Compiled by Wolf Pangloss
Refer to this blogpost for history and explanation behind this page. Page structure is adapted from Edward Sell.
From the first to the fifth year of the Prophet’s Mission. A.D. 612-17.
The Suras of the early Meccan period exhibit the dark feelings and suspicions of the Prophet, though the language is often very fine and the rhetorical cadence is full of poetic colour. The oaths with which he strengthens his teaching are very characteristic. The strong and comminatory attacks on his adversaries, of whom he even singles out some, are a marked feature of this period of his career. These Suras are the finest in the whole Qur’an and in them the passionate agitation of the Prophet appears at its height. (Sell)
The early Meccan suras were recited by Mohammed when he was just beginning his career as the prophet of the Arabs. This section of the Koran is poetic, relatively mild, and tolerant, though there is some fire and brimstone reserved for those among the Meccans who persecuted the Muslims, especially those of lower status than Mohammed. The early Meccan suras describe the Muslim way when the Muslims are outnumbered, weak, without support in a place, when they are preparing the ground and planting the seed.
96, 74, 111, 106, 108, 104, 107, 102, 105, 92, 90, 94, 93, 97, 86, 91, 8o, 68, 87, 95, 103, 85, 73, 101, 99, 82, 81, 53, 84, 100, 79, 77, 78, 88, 89, 75, 83, 69, 51, 52, 56, 70, 55, 112, 109, 113, 114, 1.
Toward the end of the first period at Mecca, Mohammed sent some of his followers away from their persecution at the hands of his fellow tribesmen, the Quraysh, to Abyssinia for a few months.
The promised allurements of Paradise and all the threatened terrors of hell and all this alleged supernatural power over witchcraft failed to win over the Quraish, and the Prophet, being then unable to protect his poorer followers and unwilling to run the risk of their perversion, recommended them to emigrate to Abyssinia, a country at that time in close commercial relations with Arabia. The emigrants were few in number, but it was an evidence to the Meccans that their faith was real and that exile was preferable to possibly forced recantation. (Sell)
At the end of the months, the Quraysh relented in their persecution of the Muslims and invited the Abyssinian exiles to return.
The fifth and sixth years of the Prophet’s Mission. A.D. 617-19.
The struggle against Mohammed’s tribe, the Quraysh, waxed and waned over the time that Mohammed spent in Mecca establishing the first community of Muslims. The second period was distinguished by slowly increasing opposition from the Qurayshi against Mohammed and the Muslims. In this struggle Mohammed was protected and succored by his clan, the Hashem, the hereditary princes of Mecca and environs. The suras of this and the third period are distinguished by their focus on the divine inspiration of the Koran, and on revealing the ties between the Islamic teaching and the teachings of Judaism and Christianity, the other religions of the book.
The suras of the second Meccan period describe the way that Muslims act when they are still weak, but have established a coherent but vulnerable community, must focus on defense, and are growing, when the seed sprouts and its roots seek into the earth.
From the seventh year to the Hijra. A.D. 619-22.
In the third period, the Quraysh expanded the persecution of Mohammed and the Muslims to his clan, the Hashem. They boycotted the Hashem to persuade them to drop their protection of Mohammed. The surahs of the third Meccan period show the way Muslims should act when they have grown beyond utter weakness, continue to grow, face opposition by some, but are not yet dominant in a community, when the seedling grows into a large shrub or small tree (that just might resemble a large weed and spur a gardener to attempt to pull it out by the roots) and branches out, shading the ground beneath.
MEDINA SURAS (a, b, c)
From the Hijra to the end. A D. 622-32.
The Hijra was Mohammed’s flight to Yathrib, which was to become Medina. In Medina he became a leader and warlord, and the Muslims achieved great martial and political power, plus great wealth.
The city of Yathrib was not unknown to Muhammad. His grandfather and his great-grandmother were natives of the place and his father was buried there. There was a good deal of rivalry between Yathrib and Mecca and a man despised in the latter place would not thereby be at a disadvantage in the former. Then, for more than one hundred years there had been a blood feud between the men of the two great tribes who dwelt in Yathrib, and just now there was a disposition to put a stop to these dissensions by selecting some one person as a king or ruler. ‘Hence the soil of Yathrib was thoroughly prepared for Islam. In a healthy community like that of Mecca it gained no hold; but in one that was ailing from long years of civil strife, it could spread apace.’ There was also a strong Jewish colony there which prepared the way for religious reform. The people of Mecca were utter materialists and could not rise to the spiritual part of the Prophet’s teaching. In Yathrib it was different; long intercourse with Jews had made such subjects as the unity of God, revelation through prophets and a future life more or less familiar to the inhabitants of the city. Islam owes much to Yathrib. It saved Muhammad from passing away as a mere enthusiast, rejected and disowned by his own people. It ‘became the real birthplace of Islam, the cradle of its political power and the centre of its conquests throughout Arabia.’ It is thus justly named al-Madinatu’n-Nabi, the city of the Prophet, and its converts are truly termed the Ansar, or helpers of Islam. (Sell)
The suras of the Medinan period show the way Muslims should act when they are dominant in a community, when the tree becomes large, its root system extensive, and other plants cannot grow in its shade.