Reconciling Differing Reports About Whether a Surah is Makki or Madani

While most surahs of the Qur’an are unanimously categorized as either Makki or Madani, there have been differing reports and opinions about the proper classification of a small group of twelve surahs. Some of these differences stem from differences in terminology, instances of repeated revelation, Madani ayaat being included in an otherwise Makki surah, or other reasons. In the article below, sheikh Muhammad al-Tahir ibn ‘Aashoor discusses the differing classifications of surah al-Mutaffifeen (83) and demonstrates how to understand the differing reports and come to a conclusion. Being one of the famous mufassiroon of recent centuries, Ibn ‘Aashoor (d. 1393AH/1973CE) had the benefit of drawing on the wealth of tafsir literature before him, as is evident in this passage and his entire book:

وقد اختلف في كونها مكية أو مدنية أو بعضها مكي وبعضها مدني . فعن ابن مسعود والضحاك ومقاتل في رواية عنه : أنها مكية ، وعن ابن عباس في الأصح عنه وعكرمة والحسن والسدي ومقاتل في رواية أخرى عنه : أنها مدنية ، قال : وهي أول سورة نزلت بالمدينة ، وعن ابن عباس في رواية عنه وقتادة : هي مدنية إلا ثماني آيات من آخرها من قوله : إن الذين أجرموا إلى آخرها . ـ

The scholars have differed as to whether surah al-Mutaffifeen (83) is

a. Makki
b. Madani
c. Part Makki and part Madani

It has been relayed that ibn Mas’ood, al-Dhahhaak and in one narration Muqatil held it to be Makki, while it is transmitted from ibn ‘Abbaas according to the most authentic narration from him,’Ikrimah, al-Hasan, al-Suddi and Muqatil in a different narration that they held it to be Madani. And Muqatil said, “It was the first surah to be revealed in al-Madinah.” It has also been relayed in one narration from ibn ‘Abbaas as well as from Qatadah that it is a Madani surah except for the last eight ayaat beginning from Allah’s statement:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ أَجْرَمُوا

Indeed, those who committed crimes … [83:29]

until the end of the surah.

وقال الكلبي وجابر بن زيد : نزلت بين مكة والمدينة فهي لذلك مكية ; لأن العبرة في المدني بما نزل بعد الهجرة على المختار من الأقوال لأهل علم القرآن . ـ

al-Kalbi and Jaabir ibn Zayd said, “It was revealed in between Mecca and al-Madinah, so therefore it is Makki.” That is because according to the favored position among the scholars of the Qur’an, the determining factor for something being Madani is that it was revealed after the Hijrah.

قال ابن عطية : احتج جماعة من المفسرين على أنها مكية بذكر الأساطير فيها أي : قوله : إذا تتلى عليه آياتنا قال أساطير الأولين . والذي نختاره : أنها نزلت قبل الهجرة ; لأن معظم ما اشتملت عليه التعريض بمنكري البعث . ـ

Ibn ‘Atiyyah said:

A group of the mufassiroon argued that it is Makki because it mentions the word al-Asaatir in it. That is, in Allah’s statement

إِذَا تُتْلَىٰ عَلَيْهِ آيَاتُنَا قَالَ أَسَاطِيرُ الْأَوَّلِينَ

When Our ayaat are recited to him, he says, “Legends of the former peoples.” [83:13]

and the stance that we would take is that it was revealed prior to the Hijrah because the majority of its contents are in response to those who doubt the resurrection of the dead.

ومن اللطائف أن تكون نزلت بين مكة والمدينة ; لأن التطفيف كان فاشيا في البلدين . وقد حصل من اختلافهم أنها : إما آخر ما أنزل بمكة وإما أول ما أنزل بالمدينة ، والقول بأنها نزلت بين مكة والمدينة قول حسن . ـ

There is a subtle point behind it being revealed between Mecca and al-Madinah, which is that the business practice of titling the scales was widespread in both locations. There has been some differing as to whether this was the last surah to be revealed in Mecca or the first surah to be revealed in al-Madinah, but the position that it was revealed between Mecca and al-Madinah is a good one.

ـ [ ص: 188 ] فقد ذكر الواحدي في أسباب النزول عن ابن عباس قال : لما قدم النبيء – صلى الله عليه وسلم – المدينة كانوا من أخبث الناس كيلا فأنزل الله تعالى ويل للمطففين فأحسنوا الكيل بعد ذلك . ـ

In his book Asbab al-Nuzool, al-Wahidi mentioned that ibn ‘Abbaas said:

When the Prophet came to al-Madinah, its people were some of the worst when it came to unfairly measuring goods for buying and selling. So then Allah revealed Wayl li’l-Mutaffifeen and they amended their way of measuring after that.

وعن القرظي ” كان بالمدينة تجار يطففون الكيل وكانت بياعاتهم كسبة القمار والملامسة والمنابذة والمخاصرة ، فأنزل الله تعالى هذه الآية فخرج رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – إلى السوق وقرأها ، وكانت عادة فشت فيهم من زمن الشرك فلم يتفطن بعض الذين أسلموا من أهل المدينة لما فيه من أكل مال الناس . فأريد إيقاظهم لذلك ، فكانت مقدمة لإصلاح أحوال المسلمين في المدينة مع تشنيع أحوال المشركين بمكة ويثرب بأنهم الذين سنوا التطفيف ” . ـ

al-Qurtubi mentioned:

In al-Madinah there were traders who titled the scales and engaged in many kinds of un-Islamic business practices. So then Allah revealed this ayah and Allah’s Messenger went out to the marketplace and recited it. These practices were common among them prior to Islam, so it hadn’t occurred to some of the people of al-Madinah who had entered into Islam that these things involved taking people’s wealth unjustly, so the Prophet sought to alert them to this fact. This was the beginning of the rectification of the state of the Muslims in al-Madinah, as well as highlighting the bad condition of the Mushrikoon of both Mecca and Yathrib who continued to participate in the unjust measuring and weighing practices.

وما أنسب هذا المقصد بأن تكون نزلت بين مكة والمدينة لتطهير المدينة من فساد المعاملات التجارية قبل أن يدخل إليها النبيء – صلى الله عليه وسلم – لئلا يشهد فيها منكرا عاما فإن الكيل والوزن لا يخلو وقت عن التعامل بهما في الأسواق وفي المبادلات . ـ

In light of this objective, how appropriate it is that this surah was revealed between Mecca and al-Madinah in order to purify al-Madinah of these corrupt business practices prior to the Prophet’s arrival so that he would not find widespread vice there, for weighing and measuring are an ever-present aspect of business transactions and exchanges in any marketplace.

[Tafsir ibn ‘Aashoor 31/187-188]

See also: Makki and Madani Series

See also: Makki and Madani Article Index

See also: The Makki and Madani Surahs in Chronological Order: al-Suyooti

See also: The Last Parts of the Qur’an to be Revealed: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

See also: What the Memorizer of the Qur’an Ought to Know: Makki ibn Abi Taalib

3 thoughts on “Reconciling Differing Reports About Whether a Surah is Makki or Madani

  1. Pingback: Makki and Madani Series Part 1 – Definitions: al-Suyooti | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: The Makki and Madani Surahs in Chronological Order: al-Suyooti | Tulayhah

  3. Pingback: A Question about the Length of the Makki Surahs | Tulayhah

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