Friday 26 December 2008 (28 Dhul Hijjah 1429) 

      Compilation of the Qur'an
      Adil Salahi, Arab News
      I read your article about the compilation of the Qur'an. May I seek 
further clarification about the arrangement of verses in a long surah. For 
example, Surah 2 contains 286 verses and tackles many subjects. How was it 
arranged and why does it have the title, Al-Baqarah? (Nawaz)

      The arrangement of the Qur'anic verses is part of the revelation of the 
Qur'an. It is true that many surahs were not revealed on the same occasion. 
Indeed the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to receive revelations from 
different surahs during the same period. None of these surahs would have been 
completed yet, as some passages were initially revealed to deal with certain 
occasions and events. For example, 60 verses in Surah 3 comment on the events 
of the Battle of Uhud. Its other parts, comprising 140 verse, deal with other 
subjects and were not revealed on the same occasion. Nor was a surah 
necessarily revealed in its final order. Some later passages might be revealed 
before earlier ones. The final arrangement was determined by God. When the 
Angel Gabriel brought the Prophet a passage or a verse, he told him its 
position in its surah. He would say to him: "This goes after verse so and so in 
such and such surah." The Prophet read out each surah as it was at the time. 
When a surah was complete, he would read it out in its final form and his 
companions would learn it in that order. 

      Each year in Ramadan, the Angel Gabriel would come to the Prophet at 
night and both of them would read the Qur'an together. In the last year of the 
Prophet's life, they read it in full twice, in its present order. Thus, the 
arrangement of the surahs is also part of the revelation. As for titles, these 
are taken from each surah, referring to an important issue it discusses. This 
may be in one verse or in a long passage. An example of the first type is Surah 
10, Jonah, where the Prophet Jonah is mentioned in one verse. An example of the 
first type is Surah 10, Jonah, where the Prophet Jonah (peace be upon him) is 
mentioned in one verse. An example of the second type is Surah 2, where the Cow 
story is discussed in a long passage. Some surahs have more than one title, but 
one of these is inevitably better known, because it is the one mentioned in the 
printed copies of the Qur'an. 

      Is it obligatory in Islam that women should always wear a black dress 
when they go out? We are told that this is so by some people posing as 
scholars. Please explain. (M. Amin)

      No, there is no Islamic requirement that women should wear black when 
they go out. What they should wear is what maintains a proper standard of 
decency, according to Islamic values and the traditions of society. The color 
of their garments is not an issue as long as they do not appear in eye catching 
attire. In many Muslim countries, people use a wide range of colors and these 
are acceptable if they do not violate Islamic values and standards of 

      We should also recognize that standards differ from one society to 
another. In North Africa, for example, women wear white when they are in 
mourning. This is considered odd in other Arab countries. Following local 
traditions that do not violate Islamic values is acceptable in such cases. 

      It is unfortunate that some people, particularly among those who think 
that they are guardians of Islamic values, feel that they should impose plain 
black as the only color of women's clothes in public. Such people are often 
very rigid in their views. You often discover that the best way to deal with 
them is to thank them for their advice. If you are certain that they are in the 
wrong, then you need only to ignore them.

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