Blog: Al-Qur'an Tafsir-Exegesis
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Chronological Analysis of the Qur'an

In the following we will present a very brief look at three main benefits of the chronological analysis of the Qur'an

Date:   8/29/2005 10:47:17 AM   ( 17 y ) ... viewed 1795 times

Knowing the chronological order in which the different Qur'anic Surahs (chapters) or verses were revealed can be of importance in some cases. And even though this may not be possible for all of the 6234 verses because the sequence was recorded at anytime, through sound Ijtihad (research) and analysis, scholars were capable of putting together the cases where authentic reports confirmed such order and the cases where that order was made clear.

These efforts resulted in the development of a method in which the revelation of the Qur'an was looked at in chronological terms as well as dividing revelation into Makki (Makkan) and Madani (Madinan) types or periods. We will first look at some of the benefits of this chronological analysis then proceed to discuss the Makki and Madani criteria and their use in the Tafseer (interpretation) and the deduction of Fiqh (jurisprudence) rulings.

In the following we will present a very brief look at three main benefits of the chronological analysis of the Qur'an, other benefits and many more examples can be found in As-Syooti's al-Itqan:

Assessment of Rulings' Abrogation

Abrogation is a term that refers to the cases in which a ruling gets abrogated by another. Simply put, abrogation means the replacement of one verse by another thus reversing or repealing the ruling that was revealed in it. Therefore, if we have a case in which we have two verses that carry in them two rulings which oppose one another and we could reconcile them in a way that is acceptable under the Principles of Fiqh (Jurisprudence), then we look at the chronological order of their revelation to assess which verse carries the abrogated ruling. Obviously, the verse revealed first carries the abrogated ruling, and we should uphold the ruling carried in the late-revealed one.

Knowledge of Shari'ah (Islamic Law) Legislative History

Examples of that: If we knew that
1. The verses making salah obligatory were revealed in Makkah before the Hijrah [migration of Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) and his companions from Makkah to Madina].
2. The verses making Zakah (poor due) and Saum (fasting) obligatory were revealed during the second year of Hijrah, and
3. The verses that established the obligation of Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah) were revealed in the sixth year of Hijrah,
We would know the sequence in which these pillars of Islam were established.

Appreciation of the Gradual Process in Legislation

This is an important part of the general message of Islam especially the aspect related to making prohibitions and having people go through major changes of life style. Knowledge of the chronology of how these aspects were made in the early period of Islam leads one to appreciate the wisdom behind the gradual process of legislation. A good example of this is the prohibition of inebriants. First, people were told they are bad but may have some benefit,
"They ask you about wine and gambling. Say in them is great sin, and yet some benefit to people" [2:219]

Then they were told not to drink before Prayer-( salah ),
"O you who believed do not approach salah while you are intoxicated." [4:42]

And later intoxicants were prohibited altogether,
"O you who believed, indeed, intoxicants, gambling... are a defilement and from the work of Satan." [5:90]

In this example we notice the way the legislation considered the fact that drinking ( wine ) was a major part of the Arabs' social life. But the gradual approach used in indicating its harms and making it prohibited on them made it easy for them to accept, a realistic approach which we can all learn from. God is Merciful and knows what each soul is going through. We should never think we are alone, He knows and gives us the easy way, the middle way to follow, which is Islam- Submission to the Will of God.  

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