Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Difference Between Makki & Madani Surahs

بسم الله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله، وبعد

The Difference Between Makki and Madani Surahs:

The Qur’aan was revealed in sections to Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم from the beginning of his Prophet-hood until shortly before his death. Thus, the Qur’aan came down continuously over a period of twenty-three years.

Many sections of the Qur’aan were generally revealed to solve the problems which existed among the Muslim communities in both Makkah and Madeenah. Since the problems and needs of Makkah were different from those of Madeenah, the revelations of Makkah and Madeenah have special characteristic of their own.

It is important to know the difference between the revelations of Makkah and Madeenah if the Qur’aan itself is to be clearly understood. Because of the great importance of the Qur’aan to Islaam, Muslims scholars from the time of the Sahaabah have devoted much time and effort in this area of study.

The features of Makkan revelations:

Makkan revelations are defined as all verses and chapters of the Qur’aan which were brought by Jibreel عليه السلام to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم before the Hijrah (i.e. before the Prophet’s migration to Madeenah). These include verses which were revealed in Taa’if as well as those revealed in other areas outside of Makkah. These revelations represent the first stage of Islaamic movement in which its fundamentals were established.

1.     Tawheed:

When Islaam was first presented to the people of Makkah, they were in a state of disbelief. Most of them believed in Allaah (as the Lord, Creator, the Sustainer), but they did not worship Him alone. Rather, they put between themselves and Allaah many intermediaries. They made idols to represent these intermediaries and worshipped them instead of Allaah. Thus, the early revelations taught the people about Allaah’s unity (Tawheed) and power over all things. They told the people that Allaah was without parents, offspring or any partner who shared His powers. They also pointed out that idols could neither bring good nor hold back evil. And they questioned the logic of worshipping things which could not even see or hear.

2.     Salaah:

After the first verses of revelation came informing the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم that he had been chosen for prophet-hood, Allaah sent Jibreel عليه السلام to teach him the correct method of prayer. This was necessary because the correct method of prayer could not be arrived at by logical reasoning. Therefore, even the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم himself had to be taught the correct method of worshipping Allaah. Thus, the early verses called upon the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and his early band of followers to make their Salaah regularly.

Since the kuffars of Makkah were in the habit of worshipping idols in the belief that these home-made gods would carry their prayers to Allaah for them, the early verses were also aimed at clarifying this misconception. The verses taught that Salaah should only be made for and to Allaah, as He is the only one who can answer them.

Great stress was placed on Salaah because of its relationship to Tawheed. Correct Salaah directed to Allaah alone is the most basic way of putting Tawheed into practice.

3.     The Unseen:

Since there was no way that human beings could possibly come to know about the unseen world, the early verses taught them about its wonders, its mysteries, and its horrors. The verses described Paradise and its pleasures in order to encourage the believers to continue to do good deeds and to assure them of a reward. They also described the Hell-fire and its torments in order to encourage the believers to strive to avoid evil deeds. Description of the fire and its inhabitants also reassured the believers that those who do wrong in this life will not escape Allaah’s punishment. Such descriptions were also aimed at scaring the disbelievers into reconsidering their position before it became too late. Some of the verses also reasoned with those who could not accept the resurrection by giving them examples from nature, such as rain falling on dead earth bringing it back to life.

﴿وَاللَّهُ الَّذِى أَرْسَلَ الرِّيَاحَ فَتُثِيرُ سَحَـباً فَسُقْنَاهُ إِلَى بَلَدٍ مَّيِّتٍ فَأَحْيَيْنَا بِهِ الاٌّرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا كَذَلِكَ النُّشُورُ﴾
{And it is Allah Who sends the winds, so that they raise up the clouds, and We drive them to a dead land, and revive therewith the earth after its death. As such (will be) the Resurrection!} [Surah Faatir (35): 9]

Others pointed out logically that the recreation of life would be easier than its creation, although it is all the same to Allaah.

﴿وَهُوَ الَّذِى يَبْدَأُ الْخَلْقَ ثُمَّ يُعِيدُهُ وَهُوَ أَهْوَنُ عَلَيْهِ﴾
{And He it is Who originates the creation, then He will repeat it; and this is easier for Him} [Surah al-Room (30): 27]

4.     Allaah’s Existence:

There were some individuals among the Makkans who were in the doubt about Allaah’s very existence. Thus, some of the early verses presented logical arguments proving Allaah’s existence. Sometimes proofs were taken from nature and the creatures’ common to the society. Allaah asked the Makkans:

﴿أَفَلاَ يَنظُرُونَ إِلَى الإِبِلِ كَيْفَ خُلِقَتْ - وَإِلَى السَّمَآءِ كَيْفَ رُفِعَتْ - وَإِلَى الْجِبَالِ كَيْفَ نُصِبَتْ - وَإِلَى الاٌّرْضِ كَيْفَ سُطِحَتْ﴾
{Do they not look at the camels, how they are created. And at the heaven, how it is raised. And at the mountains, how they are rooted. And at the earth, how it is outspread} [Surah al-Ghaashiyah (88): 17-20]

At other times, straight logic was used. Allaah asked them if they were created from nothing or if they created themselves:

﴿أَمْ خُلِقُواْ مِنْ غَيْرِ شَىْءٍ أَمْ هُمُ الْخَـلِقُونَ ﴾
{Were they created by nothing or were they themselves the creators} [Surah al-Toor (52):35]

The answer had to be one or the other. Since they knew they had not created themselves, they had to realize that they were created. Even if they said that they came from their parents and their parents came from their parents and so on. The numbers eventually decreases to one who came from nothing. Thus, Allaah, the Creator, has to be accepted for our own existence to make sense.

5.     Challenges:

In order to prove to the Quraysh that the Qur’aan was from Allaah and that Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم was a Prophet of Allaah, some of the Makkan verses challenged the Arabs to imitate the Qur’aan. Many of the chapters began with individual letters like “Alim Laam Meem”, “Saad”, or “Noon” in order to tease the Makkans with the same letters of the alphabet that they made their flowery speeches and poetry with. Allaah revealed the Qur’aan with the same letters, but they could not just imitate it. Since the Arabs were unable to produce even a chapter resembling the smallest chapter of the Qur’aan, the miraculous nature of the Qur’aan and its divine origin were clearly proven to the people at that time. However, many of them preferred to look at the Qur’aan as a magical spell, and the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم as a master magician.

6.     The People of Old:

The Makkan verses often mentioned historical examples of earlier civilizations, like the `Aad and the Thamood. They were mentioned in order to warn those who had rejected the message of Islaam. The verses spoke about the wonders of the ancient civilizations. They listed the many blessings which Allaah had bestowed on the peoples of those civilizations. Then they (the verses) recounted how the people disobeyed Allaah and denied His blessings, and how Allaah’s punishment caught them when they were totally unaware of what could become of them if Allaah so willed. These examples were quite familiar to the Arabs because ruins of such civilizations could still be seen. For example, the stone tombs of Madda’in al-Saalih were directly on the trade route to Syria.

7.     Eemaan:

Very few laws were revealed in the Makkan verses. Instead, the verses concentrated on the principles which would build the Eemaan of the early Muslims. These verses spoke of the importance of fearing Allaah and being aware of His presence and knowledge of all things. They were often filled with advice about being patient, perseverant, truthful and trustworthy, in order to build the moral spiritual character of the early Muslims who were in a minority and under a lot of pressure from Makkan society.

8.     Short Verses:

The Makkan Surahs usually had short verses, catchy rhymes, and a very strong rhythm. These qualities were meant to catch the attention of listeners who were basically opposed to the message of Islaam. The verses had to be short because the audience would not be willing to listen to long, drawn-out statements. As soon as they heard any of the Qur’aan, they would stick their fingers in their ears and turn away. Thus, the verses often had to strike home immediately.


Madeenan revelations are all those verses and chapters of the Qur’aan which were revealed after the Hijrah. This includes verses which were revealed during the battles, as well as those revealed in Makkah and Minaa during and after the Farewell Pilgrimage. All of these verses are considered Madeenan because they represent the revelations of the second stage of the Islaamic movement in which the consolidation of the Islaamic state took place.

The following are some of the main characteristics of Madeenan verses:

1.     Laws:

Once Madeenah had become the new center of the Islaamic movement, the Islaamic state was born. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم became the ruler over the Muslims of Madeenah, as well as the Jews and the Arab idol-worshipers who lived there. A constitution was drawn up and a system of justice was established. Thus, the verses during the Madeenan stage contained many social, economical and spiritual laws which were necessary for the organization and the development of an Islaamic state. Zakaah, Sawm, and Hajj were revealed. Likewise, it was during this period that drinking alcohol, eating swine, and gambling were all forbidden.

2.     People of the Book:

In Madeenah, Muslims came in contact with the Jews for the first time. In order to try to shake the beliefs of the Muslims, the Jews used to ask the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم various questions about Allaah, the earlier Prophets, and the unseen. They asked questions about the origin of the soul and what it was made of. Thus, a number of Madeenan verses represented answers to the many questions raised by the Jews. The Muslims of Madeenah also came in contact with the Christians on a larger scale. As a result of that, we find a number of Madeenan verses clarifying Christian misconceptions about Prophet `Eesa عليه السلام (Jesus) and Allaah. They pointed out that `Eesa’s عليه السلام birth was not greater than that of Aadam عليه السلام who had neither father nor mother.

﴿إِنَّ مَثَلَ عِيسَى عِندَ اللَّهِ كَمَثَلِ ءَادَمَ خَلَقَهُ مِن تُرَابٍ ثُمَّ قَالَ لَهُ كُن فَيَكُونُ﴾
{Verily, the likeness of `Eesa before Allah is the likeness of Adam. He created him from dust, then said to him: "Be!'' and he was} [Surah Aal-`Imraan (3): 59]

They also stressed that the miracles of `Eesa, such as bringing the dead back to life, were only by Allaah’s permission. Thus, `Eesa was not a god nor the son of Allaah, and Allaah was not the third of the three.

3.     The Munafiqoon:

For the first time since the beginning of the final message we find people entering Islaam, yet not believing in it. In Makkah, Muslims were oppressed and attacked, so no one would enter Islaam unless he truly believed. On the other hand, the Muslims of Madeenah were strong and they ruled the city. Thus, we find some people entering Islaam in order to benefit from its strength and to oppose it from within. `Abdullaah ibn Ubayy ibn Salool was about to be crowned King of Madeenah when the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم arrived. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم was made the ruler of Madeenah and Ibn Salool’s hopes were ruined. Since the Muslims were strong and he could not openly oppose them, he accepted Islaam and worked against it from within. He eventually became the head of the Munaafiqoon (hypocrites). Thus, the verses of the Madeenan stage warned the Muslims about the dangers of the hypocrites and taught them how to deal effectively with them.

4.     Jihaad:

The right to fight against the enemy was given for the first time in al-Madeenah. During the Makkan period, Muslims were forbidden to fight back. This was for two basic reasons: (1) The Muslims were a minority and could easily be wiped out, and (2) only the strong could survive the test. The Makkan period prepared the foundation of the Islaamic movement to come. It was during the Madeenan stage that a series of battles were fought against the forces of disbelief until finally Makkah was conquered and the whole of the Arabian Peninsula came under the rule of Islaam. Thus, a number of the Madeenan verses taught Muslims the Islaamic principles of war. For example, they taught how to deal with prisoners of war and they forbade retreat during an attack except as a trick to trap the enemy. They also encouraged the Muslims to prepare themselves with the best weapons and battle gear they could find.

5.     Long Verses:

The Madeenan verses tended to be longer than those of Makkah. In fact, there are a number of Madeenan verses which are longer than the whole Surahs of the Makkan period. The longest verse of the Qur’aan is the verse on loans in the Madeenan Surah, al-Baqarah (2): 282. This verse contains approximately 143 words. The shortest Surah of the Qur’aan is the Makkan Surah al-Kawthar, which contains a total of only 11 separate words in its three short verses. The need to catch the attention of unwilling listeners was no longer there because Islaam had become strong and its followers were many. Thus, the audience at this stage was quite willing to listen attentively to longer verses teaching the vital laws of Islaam.

6.     Order of the Surahs:

Although all the Makkan verses were revealed during the same period, they were neither memorized nor written in the same order of which they were revealed. Verses from various Surahs were revealed at once. Whenever single verses were revealed, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم would tell his scribes to write it 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 Madeenan verses and Surahs began to be revealed, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم would tell his companions to place them before or after certain Makkan Surahs and verses. Thus, when the revelation of the Qur’aan was complete, Makkan verses could be found within the Madeenan Surahs and Madeenan verses within the Makkan Surahs. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم recorded the verses and the Surahs of the Qur’aan according to Allaah’s command. The reason for that was that the verses were revealed according to the needs of a developing community, whereas the order for reading purposes needed to be varied so as not to make the Qur’aan seem one-sided in its presentation. The mixture of verses and chapters from the two stages gives the reader a more balanced picture of the message of Islaam. (And Allaah knows best)


There are a number of reasons why a distinction needs to be made between Makkan and Madeenan Surahs and verses. The following is only the three most important reasons:

1.     Fiqh (Islaamic Law)

The various laws of Islaam were revealed over a period of twenty-three years. Some laws canceled earlier laws and other laws were revealed bit by bit. Thus, it was necessary to know at which point in time the various laws were revealed in order to apply them properly. The laws of the later Madeenan period sometimes took the place of the earlier laws. For example, alcohol was made forbidden in gradual stages. The first law concerning alcohol was simply a warning of its dangers. Allaah said:

﴿يَسْـئَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ قُلْ فِيهِمَآ إِثْمٌ كَبِيرٌ وَمَنَـفِعُ لِلنَّاسِ وَإِثْمُهُمَآ أَكْبَرُ مِن نَّفْعِهِمَا﴾

{They ask you (O Muhammad ) concerning alcoholic drink and gambling. Say: "In them is a great sin, and (some) benefits for men, but the sin of them is greater than their benefit.''} [Surah al-Baqarah (2): 219]

The second law which was revealed warned Muslims away from Salaah when they were intoxicated (drunk). Allaah said:

﴿يَـأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَلاَ تَقْرَبُواْ الصَّلَوةَ وَأَنتُمْ سُكَـرَى حَتَّى تَعْلَمُواْ مَا تَقُولُونَ ﴾

{O you who believe! Do not approach Salah while you are in a drunken state until you know what you are saying} [Surah al-Nisaa’ (4): 43]

The third law, however, was a complete prohibition of even coming near any form of alcohol. Allaah said:

﴿يَـأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ إِنَّمَا الْخَمْرُ وَالْمَيْسِرُ وَالاٌّنصَابُ وَالاٌّزْلاَمُ رِجْسٌ مِّنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَـنِ فَاجْتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ - إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ الشَّيْطَـنُ أَن يُوقِعَ بَيْنَكُمُ الْعَدَاوَةَ وَالْبَغْضَآءَ فِى الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ وَيَصُدَّكُمْ عَن ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَعَنِ الصَّلَوةِ فَهَلْ أَنْتُمْ مُّنتَهُونَ﴾

{O you who believe! Khamr, Maysir, Ansab, and Azlam are a Rijs of Shaytan's handiwork. So avoid that in order that you may be successful. Shaytan wants only to excite enmity and hatred between you with Khamr and Maysir, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah and from the Salaah (the prayer). So, will you not then abstain} [Surah al-Maa’idah (5): 90-91]

If one was unaware of the order in which the verses were revealed, he or she may mistakenly think that drinking alcohol is allowed as long as one doesn’t get drunk and come to Salaah. Or, it might be thought that benefitting from the sale of alcohol is permitted.

2.     Da`wah:

By understanding the order in which the verses of the Qur’aan were revealed, one can learn the best method of teaching Islaam. For example, the Qur’aan taught the believers not to curse or make fun of the idols of the disbelievers in order not to drive them away and in order that they do not curse Allaah out of ignorance. Instead, they were told to reason with the believers and show them logically why the worship of idols was incorrect. Allaah said:

﴿ قَالَ أَفَتَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ مَا لاَ يَنفَعُكُمْ شَيْئاً وَلاَ يَضُرُّكُمْ ﴾
{(Ibrahim عليه السلام) said: "Do you then worship besides Allah, things that can neither profit you nor harm you''} [Surah al-Anbiyaa’ (21): 66]

3.     Seerah

Many of the important events in the Prophet’s life have been recorded in various parts of the Qur’aan. Thus, by knowing the order in which the verses were revealed, it is possible to piece together a large portion of the biography of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم.


  1. This was extremely helpful. Thank you SO very much! I am an O-level student and was looking for just the kind of information regarding 'Makki and Madni Surahs' that you have put up.
    - Maheen Mustafa.

  2. Thank you so much.This was quite helping.I am working on same topic.I am O-level student.This information was extremely helpful and informative.


  3. me too an o level student its really informative
    ulfat raza

  4. this was very helpfull

  5. why are the madani surahs longer than makki surahs?????you never told that:)

    1. Assalaam `alaikum.

      Akhi/ukhti, the reason for long verses for Madani Surahs are already mentioned under point #5.

      Unlike the Makkan (pre Hijrah) period where the Muslims were little in number and were suppressed and oppressed, in Madeenah they were in a majority and enjoyed much freedom to learn their deen. Thus, the Madeenah Surah had long aayaat which taught the Laws (Shari`ah).

      Baarak Allaahu feek/feeki.


  7. So helpful, I am an a level studentmuslim and have learnt so much i didn't already know ! :)thank you !

  8. Indeed, this was very helpful. Thank you very much for your time and effort. Inshallah, Allah will reward you and bless you and your family. Ameen

  9. Thank you very much for this...i am a student of edexcel igcse and i found this very helpful...May Allah Bless You :)

  10. This is what I was looking for. Thank you so much. :-)

    Please do small correction at section long verses (Point-5): Surah Al Baqara: 282 (not 292). Thanks.

    May Allah bless you.

  11. I liked it ..very useful

  12. wow, what an interesting, informative description. difference in surahs is described in a distinctive way................

  13. it was really informative....thanz alot!!!