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Surahs revealed in Mecca, Medinah

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N. Truth Seeker
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« on: April 24, 2013, 05:09:02 pm »

In Pickthall's translations of the Noble Quran, the author's preview prior to every Surah mentions whether that Surah was revealed in Mecca or Medinah along with the possible or approximate period of revelation.  How far do you think that observation is accurate?

Need some guidelines because a lecture session has been organized in our Islamic community centre on Islamic history and I'm one of speakers.  Will speak for an hour on various topics and I intend to take up this as one of the points.
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Heba E. Husseyn
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« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2013, 08:49:46 am »

Salam brother PT.   I read your post yesterday but was in a rush and didn't have the time to respond.  Here I am this morning to discuss it Smiley

Your question is not an easy one to answer, brother  Smiley  However, I'll do my best.  But Allah knows best.

Actually Pickthall does not assert this point.  As a mere translator, he has made it quite clear that such confirmations are difficult and one can only broadly analyze the place and date of revelations by the contents of the Quran and the dates of various historical events. 

The other source of this information are supposed to be a bunch of traditions where the information is allegedly comes from the "witnesses."  But this isn't a reliable source at all.  You must have guessed why.  'Witnesses' is a tricky word as it refers to some of the Hadith narrators, and almost all of them are notoriously unreliable.  Since the "witnesses" have lied so much about the Prophet and his life throughout all Hadith collections, can we trust them to provide accurate information on where the different Surahs or ayats were revealed?  Besides, even if they were truthful, it would be almost impossible for them to recall every place of revelation of every ayat or Surah nor the date of every revelation. 

I reiterate, by reading Pickthall's translations, I can sense that it's the bulk of the Quranic contents of every Surah that help to decide where it was revealed and approximately when.  If a Surah indicates majority of its verses having a Meccan connection and lesser number of verses with a Medinah connection, then that Surah officially carries the Meccan label.

As I have seen mentioned by Pickthall in his previews, several Meccan Surahs contain few ayats revealed in Medinah and vice-versa.  This information is sometimes according to the Quranic contents, which we can discern ourselves as we read the Quran.  But sometimes it's also through "witnesses" which cannot be confirmed nor trusted.  Also, information on the place of revelation coming from these "witnesses" often do not tally with the Quranic contents.  Some "witness" may say a particular Quranic verse was revealed in Medinah, but the contents of that verse indicate its connection with Mecca.  In such cases, the witness's opinion must be ignored, and we must only focus on the contents of the verse to conclude where it might have been revealed. 

For example, quoting Pickthall's preview of Surah Raad, Chapter 13, he writes:  "According to some ancient authority it is a Meccan Surah with the exception of two verses revealed in Medinah, but according to others it's a Medinah Surah with the exception of two verses revealed at Mecca.  The very fact of such wholesale difference of opinion favours the Meccan attribution because there could be no such doubt about a complete Medinah Surah, owing to the great number of witnesses.  The Meinah ascription may have arisen from the recognition of some verses by those witnesses as having been revealed at Medinah on a certain occasion."   In this quote, as you would notice, Pickthall has givensome benefit of the doubt to the witnesses by implying that it's easier to know a Medinah revelation because of the great number of witnesses there.  However, in reality, the larger the number of witnesses, the greater the confusion!  I'm sure Pickthall knew that.  He was just trying to be a little polite to the traditionalists who were already giving him a hard time getting his translations published, as they considered his translations too independent of the Hadith.   But Pickthall handled them quite wisely.  He did not change  his translations to please them.  But to make up for that, he occasionally mentions of witnesses in his preview which can be ignored as it doesn't hamper with the Quranic translations.

It's hard to pinpoint or confirm which year a particular Surah was revealed.  An example being Surah Yusuf, Chapter 12.  I again quote Pickthall's review where he writes: "Tradition says it was recited by the Prophet at Mecca to the first converts from Medinah in the second year before the Hijrah (which would be about 11 years after the Prophet got the Call).  But Noldeke points out, that does not mean it was not revealed till then but that it had been revealed by then."

So, as we can see, it's not easy to confirm the place nor the exact year of revelation of any ayat or a complete Surah.  One can only analyze with the help of Quranic contents and the approximate dates of events in history.

However, the main point is that this entire aspect concerning place and year of revelation is not important from the view point of studying the Quran.  The focus is required only on the substance of the Quran.  Every verse of every Surah needs to be understood properly for correct implementation of its rules and values in our daily lives.  The fact that Allah Almighty has not mentioned, not even hinted, the place of revelation of any Surah nor its year makes it obvious that this matter is not of any importance. 

I hope this helps you at the lecture session.   I wish you success, brother.  When is it? 
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« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2017, 11:23:53 am »

I thank you my Sister.  Four years after you put up this clarification, my husband and I were discussing the same point and I said let me look if I can find some answers at our MV. 

I get your point perfectly.   Salam and Allah bless.
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