Causes of Revelation (isl.)


(Arab. Asbab al‑Nuzul, Turk. Esbâb‑ı Nüzûl)

The term ’causes of revelation’ is used to describe those situations, arising at the time of the Prophet Muhammad, that are considered causal for the passing-down of one or more Qur’anic verses or even an entire surah. The term may be used to describe the question of one of the Prophet’s contemporaries. Traditions concerning the causes of revelation are an important source for Qur’anic exegesis, as they contain information about the context of the verses handed down. As a result, the companions of the Prophet, and the exegetes who came after them, have taken the causes of revelation into account in interpreting the Qur’an. It has even been said: ‘Exegesis begins with knowledge of the causes of revelation.’

Knowledge of the causes of revelation has been deemed proof that the Qur’an is not a starry-eyed, abstract reality but rather a lived truth and guidance that can be experienced. Literature on the causes of revelation is based on the traditions of the companions of the Prophet and is comprised of their observations and biographical experiences. There are also traditions of the causes of revelation that can be traced back to interpretations and tenets of the companions of the Prophet. Interpretations of the companions of the Prophet on the basis of which consensus can be reached are considered directional in a religious sense. Traditions of this type help shed light upon the setting in which revelations have been passed down, and hence to make the Qur’an more understandable. The causes of revelation have been passed on in various forms, from which two categories have emerged:

  1. Traditions of the causes of revelation: these depict the conditions, contexts, and specific features of revelations; it is clear that they are based on observations by companions of the Prophet. Traditions such as these are considered a source of direction for an understanding of the Qur’an.
  2. Assessments of the causes of revelation: these are the product of efforts to establish a relationship between events that took place around the time of the revelation, or at a later stage, and certain Qur’anic verses.

Ahmet Nedim Serinsu

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This post is also available in Turkish.