Qur’anic Surahs’ Names

A Study on their Origin and Multiplicity

  • Ali Yunis Aldahesh The University of Sydney
Keywords: Quranic surahs' names, Multiplicity, Origin, Tawqifi, Etymologies

Abstract

The titles given to the 114 surahs that constitute the Qur’an have been the spark of a heated debate among stakeholders. There is no unanimous agreement amongst Qur’anic scholars, exegetes and translators with regard to a number of issues pertinent to such a thorny topic. They are, in particular, of varying opinions as to the origin and multiplicity of surahs’ names. This study concerns itself with investigating those opinions. The main objective here is to come up with a number of fruitful insights that may help enhance our understanding of this vital aspect of the Muslims’ Scripture. The study argues that the term ‘surah’ is very Qur’an-specific, which may overlap, in a number of its features, with the scholastic term of ‘chapter’. Yet, it is not necessarily to be considered or translated as such. The article also argues that, traditionally speaking, most Qur’anic surahs have multiple names. However, not all of these names are tawqifī ‘revelational’ nor are all of them ijtihādī ‘derived through reasoning’. That is to say, at least one of the titles given to the surahs with multiple names is tawqifī while the other titles are ijtihādī. The study ends with a comprehensive table showing the names allocated to the 114 Qur’anic surahs along with detailed notes on the origin of their naming. It is hoped that the insights provided in this study will help illuminate the confusion and be of benefit to scholars studying the Qur’an and, by extension, to the Qur’an translators into other languages. 

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Published
2019-09-18
Section
Articles