Why Are There Differences in the Number of Verses among Quranic Chapters?

Answered by Shaykh Anas al-Musa


Is there a difference regarding the number of verses in each Sura of the Quran? If so, what is the reason?


In the Name of Allah, the Merciful and Compassionate.

Yes, there is a difference in the number of verses in some chapters of the Quran. This discrepancy is attributed to the practice of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) pausing at the ends of verses as a teaching method for his companions, indicating these were the ends of verses. Once they understood this, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) would join the verses to complete their meaning. Consequently, some listeners assumed that what the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) paused at was not a verse separator and thus continued it with what followed, considering it all as one verse, while others considered it an independent verse and did not join it with what followed.

Alternatively, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) recited the verses in a way that indicated their completion. His companions would then make efforts to count them, and sometimes they disagreed in this regard, similar to their other interpretations of texts. [Zarqani, Manahil al-‘Irfan; Musa‘id, al-Muharrar fi ‘Ulum al-Quran]

Variation in the Number of Ayas

The Quran indicates that the number of verses was known. This can be seen in the verse,

“We have certainly granted you the seven often-repeated verses and the great Quran.” [Quran 15:87]

Surat al-Fatiha is called “the seven often-repeated verses” because its number of verses is seven. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) also confirmed this concept in many hadiths, including:

“Whoever memorizes ten verses from the beginning of Surat al-Kahf will be protected from the Dajjal.” [Muslim]

The Prophet’s words (Allah bless him and give him peace) indicate that the number of a suras verses is among what distinguishes it. Also, the Prophet said,

“A chapter from the Quran, thirty verses long, intercedes for a man until he is forgiven; it is: ‘Blessed is the One in Whose Hands rests all authority.’” [Quran, 67:1] [Ahmad]

The difference in counting the verses of the Quran falls under the category of diversification; this type of difference does not affect the essence of the Quran, nor does it lead to any addition or reduction in the Quran. [Zarqani, Manahil al-‘Irfan; Musa‘id, al-Muharrar fi ‘Ulum al-Quran]

Benefits of Knowing the Number of Verses in the Quran

  • It has jurisprudential implications. It is important in the validity of the prayer, as one’s prayer is not valid with half a verse. Some jurists say at least three verses are needed, and some say at least seven. Imam Suyuti mentioned some of these benefits, saying, “The one who does not know al-Fatiha must replace it with seven verses. Similarly, in the Friday sermon, it is obligatory to recite a complete verse, and half of it is not sufficient unless it is long, as most jurists have stated.” [Suyuti, al-Itqan; Zarqani, Manahil al-‘Irfan; Fahd al-Rumi, Dirasat fi ‘Ulum al-Quran]
  • Knowing the beginning of a verse helps in applying the Sunnah of pausing at the beginnings of verses, as stated by those who deem it Sunnah. [Zarqani, Manahil al-‘Irfan]
  • It relates to the meanings and eloquence of the Quran. Pausing at the beginning of a verse, even if what follows is related to it in meaning, is intended by the speaker. Therefore, those who pause at the beginnings of verses that are related to what follows engage your mind to think and ponder on this sentence where the subject is separated from the predicate, for example, or a phrase from its dependent, etc. [Musa‘id, al-Muharrar fi ‘Ulum al-Quran]
  • The basis for counting verses is transmission from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). No one can invent a pause and make it the beginning of a verse, for a verse is known by instruction from the Lawgiver, similar to the knowledge of a chapter. A verse is a group of Quranic letters known by instruction. Its meaning is separated from the speech that follows it at the beginning of the Quran, and from the speech that precedes it at the end of the Quran, and from what precedes and follows it elsewhere, not including the like of it, thus distinguishing it from a chapter. Imam Zamakhshari stated that verses are instructive knowledge with no room for analogy. Therefore, they counted “Alif Lam Meem” as a verse wherever it occurred, and “Alif Lam Meem Sad,” but they did not count “Alif Lam Ra,” and “Ra.” They counted “Alhamdulillah Meem” as a verse in its chapters, and “Taha,” and “Ya Seen,” but they did not count “Ta Seen.” [Zamakhshari, al-Kashhaf; Suyuti, al-Itqan; Abyari, al-Mawsu‘a al-Quraniyya]

The Range of Variation in the Number of Verses

Tahir al-Jaza’iri said in his book “al-Tibyan li-Ba‘d al-Mabahith al-Muta‘alliqa bi al-Quran ‘ala Tariq al-Itqan,”: As for the number of verses in the Quran, those who counted them agreed that there are six-thousand two-hundred and some verses. However, this ‘some’ varies according to their different counts.” [Zarqani, Manahil al-‘Irfan; Musa‘id, al-Muharrar fi ‘Ulum al-Quran]:

  • In the first Madani count, there are seventeen, and Nafi’ said this;
  • In the last Madani count, there are fourteen according to Shu’bah and ten according to Abu Ja‘far[
  • In the Meccan count, there are twenty[
  • In the Kufan count, there are thirty-six, narrated from Hamza al-Zayyat;
  • In the Basran count, there are five, narrated from Asim al-Jahdari. In a narration from him, there are four, and Ayyub ibn al-Mutawakkil al-Basri said this. In a narration from the Basrans, they said nineteen, narrated from Qatada;
  • In the Shami count, there are twenty-six, narrated from Yahya ibn al-Harith al-Dhamari.

Categories of Suras According to the Variation of Opinions on the Number of Verses

The chapters of the Quran are divided into three categories based on agreement and disagreement in their count:

The First Category

There is no disagreement in either the total or the details. It consists of forty chapters, including Surah Yusuf (111 verses), Surah Al-Hujurat (99 verses), Surah An-Nahl (128 verses), and Surah Al-Furqan (77 verses).

The Second Category

There is disagreement in the details (locations of verse endings) but not in the total number of verses. It consists of four chapters: Surah Al-Qasas, Al-Ankabut, Al-Jinn, and Al-ʿAsr.

  • Al-Qasas: 88; the people of Kufa counted “Ta Seen Meem”, and the rest replaced it with “Ummatan min an-Nas Yasqoon”.
  • Al-‘Ankabut: 69; the people of Kufa counted “Alif Lam Meem,” those in Basra replaced it with “Mukhlisina lahu al-deen,” and those in Sham with “Wa taqtaʿoon al-sabeel.”
  • Al-Jinn: 28; the Meccans counted “Lan yujeeranee min Allahi ahad,” and the rest replaced it with “Wa lan ajida min doonihi multahadan.”
  • Al-‘Asr: 3; the last Madani counted “Wa tawasaw bil-haq,” excluding “Wal-Asr”. The rest did the opposite.

The Third Category

There is disagreement in both the total and the details. It consists of seventy chapters.


Finally, a Quranic verse can be referred to as a whole verse, but only meant partially. An example of referring to a part of a verse is Ibn Abbas’s statement, “The most hopeful verse in the Quran is ‘Surely your Lord is full of forgiveness for people, despite their wrongdoing,’ is part of a verse by unanimous agreement; its entirety is: ‘They ask you (O Prophet˺) to hasten the torment rather than grace, though there have (already) been (many) torments before them. Surely your Lord is full of forgiveness for people, despite their wrongdoing, and your Lord is truly severe in punishment.’” [Quran, 13:6]

An example of referring to more than a verse is Ibn Masud’s statement, “The most judicious verse is, ‘So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it. And whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it.’” [Quran, 99:7-8] He refers to two verses by unanimous agreement. [Zamakhshari; al-Burhan fi ‘Ulum al-Quran; Suyuti, al-Burhan; Zarqani, Manahil al-ʿIrfan]

[Shaykh] Anas al-Musa

Shaykh Anas al-Musa, born in Hama, Syria, in 1974, is an erudite scholar of notable repute. He graduated from the Engineering Institute in Damascus, where he specialized in General Construction, and Al-Azhar University, Faculty of Usul al-Din, where he specialized in Hadith.

He studied under prominent scholars in Damascus, including Shaykh Abdul Rahman al-Shaghouri and Shaykh Adib al-Kallas, among others. Shaykh Anas has memorized the Quran and is proficient in the ten Mutawatir recitations, having studied under Shaykh Bakri al-Tarabishi and Shaykh Mowfaq ‘Ayun. He also graduated from the Iraqi Hadith School.

He has taught numerous Islamic subjects at Shari‘a institutes in Syria and Turkey. Shaykh Anas has served as an Imam and preacher for over 15 years and is a teacher of the Quran in its various readings and narrations.

Currently, he works as a teacher at SeekersGuidance and is responsible for academic guidance there. He has completed his Master’s degree in Hadith and is now pursuing his Ph.D. in the same field. Shaykh Anas al-Musa is married and resides in Istanbul.