Al-Itqān: Meccan and Medinan Chapters

Originally posted on the Light of the Furqān blog.


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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Al-Fātiḥa

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.

Yūnus

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.

Al-Ḥadīd

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
Chapter Verse Notes
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
2 Al-Baqrah Mecca 109 Medina
272 Medina
6 Al-An’ām Mecca 20 Medina
93-94 Medina
114 Medina
151 Medina
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
8 Al-Anfāl Medina 30 Mecca
64 Mecca
9 Barā’ah Medina 128-129 Mecca
113 Mecca Some claim this verse was revealed in relation to something that the Prophet said to Imam ‘Alī
10 Yūnus Mecca 94-95 Medina
40 Medina
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
11 Hūd Mecca 12 Medina
17 Medina
114 Medina
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
Mecca 8-13 Medina
14 Ibrāhīm Mecca 28-29 Medina
15 Al-Ḥijr Mecca 87 Medina
16 Al-Naḥl Mecca 126-128 Medina
41-128 Medina
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
73-81 Medina
88 Medina
60 Medina
107 Medina
18 Al-Kahf Mecca 1-8 Medina
28 Medina
107 Medina
19 Maryam Mecca 58 Medina
71 Medina
21 Ṭaha Mecca 130 Medina
131 Medina
21 Al-Anbīyā Mecca 44 Medina
22 Al-Ḥajj Mecca 19 Medina Most scholars are in agreement that this chapter consists of a mixture of Meccan and Medinan verses
Medina 52-55 Mecca
23 Al-Mu’minūn Mecca 64-77 Medina
25 Al-Furqān Mecca 68-70 Medina
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
85 Medina
29 Al-‘Ankabūt Mecca 11 Medina
31 Luqmān Mecca 27-29 Medina
32 Al-Sajdah Mecca 18-20 Medina
16 Medina
34 Saba Mecca 6 Medina
36 Yāsīn Mecca 12 Medina
47 Medina
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.
10 Medina
23 Medina
40 Ghāfir Mecca 56-57 Medina
42 Al-Shūrā Mecca 24-27 Medina
39-41 Medina
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
45 Al-Jāthīyah Mecca 14 Medina
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.
15 Medina
35 Medina
50 Qāf Mecca 38 Medina
53 Al-Najm Mecca 32 Medina
33 Medina
54 Al-Qamar 45 Medina
54-55 Medina
55 Al-Raḥmān Mecca 29 Medina
56 Al-Wāqi’ah Mecca 39-40 Medina
75-82 Medina
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
58 Al-Mujādilah Mecca 7 Medina
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
66 Al-Taḥrīm Mecca 1-10 Medina
67 Al-Mulk Mecca Medina 3 verses from this chapter have been reported to have been revealed in Medina
68 Al-Qalam Mecca 17-33 Medina
48-50 Medina
73 Al-Muzzammil Mecca 10-11 Medina
20 Medina
76 Al-Insān Mecca 24 Medina
77 Al-Mursalāt Mecca 48 Medina
83 Al-Muṭaffifīn Mecca 1-6 Medina
90 Al-Balad Medina 1-4 Mecca
92 Al-Layl Mecca 1 Medina
107 Al-Mā’ūn Medina 1-3 Mecca

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.

  1. Al-Samarqandī, Al-Fawāid al-Bahīyah pg. 220

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