Last updated: 13th October 2006
Question ID: #2760
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13th October 2006

How was the Quran compiled, i.e. the order of surahs etc.?


Al-jawab billahi at-taufeeq (the answer with Allah's guidance)

There is Ijma' (concensus) concerning the arrangement of the verses being divinely inspired (Tauqeefi). However, there is a difference of opinion concerning the order of the chapters.

`Uthmaan Ibn `Affaan (RadhiyAllahu Ta'ala Anhu) narrated: "Sometimes, several surahs were revealed to Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam). When anything was revealed to him, he would call on one of his scribes and say: 'Insert this into the Surahs where there is such and such.' When some verses were revealed, he would say: 'Insert these verses into the Surahs in which there is such and such.' When a single verse was revealed, he would say: 'Insert this verse into the surahs in which there is such and such.’ " (Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Nasai and Tirmidhi)

`Uthman Ibn Abu Al-`As narrates that Allah's Messenger (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said: ‘Jibril (Alayhis Salam) came (to me) and ordered me to insert this verse into this position of these surahs. The verse reads: "Allah orders justice, and good deeds, and giving to one's kindred. He forbids indecency, dishonor and insolence. He admonishes you in order that you take heed." (16:90) (Ahmad)

From these narations it is understood that not only was the arrangement of the verses divinely inspired, so were the chapters according to many scholars.

Is the arrangement of Surahs Tauqeefi (divinely inspired) or Ijtihadi (inference):

Some 'Ulamaa like Imam Malik and Abu bakr Al Baqillani (from his first narration) are in the view that the arrangement of Surahs were Ijtihadi.

Ibn Ashtah mentions in his Kitabul Masahif that Uthman (RadiyAllahu Ta'ala Anhu) ordered the Sahabah to arrange the lenghy Surahs one after another i.e. Surah Al Baqarah, Aale 'Imran, An Nisa etc,.

Also, there were different arrangements of Surahs in different Masahifs (Pl. of Mushaf, scripts) like that of Ali (RadiyAllahu Ta'ala Anhu) which was arranged by the order of revelation i.e. Surah Iqra', Maddathir, Muzzammil etc,. The Mushaf of Ibn Masud which was arranged like, Al Baqarah, An Nisa, Aale 'Imran. There were many other Masahifs like Mushaf of Ubay ibn Ka'ab and others (RadiyAllahu Ta'ala Anhum).

Some 'Ulamaa like Imam Abu bakr Al Baqillani (from his second narration) and Abu bakr Al Ambari are in the view that the arrangements of Surahs were Tauqeefi.

Abu Ja'far Nuhas (Rahmatullahi Alaih) says, the best opinion is that the arrangement of the Surahs was compiled by the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wasallam).

Wathila (RadhiyAllahu Ta'ala Anhu) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu Alaihi wasallam) said,"I have been given As Sab'ut Tuwal (the seven longest ones) in lieu of Torah (old testament), Al Me'een (Surats consisting of about a hundred or more verses) in lieu of Zabur (Psalms), Al Mathani (oft repeated Surats) in lieu of Injeel (new testament), and Al Mufassal (the explicit ones) as a special favour for me." (Ahmad)

This Hadith clearly states that the arrangement of the Quran was done by the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wasallam) and it has remained the same.


The Best opinion is that the arrangement of many chapters was divinely inspired (Tauqeefi), although some chapters were placed through the Ijtihad (inference) of the Companions. For instance, it is reported that the Companions placed Surat al-Tawba after Surat al-Anfal, through their Ijtihad.

Imam Baihaqi (Rahmatullahi Alaih) says,"The arrangement of every Surah of the Quran was Tauqeefi (divinely inspired) except, Surah Anfal and Bara'at (Tawbah)."

(Al Ittiqan Fi 'Uloomil Quran Vol.1 Pg.162, 173 and Tarteebus Suwar Al Quran Pg. 31,39)

And Only Allah Ta'ala Knows Best.

Answer last updated on:
18th September 2008
Answered by:
Ulamaa ID 04
Location: London