Asbab al-Nuzul (Revelational Circumstances of the Quran)

From WikiIslam, the online resource on Islam
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Revelational circumstances behind the Qur'anic verses are held to be recorded in the Hadith. The earliest surviving book relating solely to this genre[1] can also be found on quranx: Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi (d. 468AD / 1075CE) containing further revelational circumstances according to various traditional accounts.

However, despite their importance for understanding verses' context in mainstream Islam, they are, like all biographical literature on Muhammad, recorded in writing far later than the Quran's origin, making them historically problematic. As Islamic scholar Angelika Neuwirth (who proposes a different chronology based on the Quran's language itself)[2] notes:

Still, questions surrounding the chronology of individual texts have played no insignificant role in the Islamic tradition from the beginning. They were the object of theology and legal science, where the interpretation of Qur’anic citations often requires one to confront the question of when and under what circumstances the texts under scrutiny were proclaimed. Assigning a historic sequence to the individual Qur’an texts, the traditional Islamic sciences distinguish between Meccan and Medinan suras.53 This differentiation does not, however, affect the interpretation in general, but rather remains limited to verses already problematized theologically or in terms of legal specifics. Initiatives toward a chronological ordering of texts have also been developed in the discipline of the determination of the “circumstances of the revelation,” asbāb al-nuzūl; but since this discipline involves the Sira and therefore merges with hagiographic literature, its results cannot be evaluated as historical in strict sense.
Neuwirth, Angelika (2019-02-18T22:58:59.000). The Qur'an and Late Antiquity: A Shared Heritage (Oxford Studies in Late Antiquity) . Oxford University Press. Kindle Locations 544-552.

The Surahs


  1. Asbāb al-Nuzūl By: Alī ibn Ahmad al-Wāhidī Translated By: Mokrane Guezzou Edited and with a brief Introduction by Yousef Meri. Introduction: pp iv. They also note here that some scholars such as Andrew Rippin doubt the existence of earlier 'circumstances of revelation' works mentioned which do not survive - though the translators disagree this is sufficient evidence to reject their existence.
  2. Neuwirth, Angelika, and Samuel Wilder, 'Sura Structures and Chronology', The Qur'an and Late Antiquity: A Shared Heritage, Oxford Studies in Late Antiquity (New York, 2019; online edn, Oxford Academic, 21 Mar. 2019),, accessed 7 June 2024.