Meccan sura

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The Meccan suras are the chronologically earlier chapters (suras) of the Qur'an that were, according to Islamic tradition, revealed anytime before the migration of the Islamic prophet Muhammed and his followers from Mecca to Medina (Hijra). The Medinan suras are those revelations that occurred after the move to the city of that name.

Meccan suras are typically shorter than Medinan suras, with relatively short verses (ayat), and mostly come near the end of the Qur'an. (As a general rule, the suras of the Qur'an are ordered from longest to shortest.) Most of the suras containing Muqatta'at are Meccan.[1]

The division of suras into 'Meccan' and 'Medinan' is primarily a consequence of stylistic and thematic considerations. Classification of the suras into these periods is based upon factors such as the length of the verse and the presence or absence of certain key concepts or words (e.g. al-Rahman as name of God).[2]

Chronological order of Meccan suras[edit]

One chronological order proposed by Abu al-Qasim `Umar ibn Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Kafi and considered the "traditional order" [3] consists of 86 suras, as follows:

96, 68, 73, 74, 1, 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, 84, 30, 29, 83

Theodor Nöldeke proposed a different chronological order, consisting of 90 suras, as follows:

  • from the first to the fifth year of Mohammed's mission
96, 74, 111, 106, 108, 104, 107, 102, 105, 92,
90, 94, 93, 97, 86, 91, 80, 68, 87, 95,
103, 85, 73, 101, 99, 82, 81, 53, 84, 100,
79, 77, 78, 88, 89, 75, 83, 69, 51, 52,
56, 70, 55, 112, 109, 113, 114, 1
  • the fifth and sixth year of his mission:
54, 37, 71, 76, 44, 50, 20, 26, 15, 19,
38, 36, 43, 72, 67, 23, 21, 25, 17, 27, 18
  • from the seventh year to Hijra:
32, 41, 45, 16, 30, 11, 14, 12, 40, 28,
39, 29, 31, 42, 10, 34, 35, 7, 46, 6, 13[4]

First Meccan Suras[edit]

The First Meccan period refers to the first period in which Muhammad started receiving revelations. The First Meccan Suras are suras that have been revealed throughout that period. They reflect the public setting in which they seem to have been shared and due to their structure and length, they seem to be presented in a manner that would be very easy to memorize and pass along orally,[5] not to mention that many of the suras seem to be used during early liturgies. They are relatively shorter than other chapters in the Quran but are more diverse in terms of structure. Compared to other later suras, the suras of the First Meccan Period employ more rhymes despite their shorter length.[6] They rank from being very short, a paragraph of less than 5 verses (for example sura 97, 103, 105, 108 and 111) to being organized in clusters of two (suras 81, 91), three (suras 82, 84, 86, 90, 92) or four verses (suras 85, 89).[6] Some of these suras also take on a balanced tripartite structure that begin and conclude with. The major theme of these suras revolves around presenting to humanity how obvious the existence of God is through the use of oath formulas involving the power of nature in an emphatic tone.[7] We especially see the suras reference destroyed civilizations, declaring their destruction to be the will of God. A huge stress is put on God being the creator of Earth and Heaven and everything that lies in between and also His unreachable generosity. In addition, certain suras generally talk about ethics and values human beings should have, specially the fact that human beings should be humbled by God's power, they should not pursue an extravagant life, be loving and sharing, most particularly with the poorer. Last but not least these suras contains eschatological prophecies.[8] Although not as elaborated as in later suras, these prophecies appear with a threatening tone to make people generally know about the existence of the Day of Judgement and all what it emcompasses (sura 103, 68, etc.), but also, they contain some of the more visual explanations of Heaven.

Second Meccan Suras[edit]

There are 21 suras in the second Meccan period. These suras have, on average, ayah between twelve and twenty syllables in length. Some suras have fewer than fifty ayah, while others, such as sura 20, “Ta-Ha,” have well over 100 verses.[9] These suras do not necessarily have distinct features, as the suras of the first and third Meccan periods do, but instead display a blend of features from both earlier and later Meccan suras. These middle suras keep and expand upon the tripartite structure of the verse. According to Ernst, suras that adhere to this structure (common in pre-Islamic Arab poetry) will have shorter first and third sections that parallel each other in scope and audience. The third section will “normally conclude with a flourish.” These parts bookend a somewhat larger middle section, which is “typically a narrative of prophecy and struggle”.[10] These suras also tend to use fewer oaths than earlier Meccan suras, but take a much more confrontational approach in regards to the disbelievers.[9] Some suras in this period adopt a form resembling a monotheistic service, as is often seen in later Meccan suras.[11] For example, sura 20 begins with a section proclaiming the greatness of God, and then transitions immediately into a story about Moses. After the lengthy story concludes, several verses are devoted to explaining the meaning of the story, especially as it relates to the disbelievers.[12] Due to the presence of elements from earlier and later Meccan suras, suras of the middle Meccan period exemplify the gradual development of the Qur'anic revelations over time, as Muhammad’s community slowly grew and changed. This is manifest in the fact that suras of the second Meccan period tend toward self-referentiality, wherein the Qur'an uses "qur'an" (recitation or the Qu'ran) and "kitaab" (book) to make mention to its own existence (suras 54, 37, 15, et al.), noting that indeed there is a holy message coming from God. Controversy from these verses have sprung up, wherein the question of the Word's existence is debated. Some believe that the Qur'an existed/exists for all time with God, while others believe that the Qur'an was simply the Word for the Arab peoples of Muhammad from his prophecy onward.

Third Meccan Suras[edit]

This period is marked from the beginning of Muhammad's public ministry to the Hijra, or the Abyssinian emigration. According to the Yusuf Ali translation, the Third Meccan period refers to the time period from the seventh year to the Hijra, approximately 619-622 A.D. This period is characterized by the persecution of Muhammad and the Muslims by the Quraysh as it expanded to his clan, the Hashem. To persuade the clan to relent their protection of Muhammad, the Quraysh boycotted the Hashem.[13] Revelations from this period are characterized by descriptions of the resurrection, paradise, and Judgment Day.[14] In this period, the tripartite structure is abandoned for longer and less complex structure, showing a form of collection that still remains a mystery to scholars. They contain mostly long addresses to the community of the believers (much larger by this time). Also Muhammad begins to be addressed directly by God instead of being used as merely the medium by which God's message is transmitted.[15]

Suras of this period show the ways in which believers should act even when they face opposition and difficulties.[13]

By the third Meccan period, sensuous imagery of full-bosomed, wide-eyed and virginal maidens have been replaced by references to spouses.[16] N78/E6o of the Third Meccan Period: 'whoever of their fathers, their spouses and offspring have acted honourably' By the Third Meccan period, Muhammad and the Muslims had gained sufficient support. In the early Meccan periods, these sensuous descriptions and temptations of voluptuous virgins were used to attract the attention of the Meccan pagans however by the Third Meccan period goals had been realigned not to attract pagans but to encourage and foster a law-abiding community centered around worshipping the Word of God.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ (in Reviews) Studie zur Komposition der mekkanischen Suren by Angelika Neuwirth, Review author[s]: A. Rippin, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 45, No. 1. (1982), pp. 149-150.
  3. ^ Edge comb, Kevin P. ["Chronological Order of Quranic Surahs"] Accessed 14 July 2013.
  4. ^ Koran - Original Catholic Encyclopedia
  5. ^ McAuliffe, Jane Dammen. "The Cambridge Companion to the Quran". Cambridge: 2006. 110
  6. ^ a b How to Read the Quran by Ernst, page 76
  7. ^ How to Read the Quran by Ernst, page 77
  8. ^ McAuliffe, 108
  9. ^ a b Robinson, Neal. Discovering the Qurʼan: A Contemporary Approach to a Veiled Text. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown UP, 2003. Print.
  10. ^ Ernst, 105
  11. ^ McAuliffe
  12. ^ Haleem, Abdel. The Qur'an. New York: Oxford UP, 2010. Print.
  13. ^ a b "Chronological Koran Part III: Late Meccan Period: A.D. 619-622." Wolf Pangloss. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2013.
  14. ^ "Koran." - Original Catholic Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2013.
  15. ^ McAuliffe, 111
  16. ^ a b Robinson, Neal. Discovering the Qurʼan: A Contemporary Approach to a Veiled Text. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown UP, 2003. 88-92.