Author: Javed Ahmad Ghamidi

The surahs of the Quran are not haphazardly compiled as is generally thought. They have been arranged in a specific order by the Almighty, and like the arrangement of the verses within a surah, the arrangement of the surahs within the Quran is very apt and meaningful with relation to the topic they discuss. In a nutshell, as per this arrangement, the Quran is divided in seven distinct groups and the surahs within each group occur in pairs. This pairing of the surahs is on the basis of the topics discussed, and each member of a pair has a complimentary relation with one another. Some surahs are an exception to this scheme like Surah Fatihah, which is like an introduction to the whole Quran. Some other surahs have come as an appendix or as a conclusion of a group. This scheme, with its seven surah-groups and pairing of the surahs, is stated by the Quran in the following words:

وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَاكَ سَبْعًا مِنْ الْمَثَانِي وَالْقُرْآنَ الْعَظِيمَ (١٥ : ٨٧)

And We have bestowed upon you seven mathani1 which is this great Quran.2 (15:87)

Each group of the Quran begins with one or more Makkan surah and ends with one or more Madinan surah.

Following is a brief description of the seven Quranic groups:

 

Group I {Surah Fatihah (1) – Surah Maidah (5)}

Makkan: 1

Madinan: 2-5

 

Group II {Surah Anam (6) – Surah Tawbah (9)}

Makkan: 6,7

Madinan: 8.9

 

Group III {Surah Yunus (10) – Surah Nur (24)}

Makkan: 10-23

Madinan: 24

 

Group IV {Surah Furqan (25) – Surah Ahzab (33)}

Makkan: 25-32

Madinan: 33

 

Group V {Surah Saba (34) – Surah Hujrat (49)}

Makkan: 34-46

Madinan: 47-49

 

Group VI {Surah Qaf (50) – Surah Tihrim (66)}

Makkan: 50-56

Madinan: 57-66

 

Group VII {Surah Mulk (67) – Surah Nas (114)}

Makkan: 67-112

Madinan : 113-14

 

Each group has a theme, and the surahs within it are arranged according to this theme.

The theme of the first group is to communicate the truth to the Jews and Christians to the extent that they are left with no excuse to deny it, to institute a new ummah from among the ishmaelites, its purification and isolation from the disbelievers and a description of the final worldly Judgment of God.

The theme of the second group is to communicate the truth to the polytheists of Arabia to the extent that they are left with no excuse to deny it, purification of the believers and their isolation from the disbelievers and a description of the final worldly Judgment of God.

The third, fourth, fifth and sixth groups have the same theme: delivering warning and glad tidings and purification of the believers and their isolation from the disbelievers.

The theme of the seventh group is to warn the leadership of the Quraysh of the consequences of the Hereafter, to communicate the truth to them to the extent that they are left with no excuse to deny it, and, as a result, to warn them of a severe punishment, and to give glad tidings to Muhammad (sws) of the dominance of his religion in the Arabian peninsula. Briefly, this can be stated as delivering warning and glad tidings.

If the first group is not taken into consideration, the sequence of the groups is from the end to the beginning (the seventh to the second group). Consequently, the seventh group ends on delivering warning and glad tidings. After that, in the sixth, fifth, fourth and third groups besides the theme of delivering warning and glad tidings, the theme of purification of the believers and their isolation from the disbelievers is also added. The second group is the culmination of the groups. It is here that the indhar of Muhammad (sws) reaches its culmination too. Thus besides the themes of delivering warning and glad tidings, and the purification of the believers and their isolation from the disbelievers, the worldly Judgement of God is also depicted which is actually a miniature Day of Judgement that will take place before the actual Day of Judgement.

The first group addresses the People of the Book of Arabia and in this respect differs from the rest. However, it too relates to the worldly judgement pronounced in the second group in Surah Tawbah in the very manner the rest of the groups relate to it. Thus the second group is the culmination of all the groups. The topic of indhar after passing through various phases reaches its peak of worldly judgement in this group from both sides. The only difference are the addressees.

It is evident from this that from the seventh to the second group an ascending order arrangement is present in order relate it with the first group in this manner.

The first group has been placed the foremost because the recipients of the Quran are its addresses the foremost.

Except for the first group, the Makkan surahs of each group discuss delivering of warning and glad tidings and of communicating the truth to the addresses to the extent that they do not have any excuse to deny it, while the Madinan surahs discuss the purification and isolation of the believers. However, both the Makkan and Madinan surahs are in harmony and consonance with one another in each group and relate to one another in a manner a root and stem are related to the branches.

This then is the arrangement of the Quran. If it is deliberated upon at length the extent of guidance it provides to a student of the Quran in understanding the background of the surahs and their time of revelation and the addressees of the Quran as well in determining the topic of a surah and its purport cannot be obtained whatsoever from any thing external to the Quran.

(Adapted from Ghamidis "Meezan" – the section "Arrangement of the Quran, Principles of Understanding the Qur’an")

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1. Mathani (مثاني) is the plural of mathna (مثنى) and it means something which occurs in pairs.

2. For an explanation of this verse see: Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Quran, 2nd ed., vol. 4 (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986),           377-378.