In a previous post I introduced “Al-Itqān fī ‘Ulūm al-Qurān” by al-Suyūṭī. I have recently been reading through some chapters of the book and have found many interesting discussions. What follows is a summary of al-Suyūṭī’s discussion on Meccan and Medinan chapters.
Importance of Knowing the Location of Revelation
Many scholars have attested to the importance of knowing the location of revelation of the chapters of the Qurān, particularly for an exegete. This is because knowing where a chapter was revealed can aid one in knowing when the chapter was revealed. This in turn can assist one in determining if that chapter has verses that can act as abrogating verses for other verses. This is according to the view that abrogating verses must come after the verses that they abrogate.
It should be noted that al-Suyūṭī only mentions a few benefits for studying the location of revelation of different chapters. Perhaps the most important reason to study the location of revelation of different chapters is that such knowledge provides necessary context when interpreting different verses. Many verses can be understood very differently if taken to have been revealed later on in the Prophet’s life versus earlier on in his life. In short, any sort of added context aids in the understanding of a text.
Definitions of Meccan/Medinan
To begin with, it should be noted that the words, “Meccan” and “Medinan” have been defined in 3 different ways. That is there are three different understandings of what these words mean which are as follows.
- Meccan chapters are those that were revealed before the migration (hijrah) of the Prophet to Medina and Medinan chapters are those that were revealed after his migration. This is regardless of whether the chapter was actually revealed in Mecca such as during the conquest of Mecca, which occurred after his migration, or if it was revealed during any trips he may have made to other locations while in Mecca or Medina. It should be noted that according to this view, anything revealed to the Prophet during his migration from Mecca to Medina is considered to be Meccan.
- Meccan chapters are those that were revealed in Mecca and Medinan chapters are those that were revealed in Medina. Mecca is also inclusive of the areas around it such as ‘Arafāt, Minā and Ḥudaybīyah. Medina is also inclusive of the areas around it such as Uḥud or Badr. The only problem with this view is that there may be some locations where the Qurān was revealed that are neither Meccan nor Medinan such as Tabūk.
- Meccan chapters are those that were addressed to the people of Mecca and Medinan chapters are those that were addressed to the people of Medina.
Locations of Revelation
There are multiple narrations discussing where the different chapters of the Qurān were revealed. Many of these narrations may contradict each other. Below is a list of the chapters of the Qurān about which there are differences of opinion in regards to their location of revelation.
Al-Fātīḥah, Yūnus, al-Ra’d, al-Ḥajj, al-Furqān, Yāsīn, Ṣād, Muḥammad, al-Hujurāt, al-Raḥmān, al-Ḥadīd, al-Ṣaff, al-Jum’ah, al-Taghābun, al-Mulk, al-Insān, al-Muṭaffifīn, al-A’lā, al-Fajr, al-Balad, al-Layl, al-Qadr, al-Bayyinah, al-Zalzalah, al-‘Ādīyāt, al-Takāthur, al-Mā’ūn, al-Kawthar, al-Ikhlāṣ, al-Falaq, al-Nās
These are all the chapters that al-Suyūṭī mentions as having differences of opinions about their location of revelation. There are differences of opinions on other chapters as mentioned in other exegetical works. Some interesting notes, as mentioned by al-Suyūṭī, about the differences of opinions in relation to some of these chapters are as follows.
Most scholars agree that al-Fātiḥah was revealed in Mecca although some believe it was revealed in Medina. This is to the extent that some believe it was revealed twice. Others believe that one half of it was revealed in Mecca whilst the other half was revealed in Medina1.
The difference of opinions on this chapter has occurred because there are two narrations both from Ibn ‘Abbās where one mentions the chapter as being Meccan whilst the other one claims that it is Medinan. The popular view is that the chapter is Meccan.
Most scholars believe this chapter to be Medinan. However there is a narration claiming that ‘Umar, who became a Muslim in Mecca, saw a verse from this chapter written on a piece of paper which caused him to become Muslim. Some scholars use this narration to argue that the chapter must be Meccan.
Verses Revealed in Places Other than their Chapter
In some cases certain verses have been revealed in a different location than the chapter that they were originally a part of. Below is a list of verses for which there have been claims that they were revealed in a location other than where the rest of their chapter was revealed.
|Table of Verses Revealed in Places Other than their Chapters|
|Number||Name||Claimed Location of Revelation||Number||Claimed Location of Revelation|
|1||Al-Fātiḥah||Mecca||Second half||Medina||It is claimed that the second half of the chapter was revealed in Medina, al-Suyūṭī claims that there is no proof for this claim|
|151-153||Medina||Al-Suyūṭī argues that these verses are possibly the only authentic exceptions from the chapter, particularly because there are narrations indicating that the chapter was actually revealed all at once|
|7||Al-A’rāf||Mecca||163||Medina||Some claim that only verse 163 was revealed in Medina|
|163-172||Medina||Others claim that all of the verses from verse 163 until 172 were revealed in Medina|
|113||Mecca||Some claim this verse was revealed in relation to something that the Prophet said to Imam 'Alī|
|40-109||Medina||Some have mentioned that the chapter is Meccan until the beginning of the 40th verse and then the rest is Medinan. This has been mentioned by al-Sakhāwī|
|12||Yūsuf||Mecca||1-3||Medina||Abū Ḥayyān seems to be only notable authority to have mentioned this view and Al-Suyūṭī largely discredits it.|
|13||Al-Ra'd||Medina||31||Mecca||There is a difference of opinions concerning where al-Ra'd itself was revealed. According to each view there are different verses that have been mentioned as having been revealed elsewhere|
|17||Al-Isrā||Mecca||85||Medina||There is a narration indicating that this verse was revealed in response to a question asked by a Jew about the soul|
|22||Al-Ḥajj||Mecca||19||Medina||Most scholars are in agreement that this chapter consists of a mixture of Meccan and Medinan verses|
|26||Al-Shu’arā||Mecca||224-227||Medina||These verses were revealed in Medina according to a narration attributed to Ibn 'Abbās|
|197||Medina||This verse was revealed in Medina according to a narration narrated by Ibn al-Faras|
|28||Al-Qaṣaṣ||Mecca||52-55||Medina||Apparently these verses were revealed|
|39||Al-Zumur||Mecca||53-55||Medina||Al-Ṭabrānī has narrated that these verses were revealed about the man who killed Bilāl, the companion of the Prophet, which occurred after the Prophet's migration.|
|43||Al-Zukhruf||Mecca||45||Medina or the skies||Some believe this verse to have been revealed within the skies and not upon the earth|
|46||Al-Aḥqāf||Mecca||10||Medina||Apparently this verse was revealed in Medina when 'Abd Allah bin Salām became Muslim, although other scholars have argued against this and asserted that this verse was also revealed in Mecca just like the rest of the chapter.|
|57||Al-Ḥadīd||Mecca/Medina||Medina||The majority believe that this chapter was revealed in Medina but those who believe it was revealed in Mecca believe that there are definitely some Medinan verses within the chapter|
|64||Al-Taghābun||Mecca/Medina||Ending||Medina||Those who believe that this chapter was revealed in Mecca believe that the end of it was revealed in Medina|
|67||Al-Mulk||Mecca||Medina||3 verses from this chapter have been reported to have been revealed in Medina|
The above is a short summary of my notes from Al-Suyūṭī’s discussion on Meccan and Medinan chapters. I hope that it introduces questions and new thoughts. In the future I hope to introduce more interesting discussions from this book.
- Al-Samarqandī, Al-Fawāid al-Bahīyah pg. 220 ↩