The Division of the Qur'an
Excerpted from "Dictionary of Islam" by Thomas Patrick Hughes ©
The Qur'an, which is written in the Arabic language, is divided into:
Kalimah, Ayah, Surah, Ruku', Rub', Nisf, SuIs, Juz', Manzal.
1. Harf (pl. Huruf), Letters; of which
there are said to be 323,671, or according to some authorities, 338,606.
2. Kalimah (pl. Kalimat), Words; of
which there are 77,934, or, according to some writers 79,934.
3. Ayah (pl. Ayat), Verses. Ayah
is a word which signifies "sign." It was used by Muhammad for short sections
or verses of his revelation. The division of verses differs in different
editions of the Arabic Qur'an. The number of verses in the Arabic Qur'an
are recorded after the title of the Surah, and the verses distinguished
in the text by a small cypher or circle. The early readers of the Qur'an
did not agree as to the original position of these circles, and so it happens
that there are five different systems of numbering the verses:
(a) Kufah verses. The Readers in the
city of al-Kufah say that they followed the custom of 'Ali. Their way of
reckoning is generally adopted in India. They reckon 6,239 verses.
(b) Basrah verses. The Readers of
follow 'Asim ibn Hajjaj, a Companion. They reckon 6,204.
(c) Shami verses, The Readers in Syria
(Shiim) followed 'Abdu 'lliih ibn 'Umar, a Companion. They reckon 6,225
(d) Makkah verses. According to this
arrangement, there are 6,219 verses.
(e) Madinah verses. This way of reading
contains 6,211 verses.
4. Surah (pl. Suwar), Chapters. A word which signifies
a row or series, but which is now used exclusively for the chapters of
the Qur'an, which are one hundred and fourteen in number. These chapters
are called after some word which occurs in the text, and, if the Traditions
are to be trusted, they were so named by Muhammad himself, although the
verses of their respective Surahs were undoubtedly arranged after his death,
and sometimes with little regard to their sequence. Muslim doctors admit
that the Khalifah 'Usman arranged the chapters in the order in which they
now stand in the Qur'an.
The Surahs of the Muhammadan Qur'an are similar
to the forty-three divisions of the Law amongst the Jews as Sidarim, or
"orders." These were likewise named after a word in the section, e.g. The
first is Bereshith, the second Noah, &c. (See Buxton’s Tiberias, p.
Each Surah of the Qur'an, with the exception of
the IXth, begins with the words:
“In the name of the Merciful, the Compassionate."
Ruku' (pl. Ruku'at), an inclination of the head or bow. These are
sections of about ten verses or less, at which the devout Muslim makes
a bow of reverence; they are marked on the margin of the Qur'an with the
letter 'ain, with the number of the
ruku over it. Muhammadans
generally quote their Qur'an by the Juz' or
6. Rub'. The quarter of a Juz', or Siparah.
7. Nisf. The half of a Siparah.
8. Suls. The three-quarters of a Siparah. These
three divisions are denoted by the words being written on the margin.
9. Juz' (pl. Ajza'). Persian Siparah. Thirty divisions
of the Qur'an, which have been made to enable the devout Muslim to recite
the whole of the Qur'an in the thirty days of Ramadan. Muhammadans usually
quote their Qur'an by the Siparah or Juz' and not by the Surah.
10. Manzil (pl. Manazil, Stages). These are seven in
number, and are marked by the
letters, which are said to spell Fami bi Shauq,
"My mouth with desire." This arrangement is to enable the Muslim to recite
the whole in the course of a week.