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Sūrat al-Nisāʾ and the Centrality of Justice

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image of Al-Bayan: Journal of Qur'an and Hadith Studies

A structural analysis of Sūrat al-Nisāʾ shows that it is composed according to a symmetrical plan, featuring a return at the end to themes of the beginning (such as the fair treatment of women). In its form, identified as A– B – C – B’ – A’, the sūra compares to other long Medinan sūras. The overall structure is an expansion of the A – B – A’ form common to Meccan sūras. By identifying the large yet likewise symmetrical plan of this sūra, the article – besides bringing to light an example of coherence – highlights continuity in the composition of the Qurʾān. It also brings the middle passage of Sūra 4 into focus. Here, reference is made to an incident involving a Jew accused of theft, and individual accountability is stressed. The Prophet’s ruling in this particular case, putting into practice the just principles enunciated in the “Constitution of Medina,” provides an instance of leadership by example. Finally, the article calls attention to a general development in the Medinan sūras, wherein the figure of Muḥammad, rather than that of an earlier Biblical prophet, for example, becomes central.

Affiliations: 1: Dept. of Arabic and Foreign Languages, American University of Kuwait


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