What is the reason for the differences of expression in the chapters of the Quran?

The Details of the Question

- It is stated in the translations and interpretations of the Quran I read that the differences of the content and style in Makkan and Madinan chapters are based on the states of the addressees in the period they were sent down. Although the first addressee of all verses is Hz. Muhammad (pbuh), some chapters are very difficult to read. Although the chapter of an-Nisa was sent down in Madinah and the chapter of al-Furqan in Makkah, the last parts of the verses end in the same way.

- What is the reason for the differences of style and Arabic grammar in them?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The information about the qualities of Makkan and Madinan chapters included in the resources of tafsir methodology will serve as an answer to the question. 

The summary of the issue is as follows:

The chapters of the Quran are divided into two as Makkan and Madinan. The chapters sent down before the Migration are called Makkan and after the Migration Madinan.

The Qualities of Makkan Chapters

a. All of the chapters that have khuruf al-muqatta’a at the beginning are Makkans except al-Baqara and Aal-i Imran.

b. All chapters that include verses of prostration are Makkan.

c. The chapters that include the word كَلاَّ  (No, never!) are Makkan. For, a great majority of Makkans was conceited and arrogant people. With the use of that word, their bigheadedness was rejected and they were virtually threatened.   

d. All of the chapters in which the stories of the previous ummahs and prophets are narrated are Makkan except al-Baqara.

e. All of the chapters in which the story of Hz. Adam and Iblis are narrated are Makkan except al-Baqara.

f. There are some exceptions but the chapters that include the phrase يَا اَيُّهَا النَّاس and that do not include the phrase يَا اَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا are Makkan.

g. A great majority of short chapters is Makkan.

Makkan Chapters in terms of Topic

a. Since Makkan chapters generally address unbelievers, belief in Allah and the hereafter are often dwelled on.

b. It is often stated that the thought of shirk (polytheism) is wrong and that it is blind imitation; it is emphasized that this way, followed by their ancestors, is wrong and it is stated that they need to use their minds. 

c. In Makkan chapters, issues like Allah’s majesty and sultanate, the necessity of obedience to Him and belief in the hereafter are in the foreground.

d. In Makkan chapters, the prophets that lived in the past and the struggle between the prophets and their nations are narrated in detail.

e. Social rules that are to be accepted by everybody like ethical principles, honesty, goodness, visiting relatives, treating parents well, rights of neighbors, controlling the tongue and the heart are dwelled on in different ways along with the issues like the badness of  unbelief, sins, oppression, burying children alive, killing and fornication.

There are some differences between Makkan and Madinan chapters in terms of style too. They are as follows:

a. Makkan verses and chapters are short; the expressions are concise and emphatic. For, such a poetic style affects the addressee more.

b. Some important words and sentences are repeated; vows and proverbs are used.

c. The states of the Day of Resurrection and descriptions of Paradise and Hell cover a large place.

d. Struggle with polytheists and evidences to refute polytheism are mentioned a lot. The reason why such a style is preferred is the obstinate attitudes and negative acts of the people of Makkah toward the Prophet (pbuh) and the Quran. The Quran uses such a style in order to dissuade them from their attitudes, to influence them and to enable them to believe.

The Qualities of Madinan Chapters

a. Issues of law, penal law, shares of inheritance, some social rules and some principles related to state law are dwelled on. 

b. Decrees on permission to fight and war are included.

c. All of the chapters in which munafiqs (hypocrites) are mentioned are Madinan except the chapter of al-Ankabut.

d. Relationships with Jews and Christians, and issues like calling them to leave their mistakes are dwelled on in Madinan chapters.

Madinan Chapters in terms of Topic

a. Madinan chapters are generally longer because legal decrees are dwelled on in those chapters and verses.

b. A soft and lenient style is used in general. For, the revelation sent down in this period is an expanded from of the previous revelation. This makes it necessary for the verses and chapters to be longer and more detailed.

In addition, the addressees in Madinah are usually believers; therefore, a soft and lenient style is preferred.

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