Quran Quran structure and coherence

Absolute truth

لا إله إلا الله
At the same time that it was being revealed, the Qur'ān was being rearranged in a certain form, under direct divine guidance, by the Holy Prophet (sws). The completion of the arrangement of the Qur'ān was conterminous in time with the completion of its revelation. In respect of order and sequence, therefore, the Qur'ān as it was compiled was different from the Qur'ān as it was revealed. In other words, the Qur'ān had two arrangements, one revelatory and the other compilatory.

The question is, why was the revelatory arrangement abandoned in favour of a compilatory arrangement. Was the latter adopted without any special reason? If so, why was chronology not considered a sound enough basis for arranging the Qur'ān? And is one today at liberty to discover, if possible, the chronological arrangement of the Qur'ān and recite the Qur'ān according to that arrangement? Or, if chronology was not an acceptable guide, why was not some rule, that for example of dividing the Qur'ān into sūrahs of about equal length, employed. Nor does the principle of the progressive diminution of the size of sūrahs go very far because the diminution is not so progressive: We frequently find that long sūrahs are followed by shorter sūrahs which are again followed by long sūrahs and so on. The question continues to stare one in the face: Why a different arrangement ?

Imām Hamīd al-dīn Farāhī (India, d: 1930) gives another answer to the objection. He maintains that the Qur'ān has a most superb structure. The verses and sūrahs of the Qur'ān, he says, are arranged in a magnificent and impeccable order and together form a whole which has remarkable integration and symmetry. And beautiful as that structure is, adds Imām Farāhī, it is not merely of incidental value; it is essential to the meaning of the Qur'ān, nay, it is the only key there is to the meaning of the Qur'ān.

The seminal ideas of Imām Farāhī have been expounded by his most eminent disciple, Mawlānā Amīn Ahsan Ishī. Taking his cue from the principles his great teacher had enunciated, Mawlānā Ishī has written a commentary (in Urdu) on the Qur'ān in which he has shown how the Qur'ān is the systematic book Imam Farāhī claimed it to be. Mawlānā Ishī modestly terms his work elaborative, but as anyone can see, it is highly original in any respect. In fact, he is not only the most authentic exponent of Imam Farāhī's thought, he can be said to have new-modelled that thought. Below is given a brief statement of his views on the structure of the Qur'ān. These views have been summarised from the 'Introduction' to 'Tadabbur-i-Qur'ān' (Reflection on the Qur'ān), which is the name of his commentary.

  1. Each Qur'ānic sūrah has a dominant idea, called the axis of that sūrah, around which all the verses of that sūrah revolve. Thus no verse, or no group of verses, stands alone but has a direct relation with the axis of the sūrah and is part of the coherent scheme of the sūrah.

  2. The sūrahs of the Qur'ān exist in pairs, the two sūrahs of any pair being complementary to each other and, together constituting a unit. There are a few exceptions, however. The first sūrah, Fātihah, does not have a complement, because it is a kind of a preface to the whole of the Qur'ān. All the other exceptions too are not exceptions in the real sense of the word since each one of them is an appendix to one or the other sūrah.

  3. The 114 sūrahs of the Qur'ān fall into seven groups. The first group comes to an end at sūrah 5, the second at sūrah 9, the third at sūrah 24, the fourth at sūrah 33, the fifth at sūrah 49, the sixth at sūrah 66, and the seventh at sūrah 114. Each group contains one or more Makkan sūrahs followed by one or more Madīnan sūrahs of the same cast. Like individual sūrahs or each pair of sūrahs, each group has a central theme which runs through all its sūrahs, knitting them into a distinct body. In each group, the themes of the other groups also occur but as subsidiary themes.

  4. Each group logically leads to the next, and thus all the groups become variations on the basic theme of the Qur'ān, which is: 'Allah's call to man to adopt the right path'.
While speaking of coherence in the structure of the Qur'ān, we must distinguish between connectedness and organic unity. A connection, howsoever weird and far-fetched, can be established between any two objects of the universe. But organic unity implies the presence of a harmonious interrelationship between the components of a body or entity which produces a unified whole, a whole which is over and above the sum total or the components of and has worth and meaning in itself. The Ayat and sūrahs of the Qur'ān are not simply linked up with one another, they have their place, each one of them, in the total scheme of the Qur'ān and are related not only to one another but also to that total framework. The Qur'ān is an organism, of which its ayat and sūrahs are organically coherent parts.

Another point to be taken note of is that, as hinted above, the methodicalness of the Qur'ān is not just an incidental matter in the study of the Qur'ān, it is integral to the meaning of the Qur'ān. In plain terms, since the Qur'ān has an organic structure, every Ayah or group of Ayat and every sūrah has a definitive context and interpretation of any portion of the Qur'ān must be based on a correct understanding of that context. The Qur'ān is also one of the most unfortunate books in the sense that too often its verses have been torn out of context to prove some particular juristical opinion or sectarian notion and too frequently its terms and phrases have been misconstrued by those who come to it seeking, in some odd verse, support for views they have already formed on other than Qur'ānic grounds. It is indeed a great irony that all heresies have been claimed by their propounders to have their basis in the Qur'ān. And if these heresies looked plausible to many, it was because the context of the verses constituting the so-called 'basis in the Qur'ān' was not properly understood. As Mawlānā Ishī has shown, contextualisation gives to countless verses a construction different from the one usually placed on them; it throws new light not only on the doctrinal and creedal aspects of the Qur'ānic message but also on the methodological aspects of the message; it lends new significance not only to the moral and legal injunctions of the Qur'ān but also to the stories and parables narrated by the Qur'ān; and it affords a deep insight not only into the continually changing style and tone of the Qur'ān but also into the varied patterns of logic it employs.

Absolute truth

لا إله إلا الله
by: Asif Uddin

The Qur’ān is unique

Most, if not all books, have clear demarcated chapters with a very visible outline. The Qur’ān on the other hand is a book that consists of over 6200 verses of varying length; the shortest chapter is 2 lines whilst the longest is 50 pages.

There are a number of unique matters features regarding the Qur’ān:

Firstly, it was revealed over a period of 23 years. Sometimes it took 9 years to reveal a surah,[iii] and sometimes it was sent in one go.[iv] There is much wisdom for this, just to mention a few. The ṣaḥāba were an intrinsic part of the revelation process, that is to say that verses were revealed about them and as a result of them. Their importance was fundamental in the recording, compiling and explanation of the verses which is to be used until the Day of Judgement. So their witnessing and living and breathing these verses helped in preserving the Qur’ān in text and meaning.

Wisdom of Qur’anic structure

We may find that in a standard book, there is not much repetition in it. There may be a bracket or a footnote that tells the reader to go back to chapter such and such. Some people will find some chapters more relevant than others and will skip some parts over others. But the structure of the Qur’ān is so profound that Allāh makes every part of it relevant and that is why each āyah is a sign, it is a miracle. So it is as though Allāh is pushing us to not read part of it, but all of it.

Secondly, the structure of the Sūrahs is not very clear for everyone. The wisdom of this is that the Qur’ān is not to be taken for granted and for one to have a deep understanding of the Qur’ān they need to make a lot of effort. The main message of the Qur’ān and what is expected from the believers is very clear. But to have a deep understanding of the Qur’ān, one has to read the Qur’ān several times and match one verse that is in one sūrah with another verse from another sūrah. This keeps the believers on their toes and has a stronger attachment by trying to explore things from generation to generation.

Thirdly, the chapters are in decreasing order (the longest chapter are at the front whist the shortest are at the back) which is not found in any text of history with a similar size. And that is why some would find it strange that the longest chapter is so early in the text. When a book is written, it usually begins off with the basics and then gets more difficult and difficult. Sūrah al-Baqarah is a very powerful sūrah that deals with many matters related to legislation and it is a Madani sūrah. The first sūrahs to be revealed to the ṣaḥābah were the Makkan sūrahs that helped them stabilise their Īmān, so some would find it strange that the first set of sūrahs are Madani which are legislative by nature. One of the reasons for this is that one of the aims of Sūrah al-Baqarah is to prepare the ummah of the Prophet in accepting the commands of revelation, something the Banī Israel found difficult to do. And what a person requires in terms of guidance in the very early stages of reading the Qur’ān is how to live their lives such as the do’s and the don’ts. It is also no coincidence that the sūrahs that we need to help us stabilise our Īmān are the shorter sūrahs that we have not only memorised but recite every day in our prayers.

So to look at the Qur’ān with a binary, Aristotelian logic we are all familiar with in the west is not correct.[v] But what we should anticipate is a different, multi-fold and higher form of logic, which reveals itself in diverse forms the more one struggles and engages with the Qur’ān. For instance, when a person reads a verse quoted in a book, it is as though they are reading it for the very first time. It feels fresh because the Qur’ān has an incredible ability to re-reveal itself.

The structure of the Qur’ān is more suited for a book that would be read regularly and even memorised. The way that books are written is for them only to be read once only. But the Qur’ān almost forces a person to read all of it and refer to different parts of it.

Above are some of the wisdoms, but what are the main reasons the Qur’ān is presented in this intriguing but yet unique way?

Message in a Theme

Unlike a textbook in which the chapters are divided into specific topics rarely discussed outside of that specific section, the Qur’ān is distinctive in that it is not chapter driven, but theme driven. A cursory look will demonstrate that one story is mentioned several times in various chapters. For instance, the story of Ādam (ʿalayhi al-Salām) is mentioned in Sūrah al-Baqarah, al-Arāf, al-Hijr, al-Isrā’, Ṭāha and Ṣād.

By having a theme – Allāh includes certain messages and stories that are relevant to us as an ummah. Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) is the most often referred to Prophet in the Qur’ān as there is a need for us to take lessons from him and his people. If a revelation of Allāh was sent many centuries ago to another ummah – perhaps Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) would not have been the most often mentioned Prophet. In other words, there was a reason why Mūsā was cited. Everything stated in the Qur’ān is something that the ummah requires. We have unique challenges that are different to ummahs that have passed.

Since the Qur’ān is theme driven, each verse, although revealed for a certain occasion and reason, lays down principles which are as applicable to the recipients as they were to those living 1400 years ago. In other words, the verses are not restricted to the reason of revelation. This can be extended to verses that may seem very particular to an incident and those verses that have been abrogated. Some verses may not be applicable to us at the moment, but were in the past and may be applicable in the future. This demonstrates to us the importance of sticking to the intended meaning of the text of the Qur’ān. Changing the meaning of a ruling to ‘fit our times’ may lead to a precious wisdom inadvertently being lost.

It is these themes that encompass the major goals of the Qur’ān. It is out of the scope of this article to discuss them in detail. But just to mention a few, the main ones are (and not limited to): Oneness of Allāh and His description, what pleases and displeases Him, Messengership, Hereafter, building an Islamic Community and struggling against the enemies of Islām.

Goals of the Qur’ān

Since the Qur’ān is not only a guidance for our life, but our daily lives, the main goals of the Qur’ān being imbedded in every other page ensures that we are able to grasp and be reminded of the main message every day we read the words of Allāh. This methodology of the Qur’ān is such that everyone can benefit from it irrespective of how much they read. That is, that a person does not need to read the entire or large portions of the Qur’ān in one sitting to find out what Allāh wants from us.

Allāh knows that we will read the Qur’ān every day and we need to be reminded of its message daily. So through His infinite wisdom, He scattered the aims of the Qur’ān on every other page of Qurān. Since it was revealed over such a long period of time, the point at which they were revealed was not just a group of verses about their circumstances, but much more and that is why we can find the major aims being mentioned so often. In some books, if you do not read a crucial part of it, you will not understand the rest of the book. But there are crucial parts all over the Qur’ān. Sometimes, when we read a book, we may consider one aspect of it really juicy or a particular chapter our favourite. But the entire Qur’ān is breath-taking. And that is why, if you ask different people what is their favourite Sūrah, they will give 114 different answers. And the Qūran is so effective in getting its message across that snapshots of the aims are presented on a micro level (every other page) and from a macro level (in every chapter).

Allāh says:

Allāh has sent down the best of statements, a Book, its parts resembling each other in goodness and truth, oft-repeated.”[vi]

And those things which Allāh repeats often are those matters we need reminding of. Terms such as sabr, taqwa, iḥsān are replete throughout the Qur’ān. And there are matters such as fasting in Ramaḍān which is only mentioned once as He knows we only need to be told once, for us to perform this. Therefore, we do not need to do a thorough investigation of what Allāh wants from us, rather we are able to grasp the major aims of the Qur’ān fairly quickly. But they are also mentioned so often that we are able to read it every day from our daily reading of the Qur’ān in order to act upon them.

Makkan and Madani

We also find that the Makkan and Medīnan chapters are not arranged such that all the Makkan sūrahs are gathered together and Medīnan chapters clustered together. Rather, the first chapter, Sūrah Al Fātiḥa is Makki, whilst the subsequent chapters are Madani only to be revisited by a Makki Sūrah in the form of Al-Anām, the sixth chapter. These two types of chapters have distinct features that give particular qualities to the reader that the other may not give in such a comprehensive manner. They develop the character and mindset of the Muslim in distinct ways. And this is why we should not recite Makkan Sūrahs only. It is true that these Sūrahs focus on matters of the ākhirah more than Medīnan Sūrahs – but Allāh wants us to be well-rounded individuals. This will be brought about by being shaped by these two types of Sūrahs. The two types of sūrahs are therefore not gathered in one place as it serves to develop a Makki-Madani mind-set and not an exclusive Madani mind-set and an exclusive Makki mind-set. The Qur’ān is a cure, so when we only read one Sūrah or one type of a Sūrah, we only gain a part of that cure. The holistic picture drawn and derived from the scholars drives us to understand one part of the Qūran in light of the other. A story in the Qur’ān as an example is complete in and of itself – but the details or a more comprehensive framework is provided by looking at other Sūrahs.


As can be seen from this article, there are many wisdoms and benefits of the Qur’ān being structured by themes. It is relevant, addresses us and encapsulates the major themes of the Qur’ān. We are able to grasp the major aims quickly, are told about them often to act upon them, and it develops us in different ways. The summary of the entire Qur’ān or that which is mentioned here can beautifully be expressed in a statement by Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah (raḥimahu Allāhu) (d.751). He said:

‘The secret or the heart of the creation and the command and the books that were revealed, and laws that were revealed, the reward and the punishment ultimately result in these two statements. It has been said that Allāh revealed 104 books and he combined all its knowledge in the Torah, Injeel and Furqan. And he combined the ilm of these books in the Qur’ān. And he combined the ilm of the Qur’ān in the short Sūrahs at the end of the book. And he combined those meanings in Al-Fātiḥa. And He combined the meanings of Al-Fātiḥa into iyyāka naʿbudu wa iyyāka nastaʿīn.’
Source: www.islam21c.com
Last edited:

Absolute truth

لا إله إلا الله
Ring Theory: the Quran's Structural Coherence

The Qur’an is a very unique book in terms of its composition. Its 114 chapters (or ‘Surahs’ in Arabic) are not arranged chronologically or thematically. Even within the individual chapters, numerous topics can be covered with sudden switches from one topic to another and then back again.

This unique structure at face value may appear to be disjointed. However, modern research has discovered a sophisticated structural coherence in the Qur’an known as ring composition.


Ring composition has been explained by Mary Douglas in her book “Thinking in Circles: An Essay on Ring Composition”. In ring compositions there must be a correspondence between the beginning and the end. It is structured as a sort of circle, or mirror image. The central meaning of the text is placed at its centre. The second half mirrors the first half, in reverse order — e.g., A, B, C, D, C’, B’, A’.

The correspondence usually involves the repetition of a striking or evident word or phrase, and there must be a clear thematic connection between the two sections. The correspondence serves to complete the circle and provide closure. Also, the internal sections – within the ring – must correspond to each other.

To put it in simple terms; ring composition is the equivalent of putting a mirror in the middle – what is mentioned in the first half will be reflected in the second half.


Before getting into the ring composition of the Qur’an, it’s worth discussing the background and circumstances of the Qur’an’s revelation:

Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, could not read or write. The Qur’an itself confirms this:

“Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered prophet, whom they find written in what they have of the Torah and the Gospel…” [Chapter 7, verse 157]

Throughout his life, prior to Prophethood, Muhammad did not have a reputation for poetry. In fact we know from history that at a personal level he disliked it and wasn’t a skilled poet. There are instances where he attempted to relate some poetry and would jumble the words up [1]:

Qatadah narrated, Aisha was asked: Did the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, use to relate anything from poetry?” She said: It was most detestable thing to him except that (at times) he used to relate a verse from the person of Banu Qays and he jumbled it up. Abu Bakr told him it was not like that. So the Prophet of Allah said, “By Allah I am not a poet and neither is it appropriate for me.”

The Qur’an was originally delivered to its first audience in the form of speech through recitation. Remarkably the Qur’an did not have the opportunity for an editorial process, as many verses were revealed on the spot as a response to unexpected questions and challenges that were brought forward to Prophet Muhammad from both believers and non-believers.

The 6,236 verses that make up the Qur’an were revealed gradually over a period of 23 years. It did not go through multiple revisions as it was revealed:

And those who disbelieve say, “Why was the Qur’an not revealed to him all at once?” Thus [it is] that We may strengthen thereby your heart. And We have spaced it distinctly. [Chapter 25, verse 32]

In light of these circumstances, one would expect the structure of the Qur’an to be incoherent. What we find however, is that it exhibits the sophisticated structure of ring composition.


Surah al-Baqarah, which we are going to use as a case study in this article, happens to be the longest chapter of the Qur’an and was revealed over a span of over nine years. Surah Al-Baqarah consists of 286 verses and can be divided into nine main sections based on theme/topic (verse numbers in parenthesis):

1. Faith vs. unbelief (1 – 20).
2. Allah’s creation and knowledge (21 – 39).
3. Deliverance of Law to Children of Israel (40 – 103).
4. Abraham was tested (104 – 141).
5. Ka’ba is the new qibla (142 – 152).
6. Muslims will be tested (153 – 177).
7. Deliverance of Law to Muslims (178 – 253).
8. Allah’s creation and knowledge (254 – 284).
9. Faith vs. unbelief (285 – 286).

Re-arranging this list to fit into a ring composition:

A Faith vs. unbelief (1 – 20).
——–B Allah’s creation and knowledge (21 – 39).
—————-C Deliverance of Law to Children of Israel (40 – 103).
————————D Abraham was tested (104 – 141).
——————————–E Ka’ba is the new qibla (142 – 152).
————————D’ Muslims will be tested (153 – 177).
—————-C’ Deliverance of Law to Muslims (178 – 253).
——–B’ Allah’s creation and knowledge (254 – 284).
A’ Faith vs. unbelief (285 – 286).

The coherence in the form of a ring composition is best illustrated in the diagram below (please click on picture to enlarge) [2]:


If we examine the 9 sections we find that they contain sub-ring compositions. So what we have is rings within rings (please click on pictures to enlarge) [3]:

Here is a table showing parallels between the corresponding sections (the correspondences here are indicated horizontally):

A noteworthy point is that the middle of Surah Al-Baqarah, the 143rd verse, mentions an important turning point for the Muslims:

Thus We have appointed you a middle nation, that ye may be witnesses against mankind, and that the messenger may be a witness against you. And We appointed the qiblah which ye formerly observed only that We might know him who followeth the messenger, from him who turneth on his heels. In truth it was a hard (test) save for those whom Allah guided. But it was not Allah’s purpose that your faith should be in vain, for Allah is Full of Pity, Merciful toward mankind. [Chapter 2, verse 143]

This turning point was the change in qiblah, the direction of the daily prayers, from Jerusalem to Makkah. This represented a big test for the believers. We find the mention of this important turning point in exactly the middle of the chapter. Moreover this verse even contains the word ‘middle’!

Finally, it’s worth paying special attention to a particular verse of Surah al-Baqarah, the 255th verse known as ‘Ayat al-Kursi’. This verse is considered the most excellent verse of the Qur’an, according to Prophet Muhammad. Its memorisation is highly encouraged, and it just so happens that it too exhibits a ring composition:


Notice that the middle of Ayat al-Kursi mentions ‘before’ and ‘after’ which could be yet another allusion to the mirroring of ring composition.

It’s worth highlighting that not only does Ayat al-Kursi contain its own ring composition, but it is also positioned as a sub ring within two larger rings – a concentric ring composition:


Raymond K Farrin, author of “Surat al-Baqarah – A Structural Analysis”, concludes on Surah al-Baqarah’s ring composition:

“Indeed this sura exhibits marvellous justness of design. It is precisely and tightly arranged, as we have seen, according to the principles of ring composition; even the section lengths fit perfectly in the overall scheme. Moreover, the precise structure serves as a guide, pointing to key themes in the sura. These occur, according to the logic of the pattern, at the centers of individual rings and, particularly, at the center of the whole sura. At the center of the sura, again, one finds instructions to face Mecca — this being a test of faith; identification of the Muslims as a new, middle community; and the message that all people, regardless of their qibla or spiritual orientation, should race to do good and God will bring them together.”

Ring composition has great exegetical application. For a ring structure not only holds the text together, but also gives focus to the important words and themes. By means of concentric patterning, ring composition calls attention to the centre – we are drawn to look here for the essential message. As Mary Douglas notes concisely, “The meaning is in the middle.” [4]

It also serves as an aid in memorisation, especially useful given the length of Surah al-Baqarah. In his study of ancient poetry, Cedric Whitman found that ring composition simultaneously performed both aesthetic and mnemonic functions. It aids memorisation by permitting the oral poet to easily recall the basic formulae of the composition during performances [5].

Some critics may point out that texts prior to the Qur’an had this literary style and therefore we cannot use this as evidence of the Qur’an’s divine origin. They put forward examples from Mary Douglas’ book “Thinking in Circles: An Essay on Ring Composition” which states that ring compositions are found throughout ancient Eastern Mediterranean literature (like Homer’s Iliad) as well as the Bible.

Comparing the Qur’an’s structure to that of other texts is like comparing night and day for the following reasons:

1. Prophet Muhammad could not read or write, so it’s a lot more difficult to plan such a structure when all you have to go on is memory (the Qur’an was revealed orally of course).

2. Prophet Muhammad was not a poet nor did he have any literary reputation, and yet the Qur’an has this remarkable structure. How can a person with little to no experience or skill in poetry/literature achieve such sophistication?

3. The verses of the Qur’an were not revealed in sequential order like with conventional texts. Surah al-Baqarah, the example covered in this article, was revealed over a period of many years with its verses interspaced with the revelation of verses from other chapters. Unlike conventional texts this makes implementing such a structure much more difficult.

4. Many verses of the Qur’an are linked to questions and events that occurred unexpectedly, so unless a person can predict the future, how could a human being plan the verses ahead of time when they were not in his control? Other texts such as the Bible were written by multiple authors long after Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them) which would make planning such a structure much easier.

5. The Qur’an did not undergo any editorial process, Prophet Muhammad would fix the positions of the new verses as soon as they were revealed to him. With each new verse, again which were tied to external questions and events that were outside of his control, he would not go off and review what had been previously revealed and see where he can fit them in order to maintain this ring structure. So spontaneous revelation was immediately followed by the placement of the verse into the Qur’an, and once placed it was fixed with no opportunity for later editing. Other texts such as the Bible show evidence of multiple authors and several stages of editing, again making is much easier to achieve such a structure.

In summary, it is the unique circumstances of the revelation of the Qur’an that make its ring structure a strong argument for its divine origin.

Given the difficult and protracted circumstances of the Qur’an’s revelation, one would expect it to be in disorder. However as this article has demonstrated, any such understanding reveals a lack of insight into the Qur’an’s sophisticated structure. Upon deep analysis of the Qur’an’s composition we see that it exhibits a remarkable structure. It is simply impossible for Prophet Muhammad, given that he could neither read nor write and had no reputation as a poet or literary expert, to have engineered such a structure himself. This represents compelling evidence that his inspiration for the Qur’an was God Almighty, as the Qur’an itself states:

“Your Companion is neither astray nor being misled. Nor does he say (aught) of (his own) desire. It is no less than inspiration sent down to him. He was taught by one mighty in Power.” [Chapter 53, verses 2-5]
Source: www.islam21c.com

Absolute truth

لا إله إلا الله
The Coherence of al-Baqarah
Surah Al-Baqarah is considered one of the richest chapters of the Quran. This is not necessarily due to its length or the fact that it is at the beginning of the Quran[1], but due to its content. In fact, it has been said that it contains a thousand incidents, a thousand commands and a thousand prohibitions.[2] It is such an important section of the Quran that it has even been argued that the entire Quran revolves around it.[3] Due to the sheer number of topics mentioned therein[4] commentators have disagreed as to the main aims (maqaasid) of the Surah. These have ranged from succession (istikhlaaf),[5] to faith in the resurrection,[6] to calling people to Islam (dawah), all of which shape how the coherence of the chapter is understood. This article attempts to highlight the relationship between each of the topics based on what literary circles term ‘ring composition’.[7] The easiest way to describe a ring composition is to put a mirror in the middle of a chapter – what is mentioned in the first half of the Surah will be reflected in the second half in terms of topics. Some attention has been made in tafseer literature regarding the link between the beginning and the ending of a chapter[8] but little has been written regarding the relationship of topics within a surah comprehensively.[9]
With the loss of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) two main aides, his uncle Abu Talib and his wife Khadijah, the position of the Muslims became increasingly untenable. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was seeking an alternative home for the believers by his visit to Taif.[10] A major breakthrough ensued in the form of an invitation from the people of Medina in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the believers settled. Surah Al-Baqarah being the first chapter to be revealed after the Prophet’s migration (hijrah) therefore encapsulates a dawn of a new era. It encompassed almost everything that could be branded new. A new beginning, a new community, a new identity, new rulings, interaction with new cultures which brought about new challenges. On one hand, it dealt with the Jewish community awaiting the coming of the Prophet as well as the newly formed[11] hypocrite community in Medina.[12] And on the other hand, a confrontation that appeared in the early Medinan phase in the form of the battle of Badr against the Makkan idolaters. With Medina being a new stronghold for the believers, it had inevitably become a place that was exposed to other cultures different to Makkah such as the Christian community which is discussed in the next Surah.[13]
Surah Al-Baqarah consists of 286 verses and can be divided into nine main sections. The coherence in the form of a ring composition is best illustrated in the diagram below.

It can be noted from the diagram above that with the exception of A, E and I (which are the introduction, middle and conclusion), the sections begin with specific addresses: O mankind, O children of Israel and O you who believe. It is quite fascinating that when all mankind are addressed, the story that follows is of Adam[14] – the one who all of us relate to. Naturally, the story of Musa follows on from the address ‘O children of Israel’ and the Muslims with ‘O you who believe’. Section A and I have a clear link between belief in the unseen and messengers. In the beginning the characteristics of the disbelievers are highlighted (6, 7) and the end mentions a supplication (286) for help against them; this demonstrates that taqwa (2) is a means to nasr (286).
Section B and H focuses on Allah’s encompassing knowledge. Although, this is a broad title, a number of similarities can be drawn between the two sections. In H, Allah mentions: The heavens and earth belong to Him (Ayatul-Kursi 255), there is no compulsion in the religion (256), He protects those who believe (257), Ibrahim challenges a King (Nimrod) (258), matters related to life and death (in the story of Uzair 259-260), a similitude of a garden (264), a threat from satan and Allah’s promise of forgiveness (268), charity (263), usury (riba) (275) amongst other things. Some of these very same themes occur in B, such as: A challenge to the disbelievers to produce a surah like the Quran (23) (as Ibrahim challenged the King), matters related to life and death (28), Allah created the heavens and earth (29) and in the story of Adam, satan makes him and his wife slip from the garden which results in their forgiveness.
The concept of intrigue is at the heart of the stories mentioned in both sections of B. On one hand, the angels question Allah about the wisdom of creating Adam (30) and a few verses earlier Allah responds with a parable of a mosquito to the hypocrites questioning Him (26). In contrast, Uzair and Ibrahim asked Allah matters pertaining to life and death (259-260). A parallel that can also be found is that in the earlier passage, life is discussed in contrast to the latter in which death is mentioned. Compare: “Who created you and those who were before you” (21); the sending of rain for crops (22), “you were dead and He gave you life then He will give you death, then again will bring you to life” (28) and the creating of Adam which follows on from this. With the later passage in which Ibrahim says to the king “”My Lord is He Who gives life and causes death.’” (258), Uzair says: “”How will Allah ever bring it to life after its death”” (259) Ibrahim says: “”My Lord! Show me how You give life to the dead.”” (260)[15]
A matter that requires further research is whether the very same laws that Musa came to deliver to the Bani Israel (some of which are in section C), are the very same laws the Prophet (peace be upon him) delivered to the believers (in section G).[16] In at least some of the matters mentioned, there are parallels and the way in which they are described are quite exquisite. Allah says in verse 53 that Musa was given the book (kitab) and yet we find that Allah uses this very same word to prescribe various laws for the Muslims: kutiba alaykum al-qisas, siyam etc (178, 180 and 183).

Of the laws which are similar or at least indicated are: The fasting of Ashurah (which is not mentioned) as a result of Pharaoh drowning (50) in contrast to the fasting of Ramadhan (183) mentioned in the latter passages.[17] Jihad being commanded to the Bani Israel and the believers, in the former case it was in Jerusalem (58) and in the latter – Masjidul Haram (Makkah) (191).[18] The transgressing of the Sabbath (65) and the warning of fighting in the sacred months (194). The slaughter of the cow (67) and the hady (sacrifice) of Hajj which can include a cow (196). The excessive questioning of the Bani Israel (67-74) and in at least seven instances: ‘They ask you’ is mentioned in section G, which is of a different nature. Whilst the Bani Israel asked their question to avoid performing actions, that resulted in the end ruling being more difficult than the original. The questions of the believers were genuine and were considered to be beneficial knowledge. In the tafseer of the story of the cow, it is stated that a man killed his uncle to gain the inheritance quickly, whilst later the concept of the will (180) is mentioned as well as qisaas (retaliation for the murder, 178). Part of the covenant of the Bani Israel was to be good to the family and orphans, which also appears later. Allah asks in verse 210, the number of favours that the Bani Israel were given which are mentioned in the earlier passages.
Allah mentions in section C, seeking help in patience through the salah and the end of G, divorcees are instructed to guard the middle prayer (238). The mention of drinking appears in both passages; water from the twelve springs and the river. In both cases, there was a warning attached; for the case of the twelve spring, “do not act corruptly, making mischief on the earth” (60) and the river was a form of a test (249). Another connection is that that river and the two angels were a test for the people (102). In both situations, the result was of separation, one between a husband and wife and the other from fighting against the army of Jalut. In C, the Bani Israel complained about manna and salwa (two types of heavenly food) (57) and in the G, another generation of them complained about Talut (247) who was appointed a King over them. Both sections allude to angels that are seen, in the earlier instance it was Haurt and Marut (99-103) and in the latter, it was the angels carrying the Tabut (249). A final example is that Dawud (peace be upon him) was mentioned in section G, whilst his son Sulayman (peace be upon him) mentioned in section C.%

Absolute truth

لا إله إلا الله
According to Amin Ahsan Islahi

1. The surahs of the Qur’an are divided into seven discrete groups. Each group has a distinct theme. Every group begins with one or more Makkan Surah and ends with one or more Madinan Surah. In each group, the Makkan Surahs always precede the Madinan ones. The relationship between the Makkan Surahs and Madinan Surahs of each group is that of the root of a tree and its branches.

2. In every group, the various phases of the Prophet Muhammad’s mission are depicted.

3. Two surahs of each group form a pair such that each member of the pair complements the other in various ways. Surah Fatihah, however, is an exception to this pattern: it is an introduction to the whole of the Qur’an as well as to the first group which begins with it. There are also some surahs which have a specific purpose and fall in this paired-surah scheme in a particular way.

4. Each surah has specific addressees and a central theme around which the contents of the surah revolve. Every surah has distinct subsections to mark thematic shifts, and every subsection is paragraphed to mark smaller shifts.
Following is a brief description of the seven Qur’anic groups:

Group I {Surah Fatihah (1) - Surah Maidah (5)}
Central Theme: Islamic Law.

Group II {Surah An‘am (6) - Surah Tawbah (9)}
Central Theme: The consequences of denying the Prophet (sws) for the Mushrikin of Makkah.

Group III {Surah Yunus (10) - Surah Nur (24)}
Central Theme: Glad tidings of the Prophet Muhammad’s domination in Arabia.
Group IV {Surah Furqan (25) - Surah Ahzab (33 }
Central Theme: Arguments that substantiate the prophethood of Muhammad (sws) and the requirements of faith in him.

Group V {Surah Saba (34) - Surah Hujrat (49)}
Central Theme: Arguments that substantiate the belief of Tawhid and the requirements of faith in this belief.

Group VI {Surah Qaf (50) - Surah Tahrim (66)}
Central Theme: Arguments that substantiate the belief of Akhirah and the requirements of faith in this belief.

Group VII {Surah Mulk (67) - Surah Nas (114)}
Central Theme: Admonition (indhar) to the Quraysh about their fate in the Herein and the Hereafter if they deny the Prophet (sws).

Absolute truth

لا إله إلا الله
An Analysis of the Meanings of the Sūrahs of Group six

Amin Ahsan Islahi
(Tr. by Dr. Shehzad Saleem)

With Sūrah Qāf begins the sixth group of the Qur’ān. The central theme of this group is the Hereafter.

Sūrah Qāf

In this particular sūrah, various arguments are cited to prove that the Day of Judgement is certain to come. The sūrah can be distinctly divided into the following seven sections:

Verses (1-5)

The grandeur and magnificence of the Qur’ān bear witness that it is the word of Allah. Those who are regarding it as the work of a poet or a soothsayer are merely doing so as an excuse to deny the Day of Judgement. They are actually confounded by the fact that someone from amongst themselves is warning them that after they die and become dust they will be returned to life again. This according to them is very unlikely. Actually pride and vanity have led them to reject the Qur’ān and owing to this reason they are calling it a work of poetry and soothsaying. Their denial is baseless and since they have denied the truth, they are in an acute state of mental confusion and obvious contradiction. They should be aware that even what the earth consumes of their bodies is in the knowledge of Allah and with Him is a register which records all what they say and do.

Verses (6-11)

A reference is made to the signs of the heavens and the earth which bear evidence to the Day of Judgement and to the reward and punishment that will be given to men on that Day as well as to the belief of Tawhīd (monotheism). These signs testify to the power and wisdom of the Almighty and to the various means of sustenance He has created for mankind. These signs are meant to remind and caution man.

Verses (12-14)

The Quraysh are warned that they should not deny the truth because of pride and prejudice. Many nations before them who were guilty of this crime were totally destroyed, and if they continue with this attitude, their fate will be no different.

Verses (15-18)

The Almighty's attributes of Knowledge and Creativity which prove the certainty of the Day of Judgement are alluded to and a reference is also made to the arrangement He has made for the security and protection of the records of all the deeds and utterances of mankind.

Verses (19-35)

A vivid description of the Day of Judgement is drawn: The details of the dreadful fate the disbelievers will encounter and the good fate the believers will meet are highlighted.

Verses (36-37)

The Quraysh are warned that they must not be overcome by the pride of the power they possess and must not vainly reckon that their glory and grandeur are eternal: Many other nations, who had much more power and splendour were destroyed at the very height of their dominance and authority; they could not even find any room in the vastness of the earth to hide from the ruthless law of retribution. Indeed, in the account of these nations is a lesson for people who are sensitive and who earnestly give ear.

Verses (38-45)

The Prophet (sws) is urged to persevere and to persist in the cause of truth, and seek perseverance from Allah with the help of prayers. He is told to defer the matter of the disbelievers to the Day of Judgement, which is certain to come; when the Almighty Himself will take account of their deeds. Furthermore, he is assured that his only responsibility is to warn them of this Day; to make them accept faith is not his responsibility. He should only admonish those who fear Allah through this Qur’ān, and to leave the matter of those who make of fun it to the Almighty.

Sūrah Zāriyāt

This sūrah is the dual counterpart of the previous sūrah: Qāf. It can be distinctly divided into the following six sections:

Verses (1-14)

By referring to the diverse manifestations of the winds and the clouds, people who make fun of the Day of Reward and Punishment by mockingly questioning about its time of arrival are severely reprimanded for their behaviour. They are warned that the doom that will descend upon them if they deny the Prophet (sws) as well as the Day of Reckoning about which they are being warned; both are certain to come. Only those who have lost their senses are daring to doubt their certainty. Those who are seeking to hasten them will be told that those were precisely what they had sought to hasten.

Verses (15-19)

In contrast with the disbelievers, a mention is made of the reward the righteous will receive who had spent their lives while remaining fearful of the Day, who slept but little at night and in the early hours of dawn sought their Lord’s forgiveness and in whose wealth the deprived had a share.

Verses (20-23)

The signs in the heavens and the earth, as well as in the human soul, which testify to the Day of Judgement are alluded to. It is then claimed that creating mankind a second time is as easy for the Almighty as is for a person to utter a word.

Verses (24-37)

Evidence from history which further substantiates the imminence of the Day of Judgement is presented by referring to the tales of Abraham (sws) and Lot (sws). The same angels who had brought glad tidings to Abraham (sws) about being blessed with a son had unleashed a storming wind and showered stones on the people who had denied the Prophet Lot (sws), and had saved those who had professed faith in him. These events bear witness historically that the Creator of this Universe takes account of what nations do: the people of Lot (sws) were punished in retribution of their own misdeeds. There is a lesson for those who are fearful of the Almighty in this episode -- for the remains of their cities have been preserved by Him.

Verses (38-46)

A brief mention is made of the tales of the Pharaoh and the people of `Aād and Thamūd, and folks of Noah who were caught in the ruthless law of retribution of nations when they rejected the message of their respective prophets. They were totally destroyed by the Almighty who just ordered the winds and the clouds to unleash their terror on them.

Verses (47-60)

In this concluding section, the whole theme of the sūrah is summed up: It is not difficult for the Almighty, who is the Creator of the heavens and the earth and who has created everything in pairs, to create this world a second time: If the Day of Reckoning is certain to come, then people should turn to the Almighty and seek His nearness. The Prophet (sws) is assured that all the other prophets before him received no different a treatment at the hands of their people. He is advised to leave these rebellious people to themselves and to remind only those who are paying heed to the Message of Allah. He is further consoled by the Almighty that men and jinn folk have been created by Him, only to worship Him. He has not imposed any responsibility on them to feed others nor does He Himself seek sustenance from them. Indeed, He Himself is the Provider of all, Lord of Might and Power. He will sustain and provide all those who, irrespective of the circumstances, set out to befittingly worship Him. He will help them in their endeavours as well and no one will be able to harm them. As far as the wrongdoers are concerned, they will get in this world what has been ordained for them. In spite of all their outcries to the Almighty to hasten the Day of Judgement, they will be given the respite needed so that the truth is unveiled to them in its ultimate form after which they can have no excuse to deny. Finally, when this period is over, as deemed by the Almighty, they will encounter the Day about which they are being warned.

Sūrah Tūr

The sūrah can be divided into the following three sections:

Verses (1-16)

This section forms the introductory part of the sūrah. The headstrong and obstinate people of Quraysh are severely warned through certain historical and universal facts as evidence that the punishment about which they have been informed is certain to come. They should not hasten it and if they will not change their attitude, it will definitely alight and no one will be able to avert it. The next few verses draw a vivid picture of the Day of Judgement, with a brief description of the dreadful fate of those who had denied it.

Verses (17-28)

A portrayal of the favours of the life of bliss the believers will be blessed with in contrast with that of the unbelievers is made. A special favour which is highlighted here is that the Almighty will unite those who brought up their children according to the teachings of Islam with their children even if these children are not entitled to this high level as regards their own deeds. For this union, those who deserve a high rank and level will not be demoted; instead people deserving a lower rank will be promoted to higher ones. Basically, the fate of a person will be decided according to his deeds; therefore, neither a reduction will take place in a person's deeds nor a faithless person will be able to enter Paradise; indeed, the Almighty's blessings will be for the believers.

Verses (29-49)

In the concluding part of the sūrah, the Prophet (sws) is comforted that he should not pay any heed to the excuse the disbelievers are `inventing' to deny his Prophethood. Ignoring their attitude, he should keep on discharging his duty of reminding people of the truth so that those who are mindful are able to adopt the right path and those who insist on remaining on the wrong path have no excuse but defiance to remain so.

In the twelfth verse, the attitude of the adversaries of indulging in pleasantries and toying with the truth was referred to. Here they are dealt with in detail and silenced on this behaviour.

Rebellious people are warned that very soon the time will come when all their schemes will be shattered, and before the torment of the Final Day they will encounter another torment in this world also.

The Prophet (sws) is comforted that he should patiently await his Lord's decision, and should be aware that he is under His direct protection.

He should augment this patience through prayers, especially the night and early morning ones.

Sūrah Najm

Sūrah Najm is the dual counterpart of Sūrah Tūr, the previous sūrah. It can be divided into the following five sections:

Verses (1-18)

In this introductory part, it is elaborated that the Qur’ān is not the work of a soothsayer or a fortune-teller, as its disbelievers are alleging; the Almighty Himself has revealed it on the Prophet (sws) through his most trusted and dependable angel. All its verses are based on truth and what is stated in them is inevitable; there is not the slightest element of falsehood in them. No one should have the misconception that the observations and experiences the Prophet (sws) is presenting about revelation and Gabriel are mere illusions or hallucinations. These observations are absolutely true and it is in the well-being of its opponents to profess faith in the Prophet (sws) instead of showing malice and hostility.

Verses (19-28)

The idolaters of Makkah are warned that their idols are nothing but a creation of their fancy and have no reality. They are but names which they have invented; neither has the Almighty ever sanctioned their existence nor can sense and reason, instinct and intellect accept them. These are merely vain conjectures that they are following, even though there has come to them a manifest guidance from their Lord; they must bear in mind that conjectures and suppositions cannot take the place of truth, and false wishes and desires have no basis. They will not encounter what they desire and will only encounter the facts about which they are being warned. Hence, they must prepare themselves to face them. They must remember that all the matters of this world and the Hereafter are under the control of the Almighty and no one can interfere in them. There are many angels in the heavens but none whosoever can benefit from their intercession. The Almighty alone will give permission to intercede to whom He wants and for whom He chooses. Therefore, the myth of regarding the angels as the daughters of Allah and seeking refuge from the law of retribution and accountability in the Hereafter by baselessly supposing that they will intercede for them is mere fanciful thinking on their part and will certainly not be of any benefit to them.

Verses (29-32)

The Prophet (sws) is solaced that he should turn away from those who are showing indifference to the Message of Allah and that he should leave them to themselves. This is the farthest limit of their knowledge and they have no awareness of the Hereafter. He best knows those who have strayed from His path and those who are rightly guided and He will give each person his due. Whatever is in the heavens and the earth is under the sole jurisdiction of Allah and no one whosoever can save the evildoers from His punishment nor deprive the righteous of their reward. Only those will be rewarded who abstained from heinous sins and open indecencies save those occasional but minor sins to which they were induced, but they never became brave on them -- because indeed the Almighty is vast in mercy; He will forgive them. As far as those proud and rebellious people are concerned who on the basis of their race and creed and on the false pretext of intercession reckon that they will be granted a high place in the Hereafter, they must not be misled; the Almighty has knowledge of all their stages of creation and is also aware of their deeds.

Verses (33-55)

People who do not even have the spirit to spend in the way of the Almighty or make sacrifices and who vainly reckon that since they are the progeny of two great prophets -- Abraham and Moses -- they are by birth entitled to paradise are severely condemned on this attitude. Their attention is directed to the teachings and sacrifices of these Prophets that their high rank and status are because of the unprecedented sacrifices they gave in the way of Allah and nobecause of their race or creed. A person's own deeds only will benefit him and they will be of no use to others.

In this regard, it is also emphatically explained that Allah alone gives comfort and pain, life and death, daughter and son, wealth and opulence; therefore, one should always attach himself to the Almighty. Nations who remain indifferent to the Message of Allah and get deeply involved in worldly pleasures, in spite of their wealth and grandeur, meet the fate similar to the one met by the Aād and the Thamūd. Their remains still exist and everyone should learn a lesson from them.

Verses (56-62)

This concluding section of the sūrah refers to what is stated in the beginning: the Qur’ān is not the work of fortune-tellers or soothsayers but like previous heavenly scriptures is another Reminder. Now the threatened hour is nigh and it is giving its opponents a timely warning. If they still do not take heed, no one will be able to save them from Allah. They should not express surprise and wonder at the reality about which this Reminder is warning them. They should not laugh at it; in fact, its consequences are so grave that they should take it very seriously. They must pay heed and prostrate themselves in front of the Almighty.

Sūrah Qamar

The sūrah can be divided into the following three sections:

Verses (1-8)

The Prophet (sws) is comforted that he should not pay any heed to the stubborn and obstinate people who are demanding to see the doom they have been promised. The greatest of signs will not induce them to accept faith because they do not follow the norms of sense and reason; instead they are the followers of their whims and desires. The tales of various nations should be a big lesson for them, but alas! they do not have the ability to learn from history. The Prophet (sws) is further consoled that they will not pay heed to his Message; he should leave their matter to the summoner who, on the Day of Judgement will be summoning them not to the Qur’ān but to Hell. They will respond to his call, emerging from their graves like locusts scattered about.

Verses (9-42)

The Quraysh are directed to learn a lesson from the fate of the people of Noah, Aād, Thamūd, Lot and Pharaoh. These people, like the Quraysh, rejected their respective prophets, and if the Quraysh also follow their footsteps, they will meet a similar fate. They must bear in mind that the Almighty has revealed the Qur’ān to warn them of this danger beforehand by making it very appropriate for admonition. Instead of acknowledging this favour of the Almighty and benefiting from it, alas! it is their extreme misfortune that they are asking for punishment.

Verses (43-55)

The Quraysh are cautioned that when in the past the Almighty has never spared the unbelievers, they should not consider themselves an exception to this rule. Do they reckon that the Almighty has written a directive of acquittal for them in the Hereafter in the heavenly scriptures, and do they think that they will be able to defend themselves against Allah in the Hereafter? If they have such foolish ideas, they must remember that the Almighty will never treat the unbelievers and the righteous equally. The unbelievers will encounter the raging fire of Hell and the righteous will dwell in the eternal bliss of paradise.

Sūrah Rahmān

The nazm of this sūrah is very evident. It begins with the declaration that the Qur’ān is a manifestation of the Graciousness of the Almighty. The Almighty created man and specially blessed him with the power of speech and comprehension. These abilities require that man should be taught and educated with the most grand heavenly work -- the Qur’ān -- and not through torment and punishment. It is the extreme misfortune of the disbelievers who instead of seeking guidance from it are demanding to see the promised doom.

After this, various signs in the heavens and in the earth and in the universal norms of human intellect are pointed at and two of the Almighty's creations -- men and jinn-folk -- are urged and exhorted to reflect on them and rebuked upon denying so many signs.

These signs are mentioned in the following sequence:

First and foremost are mentioned those signs and manifestations which point to the fact that the Almighty greatly cherishes justice and does not approve anything contrary to justice and equity at all in the world He has created.

These are followed by those which indicate that the tremendous and extremely vast system of sustenance which the Almighty has established on the earth strongly indicates that man will not be left unaccountable; in fact, one day he will definitely be held accountable for the profound blessings he has been given. Those who deserve to be rewarded will be rewarded by Allah and those who deserve to be punished will be punished by Him.

A reference is then made to the fact that it is the Almighty who has created men and jinn-folk from clay and fire and He can easily create them a second time. There is no difficulty for Him in this regard. This whole Universe is under His control; He is the Lord of the East and the West. Whatever rises, rises with His permission and whatever sets, sets with His permission.

After this, it is asserted that the conflicting elements in the Universe are in harmony with one another to fulfil a greater purpose which is over and above their creation. This bears witness to the fact that a sovereign will is dominant over these elements which creates harmony between them and uses them for the collective welfare of the universe. If this were not so, the universe would have been destroyed by a clash between its conflicting elements. That it is surviving is an ample testimony to the fact that a single supreme and omnipotent power controls it.

A mention is then made of the fact that Allah alone is immortal and all the rest are mortal.

Next it is expressed that all except the Almighty are needy and He is the only one who fulfils their needs. The foolish who ask from others actually receive from Him as well.

An affirmation is then made of the fact that the Day wherein accountability of deeds takes place is certain to come and on that Day no one -- men as well as the jinn-folk -- will be able to run away from the Almighty's grasp. On that Day, no evidence will be needed to convict a criminal as his forehead will bear witness to his sins. He will then be grabbed by his forehead and feet and flung into Hell.

At the end, features and characteristics of the paradise which the muqarrabīn (the near ones) will receive are delineated, followed by the features and characteristics of the paradise which the Ashābu’l Yamīn (Companions of the Right Hand) will be blessed with.

Sūrah Wāqi`ah

The sūrah can be divided into the following six sections:

Verses (1-10)

The sūrah begins with the assertion that the Day of Judgement is certain to come. The Day will evaluate a person according to his faith and deeds; it will upgrade many a people and downgrade many of them. As a result of this assessment, people will be divided into three categories: the ashābu’l yamīn, the ashābu’l shimāl and the sābiqūnu’l awwalūn.

Verses (11-26)

Those nearest to the Almighty will be the sābiqūnu’l awwalūn. The details of the gifts and favours of their Lord which they will receive in paradise are recounted together with the qualities of the sābiqūnu’l awwalūn which actually entitled them to these favours.

Verses (27-40)

The second place will be occupied by the ashābu’l yamīn. A delineation is made of the bounties and rewards which they will be blessed with in paradise and of their personal high character which made them worthy of this life of bliss.

Verses (41-48)

The horrible fate of the ashābu’l shimāl is depicted and a reference is made to a few of their grave sins which led them to this terrible punishment.

Verses (49-74)

The Quraysh are directly addressed and warned that they would end up with the same fate as that of the ashābu’l shimāl if they persist in their attitude of denying the Prophet (sws). In this regard, a reference is made to certain self-evident arguments bear evidence to the Day of Reward and Punishment. Such is the nature of these arguments that no excuse but stubbornness on their part can deny them.

Verses (75-96)

An indication is made to the exalted status of the Qur’ān and the fact that it is above and beyond the reach of Satan and his agents. The Quraysh are again cautioned not to turn a deaf ear towards this sublime message and thus invite their doom. The fate which this Book is informing them about is a reality. Fortunate are they who today strive to attain a place among the ashābu’l yamīn and the sābiqūnu’l awwalūn; those who will not do so, will end up among the ashābu’l shimāl and will face a grievous penalty.

Sūrah Hadīd

The sūrah can be distinctly divided into the following nine sections:

Verses (1-6)

In the introductory part of the sūrah, a reference is made to the attributes of Wisdom, Power, Knowledge, Authority, Origination and Planning of the Almighty in order to highlight that someone possessing these attributes is the one towards whom every one will turn on the Day of Judgement; therefore, it is befitting that only He should be thanked and glorified. Everything within this Universe is glorifying Him and this act of theirs invites men to worship Him only and not associate others with Him.

Verses (7-10)

A warning is sounded to the Muslims in general and those among them having a weak faith in particular that they should fulfil the requisites of the covenant of `to listen and obey' they had pledged at the hands of the Prophet (sws) with all the spirit and determination they can muster. It is the requirement of their faith to respond positively to the Jihād and Infāq the Prophet (sws) is today calling them to. It is this attitude which will bring them towards light from darkness. Those who spend and fight in the way of Allah will have a higher status than those who will do so after the conquest of Makkah, though they too will be rewarded by the Almighty.

Verses (11-15)

Those who spend in the way of Allah with purity of purpose will find that their spending has manifested itself into a radiant light which guides them to paradise. Those who do not spend in the way of Allah because of hypocrisy will be deprived of this light. These people will ask the believers to let them also benefit from its radiance. The believers will reply that they have lost the opportunity to do so by their behaviour in the previous world and they will not receive it now whatsoever. After this exchange of dialogue, a wall will be erected between the two, on one side of which will be the blessings of Allah and on the other side will be His torment.

Verses (16-17)

The hypocrites are warned that even after seeing such manifest signs of the supremacy of Islam, if they show hesitation and refrain from spending in the way of Allah, they will become hardhearted like the Jews before them and meet a similar fate. They are reminded that the Day of Reckoning is certain to come; neither should they become indifferent to its reward nor unafraid of its punishment.

Verses (18-19)

Those who spend in the way of Allah and fight for His cause should rest assured that the Almighty will honour their sacrifices; in fact, they will be rewarded many times for each sacrifice they make. It is Infāq and Jihād which entitles them to become shuhadā and siddiqīn and they will also be rewarded the radiant light of which the hypocrites will remain deprived.

Verses (20-21)

Sorrow is expressed over the timid and unenterprising attitude of the people who have given their hearts to the transitory pleasures of this world and have forgotten the mercy of their Lord as well as the paradise which is as vast as the vastness of the heavens and the earth.

Verses (22-24)

A reminder is sounded that a person's opulence or poverty does not depend on his own schemes and plans but on the fate which has been divinely ordained for him. The correct attitude, therefore, is that a person whether he is in ease or in difficulty, should surrender to the will of the Almighty. If he has been blessed with wealth, he should not hesitate to spend it in the way of Allah. He should be aware that just as the Almighty can bless a person with something, He can also deprive him of it whenever He wants.

Verses (25-27)

A refutation is made of the claim of the people who on the basis of the concept of Rahbāniyyah (ascetism) regard Jihād and Infāq as mundane activities and condemn the spirit of Jihād of the Muslims. By referring to history, it is shown that Jihād has remained the Sunnah of the Prophets and Rahbāniyyah is a religious innovation of the Christians; it is the result of their transgressing the bounds of their religion. The Prophet Jesus (sws) never taught it.

Verses (28-29)

Muslims are urged to selflessly answer the call of Jihād made by the Prophet (sws) and spend magnanimously for this cause. They are told not to pay heed to the evil suggestions of the wicked among the People of the Book who regard Jihād as a mundane undertaking. The Prophets have always undertaken Jihād to establish justice and equity and the Muslims must follow the path of the Prophets. The Rahbāniyyah invented by the Christians is something which the Prophet Jesus (sws) never preached. They are just showing their malice towards the Muslims -- but against their wishes, the Almighty will reward the Muslims according to the fate He has destined for them.

Sūrah Mujādalah

The sūrah can be divided into the following six sections:

Verses (1-4)

A reference is made to an incident in which a pious woman had to face severe difficulty regarding a religious issue; instead of becoming frustrated and showing distrust in the Almighty, she presented her case before Him and His Prophet (sws) with all the confidence and purity of intention she could muster. The Almighty resolved her difficulty and set her forth as an example in the Qur’ān: the example of a person who adopted the correct attitude when troubles came her way. This was in sharp contrast with the attitude of the Hypocrites who would show hostility and raise a propaganda against the Almighty and His Prophet (sws) when a particular directive of the Shari`ah proved adverse to their desires and wishes.

Verses (5-8)

Disgust is expressed at the attitude of the people who instead of showing trust in the Almighty and His Prophet (sws) were busy whispering evil suggestions to others and maligning the cause of Islam. They were showing disrespect to the Prophet (sws) and were presenting the lenience, the Almighty was showing them by not punishing them, as proof of their correct attitude. They are warned that they will not only be humiliated in this world as history testifies, but will also face a grievous torment in the Hereafter.

Verses (9-10)

Muslims are forbidden from whispering evil suggestions and directed that their secret conversations should not be against the Prophet (sws); their intimate discourses should be clean and pious. They should ignore the assault of ‘evil-whispering’ which the hypocrites have launched against them, for such whispering cannot harm anyone unless the Almighty wants. It is befitting for them to trust their Lord and to be rest assured instead of worrying and being aggrieved by such insinuations. The Almighty will protect them from the evil of the evil-doers.

Verses (11-12)

The believers are directed to follow certain manners when they are in the company of the Prophet (sws), and forbidden to carry out clandestine conversation when they are gathered around him. Certain emergency directives are given to impede the campaign of evil-whispering launched by the Hypocrites.

Verse (13)

After the achievement of the desired results, the emergency directives are repealed and the believers are directed to establish those forms of worship which will put an end to this malady of evil-whispering; these forms are spelled out for them.

Verses (14-22)

An indication is made of the fact that the Hypocrites are actually the agents of the Jews who have incurred the wrath of the Almighty; their real allegiance rests with them. Their glibness and their trait of during conversation effectively conceals their reality and they are able to outwardly show themselves as Muslims. Their allegiance is actually with the enemies of Islam; they are overwhelmed by the love of wealth. Satan has made them unmindful of Allah and they have joined his party to impair and obstruct the Prophet's mission; ultimately their efforts will fizzle out, for it is the absolute judgement of the Almighty that only He and His Prophets shall always prevail. True believers are those who sever their ties of relationship from the enemies of Allah and the Prophet (sws) even if they are their fathers, sons, brothers and tribesmen. The Almighty will only be happy with such people; they are the people of His party and only they shall attain salvation.

Sūrah Hashr

The sūrah can be divided into the following four sections:

Verses (1-4)

A reference is made to the exile of the Jewish tribe of Banū Nudayr. They had been ordered to vacate their territory because they had broken their covenant and had plotted to kill the Prophet (sws). At first, they agreed to this punishment, but later on when some of their allies offered their assistance to them, they changed their minds. Ultimately, the Prophet (sws) had to launch an attack on them in the 4th year of Hijrah, after which they were forced to go to the land of Khaybar. They were given the permission to take as much as they could upon their camels. Consequently, they took away what they could and whatever remained came into the possession of the Muslims. By citing their example, the Hypocrites are admonished to seek a lesson from this event. It is pointed out to them that they had wrongly thought that the Banū Nudayr could not be banished from their land, whereas, as time proved, they had to leave their land and that too in a manner in which they had to ruin and ravage the houses they had built by their own hands; the foes of the Prophet (sws) always meet this fate; if they seek the support of these Jews, they too will meet a similar fate.

Verses (5-10)

In a parenthetical sentence, certain objections raised by the Jews and the Hypocrites are answered. These objections pertained to the ruining of the orchards of Banū Nudayr by the Muslims and to the distribution of fay. The attitude of contentment shown on this distribution by the `Ansār and the Muhājirīn, in sharp contrast with that of the Hypocrites, is praised.

Verses (11-17)

An indication is made to another mischievous deed of the Hypocrites. After the exile of the Banū Nudayr, they had started inducing the tribe of Banū Qurayzah to break their covenant as well; they told them that they would also fight by their side if they were attacked and if they were exiled, they would also accompany them. It is pointed out to them that they are saying something which they can never do; neither will they offer their support nor will they accompany them. They are only doing what Satan does: after a person commits a sin on his incitement, he withdraws by proclaiming acquittal from him. The Banū Qurayzah are warned that if they also break the covenant due to the backing of the Hypocrites, their fate will be no different from that of the Banū Nudayr.

Section IV ( 18-24)

In this concluding section of the sūrah, the believers in general and the Hypocrites in particular are warned to always keep in mind the Day of Judgement. They should not become like those who had forgotten the Almighty and as a result forgot their purpose of existence and the fate they would come across; there is a great difference between those who will dwell in paradise and those who will abide in Hell; this difference should not be ignored by belittling it; only the dwellers of paradise will attain real success. It should be kept in consideration that they have been revealed the truth in its ultimate form after which no excuse but stubbornness on their part can deny it. Had the Qur’ān been revealed on a mountain, it would have been shattered to pieces due to the dread and awe of Allah. If their hearts are not being influenced by its message, then it is not the fault of the Qur’ān; rather it is due to their own hardheartedness which is alienating them from this Divine Call.

In the end, a reference is made to certain attributes of the Almighty to inculcate the qualities of submission and trust in the believers who have a strong faith and to cultivate the qualities of determination and confidence in those among them who have a weak faith, while in the Hypocrites they are meant to create a fear of the Almighty. The sūrah finally ends on the note it began with.

Sūrah Mumtahinah

The sūrah can be divided into the following six sections:

Verses (1-3)

The sūrah begins with a warning sounded to the weak Muslims who had secret ties of friendship with the Idolaters of Makkah even after they had expelled the Prophet (sws) and the Muslims from their land -- their only fault being that they had accepted faith. It is pointed out that these people are not worthy of such ties as they will try all they can to make the Muslims reject faith; furthermore, if family ties at the expense of sincerity with Allah and the Prophet (sws) are established then such relationships will never be of any use to them in the Hereafter: they will stand severed in the next world.

Verses (4-7)

A few glimpses of the episode of the Prophet Abraham (sws) are depicted and the addressees are directed to learn a lesson from it. He had proclaimed total acquittal from his nation unless they professed faith in the one and only Allah. In this regard, they are told to hold steadfast to Abraham's prayer (du`ā) which he had often said to persevere in the difficulties of his own Hijrah. Moreover, glad tidings are given to them that it is quite possible that these people, from which they are directed to break their ties, may accept Islam in the near future.

Verses (8-9)

An explanation of the fact that what has been asked is dissociation with those who had waged war with the Muslims and compelled them and the Prophet (sws) to leave their homes; those who have not done so, should be dealt with befittingly.

Verses (10-11)

Certain directives relating to the women who had migrated from Makkah are given: they should only be accepted after they have been examined as regards their faith. If it is proven that they have migrated only for the cause of Islam, only then should they be included in the ranks of the Muslims. It is not lawful for the Muslims to keep idolatrous women in marriage. They should liberate them and mutually exchange the dowers.

Verse (12)

The Prophet (sws) is directed to take a covenant from women who come to him for the cause of Islam and intend to lead their lives according to its directives.

Verse (13)

At the very end of the sūrah, Muslims are warned not to establish friendship with the Jews and the disbelievers. Both will meet the same fate: they have been shaken from their very roots.

Sūrah Saff

The sūrah can be divided into the following four sections:

Verses (1-4)

In the introductory part of the sūrah, a warning is sounded to those who after pledging a covenant of sam`u tāa’t (to listen and obey) at the hands of the Prophet (sws) are abstaining from fighting in the way of Allah. They are informed that this attitude of breaking the covenant after pledging it is something which has always invoked the wrath of the Almighty. He is pleased by only those who, in accordance with the requisites of the covenant pledged, gather all their energy whenever the need arises to fight and fight like a solid mass of rock.

Verses (5-9)

Those who desist from fighting in the cause of Allah after they have accepted faith and pledged their obedience are similar to the Jews and they will meet a similar fate as well. They had adopted a similar attitude with their own Prophet as well: they would fervently pledge obedience but whenever they would be tested by an occasion, they would prove worthless. The Prophet (sws) Moses often sorrowfully complained about this behaviour, but they never mended their ways. The Almighty, according to His laws, therefore, took away frthem the ability to understand and remain on the right path because of their own wrong attitudes. They had adopted this improper behaviour with the Prophet Jesus (sws) as well. He had shown them some striking miracles and in very clear words gave glad tidings of the last of the Prophets. The Jews, however, as a result of their unbecoming attitude, dismissed these miracles as acts of magic and rejected his Prophethood. They persisted with this attitude and today are showing hostility to Islam on the basis of their falsehood; all their effort, of course is in vain. Islam is the glowing light of the Almighty which they can never blow to extinction. Contrary to their wishes and those of the idolaters', it will achieve its supremacy over other religions of Arabia.

Verses (10-13)

The weaker Muslims are urged to adopt the right path and refrain from their attitude of distrust and hypocrisy. They should truly profess faith in Allah and the Prophet (sws) and fight for the cause of Islam by spending as much as they can for this cause and by presenting their lives for it. This is the true path to success if they would only try to understand. If they adopt this attitude, they will attain salvation in the Hereafter and in this world also, the Almighty through His well-earned help will bless them with the conquest of Makkah they desire so much.

Verse (14)

The addressees of the sūrah are exhorted to follow the footsteps of the disciples of Jesus. In the beginning of the sūrah, Muslims were advised not to follow the Jews. Here, at the end, they are urged to follow a group among them who had remained on the right path whose correct attitude of anticipating the truth was ultimately responsible of the supremacy of the believers.

Sūrah Jum`ah

The sūrah can be divided into the following three sections:

Verses (1-4)

The Ismaelites are reminded of the fact that the sending of a Prophet towards them is the result of the prayer (du`ā) of their great ancestor, the Prophet (sws) Abraham. This is a great favour the Almighty has done them to liberate them from the darkness of ignorance. Hence, they should try to value and honour this favour and not become a prey to the malicious conspiracies of the Jews.

Verses (5-8)

A refutation of the claim of the Jews that they are the chosen Ummah and no one except them can be blessed with the favour of Prophethood. A reference is made to their unworthy attitudes which had deprived them of the Almighty's Guidance and also stripped them of the position of leadership they formerly held.

Verses (9-11)

Muslims are rebuked on a certain wrong attitude they had adopted when once the Prophet (sws) was delivering the Friday address. Apparently, this may appear as a minor fault to them, but it points to a profound weakness in them: a group among them had not understood the basic reality that once a person enters the fold of Islam, he barters his life and wealth for the Almighty's forgiveness and mercy. It is against the requisites of his faith that business and trade activities should make him indifferent to Allah and His Prophet (sws). This is like following the footsteps of the Jews -- something which had been forbidden in the previous sūrah. The Jews had erred similarly in the matter of sabt and the Almighty had severely condemned them.

Sūrah Munāfiqūn

This sūrah is a supplement to Sūrah Jum`ah, the previous sūrah. It can be divided into two sections. The first one consists of eight verses, while the last three verses constitute the second section.

In the first section, the character of the hypocrites is evaluated and shown that their real ailment is their lust for worldly riches. In the second section, Muslims are warned that the love of wealth and children should not make them indifferent to the remembrance of the Almighty. If today they do not truly benefit from their wealth by not spending in the way of Allah, they will feel sorry, once their life ends and at that moment their regret will be of no use to them. In other words, in the first section the illness of hypocrisy is elaborated upon, while in the second section, Muslims are asked to guard themselves against it.

Sūrah Taghābun

The sūrah can be divided into the following six sections:

Verses I (1-4)

The sūrah begins with the assertion that this world has not been created without a purpose. The effort undertaken by the Almighty in the creation of man to sustain and nourish him bears witness to the fact that the Day of Reckoning is certain to come. Allah, the Lord and Creator of this world is well aware of every person's deeds. He will treat each person accordingly.

Verses (5-7)

By citing historical evidence, it is shown that nations which denied their Prophets and vainly rejected their sound arguments on the pretext that accepting a human being as a Prophet (sws) is an insult to them were all destroyed by Allah. They met a dreadful fate in this world and in the Hereafter they will encounter a grave punishment.

Verses (8-10)

The disbelievers are invited to profess faith in Allah, His Prophet (sws) and the Qur’ān. They are urged to prepare for the Day which will decide the victor and the vanquished. On that day, the righteous will receive the eternal reward of paradise, while the disbelievers will have to reckon with the eternal torment of Hell.

Verses (11-13)

It is asserted that troubles and hardships which a person has to face in his life come from Allah. It is not befitting for the believers to get apprehensive about them and turn away from the obedience of Allah and His Prophet (sws). It is the requirement of their faith that they should have trust in the Almighty: He will certainly help them. If they ignore Allah and the Prophet (sws) by being overawed by their hardships, they will bear its dire consequences. The responsibility of the Prophet (sws) was only to communicate the truth; it is now their responsibility to abide by it.

Verses (14-15)

Muslims are warned that at times one's family becomes a great test for his faith. Their love sometimes negatively affects his determination to fulfil his religious obligations. A person should always remain careful in this matter. However, he should adopt the attitude of `to forgo and forget' in their regard.

Verses (16-18)

People are invited to obey Allah and His Prophet (sws) as much as they can and urged to generously spend in the way of Allah. Glad tidings of eternal success are given to those who protect themselves from the malady of miserliness. Allah will greatly honour those who will lend Him their wealth. It will be returned to them multiplied many times; He will also forgive them. He has knowledge of both the seen and the unseen: He is fully aware of all virtuous deeds however secretly they might have been done.

Sūrah Talāq

The sūrah can be divided into the following two sections:

Verses (1-7)

An explanation of the fact that in cases of divorce it is not lawful to expel one's wife from the house by uttering the divorce sentence; it is necessary that the proper way pointed out by the Qur’ān be adopted. People who, in spite of their financial difficulties, set out to observe the limits set by Allah with a view to please Him, will receive His special help and assistance. Those who do not observe the limits set by Him because of their lust for wealth only wrong their own souls.

Verses (8-12)

Muslims are warned that it is a historically proven reality that all those who had disobeyed Allah and His Prophets have always been severely punished by Him. He has done a great favour to the Muslims by sending towards them a Prophet who has led them to the light of guidance from the darkness of ignorance. If they give due regard to this favour of the Almighty, He will bless them with the eternal bliss of paradise -- otherwise they should remember that to Him belongs the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth and He can certainly do what He intends.

Sūrah Tahrīm

The sūrah can be divided into the following three sections:

Verses (1-5)

The Prophet (sws) is checked in a particular matter in which the motivating force was fairly admirable, yet since he was become an example for the whole Ummah, any virtuous deed which crosses the limits set by Allah is not permissible. The Prophet (sws) might be doing something to console and please his wives and he might be showing sympathy to their perfectly human weaknesses, yet owing to his position as a Prophet (sws) he must remain within the bounds set by Allah even in the smallest of affairs.

Similarly, the pious wives are checked in a matter in which something said by the Prophet (sws) to a particular wife was disclosed by her to another wife, though in an atmosphere of mutual trust. However, since they too are to become an example for all women of the Ummah, even a small instance which crosses the limits set by Allah cannot be tolerated from them. The higher the position and status of a person, the higher the extent of his accountability.

Verses (6-8)

After checking the Prophet (sws) and his wives, the general Muslims are urged to check and restrain their near ones. Everyone should remember that the angels who guard Hell are strict and stern. They will show no lenience to anyone. On the Day of Judgement, no excuse of a person will be acceptable, for he will be facing only what he deserves and no one will be punished for more than what he has done. Only they will triumph on that Day whose pure repentance makes them eligible for the Almighty's blessings. It will be a Day of success for the Prophet (sws) and his Companions. The Almighty will perfect their light which will lead them to paradise. Everyone else will be doomed forever.

Verses (9-12)

The Prophet (sws) is emphatically directed to tell the disbelievers and the Hypocrites sternly to change their attitude lest they should end up in the raging fire of Hell which, of course, is the worst abode. At the end, examples of the wives of the Prophet Noah (sws) and the Prophet Lot (sws) are cited to the disbelievers and those of the wife of the Pharaoh and Maryam (rta) to the Muslims; the object being to prove that only a person's deeds will be of any benefit to him in the Hereafter. If a woman has not done righteous deeds, she cannot benefit in the Hereafter even if she is the wife of a Prophet. Similarly, if a woman has lived a pious life, she will be rewarded in the Hereafter even though she is the wife of a person as rebellious as the Pharaoh.


Absolute truth

لا إله إلا الله
An Introduction to the Seventh Group
Qur'anic Exegesis
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by Dr. Shehzad Saleem)

The seventh group of the Qur’ān begins with Sūrah al-Mulk (67) and ends with Sūrah al-Nās (114), the last sūrah of the Qur’ān. It is evident from the subject matter of these sūrah and from their arrangement in the group that the first forty-six sūrahs were revealed in Makkah, while the last two – al-Falaq and al-Nās – were revealed in Madinah immediately after migration.

Like other groups of the Qur’ān, this group also begins with Makkan Sūrahs and ends with Madinan ones.

Though the Prophet (sws) is also addressed in this group, yet the real addressees of this group are the leadership of the Quraysh organized under Abū Lahab. Consequently, with the gradual development of the theme in the group, this fact becomes so evident in the last sūrahs that there remains no room for any other opinion in this regard.

The theme of this group is to warn the leadership of the Quraysh of the consequences of the Hereafter, to unveil the truth in its ultimate form, and, as a result, to warn them of a severe punishment, and to give glad tidings to the Prophet (sws) of dominance of his religion in the Arabian peninsula.

This theme gradually reaches its culmination through the arrangement of various sūrahs in this group with such precision and beauty that all the stages – from propagation (da`wah) and warning (indhār) to migration (hijrah) and acquittal (barā`at) – in the da`wah missions of the Prophets of Allah are brought to light.

To understand this arrangement, a short summary of the contents of this group is presented below:

Phase I: Indhār

Sūrah al-Mulk (67) to Sūrah al-Jinn (72)

The Day of Judgment is substantiated and the Quraysh are warned with reference to it -- the consequences of denying the Prophet in his capacity of a warner are stated. 67-68

Reward and punishment is substantiated, it is portrayed, and the evidence of the seen (mā tubsirūn) and the unseen (mā lā tubsirūn) for the authenticity of the Qur’ān as a warner is referred to -- those who make fun of this indhār are warned and the Prophet (sws) is urged to be patient. 69-70

The evidence of the seen (mā tubsirūn) and the unseen (mā lā tubsirūn) referred to earlier is elaborated upon, and with its reference, the Quraysh are reprimanded for their behaviour. 71-72

Phase II: indhār-i-`Am
(Sūrah al-Muzzammil (73) to Sūrah Alam Nashrah (94)

The Prophet (sws) is directed to prepare for indhār-i-`ām -- he is directed to commence this indhār and informed of its limits and requirements and the beginning of this indhār is depicted. 73-74

The Day of Judgement is substantiated and the Quraysh are warned with its reference. 75-76

The Day of Judgement is substantiated and the Quraysh are warned with its reference. 77-78

The Day of Judgement is substantiated, the Quraysh are warned with its reference and are reprimanded for their attitude towards it. 79-80

The cataclysm which will take place on the Day of Judgement is portrayed, and the Quraysh are reprimanded with reference to the reward and punishment which will take place on that day. 81-82

The Quraysh are reprimanded with reference to the reward and punishment which will take place on the Day of Judgement. 83-84

The various doubts raised by he Quraysh about the Day of Judgement are refuted, and they are warned of the torment they will suffer if they continue to persecute the Muslims and scheme against the Prophet’s da`wah. 85-86

The Quraysh are warned of the Day of Judgement, and the Prophet (sws) is given assurance in his capacity as a warner. 87-88

The leadership of the Quraysh is warned of the Day of Judgement, and reprimanded for on their hostile and rebellious attitude. 89-90

The Quraysh are warned of the Day of Judgement, reprimanded for their hostile and rebellious attitude, and the paths to salvation and doom are explained to them in a categorical tone. 91-92

The Prophet (sws) in his capacity as a warner is given glad tidings of a great success in the near future. 93-94

Phase III: Itmām -i- Hujjah
Sūrah al-Tīn (95) to Sūrah Quraysh (106)

The Day of Judgement is substantiated in the tone that the truth has now been disclosed to the Quraysh in its ultimate form and they are reprimanded for their attitude towards it, and one of their eminent leaders is threatened of dire consequences on his arrogance in spite of being taught through the Qur’ān. 95-96

The exalted status of the Qur’ān as a warner is depicted -- The Quraysh and a section among the People of the Book are reprimanded for their nonsensical demand that a book be given to them from the Almighty through some messenger who descend on them from the heavens reading it out to them. 97-98

The Quraysh in this very tone are exhorted and urged about the Day of Judgement: they must not remain in any sort of misconception about it; nothing, on that Day, shall remain hidden from Allah. All of man’s deeds, whether good or bad, small or big shall come before him --- They are reprimanded that in spite of receiving the blessings of Allah and reaping the benefits of peace and tranquility by living as the custodians of the Baytullāh in the plunder laden and war stricken atmosphere of Arabia, they have adopted an attitude of ingratitude towards their Creator by not spending in the way of Allah; they should contemplate what their fate will be as a result of this attitude. 99-100

The events of the Day of Judgement are portrayed and the Quraysh are reprimanded in a very effective manner for being indifferent to it. 101-102

The law of retribution in substantiated, and, with its reference, the leadership of the Quraysh are threatened of dire consequences on their attitude that now their abode will be a fire which will reach their hearts. 103-104

The Quraysh are reprimanded and threatened with reference to the incident of the elephant and urged in a categorical tone that they should fulfil the rights of the favours they enjoy on account of being the custodians of the Baytullāh. 105-106

Phase IV: Hijrat and Bara`at
Sūrah al-Mā`ūn (107) to Sūrah al-Ikhlās (112)

The leadership of the Quraysh are presented with a charge sheet of their crimes and threatened of the punishment they would encounter, and the Prophet (sws) is given glad tidings that the custodianship of the Baytullāh would now be transferred to him, and that it is his enemies who would be totally humbled. 107-108

The Prophet (sws) declares his acquittal from the arrogant disbelievers of Makkah, and is given glad tidings of the supremacy of the truth in the land of Arabia. 109-110

The destruction of the leaders of the Quraysh, in particular Abu Lahab is predicted by name, and a decisive proclamation is made of the belief of monotheism at the end of this phase. 111-112

Phase V: The End
Sūrah al-Falaq (113) to Sūrah al-Nās (114)

At the end of this group, the Prophet (sws) is advised and counselled that after unveiling the truth to his addressees in its ultimate form, the devils among the Jews and the Quraysh and the progeny of Satan in the next phases are going to launch an onslaught on him; so he should keep seeking protection and refuge of the Almighty for himself and for his mission from all the calamities and afflictions of the world.

Absolute truth

لا إله إلا الله
Coherence in group 2

This group is composed of four surahs: An‘am (6), A‘raf (7), Anfal (8), and Tawbah (9) in that order. The first two are Makkan while the two latter ones are Madinan. The central theme of the group is: retribution by the Prophet (sws) and his companions on all the religious groups who had denied the truth in spite of being convinced about it.

The Quraysh claimed to be the followers of Abraham (sws) and heirs to the religion established by him. An‘am accuses them of distorting the religion of Abraham (sws), presents Islam as the true Abrahamic religion, and invites them to become Muslims. Since the Quraysh were meant to be the direct recipients of the Islamic message, the next surah, Araf, warns them of the grave consequence of rejecting the message. The third surah, Anfal, instructs the Muslims to unite under the banner of Islam in preparation for a confrontation with the Quraysh. Tawbah, the last surah in the group, throws an ultimatum to all the adversaries of the Prophet (sws). The four surahs would thus appear to be systematically arranged in the Qur’an. Anam is a surah of invitation: in invites the Quraysh to embrace Islam. A‘raf is a surah of warning: it warns the Quraysh against repudiating Islam. Anfal is a surah of preparation: it exhorts the Muslims to prepare for combat with the Quraysh. Tawbah is a su#rah of war: it announce war against the Quraysh, the People of the Book and the Hypocrites for their unfaithfulness to the religion of Abraham, declares Muslims to be the rightful heirs to that religion, and replaces the Quraysh by Muslims as the custodians of the Ka‘bah – the symbol and legacy of the Abrahamic religion.

This is an incisive analysis of the central themes of the four surahs and of the relationship between the surahs. It needs to be appreciated that a greater affinity will be found to exist between surahs 6 (An‘am) and 7 (Araf), and 8 (Anfal) and 9 (Tawbah), than, for example, between surahs 6 and 8 or 7 and 9. A number of verses in surah 6 (like verses 5-6, 22-24, 30-31, 42-45, 49, 65, 92, 157-158) contain themes that are discussed more elaborately in surah 7. Similarly, a number of verses in surah 8 (like verses 5-12, 15-16, 19, 34, 39, 41-45, 60-62, 64-65) introduce themes that find a fuller treatment in surah 9. Such close affinity, as we said, does not exist between surahs 6 and 8 or 7 and 9. This fact should remind us that, in the scheme of surah-pairs, su#rahs 6 and 7 form one pair, and surahs 8 and 9, another pair. In effect, what this means is that, in studying the Nazm of a surah-group, it is helpful to keep in mind the Nazm of the surah-pairs that make up the surah-group. This would facilitate the establishment of Nazm connections in a group-for it is easier to see Nazm connections between larger, and fewer, units. More important, the interaction of surah-pairs, and not simply of individual surahs, would yield a wider, richer perspective for the study of the relationship between Qur’anic surahs. Incidentally, just as a surah is a self-contained whole, but assumes a complementary character upon becoming a member of a surah-pair, so a surah-pair, in itself a self-contained whole, becomes complementary to the other pair or pairs with which it forms a surah-group.

Absolute truth

لا إله إلا الله
A Thematic Introduction to the Surahs of the Qur’an

1. Surah al-Fatihah
This is the first Surah of the Qur'an, although it is not the first in the order of revelation. It was revealed to the Prophet -peace be upon him- in Makkah in the early period of his mission. The Surah has seven verses.

The Surah is both a Du'a (prayer) and an introduction of the Qur'an. It teaches the basic principles of Islamic faith. All praise and thanks are for Allah who is the Lord of all the worlds. Allah is most merciful and most compassionate. Allah is also the Master of the Day of Judgment. We should pray to Allah only and we should seek His help. We seek His guidance and help to walk on the straight path. This is the path of those who received Allah's favors, not the path of those who incurred His anger or who went astray. (Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi)

Central Theme

It can be said that Surah al-Fatihah's central theme is ‘the clarification of the way to worship Allah Alone’ and the Qur’an as a whole. The Makkan and Madinan revelations revolve around this central theme. This Prayer is for all those who want to study His Message. It is placed at the very beginning to teach the reader that if he sincerely wants to benefit from the Qur'an, he should offer this prayer to the Rabb of the Universe. Al-Fatiha teaches that the best thing for a man is to pray for "Guidance towards the Right Way" and to study the Qur'an with the mental attitude of a seeker of truth, and to recognize that the Rabb of the Universe is the source of all knowledge. They should, therefore, begin the study of Al-Qur'an with a prayer to Allah for guidance. It is important to know that the real relation between Al-Fatiha and the Qur'an is not that of an introduction to a book but that of a prayer and its answer. Al-Fatiha is the prayer from the devotee and the rest of the Qur'an is the answer from Allah. The devotee prays to Allah to show the "Right Way" and Allah places the whole of the Qur'an before him in answer to his prayer, as if to say: "This is the Guidance that you have asked for".

It can also be said the Qur'an is the tafsir [explanation] of al-Fatihah. Where ideas and themese are expounded upon and explained.

Connection of the name of the Surah and its Ayaat

  • al-Fatihah (The Opening) - The Qur'an is opened by this Surah
  • Umm al-Kitab (The Mother of the Book) - This Surah is the source for all the issues discussed in the Qur'an
  • Saba' al-Mathani (Seven oft-repeated) - As Allah says in the "And We have certainly given you, seven of the often repeated [verses] and the great Qur'an." (15:87). Surah al-Fatihah is seven Ayat.
Connection between the beginning and the ending of the Surah

  • It is understood any dua that begins with Hamd (praise) of Allah is likely to be accepted and answered. The Surah begins with Hamd (praise) of Allah and it ends with a dua. The Prophet is reported to have said, "The best Dhikr is 'La ilah ila Allah' and the best dua is 'Alhamdulillah'" (Tirmidhee).

Connection of the Surah to the Surah after it

  • In Surah al-Fatihah, one asks for guidance and the following Surah begins with an answer to this prayer, as a guidance for the Muttaqin (2:2).
  • In Surah al-Fatihah, one asks to be guided on the way/path of those who have been favoured by Allah and not those who have earnt the anger of Allah nor those who are misguided. Hence, Surah al-Baqarah begins with describing the first category of people and then the second category of people.
  • Based on the Hadith of the Prophet, amongst the Maghdub [those whom have the anger of Allah] are the Jews and the Dhal [astray] are the Christians. Therefore, in the following two Surah’s both communities are addressed in same sequence, with al-Baqarah (2) addressing the Jews and ale-Imran (3) addressing the Christians.
The Virtues of the Surah

  1. Surah al-Fatihah is the greatest surah in the Qur’an. This is established by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ himself when he told one of the companions, ‘Shall I not teach you the greatest Surah in the Qur’an before you leave the Masjid....[he then recited Surah al-Fatihah].
  2. Nothing similar to Surah al-Fatihah was ever revealed in any of the previous Scriptures. The Prophet said, ‘Shall I not teach you a Surah which was not revealed in the Torah, Injeel, the Zabur nor in the Furqan and has any equivalent?’ then He told them about al-Fatihah.
  3. Surah al-Fatihah is Light. In the narration of Sahih Muslim, the Angel told the Prophet, ‘Glad tidings to you with two Lights given to you and not given to any Prophet before you, [Surah] Fatihah al-Kitab and end of al-Baqarah [last two ayaat?]. None recites [even a] letter from it except that he will be granted it.’
  4. Surah al-Fatihah is a cure, treatment for illness – be they spiritual, physical or otherwise.
  5. No Salah (prayer) is valid without reciting Surah al-Fatihah. The Prophet is reported to have said, "(There) is no Salah for the one that does not recite with the Fatihah of the Book" (Bukhari and Muslim)

Period of Revelation

It is one of the very earliest revelations to the Prophet. As a matter of fact, we learn from authentic hadith that it was the first complete Surah which was revealed to Prophet Muhammad. Before this, only a few verses were revealed which form parts of Surah 96: al-‘Alaq (The Clinging Substance) Surah 68: al-Qalam (The Pen), Surah 73: al-Muzzammil (The Enwrapped One) and Surah 74: al-Muddathir (The Cloaked One).


  1. It is called Umm-ul-Kitab (Mother of the Book), foundation and essence of the Qur'an.
  2. The Surah mentions two actions of the Heart. Ikhlas (pure sincerity) in "You alone we worship" and Tawakul (reliance) in "You alone we seek help"
  3. It is a mandatory part of each Islamic Prayer (Salah), recited at least seventeen times daily in the five obligatory prayers.
  4. This Prayer is taught by Allah Himself to mankind, as a favour, to let them know the format of a Prayer which is acceptable to Him
  5. This Surah is known as "Seven Oft-Repeated Verses" [Sab'a Mathani]
  6. Upon the completion of the recitation of this Surah the Angels also say Ameen and according to a narration from Bukhari [no. 772], if their saying of Ameen and your saying of Ameen are in sync your past sins will be forgiven
  7. The importance of being constant in making dua for steadfastness upon the Deen [religion] – repeating the dua ‘Guide us to the Straight Path’. Indeed the hearts of the sons of Adam are between the two fingers of ar-Rahman and He turns them as He wishes.’ One of the most often repeated duas of the Prophet was ‘O Allah O turner of the Hearts, make my heart firm upon Your Deen [religion].’
  8. We learn in this Surah that before the supplication is made, we mention the Asma al-Husna [beautiful names] of Allah and these are used as a means to gain closeness to Him and way to gain the supplication to be answered
  9. When we supplicate in this Surah [despite us praying alone] we always pray and use the plural for seeking Guidance for ‘Us’ as opposed to ‘Me’.

Relevant Hadith

  • أَخْبَرَنَا الْحُسَيْنُ بْنُ حُرَيْثٍ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا الْفَضْلُ بْنُ مُوسَى، عَنْ عَبْدِ الْحَمِيدِ بْنِ جَعْفَرٍ، عَنِ الْعَلاَءِ بْنِ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، عَنْ أُبَىِّ بْنِ كَعْبٍ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ "‏ مَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ وَلاَ فِي الإِنْجِيلِ مِثْلَ أُمِّ الْقُرْآنِ وَهِيَ السَّبْعُ الْمَثَانِي وَهِيَ مَقْسُومَةٌ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَ عَبْدِي وَلِعَبْدِي مَا سَأَلَ

    It was narrated that Ubayy bin Ka'b said: "The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: 'Allah, the Mighty and Sublime, did not reveal in the Tawrah or the Injil anything like Umm Al-Quran (Al-Fatihah), which is the seven oft-recited, and (Allah said) it is divided between Myself and My slave will have what he asked for.'" Sunan an-Nasa'i no. 914

  • حَدَّثَنَا مُسَدَّدٌ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو عَوَانَةَ، عَنْ أَبِي بِشْرٍ، عَنْ أَبِي الْمُتَوَكِّلِ، عَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ الْخُدْرِيِّ، أَنَّ رَهْطًا، مِنْ أَصْحَابِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم انْطَلَقُوا فِي سَفْرَةٍ سَافَرُوهَا فَنَزَلُوا بِحَىٍّ مِنْ أَحْيَاءِ الْعَرَبِ فَقَالَ بَعْضُهُمْ إِنَّ سَيِّدَنَا لُدِغَ فَهَلْ عِنْدَ أَحَدٍ مِنْكُمْ شَىْءٌ يَنْفَعُ صَاحِبَنَا فَقَالَ رَجُلٌ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ نَعَمْ وَاللَّهِ إِنِّي لأَرْقِي وَلَكِنِ اسْتَضَفْنَاكُمْ فَأَبَيْتُمْ أَنْ تُضَيِّفُونَا مَا أَنَا بِرَاقٍ حَتَّى تَجْعَلُوا لِي جُعْلاً ‏.‏ فَجَعَلُوا لَهُ قَطِيعًا مِنَ الشَّاءِ فَأَتَاهُ فَقَرَأَ عَلَيْهِ أُمَّ الْكِتَابِ وَيَتْفُلُ حَتَّى بَرَأَ كَأَنَّمَا أُنْشِطَ مِنْ عِقَالٍ ‏.‏ قَالَ فَأَوْفَاهُمْ جُعْلَهُمُ الَّذِي صَالَحُوهُمْ عَلَيْهِ فَقَالُوا اقْتَسِمُوا ‏.‏ فَقَالَ الَّذِي رَقَى لاَ تَفْعَلُوا حَتَّى نَأْتِيَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَنَسْتَأْمِرَهُ ‏.‏ فَغَدَوْا عَلَى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَذَكَرُوا لَهُ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ "‏ مِنْ أَيْنَ عَلِمْتُمْ أَنَّهَا رُقْيَةٌ أَحْسَنْتُمُ اقْتَسِمُوا وَاضْرِبُوا لِي مَعَكُمْ بِسَهْمٍ ‏"‏ ‏‏

    Abu Sa’d al-Khudri said: "Some of the Companions of the Prophet (ﷺ) went on a journey. They alighted with a certain clan of the Arabs. Someone of them said : Our chief has been stung by a scorpion or bitten by a snake. Has any of you something which gives relief to our chief? A man of the people said : Yes, I swear by Allah. I shall apply charm ; but we asked you for hospitality and you denied it to us. I shall not apply charm until you give me some payment. So they promised to give some sheep to him. He came to him and recited Surat al-Fatihah over him and spat till he was cured, and ha seemed as if he were set free from a bond. So they gave him the payment that was agreed between them. They said : Apportion them. The man who applied charm said : Do not do it until we approach the Apostle of allah (ﷺ) said: From where did you learn that it was a charm? you have done right. Apportion them, and give me a share along with you." Abu Dawud no. 3900

This Surah is in fact a prayer which Allah has taught to all those who want to make a study of His book. It has been placed at the very beginning of the book to teach this lesson to the reader: if you sincerely want to benefit from the Quran, you should offer this prayer to the Lord of the Universe.

This preface is meant to create a strong desire in the heart of the reader to seek guidance from the Lord of the Universe, Who alone can grant it. Thus AL-FATIHAH indirectly teaches that the best thing for a man is to pray for guidance to the straight path, to study the Quran with the mental attitude of a seeker- after-truth and to recognize the fact that the Lord of the Universe is the source of all knowledge. He should, therefore, begin the study of the Quran with a prayer to him for guidance.

From this theme, it becomes clear that the real relation between AL-FATIHAH and the Quran is not that of an introduction to a book but that of a prayer and its answer. AL-FATIHAH is the prayer from the servant and the Quran is the answer from the Master to his prayer. The servant prays to Allah to show him guidance and the Master places the whole of the Quran before him in answer to his prayer, as if to say, "This is the Guidance you begged from Me."

Last edited:

Absolute truth

لا إله إلا الله

2. Surah al-Baqarah
This is the longest Surah of the Qur'an. It has 286 verses divided in 40 sections. This Surah was revealed in Madinah. The Surah deals with a number of issues related to beliefs, history, law and morality. The Surah begins with the statement that it is Allah who revealed this book (the Qur'an) for the guidance of those who are conscious of Allah. Only those who seek guidance can benefit from the guidance of this Book. There are three types of human beings:

  1. Those who believe in the unseen realities, perform prayers, give part of their wealth in charity, believe in what is revealed in this scripture and what was revealed before to other prophets and messengers of Allah. These are the true believers. They shall benefit from this book and they shall be eternally successful.
  2. Second group consists of those who have decided to reject Allah's message. They are the Kafirs. Since they have made up their minds to reject Islam, no preaching will help them. Allah will punish them on the Day of Judgment because of their rejection.
  3. Third is the group of people who say that they have believed, but actually they have not believed. They try to be on both sides: sometimes at the side of faith and sometimes at the side of unfaith. They are the hypocrites. They may think that in this way they will gain both sides, but in reality they are also the losers.
All people are invited to worship Allah and to become His true servants. Allah created all people and He made the earth and heaven for their benefit and produced sustenance for them. The problem comes when people deny their Creator, break the relations that Allah told them to keep, follow the wrong ways in life and make mischief in the land.

The story of the creation of human beings is told. Allah created Adam. He gave him knowledge, asked angels to bow to him and gave him and his wife the garden of bliss to reside and enjoy its fruits. He told them to eat whatever they wished, but not to approach one tree. But Satan caused Adam to lose paradise. Allah sent Adam and his wife to earth and told them that they must remember the lesson that they learnt in the Paradise: They need God's guidance. Satan is their biggest enemy. Those who will obey Allah on this earth will return to Paradise, but those who will obey Satan may end up in hell.

Allah's covenant with the children of Israel is mentioned. It is mentioned that those who receive Allah's covenant they must live by it. Allah blessed those who fulfill their promise with Him. Prophet Ibrahim's prayer, Ka'bah's importance and the coming of Prophet Muhammad is also mentioned. The command to change the direction of prayer from Jerusalem to Ka'bah to emphasize the final covenant of Allah with Prophet Muhammad and his followers. The Surah also speaks about basic beliefs, acts of worship, economic dealings, moral and manners. The rules of marriage, divorce and 'iddah are mentioned. The Surah has discussed many subjects. Following the outline of the sections of this Surah.

Introduction to the Sections
  1. The Book of Guidance for those who want to be righteous. The difference between the believers and the non-believers.
  2. The hypocrites: their sickness, mischief and self-deception.
  3. Mankind, worship Allah alone. Make no partners in Allah's divinity. The challenge of the Qur’an. This Book will guide many but many will remain in error. The character of those who shall remain in error.
  4. The story of the creation of Adam. Allah’s plan and promise to send His guidance from time to time through His prophets.
  5. Address to Bani Israel to accept this message. Allah’s covenant must be fulfilled.
  6. Warnings to those who stray from the covenant of God. How some from among the Children of Israel turned away from God’s teachings.
  7. God’s blessings on the Children of Israel and their transgressions.
  8. The real recipients of Divine salvation. The hesitation of Bani Israel in sacrificing the cow.
  9. Some perversions of those who were supposed to follow the law of God.
  10. Basic principles of God’s Covenant with the Children of Israel.
  11. Some of them were arrogant to follow the teachings of their prophets, some rejected the prophets or tried to kill them, some worshipped the calf, disobeyed God’s commands and became too greedy for the life of this world.
  12. Opposition and enmity towards the Prophets, following devils and magic.
  13. Reminders to the Believers to follow these examples. Stay firm on your principles. Some among the People of the Book will try to mislead you with false claims and assertions.
  14. The true guidance of Allah is here. Read the Book of Allah and follow it.
  15. The great example of Prophet Ibrahim –peace be upon him. He and his son built the Ka’bah and prayed for a Prophet to come.
  16. Prophet Ibrahim –peace be upon him- submitted to Allah and this is the message that he and his sons gave to their progeny.
  17. The change of Qiblah and the response of the hypocrites and fools. Those who have knowledge know that this is the true Qiblah of all the Prophets.
  18. Follow this direction wherever you are. This is the universal Qiblah for all.
  19. Believers will be tried but they should be firm and steadfast and must face the trials with patience and prayers.
  20. Allah’s signs and His bounties are everywhere. The polytheists and idolaters are misplacing their loyalties.
  21. Believers should eat good and permissible food and should never follow the steps of the devil.
  22. The true piety and righteousness. Some rules related to the punishment of murderers. The rules of bequests.
  23. Fasting and Ramadan: the objective of fasting and some rules.
  24. Rules of Hajj, fighting those who expelled Muslims from their homes.
  25. No fighting during Hajj, rather seek God’s bounty when you return from Hajj.
  26. Appreciate God’s bounties. All human beings were originally one community. Divisions came later. Be generous and defend your self and your faith.
  27. Some important questions answered: War in the sacred months, wine and gambling, charity, orphans’ money, divorced women and their situation.
  28. The laws of divorce
  29. Continuation of the laws of divorce.
  30. Rules on the remarriage of the divorced women or the widowers.
  31. Further rules of divorce
  32. Fighting in the cause of God: two examples from history- Israelites under the leadership of Prophet Moses –peace be upon him.
  33. Under the leadership of Prophet David – peace be upon him- the victory came over the forces of Goliath.
  34. Emphasis on charity. To Allah belong everything. His Throne extends to heaven and earth. No compulsion in religion. Allah brings out people from darkness unto light.
  35. Allah’s power over life and death, some examples: Prophet Ibrahim’s dialogue with Namrood, a man in the valley of dead (probably Prophet Ezekiel’s vision of Jerusalem), Prophet Ibrahim asks Allah how will He raise the dead to life. Allah’s answer to Prophet Ibrahim.
  36. Allah blesses charity : some examples of how Allah blesses charity
  37. Emphasis on charity: spend good things, give openly and secretly to the poor and needy.
  38. Prohibition of usuary (riba) and its bad effects on individuals and society
  39. Some rules on loan transactions
  40. Conclusion and prayer: Everything in the heaven and earth belong to Allah, the prayer of the believers.
Central Theme

  • Guidance. The Surah makes it clear what the Straight Path is – who are upon it, who are not, what are their attributes
    Allah’s Governance on Earth. The Surah was aptly revealed shortly after the establishment of the Islamic state in Madinah. Indeed, the first story of this Surah is about Adam, the very first Caliph of Allah on Earth. Various facets of the Shariah are explained and expounded for the newly established state, which will in turn only rule by the rulings and commands of Allah. Hence we find rulings/regulations on divorce, Hajj, Zakat, Ramadhan, Jihad, Financial transactions etc
  • The Surah revolves around the theme of the methodology in application of the Khilafah on Earth
    As a lesson to the new Muslim Ummah, Surah al-Baqarah deals with the previous ‘Muslim Ummah’ the Children of Israel [and their remnants in Madinah] – the promise of Allah to them, their attributes, how they dealt with the Laws of Allah, and how they were punished. All this providing as a warning to the new Muslim ummah [nation] not to repeat these and the failure to do so will result in similar punishments
  • The significance of ayat 143 as the Muslims being the middle nation
  • In essence, the themes of the whole Qur'an can be linked back to Surah al-Baqarah.
  • Surah al-Baqarah is about the building of a society. Makki Ayat are primary focused on the Individual and Madani Ayat address the Muslims as a community
  • Just like the changing of the Qiblah from praying towards Jerusalem to praying towards Makkah, the transformation from the previous Muslim ummah, the Children of Israel to the final Muslim ummah now in Madinah
  • "This Surah is an invitation to the Divine Guidance and all the stories, incidents etc., revolve around this central theme. As this Surah has particularly been addressed to the Jews, many historical events have been cited from their own traditions to admonish and advise them that their own good lies in accepting the Guidance revealed to the Prophet. They should, therefore, be the first to accept it because it was basically the same that was revealed to Prophet Moses." [Mawdudi, Tafhim]
Connection of the name of the Surah and its Ayaat

al-Baqarah: This is in reference to the story of the Cow in the incident involving the murder amongst the Children of Israel. The story of the Cow contains the most important lessons for the Believer in relation to the commands of Allah. We learn how we should and how we should not behave with respect to the Shariah and urgency of acting upon the commands and not indulging in excessive questioning. In their implementation of the Law, their excessive questioning and hesitation in implementing the commands of Allah led to their situation only becoming more difficult upon themselves.

Linguistically means the peak or highest point on something or place, for example the sanaam of a camel is in reference to the hump being its highest point. The sanaam of a people are its leaders. Hence, Surah al-Baqarah is the peak with respect to the Qur'an as it contains the most important guidelines in establishing Islam as a system of life. The Prophet [saw] said, ‘Everything has a peak and the peak of the Qur’an is al-Baqarah.’ [Tirmidhee no. 2878].

Fustaat: Ibn Katheer mentions that Khalid bin Ma'dan would refer to this Surah as the fustat of the Qur'an. Fustat can be translated as 'tent' and just as the tent in the battlefield is the head quarters from which all the orders are issued, the Surah is the source/head of the remainder of the Qur'an.

Zahra: Translated as light, this Surah is a light on the path of guidance in this world and the after-life.

Connection between the beginning and the ending of the Surah

  • The beginning of the Surah mentions the attributes of Iman [faith] that the Believer has – Ayah (2:3) and (2:4) mention Iman in:
a) al-Ghayb [unseen]
b) Belief in the Revelation sent upon Prophet Muhammad
c) Belief in the Revelations sent upon all the previous Messengers
d) Yaqeen [complete faith] in the Akhirah [afterlife]

  • The end of the Surah (2:285) the following aspects of Iman [faith] are mentioned:
a) Belief in Allah
b) Belief in the Angels
c) Belief in the Books [of revelation]
d) Belief in the Messengers – not differientating between any of them [their message was the same]

Combined together they form the first 5 aspects of Iman as mentioned in the Hadith of Jibril [Sahih Muslim – the only aspect of Iman not mentioned in these Ayat but said in the Hadith is Qadr [pre-destination]

Connection of the Surah to the Surah before/after it

Surah al-Fatihah and al-Baqarah

  • Though it is a Madani Surah, it follows naturally a Makkan Surah, Surah 1: al-Fatihah (The Opening), which ended with the prayer: “Show us the straight way.” It begins with the answer to that prayer, “This is the Book (that) . . . is guidance.”
  • In Surah al-Fatihah, one asks to be guided on the way/path of those who have been favoured by Allah and not those who have earnt the anger of Allah nor those who are misguided. Hence, Surah al-Baqarah begins with describing the first category of people and then the second category of people.
  • Based on the Hadith of the Prophet, the Maghdub [those whom have the anger of Allah] are the Jews and the Dhal [astray] are the Christians. Hence in the following two Surah’s both communities are addressed in same sequence, with al-Baqarah addressing the Jews and Al-Imran addressing the Christians.
Surah al-Baqarah and Ale-Imran

  • They both begin with Alif-Lam-Meem.
  • Both end with profound Duas.
  • Both revealed in Madinah.
  • Al-Baqarah declares the Muslims as the ‘Middle Nation’ (2:143) and Ale-Imran declares the Muslims as the ‘Best nation’ (3:110) brought forth for the service of Mankind.
  • They both contain Ayaat on usury/interest.
  • Both contain Ayaat which state the Martyrs are alive.
  • Surah al-Baqarah and Ale-Imran are the only Surahs of the Qur'an (2:96) (3:185) which have the root word زُحْزِحَ
  • The first mention of Jannah in both Surah al-Baqarah and Ale-Imran mention Azwaj un Mutaharah 'Purified Spouses.' In (2:25) and (3:15).
  • The question, "Do you think you will enter Jannah (without)...." appears in both Surahs (not occuring anywhere else in the Qur'an)
    "Do you think that you will enter Paradise while such [trial] has not yet come to you as came to those who passed on before you?" (2:214)
    "Or do you think that you will enter Paradise while Allah has not yet made evident those of you who fight in His cause and made evident those who are steadfast?" (3:142)
The Virtues of the Surah

  • The Prophet described the Surah al-Baqarah as the Sanaam [peak] of the Qur’an. He said, ‘Everything has a peak and the peak of the Qur’an is al-Baqarah.’ [Tirmidhee no. 2878 – Hasan Ghareeb].
  • The Prophet’s Companions had a slogan when they fought Musaylimah [the false prophet], ‘O companions of Surah al-Baqarah’ [Ibn Abi Shaybah no. 33572 and Abdur Razzaq in his Musanaf no. 9465].
  • The Shayateen [jinn] flee from a house that it is recited in.
    • The Prophet said, ‘Do not turn your households into graveyards. Indeed, the shayateen flee from a household that has Surah al-Baqarah read in it.’ [Sahih Muslim no. 780.]
    • The Prophet said, ‘....Surah al-Baqarah...whoever recites it in their home in the day the shayateen [devils] will not enter it for 3 nights.’ [Ibn Hibban no. 109/2 – Hasan].
  • Leadership chosen based on relationship to this Surah.
    • The Messenger of Allah sent an expedition force [comprised] of many, and he asked each what he could recite, so each one of them mentioned what he could recite - meaning what he had memorised of the Qur'an. He came to one of the youngest men among them and said: 'What have you memorised O so-and-so?' He said: 'I memorised this and that and Surat Al-Baqarah.' He said: 'You memorised Surat Al-Baqarah?' He said: "Yes.' He said: "Then go, for you are their commander.' [Tirmidhee no. 2876 – Hasan].
  • It contains the Greatest Name of Allah.
    • On the authority of Abu Ummamah that the Messenger of Allah said, ‘The Greatest Name of Allah by which if He is supplicated will be answered is in three Surahs, al-Baqarah, Al-Imran and Taha.....i.e. al-Hayyu al-Qayyum.’ [Mustradak al-Hakim no. 1867].
  • A Scholar is one who has understood the first seven Surahs of the Qur’an. The Prophet said, ‘Whoever takes from the first seven Surahs of the Qur’an is a Hibr [scholar]’ [Mustradak al-Hakim no. 2070].
  • The Prophet is reported to have said, "Whoever recites the last two Ayat of Surah al-Baqarah it would be sufficient for him." [Bukhari]
Period of Revelation

The scholars are unanimous that Surah al-Baqarah is Madani and that it was the first Surah revealed in Madinah. [Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani in Fath al-Bari no. 160/8].

Despite it being the first Surah to be revealed in Madinah, it contains Ayaat from a later period also. In fact, according to Ibn Abbas [as mentioned in Ibn Kathir] the last Ayat revealed to the Prophet was Ayat no. 281 from Surah al-Baqarah and this occurred 8 days or so before his death [which corresponds to the year 11 Hijri].


  • Claim of the Qur'an: "This is the Book which contains no doubt."
  • Creation of Adam, man's nature, and his destiny.
  • The Children of Israel and the People of the Book (Jews and Christians).
  • Israelites' sin of worshipping the statue of a calf.
  • Punishment of Israelites violation of Sabbath.
  • Nature of Jews' belief.
  • Allah orders not to prevent the people from coming to Masajid.
  • Ibrahim and his sons were neither Jews nor Christians but were Muslims.
  • Abraham (Ibrahim), Ishmael (Isma`il), and their building of Ka'bah.
  • Change of Qiblah (direction in prayers) towards Ka'bah in Makkah.
  • Allah orders not to profess any faith blindly.
  • The moon is created to determine the time periods i.e. months and years.
  • Hypocrisy vs. True faith.
  • Ayat-ul-Kursi (Verse of the Throne of Allah).
  • Allah orders the believers to enter into Islam completely.
  • Punishment of a murtad (a Muslim who becomes a Non-Muslim).
  • It is unlawful to marry a mushrik.
  • Victory is not by numbers but by Allah's help.
  • Confrontation of Ibrahim and Namrud (the king of his time).
  • What makes charity worthless.
  • Taking usury is like declaring war against Allah and his Rasool.
  • All business dealings relating to deferred payments must be in writing.
  • Retaliation against oppression.
  • Non compulsion in religion.
  • Divine Laws are promulgated about the following categories:
  • Food
  • Retribution
  • Wills
  • Fasting
  • Bribery
  • Jihad
  • Self-defense
  • Evidence
  • Pilgrimage
  • Charity
  • Drinking
  • Bloodwit
  • Gambling
  • Marriage
  • Orphans
  • Menstruation
  • Oaths
  • Divorce
  • Alimony
  • Nursing
  • Widows
  • Usury
  • Buying on Credit
  • Debts
  • Loans
  • Pledge/Mortgage
  • Believers supplication to Allah.
Background Reasons for Revelation

In order to understand the meaning of this Surah, we should know its historical background:

1. At Makkah, the Quran generally addressed the polytheist Quraysh who were ignorant of Islam, but at Madinah it was also concerned with the Jews who were acquainted with the creed of Monotheism, Prophethood, Revelation, the Hereafter and Angels. They also professed to believe in the law which was revealed by God to their Prophet Moses, and in principle, their way was the same (Islam) that was being taught by Prophet Muhammad. But they had strayed away from it during the centuries of degeneration and had adopted many un-Islamic creeds, rites and customs of which there was no mention and for which there was no sanction in the Torah. Not only this: they had tampered with the Torah by inserting their own explanations and interpretations into its text. They had distorted even that part of the Word of God which had remained intact in their Scriptures and taken out of it the real spirit of true religion and were now clinging to a lifeless frame of rituals. Consequently their beliefs, their morals and their conduct had gone to the lowest depths of degeneration. The pity is that they were not only satisfied with their condition but loved to cling to it. Besides this, they had no intention or inclination to accept any kind of reform. So they became bitter enemies of those who came to teach them the Right Way and did their utmost to defeat every such effort. Though they were originally Muslims, they had swerved from the real Islam and made innovations and alterations in it and had fallen victims to hair splitting and sectarianism. They had forgotten and forsaken God and begun to serve material wealth. So much so that they had even given up their original name “Muslim” and adopted the name “Jew” instead, and made religion the sole monopoly of the children of Israel. This was their religious condition when the Prophet went to Madinah and invited the Jews to the true religion. That is why more than one third of this Surah has been addressed to the children of Israel. A critical review of their history, their moral degeneration and their religious perversions has been made. Side by side with this, the high standard of morality and the fundamental principles of the pure religion have been put forward in order to bring out clearly the nature of the degeneration of the community of a prophet when it goes astray and to draw clear lines of demarcation between real piety and formalism, and the essentials and non-essentials of the true religion.

2. At Makkah, Islam was mainly concerned with the propagation of its fundamental principles and the moral training of its followers. But after the migration of the Prophet to Madinah, where Muslims had come to settle from all over Arabia and where a tiny Islamic State had been set up with the help of the ‘local supporters’ (Ansar), naturally the Quran had to turn its attention to the social, cultural, economic, political and legal problems as well. This accounts for the difference between the themes of the Surahs revealed at Makkah and those at Madinah. Accordingly about half of this Surah deals with those principles and regulations which are essential for the integration and solidarity of a community and for the solution of its problems.

After the migration to Madinah, the struggle between Islam and disbelief (Kufr) had also entered a new phase. Before this the Believers, who propagated Islam among their own clans and tribes, had to face its opponents at their own risk. But the conditions had changed at Madinah, where Muslims from all parts of Arabia had come and settled as one community, and had established an independent city state. Here it became a struggle for the survival of the Community itself, for the whole of non-Muslim Arabia was bent upon and united in crushing it totally. Hence the following instructions, upon which depended not only its success but its very survival, were revealed in this Surah:

a. The Community should work with the utmost zeal to propagate its ideology and win over to its side the greatest possible number of people.

b. It should so expose its opponents as to leave no room for doubt in the mind of any sensible person that they were adhering to an absolutely wrong position.

c. It should infuse in its members (the majority of whom were homeless and indigent and surrounded on all sides by enemies) that courage and fortitude which is so indispensable to their very existence in the adverse circumstances in which they were struggling and to prepare them to face these boldly.

d. It should also keep them ready and prepared to meet any armed menace, which might come from any side to suppress and crush their ideology, and to oppose it tooth and nail without minding the overwhelming numerical strength and the material resources of its enemies.

e. It should also create in them that courage which is needed for the eradication of evil ways and for the establishment of the Islamic Way instead. That is why God has revealed in this Surah such instructions as may help achieve all the above mentioned objects.

At the time of the revelation of Al-Baqarah, all sorts of hypocrites had begun to appear. God has, therefore, briefly pointed out their characteristics here. Afterwards when their evil characteristics and mischievous deeds became manifest, God sent detailed instructions about them. [REF: Mawdudi]