Organization of the Qur'an

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Present Organization

Except for the first surah, Al-Fatiha, the Qur'an is organized by descending length of the surah. That is to say that the longest surah is Surah 2 and the shortest is Surah 114. This organization indicates nothing about the chronology of the material in any possible dating scheme.

Meccan and Medinan Surahs

The traditional Islamic narrative postulates that the Qur'an was revealed in two phases: before and after the hijrah from Mecca to Medina. Thus, the terms Meccan Surahs and Medinan Surahs arose.

Meccan Surahs

The traditional Islamic narrative postulates that the Meccan suras were revealed while the Ummah was in Mecca, before the Hijrah, when the Ummah was weak. The surahs classified by the traditional scholars as "Meccan" are generally pacifist and tolerant, though some threats against unbelievers of hell fire are still made.

Medinan Surahs

After the Hijrah, Muslim history puts the Muslim community in Medina. The Medinan Muslims were strong and willing to use force against any opponents. The Medinan Surahs reflect this in the harshness of their tone, with repeated threats of and calls to physical violence against unbelievers in this world.

Secular Critical Scholarship

Recently, some critical scholars such as Christoph Luxenberg and Gabriel Said Reynolds have postulated that the original core material of the Quran was Christian, used by Aramaic-speaking Christian missionaries, priests and laity. Luxenberg, in particular, believes that many of these surahs were, in fact, originally written in a literay dialect of Aramaic known as Syriac, and that this Syriac material was later Arabacized. Other surahs show Syriac influence, having been apparently composes in an Aramaic-Arabic "Mischsprache" or mixed-language. The particulars of Luxenberg's thesis have been torn apart by scholars since he published it, but the general idea that a Christian Syriac "Qeryana" or lectionary was the core of the Quran has gained more respect in the scholarly community since that time. As such critical scholarship postulates that some of the surahs in the Quran may be very old indeed, perhaps older than Muhammad himself, while others may have been authored in the turbulent years following the death of the prophet and the Islamic civil wars which culminated in the rise of the Umayyad caliphate.