is that a Makki chapter is that which was revealed before the hijrah not taking into consideration the actual place of revelation. It could have been revealed in Makkah or it could have been revealed elsewhere. Similarly, a Madani chapter is that which was revealed after the hijrah, whether in Madinah or not. This view considers the time of revelation.
b. The second opinion is that whatever was revealed in Makkah will be a Makki Surah, be it before hijrah or after. So too, will the revelations in the surrounds of Makkah be considered Makki. E.g. a chapter revealed in Mina, ‘Arafat or Hudaybiyyah will be said to be Makki. In the same manner a Madani chapter will be that which was revealed in and around Madinah, e.g. Badr or Uhud. This view considers the place of revelation.
Therefore, anything revealed anywhere else besides Makkah, Madinah, and its surrounds will be classified separately. It will neither be Makki nor will it be Madani.
c. The third opinion focuses on who is being addressed. If the people of Makkah are being addressed it will be Makki, whether it was revealed before or after hijrah. According to this school of thought, anything which does not address the people of Makkah and the polytheists will be Madani. This view considers who is being addressed in the revelation.
- Ways of knowing which chapters are Makki and which are Madani.
Qadi Abu Bakr al Baqillani rahimahu Llah says:
إنما يرجع في معرفة المكي والمدني إلى حفظ الصحابة والتابعين ، ولم يرد عن النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – في ذلك قول ، لأنه لم يؤمر به ، ولم يجعل الله علم ذلك من فرائض الأمة
Discerning the division of Makki and Madani chapters are based in the memories of the Sahabah and Tabi’in. Nothing regarding this has been narrated from Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam as he was not instructed to take note of it nor was it made a compulsory branch of knowledge.
The division of Makki and Madani categories has been narrated from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Therefore, the only way to discern the Makki and Madani chapters and/or verses is through authentic recollections of the Companion’s sayings.
- The characteristics of the two.
The erudite scholars of the past—may Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala reward them well—have sifted out and recorded some characteristics by way of which it is possible to determine the Makki and Madani.
These characteristics are further divided into the following:
a. Those Makki characteristics that always apply, which are as follows:
I. The words
يَا بَنِي آدَمَ
O children of Adam
When appearing in a chapter indicates to it being Makki.
II. Every chapter in which there is a verse of sajdah is considered Makki.
III. The word
When appearing in a chapter indicates to it being Makki.
Therefore, some have said, the above-mentioned word was never revealed in Madinah, nor is it found in the first half of the Qur’an. It appears 33 times in 15 chapters.
b. Those Makki characteristics that apply periodically, which are as follows:
I. A chapter containing a verse that begins with
يا أيها الناس
A verse beginning with the afore-mentioned will generally be part of a Makki Surah, however there are some exceptions. The following chapters are Madani, yet there are verses that begin with ‘O Mankind’, exceptions to the rule:
Surah al Baqarah:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اعْبُدُوْا رَبَّكُمُ الَّذِيْ خَلَقَكُمْ وَالَّذِيْنَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُوْنَ
O mankind worship your Lord, who created you and those before you, that you may become righteous.
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ كُلُوْا مِمَّا فِيْ الْأَرْضِ حَلَالًا طَيِّبًا وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوْا خُطُوَاتِ الشَّيْطَانِ ۚ إِنَّهُ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ مُّبِيْنٌ
O mankind eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful and good and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy.
Surah al Nisa’:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُوْا رَبَّكُمُ الَّذِيْ خَلَقَكُم مِّنْ نَّفْسٍ وَاحِدَةٍ
O mankind fear your Lord, who created you from one soul.
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ قَدْ جَاءَكُمُ الرَّسُوْلُ بِالْحَقِّ مِن رَّبِّكُمْ
O Mankind, the Messenger has come to you with the truth from your Lord.
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ قَدْ جَاءَكُم بُرْهَانٌ مِّنْ رَّبِّكُمْ وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكُمْ نُوْرًا مُّبِيْنًا
O mankind, there has come to you a conclusive proof from your Lord, and We have sent down to you a clear light.
Surah al Hajj:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُوْا رَبَّكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ زَلْزَلَةَ السَّاعَةِ شَيْءٌ عَظِيْمٌ
O mankind fear your Lord. Indeed, the convulsion of the [final] Hour is a terrible thing.
Surah al Hujurat:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّنْ ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَىٰ
O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female.
II. A chapter wherein there is mention of the incident of Adam ‘alayh al Salam and Iblis.
Any chapter that has this incident in it will be Makki besides Surah al Baqarah, which is a Madani chapter together with mentioning the incident.
III. A chapter that begins with the various letters, e.g.
الم الر طس طسم حم ق ن
Any chapter that that begins with such letters will be Makki, besides Surah al Baqarah and Surah Al ‘Imran which are exceptions to the rule; they are Madani chapters by consensus.
IV. A chapter that contains mention of the previous prophets and their people. The prophets call towards them and their adamant refusal which resulted in their destruction by way of the help of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala. Any such chapter will be Makki except for Surah al Baqarah which is a Madani chapter.
V. A chapter that generally has shorter verses.
Short verses generally indicate towards the chapter being Makki as the people of Makkah were eloquent and so concise forms suited them better rather than lengthy verses. Though this is the general case, their remains exceptions to the rule such as Surah al ‘Asr which is a Madani chapter containing short verses.
c. A Madani characteristic that will always apply:
A chapter containing a verse that begins with:
يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا
O you who have believe.
Any chapter that has this, whether in its beginning, middle, or end indicates to it being a Madani chapter. Perhaps the reason for this is that in the Madani period most were Muslims compared to the Makkan period. The call of the Qur’an was therefore suited to them with, “O you who have believed.”
This rule of thumb is constant. Whenever this is found in a chapter, it will be a Madani chapter.
d. A Madani characteristics that applies periodically:
Lengthy verses and chapters.
Perhaps the reason for this is that the people of Madinah were inclined towards lengthy discussions about the Islamic call and its injunctions. Their hearts were ready to accept the detailed injunctions of Islam which require elaboration.
This law though does not apply at all times as there are certain lengthy chapters with lengthy verses that are Makki, such as Surah al An’am just there are Madani chapters and verses which are short, such as Surah al Nasr.
- Discerning between Makki and Madani.
After discussing the characteristics of each we now go on to the discerning features of the Makki and Madani chapters. Though these two sub-headings may sound the same and the classical scholars haven’t made a clear distinction, I find myself separating the two based on the following principle: the characteristics focus on the literary style of the noble Qur’an, whilst the discerning features take into cognizance the subject matter. The Makki chapters, by and large differ from the Madani chapters with respect to its subject matter.
Discerning features of the Makki chapters:
I. The verses of the Makki chapters highlight the ultimate objective in Islam. Belief in Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala, his oneness, conviction that his attributes have the greatest level of goodness, and they are pure from all negative connotation. Together with this the verses allude to faith in the prophethood of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and the prophets that preceded him. Similarly, faith in the angels of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala, His books, the Last Day, resurrection, and recompense. All these articles of faith are supported by logical and universal proofs.
Thereafter, focusing on reproaching the polytheists on their worship of idols which cause no benefit nor harm, not for themselves nor for others. This is heralded by removing their doubts and dismantling their reality.
II. The Makki verses speak of the evil habits and vile customs of the polytheists. Their unjust killing, burying of daughters alive, and usurping the wealth of orphans, etc., is addressed. They are warned of punishment on these evils in these Makki verses.
This too though is a general law which has certain exceptions as there are some Madani chapters with a similar subject matter.
III. These verses exhort towards imbuing in oneself sublime character; truthfulness, patience in difficulties, humility, cleansing the hear, calling towards good, and forbidding evil amongst other such characteristics.
This also is general law which has certain exceptions as there are some Madani chapters with a similar subject matter.
Discerning features of the Madani chapters:
I. Calling upon the Jews and Christians to come into the fold of Islam together with erecting proofs exposing their false beliefs and distance from the truth. Furthermore, these verses expound on their interpolation of the divine books sent to them.
II. Permission to fight in the cause of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala was granted together with explaining the laws of Jihad in these Madani chapters.
III. Extensive explanation of the Islamic law is a salient feature of the Madani chapters. Revelation included laws that pertained to worship, trade, inheritance, and divine punishment. Personal law, territorial law, and concepts of judicial ordinances were clarified.
IV. Exposing the hypocrites and their devious schemes, jealousy, and deep seeded hatred for the Muslims in general and for Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam These hypocrites came about in Madinah after the hijrah as a group that had a vested interest in both the Muslims and the disbelievers.
V. Generally, the Madani chapters contain lengthy verses.
The classification of chapters as Makki and Madani are either by way of all the verses or by majority of the verses. This gives us four categories:
All the verses are Makki:
1) The verses of Surah al Muddathir are all Makki by consensus of the scholars.
2) Most of the verses in Surah al Nahl are Makki, besides the last three. From the verse mentioned below till the end of the chapter are verses that are Madani:
وَإِنْ عَاقَبْتُمْ فَعَاقِبُوْا بِمِثْلِ مَا عُوْقِبْتُم بِهِ وَلَئِن صَبَرْتُمْ لَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لِّلصَّابِرِيْنَ
And if you punish [an enemy, O believers], punish with an equivalent of that with which you were harmed. But if you are patient – it is better for those who are patient.
3) The verses of Surah al Nur are all Madani.
4) Most of the verses in Surah al Muhammad are Madani, besides the verse:
وَكَأَيِّنْ مِّنْ قَرْيَةٍ هِيَ أَشَدُّ قُوَّةً مِّنْ قَرْيَتِكَ الَّتِيْ أَخْرَجَتْكَ أَهْلَكْنَاهُمْ فَلَا نَاصِرَ لَهُمْ
And how many a city was stronger than your city [Makkah] which drove you out? We destroyed them; and there was no helper for them.
This verse was revealed as Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam left Makkah heading towards Madinah. It is therefore a Makki verse.
 See, the forewords to ‘Ulum al Qur’an, pgs. 8-9.
 Tarikh al Mushaf, pgs. 98-100; al Itqan, vol. 1 pg. 23.
 Tarikh al Mushaf, pg. 101; al Itqan, vol. 1 pg. 24.
 Surah al Baqarah: 21.
 Surah al Baqarah: 168.
 Surah al Nisa: 1.
 Surah al Nisa: 170.
 Surah al Nisa: 174.
 Surah al Haj: 1.
 Surah al Hujurat: 13.
 See, Tarikh al Mushaf, pg. 102; Al Itqan, vol. 1 pg. 27; Ma’a al Qur’an al Karim, pg. 146.
 See, Tarikh al Mushaf, pgs. 104-105; Ma’a al Qur’an al Karim, pg. 153.
 See, Tarikh al Mushaf, pg. 105; Ma’a al Qur’an al Karim, pgs. 163-164.
 Surah al Nahl: 126.