When we review the process of the Quran’s revelation on the Holy Prophet (PBUH), we find that it is quite a long journey. The whole Quran, which is actually the speech of Allah Almighty, comprises 86 Makkan surahs and 28 Madinan surahs that collectively make 114 surahs.
Makkan and Madinan Phase
The Mekkan verses
The revelation of The Makkan verses to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) started in the city of Makkah before the Hijrah. In the Makkan phase, the major task of the Prophet (PBUH) was to call strayed people towards Islam. This revelation period for the Makkan verse of the Quran lasted for around 13 years.
Subject Matter of Makkan Verses of Quran
Makkan verses are comparatively shorter, in the address to the people of Makkah, including Muslims and non-Muslims both. Thus, the reader can observe a sternness in the tone while discussing the strengths and oneness of Allah. It speaks about the day of judgment and how we will be accountable to Allah while highlighting rewards and punishments. It often discusses the stories of previous Prophets and nations, speaking about the bad outcomes for the polytheists too.
Example of Makkan Surah
‘Surah Fatihah’ is one example of Makkan verses, which mainly discusses the ultimate power Allah holds and how we need his guidance and forgiveness.
English Translation of Surah Fatihah
“All praise is for Allah—Lord of all worlds,
the Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
Master of the Day of Judgment
You ˹alone˺ we worship and You ˹alone˺ we ask for help.
Guide us along the Straight Path
the Path of those You have blessed—not those You are displeased with, or those who are astray.”
Subject Matter of Madinan Verses of Quran
However, Madinan verses represent all those surahs revealed to the Holy Prophet (PBUH) after He migrated to Madinah, even if he was outside the city at the time of revelation. These surahs were relatively longer and addressed to the people of Madinah, which was a Muslim majority holding city. Hence many verses were addresses as, “Oh you believer!” and had a softer tone as Muslims were already on the right path.
Madinan verses mention rulings and laws without discussion since it was appropriate for the people at that time. Madinan surahs can be classified as a guide for detailed rules related to worship and social dealings. It spoke elaboratively about the concept of ‘Jihad’ and the importance of leadership while dealing with hypocrisy as it bulged in Madinah.
While all the revelations of Makkan surahs occurred before the hijra, their memorization and documentation were not in the same order as their revelation order. Some Ayats’ revelations were at short intervals, and sometimes the entire Surah’s revelation was in one go.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) told his scribes to record the Ayats in the Surah it belonged to. When came the revelation of a new surah, He would recite it in the order it was to be documented. Once the Madinan surahs had begun revealing, the Prophet (PBUH) instructed his companions to position them before or after some Makkan Surahs. While there are Surahs that may be Madinan but have a few Makkan verses in them, and vice versa. A Surah is graded as Makkan or Madinan based on the plurality of the ayah therein.
Example of Madinan Surah
‘Surah Al-Ma’idah’ is an example of Madinan verses, explaining the pilgrimage guidelines and highlighting the importance of not hunting any animal until after the pilgrimage is over.
“O, believers! Do not violate Allah’s rituals ˹of pilgrimage˺, the sacred months, the sacrificial animals, the ˹offerings decorated with˺ garlands, nor that ˹pilgrims ˺ on their way to the Sacred House seeking their Lord’s bounty and pleasure. When pilgrimage has ended, you are allowed to hunt. Do not let the hatred of a people who once barred you from the Sacred Mosque provoke you to transgress. Cooperate in goodness and righteousness, and do not cooperate in sin and transgression. And be mindful of Allah. Surely Allah is severe in punishment.”
Benefits of knowing the Differences Between the Makkan and Madinan Verses
It allows one to:
- Distinguish between the revoking verses from the abrogated.
- Become familiar with the dates of specific Islamic laws when they were revealed and whom they address.
- Praise the greatness of the Almighty Allah and the Quran, specifically in the lives of early Muslims.
- Fully understand the context and the purpose of particular Surah and Ayah.
- Recognize that the Quran revelation to Prophet (PBUH) requires memorization and comprehension.