Chronological Sequence of the Qur_ān see chronology and the qur_An Chronology and the Qur_ān

					                   Chronological Sequence of the
                    Qur_ān see chronology and the
                       Chronology and the Qur_ān
The Qur_ān is the most recent of the major
sacred scriptures to have appeared
in the chronology of human history. It
originated at a crucial moment in time
when Mu_ammad proclaimed it in the
northwestern half of the Arabian peninsula
during the fi rst quarter of the seventh
century c.e. The Qur_ān exhibits a signifi -
cant relationship to the biblical tradition,
the scriptures of Judaism and Christianity,
while it shows no literary affi nity to the sacred
literatures of Hinduism and Buddhism
and little to Zoroastrian sacred writings
(see scripture and the qur_An). The
elements of the biblical tradition included
in the Qur_ān echo themes found in the
apocryphal and midrashic writings of Judaism
and Christianity more than those incorporated
in their normative scriptures,
the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.
No single collection of biblical writings,
normative, apocryphal or midrashic, however,
has been identifi ed as the major
source on which the Qur_ān might have
depended directly. Nevertheless, as the last
holy book in the historical sequence of the
great world religions, the Qur_ān stands in
a clear chronological relationship to the
biblical tradition of Judaism and Christianity.
There is no evidence that this tradition
had been translated into Arabic by the
time of Mu_ammad, either as a whole corpus
or in the form of single books. It is a
widely shared view among historians of religion
that Mu_ammad’s knowledge of the
biblical tradition came principally, if not
exclusively, from oral sources. This oral
lore, enriched by extra-biblical additions
and commentary, was communicated to
Mu_ammad in his mother tongue. It, however,
ultimately originated in traditions
recorded mainly in Syriac, Ethiopian,
Aramaic and Hebrew, as evidenced by the
vocabulary of foreign origin to be found
in the Arabic Qur_ān (see foreign vocabulary).
In the main, this foreign vocabulary
had already been assimilated, however,
into the Arabic religious discourse of
Mu_ammad’s native environment.
The Qur_ān is the fi rst book-length production
of Arabic literature and as such
stands at the crossroads of the pre-Islamic
oral, highly narrative and poetical tradition
of the Arabic language (q.v.) and the written,
increasingly scholarly prose tradition
of the subsequently evolving civilization of
Islam (see orality and writings in
arabia). The beginnings of this transition
in the Arabic language from the oral to
the written tradition can be pinpointed
chronologically to the time and person of
Mu_ammad and can be seen as clearly
refl ected in the rhymed prose style of the
Qur_ān. This rhymed prose (saj_, see
rhymed prose), the mode of speech of
the pre-Islamic soothsayer’s oracles (see
divination), is a characteristic of the Qur-
_ān, the fi rst sizeable Arabic document
to exhibit this form of speech in written
form. The roots of the Qur_ān as the fi rst
Arabic book can also be discovered in its
content. In its verses (q.v.) the Qur_ān captured
many topics that had formed an
important part of the worship and cult of
the non-scriptural tribal religion practiced
in pre-Islamic Arabia (see south arabia,
religion in pre-islamic). Again, it is not
possible to ascribe the origin of the Qur_ān
to any single current of pre-Islamic tribal
religion, though the religious practice of
Mecca (q.v.) exerted the most infl uence on
the vision of Arab tribal religion that
Mu_ammad had acquired in his early
youth (see pre-islamic arabia and the
While the historian of religion classifi es
the Qur_ān as the last major scripture to
appear in human history and the fi rst
actual book to be produced in the Arabic
language, the Muslim believer views it as a
text that in its essence fundamentally transcends
all matters of chronology. For the
believer the Qur_ān lies beyond the horizon
of chronological analysis because it is
the word of God, which is beyond all time,
and the supreme book of divine revelation
that derives its origin from God eternal
(see revelation and inspiration). Since
the dawn of creation (q.v.), God has manifested
his will to humanity, revealing himself
in his divine speech (q.v.). His word
became book (q.v.) in the revealed scriptures
that were communicated to the
prophets throughout human history (see
prophets and prophethood). The Qur_ān
is the most perfect and ultimate form of
this divine revelation and represents the fi -
nal stage of a process of “in-libration,” the
divine speech becoming holy book. In essence
there is only one timeless revelation
reiterated by the prophets, God’s messengers
(see messenger) throughout the ages,
without any contribution of their own.
From Adam (q.v.) through Abraham (q.v.),
Moses (q.v.), David (q.v.) and Jesus (q.v.) to
Mu_ammad, the messengers are human
beings and divinely chosen mouthpieces of
revelation through whom, in chronological
succession, God speaks forth the primordial
truth he wishes to reveal. God is the
sole author of revealed scripture and his
word passes untouched through the messenger
whom it neither transforms nor divinizes.
God is the speaker of the Qur_ān,
Mu_ammad its recipient; an angel of revelation,
eventually identifi ed as Gabriel
(q.v.), its intermediary agent. Since the
Qur_ān is and remains God’s very own
words, it includes only God’s voice without
any admixture of human speech. It literally
is God’s word, word for word. It holds
nothing radically new because it brings the
oldest thing of all, the fi rst proclamation,
unknown in the Arabic tongue prior to
Mu_ammad: God is one, creator of this
world and judge in the world to come (see
last judgment). Though clearly revealed
at a defi nite point in time, in its essence the
Qur_ān is rooted in the eternity of God
(see createdness of the qur_An).
The essential content of the divine revelation
that would become the proclamation
of the prophets is recorded in a heavenly
book (q.v.), “the mother [i.e. essence] of
the book,” a qur_ānic phrase denoting the
archetype of all divine revelation that is
preserved in heaven and guarded by the
angels (see preserved tablet). From this
heavenly, a-temporal archetype the Qur_ān
was revealed in clear Arabic to Mu_ammad,
the last prophet and messenger of
God. Clearly understood, faithfully proclaimed
and accurately recited by Mu_ammad
in historical time, the Qur_ān, according
to the normative Muslim view, was
memorized with exact precision and also
collected in book-form by Mu_ammad’s
followers after his death. Then it was
re cited and copied with infi nite care in
continuous transmission from generation
to generation. Today, as in the past, the
Qu r_ān is copied and recited in Arabic,
pronounced only in Arabic in Muslim ritual
worship, by Arabs and non-Arabs alike
(see recitation of the qur_An). It cannot
be rendered adequately into any other
tongue and, in the Muslim view, all translations
are crutches, at best helpful explanations
of its original intention and at worst
doubtful makeshifts endangering its true
meaning. Inasmuch as Muslims believe
that the Qur_ān has been preserved unchanged
through time in its pristine Arabic,
it is superior to all other scriptures
because of the faulty form in which these
latter have been preserved by their respective
communities. In particular, the revealed
scripture given to Jesus, called the
injīl (q.v.; see gospel) and also the scripture
given to Moses, called the tawrāh (see
torah) have undergone alteration (tarīf,
see corruption) at the hands of their followers
through such modifi cation of the
original texts as insertions, omissions or falsifi
cations (see polemic and polemical
language). In Muslim eyes, the Qur_ān
alone has remained unchanged over time
in its divinely-willed form, transcending
chronology both in its origin from God
eternal and in its minutely faithful transmission
through the centuries.
While respecting the faith perspective of
Muslim believers about the Qur_ān, there
have been since the middle of the last century
philologists and orientalists and then
in the present century islamicists and textcritical
scholars of the history of religions
who have tried to analyze the Qur_ān as a
literary text and historical source. These
scholarly approaches have focused principally
on questions involving the “chronology”
of the Qur_ān. What is the selfperception
of time and history in the
Qur_ān? What are the historical data in the
Qur_ān that link it chronologically to Mu-
_ammad’s life and career? What dif ferences
exist between the chronological sequence
of the revelation of individual
qur_ānic passages and the actual order of
the chapters (suwar, sing. sūra) and verses
(āyāt, sing. āya) that appear in the fi nal redaction
of the Qur_ān as a book? What
were the major stages of composition and
redaction that were taken sequentially by
the early Muslim community to produce
the book of the Qur_ān in the form in
which it appears today? These questions,
focused on the chronology of the Qur_ān,
were to become of central importance in
any scholarly analysis of the text, its content,
its style, its composition, its redaction
and the history of its early transmission
until the fi nal fi xation of the normative
text of the Qur_ān. Due to the complexity
of each of these questions, they shall be
addressed separately below.
Qur_ānic perception of time
The qur_ānic text refl ects an atomistic concept
of time, while lacking a notion of time
as divided into past, present and future.
Chiefl y this is because Arabic grammar
knows only two aspects of time (q.v.), complete
and incomplete, without distinguishing
precisely between present and future.
The Qur_ān also rejects the pre-Islamic fatalism
of impersonal time (dahr, see fate)
which holds sway over everything and
erases human works without hope for life
beyond death (cf. q 39:42; 45:24; 76:1). Affi
rming resurrection (q.v.) of the body and
life in the world to come (see eschatology),
the Qur_ān explains time from the
perspective of a transcendent monotheism
(see god and his attributes) that promises
paradise (q.v.) and threatens eternal damnation
(see hell). Obliterating the spell of
fate and subduing the all-pervading power
of time, God almighty made the heavens
and the earth (q 6:73; 7:54; 10:3; 11:7; 25:59;
32:4; 50:38; 57:4) and formed the fi rst human
being in an instant through his command,
“Be!” (q 3:59; for other references
to God’s creative ability, cf. q 2:117; 3:47;
16:40; 19:35; 36:82; 40:68). He gives life
and brings death according to his will and
rules each moment of human existence
(q 53:44-54; cf. 35:12; 39:42; 40:69; 50:42):
God is the Lord of each instant; what he
has decreed happens. The most common
term adopted in Arabic for time, zamān,
does not appear in the Qur_ān, nor does
qidam, its counterpart for eternity. The
Qur_ān, however, has a great variety of
terms for time understood as a moment or
short duration (e.g. waqt, īn, ān, yawm, sā_a).
These terms give expression to an atomism
of time that includes a vision of God acting
instantaneously in the world as the sole true
cause. Of itself, creation (q.v.) is discontinuous.
It appears to be continuous only because
of God’s compassionate consistency.
Qur_ānic perception of history
Bolstered by the lack of genuine verbs for
“to be” and “to become” in the Arabic
language, the atomism of time also underlies
the qur_ānic vision of history, which is
typological in nature and focused on the
history of the prophets. In the Qur_ān, history
is seen as the scenario of God’s sending
messengers as warners (see warning)
and guides to successive generations (q.v.),
each of whom rejects the monotheistic
message that the prophets proclaim and is
over taken by a devastating divine punishment
(see punishment stories). Whether it
refers to the legendary peoples of the ancient
Arabs and their leaders or to biblical
fi gures such as Noah (q.v.), Lot (q.v.) and
their people, the same typology is repeated
from messenger to messenger. Each of
them comes with an essentially identical
message and is himself saved, while his disobedient
people are destroyed. History in
the Qu r_ān is principally portrayed as a series
of such typological events, in which
the features of similarity override the actual
differences among individual stories of
the prophets. The best explanation for this
recurrent typological pattern is Mu_ammad’s
ingenious interpretation of history
in the light of his own life and time, which
he took as the yardstick, projecting his own
experience back onto all other messengers
before him. Just as the qur_ānic emphasis
on the atomism of time had frozen the fl ux
of time into that of reiterated instants of
God’s action, so its typology of history had
collapsed the rich variety of past events
into a regularly recurring pattern. Not pretending
to be a document of historical record,
the Qur_ān simply represents the prophetic
preaching of Mu_ammad, making
passing references to his personal situation,
the opposition of his adversaries (see opposition
to muHammad) and the questions
of his followers. Consequently it often
lacks precise historical information, mention
of the specifi c dates of events and determination
of detailed or approximate
historical settings (see history and the
Qur_ānic references to events contemporaneous with
the lifetime of Muammad
There are certain allusions, however, which
may be retrieved from the text of the Qu r-
_ān as indicators of historical circumstances
that relate to Mu_ammad’s life and
times. These references are often obscure.
They refer to Mu_ammad’s orphanage
(see orphans), his uncle Abū Lahab (see
family of the prophet), his persecution
at the hands of the Meccans, the tribal
boycott of his clan at Mecca, the political
rivalry of Mecca with _ā_if and the religious
practices observed at the Meccan
sanctuary of the Ka_ba (q.v.), the hills of
_afā (q.v.) and Marwa (q.v.), Mount _Arafāt
(see _arafAt) and the sanctuary in al-
Muzdalifa. A somewhat cryptic reference
to the military defeat of the Byzantine
forces at the hands of their Persian
enemies — probably leading to their loss of
Jerusalem in 614 c.e. — is found in
q 30:2-5 (see byzantines). The return to
Mecca of some of Mu_ammad’s followers
who had emigrated to Abyssinia (q.v.) —
probably in 615 c.e. — and had recited
q 19 to the Negus, may be connected with
q 53:19-23 on the basis of references found
in the traditional biography of Mu_ammad
(see sIra and the qur_An). The conversion
of _Umar (q.v.) — dated on the basis
of extra-qur_ānic sources to the year
618 c.e. — occurred after the revelation of
q 20. The emigration (hijra) of Mu_ammad
and his followers from Mecca to Medina
(see emigration), which is generally
understood as the fi rst fi rm date of the Islamic
era (see calendar), is implied in
q 2:218, although its actual dating to September,
622 can only be determined with
the help of extra-qur_ānic sources. The
change of the direction toward which ritual
prayer must be performed (qibla, q.v.),
which Mu_ammad initiated more than a
year after settling in Medina, is signaled in
q 2:142-4 in association with q 2:150.
For the time after the emigration, there
are explicit references to battles fought by
Mu_ammad at Badr (q.v.; 2⁄624) and
unayn (q.v.; 8⁄630), and circumstantial
references to the battle of U_ud (q.v.;
3⁄625), the encounter at the Trench (5⁄627),
and the expeditions to Khaybar (q.v.;
7⁄628) and Tabūk (9⁄630, see expeditions
and battles). We fi nd as well implicit
refer ences to the pledges made by Mu_ammad
at _Aqaba in the year prior to the emigration
(cf. q 40:12) and at al-udaybiya
(q.v.) in 6⁄628 (cf. q 48:27 in association
with 48:18), the expulsion of the Jewish
tribe of Banū l-Naīr from Medina (cf.
q 59:1-24; see naDIr), an episode involving
Mu_ammad’s adopted son Zayd b.
āritha (q.v.; cf. q 33:37) and a reference to
Mu_ammad’s qur_ānic address at his farewell
pilgrimage (cf. q 5:3; see farewell).
The dates for these events, however, can
only be supplied from extra-qur_ānic
sources such as the biographical literature
on the Prophet. Qur_ānic pas sages with
chronological implications that are linked
to the inner development of Mu_ammad’s
prophetic career and religious experience
are q 96:1-5 and 74:1-7 (Mu_ammad’s call
to prophethood), q 53:1-18 and 81:15-29
(Mu_ammad’s visions, see visions) and
q 17:1 (Mu_ammad’s night journey; see
ascension) among others. As is evident
from all of these mainly circumstantial references,
the framework for dating qur_ānic
verses in relation to Mu_ammad’s life is
rather tenuous. There are no reliable
chronological references in the Qur_ān itself
that could be matched with the period
prior to the emigration and there are only
a few fi rm dates concerning events of Mu-
_ammad’s biography after the emigration
that can be coordinated chronologically
with qur_ānic verses. Again, hardly any of
the historical events in question can be established
purely by reference to the Qur_ān
without recourse to extra-qur_ānic sources.
Early Islamic methods for determining the order in
which Muammad received the revelations
From the earliest centuries of Islam, the
jurists and scholars of religious law ( fuqahā
_) developed a particular sensitivity for
chronological inconsistencies affecting a
variety of legal stipulations in the Qur_ān.
Acknowledging the differences and variations
of regulation found in disparate
verses of the Qur_ān, they dev eloped a theory
of abrogation (al-nāsikh wa-l-mansūkh,
see abrogation), which established lists
of abrogating and abrogated verses on the
basis of their chronological order. This
analysis had its earliest example in the
systematic work entitled al-Nāsikh wa-lmansūkh
of Abū _Ubayd al-Qāsim b. Salc
lām (d. 224⁄838). For this theory — the
qur_ānic basis for which is found in q 2:106
and 16:101 — examples into the hundreds
were cited. q 5:90, prohibiting the drinking
of wine, was understood as abrogating
q 2:219 and 4:43, which tolerated it (see
intoxicants). q 4:10-1 on inheritance (q.v.),
allotting to the relatives specifi c shares in a
deceased’s estate, were seen as revoking
q 2:180, which had instituted testamentary
provisions for parents and nearest kin.
q 8:66 was taken to reduce from ten to two
the number of unbelievers against whom
the Muslims in q 8:65 were required to
fi ght. The “sword verse” (q 9:5) alone was
thought to have replaced 124 other verses.
The “Ibn Adam verse” and verses praising
the martyrs of Bi_r Ma_ūna (see martyr)
were claimed to have been lost altogether.
The locus of the spurious “stone verse,”
mandating ritual stoning (q.v.) as a punishment
for fornication, was believed to have
been omitted from the qur_ānic text (see
adultery and fornication). The highly
controversial and infamous “Satanic
verses” (q.v.), cited in the extra-qur_ānic literature
(e.g. _abarī, Ta_rīkh, i, 1192-3), were
understood as having been actually replaced
by q 53:19-23 with the signifi cantly
later q 22:52-3 explaining the Satanic interference.
(See also chastisement and
punishment; boundaries and precepts).
Other Muslim scholars, especially the
early works of qur_ānic exegetes (mufassirūn),
were fully aware of the scanty
amount of chronological information that
could be retrieved from the Qur_ān and
hence turned to the Prophet’s biography
(sīra, see sIra and the qur_An), the reports
about his actions and words (adīth) and
the early historiography of Mu_ammad’s
campaigns (maghāzī) for circumstances that
might be seen as linked to individual passages
of the Qur_ān. This led to the development
of a separate genre of literature
called “the occasions of the revelation”
(asbāb al-nuzūl, exemplifi ed by the work of
al-Wā_idī, d. 468⁄1075-6; see occasions of
revelation) that connected a small portion
of qur_ānic verses with actual occurrences
and with stories about Mu_ammad’s
time and career, many of which
were legendary. The method of the scholars
dealing with the theory of abro gation
was primarily intra-qur_ānic, i.e. replacing
the legislative force of one qur_ānic verse
with that of another. It, how ever, also
made ample room for a _adīth to be abrogated
by another _adīth and cited cases
where a qur_ānic passage was abrogated by
a _adīth or vice versa (see HadIth and the
qur_An). On the contrary, the method of
the scholars dealing with the occasions of
the revelation was primarily extra-qur_ānic,
relating qur_ānic verses to circumstances
that could be established through recourse
to the extra-qur_ānic literature of the Islamic
scholarly tradition. Both methods focused
their chronological analysis on individual
or isolated qur_ānic verses and small
passages rather than on qur_ānic chapters
and sūras as integral units of revelation.
This approach, attentive to individual
qur_ānic passages, was very much in step
with the piecemeal character of the
qur_ānic revelation itself.
Another group of Muslim scholars active
in later medieval times based their analysis
of qur_ānic chronology on the assumption
that the individual sūras formed the original
units of revelation and could best be
divided into two sets, Meccan and Medinan,
according to whether they were revealed
before or after the emigration (hijra).
This division into Meccan and Medinan
sūras became the most charac teristic
method of chronological analysis. The fi rst
attempt of this kind was the list of sūras attributed
to Ibn _Abbās (d. 68⁄688), the traditional
father of qur_ānic exegesis. Later
scholars further elaborated this system
until it achieved fi xation in the qur_ānic
commentary of al-Bayāwī (d. 716⁄1316)
and the Itqān of al-Suyū_ī (d. 911⁄1505).
Centuries later the latter became the principal
starting point for Western scholarship
on qur_ānic chronol ogy. Muslim scholars,
however, had to cope with the fact that the
exact chronological listing of sūras had
been in dispute since Qatāda (d. 112⁄730)
and that qur_ānic scholars had not managed
to agree on whether certain sūras
were either Meccan or Medinan, and thus
had furnished a list of 17 disputed sūras,
namely q 13; 47; 55; 57; 61; 64; 83; 95; 97;
98; 99; 100; 102; 107; 112; 113; 114). To these
other scholars added six more (q 49; 62;
63; 77; 89; 92). The traditional chronological
order attributed to Ibn _Abbās, however,
became widely accepted and was generally
adopted by the Egyptian standard
edition of the Qur_ān published in 1924. It
enumerated 86 Meccan sūras and added
headings to each sūra indicating its exact
chronological locus in the traditional order
of revelation established by Muslim scholarship.
It also noted later Medinan verses
which were inserted into a number of the
earlier Meccan sūras and cited three Medinan
sūras (q 8; 47; 9) that incorporated earlier
verses. This Muslim method of chronological
analysis, separating Meccan from
Medinan sūras, refl ected two basic assumptions,
namely that the sources of traditional
Muslim scholarship provided a solidly reliable
basis for the chronological ordering of
the sūras and that the sūras could be treated
and dated as integral units of revelation.
Western historical-critical qur_ānic analysis
From the mid-nineteenth century Western
scholars began to engage in serious literary
research on the Qur_ān linking the scholarly
fi ndings of traditional Muslim scholarship
with the philological and text-critical
methods that biblical scholarship was developing
in Europe. An intensive scholarly
attempt was made to arrive at a chronological
order of qur_ānic chapters and passages
that could be correlated with the development
and varying circumstances of
Mu_ammad’s religious career. Beginning
with Gustav Weil (Historisch-kritische Einleitung,
Bielefeld 1844), this Western chronological
approach to the Qur_ān achieved its
climax in the highly-acclaimed Geschichte
                            l        t
des Qorans by Theodor Nِ deke (Gِ tingen
1860). It was later revised and expanded by
Friedrich Schwally (Leipzig 1909-19) and
later by Gotthelf Bergstr‫ن‬sser and Otto
Pretzl (Leipzig 1938) into a three-volume
work. This work became the classic of
Western qur_ānic scholarship and the foundation
of its widely-accepted framework of
qur_ānic chronology, one to which Régis
Blachère (Introduction, Paris 1947-50) added
further refi nements. The chronological
sequencing of the sūras, elaborated by
Western qur_ānic scholarship, largely
adopted the distinction of traditional
Muslim scholarship between Meccan and
Medinan sūras. It further subdivided the
Meccan phase of Mu_ammad’s proclamation
of the Qur_ān into three distinct
A different method leading to similar
chronological results, however, was chosen
by Hartwig Hirschfeld (Composition and
exegesis, London 1902), who proposed an
arrangement of the Meccan sūras into
periods according to fi ve literary criteria —
confi rmatory, declamatory, narrative, descriptive
and legislative — followed by the
group of Medinan sūras. Some years earlier
(The Corân. Its composition and teaching,
London 1875), William Muir made the innovative
suggestion in his rearrangement
of the sūras that eighteen short sūras,
termed rhapsodies, dated from before Mu-
_ammad’s call (q 103; 100; 99; 91; 106;
1; 101; 95; 102; 104; 82; 92; 105; 89; 90; 93;
94; 108). A drastically different approach
was taken by Richard Bell (The Qur_ān, 2
vols., Edinburgh 1937-9 and posthumously
A commentary on the Qur_ān, 2 vols. Manchester
1991), who abandoned the chronological
division into Meccan and Medinan periods
and designed a highly subjective and
disjointed dating system for individual
verses in the Qur_ān taken as a whole. The
two summary follow-up reactions to R.
Bell in 1977 by John Wansbrough (Quranic
studies, London 1977) and John Burton (The
collection of the Qur_ān, Cambridge 1977)
challenged the assumptions underlying the
Western chronological approach from totally
opposite sides. Rudi Paret (Der Koran:
Kommentar und Konkordanz, Stuttgart 1971),
on the other hand, integrated the major
fi ndings of Western scholarship on qur-
_ānic chronology with the principal ancillary
studies authored in the West in his
balanced manual of commentary and concordance
to the Qur_ān.
The overriding goal of the chronological
framework of the Qur_ān, elaborated in
Western scholarship, was to divide the qur-
_ānic proclamation into four periods —
Mecca i, Mecca ii, Mecca iii, and Medina
— and to link these with a vision of
the gradual inner development of Mu-
_ammad’s prophetic consciousness and
political career that Western scholarship
had determined through biographical research
on the life of Mu_ammad, worked
out in lockstep with its research on the
Qur_ān. This was initiated by Alois
Sprenger (Leben und Lehre, 3 vols., 1861-5)
and Hubert Grimme (Mohammed, 1892-5)
and was later developed by Frants Buhl
(Das Leben Mohammeds, 1934) and with certain
modifi cations by W. Montgomery
Watt (Muhammad at Mecca, 1953; Muhammad
at Medina, 1956). Chronological research on
the Qur_ān and biographical research on
Mu_ammad’s career were closely dependent
on each other. For this reason, the
threat of a circular argument remained a
constant danger for this approach because
the subjective evaluation of Mu_ammad’s
religious development had to be read back
into a great variety of disparate qur_ānic
verses from which it had been originally
culled. Nevertheless, the division of the
Meccan sūras into three sequential periods
offered many new insights into Mu_ammad’s
genesis as a prophet prior to the
emigration and opened novel perspectives
into signifi cant stages of development in
his early qur_ānic proclamation.
In general, the fourfold division of
periods of the qur_ānic proclamation proceeded
on the basis of two major principles.
It related qur_ānic passages sourcecritically
to historical events known from
extra-qur_ānic literature and it systematically
analyzed the philological and stylistic
nature of the Arabic text of the Qur_ān
passage by passage (see grammar and the
qur_An; form and structure of the
qur_An). It also placed clear markers between
the Meccan periods at the approximate
time of the emigration to Abyssinia
(about 615 c.e.) and Mu_ammad’s disillusioned
return from _ā_if (about 620 c.e.)
and retained the emigration in 622 c.e. as
the divide between Meccan and Medinan
sūras. An overview of major versions of
the chronological re-arrangement of the
sūras in comparison to their actual numbered
order in the Qur_ān may be found in
Watt-Bell, Introduction, 205-13.
The group of sūras classifi ed as belonging
to the fi rst or early Meccan period —
forty-eight sūras in T. Nِ deke’s chronology
— were identifi ed by a similarity of
style which gives expression to Mu_ammad’s
initial enthusiasm in a language that
is rich in images, powerful in passion, uttered
in short and rhythmic verses, marked
by a strong poetic coloring and with about
thirty oaths or adjurations introducing individual
sūras or passages. Most of these
sūras, which are understood as a group
rather than as standing in the exact chronological
order of their revelation, are short.
Twenty-three of them have less than
twenty and fourteen less than fi fty verses.
They are driven by a heightened awareness
of the apocalyptic end of this world and
God’s fi nal judgment of hu manity (see
apocalypse). They include Mu_ammad’s
vehement attacks against his Meccan opponents
for adhering to the old Arab tribal
religion and his vigorous rebuttals of their
damaging accusations against his claim of
divine inspiration, when they dismissively
characterized him as a soothsayer (kāhin,
see soothsayers), poet (shā_ir, see poetry
and poets) and a man possessed (majnūn,
see insanity).
The sūras of the second or middle Meccan
period, twenty-one in number, have
longer verses and longer units of revelation,
which are more prosaic and do not
exhibit a clearly distinct common character.
They mark the transition from the excitement
of the fi rst phase to a Mu_ammad
of greater calm who aims to infl uence
his audience by paranetic proofs selected
from descriptions of natural phenomena,
illustrations from human life and vivid
depictions of paradise (q.v.) and hellfi re
(see fire; hell; natural world and the
qur_An). The stories of earlier prophets
and elements from the story of Moses, in
particular, are cited as admonitions for his
enemies and as encouragement for himself
and the small group of his followers. The
place of the oaths (q.v.) is taken by introductory
titles such as “This is the revelation
of God” and by the frequently recurring,
“Say!” (qul), the divine command for
Mu_ammad to proclaim a certain qur_ānic
passage. The name al-ramān (the merciful),
a name for God in use prior to Islam in
southern and central Arabia, although rejected
by the pre-Islamic Meccans, is frequently
employed although it dies out in
the third period (see below for a discussion
on the names of God).
The sūras of the third or late Meccan
period are also 21 in number but cannot be
seen as standing in any kind of inner
chronological order. They exhibit a broad,
prosaic style with rhyme patterns that become
more and more stereotyped, frequently
ending in -ūn and -īn. The formula
“You people” ( yā ayyuhā l-nās) is frequently
employed by Mu_ammad in addressing his
followers as a group. Mu_ammad’s imagination
seems to be subdued, the revelations
take on the form of sermons or speeches
and the prophetic stories repeat earlier
ideas. Overall, this group of sūras could be
understood to refl ect Mu_ammad’s exasperation
at the stubborn resistance to his
message on the part of his fellow Meccan
The sūras of the Medinan period, 24 in
number, follow one another in a relatively
certain chronological order and refl ect
Mu_ammad’s growing political power and
his shaping of the social framework of the
Muslim community (see community and
society). As the acknowledged leader in
spiritual and social affairs of the Medinan
community, a community that had been
torn by internal strife prior to his arrival,
Mu_ammad’s qur_ānic proclamation becomes
preoccupied with criminal legislation,
civil matters such as laws of marriage,
divorce (see marriage and divorce) and
inheritance (q.v.), and with the summons to
holy war ( jihād, q.v.) “in the path of God”
( fī sabīl Allāh, see path or way [of god];
law and the qur_An). Various groups of
people are addressed separately by different
epithets. The believers, the Meccan
emigrants (muhājirūn) and their Medinan
helpers (an          ār, see emigrants and helpers),
are addressed as “You who believe” ( yā
ayyuhā lladhīna āmanū), while the Medinans
who distrusted Mu_ammad and hesitated
in converting to Islam are called “waverers”
(munāfiqūn, see hypocrites and
hypocrisy). The members of the Jewish
tribes of the Quray_a (q.v.), Naīr (q.v.)
and Qaynuqā_ (q.v.) are collectively called
Jews ( yāhūd, see jews and judaism) and the
Christians are referred to by the group
name of Nazarenes (na          ārā, see christians
and christianity). More than thirty
times — and only in Medinan verses —
the peoples who have been given a scripture
in previous eras are identifi ed collectively
by the set phrase “the people of the
book” (ahl al-kitāb, see people of the book).
They are distinguished from the ummiyyūn
(q 2:78; 3:20, 75; 62:2), who have not been
given the book previously but from among
whom God selected Mu_ammad, called
al-nabī al-ummī in the late Meccan passage
q 7:157-8, as his messenger (see illiteracy).
A signifi cant group of qur_ānic passages
from Medinan sūras refers to Mu_ammad’s
breach with the Jewish tribes and his
subsequent interpretation of the fi gure of
Abraham, supported by Ishmael (q.v.), as
the founder of the Meccan sanctuary and
the prototypical Muslim (anīf, q.v.) who
represents the original pure religion designated
“the religion of Abraham” (millat
Ibrāhīm) and now reinstated by Mu_ammad.
The most radical chronological rearrangement
of the sūras and verses of the
Qur_ān was undertaken by R. Bell who
concluded his elaborate hypothesis with
many provisos. He suggested that the composition
of the Qur_ān followed three main
phases: a “Sign” phase, a “Qur_ān” phase
and a “Book” phase. The earliest phase in
R. Bell’s view was that of “sign passages”
(āyāt) and exhortations (q.v.) to worship
God. These represent the major portion of
Mu_ammad’s preaching at Mecca of
which only an incomplete and partially
fragmentary amount survive. The “Qu r-
_ān” phase included the later stages
of Mu_ammad’s Meccan career and about
the fi rst two years of his activity at Medina,
a phase during which Mu_ammad was
faced with the task of producing a collection
of liturgical recitals (sing. qur_ān). The
Book phase belonged to his activity at
Medina and began at the end of the second
year after the emigration from which
time Mu_ammad set out to produce a
written scripture (kitāb). In the present
Qur_ān, each of these three phases, however,
cannot be separated precisely
because sign passages came to be incorporated
into the liturgical collection and earlier
oral recitals were later revised to form
part of the written book. In explaining his
complex system of distinguishing criteria,
Bell often remained rather general in his
remarks. He dissected sūras on the basis of
subjective impressions and suggested arbitrarily
that certain passages had been discarded
while the content of other “scraps
of paper” that were meant to be discarded
had been retained. He convincingly argued,
however, that the original units of
revelation were short, piecemeal passages
which Mu_ammad himself collected into
sūras and that written documents were
used in the process of redaction, a process
undertaken with the help of scribes during
Mu_ammad’s career in Medina. Regarding
the redaction of the Qur_ān during
Mu_ammad’s lifetime, the starting point
for the Qur_ān as sacred scripture, in Bell’s
view, had to be related to the time of the
battle of Badr (q.v.; 2⁄624). For Bell, this
was the watershed event while the emigration
(hijra) did not constitute a great divide
for the periodization of the sūras.
None of the systems of chronological
sequencing of qur_ānic chapters and verses
has been accepted universally by contemporary
scholarship. T. Nِ deke’s sequencing
and its refi nements have established a
rule of thumb for the approximate order of
the sūras in their chronological sequence.
Bell’s hypothesis has established that the
fi nal redaction of the Qur_ān was a complex
process of successive revisions of
earlier material whether oral or already
available in rudimentary written form. In
many ways, Western qur_ānic scholarship
reconfi rmed the two pillars on which the
traditional Muslim views of qur_ānic chronology
were based. First, the Qur_ān was
revealed piecemeal and, second, it was collected
into book-form on the basis of both
written documents prepared by scribes on
Mu_ammad’s dictation and qur_ānic passages
preserved in the collective memory of
his circle of companions. All methods of
chronological analysis, whether traditional
Muslim or modern Western, agree that the
order of the sūras in Mu_ammad’s proclamation
was different from the order found
in the written text we hold in hand today
where, in general, the sūras are arranged
according to the principle of decreasing
One consequence of the chronological
periodization of sūras was the attention
given to the fi rst and last qur_ānic proclamations.
There is a general consensus that
either q 96:1-5 or 74:1-7 represent the fi rst
proclamation of qur_ānic verses uttered by
the Prophet. In particular q 96:1-5 which
includes the command, “Recite!” (iqra_),
derived from the same Arabic root as the
word “Qur_ān” but also q 74:1-7 which
may refer to Mu_ammad being raised
from sleep at night, especially if seen in
parallel to q 73:1-5, are linked in _adīth literature
with Mu_ammad’s call to prophethood.
This call, the beginning of qur_ānic
revelation, occurred according to Islamic
tradition during the night of destiny (laylat
al-qadr, q 97:1-3; cf. 44:3; see night of
power), ordinarily identifi ed as the twentyseventh
day of the month of Ramaān
(q.v.). As is to be expected, the last passages
of the Qur_ān were sought among the
Medinan sūras and Muslim scholarship
identifi ed sūras 5, 9 or 110 as the last to be
revealed. Some pointed to either q 2:278 or
281 or q 4:174 as the last verse of the Qu r-
_ān, while others opted for q 9:128-9, two
verses said to have been fi nally found during
the collection of the qur_ānic material
into book-form. The most suitable candidate
for the last verse, however, is q 5:3
which includes Mu_ammad’s affi rmation,
“Today I have completed your religion,”
and one on which there is much agreement
among Muslim and Western Qur_ān
Thematic manifestations of qur_ānic chronology
Qur_ānic chronology is also manifest in the
development of inner-qur_ānic topics, four
of which may be analysed as cases in
point: disconnected letters, ritual prayer,
the name for God and the fi gure of
Abraham. From a stylistic perspective, a
particular and characteristic phenomenon
of the Qur_ān with chronological implications
is the so-called mysterious or disconnected
letters (al-urūf al-muqa__a_a, see
letters and mysterious letters) found
immediately after the introductory basmala
(q.v.; the formulaic saying “In the name of
God, the merciful, the compassionate”) of
twenty-nine sūras. Muslim sources, which
consider the disconnected letters an integral
part of the qur_ānic revelation, record
no recollection of their real signifi cance as
is shown by the great variety of explanations
given for them. Many Muslim and
Western scholars have attempted to interpret
the function of the disconnected letters
in the Qu r_ān, but no satisfactory explanation
has been found. Among the
theories put forward are that the letters
represent abbreviations of the divine
names, the initials of the owners of manuscripts
used in the redaction of the Qur_ān,
numbers written in Arabic letters or simply
letters possessing an inscrutable or mystical
meaning known only by God. Three consistent
factors, however, can be observed
that may undergird a chronological explanation
of their function in the Qur_ān.
First, the disconnected letters at the beginning
of the twenty-nine sūras belong to
later Meccan and early Medinan sūras.
The letters sometimes occur singly and
sometimes in groups of two to fi ve. Some
of these occur only once while others are
repeated before two, fi ve or six sūras. Secondly,
these letters are pronounced separately
in recitation as the letters of the
alphabet, and the literature on the variant
readings of the Qur_ān reveals no differences
regarding their recitation (see readings
of the qurAn). Thirdly, they represent
every consonantal form of the Arabic alphabet
in Kufi c script, the earliest Arabic
script (q.v.), namely fourteen forms, and no
form is used for more than a single letter of
the alphabet.
On the basis of these constant factors it
may be argued that the disconnected letters
are related to an ordering of sūras,
using the letters of the Arabic alphabet in
the time when Mu_ammad collected sūras
(q.v.) for liturgical purposes and began to
take the fi rst steps toward a written scripture.
This rather general explanation of
the function of the disconnected letters in
the chronological genesis of the text of the
Qur_ān could be confi rmed by the fact that
certain groups of sūras introduced by the
same letters — especially those beginning
with the letter patterns alif - lām - mīm,
alif - lām - rā_, ā_ - mīm and _ā_ - sīn -
[mīm] — have been kept together in the
actual order of the Qur_ān despite their
sometimes widely varying lengths and by
the fact that in almost all cases the disconnected
letters are followed by a usually explicit
or occasionally implicit reference to
the revelation of scripture as a “Book” sent
down or a “Qur_ān” made clear. Because
the disconnected letters appear only at the
beginning and never within the body of a
sūra, such as at points of incision indicated
by a change of style, rhyme or content, they
belong to the initial phase of redaction by
Mu_ammad himself rather than to either
the original proclamation of qur_ānic passages
by Mu_ammad or to the fi nal redaction
of the Qur_ān after his death. The insertion
of the letters after Mu_ammad’s
death would presuppose the sporadic introduction
of letter patterns into the fi nal text
by a later hand. This general explanation
favors the view that Mu_ammad as redactor
was the author of the disconnected letters
affi xed to the beginning of sūras and
that he began quite early to produce his
own scriptural text with the help of scribes,
by piecing together passages of similar
content in certain sūras. Some of these he
then marked as a liturgical unit through
the insertion of the disconnected letters, a
marking scheme that the fi nal redactors of
the Qur_ān felt obliged to respect.
Yet another phenomenon that manifests
signifi cant chronological parameters is the
genesis of central religious institutions introduced
by Mu_ammad such as the ritual
prayer ( alāt, see prayer) of Islam. The institution
of the ritual prayer cannot be
traced to the earliest phase of Mu_ammad’s
qur_ānic proclamation in which the
root       allā is used in reference to the tribal
practice of animal sacrifi ce (q 108:2; see
consecration of animals; sacrifice)
and the prayers of unbelieving Meccans
(q 107:4-7). At this stage the recitation of
the Qur_ān is as yet not linked with ritual
prayer but is connected with Mu_ammad’s
labor in composing qur_ānic passages
(q 73:1-8). Somewhat later, about the middle
of the Meccan period of his qur_ānic
proclamation, Mu_ammad began to observe
a night vigil (tahajjud) which combined
the recitation of the Qur_ān with
the beginnings of a prayer practice called
           alāt (q 17:78-9; cf. 25:64; 51:17-8) that was
performed both by day and by night
(q 76:25-6; 52:48-9). At fi rst Mu_ammad
alone is called to perform the           alāt
(q 17:110; 20:130) but, then, in q 20:132, he
is clearly summoned to command his relatives
or followers (ahlaka) to perform the
           alāt together with him and to persevere
with those who invoke God morning and
evening (q 18:28) or prostrate themselves in
prayer at night (q 39:9; see bowing and
prostration). During this phase, Mu_ammad
also draws attention to the great
qur_ānic models of prayer, Abraham
(q 26:83-9), Moses (q 20:25-35) and Zechariah
(q.v.; q 19:3-6) and points to God’s
servant, Jesus, as a prophet divinely commissioned
to practice           alāt (q 19:30-1). Perhaps
somewhat later in the Meccan phase
of his proclamation Mu_ammad is
prompted, again in the singular, to perform
the        alāt at three different times of
day (see day, times of), in the morning
and in the evening, and also during the
night (q 11:114-5; 50:39-40). His followers
are admonished to join in the practice,
which clearly includes the recitation of
the Qur_ān and prostration in prayer
(q 7:204-6). The evolution of ritual prayer
can also be traced in the varying yet vacillating
qur_ānic vocabulary used in the late
Meccan and early Medinan periods for the
prayer times: in the morning (at the dawning
of the day and before the rising of the
sun), in the evening (at the declining of the
day and before the setting of the sun) and
during the night (tahajjad, q 17:79; zulafan
min al-layl, q 11:114; ānā_ al-layl, q 3:113).
After the emigration (hijra), qur_ānic
chronology demonstrates that the         alāt becomes
a fi rm institution of the individual
and communal ritual prayer for Muslims.
References to         alāt (generally used in the
singular) occur with high frequency in the
Medinan sūras (33 times in q 2, 4, 5, 9 and
24 alone, representing half of all occurrences
of this term in the entire Qur_ān)
and are now frequently linked with its sister
religious institution of almsgiving
(zakāt, the development of which can itself
be traced in the Qur_ān from an act of free
giving to a religious duty and communal
tax; see almsgiving). The frequent reference
to a normative obligation to perform
           alāt is paralleled by the emphatic introduction
of the obligatory direction of prayer
(qibla). At fi rst this may have been observed
in the direction of Jerusalem (q.v.), emulating
Jewish-Christian custom, but then was
changed toward the Ka_ba of Mecca by a
qur_ānic command (q 2:142-52). These particular
early Medinan verses were proclaimed
by Mu_ammad at about the time
of the battle of Badr in 2⁄624 although
they may actually refl ect a gradual process
of change in the ritualization of the alāt
and the fi xation of its qibla. Furthermore,
in Medina, the specifi c prayer times are
fi xed for what has now clearly become a
daily ritual prayer that is repeatedly enjoined
in the plural (aqīmū al-       alāt), is performed
standing upright (cf. q 4:102) and
includes the recitation of the Qur_ān (cf.
q 7:204-5). Finally, the Medinan verse
q 2:238 fi rmly establishes a ritual mid-day
prayer (al-          alāt al-wus_ā) which may already
have been introduced toward the end of
Mu_ammad’s career in Mecca when he
summoned his followers to praise God in
the morning, the evening and during the
middle of the day (wa-īna tu_hirūn,
q 30:17-8). From this point on, the alāt is
enjoined upon the believers at fi xed times
(kitāban mawqūtan, q 4:103) and the communal
prayer during the week is explicitly
fi xed on Friday ( yawm al-jum_a), the market
day of Medina (q 62:9). The believers are
called to prayer (q 5:58; 62:9) and ritual
ablutions before prayer (wu_ū_, ghusl) are
established in detail, including such specifi
city as the substitution of sand in the
absence of water (tayammum, cf. q 4:43;
5:6) and provisos for people who are traveling
(see cleanliness and ablution;
ritual purity).
It is more diffi cult to trace stages of
chronological development for the proper
name for God in the Qur_ān, which relies
principally on Allāh (al-ilāh, lit. the deity),
Lord (rabb) and the Merciful (al-ramān)
but ultimately establishes Allāh as the
predominant designation and the one
adopted by Islam throughout the centuries.
In what the Islamic tradition identifi es as
the fi rst verses of qur_ānic revelation, Mu-
_ammad is summoned to speak in the
name of “your Lord” (rabbika, q 96:1; rabbaka,
74:3). A non-secular usage of lord (q.v.)
or master (rabb, never used with the defi nite
article in the Qur_ān yet very often linked
with a personal pronoun), was familiar to
the Meccans from pre-Islamic times. This
is demonstrated by the phrase “the lord of
this house” (rabba hādhā l-bayt, q 106:3), the
house being the Ka_ba in Mecca. It is most
frequently employed in the fi rst Meccan
period (e.g. “Extol the name of your lord
the most high [sabbii sma rabbika l-a_lā]”
q 87:1), less often in the second and third
(as in Pharaoh’s [q.v.] blasphemous utterance,
“I am your lord the most high [anā
rabbukumu l-a_lā]” q 79:24; see also
blasphemy), and only rarely in Medinan
verses. On the contrary, the term Allāh,
known to the Meccans prior to Mu_ammad
as a proper name for God, is attested
in pre-Islamic poetry and pre-Islamic personal
names. In all probability it is a contraction
of al-ilāh which, itself, is never
used in the Qur_ān, though the form ilāh,
without the defi nite article but in a genitive
construction, is employed to denote a specifi
c deity as in “the deity of the people,”
ilāh al-nās, q 114:3, used interchangeably
with “the lord of the people,” rabb al-nās,
q 114:1). The term Allāh occurs very rarely
in the fi rst Meccan period, is still infrequent
throughout the second and into the
third Meccan periods but fi nally becomes
so dominant that it appears on average
about every fi ve verses in the Medinan
sūras. The Merciful (al-ramān, probably
derived from the personal name for God in
southern and central Arabian usage),
makes a strong entry into the qur_ānic vocabulary
for God in the second Meccan
period but then is almost entirely subsumed
by “Allāh,” except for its inclusion
(albeit in a subordinate position to Allāh) in
the formula of the basmala (q 27:30) that
becomes the introductory verse to each
qur_ānic chapter except q 9.
One crucial stage of transition toward
the breakthrough of the fi nally dominant
“Allāh” may be traced in God’s declaration
of his unicity before Moses (q 20:12-4; cf.
27:8-9). Immediately following the declaration,
“I am your Lord” (innanī anā rabbuka,
q 20:12), the name Allāh is affi rmed by the
fi rst form of the emphatic, “I, I am God
(innanī anā llāh), there is no deity save me”
(lā ilāha illā anā, q 20:14) in a passage that
belongs to the second Meccan period. This
verse is chronologically later than sūra 79
including Pharaoh’s blasphemous utterance,
“I am your Lord the most high” (anā
rabbukum al-a_lā, q 79:24). After q 20:12 the
use of rabb decreases noticeably in frequency,
while the affi rmations, “there is no
deity save me” (lā ilāha illā anā, in late Meccan
verses, i.e. q 16:2; 20:14; 21:25) and
“there is no deity save him” (lā ilāha illā
huwa, in late Meccan verses, i.e. q 28:70,
88, and increasingly in Medinan verses, i.e.
q 2:163, 255; 3:6, 18) occur repeatedly.
Since rabb was applied to a variety of deities
in pre-Islamic Arabia, it proved less
suitable to serve as the name for the one
God of Mu_ammad’s monotheistic message
than Allāh, a name that by its very
nature is defi nite and unique. An explanation
for the rare occurrence of Allāh in the
early Meccan sūras may also be found in
the possibility of Mu_ammad’s original
reluctance to adopt any name associated
with polytheistic practices as a proper
name for a supreme God. For pre-Islamic
Arabs swore solemn oaths “by Allāh” (billāhi,
q 6:109; 16:38; 35:42), worshipped
Allāh as creator and supreme provider
(q 13:16-7; 29:60-3; 31:25; 39:38; 43:9, 87)
and asserted Allāh to have a kinship with
the jinn (cf. q 6:100, 128; 37:158; 72:6) and
a relationship to subordinate deities such as
al-_Uzzā, Manāt and al-Lāt, identified as
his daughters (cf. q 53:19-21; 16:57; 37:149),
and others ano nymously as his sons
(kharaqū la-hu banīna wa-banāt, q 6:100). The
sheer amount of references to God in the
Qur_ān, which number in the thousands,
makes it diffi cult to develop a precise curve
of chronological development. Nevertheless,
the overwhelming inner-qur_ānic evidence
suggests that Mu_ammad moved
from a forceful personal experience of God
who could be addressed as “my Lord”
(rabbī), to a conception of the unique godhead
of Allāh, the one and only God of his
message (lā ilāha illā llāh), to whom a great
number of epithets and attributes (al-asmā_
al-usnā) were applied in the Qur_ān (see
god and his attributes).
The fi gure of Abraham (q.v., Ibrāhīm),
who appears with many details of his story
in twenty-fi ve sūras, also provides an important
touchstone for inner-qur_ānic
chronology. In the fi rst Meccan period the
“sheets” (           uuf ) of Abraham are cited as
previously revealed scriptures and Abraham
stands as a prophetic fi gure next to
Moses (q 87:18-9). In the second and third
Meccan periods Abraham is identifi ed as
“a prophet, speaking the truth” (       iddīqan
nabiy yan, q 19:41) and depicted in detail as
a staunch monotheist who attacks the idolworship
of his father and his people
(q 37:83-98; 26:69-89; 19:41-50; 43:26-8;
21:51-73; 29:16-27; 6:74-84; see idolatry
and idolaters; polytheism and atheism).
Next to many other details (e.g. Abraham’s
rescue from the fi re and his intercession for
his idolatrous father), the same periods also
record men sent by God to visit Abraham
and to announce the punishment imposed
on Lot’s people (q 51:24-34; 15:51-60;
11:69-76; 29:31-2). They also refer to
Abraham’s near sacrifi ce of his son
(q 37:100-11), ordinarily understood to be
Isaac (q.v.) on account of q 37:112-3 and,
anonymously, q 51:28 and 15:53. In the
Medinan sūras, Abraham, supported by his
son Ishmael, erects the Ka_ba in Mecca as
a place of pure monotheistic belief and as
a center of pilgrimage (q.v.; cf. q 2:124-41;
3:65-8, 95-7; 6:125; 22:26-9, 78). Called emphatically
a “true monotheist” (anīf ), who
did not belong to the idolaters (mushrikūn,
cf. q 2:135; 3:67, 95; 4:125; 22:31, 78) and
mentioned once as God’s friend (khalīl,
q 4:125), Abraham becomes the exemplary
prototype for Mu_ammad who identifi es
the religion he himself proclaims as “the
religion of Abraham” (millat Ibrāhīm,
q 2:130, 135; 4:125; 6:161; 16:123).
The characteristic features of the qur-
_ānic story of Abraham have been the subject
of much scholarly research by Snouck
Hurgronje (Mekkaansche feest), A.J. Wensinck
(Muhammad and the Jews) and Y. Moubarac
(Abraham), and more recently R.
Firestone ( Journeys). These scholars have
laid great stress on the re-interpretation of
Abraham in the Medinan sūras as provoked
by Mu_ammad’s break with the
Jewish tribes of Medina. Mu_ammad’s reorientation
to Mecca, linking the fi gure of
Abraham with the change of the prayerorientation
(qibla) to Mecca, is most certainly
a signifi cant chronological incision in
the interpretation of Abraham and in the
thrust of the qur_ānic message. What tends
to be de-emphasized in the chronological
analysis, especially of the Meccan verses,
however, is an indisputable fact analyzed
by E. Beck (Die Gestalt des Abraham). According
to Beck, Abraham was already
understood in the Meccan verses as connected
with Mecca, prior to his association
with Ishmael in the Qur_ān, and Mu_ammad
had developed his idea of the millat
Ibrāhīm, at least initially, already at Mecca
prior to his break with the Jews of Medina.
In this perspective, some of G. Lüling’s
observations about Mu_ammad’s “religion
of Abraham” (pruned of their bitterly controversial
aspects, cf. Wiederentdeckung,
213-303), call for a more substantive examination
as to whether Mu_ammad possessed
a distinct knowledge of Hellenistic
and Judaeo-Christian trends in Christianity
that facilitated his turning to a pre-Islamic
Arab tradition of Abraham, closer akin to
the latter, while rejecting the icon-worship
of the former.
These four examples of a detailed approach
to inner-qur_ānic chronology that
concentrates upon central themes — i.e.
the literary phenomenon of the disconnected
letters, the institutional genesis of
the ritual prayer, the qur_ānic development
of the proper name for God and the tradition
of the prophetic fi gure of Abraham
and his religion — may open ways to complement
the standard approach to qur_ānic
chronology based on the four-period classifi
cation advanced by T. Nِ deke or the
three-phase hypothesis advocated by R.
Bell. The mosaic stones of such innerqur
_ānic approaches, case by case and limited
to a manageable amount of verse
analysis, may help to fi ll the somewhat indistinct
and conjectural framework of the
chronological approach to the Qur_ān as a
Compilation of the Qur_ān
As mentioned above, it is a well-known fact
that in the “completed” Qur_ān, i.e. that
fi nally produced as Islam’s holy book, the
sūras are generally arranged according to
decreasing length. This order was established
in the fi nal redaction of the written
text of the Qur_ān, which reached its canonical
completion many years after Mu-
_ammad’s death in 11⁄632. This process
of fi nal redaction and canonical completion
represents the history of the text from
Mu_ammad’s last qur_ānic proclamation,
shortly before his death, until the appearance
of the fi nal vocalized text of the
Qur_ān in the fourth⁄tenth century. This
history of the text moves the Qur_ān from
the life of the Prophet into the life of the
Muslim community and from the principal
historical author of the qur_ānic message
to the chief redactors who produced
the fi nal written version we hold in our
hands today. Due to its very nature, the
history of this process is a minefi eld of
chronological problems that are deeply
rooted in the highly complex and contradictory
evidence included in the Islamic
tradition, especially the _adīth.
After Mu_ammad’s death, the Muslim
community faced three major tasks with
regard to establishing the Qur_ān as canonical
scripture: it had to collect the
text from oral and written sources, establish
the consonantal skeleton of the Arabic
text (see arabic script) and fi nalize the
fully-vocalized text that came to be accepted
as the canonical standard. The traditional
view depicting the accomplishment
of these tasks covers three centuries
and telescopes the history of the text into a
basic scheme (the principal objections to
which are examined in volumes ii and iii of
Nِ deke’s revised Geschichte des Qorans). This
scheme proceeded on the assumptions that
Mu_ammad did not leave a complete written
text of the Qur_ān and that the Qur_ān
was preserved primarily in oral form in the
memory of a considerable number of Mu-
_ammad’s direct listeners with a sizeable
amount of the text having been recorded
in writing by scribes during Mu_ammad’s
lifetime. A group of the Companions (see
companions of the prophet), led by Zayd
b. Thābit (q.v.; d. 46⁄665), whom Mu_ammad
himself had employed as a scribe in
Medina, collected and arranged the oral
and written materials of the Qur_ān in a
complete consonantal text during the second
half of the caliphate of _Uthmān (q.v.;
r. 23⁄644-35⁄656; see collection of the
qur_An). The fi nal fully-vocalized text of
the Qur_ān was established and completed
only in the fi rst half of the fourth⁄tenth
century after different ways of reading —
either seven, ten or fourteen in number —
displaying slight variations in vocalization,
came to be tolerated and accepted as standard.
In addition to these standardized
variations of vocalization, however, thousands
of other tex tual variants were recorded
in the literatures of Islamic tradition
and Qur_ān commentary (tafsīr
al-Qur_ān), many of which cannot be found
in the myriad, complete and fragmentary,
manuscripts of the Qur_ān, extant in libraries
all over the world (see codices of
the qur_An).
It is unlikely, as is maintained in a number
of early accounts, that the initial collection
of the Qur_ān took place in the
short reign of the fi rst caliph Abū Bakr
(11⁄632-13⁄634) at the instigation of
_Umar. _Umar is supposed to have perceived
a serious threat to the integrity of
the transmission of the qur_ānic text in the
many casualties at the battle of al-Yamāma
because these included a number of reciters
(qurrā_) who knew the text by heart.
According to this story, Abū Bakr, though
hesitating for fear of overstepping Mu_ammad’s
precedent, ordered Zayd b. Thābit
to collect all of the qur_ānic fragments
written on palm leaves, tablets of clay and
fl at stones and “preserved in the hearts of
men” and to write them out on sheets
(          uuf ) of uniform size. These written
sheets came into the possession of _Umar
upon his accession to the caliphate in
13⁄634 and when he died in 23⁄644, his
daughter af_a, one of the Prophet’s
widows (see wives of the prophet), inherited
them from him. Another account
credits the creation of the fi rst collected
volume (mu           af ) to _Umar while yet another
refutes this by asserting that _Umar
did not live to see this collection completed.
The historicity of these accounts,
placing the collection of the Qur_ān within
the caliphates of Abū Bakr and _Umar, has
been challenged on the grounds that critical
study shows only two of the dead at the
battle of al-Yamāma actually qualifi ed as
reciters (see reciters of the qur_An), that
_Uthmān’s widely-attested role in establishing
the offi cial text has been intentionally
neglected and that Mu_ammad’s role in
the preparation of the text and the scribal
work done during his lifetime have been
The most widely-accepted version of the
traditional history of the Qur_ān places the
collection of the fi nal consonantal text in
the caliphate of _Uthmān about twenty
years after Mu_ammad’s death. The occasion
for the fi nal collection of the Qur_ān,
according to this account, was a military
expedition to Azerbayjan and Armenia
under the leadership of the general udhayfa.
Apparently his Muslim contingents
from Syria and those from Iraq fell into
dispute about the correct way of reciting
the Qur_ān during the communal prayers.
Trying to establish order, _Uthmān appointed
a commission of four respected
Meccans, presided over by Zayd b. Thābit,
to copy the “sheets” that were in af_a’s
personal possession. Where variant readings
of words were encountered, they
chose the one in the dialect of the Quraysh.
When the scribes completed their
assignment, _Uthmān kept one copy in
Medina and sent other copies to al-Kūfa,
al-Ba_ra and Damascus. He then commanded
that all other extant versions be
destroyed. His order, however, was not
heeded in al-Kūfa by the Companion Ibn
Mas_ūd (d. 32⁄653) and his followers. The
diffi culties of this version of the story center
on essential points, namely the doubt
that accuracy in the recitation of the Qur-
_ān would have caused signifi cant unrest in
the military during the early conquests of
Islam, the widely-accepted view that the
Qur_ān is not actually in the dialect of the
Quraysh (q.v.) and the improbability that
the caliph would have given an order to
destroy the already existing copies of the
Qur_ān. Further, the appearance of af_a
in this narrative probably functions simply
as a mechanism to link the Abū Bakr⁄
_Umar and _Uthmān versions to gether and
to establish an unbroken chain of custody
for an authoritative text that remained
largely unnoticed in the community. Despite
the diffi culties in this version of the
chronology of the collection of the Qur-
_ān, scholars generally accept that the offi -
cial consonantal text of the Qur_ān was established
in _Uthmān’s caliphate and that
Zayd b. Thābit played a signifi cant role in
effecting it.
To gain a clearer picture of the collection
of the standard consonantal text of the
Qur_ān, one may have to consider the possibility
of a number of factors, among
them the following: 1) that Mu_ammad
himself had begun the work of establishing
a written version of the Qur_ān without
completing it; 2) that during the fi rst two
decades after his death, the Muslim community
was focused on expansion and conquest
rather than on standardizing the
qur_ānic text; 3) that the need for a standardized
text of the Qur_ān manifested itself
only after local Muslim communities began
to form in the newly established garrison
cities (am          ār) such as al-Kūfa, al-Ba_ra and
Damascus; and 4) that the “_Uthmānic
text” established in Medina by the chief
collector Zayd b. Thābit has to be seen as a
parallel phenomenon to the codices containing
textual variants — all of which are
said to have been begun during Mu_ammad’s
lifetime — the one attributed to
_Abdāllah b. Mas_ūd and accepted in al-
Kūfa, the one attributed to Ubayy b. Ka_b
(d. ca. 29⁄649) and accepted in Syria, the
one attributed to Abū Mūsā al-Ash_arī
(d. 42⁄662) and accepted in al-Ba_ra as
well as to other “primary” codices of individuals
(see A. Jeffery, Materials; see also
textual history of the qur_An). _Alī b.
Abī _ālib (q.v.; d. 40⁄661), Mu_ammad’s
cousin and son-in-law, is also cited in the
early sources as the fi rst to collect the Qur-
_ān after the Prophet’s death. It is said
that he arranged the sūras in some form of
chronological order and that he allowed
his codex to be burned when the “_Uthmānic
text” was promulgated.
While the establishment of the consonantal
text of the Qur_ān, the “_Uthmānic
text,” is intertwined with the question of
the parallel personal or metropolitan codices
(ma        āif, see muShaf), the promulgation
of the fully vocalized text involves the
question of the various “readings” (qirā_āt)
of the Qur_ān (see readings of the qur-
_An). Since the non-vowelized “_Uthmānic
text” was written in a “scriptio defectiva”
that was merely a consonantal skeleton
lacking diacritical marks that distinguish
certain consonants from each other, oral
recitation was needed to ascertain the intended
pronunciation of the text. As the
qur_ānic orthography developed step by
step over more than two centuries and as
the linkage between the consonantal skeleton
and the oral recitation became more
and more defi ned, the defi ciencies of the
Arabic script were gradually overcome.
The variations of recitation, in the vast
majority of a minor nature, were either
reconciled or accommodated and the written
text became increasingly independent
of its linkage to oral pronunciation. This
process culminated with the “scriptio
plena,” the fully-vocalized and pointed
text of the Qur_ān.
This text may be considered as a “textus
receptus, ne varietur” with the proviso that
no single clearly identifi able textual specimen
of the Qur_ān was ever established or
accepted with absolute unanimity. Rather
the fi nal, fully-vowelized and pointed text
of the Qur_ān, accepted as normative and
canonical, may best be understood as a
construct underlying the work of Abū Bakr
b. Mujāhid (d. 324⁄936), who restricted the
recitation of the Qur_ān to seven correct
readings, termed aruf (lit. letters) on the
basis of a popular _adīth. Ibn Mujāhid
accepted the reading (qirā_a) of seven
prominent Qur_ān scholars of the second⁄
eighth century and declared them all as
based on divine authority. In 322⁄934 the
_Abbāsid establishment promulgated the
doctrine that these seven versions were the
only forms of the text and all others were
forbidden. Nevertheless, “three after the
seven” and “four after the ten” ways of
reading were added somewhat later to
form, respectively, ten or fourteen variant
readings. Finally, each of the ten ways of
reading was eventually accepted in two
slightly varying versions (sing. riwāya), all of
which, at least theoretically, belong within
the spectrum of the “textus receptus, ne
varietur.” For all practical purposes today,
only two versions are in general use, that of
af_ (d. 190⁄805) from (_an) _Ā_im (d. 127⁄
744), i.e. af_’s version of _Ā_im’s way of
reading, which received offi cial sanction
when it was adopted by the Egyptian standard
edition of the Qur_ān in 1924; and
that of Warsh (d. 197⁄812) from (_an) Nāfi_
(d. 169⁄785), i.e. Warsh’s version of Nāfi_’s
way of reading, which is followed in North
Africa, with the exception of Egypt.
The hypothetical nature of the scholarly
arguments about the textual variants of the
parallel codices ultimately led those scholars
who most meticulously examined them
(e.g. G. Bergstr‫ن‬sser, O. Pretzl, A. Jeffery,
and A. Fischer) to pronounce a very
guarded judgment about their authenticity.
It became the increasingly accepted scholarly
view that most of the allegedly pre-
_Uthmānic variants could be interpreted as
later attempts by Muslim philologists to
emend the “_Uthmānic text.” In the second
half of this century two scholars came to
the conclusion that these “codices” were
virtual fabrications of early Muslim scholarship
without offering, however, substantive
and irrefutable proof for their claims.
Arguing in opposite directions, J. Wansbrough
(qs) concluded that the Qur_ān was
not compiled until two to three hundred
years after Mu_ammad’s death while
J. Burton contended that Mu_ammad himself
had already established the fi nal edition
of the consonantal text of the Qur_ān.
Such widely-differing hypotheses, as well as
the fact that there is no single uniform text
of the Qur_ān that would represent a textcritical
edition composed on the basis of
the essential extant manuscripts and the
critically evaluated variant readings, demonstrate
that much of the chronological
reconstruction of the Qur_ān’s fi xation as a
written text has reached an impasse. Only
the future will tell whether a possible computer
analysis (see computers and the
qur_An) of the sheer mass of textual material
may enable scholarly research to develop
a more consistent picture of the Qur-
_ān’s textual chronology.
Certain breakthroughs with regard to
qur_ānic chronology, however, may be
achieved through a more systematic chronological
analysis of the major themes within
the Qur_ān such as the four examples
cited in this survey. Another challenge
might be a more consistent search for an
Ur-Qur_ān, initiated by G. Lüling, that
would reopen scholarly debate about the
sources of Mu_ammad’s proclamation and
whether he only began to produce religious
rhymed prose after the defi ning religious
experience that the sources identify as his
call to prophethood, an event that took
place when he was a man of about forty
years of age. Searching the text for segments
that could antedate this experience
may reveal their roots in usages of religious
worship and liturgy within the Arab environment
in which Mu_ammad grew up
and reached his maturity. Finally, it may
be necessary for scholarly research to espouse
more unequivocally the view that
Mu_ammad was not the mere mouthpiece
of the Qur_ān’s proclamation but,
as its actual historical human author,
played a major role in its collection and
Gerhard Bِ ering
Primary: Ibn Is_āq-Guillaume; _abarī, Ta_rīkh.
Secondary: T. Andrae, Mohammed, the man and his
faith, New York 1936; E. Beck, Der _u_mānische
Kodex in der Koranlesung des zweiten
Jahrhunderts, in Orientalia 14 (1945), 355-73; id.,
Die Gestalt des Abraham am Wendepunkt der
Entwicklung Muhammeds, in Muséon 65 (1952),
73-94; R. Bell, The origin of Islam in its Christian
environment, London 1926; Blachère, Introduction,
19772; F. Buhl, Das Leben Mohammeds, Heidelberg
1961; Burton, Collection; R. Firestone, Journeys in
holy lands, New York 1990; Goldziher, Richtungen;
H. Grimme, Mohammed, 2 vols., Aschendorff
1892-5; H. Hirschfeld, New researches into the
composition and exegesis of the Qoran, London 1902;
Horovitz, ku; Jeffery, For. vocab.; id., Materials; id.,
The Qur_ān as scripture, New York 1952; J. Jomier,
Le nom divin al-Ra_mān dans le Coran, in
Institut Français d’‫ة‬tudes Arabes en Damas,
Mélanges Louis Massignon, 3 vols., Damascus
1957, ii, 361-81; G. Lüling, ‫ـ‬ber den Ur-Qur_ān,
Erlangen 1974; id., Die Wiederentdeckung des
Propheten Muhammad, Erlangen 1981; Y.
Moubarac, Abraham dans le Coran, Paris 1958; W.
Muir, The Corân. Its composition and teaching,
London 1878; Nagel; Nِ deke, gq; Paret,
Kommentar; id., Der Koran, Darmstadt 1975; id.,
Mohammed und der Koran, Stuttgart 1957; C.
Snouck Hurgronje, Het Mekkaansche feest, Leiden
1880; Speyer, Erz‫ن‬hlungen, repr. Hildesheim 1961;
A. Sprenger, Das Leben und die Lehre des Mohammed,
3 vols., Berlin 1861-5; C.C. Torrey, The Jewish
foundation of Islam, New York 1933; Wansbrough,
qs ; W.M. Watt, Muhammad at Mecca, Oxford
1953; id., Muhammad at Medina, Oxford 1956;
Watt-Bell, Introduction; G. Weil, Historisch-kritische
Einleitung in den Koran, Bielefeld 1844 ; A.J.
Wensinck, Muhammad and the Jews of Medina,
Freiburg 1975.

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Description: The Qur_ān is the most recent of the major sacred scriptures to have appeared in the chronology of human history. It originated at a crucial moment in time when Mu_ammad proclaimed it in the northwestern half of the Arabian peninsula during the fi rst quarter of the seventh century