What Is Ayah?

In the Islamic Quran, an Ayah (آية‎; آيات āyāt) is a “verse,” one of the statements of varying length that make up the chapters (surah) of the Quran and are marked by a number. The word means “evidence,” “sign” or “miracle,” and in Islam may refer to things other than Quranic verses, such as religious obligations (ayat taklifiyyah) or cosmic phenomena (ayat takwiniyyah). In the Quran it is referred to in several verses such as:

تِلْكَ ءَايَٰتُ ٱللَّهِ نَتْلُوهَا عَلَيْكَ بِٱلْحَقِّۖ فَبِأَىِّ حَدِيثٍۭ بَعْدَ ٱللَّهِ وَءَايَٰتِهِۦ يُؤْمِنُونَ

(“These are the Ayat — proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, revelations, etc. — of God, which We recite to you, O Muhammad, with truth. Then in which speech after God and His Ayat (plural of ayah) will they believe?”)

— Qur’an 45:6; translation by Muhammad Muhsin Khan


Although meaning “verse” when using the Quran, it is doubtful whether “ayah” means anything other than “sign,” “proof,” or “remarkable event” in the Quran’s text. The “signs” refer to various phenomena, ranging from the universe, its creation, the alternation between day and night, rainfall, and the life and growth of plants. Other references are to miracles or to the rewards of belief and the fate of unbelievers. For example:

“And of his signs is the creation of the heavens and earth and what He has dispersed throughout them of creatures.” (Q42:29)
“And a sign for them is the dead earth. We have brought it to life and brought forth from it grain, and from it, they eat.” (Q36:33)
“… and they denied him; therefore we destroyed them. Herein is indeed a sign yet most of them are not believers.” (Q26:139)
“… you are but a mortal like us. So bring some sign if you are of the truthful.” (Q26:154)

Chapters (Surah) in the Quran consist of several verses, varying in number from 3 to 286. Within a long chapter, the verses may be further grouped into thematic sequences or passages.

These two lines of calligraphy in elegant muhaqqaq script are from chapter 40 (Sura al-Mu’min, The Believer) of the Qur’an. The fragment on which they are written was once part of a Qur’an manuscript that is probably the largest ever produced. Originally, each page included seven lines of script copied on one side only. A double-page would fit perfectly into the gigantic stone Qur’an stand made for the congregational mosque of Bibi Khanum in Samarqand and commissioned by a grandson of Timur (Tamerlane, d. 1405). Its calligrapher was likely the renowned ‘Umar Aqta’. Historical sources tell us that ‘Umar tried to impress Timur by writing a Qur’an so small that it could fit under a signet ring. When the sultan was unmoved, ‘Umar wrote a Qur’an so large that it had to be brought to Timur on a cart.

For the purpose of interpretation, the verses are separated into two groups: those that are clear and unambiguous (muhkam) and those that are ambiguous (mutashabeh). This distinction is based on the Quran itself: “It is God Who has sent down to you the Book. In it are verses that are ‘clear’, they are the foundation of the Book. Others are ‘allegorical’ but those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden meanings except God. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: We believe in the Book, the whole of it is from our Lord. And none will grasp the Message except men of understanding.”

A 16th-century Quran opened to show sura (chapter) 2, ayat (verses) 1-4.

A 16th-century Quran opened to show sura (chapter) 2, ayat (verses) 1-4.

A common myth persists that the number of verses in the Quran is 6,666. In fact, the total number of verses in the Quran is 6,236 excluding Bismillah, and 6349 including Bismillah. (There are 114 chapters in the Quran, however, there are only 113 Bismillah‘s because Surah At-Tawbah does not have one at the beginning, and even though the one at the beginning of Surah Al-Fatiha is its first verse hence part of it), there is another Bismillah in the middle of ayah 30 of Surah An-Naml .

The Unicode symbols for a Quran verse, include U+06DD (۝), and U+08E2 (࣢).

The first ayahs in the Quran from a chronological order are

Read [O Muhammad!] in the name of your Lord who created. (Q96:1) He created man from a clot. (96:2) Read, and your Lord is the Most Honorable (96:3) who taught with the pen

from surah Al-Alaq. The first ayahs from a traditional order are

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate

from surah Al-Fatiha. The first ayahs after the opening surah are

Alif Lam Mim. This is the Scripture whereof there is no doubt, a guidance unto those who ward off (evil),

from surah Al-Baqara.

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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