Surah Qamar

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About Surah Qamar

Sūrat al-Qamar (Arabic: سورة القمر‎‎, "The Moon") is the 54th sura of the Quran with 55 ayat. Some verses refer to the Splitting of the moon. "Qamar" (قمر), meaning "'Moon" in Arabic, is also a common name among Muslims.

Al-Qamar, meaning "moon" in Arabic, is an important title for sura 54. It foreshadows the inevitable Day of Judgment that will divide those who believe from those who disbelieve—those who are destined to Paradise and those who are destined to Hell. Because this Meccan sura’s primary theme centers around the fate of those who disbelieve, the symbolic use of the moon is meant to warn the disbelievers of their impending fate in the first verse, as “the hour draws near; the moon is split”.[1] Additionally, the crescent moon acts as a vital symbol of Islam and thus, in this instance, may denote the importance of the emerging religion, as lunar cycles determine the structure of the Islamic calendar.

Sura 54 is wholly Meccan, as its verses “demonstrate complex reference and demanding grammatical connections to surrounding verses”.[3] Indeed, it is a mixture of exclamatory statements and rhetorical questions directed towards Muhammad, which is yet another reference to the sura’s Meccan nature. That God directly addresses Muhammad with personal pronouns, “you” and “your”[4] and differentiates the unbelieving audience from His personal addresses to Muhammad with “they” and “them”[4] strongly indicates that Islam was still in the development phase and that God did not yet have a particularized audience to address. Instead, God merely warns Muhammad of the possible responses that will result from his efforts to spread His message and the resultant punishment that He will inflict upon those who refuse to believe. Officially, this sura is believed to be the thirty-seventh sura revealed to Muhammad, as the Egyptian chronology indicates.[5] Nöldeke, however, numbers this sura as the forty-ninth chronological sura. The difference in numerical order is, perhaps, due to the difference in Meccan and Medinan suras within each edition. For instance, the Egyptian chronology indicates that there are eighty-eight Meccan suras and twenty-six Medinan suras; whereas Noldeke’s chronology divides the Meccan period into three, with forty-eight in the first, twenty-one in the second, and twenty-one in the third in addition to twenty four Medinan suras.

This sura clearly directs its message toward the unbelievers in Mecca. Indeed, it covers themes of rejection, truth, and punishment, all of which are addressed in stories of previous peoples. The stories of the people of Noah, the people of ‘Ad, the people of Thamud, the people of Lot, and the people of Pharaoh represent times during which a people refused to believe the word of the above messengers; consequently, they suffered God’s wrath. Each unit follows a similar pattern: first, God describes the peoples’ refusal to believe and the resultant punishment for refusing to accept His warnings. As Carl Ernst writes in How to Read the Qur’an, suras from the middle to late Meccan period follow a “tripartite division,” in which one observes a “ring structure, beginning and ending with parallel sections” of divine praise, heavy threats for the unbelievers, and staunch affirmations of the revelation. These parts bookend a somewhat larger middle section, which is “typically a narrative of prophecy and struggle.”[7] Thus, this Meccan sura seems to connect the early Meccan period with the later, as traces of the shorter, more affirmative suras can be found in particular verses, which resemble “powerful oath formulations” and generate fear in those who may not fully accept the Islamic faith.

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