Published in  
August 13, 2020

Makki vs Madani Surahs

It was always interesting to hear/read at the start of an explanation about a Surah whether it was Makki or Madani. The Quran comprises of 86 Makki Surahs and 28 Madani Surahs. Ofcourse whats generally understood is that the Surahs revealed in Makkah are Makki and those in Madinah are Madani. This is a slight misconception.

The basis of classification as per the giants of Tafseer is not the city of revelation but rather the hijrah of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. Surahs revealed before Hijrah are termed Makki and those after Hijrah are termed Madni. They do not mean that the ayat were explicitly revealed in Makkah or Madinah.

So the ayat that were revealed during the Prophet’s صلى الله عليه وسلم initial visit to Taif, the ones revealed during the hijrah itself are Makki. Even the ayat that were revealed to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم during the Night Journey aka Isra Wal Mi’raj are considered Makki.

Whats interesting to note is that ayat revealed in Hudaybiyah so near to Makkah and even those ayat revealed in Makkah itself during the conquest of Makkah are considered as Madani.

Our scholars put together a kind of classification to differentiate the Surahs being Makki or Madani:

1. Every Surah in which the word كٓلآّ (never) appears is Makki. This word has been used 33 times in 15 Surahs and all these ayat are in the last half of the Quran

2. According to the Hanafi scholars every Surah in which a sajdah appears is Makki.

3. Every Surah except Surah Al Baqarah in which the story of Adam and Iblis is mentioned is Makki.

4. Every Surah in which the permission of Jihad or a description of its injunctions have been given is Madani.

5. All ayat which mention hypocrites is Madani.

6. In Makki Surahs, generally the form of address used is ياايّهاالناس (O People) while in Madani Surahs it is ياايّهاالذين آمنوا (O Believers)

7. The ayat of Makki Surahs are generally short and brief whereas the Madani ayat are long and detailed.

8. The Makki Surahs generally consist of subjects pertaining to Tawheed, Prophethood, Day of Judgement and words of comfort for the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم by narrating incidents from the past. Madani Surahs generally consist of family and social laws, injunctions of Jihad and exposition of limits and duties.

9. In Makki Surahs most of the confrontation is against idolaters while in Madani Surahs it is against thePeople of the Book and hypocrites.

10. The style of Makki Surahs is more majestic. It has a profusion of metaphors, similies and the vocabulary used is extensive. The style of Madani Surahs is comparatively simple as it is more lengthy and detailed.

11. The idolaters of Makkah were worshipping idols in the belief that these hand-crafted “gods” would act as an intermediary between them and Allah. Makki ayat were aimed at clarifying this misconception. The ayat taught the correct method of Salat and that it should only be made for and to Allah.

So to summarize:

1. The Makkan Surahs deal mainly with affirming the Oneness of Allah aka Tawheed. These ayat instill faith and hope for those who believe while the Madani Surahs deal mainly with action or the implementation of faith.

2. Makkan Surahs are generally pertaining to Prophetic stories, while the Madani Surahs deal with the realization and fulfillment of prophecies and promises.

3. Makkan Surahs emphasize on Banu Adam’s relationship with Allah, while Madani Surahs emphasize Banu Adam’s relationship with fellow man and lay down rules and regulations for social and moral conduct.

For some knowing this is just extra reading and for some academia. But for the general reader, knowing the difference between Makki and Madani Surahs opens a lot of doors to contemplate over. The fact that the style of addressing in the Quran are different in Makkah and Madinah gives us an indication on how to treat, teach and give dawah to people based on their level of understanding and belief. It will also help in learning more and giving a better understanding of where, about whom and about what the ayat were revealed.

From an academic point of view knowing the difference between Makki and Madani ayat will also be very helpful in determining the nasikh (abrogating) and mansukh (abrogated) ayat in the Quran. When two ayat that seem to be opposite of each other are seen, it can easily be understood that the one that was revealed before (for instance Makki ayah) is nasikh and the other one is mansukh.

Although all the Makkan ayat were revealed before the hijrah, they were neither memorized nor written in the same order of which they were revealed. Some ayat were revelaed at short intervals and sometimes an entire Surah was revelaed all at once.  Our Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم would tell his scribes to write the ayat in the Surah to which it belonged. If a new Surah was revealed, he would recite the Surah in the order it was to be recorded. Once the Madani ayat began to be revealed, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم would tell his companions to place them before or after certain Makkan ayat. Though there are Surahs which could be Madani but have a few ayat that are Makki in them and vice versa. A Surah is classified Makki or Madani based on the majority of the ayat therein.

Jibreel عليه السلام used to revise the Quran in completion with our beloved Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم every year during Ramadan. In the end, Jibreel عليه السلام revised it twice with our Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم before he passed away leaving no doubt about the authenticity, recitation or order of the Quran.

What a sight that would have been.

The Greatest creation of Allah, Imam of the Prophets of Allah and, Leader of all Mankind – Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم

The Bringer of Revelation, Friend of the Prophets of Allah, and the Leader of Angels – Jibreel عليه السلام

Best of friends, together reciting the greatest words of their Lord in the greatest and blessed days of Ramadan.

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