By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age
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
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.
“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.
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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(28:66) Then the
(whole) story that Day will seem obscure to them and they will not be able (even) to question
(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.
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
There are three clear phases in the Prophetic mission of Muhammad
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:
Story of the Prophetic mission of Muhammad (pbuh) from the Qu’ran (part 1): The
Story of the Prophetic Mission of Muhammad (pbuh) From the Qu’ran (Part 2): The
Clear Warning to the Meccan Pagans
Story of the Prophetic Mission of Muhammad (Pbuh) In the Qu’ran (Part 3):
Important Pointers from the Stories of the Prophets
Story of the Prophetic Mission of Muhammad (Pbuh) In the Qu’ran (Part 4): The
Story of the Prophetic Mission of Muhammad (pbuh) in the Qu’ran (Concluding
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.