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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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