The Chapters of The Quran

A sura (also spelled surah, surat; Arabic: سورة‎ sūrah, pl. سور suwar) is a chapter of the Qur’an. There are 114 chapters of the Qur’an, each divided into verses. The chapters or suras are of unequal length, the shortest chapter (Al-Kawthar) has only three ayat (verses) while the longest (Al-Baqara) contains 286 verses. Of the 114 chapters in the Quran, 86 are classified as Meccan while 28 are Medinan – this classification is only approximate in regard to location of revelation – in fact, any chapter revealed after migration of Muhammad to Medina (Hijrah) is termed Medinan and any revealed before that event is termed as Meccan.

The Meccan chapters generally deal with faith and scenes of the Hereafter, while the Medinan chapters are more concerned with organizing the social life of the (then) nascent Muslim community. All chapters or suras commence with ‘In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate’. This formula is known as the basmala and denotes the boundaries between chapters. The chapters are arranged roughly in order of descending size therefore the arrangement of the Qur’an is neither chronological nor thematic. Suras (chapters) are recited during the standing portions (Qiyam) of Muslim prayers. Sura Al-Fatiha, the first chapter of the Quran, is recited in every unit of prayer and some units of prayer also involve recitation of all or part of any other sura.


The word ‘sura’ was used at the time of Muhammad as a term with the meaning of a ‘chapter’ or a ‘portion’ of the Qur’an. This is evidenced by the appearance of the word ‘sura’ in multiple locations in the Qur’an such as verse 24:1:”A sura that We have sent down and appointed, and We have sent down in it signs, clear signs, that haply you will remember.”

Its plural form ‘suwar’ is also mentioned in the Qur’an: “Or do they say, He invented it? Say, “Then bring ten suwar like it and call upon whomever you can besides God, if you are truthful.” Nöldeke following Buxtorf suggested that the word sura has similar root with the Hebrew word ‘שורה’ meaning a ‘row’. Some took it as connected with the Arabic word ‘Sur’ meaning a ‘wall’. Jeffery believes that it has a common origin with a Syriac word that means ‘writing’.

Chronological order of chapters

List of suras in the Quran

Chapters in the Quran are not arranged in the chronological order of revelation. A number of medieval writers have recorded ancient lists which give the chapters in what is allegedly their correct chronological order. However, there are different versions of the list and they do not agree with each other about the precise order in which the chapters were revealed.

The origin and value of the traditional lists is uncertain, but probably none of the lists originated before the first quarter of the eight century and may be based on the learned opinions of scholars rather than on carefully transmitted reports dating back to the time of the companions of Muhammad. A version is given in a 15th century work by Abd al-Kafi. Abu Salih wrote a different list and another significantly different version of Abu Salih is preserved in a book named ‘Kitab Mabani’. A different list is mentioned by the 10th century writer Ibn Nadim.

The standard Egyptian edition of the Quran which was published in 1924 includes information about chronological order of chapters. The information, which is widely available, correlates with one of the traditional lists, the one given by Abd al-Kafi.

A number of verses are associated with particular events. The first revelation was chapter 96 (609 CE). Verses 16:41 and 47:13 refers to migration of Muslims which took place in the year 622 CE. Verses 8:1-7 and 3:120-175 refer to the battles of Badr (624 CE) and Uhud (625 CE) respectively.

Muhammad’s last pilgrimage is mentioned in 5:3 which occurred in 632 CE, a few months before the prophet died. The Qur’an narrates the life of Muhammad or the early history of the Muslim community only incidentally and not in detail, very few chapters contain clear references to events which took place Muhammad’s life.

Theodor Nöldeke’s chronology is based on the assumption that the style of the Quran changes in one direction without reversals. Nöldeke studied the style and content of the chapters and assumed that (1) later (Madinan) chapters and verses and are usually shorter than earlier (Meccan) ones (2) Earlier verses have a distinct rhyming style while later verses are more prosaic (prose-like). According to Nöldeke earlier chapters have common features, many of them open with oaths in which God swears by cosmic phenomena.

Eschatology, creation, piety, authentication of Muhammad’s mission and refutation of the charges against Muhammad are common themes of Meccan chapters. A number of chapters have a clear ‘tripartite’ structure, for example chapters 45, 37, 26, 15, 21. They open with a short warning, followed by one or more narratives about unbelievers, and finally address contemporaries of Muhammad and invite them to Islam. Madinan verses are longer and have a distinct style of rhyming and concern to provide legislation and guidance for the Muslim community.

Richard Bell took Nöldeke’s chronology as starting point for his research, however, Bell did not believe that Nöldeke’s criteria of style was important. He saw a progressive change in Muhammad’s mission from a man who preached monotheism into an independent leader of a paramount religion. For Bell this transformation was more decisive compared with the criteria of style. Bell argued that passages which mentioned Islam and Muslim or implied that Muhammad’s followers were a distinct community were revealed later.

He classified the Quran into three main periods: the early period, the Quranic period, and the book period. Richard bell worked on the chronology of the Qur’anic verses rather than chapters. Underlying Bell’s method for dating revelations is the assumption that the normal unit of revelation is the short passage and the passages have been extensively edited and rearranged.

Mehdi Bazargan divided the 144 chapters of the Quran into 194 passages preserving some chapters intact as single blocks while dividing others into two or more blocks. He then rearranged these blocks approximately in order of increasing average verse length. This order he proposes is the chronological order. Bazargan assumed that verse length tended to increase over time and he used this assumption to rearrange the passages.

Neal Robinson, an scholar of Islamic studies, is of the opinion that there is no hard evidence that the style of revelations has changed in a consistent way and therefore style may not always be a reliable indicator of when and where a chapter was revealed. According to Robinson it should be obvious that the problem of the chronology of the revelations is still far from solved.

Names of chapters in the Quran

The verses and chapters when revealed to Muhammad in the Quran did not come with a title attached to them. Muhammad, as we find in some reports in hadith, used to refer to shorter chapters not by name, rather by their first verse. For example: Abu Hurairah quoted Muhammad as saying, “Al-Hamdu Lillahi Rabb il-`Aalameen” is the Mother of the Qur’an, the Mother of the Book, and the seven oft-repeated verses of the Glorious Qur’an.”. We also find reports in which Muhammad used to refer to them by their name. For example, Abdullah bin Buraydah narrated from his father, “I was sitting with the Prophet and I heard him say, ‘Learn Surat ul-Baqarah, because in learning it there is blessing, in ignoring it there is sorrow, and the sorceresses cannot memorize it.”‘

Arab tradition, similar to other tribal cultures of that time, was to name things according to their unique characteristics. They used this same method to name Qur’anic chapters. Most chapter names are found in hadith. Some were named according to their central theme, such as Al-Fatiha (The Opening) and Yusuf (Joseph), and some were named for the first word at the beginning of the chapter, such as Qaf, Ya-Sin, and ar-Rahman. Some suras were also named according to a unique word that occurs in the chapter, such as al-Baqara (The Cow), An-Nur (The Light), al-Nahl (The Bee), Az-Zukhruf (The Ornaments of Gold), Al-Hadid (The Iron), and Al-Ma’un (The Small Kindness).

Most chapter names are still used to this day. Several are known by multiple names: chapter Al-Masadd (The Palm Fibre) is also known as al-Lahab (The Flame). Sura Fussilat (Explained in Detail) is also known as Ha-Meem Sajda (“…it is a chapter that begins with Ha Mim and in which a verse requiring the performance of prostration has occurred.”)

Chapter as unity

The idea of textual relation between the verses of a chapter has been discussed under various titles such as “nazm” and “munasabah” in non-English literature and ‘Coherence’, ‘text relations’, ‘intertextuality’, and ‘unity’ in English literature. There are two points of view regarding coherence of the verses of the Qur’an. In the first viewpoint each chapter of the Qur’an has a central theme and its verses are related.

The second viewpoint considers some chapters of the Qur’an as collections of passages which are not thematically related. Chapters deal with various subjects, for instance chapter 99, which comprises only eight verses, is devoted exclusively to eschatology and chapter 12 narrates a story, while other chapters, in the same breath, speak of theological, historical, and ethico-legal matters. Chapters are known to consist of passages, not only verses. The borders between passages are arbitrary but are possible to determine.

For example chapter 54[10] may be divided into six passages:

  • The Hour has approached…..(1-8)
  • Before them, people of Noah rejected…(9-17)
  • ‘Ad’ rejected (their Messenger). Then how (strict) has been our recompense and warnings… (18-22)
  • ‘Thamud’ rejected the warnings… (23-32)
  • People of ‘Lot’ rejected the warnings… (33-40)
  • And warnings did come to the People of the Pharoah… (41-55)

The study of text relations in the Qur’an dates back to a relatively early stage in the history of Qur’anic studies. The earliest Qur’anic interpreter known to have paid attention to this aspect of the Qur’an is Fakhr Razi (d.1209 CE). Fakhr Razi believed that text relation is a meaning that links verses together or mentally associates them like cause-effect or reason-consequence. He linked verse 1 of a chapter to verse 2, verse 2 to verse 3 and so on, and rejected traditionist interpretations if they contradicted interrelations between verses.

Zarkashi (d.1392), another medieval Qur’anic exegete, admitted that relationships of some verses to other verses in a chapter is sometimes hard to explain, in those cases he assigned stylistic and rhetorical functions to them such as parenthesis, parable, or intentional subject shift. Zarkashi aimed at showing how important understanding the inter-verse relations is to understanding the Qur’an, however, he did not attempt to deal with one complete chapter to show its relations.

Contemporary scholars have studied the idea of coherence in the Qur’an more vigorously and are of widely divergent opinions. For example Hamid Farrahi (d. 1930) and Richard Bell (d. 1952) have different opinions regarding coherence within chapters. Farrahi believed that the whole structure of the Qur’an is thematically coherent, which is to say, all verses of a chapter of the Qur’an are integrally related to each other to give rise to the major theme of the chapter and again all of the chapters are interconnected with each other to constitute the major theme of the Qur’an. According to Farrahi, each chapter has a central theme (umud or pillar) around which the verses revolve:

“Each chapter of the Qur’an is a well structured unit. It is only lack of consideration and analysis on our part that they seem disjointed and incoherent…Each chapter imparts a specific message as its central theme. The completion of this theme marks the end of the chapter. If there were no such specific conclusion intended to be dealt with in each chapter there would be no need to divide the Qur’an in chapters. Rather the whole Qur’an would be a single chapter…We see that a set of verses has been placed together and named ‘sura’ the way a city is built with a wall erected round it. A single wall must contain a single city in it. What is the use of a wall encompassing different cities?…”.

In contrast, Richard Bell describes the Qur’anic style as disjointed:

“Only seldom do we find in it evidence of sustained unified composition at any great length…some of the narratives especially accounts of Moses and of Abraham run to considerable length, but they tend to fall into separate incidents instead of being recounted straightforwardly…the distinctness of the separate pieces however is more obvious than their unity.”

Arthur J. Arberry states that the chapters in many instances, as Muslims have been recognized from the earliest times, are of a ‘composite’ character, holding embedded in them fragments received by Muhammad at widely differing dates. However he disregards this ‘fact’ and views each chapter as an artistic whole. He believed that a repertory of familiar themes runs through the whole Qur’an and each chapter elaborates one of more, often many of, them.

Angelika Neuwirth is of the idea that verses in their chronological order are interrelated in a way that later verses explain earlier ones. She believes that Meccan chapters are coherent units.

Salwa El-Awa aims in her work to discuss the problem of textual relations in the Qur’an from a linguistic point of view and the way in which the verses of one chapter relate to each other and to the wider context of the total message of the Qur’an. El-Awa provides a detailed analysis in terms of coherence theory on chapters 33 and 75 and shows that theses two chapters cohere and have a main contextual relationship.

Gheitury and Golfam believe that the permanent change of subject within a passage in the Qur’an, or what they call non-linearity, is a major linguistic feature of the Qur’an, a feature that puts the Qur’an beyond any specific ‘context’ and ‘temporality’. According to Gheitury and Golfam for the Qur’an there is no preface, no introduction, no beginning, no end, a reader can start reading from anywhere in the text.


A list of all quranic chapters (surah) names with reference

List of suras in the Quran

The Quran, one of Islam’s holy books is divided into sura and further divided into ayat.

SurahNo. Surah Name   Arabic  Meaning Revelation TotalVerses
Order Place
1 Al-Fatihah

الفاتحة The Opening 5 🕋 7
2 Al-Baqarah

اﻟﺒﻘﺮﺓ The Cow 87 🕌 286
3 Aale-Imran

اۤل عمران The Family Of Imran 89 🕌 200
4 An-Nisa

اﻟﻨﺴﺄ The Women 92 🕌 176
5 Al-Maidah

المائدة The Table 112 🕌 120
6 Al-Anam

الأنعام The Cattle 55 🕋 165
7 Al-Araf

الأعراف The Heights 39 🕋 206
8 Al-Anfal

الأنفال The Spoils Of War 88 🕌 75
9 At-Tawbah

التوبة The Repentance 113 🕌 129
10 Yunus

يونس Yunus 51 🕋 109
11 Hud

هود Hud 52 🕋 123
12 Yusuf

يوسف Yusuf 53 🕋 111
13 Ar-Rad

الرعد The Thunder 96 🕌 43
14 Ibrahim

ابراهيم Ibrahim 72 🕋 52
15 Al-Hijr

الحجر The Rocky Tract 54 🕋 99
16 An-Nahl

النحل The Bees 70 🕋 128
17 Al-Isra

الإسرﺃ The Night Journey 50 🕋 111
18 Al-Kahf

الكهف The Cave 69 🕋 110
19 Maryam

مريم Maryam 44 🕋 98
20 Taha

طه Ta-Ha 45 🕋 135
21 Al-Anbiya

اﻷﻧﺒﻴﺄ The Prophets 73 🕋 112
22 Al-Hajj

الحج The Pilgrimage 103 🕌 78
23 Al-Muminun

المؤمنون The Believers 74 🕋 118
24 An-Nur

النور The Light 102 🕌 64
25 Al-Furqan

الفرقان The Criterion 42 🕋 77
26 Ash-Shuara

الشعرﺃ The Poets 47 🕋 227
27 An-Naml

النمل The Ants 48 🕋 93
28 Al-Qasas

القصص The Stories 49 🕋 88
29 Al-Ankabut

العنكبوت The Spider 85 🕋 85
30 Ar-Rum

الروم The Romans 84 🕋 60
31 Luqman

لقمان Luqman 57 🕋 34
32 As-Sajdah

السجدة The Prostration 75 🕋 30
33 Al-Ahzab

الأحزاب The Combined Forces 90 🕌 73
34 Saba

ﺳﺒﺄ The Sabeans 58 🕋 54
35 Fatir

الفاطر The Originator 43 🕋 45
36 Yaseen

يٰسن Ya-Sin 41 🕋 83
37 As-Saffat

الصافات Those Ranges In Ranks 56 🕋 182
38 Saad

صۤ Sad 38 🕋 88
39 Az-Zumar

الزمر The Groups 59 🕋 75
40 Al-Ghafir

غافر The Forgiver 60 🕋 85
41 Fussilat

فصلت Distinguished 61 🕋 54
42 Ash-Shura

الشورى The Consultation 62 🕋 53
43 Az-Zukhruf

الزخرف The Gold 63 🕋 89
44 Ad-Dukhan

الدخان The Smoke 64 🕋 59
45 Al-Jathiyah

الجاثية The Kneeling 65 🕋 37
46 Al-Ahqaf

الأحقاف The Valley 66 🕋 35
47 Al-Muhammad

محمد Muhammad 95 🕌 38
48 Al-Fath

الفتح The Victory 111 🕌 29
49 Al-Hujurat

الحجرات The Dwellings 106 🕌 18
50 Qaf

ق Qaf 34 🕋 45
51 Adh-Dhariyat

الذاريات The Scatterers 67 🕋 60
52 At-Tur

الطور The Mount 76 🕋 49
53 An-Najm

النجم The Star 23 🕋 62
54 Al-Qamar

القمر The Moon 37 🕋 55
55 Ar-Rahman

الرحمن The Most Gracious 97 🕋 78
56 Al-Waqiah

الواقعة The Event 46 🕋 96
57 Al-Hadid

الحديد The Iron 94 🕌 29
58 Al-Mujadilah

المجادلة The Reasoning 105 🕌 22
59 Al-Hashr

الحشر The Gathering 101 🕌 24
60 Al-Mumtahinah

الممتحنة The Tested 91 🕌 13
61 As-Saf

الصف The Row 109 🕌 14
62 Al-Jumuah

الجمعة Friday 110 🕌 11
63 Al-Munafiqun

المنافقون The Hypocrites 104 🕌 11
64 At-Taghabun

التغابن The Loss & Gain 108 🕌 18
65 Al-Talaq

الطلاق The Divorce 99 🕌 12
66 Al-Tahrim

التحريم The Prohibition 107 🕌 12
67 Al-Mulk

الملك The Kingdom 77 🕋 30
68 Al-Qalam

القلم The Pen 2 🕋 52
69 Al-Haqqah

الحاقة The Inevitable 78 🕋 52
70 Al-Maarij

المعارج The Elevated Passages 79 🕋 44
71 Nuh

نوح Nuh 71 🕋 28
72 Al-Jinn

الجن The Jinn 40 🕋 28
73 Al-Muzzammil

المزمل The Wrapped 3 🕋 20
74 Al-Muddaththir

المدثر The Cloaked 4 🕋 56
75 Al-Qiyamah

القيامة The Resurrection 31 🕋 40
76 Al-Dahr

الإنسان The Human 98 🕌 31
77 Al-Mursalat

المرسلات Those Sent Forth 33 🕋 50
78 Al-Naba

النبأ The Great News 80 🕋 40
79 Al-Naziat

النازعات Those Who Pull Out 81 🕋 46
80 Al-Abasa

عبس He Frowned 24 🕋 42
81 Al-Takwir

التكوير The Overthrowing 7 🕋 29
82 Al-Infitar

الإنفتار The Cleaving 82 🕋 19
83 Al-Mutaffifin

المطففين Those Who Deal In Fraud 86 🕋 36
84 Al-Inshiqaq

اﻹنشقاق The Splitting Asunder 83 🕋 25
85 Al-Buruj

البروج The Stars 27 🕋 22
86 Al-Tariq

الطارق The Nightcomer 36 🕋 17
87 Al-Aala

الأعلى The Most High 8 🕋 19
88 Al-Ghashiyah

الغاشية The Overwhelming 68 🕌 26
89 Al-Fajr

الفجر The Dawn 10 🕋 30
90 Al-Balad

البلد The City 35 🕋 20
91 Al-Shams

الشمس The Sun 26 🕋 15
92 Al-Layl

الليل The Night 9 🕋 21
93 Al-Duha

الضحى The Forenoon 11 🕋 11
94 Al-Inshirah

اﻹﻧﺸﺮﺡ The Opening Forth 12 🕋 8
95 Al-Tin

التين The Fig 28 🕋 8
96 Al-Alaq

العلق The Clot 1 🕋 19
97 Al-Qadr

القدر The Night Of Decree 25 🕋 5
98 Al-Bayyinah

البينة The Proof 100 🕌 8
99 Al-Zalzalah

الزلزلة The Earthquake 93 🕋 8
100 Al-Adiyat

العاديات The Runners 14 🕋 11
101 Al-Qariah

القارعة The Striking Hour 30 🕋 11
102 Al-Takathur

التكاثر The Piling Up 16 🕋 8
103 Al-Asr

العصر The Time 13 🕋 3
104 Al-Humazah

الهمزة The Slanderer 32 🕋 9
105 Al-Fil

الفيل The Elephant 19 🕋 5
106 Al-Quraysh

قريش Quraish 29 🕋 4
107 Al-Maun

الماعون The Assistance 17 🕋 7
108 Al-Kawthar

الكوثر The River Of Abundance 15 🕋 3
109 Al-Kafirun

الكافرون The Disbelievers 18 🕋 6
110 Al-Nasr

النصر The Help 114 🕌 3
111 Al-Masad

المسد The Palm Fiber 6 🕋 5
112 Al-Ikhlas

الإخلاص The Sincerity 22 🕋 4
113 Al-Falaq

الفلق The Daybreak 20 🕋 5
114 Al-Nas

الناس Mankind 21 🕋 6

The first five verses of the 96th chapter, Al-‘Alaq were the first to have been revealed and transcribed to Muhammad[verification needed].
The first chapter, Al-Fatiha, was the first one to be revealed entirety to Muhammad.
The second chapter, Al-Baqara, is the longest, with 286 verses, while the 108th, Al-Kawthar, is the shortest, with 3 verses.