The Makkiyah and Madaniyah Qur'an
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful ;
All the praise and thanks are due to Allah; May peace and blessings of Allah be upon His Messenger.
As part of studying the revelation of the Qur'an, scholars have categorized the Surahs (chapters) of the Qur'an and their verses according to the time or era of their revelation. This is the subject that came to be known as the Makkiyah and Madaniyah division of Qur'an or revelation. This division is logical since the Prophet [Sallallahu alayhi wa Sallam - Peace and Blessing of Allah be upon him] received revelation for 23 years, 13 in Makkah and 10 in Madinah respectively.
The location of their revelation is not necessarily relevant to this classification, such that there may be certain revelations that were revealed in Makkah, but are classified as Madaniyah because of the period of their revelation. A good example of this is the Chapter of An-Nasr (Divine Support), number 110, which was revealed in Mina, outskirts of Makkah, yet it is classified as a Madaniyah Chapter because it was revealed while the Prophet Sallallahu alayhi wa Sallam was living in Madinah just a few months before he passed away.
The Makkiyah Surah deals mainly with:
• Beliefs like the Creation as in the verse:
"And a great number of towns (their population) We destroyed (for their crimes). Our torment came upon them (suddenly) by night or while they were taking their midday nap." [Al-‘Araf, 7:4],
• The Oneness and Uniqueness of Allah, the Most Exalted, as in the verses:
"Say (O Muhammad): 'He is Allah, (the) One. Allah the Self-Sufficient Master, Whom all creatures need. He begets not, nor was He begotten. And there is none co-equal or comparable unto Him." [Al-Ikhlas, 112],
• Prophethood, as in the verse :
"It is He (Allah) who has sent among the unlettered a Messenger (Muhammad) from themselves, reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book [Quran] and wisdom [i.e. the Sunnah or Prophet's sayings] — although they were before in clear error —." [Al-Jumaah, 62:2],
• The revelation, as in the verse:
"Verily, We have sent it (this Quran) down in the night of Al-Qadr (Decree)." [Al-Qadar, 97:1],
• Angels, as stated in the verse:
"Whoever is an enemy to Allah, His Angels, His Messengers, Jibreel (Gabriel) and Mika’el (Michael), then verily, Allah is an enemy to the disbelievers." [Al-Baqarah, 2: 98],
• The Day of Judgement as in verses:
"Then (on the Day of Judgement) as for him whose balance (of good deeds) will be heavy. He will live a pleasant life (in Paradise). But as for him whose balance (of good deeds) will be light. He will have his home in a pit (Hell). And what will make you know what it is? (It is) a fiercely blazing Fire!" [Al-Qariah, 101: 6-11]
• General disobedience of man, and his punishment and reward
• The creation and development of man in the mother's womb is taken to be a wondrous thing.
Madaniyah parts, on the other hand, are filled with laws, both universal as well as worldly (marriage, divorce, heritage, blood-money, other transactions, etc). Special emphasis is laid on justice and fairness. Social interaction and ethical rules have been elaborated time and time again. Politics, worship and prayers are also frequently discussed.
Makkiyah and Madaniyah Surahs
A list of the Makkiyah and Madaniyah surahs is provided for easy reference. The list is based on the classification used by the Mushaf we read today. For the sake of brevity, only the surahs' numbers are provided:
Accordingly, the Makkiyah Chapters are 85 in number, and the Madaniyah are 28, the total of which is 113, where it should be 114. The reason for missing a Chapter is the fact that we did not include the first Chapter in the Mushaf, which is Al-Fatihah, or the Opening Chapter. This Chapter has been reported as having been revealed twice, one in Makkah and another in Madinah. Therefore, it was not included in either of them.
It should be pointed out that the only way for us to know whether a Chapter is Makkiyah or Madaniyah is through narration, and not by Ijtihad (the exertion of effort on the part of a qualified Islamic scholar to deduce an Islamic law for an issue about which there is no clear, specific text). Thus, the only way to distinguish them is through authentic narrations from the Companions narrated from the Prophet s.a.w.
The division of the Qur'anic Surahs (chapters) and verses into Makkiyah and Madaniyah categories is one of the scholarly styles Muslims devised to augment their effort to appreciate, understand and preserve the Qur'an. In addition to this, the Qur’an was also categorized with respect to the topics it discussed and or introduced- faith, dealings, character, and stories and parables are some of the topics.
Another way they used was to group the Surahs according to their length and number of their verses. These and the other ways of categorization attest to the marvelous endeavor scholars took to protect and preserve the Qur'an.
In his hook, At-Tanbiih ala Fadzli Ulum al-Qur'an, "Discerning the Virtues of the Sciences of the Qur'an," Ibn Habib an-Naisaburi mentioned 25 ways scholars used to group the Surahs of the Qur'an and verses into various meaningful categories.
Furthermore, these categorizations proved to be important tools in various areas of study and an essential part of the Sciences of the Qur’an. To appreciate its significant role in the general as well as the particular understanding of the Qur’an, consider the following points about the Makkiyah and Madaniyah categorization:
1. It can be essential in the process of understanding and proper interpretation of various Qur'anic verses. For instance, in Surah of al-Qasas ,28: 85 states, "Verily, He who has given you the Qur'an will return you back to the place of return" Knowing that this verse is Madinahan helps us to understand the interpretation that in this verse Allah, was reassuring the Prophet of his eventual return to Makkah. Also, knowing that a Surah is Makkiyah would indicate that the proper interpretation of the term Jihad when mentioned in it means struggle with peaceful means.
2. It facilitates the conclusion of rulings where abrogation is involved, thus Fiqh (jurisprudence) opinions are formulated with more surety. Therefore, if we find two verses that indicate an opposing or different ruling regarding a subject, we should give the Madaniyah verse preference over the Makkiyah one because of the fundamental principle that a late-revealed ruling supersedes a previously revealed one.
This is always the case except in the situation where not all of the verses in the Surah are of the same category [Makkiyah or Madaniyah]-a branch of this categorization, which we did not discuss here. In that case one must consider the specific verses individually.
3. It explains as well as delineates the essentials of the correct practice of da'awah (call for Islam). Knowledge of Makkiyah and Madaniyah provides some form of time outline which when considered in light of the specific events themselves can give a precise insight as to what sequence one must consider when planning a da'awah program. Scholars have dealt with the subject and many, especially in recent times, have discussed the principles and methodology of da'awah with respect to time, place and audience.
4. It provides insight into the history of Islamic legislation, which in turn reveals the wisdom deeply rooted in its extent, wholeness and facility. Furthermore, it helps in the understanding of legislation and appreciation of its meaning and the way it is to be applied. The same can be said of the Seerah (history) of the Prophet Sallallahu alayhi wa Sallam, its events and the circumstances that were current at the time.
[Excerpted Al Juma'ah Vol. 15 Issue 05 published Via Islam Web on 24 August 2006.]