The Quran is a word derived from the Arabic root qara’a which means to read, write, to recite. Al-Quran means the reading or reciting, although, it is widely understood as the title of the revelation given to Prophet Muhammad(SAW). Thus, the scientists of the Quran defined it as the book sent to the Prophet Muhammad(SAW) with Arabic language which starts with Suratul Fatiha at the beginning and Suratul Nas at the end.
Other names of the Quran.
Apart from the title(the Quran), the revelation to Prophet Muhammad(SAW) is referred to by several other names in the Quran itself. The names and descriptions indicate the many aspects of the message of the Quran, such as:
1. Al-Furqan: the criterion or standard of judging right and wrong(Quran 25 verse 1)- Blessed is He who sent down the Criterion upon His Servant that he may be to the worlds a warner.
2. Al-Dhikr: the reminder(Quran 15 verse 49).
3. Al-Kitab: the book/scripture(Quran 21 verse 10)-We have certainly sent down to you a Book in which is your mention. Then will you not reason?
4. Al-Huda: the guidance
5. An-Nur: the light.
6. Rahmah: mercy.
7. Majid: the Glorious.
8. Mubarak: the Blessed.
Revelation of the Quran.
Revelation means communication to man from Allah. This communication is confirmed in the Holy Quran where Allah relates that at the time Iman began in his(Prophet Muhammad) life on earth, he affirmed the establishment of such communication as seen in Quran 2 verse 38.
The start of the revelations.
The Prophet was in his 30’s in search of the truth. He could not find it in the midst of the religion that existed around him. It became his practice to withdraw from time to time for periods of silent meditations or peace. The well-known place Prophet Muhammad(SAW) chose for this was a cave called Hira, the rocky hills near Makkah.
The revelation began in one of the last ten nights of the month of Ramadhan in the year,609 CE. The Prophet, who was then 40 years old, was sitting in meditation when suddenly the truth literally descended on him.
The first revelation.
During one such occasion while he was in contemplation, the angel Jibril appeared before him in the cave Hira and said, “Iqra”(Read), upon which he replied, “I am unable to read”. Thereupon the angel caught hold of him and shook him heavily. This happened two more times after which the angel commanded Prophet Muhammad to recite the following verses:
“Read! in the name of your Lord who created
Man from a clinging substance.
Read: Your Lord is most Generous,
He who taught by the pen
Taught man that which he knew not.”
Perplexed by this new experience, Muhammad ran home distraught and said to Khadijah “dhammiluni, dathiruuni”(cover me,cover me), he was consoled by her then she covered him. Prophet Muhammad then recounted his experience to her so she took him to her blind cousin Waraqah ibn Nawfal. Waraqah was a follower of Prophet Ibrahim. Upon hearing the description, testified to Muhammad’s prophet-hood, and convinced Muhammad that the revelation was from God. Waraqah said: “O my nephew! What did you see?” When Muhammad told him what had happened to him, Waraqah replied: “This is Gabriel that Allah sent to Musa I wish I were younger. I wish I could live up to the time when your people would turn you out.” Muhammad asked: “Will they drive me out?” Waraqah answered in the affirmative and said: “Anyone who came with something similar to what you have brought was treated with hostility and if I should be alive until that day, then I would support you strongly.” A few days later Waraqah died.
The initial revelation was followed by a pause and a second encounter with Gabriel when Muhammad heard a voice from the sky and saw the same angel and the revelations resumed with the first verses of Suratul Iqra.
At-Tabari and Ibn Hisham reported that Muhammad left the cave of Hira after being surprised by the revelation, but later on, returned to the cave and continued his solitude, though subsequently he returned to Mecca. It was reported that Prophet Muhammad told Zubayr:
“When I was midway on the mountain, I heard a voice from heaven saying “O Muhammad! you are the apostle of Allah and I am Gabriel.” I raised my head towards heaven to see who was speaking, and Gabriel in the form of a man with feet astride the horizon, saying, “O Muhammad! you are the apostle of Allah and I am Gabriel.” I stood gazing at him moving neither forward nor backward, then I began to turn my face away from him, but towards whatever region of the sky I looked, I saw him as before.”
Modes of revelation of the Quran.
The ways in which the messages of guidance are transmitted to the Prophet are several. Some are:
Through inspiration and dreams.
Speech through a hidden source
Speech sent through an angel.
Preservation of the Quran.
Allah promised to guide the Quran
The Quran was the only revelation that was recorded and preserved word for word, as it was revealed. No change, no omission and no addition has crept into it since it was received by Prophet Muhammad(SAW), this fact, which is acknowledged by hostile orientalists(non-Muslim writers) is a fulfilment of Allah’s promise in the Quran itself.
Evidence is in Quran 15 verse 9, where Allah says: “behold it is ourselves who have bestowed from on high, step by step, this reminder, behold, it is We who shall truly guide it(from corruption).”
The Prophet’s memorization of the Quran.
When the angel Jibril brought a message to the Prophet, he will ensure that the Prophet memorized it perfectly. Moreover, according to a Hadith the Prophet(SAW) told his daughter Fatimah that every year during the last ten nights of Ramadhan, Jibril will come to him to ensure that he has forgotten nothing of the Quran. He told her “Jibril recites the Quran to me and I to him once every year”. In the final year of his life this was done twice(Bukhari 61:25).
The Sohabahs(companions) memorization of the Quran.
Whenever a new portion of the Quran was revealed, the Prophet taught the verses to his companions immediately. They memorized it, used it in prayers, and also read it publicly. Abdullah bn Mas’ud used to recite it publicly near the Ka’abah and continued doing so when the idol worshippers beat him in the face. It was also reported that Abu Bakr used to recite the Holy Quran publicly in Makkah. The practice was encouraged by the Prophet Muhammad(SAW) according to the hadith in which Uthman bn Affan reported that he said: “the best among you is the one who learn the Quran and teaches it”(Sahih Bukhari).
Transmission of the written text of the Quran.
The written text of the Quran passed through three stages.
In the Prophet’s lifetime.
At the time of Abu Bakr’s caliphate. During the Prophet’s lifetime and Abu Bakr’s caliphate, the Quran was written on stones, walls, animal bones etc.
At the time of Uthman’s caliphate. It was during Uthman’s caliphate that the Quran was finally compiled into one authoritative book.
Compilation of the Quran.
The Quran was not revealed as a continuous document starting from page one, Surah Fatiha. For example, the first revelation(the first five verses of Surah Alaq) is not the first Surah in the Quran. Moreover, many Surahs were not revealed completely on one occasion, some other parts were revealed some times or even years later. The revelation of the Quran was given piecemeal over a period of 23 years.
Importance of Quran.
It will be recalled that the Quran has a number of different titles such as furqan(criterion), dhikr(reminder), Huda(guidance) and so on. These names give an indication of the importance of the Quran. The Quran helps us in understanding our situation and role on the earth. It tells us about the unseen, things that are beyond human perception.
The authenticity of the Quran.
The authenticity of the Quran proves that it is really what it claims to be i.e the final revelation from Allah. What is the evidence for this?
Historical evidence for the authenticity of the text.
We have seen in chapter 6, 7 and 8 that the Quran which Muslims use today is unchanged from the words revealed to the Prophet that was recorded and memorized by him and his companions. The text itself is the authentic text which the Prophet said was revealed to him through the agency of Angel Jibril. There has been no tampering of the text over centuries. This confirms the statement of Allah in the Quran that: “Verily it is We who sent down the Dhikr(the Quran) and surely We will guard it against corruption-(Quran 15 verse 9).”
2. Evidence that the Quran is a message from Allah.
The unlettered Prophet. It is recorded that the Prophet himself was ‘ummiy'(unlettered). This may mean that he could neither read nor write, or that he could do so only a little, or that he belongs to an uneducated people. Whatever, in any case, he certainly was not a writer, scholar, philosopher or historian, and could not from his knowledge or resources have composed the Quran himself.
3. The language and style of the Quran.
Not only is the content of the Quran beyond the knowledge of a man with the Prophet’s educational background, but also its style and language. Before the call to Prophethood, Muhammad (SAW) had never been known to compose prose or poetry. Yet, when the revelation came he was immediately able to produce verses and Suwar(multiple Surahs) in language and style of such beauty and power that no poet could ever rival his work. Even non-muslim Arabic speakers have been moved to tears while reading it. The Quran itself refers to its unique style and in many places challenges disbelieving humans to compose anything equal to the Quran in style and content. Evidence in Quran 2 verse 23-24 where Allah the exalted says: “And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down(the Quran) upon Our Servant [Muhammad], then produce a Surah the like thereof and call upon your witnesses other than Allah, if you should be truthful. But if you do not – and you will never be able to – then fear the Fire, whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for the disbelievers.”
4. Fulfilment of predictions.
The Quran contains several prophecies of events that were yet to come, which subsequently came as the Quran had foretold. The best known of the prophecies is in relation to the military victory of the Romans over Persians. The Persian had defeated Rome and taken Jerusalem in the year 614-615 AC. Yet, the Quran revelation predicted the reversal of this: “The Romans have been defeated in the nearest land(Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Palestine), and then after their defeat, they will be victorious within a few years”-Quran 30 verse 2-3.
The prophecy happened seven years later in 622 AC when the Romans defeated the Persians at the battlefield. At the time of revelation, the Prophet was in Makkah, and his enemies among the idol-worshippers were witnesses to the fulfilment of the Prophecy.
Another prophecy about the ultimate destiny of Islam to prevail over all other religions in Quran 9 verse 33( “It is He who has sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth to manifest it over all religion, although they who associate others with Allah dislike it.”) and Quran 24 verse 54 (“Obey Allah and obey the Messenger, but if you turn away – then upon him is only that [duty] with which he has been charged, and upon you is that with which you have been charged. And if you obey him, you will be [rightly] guided. And there is not upon the Messenger except the [responsibility for] clear notification.”) appears to be in its course of fulfilment.
5. No internal contradictions.
Although the Quran received piecemeal over a period of 23 years under many changes of circumstance, it is still totally consistent. One verse may explain or elaborate on a previous verse, but it never contradicts it. This absence of internal contradictions is another indication that it is not of human authorship.
6. Lack of contradiction with sound Natural Sciences.
From the earliest days of Islam, scholars made note of Quranic references to many things in the natural world and observed that the references in the Quran contained nothing contrary to man’s own experience and it is even scientifically understanding. With the passage of time, scientists in our own have been further surprised by the often debated correspondence of some of the Quranic descriptions with the present scientific knowledge obtained through observation and experiment. Some examples are:
– The universe was originally in the form of a fiery gas(Quran 41 verse 11).
– Matter is made up of minute particles(Quran 10 verse 62).
– All creations consist of complementary elements both among plants, animals and also inorganic matter(Quran 36 verse 36).
– Humans fingertips are unique and permanent(Quran 15 verse 4).
– Oxygen is reduced at high altitudes(Quran 6 verse 125).
– The stages of growth in the human embryo resemble exactly the description in the Quran(Quran 23 verse 14).
7. The miracle of the Quran.
A miracle is an event which cannot be explained by the natural cause of the event. It can only be done by the power of Allah who alone can suspend the natural course of things. It proves to people that a messenger’s claim to be sent by Allah is true.
A number of miraculous events in the life of Prophet Muhammad(SAW) were recorded, but the most enduring miracle was the Quran. The Quran has the unique distinction of being a standing miracle. That is, it is a miracle which will be witnessed by people of all time, not just the particular time in history when it happened. If a miracle happened a long time ago, people could say “since I didn’t see it how can I believe it? Maybe the people who saw it were uneducated. Maybe it was a trick, people are fooled by magicians.” However, the standing miracle of the Quran is ever open to inspection and has never failed. It has been preserved exactly as it was revealed.