Anyone who has ever tried reading the Qur’an will know how hard that book is to read. Its boring, confusing and makes absolute no sense. I read the Qur’an two-three times and my frustration at the senseless narrative failed to ease. There are no story lines and the chapters do not follow on from each other, and the level of sophistication and imagination when compared with the Bible for example is abysmal.
It is fairly obvious when reading the Qur’an that the chapters are not in chronological order, but when the chapters are read in chronological order the book is so much easier to understand, as is Islam as a whole.
The Qur’an was supposedly revealed to Prophet Muhammad in 610 by Allah via Angel Gabriel whilst Muhammad was conducting one of his regular meditation practices in the caves of Mount Hira. Muhammad would then spend the remaining 22 years of his life after this revelation preaching and teaching what was revealed unto him; primarily in the two Arabian cities of Mecca and Medina. You will see why those two cities, and how Muhammad’s differing experiences in his attempt at spreading Islam in Mecca and Medina, define what Islam is.
Most of the Qur’an is based on Muhammad’s time in Mecca between 610-622 where he tried to spread his peaceful and spiritual religion of Islam with little success. He converted very few, the vast majority of Jews, Pagans and Christians in Mecca were not interested in what Muhammad had to say. Therefore the first three quarters of the Qur’an (chronologically) are irrelevant.
The final quarter of the Qur’an chronologically covers the time from the Hijra, where Prophet Muhammad and his companions migrated from Mecca to Medina, 622-632. The reason they moved was to target the Jews in Medina seen as Medina was the Jewish hub city, and this is why even to this day you see similarities between the customs of Judaism and Islam, e.g. Circumcision, Kosher/halal meat and pigs being dirty animals. This time instead of preaching Islam in a peaceful spiritual manner, Muhammad slaughtered the Jews who didn’t convert to Islam.
Therefore you need to think of the Qur’an as two sections, the first three quarters being of a time when Muhammad was preaching peacefully at home in Mecca, and the final quarter being after the Hijra in Medina when the Prophet turned violent and started using Jihad.
For does who do not know, the term ‘abrogation’ comes from law and it refers to when two pieces of legislature written at different times contradict each other, and thus the piece of legislature wrote at the latter time overrides and cancels out the former piece of legislature. It is important in the Qur’an because there are many contradicting verses.
The most commonly used example of abrogation relates to alcohol. First Muslims were simply discouraged from drinking alcohol (2: 219), then Muslims were banned from being intoxicated whilst praying (4: 43), before finally being banned from consuming alcohol and gambling at all times (5:90).
You will notice from the chronological list of chapters above that chapter 9 is the penultimate chapter (and the final chapter 110 is irrelevant because it is only three verses long). This is very important because chapter 9 is the most violent and brutal chapter, and Islamic extremists use 9:5 (verse of the sword) to justify terrorism because that verse calls on Muslims to kill disbelievers.
Unfortunately Western studies of Islam have failed to notice the importance of abrogation. Peter McLoughlin has recently wrote a book, Mohammed’s Koran, with a copy of the Qur’an and verses in reverse chronological order, and this is the first re-ordering of the verses of the Qu’ran written since Anwural Haqq wrote Abrogation in the Qur’an in 1926.
Abrogation in the Qur’an raises questions about the book and Muhammad and the religion as a whole. Did Allah change his mind about things or realise earlier mistakes? No that is theologically impossible because Allah is God and God doesn’t make mistakes. Its pretty obvious to me why there is abrogation in the Qur’an when reflecting on Muhammad’s different methods of preaching in Mecca and Medina. Peace and spirituality does not help the growth of Islam. Violence and jihad does.