Richard Bell, The Qur’ān. Translated, with a critical re-arrangement of the Surahs (1939)


This surah seems to have been composed mainly in the years II and III. It was probably intended to be the first chapter of the Book which Muhammad set himself to produce soon after his break with the Jews and his assumption of prophetic independence. The introduction dates from about that time, but has been several times revised.

Earlier material was, however, utilised. The story of Adam was probably placed here that the Book, like previous Scriptures, might begin with the Creation. We have then an appeal to the Children of Israel based on their history, which by revisions becomes increasingly polemical. Then comes a series of arguments against the Jews, which towards the end includes Christians as well. We next have the adoption of the religion of Abraham, his association with the Ka‘ba, and the change of qibla, which show the steps of Muhammad’s assumption of independence; but unfortunately some of the passages are very confused. The pilgrimage was no doubt dealt with in some fashion about this time, but the battle of Badr intervened, barring the way to Mecca, and the pilgrimage is dealt with in a very confused passage later in the surah, vv. 193 ff. The casualties at Badr occasioned a passage dealing with the state of the dead, which was later revised, vv. 148-162.

Legislation occupies the greater part of the rest of the surah. These enactments are often revisions of previous deliverances, and have sometimes been revised again at a still later date. Some- times they are in the form of answers to questions asked, or likely to be asked, by his followers. Some of these are no doubt also early, and were in the form of mere notes. The solid block of legislation dealing with marital relations, divorce, and widowhood probably belongs to a later period. That it displaced some earlier deliverances on the matter is certain. The extraneous passage, citing the example of the Children of Israel in support of fighting, vv. 247-252, may have been occasioned by the threat of attack by the Meccans. The insistence on contributions to the cause,


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Richard Bell, The Qur’ān. Translated, with a critical re-arrangement of the Surahs, T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, Consulted online at “Quran Archive - Texts and Studies on the Quran” on 09 Dec. 2021: