How to Read the Qur'an: A New Guide, with Select Translations

By Carl W. Ernst | Go to book overview

2
Early Meccan Suras

Our literary investigation of the early Meccan suras begins with an overview of the structural composition and principal themes of these texts. This includes close analysis of several suras that are translated in full and broken down into their components or building blocks. Then follows a critical survey of a particularly important literary form that is prominent from the first stage of the Qurʾan’s unfoldment: apocalyptic or end-times scenarios. It will then be possible to consider the question of later additions to the early Meccan suras, with a detailed focus on sura 53, “The Star,” in relation to the notorious question of the “Satanic verses.”


Structures and Themes

From a stylistic perspective, the early Meccan suras demonstrate considerable variety. Not only do they employ a far greater number of different rhymes than later sections of the Qurʾan, but they also display a remarkable range of structural composition. There are five very short suras consisting of five verses or less (97, 103, 105, 108, 111), and another ten suras that are relatively short, with small clusters of verse groups (93, 94, 95, 99, 100, 101, 102, 104, 106, 107). On the level of somewhat greater complexity, one can distinguish suras in which the verses are organized primarily in clusters of two (81, 91), three (82, 84, 86, 90, 92), or four (85, 89) verses. There are several suras, traditionally considered to be the earliest, which exhibit a tightly structured organization (73, 74, 87, 96). Two suras (55, 77) con-

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