in category Qur'an

What were the themes of early Meccan suras?

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The early Meccan period surahs generally deal with one of six principal subjects:

  • polemic,
  • eschatology,
  • God's personal communication with the Messenger,
  • the signs of God's power and beneficence,
  • lessons from history, and
  • the status and authenticity of the revelation.

These themes are not necessarily concentrated in discrete sections, making the task of an analyst that much more difficult. For instance, the eschatological material and signs controversies are often embedded in a matrix of polemic. Similarly, ayahs concerning the status and authenticity of the revelation often occur in personal communications addressed to the Messenger.

These contrast with Medinan subjects and themes.

The shortest Medinan surah, Nasr, is the only one exclusively addressing God's personal communication with the Messenger whilst other surahs contain some passages. Passages sometimes begin with the words 'Oh Prophet' (8.64, 65, 70; 9.73; 33.1, 45, 50, 59; 60.12; 65.1; 66.i,9) or 'Oh Messenger' (5.41), not found in the Meccan surahs. Polemic against the pagan Arabs is rarer appearing only in Surah 98, whilst it increases against the People of the Book. Medinan
revelations focus in guiding the new Islamic community with exhortatory or legislative material, with eighty-six instances of 'Oh you who believe'. Eschatology material is still visible with references to eternal rewards and punishments.

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