There are a number of reasons why a distinction needs to be made between Makkan and Madeenan soorahs and verses. The following are three of the most important reasons:
1. Fiqh (Islamic Law):
The various laws of Islaam were revealed over a period of twenty-three years. Some laws canceled earlier laws and other laws were revealed bit by bit. Thus, it is necessary to know at which point in time the various laws were revealed in order to apply them properly. The laws of the later Madeenan period sometimes took the place of earlier laws. For example, alcohol was made forbidden in gradual stages. The first law concerning alcohol was simply a warning of its dangers.
“And they ask you about khamr (alcohol) and maysir (gambling); tell them that they contain some benefit, but the sin is greater than the benefit.”
The second law that was revealed warned Muslims away from salaah when they were intoxicated (drunk). Allaah said,
“Do not come to salaah when you are intoxicated, until you know what you are saying.”
The third law, however, was a complete prohibition of even coming near any form of alcohol. Allaah said,
“Verily, khamr, maysir and azlaam (fortunetelling) are filth, as a result of Shaytaan’s work, so stay away from them.”
If one was unaware of the order in which these verses were revealed, he may mistakenly think that he is allowed to drink alcohol as long as he doesn’t get drunk and come to salaah. Or, he may think that it is allowed for him to benefit from the sale of alcohol.
By understanding the order in which the verses of the Qur’aan were revealed, one can learn the best method of teaching Islaam. For example, the Qur’aan taught the believers not to curse or make fun of the idols of the disbelievers in order not to drive them away and in order that they not curse Allaah out of ignorance. Instead they were told to reason with the disbelievers and show them logically why the worship of idols was incorrect. Allaah quoted Prophet Ibraaheem as saying to his people,
“Are you worshipping besides Allaah other gods which cannot benefit you at all nor harm you?”
The verse quoting Ibraaheem’s declaration of enmity to his people and what they worshipped instead of Allaah:
“There is an excellent example for you in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their people, ‘We are clear of you and of whatever you worship besides Allah; we have rejected you, and there has arisen, between us and you, enmity and hatred forever, unless ye believe in Allah alone,’ ”
was revealed in Madeenah, after the Muslims had practiced years of patient argument with their relatives in Makkah. The disbelievers of Makkah had met reasoned argument with persecution and violence. They had driven the Muslims from their homes, and a state of armed conflict existed between the two sides. It is not, therefore, Sunnah for a person to accept Islaam, read this verse and try to apply it on his family and acquaintances.
Most of the most important events in the Prophet’s life have been recorded in various verses of the Qur’aan. Thus, by knowing the order in which the verses were revealed, it is possible to piece together a large portion of the biography of the Prophet (ﷺ).
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