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TheStructureand Divisionsofthe

Quran
InitsbasicstructuretheQuranismadeupofsuras,sometimesreferredtoin Englishaschapters.TheArabicwordcomesfromarootmeaningtofenceinwhich indicatesthateachpartoftheBookisatthesametimeseparatedfrombutalsojoinedto whatprecedesandfollowsit.Thesurasvarygreatlyinlengthwiththelongeronesat thebeginningandtheshorteronesattheend,althoughtheprogressionfromlongto shortisbynomeansregular.Thereare114surasaltogether,allexceptforoneofwhich sura 9 atTawba/Repentance are prefaced by the expression bismillahirrahmanir rahim/inthenameofAllah,theAllMerciful,theMostMerciful.Eachsurahasaname, bywhichitisknownandwhichisnearlyalwaysderivedfromasignificantwordinit.

The suras are divided into ayats literally signs sometimes referred to in inappropriately in English as verses. The longest sura is sura 2, alBaqara/the Cow, whichcontains286ayatsandtheshortestissura108,alKawthar/theGreatAbundance,

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whichcontainsonly3ayats.Thenumberofayatsinaparticularsura,however,isnot necessarilyagoodgaugetoitslengthsinceayatsvaryagreatdealinlength.Sura26, ashShuara/the Poets, for instance, contains 226 ayats, which is the second greatest numberofayatsinanysura,andyetalmostalltheprecedingsuras,mostofwhich containfarfewerayats,arethesamelengthorlonger.Asageneralruletheayatswere shorterintheearlyperiodofrevelationandbecamelongerastheRevelationprogressed. Thelongestayatis2:282,containing128words,andtheshortestis55:63,whichisjust onewordlong.

The114surasaredividedintoapproximately6220ayats,madeupofabout77440 words,containing321000letters.Itisimpossibletobeabsolutelypreciseaboutthese figuresbecausetherehavealwaysbeenslightdifferencesregardingayatendings,which werenotmadeexplicitinthefirstcopiesoftheMushaf,andorthographicvariations havepreventedanabsoluteconsensusregardingtheexactnumberofwordsandletters theQurancontains.

AswelearnedwhenwelookedathowtheQuranwasfirstcompiled,theorder ofboththesurasandoftheayatswithinthesuraswasdefinitivelydeterminedinthe lastyearofthelifeoftheProphet,mayAllahblesshimandgranthimpeace,whenthe AngelJibril,peacebeuponhim,wentthroughthewholeBookwithhimtwicewhilehe wasinretreatinthemosqueduringhisfinalRamadan.Forvariousreasons,however, suchaseaseofcopyingproductionandforrecitationpurposes,severalotherkindsof divisionshavebeenintroducedintotheQuranictext,mostofwhichdatefromvery earlytimes.

The surasare consideredtofall intofourcategories. Attiwal (the long)suras whichcomprise suras210; almiun (the hundreds) suras those surasofabout 100 ayatsinlengthsuras1035;almathani(therepeated)suraswhicharesuras3649;and almufassal(dividedup)surasthelastpartoftheQuran,beingtheshortsurasfrom50 114.MostcopiesandeditionsoftheQuranalsoshowitasbeingdividedintofourmore

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orlessequalparts,known,naturallyenoughasquarters.Thefirstcomprisessuras16, thesecond,suras718,thethird,suras1935andthelastsuras36114.

AnothertraditionalwayofdividinguptheQuran isintosevenmoreorless equalsectionstoenablethewholeBooktoberecitedoverthecourseofasingleweek, eachpartbeingcalledamanzilorstoppingplace.Thefirstissuras15,thesecondsuras 510,thethirdsuras1017,thefourthsuras1727,thefifthsuras2735,thesixthsuras35 50,andthefinalpartsuras50114.Themostcommonlyuseddivisionsnow,however, arethejuzandthehizbanditistheseandtheirsubdivisionswhichyouseemarkedin themarginsofmostQuransproducedtoday.ThevastmajorityofQuransprintednow areineithertheHafsorWarshreadings.Wewilllooklateronatthevariousreadingsin moredetail.

TheHafseditionsareusuallydividedintoajza whichisthepluralof juzorwe couldangliciseitandcallthemjuzes.Therearethirtyjuzesinallandtheycomeinto theirown,asitwere,duringthemonthofRamadan,whenajuzisrecitedeachnightin tarawih.Eachjuzisdividedintotwo ahzab orhizbsandintheWarsheditionsitisthe hizbwhichtakesprideofplace,nomentionbeingmadeofjuzesatall.Therearesixty hizbsaltogetherandthereisatraditionthroughoutmuchofNorthandWestAfrica, wheretheWarshreadingisprevalent,ofgrouprecitationofahizbeverydayafterthe prayersofSubhandMaghribinthemosque,usuallyledbytheimam.Thishas,for centuries,givencountlessthousandsofMuslimsgreatfamiliaritywiththeQuranictext andhasindeedformanybeenthemeansoflearningthewholeQuranbyheart.Each hizbisdividedintoeightpartsknownasthamansandthewholesystemmakesthe Quranmucheasiertoreciteandmemorisethanitwouldbeotherwise.

ThesearewhatwemightcallthestructuraldivisionsoftheQuran.Thereare, however,afewotherwaysthattheQuranhastraditionallybeendividedup.Onewe lookedatbrieflyinourintroductiontothiscoursethethematicdivisionoftheQuran anditisworthwhilelookingatitagainasweareexaminingthismatterofdivisionsin theQuran.Aswenoted,theulamaofIslamhavealwayssaidthatthecontentsofthe

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Quran are basically subsumed under three themes: tawhid/the unity of Allah, qisas/narratives,and ahkam/legaljudgements.Itwouldbegoodatthispointtobreak down these themes into their constituent parts so that we may have a reasonably comprehensive overview of the contents of the Quran as theyfit into this tripartite thematicscheme.

ThefirstthemeisthatofAllahsunityandaswenotedpreviouslytheBookof Allahaddressesthisinvariousways:

TawhidintheQuran:

AyatsreferringdirectlytoAllahandHisAttributes AyatsgivingargumentsforAllahsexistence AyatsusingmetaphorsandsimilestoindicateAllah AyatsregardingtheangelsandtheUnseen AyatsabouttheLastDayandtheGardenandFire Ayatsabouttheheavenlybodies Ayatsabouttheplantworld Ayatsaboutthehumanandanimalkingdoms Ayatsaboutrainandtheweathercycle

AlltheseareusedbyAllahtaalaintheQuranasdifferentmeansofindicating Hisabsoluteoneness.ThesecondthemeisthenarrativeaspectsoftheRevelationand againitcoversawidearea:

NarrativeAspectsoftheQuran:

ThebeginningsofhumanhistorythestoryofAdamandhissons AccountsoftheancientProphetsandtheirpeoples;inparticular: Nuhandhispeople HudandAd

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SalihandThamud Lutandhispeople ShuaybandMadyan ThefinalPropheticphaseofhumanhistory: Ibrahimandhissons YaqubandYusuf MusaandFirawn MusaandtheTribeofIsrail DawudandSulayman ZakariyyaandYahya IsaandhismotherMaryam IncidentsinthelifeoftheProphetandFirstCommunity,particularly: TheBattleofBadr(SuratalAnfal) TheBattleofUhud(SuratAliImran) TheTreatyofalHudaybiyya(SuratalFath) TheExpeditionofTabuk(SuratatTawba) TheAffairoftheNecklace(SuratanNur) Many,manyothersinlessdetailthantheabove VariousotherhistoricalnarrativesparticularlyinSuratalKahf

This narrative aspect of the Quran contains much of the moral and ethical teachingoftheRevelation.ThelastoftheQuranicthemesarethoseayatscontaining legalinjunctions:

LegalJudgementsintheQuran

Specificlegalrulingsconcerning: Thepillarsofthedeen Thehalalandharam Marriageanddivorce

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Inheritance Property Commercialtransactions Warfare Criminaloffences Instructionsofvarioustypesaddresseddirectlytothebelievers InjunctionsregardingtheJews,Christiansandunbelievers Passagescontaininggeneralcommandsandprohibitions

Itisclearfromthisbriefsummaryofthesubjectmattercoveredbythesethree majorthemesthatthereisvirtuallynothingintheQuranwhichisnotincludedinone ortheotherofthemsothatitisfairtosaythatthecontentsoftheQurancanindeedbe dividedbetweenthem.

MakkanandMadinansuras

ThereisoneotherwayofdividingupthesurasoftheQuranwhichstemsfrom thehistoricalrealityoftheRevelationitself,inthattheProphet,mayAllahblesshimand granthimpeace,was,forthefirstthirteenyearsofhisProphethood,basedinMakka andforthelasttenyears,inMadina,sothatthereisanaturaldivisionbetweenthe earlier suras which came down in Makka and the later ones which came down in Madina.AswitheverythingelseconnectedwiththeBookofAllahitisimpossibletobe absolutelydidacticaboutthisdivisionbecauseitisundoubtedlythecasethatthereare many Makkan ayats included in Madinan suras just as there are Madinan ayats in Makkansurassince,aswehaveseen,thefinalformwhichtheRevelationwastotake wasnotfinallyconfirmeduntilveryshortlybeforethedeathoftheMessengerofAllah, mayAllahblesshimandgranthimpeace,andupuntilthenhewas,underthedirection oftheAngelJibreel,continuallydecidingwheredifferentayatsshouldbeplaced.

It nevertheless remains the case that the each of the suras of the Quran is generally reckoned to be either Makkan or Madinan in origin. Any sura whose

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beginningwasrevealedbetweenthetimeofthecomingofthefirstrevelationandthe ProphetshijratoMadinaisconsideredtobeMakkanandanysurawhosebeginning stemsfromafterthatisconsideredMadinan.Thesamecriterionappliestoindividual ayatssothat,althoughcertainayatsareknowntohavecomedowninMakkatheyare consideredMadinanbecausetheywererevealedduringtheMadinanperiod,wellafter theHijra.

AsfarasthestudyoftheQuranisconcernedthisisamatteroffarmorethan merelyhistoricalinterest.ThecircumstancesoftheMuslimsinMakka,whentheywere atbestasmallbeleagueredgroup,wasatotalcontrasttotheonetheyfacedinMadina, whentheywerearapidlygrowingbodypoliticand,sinceoneoftheprimaryfunctions oftheQuranwastoactasasourceofguidance,gearedtotheimmediateneedsofthose beingaddressed,itisobviousthatthecontentsoftheRevelationwouldbeverydifferent ineachofthetwosituations.Thisisreflectedbothinthesubjectmatterandthelanguage oftheRevelation.

In Makka the people addressed by the Quran are the persecuted fledgling Muslim community, the dominant group of unbelievingidolaters andmankind as a whole.InMadinathesocialgroupingaddressedbytherevelationisconsiderablymore diverse,comprisingthe Muhajirun (Emigrants),theMuslimswhohademigratedthere mainly from Makka, the Ansar (Helpers), the Muslim inhabitants of the city who welcomedthem,theMunafiqun(Hypocrites),theinhabitantsofthecitywhopretended tobeMuslimswhentheywerenot,theAhlulkitab(PeopleoftheBook),theJewishclans settledinMadinaandChristiantribesfromtheNorth,andthe Arab (BedouinArabs), who lived in the desert surrounding Madina. The guidance requirements in the comparativelyclearcutMakkansituationwereclearlyverydifferentfromthefarmore complex Madinan environment, where a new society was in the process of being formed,withallthelegal,socialandeconomicproblemswhichthatentails.And,of course,theQuranreflectsthisinmanyways.

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TherearegenerallyreckonedtobeeightyfiveMakkansuras,namely:suras96, 68,73,74,111,81,87,92,89,93,94,103,100,108,102,107,109,105,113,114,112,53,80, 97,91,85,95,106,101,75,104,77,50,90,86,54,38,7,72,36,25,35,19,20,56,26,27,28, 17,10,11,12,15,6,37,31,34,39,40,41,42,43,44,45,46,51,88,18,16,71,14,21,23,32, 52,67,69,70,78,79,82,30,84,29,and83.Thereissomedifferenceofopinionregarding whichwasthelastsuratoberevealedinMakka.SomescholarstaketheopinionofIbn 'Abbas,thatitwassura29(alAnkabut),whileotherssaythatSura23(alMuminun)was thelastandstillotherssayitwasSura83(alMutaffifin).Thereisevenanopinionthat Sura83isactuallyMadinan.TherearetwentyeightMadinansuras,namely:suras2,8, 3,33,60,4,99,57,47,13,55,76,65,98,59,110,24,22,63,58,49,66,61,62,64,48,9,and5. Thisleavesjustonesura,thefirst,SuratalFatiha,aboutwhichtherearethreereceived opinions:thatitwasrevealedinMakka;thatitwasrevealedinMadina;andthatitwas revealedtwice,onceineachplace.

OnegenerallyrecognisabledifferencebetweentheMakkanandMadinanphases oftheRevelationwasthat,ashasalreadybeenpointedout,Makkanayatstendtobe shorterthanMadinanones.However,thecontentitselfisoftenthebestindicatorofthe provenanceofthesuraorayatconcerned.Certainthemesusuallyshowthataparticular partoftheRevelationisofMakkanorigin:

ThecalltoworshipAllahaloneandrenounceidolatry EmphasisontheabsoluteonenessofAllah TheestablishmentofthenewMessage TheResurrection,RewardandPunishment TheDayofJudgementanditsterrors TheGardenanditsdelights TheFireanditspunishments Argumentsrefutingtheclaimsoftheunbelievers Narrativesofthefateofpastnations,exceptforSura2 Ayatsissuingachallengetotheunbelievers

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Shortandconciseayatsusingparticularlyforcefullanguage Moralcorruptionanditsconsequences

AnotherspecificpointertotheMakkanoriginofaparticularsuraorayatisthe theexclamationkallawhichwasonlyusedintheMakkanphaseoftheRevelation.The existence of an ayat of sajda also shows the sura to have been revealed in Makka. AnotherthingalmostexclusivelyconfinedtotheMakkanperiodistheuseofthesingle letterstoprefacethesurasuchasHaMim,TaHa,YaSin,andsoon.Theonlyexceptions are the Alif Lam Mim at the beginning of suras 2 and 3. The use of oaths at the beginningofsurasisalsoasignofitsMakkanorigin.

AshasbeenmentionedsuraswithlongayatstendtobeMadinaninorigin.They are often muchmore discursive in nature than their Makkan counterparts and their contentsfrequentlydealwiththereligious,legalandsocialordinancesnecessaryforthe governanceofthegrowingMuslimpolityaswellasoftenreferringextensivelytoevents occurringatthetime,suchasbattlesandexpeditionsandcertaindomesticincidentsto drawfromthemallthelessonstheycontain.AnotherspecificpointertotheMadinan originofapassageintheQuranisanyreferenceinittoMunafiqun(Hypocrites),theone exceptionbeing29:11whichisknowntobeMakkan.

Aninterestingillustrativeexamplewhichbringsoutseveralofthepointsmade aboveisSuratalMudaththir(74),whichisoneoftheveryearliestsurasoftheQuranto berevealedbutwhichcontainsoneayat,31,whichisofMadinanorigin.Thecontrast betweenthatayatandtherestofthesurashowsveryclearlythenatureofthedifference betweentheMakkanandMadinanphasesoftheRevelation.

ThusitcanbeseenthattheknowledgeofMakkanandMadinanrevelationsisan importantbranchof ulumalQuran.Itisnotmerelyofhistoricalinterestbutisinfact particularly important for the correct understanding and interpretation particular passagesoftheQuranictext.WhileitistruethatmanysurasoftheQur'an contain

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materialfrombothperiodsofrevelationandthatinsomecasesthereexistsdifferenceof opinion among scholars concerning the classification of a particular passage, the distinction between the two periods is, on the whole, a wellestablished aspect of Quranicstudies,fullyutilisedinthescienceoftafsirandbestderivedfromtheinternal evidenceofthetextoftheQur'anitself.

Abdul Haqq Bewley