Student of the Qur’an: Makki and Madani


Saudi Gazette

It is the book of guidance, of salvation, and the light that shows the way to our wellbeing on this Earth and ultimately the way to eternal Paradise. Yet, we fall short in not only opening the book, but more importantly opening up its meanings and opening our hearts to its messages.

Among the most noble of sciences to learn are the sciences related to the Holy Qur’an. There are over 10 different branches of the sciences of the Qur’an and each is of unique value. And there are teachers of this knowledge in almost every Muslim country and more recently even in the United States, Canada, and United Kingdom.

Among these sciences of the Qur’an which I would like to shed light on in today’s article is the research of the Makki and Madani. This means the study of classifying the chapters of the Qur’an which were revealed in Makkah and those revealed in Madinah, and the overall themes covered in each category.

Studying this branch of knowledge helps familiarize the average person with the patterns and themes of the messages of the Qur’an. The more we study the Qur’an, the stronger our connection with it, and thus, the more it will give us of its guidance, blessings, and enlightenment.

The companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) were exceptional students of the Qur’an. Abdullah bin Masud dedicated is life to studying the Qur’an; he said, “By Him besides Whom there is no god, no verse of the Book of Allah has been revealed without my knowing where it was revealed and the circumstances of its revelation. By Allah, if I know there was anyone who knew more of the Book of Allah (than me), I will do whatever is in my power to go to him.”

Although we may never reach their level of understanding, we can still exert effort in studying the sciences of the Qur’an, which are extremely interesting and enjoyable to learn.

Firstly, what does Madani and Makki mean?

Most scholars agree that any chapter of the Qur’an that was revealed before the migration of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) from Makkah to Madinah is considered Makki, regardless of the geographical location of the Prophet (peace be upon him) at the time of its revelation. For example, a chapter of the Qur’an was revealed while the Prophet (peace be upon him) was at battle outside the city of Madinah. It is still considered Madani because of the timeframe. As long as the chapter was revealed after the Prophet’s migration, it is classified as Madani.

How familiar are we with the verses of the Qur’an? After studying the themes dealt with in Makki and Madani chapters, we should be able to make an educated guess of whether the chapter is Makki or Madani simply by reading parts of the chapter.

When we study the Makki chapters, we find that they mainly establish and reinforce the belief in the Oneness of God; tawheed. These early chapters of the Qur’an were meant to dispel idolatry from the Makkan society, and to strengthen the faith of the early Muslims. These chapters introduce the concept of resurrection and the Day of Judgment. We find in these chapters details of the alarming events that will occur on the Day of Judgement. The verses promise Paradise as the eternal abode for the believers, and they warn of the Hellfire as the eternal abode for the disbelievers.

The Makki chapters tell the stories of the prophets sent by Allah to their peoples, for example the chapters Yusuf, Ibrahim, Hud, Yunus. The verses show the discourse that took place between the prophets and those who disbelieved in them and mocked them.

Another indication that the chapter is Makki is if it contains verses that challenge the disbelievers to come up with similar verses, since they denied that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) received revelation from God. This was a challenge to the Arabs of Makkah who excelled at prose and poetry and had accused Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) of making up the Qur’an.

Overall, the Makki chapters are known to have shorter and more concise verses than the verses in the Madani chapters. And most of the times (but not all) when the speech in the verses is directed to {O mankind}, the chapter is Makki. And when there is a repetition of the speech directed to {O you who have believed}, the chapter is Madani.

Another key word that helps you point out Makki chapters is the word {No!}, in Arabic, {Kalla}, and it is usually in the beginning of the verse. The prostration of reading, orsajdah, is found only in Makki chapters. It is found 14 times in the Qur’an, each in a Makki chapter.

As for the Madani chapters, these verses teach the Muslims in Madinah what is lawful and what is forbidden. For example, the prohibition of alcohol and interest were revealed in Madinah. The obligations in Islam were prescribed in the Madani chapters, such as the command to fast Ramadan, to perform pilgrimage, to wear hijab.

The verses in Madani chapters establish the laws necessary to construct a just Muslim society, and many verses were revealed to defend the rights of the weak in society; the poor, widows, and orphans. The Madani chapters contain the marriage and divorce laws, inheritance, and business laws. The penalty for transgressions like robbery and murder were stipulated in Madani chapters.

While the Makki chapters outlined the discourse between the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the idol worshippers, the Madani chapters deal with the discourse between the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the People of the Book, the Jews and Christians. Any chapter which addresses the hypocrites is a Madani chapter, and any chapter which addresses a battle between the Muslims and the disbelievers is a Madani chapter.

The next time you read a chapter of the Qur’an, test your knowledge and ask yourself if this chapter is Makki or Madani.

Studying the science of Makki and Madani helps you understand the history of the call to Islam and the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It serves us very well in understanding the overall message in each chapter. It helps you realize the importance of both strengthening the faith in your heart and performing the actions and obligations in Islam. The more you familiarize yourself with the Qur’an, the more you will love, revere, and understand this Holy Book.

There are 20 Madani chapters and they are: Al-Baqarah, Ali-‘Imran, An-Nisa’, Al-Ma’idah, Al-Anfal, At-Tawbah, An-Nur, Al-Ahzab, Muhammad, Al-Fath, Al-Hujurat, Al-Hadeed, Al-Mujadiah, Al-Hashr, Al-Mumtahinah, Al-Jumua‘ah, Al-Munafiqun, At-Talaq, At-Tahreem, An-Nasr.

There is a difference of opinion among the scholars in the classification of the following 12 chapters: Al-Fatihah, Ar-Ra‘d, Ar-Rahman, As-Saff, At-Taghabun, Al-Mutaffifeen, Al-Qadr, Al-Bayyinah, Al-Zalzalah, Al-Ikhlas, Al-Falaq, An-Naas.

The Makki chapters are 82 and they are all the remaining chapters of the Qur’an, that are not Madani (20), nor are they among the chapters which the scholars differed in their opinion on their classification (12).