The Structure of the Qur'an


The numerical structure of the Qur'an is a relatively new study and began when the first full indexes of the Qur'an were composed through putting the text on to computers.

Surah 11, Verse 1

This is a scripture whose verses are perfected and then explained.

This verse indicates that no words are wasted in the Qur'an, it could not be in a better form. One could not use fewer words to say the same thing. To do so would add unnecessary information. One way to look for structure is to look, not to the meanings of the words, but to treat them as abstract logical terms (programmers would call them parameters or variables) which are used in phrases that could be understood as formulas or equations. To make this clear consider the difference between

"London is a large city"


"London has 6 letters"

In one phrase I am referring to the city and in the other to the name 'London'.

In the Qur'an we have several statements that could be thought to be equations. Specifically this is where the phrase "the likeness of A is as the likeness of B" ('mathal A kamathal B' in Arabic). But in what sense are A and B alike in an abstract way? Well the answer is that their number is the same, i.e. the number of times that the noun words or noun phrases occur is the same.

The occurrences of this include: Surah 3 Verse 59

The likeness of Jesus before Allah is as the likeness of Adam.

Both the Name "Adam" and "Jesus" occur in the Qur'an 25 times each.

Surah 7, Verse 176

The likeness of those who reject Our signs is as the likeness of the dog.

Both the Phrase "Those who reject our signs" and the word "dog" occur in the Qur'an 5 times. Surah 29, Verse 41

The likeness of those who take protectors other than Allah is as the likeness of the spider

In this case both A and B only occur twice.

Another expression in Arabic which can be understood as an equation, is the inequality statement expressed directly as "A is not equal to B" (la yastawee A wa B). This is sometimes stated as a question "Is A equal to B?" (hal yastawee A wa B) the indication invariably is that they are not equal. So we would expect that the number of occurrences of these 2 words are not the same. Nothing amazing in that, you may think it is indeed quite likely that the occurrences would be different. However, what we find is that the occurrence of the two unequal words differs by one exactly.

In 4:96 those who sit around are declared as not equal to those who strive in the cause of Allah. The former term has 2 forms for the same word in the Qur'an "al-qa-idoon" and "al-qa-ideen" . These different forms are exactly the same word but their ending is changed because of the grammatical case (nominative and accusative respectively). The latter term for strivers also has 2 forms "al-mujahidoon" and "al-mujahideen". When we compare occurrences of these words we find "al-qa-idoon"=2, "al-mujahidoon"=1, "al-qa-ideen"=4, "al-mujahideen"=3. In each form the difference in the occurrence of the 2 words is 1. In 6:50 the blind (Al-a'maa) and the seeing (al-Baseer) are set as unequal. The word for the blind occurs 8 times and the word for the seer occurs 9 times - 1 more. In 13:16 the depths of darkness (Al-dhulumaat) and the light (al-noor) are set as unequal. The occurrences of these two words are 14 and 13 respectively. There is one exception to this pattern. In 5:100 the good (al-tayib) and the bad (al-khabeeth) are said to be unequal, but we find the occurrence of both words is 7. The explanation is found in the verse that sets the equation, which immediately goes on to say that you will be dazzled by the amount of the bad. In another verse (8:37) God explains that he piles the bad one on another together so as to separate it from the good. This is also reflected in the Qur'an - the occurrences of 'the good' are scattered throughout the Qur'an but the occurrences of 'the bad' are sometimes 'piled together' two in one verse.

Other words have more direct numerical meanings.

The Arabic word for month is shahr. It occurs 12 times.

This is counting only the definite and indefinite articles: 'the month' and 'a month' There are also occurrences of other forms of this word which are in the plural. The total number of the occurrences in the plural is nine which is the length of a human pregnancy and perhaps the next most obvious period of time measured in months after a year.

The Arabic word for Day is yawm and you will find it occurs 365 times in the Qur'an.

This is also only counting the definite and indefinite articles: 'the day' and 'a day'. There are other occurrences of the word day in the plural and forms where they are tied together to pronouns, which make one word such as 'their day'. Interestingly enough the number of occurrences of the word day in the plural forms is 30 - the closest whole number of days in a lunar month and the average number of days in a solar month.

The word for year is sana and that occurs 19 times.

The significance of 19 here is that each period of 19 years is a repetition of all the relative positions of the Earth and the moon. This cycle was discovered by a Greek called Meton and is known as the Metonic Cycle.

This is counting the definite and indefinite articles 'the year' and 'a year' but also the plurals. The word occurs 12 times in the plural form and 7 times in the singular form. There are no other occurrences. The fact that this calculation takes into account plurals whereas when considering the word for month I ignored plurals has caused people to level the charge that the number relationships were fudged. I also saw the weakness in the pattern. However, I believed there was still something there. Maybe it was to do with the type of plural (broken and unbroken)? This is what was put on my web site for several months. But I discovered that that reasoning was wrong since both plurals are really broken plurals. Looking again for the significance of 12 and 7 we find what must be the answer:

Meton of Athens (ca. 440 BC) noticed that 235 lunar months made up almost exactly 19 solar years. Using modern measurements,

1 year is 365.2425 days;

1 lunar month is 29.53059 days

19 years = 365.2425 / 29.53059

= 234.997 lunar months


This 19-year Lunar Cycle became known as the Metonic cycle, and was the basis for the Greek calendar until the Julian calendar was introduced in 46 BC. Since 12 lunar months equal 354.367 days, about 11 days less than a solar year, an additional 235-19(12) = 7 lunar months were added to synchronise the cycle. These were added in years 3, 5, 8, 11, 13, 16, and 19 of the cycle.

So, almost certainly, we have here the importance of the numbers 12 and 7 (the occurrence of the plural and the single of 'sanat' (year) respectively). The metonic cycle is 19 solar years pretty exactly or in lunar years it is 19 and 7/12 ths!!

The remaining words you might think of related to time are "week" which doesn't occur at all, and hour. The word hour occurs in the Qur'an not, as might be expected, 24 times but 48 times! This is still a bit of a puzzle to me but there is something that might be noted here. A given calendar day e.g. 19th of January 1998 exists for exactly 48 hours. How is this? Well, it begins existing at the international dateline when the whole world is momentarily on 18th of January 1998. After 12 hours half the world is 19th of January 1998 and the other half is 18th of January 1998 after 24 hours the whole world is momentarily 19th of January 1998. After 36 hours half the world is 19th of January 1998 and half the world is 20th of January 1998 and after 48 hours 19th of January 1998 ceases to exist and momentarily the whole world is 20th of January 1998. From this we see that a day lasts not 24 hours but 48 hours!!!!

Another example of structure is spotted in Surah 15, Verse 33

For no statement do they bring you but We reveal the Truth to thee and the best explanation

In the Qur'an the word for 'they said' is qaalu and this occurs 332 times. The replies Allah gives to the reader of the Qur'an are commands to 'Say!'. The Arabic word for 'say!' in the imperative is qul and this occurs in the Qur'an 332 times.

Another example is that the Muslim should try to keep a balance between wanting the good in this life "dunya" and wanting the good in the next life "akhira". When we look for balance between these two words in the Qur'an we find it: Both the word "dunya" and "Akhira" occur 115 times.

One more thing I noticed was the result of an email dispute between a couple of people. The first was pointing out that the word Trinity never occurs in the Bible. The reply to this was that the word Tawhid never occurs in the Qur'an. The word Tawhid is an emphatic form of the meaning of oneness, which means aloneness (i.e. without partners) and is a very important term in Islamic theology. I checked this out and it is true that the word "Tawhid" doesn't occur in the Qur'an. This is somewhat contrary to what one might naively expect given the importance of the concept of God's oneness in Islam. However, I did notice that the word "wahid" meaning "alone" did occur in the Qur'an. What would you expect for this word, how many times is the word "alone" in the Qur'an? The answer is once. It is alone.

These are just starting points and I'm sure there is much more to discover. It deserves further investigation and I for one shall investigate this more as time permits. If you think that ignoring the remaining forms of the words (e.g. not considering the plurals for each word) is inconsistent then click here for the apparent consistency of these forms to the patterns spotted.

Please note that I have personally verified these through my study of the concordance of the Qur'an. This book is in Arabic and is called "al-muhjam al-mufahris li alfaadh al-Qur'an al-kareem" it was compiled by Muhammad Abdel Baaqee (and now you can do so too with the aid of an online concordance of the Quran I have built - click here to use it). In the introduction he explains how he validated the concordance by reading through the entire Qur'an and checking that every occurrence of every word was mentioned in the concordance. He found 14 omissions only and these have been included in the copy I now own as an appendix and integrated in later editions. It was only after he compiled this concordance that these discoveries were made and this concordance was compiled and published earlier this century (1940's). You must ask yourself, ‘Could Muhammad have put this structure in the Qur'an?’ Even if he could what would have been his aim seeing that the structure was not known about for 1350 years? Would it have justified the effort for any material gain of Muhammad?

If you make a balanced and objective analysis of the evidence you may well realise that to deny that the Qur'an is revelation from God, is to be quite unreasonable, a self deception and therefore a sin of disbelief that you will have to answer for on Judgement day. At such a point your choice is clear. If you never reach such a point despite your good thinking then it will be due to the lack of knowledge that you have been able to find. This will then be the fault of the Muslims in not delivering the message adequately. Muslims may be at fault both in terms of not providing exemplary behaviour because our conduct does not follow the teachings of Islam closely enough or it may be through us not communicating the message effectively. If this is the case you have some valid excuse on Judgement day for not accepting Islam.


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