Quran - Text

Text

The text of the Quran consists of 114 chapters of varying lengths, each known as a sura. Chapters are classed as Meccan or Medinan, depending on when (before or after Hijra) the verses were revealed. Chapter titles are derived from a name or quality discussed in the text, or from the first letters or words of the sura. Muslims believe that Muhammad, on God's command, gave the chapters their names. Generally, longer chapters appear earlier in the Quran, while the shorter ones appear later. The chapter arrangement is thus not connected to the sequence of revelation. Each sura except the ninth starts with the Bismillah, an Arabic phrase meaning (“In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful”). There are, however, still 114 occurrences of the bismillah in the Quran, due to its presence in verse 27:30 as the opening of Solomon's letter to the Queen of Sheba.

Each sura is formed from several ayat (verses), which originally means a sign or portent sent by God. The number of verses differ from chapter to chapter. An individual verse may be just a few letters or several lines. The verses are unlike the highly refined poetry of the pre-Islamic Arabs in their content and distinctive rhymes and rhythms, being more akin to the prophetic utterances marked by inspired discontinuities found in the sacred scriptures of Judaism and Christianity. The actual number of ayat has been a controversial issue among Muslim scholars since Islam's inception, some recognizing 6,000, some 6,204, some 6,219, and some 6,236, although the words in all cases are the same. The most popular edition of the Quran, which is based on the Kufa school tradition, contains 6,236 ayat.

There is a crosscutting division into 30 parts of roughly equal division, ajza, each containing two units called ahzab, each of which is divided into four parts (rub 'al-ahzab). The Quran is also divided into seven approximately equal parts, manazil, for it to be recited in a week.

The Quranic text seems to have no beginning, middle, or end, its nonlinear structure being akin to a web or net. The textual arrangement is sometimes considered to have lack of continuity, absence of any chronological or thematic order, and presence of repetition.

Fourteen different Arabic letters form 14 different sets of “Quranic Initials” (the "Muqatta'at", such as A.L.M. of 2:1) and prefix 29 suras in the Quran. The meaning and interpretation of these initials is considered unknown to most Muslims.

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