Can Quran Chapters Be Rearranged by Revelation Order or Theme?

Answered by Shaykh Anas al-Musa


Is it permissible to rearrange the chapters of the Quran to be in order of revelation or by topics, for example?


In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, peace and blessings be upon the Messenger sent as a mercy to the worlds, our Master and Prophet, Muhammad, and upon his Family and Companions.

The majority of scholars indicate that adhering to the current arrangement of the Quran’s chapters – starting with Fatiha and ending with Nas – is preferable. Scholars have found in the Quran’s miracle and the secrets of this arrangement what astonishes minds. Indeed, specialized books were written on this subject, as done by Imam Biqa‘i, Imam Suyuti, and others, turning it into a field of study among the Quranic sciences.

Arrangement of Verses

Deviating from the current arrangement of the Quran’s chapters is one of the two well-known opinions among scholars. Therefore, I say to you: There is no harm in having a personal copy of the Quran where you arrange its chapters as you need; for instance, using this arrangement for memorizing some chapters, interpreting them, arranging them by topics to link them with some sciences, or reciting them in night prayer… among other reasons.

However, changing the arrangement of the Quran’s chapters, generalizing that to people, and altering what they are accustomed to is contrary to what is preferable. It might even lead to tampering with the Book of Allah, for if each person starts to follow their whim in a particular arrangement of chapters, this arrangement will never be settled, and it also contradicts the evidences of those who said that the arrangement of the Quran’s chapters is divinely determined, as we will explain in detail shortly. But before that, it is important to clarify that there was no disagreement among scholars that the arrangement of the Quran’s verses was by the instruction of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), as he would recite it to the Companions day and night, and none of them was heard to have deviated in the arrangement of a verse; therefore, the disagreement occurs in the arrangement of chapters, not in the arrangement of verses.

Arrangement of Chapters

The disagreement on the arrangement of chapters can be summarized between one who says it is divinely determined and not permissible to contravene and another who says it is based on ijtihad (independent reasoning).

First View: Quranic Chapter Arrangement via Ijtihad

Some of the scholars say that the arrangement of the Quran’s chapters is based on ijtihad (independent reasoning), and the evidence for it includes:

1. Arrangement According to Revelation

Firstly, the most compelling evidence presented by proponents of this view is narrated by Yazid al-Farsi from Ibn ‘Abbas, who said: “I asked Uthman:

‘What prompted you to place Anfal, which is among the Mathani, and Bara‘a, which is among the Mi’in, together, joining them without writing ‘Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim’ between them and placing them in the Sab‘ al-Tiwal, and what led you to do that?’

He replied: ‘The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) would receive revelations over time, including chapters with a set number of verses. Whenever something was revealed to him, he would call someone to write for him and say, “Place this in the chapter where such and such is mentioned.” And when verses were revealed, he would say, “Place these verses in the chapter where such and such is mentioned.” And if a verse was revealed, he would say, “Place this verse in the chapter where such and such is mentioned.” Anfal was among the first revelations at Medina, and Bara‘a was among the last of what was revealed in the Quran. He said: ‘Their stories were similar, so we thought they were part of each other, and the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) passed away without clarifying that they were separate, so for that reason, I combined them without writing ‘Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim’ between them and placed them in the Sab‘ al-Tiwal.’” [Ahmad]

2. Diverse Arrangements in Early Mushafs of Companions

Secondly, they argue, based on the known fact among scholars, that the companions’ Mushafs (codices) varied in their arrangement before the Quran was compiled in the era of Uthman Ibn Affan. If this arrangement was divinely ordained and transmitted from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), it would not have been permissible for them to overlook, surpass it, and differ in it as much as the narrations suggest.

For example, Ali Ibn Abi Talib’s Mushaf was arranged according to the order of revelation, starting with “Iqra,” then “Muddathir,” then “Qaf,” and so on, through the end of the Makki and Madani revelations. Ubay Ibn Ka‘b’s Mushaf reportedly began with “Fatiha,” then “Baqara,” then “Nisa,” then “Ali ‘Imran,” then “An‘am.” Ibn Mas‘ud’s Mushaf started with “Baqara,” then “Nisa,” then “Ali ‘Imran,” and so on, with significant variations. It is known that Ibn Mas‘ud was among those who witnessed the final presentation of the Quran, yet his Mushaf was one of the companions’ Mushafs that most significantly differed in the arrangement of the chapters. [Zurqani, Manahil al-‘Irfan; al-Muqaddimat al-Asasiyya fi ‘Ulum al-Quran]

3. Recitation Practices

Thirdly, ‘Alqama Ibn Qays Nakha‘i, and Aswad Ibn Yazid Nakha‘i reported: “A man came to Ibn Mas‘ud and said: ‘I recite the Mufassal in one rak‘a.’ Ibn Mas‘ud replied: ‘Is this haste like reciting poetry? Or scattering like the scattering of loose sand? However, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to recite two equal suras in one rak‘a; he would recite (for instance) suras Najm (53) and Rahman (55) in one rak‘a, suras Iqtarabat (54) and Haqqa (69) in one rak‘a, suras Tur (52) and Dhariyat (51) in one rak‘a, suras Waqi‘a (56) and Nun (68) in one rak‘a, suras Ma‘arij (70) and Nazi‘at (79) in one rak‘a, suras Mutaffifin (83) and Abasa (80) in one rak‘a, suras Muddaththir (74) and Muzzammil (73) in one rak‘a, suras Insan (76) and Qiyama (75) in one rak‘a, suras an-Naba’ (78) and Mursalat (77) in one rak‘a, and suras Dukhan (44) and Takwir (81) in one rak‘a.”

Abu Dawud said: “This was Ibn Mas‘ud’s arrangement; may Allah have mercy on him.” [Abu Dawud]

This indicates that Ibn Mas‘ud, who witnessed the final presentation of the Quran, had a different arrangement of chapters in his Mushaf than the arrangement in today’s Mushaf.

Second View: Quranic Chapter Arrangement by Prophet’s Directive

The group of scholars says that the arrangement of the Quran’s chapters is by the directive of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and must not be altered. Their evidence includes:

1. Quranic Arrangement in Early Compilation


Firstly, when the Quran was compiled during the eras of Abu Bakr and then Uthman Ibn Affan, it was compiled in this arrangement, which is how the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) left the people, and it remains as such in the Mushafs of Muslims from the time of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace).

2. Divine Guidance in Chapter Placement

Secondly, Qurtubi reported from Abu Bakr Ibn al-Anbari: “Allah (Most High) sent down the Quran in its entirety to the lowest heaven, then it was revealed to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) over twenty years. A chapter would be revealed concerning an occurring event and a verse in response to an inquirer’s question. Gabriel would instruct the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) on the placement of the chapter and the verse. Thus, the arrangement of chapters follows the arrangement of verses and letters, all from Muhammad, the Seal of the Prophets (Allah bless him and give him peace), from the Lord of the Worlds. Therefore, anyone who delays a chapter meant to be earlier or advances one meant to be later is like one who corrupts the arrangement of verses, changes the letters and words, and there is no argument for the people of truth in advancing “Baqara” over “An‘am,” even though “An‘am” was revealed before “Baqara”; because this arrangement was taken from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), and he used to say, ‘Place this chapter at such and such place in the Quran.’ And Gabriel (peace be upon him) would stand by the placement of the verses.” [Qurtubi, al-Jami‘ li Ahkam al-Quran; al-Muqaddimat al-Asasiyya fi ‘Ulum al-Quran; Tayyar al-Muharrar fi ‘Ulum al-Quran]

3. Mutawwatir Nature of the Quran

Thirdly, those who believe the chapter arrangement is divinely determined argue that the belief in the Quran’s mutawatir (continuously reported) nature necessitates that its sura arrangement is also mutawatir. They supported their view with evidence including:

  • Numerous hadiths mention the consecutive chapters of the Quran according to the Mushaf‘s arrangement, with no contradiction except in a single narration, which does not oppose the divinely determined arrangement. For instance, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Read the two bright ones, Baqara and Ali ‘Imran, for on the Day of Resurrection, they will come as two clouds or two shades.” [Muslim]
  • It is also evidenced that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) when he went to his bed every night, would gather his palms, blow into them, and recite in them: Surat Ikhlas, Surat Falaq, and Surat Nas, then he would wipe over whatever he could of his body with them, starting with them on his head, face, and whatever of his body he could, doing that three times. [Bukhari]

4. Ibn Mas‘ud’s Indication

Fourthly, there are reports from the companions that affirm the divinely determined arrangement of chapters. For example, Ibn Mas‘ud (Allah be pleased with him) said, “Isra’, Kahf, Maryam, Taha, and Anbya’ are among the first to be revealed, and they are among my treasures.” [Ibid.]

This statement by Ibn Mas‘ud lists the suras in the sequence as they are arranged, indicating a recognition of their order. [‘Itr, ‘Ulum al-Quran]

5. Logical Analysis

Fifthly, they argue that based on knowledge and reason, the reality of the chapters’ arrangement and its method leaves no doubt to the observer that it is divinely determined, taken from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). For example, the arrangement of the Ha-Mim Ta-Sin chapters, the difference from the Musabbihat, and the non-consecutive placement of chapters beginning with (Alif Lam Meem) distinguish the (Ta-Sin-Mim) of Shu‘ara and (Ta-Sin-Mim) of Qasas by (Ta-Sin) of Naml, despite it being shorter than them. If the arrangement were based on ijtihad (independent reasoning), the Musabbihat would have been mentioned consecutively, and (Ta-Sin) of Naml would have been placed after (Ta-Sin-Mim) of Qasas.

6. Non-Revelation Order

Sixthly, the fact that the suras are not arranged according to their revelation order, where Meccan suras precede Medinan suras, indicates that the arrangement is divinely determined. [‘Itr, ‘Ulum al-Quran; Zurqani, Manahil al-‘Irfan; Tayyar al-Muharrar fi ‘Ulum al-Quran]

7. Interpretation of Quranic Verse

Seventhly, Zarkashi says, among those who argue for the divine arrangement of the suras, explained:

“Some have interpreted the verse: ‘And recite the Quran (properly) in a measured way.’ [Quran, 73:4] to mean: read it in this arrangement without advancing or delaying any part. There has been disapproval of those who recite it in reverse order. If one swore to recite the Quran in order, it would only be considered as such in this arrangement. Had the Quran been revealed in one single instance, as proposed by some, it would have descended in this order. The chapters and verses were revealed separately to meet the needs of the people at various times, including instances of abrogation, where it would not be appropriate for them to be revealed together. The most profound wisdom in its separation is what Allah (Most High) said: ‘(It is) a Quran We have revealed in stages so that you may recite it to people at a deliberate pace. And We have sent it down in successive revelations.’ [Quran, 17:106]. This principle forms the basis of many issues.” [Zarkashi; al-Burhan fi ‘Ulum al-Quran]

8. Prayer Practice

Eighthly, As for the Prophet’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) deviation from the sura order in one of his prayers, when he recited al-Baqara, then al-Nisa, then Ali ‘Imran, it has a different significance other than the divine determination of the order. It indicates through his action the permissibility of deviating from the order during recitation in prayer and otherwise, which has been the practice among Muslims, where they teach children from the end of the Quran in traditional schools. [Tayyar al-Muharrar fi ‘Ulum al-Quran]

9. Response to Criticism

Ninthly, Those who advocate for the divine arrangement responded to the previous hadith narrated by Yazid al-Farsi from Ibn ‘Abbas, questioning Uthman Ibn Affan about placing Anfal after Tawba without separating them with the Basmala. r. [Ahmad]

It’s a weak narration due to the unreliability of Yazid al-Farsi, who was criticized by Bukhari. It’s improbable for Uthman Ibn Affan, being among those knowledgeable about the Quran, to be ignorant of such a matter. [‘Itr, ‘Ulum al-Quran; Tayyar al-Muharrar fi ‘Ulum al-Quran]

10. Historical Validation

Tenthly, ‘Umar Ibn Shabba in the History of Medina reported: “Sulayman Ibn Bilal said: I heard Rabi‘a (Rabi‘a Ibn Abi ‘Abd al-Rahman, known as Rabia al-Ra’y) being asked: ‘Why were Baqara and Ali ‘Imran advanced when eighty-some suras revealed in Mecca preceded them, and they were revealed in Medina?’ He said: ‘They were advanced, and the Quran was compiled with knowledge by those who compiled it, and those who were with them in that, and their consensus on their knowledge about it is something that is to be accepted without ’” [Ibn Shabba, Tarikh al-Madina]

Crucial Factors to Consider Regarding the Organization of Suras

  • Those who argue for the arrangement of the Quran’s suras based on ijtihad (independent reasoning) do not deny that some of the Quran’s suras were arranged during the time of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), like the Sab‘ al-Tiwal or some of the Mufassal suras from (Qaf) to the end of the Quran. However, they do not see this as definitive proof of a fixed arrangement. Ibn Wahb reported hearing Malik say, “The Quran was compiled as they heard it recited by the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).” [Dani, al-Bayan fi ‘Ad Ayi al-Quran; Sakhawi, Jamal al-Qura’ wa Kamal al-Iqra’; Ghanim al-Quduri, Muhadharat fi ‘Ulum al-Quran]
  • Some believe that the arrangement is divinely determined except for (al-Anfal) and (Tawba) due to the previously mentioned hadith about Uthman, suggesting a third opinion.
  • The view that the arrangement of the suras is based on ijtihad does not conflict with the Quran’s mutawatir (continuously reported) nature, fully transmitted from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace). Advancing or delaying a sura does not affect this, nor is believing in such an arrangement essential to faith.
  • The fact that Gabriel reviewed the Quran with the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) does not necessarily mean it was in the current arrangement; the review could have been based on the order of revelation. [al-Muqaddimat al-Asasiyya fi ‘Ulum al-Quran]


Many scholars in their research have endeavored to demonstrate the coherence between each sura and those that precede it. Among them are Burhan al-Din al-Biqa‘i in his book “Nazm al-Durar fi Tanasub al-Ayat wa al-Suwar,” Suyuti in his book “Tanasuq al-Durar fi Tanasub al-Suwar,” and Ibn al-Zubair al-Gharnati in his book “Al-Burhan fi Tanasub Suwar al-Quran,” eventually becoming a science known as the science of correspondences (‘Ilm al-Munasabat). Additionally, many scholars have provided numerous pieces of evidence affirming the miraculous nature of the Quran through its sura arrangement, one of the most notable beings ‘Abdullah Daraz (Allah have mercy on him), in his valuable book “al-Naba’ al-‘Azim.”

The existence of such differences in opinion regarding the sura arrangement of the Quran is not of significant impact but rather a natural matter for those who lived through the revelation and understood that period. Many scholars lean towards the view that it is a verbal disagreement; however, what is important and impactful is that the Quran, by the grace of Allah (Most High), is preserved from distortion, change, and alteration, fulfilling the word of Allah (Most High):

“It is certainly We Who have revealed the Reminder (the Quran), and it is certainly We Who will preserve it.” [Quran, 15:9]

May Allah send blessings upon our Master and Prophet, Muhammad, and upon his family and companions.

And Allah (Most High) knows best.

[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.