Syraic surta: writing, text of Scripture, Scripture; a chapter of the Qur'an.

SURAH. Lit. "A row or series." A term used exclusively for the chapters of the Qur'an, of which there are one hundred and fourteen in number. These chapters are called after some word which occurs in the text, e.g. Suratu ’l-Hadid, the "Chapter of Iron." The ancient Jews divided the whole law of Moses into forty-five siderim or "sections," which were named after the same manner as the surahs of the Qur'an. (Hughes' Dictionary of Islam, p. 623)

Interestingly, the Encyclopedia of Islam mentions that the word sura is of unknown origin. There are many theories that its origin is Hebrew or Syriac, but there is no consensus. In particular, for such a common and important word, commentators have not been able to connect it convincingly to any Arabic root. It seems to sugggest that this might be a foreign word, as we remember that Muhammad went to Syria for trade missions before his marriage.

There are a total of 114 surahs in Qur'an, but this number differs from the number in the codices of Qur'an belonging Ubayy b. Kaab and that of Abdullah ibn Mas`ud. For more information of the differences, see The Collection of the Qur'an - from the hadiths, Section 5.3.

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