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The Arrangement of Verses and Chapters in the Qur'an

Abul Ala Maududi
11/1/2011
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"The responsibility of its collection and its arrangement lies on Us" (75:17)

 

The word Jama‘ in the Arabic text of the verse above implies both collection and arrangement, which is a process quite different from the revelation. It is not true that the verses and chapters of the Holy Qur’an were arranged after the death of the Holy Prophet by someone else, or that they were arranged in the order of their length; the longest coming first and the shortest last. It is also wrong to say that within the chapters the passages are joined together without any regard to either chronology of revelation or similarity of subject, and that most heterogeneous materials are put together without any regard to logical sequence.

 

The whole Qur’an, complete in every respect, was available in the Holy Prophet’s life time (Caetani, 2:384). The Companions of the Holy Prophet say, ‘We used to write down the Holy Qur’an in the time of the Holy Prophet’ (Hakim: Al-Mustadrik, 2:611). The arrangement of chapters and verses in the copies of the Holy Qur’an at present in our hands does not follow the chronological order of revelation and their arrangement is Tauqif, i.e. effected by the Holy Prophet under the guidance of Divine revelations (75:17-18). And whenever a revelation came, the scribes were called and ‘…the Prophet told his scribes where to place a particular verse that was just revealed.’(Abu Dawood, At-Tirmidhi). It is also said in the Holy Qur’an: "(But We have revealed it) in this manner (- piece by piece out of necessity). And (in spite of the fact that it has not been revealed all at once,) We have arranged it in an excellent (form and order of) arrangement (and free of all contradictions)." (25:32).

 

The concise phrase Rattalna-hu-Tartilan in the above verse comprises the parallel concept of putting the component parts of a thing together and arranging them well, as well as endowing it with inner consistency. The word Tartil refers to the measured diction and the thoughtful manner in which it ought to be enunciated. Thus, from the very first, it was meant that the verses and the chapters of the Holy Scripture should be arranged in an order different from that of their revelation, otherwise the revelation and the collection and arrangement would not have been described as two different things.

 

There was an arrangement followed by the Holy Prophet and we know that many Companions of the Holy Prophet committed the Holy Qur’an to memory and could recite it in the recognized order as followed by the Prophet. This shows that there was a connection of its verses and chapters, and there was a recognized division of the Book and a fixed form and sequence. The chapters were distinctly marked out and their number was determined. Without a known order and sequence of verses, the Qur’an could not have been committed to memory. The present arrangement of the Qur’an does not differ from that followed by the Holy Prophet. There are several sayings of the Holy Prophet from which this can be inferred. The Holy Prophet said, ‘Whoever reads the last two verses of the chapter entitled Baqarah on any night, they are sufficient for him’ (Bukhari; 64:12). This shows that the Holy Prophet followed an arrangement which he had made known to his Companions. If such had not been the case he could not have referred to two verses as the ‘last’ two verses of a certain chapter. According to another saying of the Holy Prophet he told his Companions to recite the first ten and last ten verses of the chapter entitled Al-Kahf on a particular occasion. Had there been no sequence of verses, ‘the first ten verses and last ten verses’ would have been a meaningless phrase. Not only the verses of the Holy Qur’an but even its chapters were arranged by the Holy Prophet himself. This is afforded by the following saying of Anas: ‘At the time when the Banû Thaqif accepted Islam, I was in that delegation. The Holy Prophet said to us, 'When you people came to meet me, I was reciting my portion of the Holy Qur’an which I used to recite daily, so I decided not to go out until I had finished it.' Thereupon we questioned the Companions of the Holy Prophet as to how they divided the Holy Qur’an into portions for reading. They said, “We observe the following divisions, 3 chapters, 5 chapters, 7 chapters, 9 chapters, 11 chapters and 13 chapters, and all the remaining chapters beginning with chapter entitled Qaf ’ (Fath al-Bari, 9:39). This form of reading divided the Qur’an into seven portions or Ahzab, each portion to be recited in one day and, thus, the recital of the whole Qur’an (114 chapters) was finished in seven days. This report of Anas shows an arrangement of chapters which is observed to this day by the whole Muslim Ummah. This and many other reports by the Companions of the Prophet give conclusive testimony to the fact that the form and arrangement of the chapters of the Holy Book was brought about by the Holy Prophet himself, and that the present arrangement does not differ in the least from the original of the time of the Prophet.

 

The efforts of some European scholars such as Well, Nöldecke, Muir, Rodwell and others such as N. J. Dawood to rearrange the Holy Qur'an are misleading and are unworthy of being considered as scholarly.






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