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Islamic Q and A (23 Jan 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)

What Are the Sources, Meanings and Significance Of The Quranic Verses Being Makki Or Madani?

By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam

21January 2019

Questions: What is the meaning of the Quranic verses being Makki or Madani? How much is it important for an exegete [Mufassir] to know about Makki and Madani verses? What are the sources of learning them?

What Is The Meaning Of The Quranic Verses Being Makki Or Madani?

The Muslim scholars, specially the experts of usul al-tafsir, present three views of the early people concerning Makki and the Madani verses.

Having explored and studied these three views scattered in several books and writings of the past, Imam Badruddin Muhammad bin Abdullah al-Zarkashi in his Arabic book ‘Al-Burhan Fi Ulum al-Quran’ (vol. 1, p. 187), and Imam Jalaluddin Abdur Rahman bin Abi Bakr Al-Suyuti (911 A.H) in his Arabic book ‘Al-Itqan Fi Ulum al-Quran’ (vol.1, p.45-47) mention these three views at one place. It thus became easy for writers, authors and the interested readers to know these three different connotations. With some necessary editing and proper arrangement, they can be presented as follows;  

1.       The most popular view is that the Makki verses or Aayaat are those that were revealed before Hijrah [migration]. The Madani verses are those that were sent down after Hijrat, whether at Madina or Makka, in the year of victory of Makka [Aam al-Fath] or the year of Hajjatul Wida or during travelling. The basis of classification, as per this popular view, is the time before or after Hijrah and not the city of revelation.

Imam Suyuti quotes a report that “Usman bin Saeed Al-Daarmi, with his chain of narration that reaches Yahya bin Sallam, said: “[the ayat or verse or Surah] what was revealed at Makka and what was revealed on the way to Madina before the Prophet (peace be upon him) reached Madina is Makki, and what was revealed to the Prophet [peace be upon him] during his tours and travelling after his reaching Madina is called Madani” [Suyuti, al-Itqan new Arabic ed. P.45).

It is important for the experts to note here that Usman bin Saeed is al-Daarmi and not Al-Razi as mentioned in Imam Suyuti’s book and not Al-Daani as in old editions of Imam Zarkashi’s book. [See al-Itqan – newly researched version by Markaz al-dirasat al-Qura’niya p.45)

2.       The second view is that Makki verses are those that were sent down at Makka, even though after the Hijrat and coming back from Madina [at Makka]. The Madani verses are those that were sent down at Madina. The basis of classification here is the city of revelation. Thus as per this second view what was revealed during travelling is neither called Makki nor Madani.

This second view, though not as popular as the first one, emanates from a report quoted in Suyuti’s al-Itqan. Tabarani narrated in his al-Kabir from the chain of Walid bin Muslim from Ufair bin Ma’dan from Sulaym bin ‘Aamir from Abu Umamah who reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The Quran was revealed in three places: Makkah, Madinah and al-Sham.” (Tabrani)

Walid said, “(al-Sham) here refers to Baytul Maqdis. Sheikh Imaduddin bin Kathir said, “But its [al-Sham] referring to Tabuk is better”.

Imam Suyuti says, “Makkah in this report refers to all its precincts like the revealed verses at Mina, Arafat and Hudaybiyya, and Madina refers to all its precincts like the revealed verses at Badr, Uhud and Sal’a [one of the mountains of Madinah Munawwarah, as detailed in the book Marasid al-Ittela -2/727]  [Suyuti, al-Itqan new Arabic ed. P.45)

3.       The third view is that the Makki verses or Surahs are those that were sent down to address the people of Makka are Makki and those that were sent down to address the people of Madina are Madani. This view emanates from the statement of Ibn Masu’d. 

Among all the three views mentioned above, the first one is the most popular and preferred view among the scholars; which implies that verses revealed before Hijrah are Makki and those revealed after Hijrah are Madani. But a Mufassir [exegete] should be cautious when exploring the early narrations regarding the Aayaat or verses being Makki or Madani, as he might have to apply, in some cases, the acme of caution to know what out of three views was actually meant by the narrators when they said ‘Makki’ or ‘Madani’.

How Much Is It Important For An Exegete To Know About Makki And Madani Verses?

The significance of learning the Makki and Madani verses can be valued from the following report.

Abul Qasim al-Hasan bin Muhammad bin Habib Nisapuri in his ‘Al-Tanbih ‘Ala Fadl Ulum al-Quran p. 307’ said, “One of the best sciences of the Quran is Science of its revelation, places of revelation [Jihaat], order of what was revealed in Makka and Madina, knowledge of what was revealed in Makkah while it is enjoined as Madani, what was revealed in Madina while it is enjoined as Makki, what was revealed in Makka addressing the people of Madina, what was revealed in Madina addressing the people of Makka, what is similar to Makki verse being revealed on the pattern or in favour of Madani verse, what is similar to Madani verse being revealed on the patter of the Makki verse, what was revealed at Juhfa [a city on the way of Hijrah between Makka and Madina], Bait al-Maqdis, Taif and Hudaybiyyah, what was revealed at night and during the day, what was revealed through the group of angels or by the angel Gabriel [Jibraeel in Arabic] alone, knowledge of the Madani verses in the Makki Surahs and that of Makki verses in the Madani Surahs, what was taken from Makka to Madina and from Madina to Makka and from Madina to Abyssinia [aka Habesha], what was revealed as Mujmal [that which requires details], what was revealed as Mufassar [that which does not require further explanation] and knowledge of the verses of the Quran about which there are differences in the sense that some call them Madani and some others hold them to be Makki.

So these are twenty five forms of this Science of Revelation of the Quran. Whoever does not know them and does not distinguish among them is not eligible for speaking anything about the Book of Allah [the Quran]” End of quote. [Al-Itqan, translated from Arabic edition, Chapter ‘Makki and Madani verses].

Imam Suyuti has given the details of these twenty five forms in his book ‘Al-Itqan’.

What Are The Sources Of Knowing The Verses Being Makki And Madani?

The source of knowing the verses being Makki or Madani is the reports of Sahaba and Tabi’un [followers of successors of the Sahaba, who received Islamic teachings second hand].

Qazi Abu Bakr Muhammad bin al-Tayyib al-Baqillani Al-Maliki (403 A.H) in his book, ‘Al-Intisar lil-Quran vol. 1 p. 247’ said,

“For knowledge of the Makki and Madani [Aayaat], one is required to turn to the memory of the holy Companions [Sahaba] and Tabi’un, as no statement or Hadith is reported to have come from the Prophet (peace be upon him) in this regard because he was not commanded [by Allah Almighty] to make a statement [that this ayat is Makki or Madani]. Nor did Allah make it among the Faraiz [obligatory acts] for the Ummah to learn this knowledge. If it is deemed compulsory [Wajib] for the people of knowledge to know the history of Nasikh and Mansukh concerning some Aayaat of the Quran, this knowledge can also be gained by other sources in addition to the texts [Nass] of the Prophet [peace be upon him].” End of quote [Suyuti’s Itqan / Baqillani’s Intisar lil-Quran vol. 1, p. 247, translated from Arabic edition]

Suyuti also quotes from Imam Bukhari a report from Ibn Masud who said,

“I swear by Allah besides Whom there is none worthy of worship that there is no Surah revealed in Allah's Book but I know at what place it was revealed; and there is no verse revealed in Allah's Book but I know about whom it was revealed......” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 6, p.488)

Hadrat Ali [may Allah be pleased with him] said, “By Allah, I know about every verse whether it was revealed at night or during daytime, in the plains or over the mountains” [al-Itqan].

To sum up, the first view of defining Makki and Madani is the most preferred among the people, which implies that the verses revealed before the beloved Prophet’s migration are Makki and those revealed after the migration are Madani, even after his coming back to Makka.

This view stands on the time of revelation and not on the city of revelation. Second point is that, it is compulsory for an exegete to learn Makki and Madani verses, without which he is not eligible for deducing any wilful understanding from the Quran. This is an important aspect without which a comprehensive understanding of the Quran is extremely difficult and even impossible.

 The last point to note is that the knowledge of Makki and Madani verses is acquired through sound and authentic reports and transmissions from the Sahaba and Tabi’un. The Sahaba witnessed incidents for which verses are revealed or because they had access to other corroborating facts and that they were the companions of the beloved Prophet [peace be upon him]   

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  • This is good explanation. I needed it. Thank you 
    By Javed - 2/6/2019 9:50:52 AM

  • My  last comment should have been as follows:

    "The certitude and the authoritativeness with which Naseer sb. speaks leaves very little room for a healthy discussion."

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 1/28/2019 11:38:32 AM

  • The Quran speaks with absolute clarity on every subject. There is no question that you can ask about the religion of Allah  for which you will not get a clear unambiguous answer.

    The certitude is based on the clarity of the Message.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 1/27/2019 11:07:33 PM

  • The certitude and the authoritativeness with which Naseer sb. speaks
    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 1/27/2019 1:05:23 PM

  • (28:66) Then the (whole) story that Day will seem obscure to them  and they will not be able (even) to question each other.

    (67) But any that (in this life) had repented, believed, and worked righteousness, will have hopes to be among those who achieve salvation.

    (68) Thy Lord does create and choose as He pleases: no choice have they (in the matter): Glory to Allah! and far is He above the partners they ascribe (to Him)!

    (69) And thy Lord knows all that their hearts conceal and all that they reveal.

    (70) And He is Allah: There is no god but He. To Him be praise, at the first and at the last: for Him is the Command, and to Him shall ye (all) be brought back.

     On the Day of Judgment, let alone questioning Allah, there will be no need to question each other. All matters will be clear. Whatever doubts we entertained in our life about Allah, will disappear or the arguments that we gathered to dispute with Allah, will no longer make any sense or seem obscure. While in this life, what Allah does may seem obscure, on the Day of Judgment, we will know what was it that was in our hearts that blinded us to the truth and we will stand accused by our own self.

     So, try to make peace with Allah in this world itself by repenting, believing and working righteousness. Discover what is it in your hearts that blinds you to Allah’s wisdom.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 1/26/2019 11:34:29 PM

  • Sultan Shahin sahib,
    I am not talking of concoction or fabrication. I am thinking of the possibility of innocent overinclusion during the process of compilation. The question arises when a verse clearly seems to be of human rather than divine origin. Questioning it is wrong. Not questioning it is also wrong. That is our dilemma!

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 1/25/2019 12:41:04 PM

  • Dear Ghulam Mohiuddin Saheb, While there are reports in Hadith from Sahaba (companions of the Prophet) of verses having disappeared from Quran, there is not one claim at all of verses having been concocted, fabricated and added. Surah Ahzab, for instance, is reported in Hadith to have been originally double or more its present size of 73 verses. Sahaba remember it as being almost the same size as Surah Baqra (286 verses). And so on. Quran was established in the memory as well as written by companions as well as the katibeen (writers) specially appointed for this purpose, immediately after the revelations. Maybe it is difficult for a human mind to fathom God's sense of Justice. For instance, a human may think that God should specially guide the unjust, but God says He doesn't do that. Why? Is that just? Perhaps, the real question is: is it for us humans to judge God? Since we do not and cannot understand the uniqueness of God, we may better leave these issues to be decided on the Day of Judgement. When we meet God, we can ask him. Since the demise of the Prophet, the door of communication is closed. Had the Sahaba put these questions through the Prophet, God may have answered. Maybe He has and we only need to study Quran in greater depth to get an answer to these questions. For, in Quran we find God explaining his actions and instructions as well, though as the Master of the Universe, He doesn't have to. Before questioning God, we should understand our own puniness in relation to the Almighty. In my judgement, Quran's verses are not concocted or fabricated. If we don't understand something, we should first read the whole of Quran more closely, and if we still don't understand, we should wait for the Day of Judgement.  

    By Sultan Shahin - 1/25/2019 2:35:36 AM

  • Verses from God are not unjust. If an unjust verse is found, one should  wonder how it got into the Quran.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 1/24/2019 5:59:38 PM

  • Makki surahs are surahs that were revealed to Prophet Muhammad when he was in Makkah. ... Makki surahs tend to focus on the Oneness of Allah, the Judgement Day, the Hereafter etc while Madani surahs emphasize more on legislations and interactions between men and this world.
    By Richard Pinc - 1/24/2019 7:03:42 AM

  • There are three clear phases in the Prophetic mission of Muhammad (pbuh).

     1. The early pre-migration stage of preaching which consisted of defining Islam, nature of prophetic missions, warnings from the stories of previous prophets, description of Heaven and Hell, what constitutes success.  There was violent opposition by the leaders of Unfaith and therefore there are verses about a few of these violent enemies of Allah. The major part is repetitive telling of stories of previous prophets which resulted in destruction of the disbelievers by an act of Allah at the end of the mission. This is as a warning to the people of Mecca of what they could expect if they resisted the Prophet. Since the Prophet was not a ruler and not in a position to legislate laws and enforce them, this period is without a single legislative verse. Since there were very few people of the Book in Mecca (if at all), there are no verses concerning them.

     2. The post migration phase covers armed struggle and the actualizing of the warnings in the earlier phase. In this period, since the Prophet was also the ruler, all the legislative verses are in this phase. The war related verses are in this phase. The verses regarding the People of the Book are also in this phase since Medina had Jewish and Christian communities. The stories of reformer prophets (other than those whose missions did not end in destruction of the disbelievers) are also in this phase since reformer prophets were sent to the Jews and their stories are relevant to them. 

     3. The post victory phase is covered by the first 30 verse of Surah Taubah. This phase covers the judgment on the vanquished enemy and terms for assimilating the population under the political sovereignty of the Prophet. The verses are transactional or of one-time application on the people in that region. The general principles that can be derived, are however eternal.

     If these phases and the nature of the struggle are kept in mind, the verses easily fall into their proper chronological order. I do not need any secondary source to say for example, that Surah 98 Al-Bayinnah, is an early Medinian, pre-battle-of-Badar Surah. I am not even sure if any secondary source is so precise in placing this surah exactly. Likewise, that surah Al-Kafirun is an early Meccan Surah. Or that verse 22:39 has to be the first verse regarding the command to fight and not verse 2:190 which most probably precedes Surah 48 or in 6 AH. Or to say without referring back to the Quran that there is no Makki verse that says “do not fight”, or to detect even the slightest mistake in translation or attribution. The test of how well you understand the Quran is how well you can place a verse without any help from secondary sources.

     The prophetic mission in chronological order is presented in series of my articles:

     1.      The Story of the Prophetic mission of Muhammad (pbuh) from the Qu’ran (part 1): The early opposition

    2.      The Story of the Prophetic Mission of Muhammad (pbuh) From the Qu’ran (Part 2): The Clear Warning to the Meccan Pagans

    3.      The Story of the Prophetic Mission of Muhammad (Pbuh) In the Qu’ran (Part 3): Important Pointers from the Stories of the Prophets

    4.      The Story of the Prophetic Mission of Muhammad (Pbuh) In the Qu’ran (Part 4): The Medinian Period

    5.      The Story of the Prophetic Mission of Muhammad (pbuh) in the Qu’ran (Concluding Part) Summary

    6.      The Story of the Prophetic Mission of Muhammad (pbuh) From the Qu’ran (Part 6): The People of the Book and Jiziya

    The articles make clear not only the Prophet’s mission in particular, but the Divine Plan of Allah through the ages, which makes it easy to identify the eternal never changing laws of Allah and therefore, detect any error in interpreting any verse/hadith relating to the prophetic mission. The study is extremely systematic.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 1/24/2019 2:21:26 AM

  • It is our faith that none of the divine verses of the Quran is unjust.
    However unjust is the mind of the unjust who become unjust by defaming the Quran, and Sunnah 
    In our faith it is clear kufr to believe that God Almighty is unjust. God Almighty is just and His divine speech calls for justice.
    The Quran says, 
    "And who is more unjust than he who forges a lie against Allah and he is invited to Islam, and Allah does not guide the unjust" (61:7)

    By Ghulam Ghaus غلام غوث الصديقي - 1/24/2019 12:15:27 AM

  • Every ayat is meant for good cause of all humanity.
    No verse is unjust. Fighting against oppression is not unjust. They fought against injustice. 

    By Rumish - 1/23/2019 11:49:11 PM

  • Every ayat is meant for good cause of all humanity.
    No verse is unjust. Fighting against oppression is not unjust. They fought against injustice. 

    By Rumish - 1/23/2019 11:48:25 PM

  • Good scholarly article.
    Although according to  Al Itqan I am not qualified to comment on the subject, I will do so anyway.
    Of the three views presented, I think the first one makes the most sense. However in my view, a better and more meaningful division would be to group together those ayats which are clearly inspiring, just, fair, equitable, compassionate, rational, promoting peace and uplifting the dignity of men and women. A second group would include ayats which are vengeful, divisive,  unjust, unfair,  irrational, promoting inequality, hate or violence and lacking an uplifting spirit.
    It may turn out that the ayats in the first group are largely Makki and ayats in the second group largely Madini, maybe with some exceptions in both groups.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 1/23/2019 12:55:38 PM

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