Ulum al Qur'an
CONTENTS ONLINE LIBRARY
According to a list based upon Nu'man b. Bashir and given in the fihrist of al-Nadim, [Fihrist, I. pp.49-52.] the chronological order of the revelation of the suras is as follows:
96, 68, 73, 74, 111, 81, 94, 103, 89, 93, 92, 100, 108, 102, 107, 109, 105, 112, 113, 114, 53, 80, 97, 91, 85, 95, 106, 101, 75, 104, 77, 50, 90, 55, 72, 36, 7, 25, 35, 19, 20, 56, 26, 27, 28, 17, 11, 12, 10, 15, 37, 31, 23, 34, 21, 37, 40, 41, 47, 43, 44, 45, 46, 51, 88, 18, 6, 16, 71, 14, 32, 52, 67, 69, 70, 78, 79, 82, 84, 30, 29, 83, 54, 86.
Why is it important to know the chronology of the suras and verses, although the Qur'an is not arranged in chronological order?
To know the origin and order of some of the revelation is important for understanding its meaning which can often be more easily grasped if one knows the time and circumstances that relate to it. For instance, many ayat from the Makkan period may be especially meaningful to Muslims living in a strongly un-Islamic environment, while some of the Madinan period would appeal much to Muslims who are in the process of formation of the umma. In some cases, unless one knows which of two or more related verses was revealed first, one cannot decide which legal ruling is now binding upon the Muslims. Here knowledge of the chronology is directly linked with the issue of al-nasikh wa al-mansukh. [See below for details.] It is also important to know the chronology of verses in order to understand the gradual development of many Muslim practices, attitudes and laws such as e.g. towards prohibition of alcohol, towards fighting, etc. and to see how these matters developed historically, i.e. during the lifetime of the Prophet in order to understand their full implications. [For example as far as fighting the enemy is concerned, the first verse revealed on this particular subject is from Sura al-hajj (22). This verse is from the Madinan period and it becomes clear from this that Muslims were not drawn to fight against the non-Muslims before the hijra. This has important implications for our own planning and thinking, e.g. to decide when Islam has to be defended today with verbal and when with physical means.]
Knowledge about the Makkan and Madinan suras derived from the sahaba and tabi'un and nothing is said about this by the Prophet himself. [al-Baqillani, in Qattan, op. cit., p.55.] This is because at his time everyone was a witness and well aware of the occasions of revelation.
Often there is internal evidence, as to which, part of the revelation is Makkan or Madinan. There are a number of guiding criteria, which help to distinguish between them:
The theme. Does it belong to the Makkan or Madinan period? e.g. verses about warfare (9: 5) are only revealed after hijra.
Sometimes there is a direct reference, such as e.g. to Abu Lahab in Sura 111, or to the Battle of Badr in Sura 3: 123.
The length. Makkan ayat are often short, Madinan ones longer, e.g.: Sura al-shu'ara'(26) is Makkan. It has 227 ayat. Sura al-anfal (8) is Madinan. It has (only) 75 ayat.
Makkan suras are usually short, Madinan ones longer, e.g.:
Juz' 30 is overwhelmingly Makkan. It has 543 (Makkan) ayat.
Juz' 18 is overwhelmingly Madinan. It has (only) 117 (Madinan) ayat.
There are however exceptions in both cases.
The form of address. Often the address: 'O ye who believe', and 'O people of the book' indicates a Madinan origin, while the addresses 'O Mankind' and 'O People' are usually of Makkan origin.
The theme. Among the Makkan themes are tawhid, shirk, day of resurrection, moral corruption, stories of the Prophets. These topics are also found in Madinan suras, but usually only touched upon briefly. Madinan themes which are not found in Makkan revelations are of social and legal implications, concerning marriage, divorce, inheritance, punishment, etc.
There are 19 suras with so-called huruf tahajji (such as alif , lam , mim , etc . ) . All these suras are Makkan, except Sura al-baqara (2) and Al 'Imran (3).
All ayat with the word kalla are Makkan.
All suras containing sajda are Makkan.
Most of the suras of the group mufassal, beginning with Sura qaf (50) in the latter part of the Qur'an are Makkan .
All references to the munafiqun are from Madina (except Sura al-'ankabut (29). Its verse 11 is Makkan.