And thus, We have sent to you O Muhammad a revelation, and a mercy of Our Command. You knew not what the Book is, nor what is Faith? But We have made it (this Qur’an) a light wherewith We guide whosoever of Our slaves We will. And verily, you O Muhammad are indeed guiding (humankind) to the Straight Path. (Ash-Shura 42:52)
Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, the final Messenger from God, received the Qur’an, in two stages. These perfect words of God were sent down to guide humankind out of the darkness and into the light; they are guidance and a mercy.
The Qur’an – the words of God are perfect words, from a perfect God, to His Creation. On the night known as the ‘Night of Decree’, in the Islamic month of Ramadan, the Qur’an descended, from the Preserved Tablet to the Lowest Heaven. It then descended from the heavens to the earth in small stages.
The revelation was delivered to Prophet Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel. When Prophet Muhammad was around forty years of age he started to spend time in deep reflection. According to his beloved wife `A’ishah (Al-Bukhari) the love of seclusion was bestowed upon him via vivid good dreams. He would go to the cave known as Hira’ to worship the One God and contemplate life, the universe, and his place in the world.
One night during Ramadan an angel came to him and asked him to read. The Prophet, who was unable to read or write, replied ‘I do not know how to read’. The angel then held him forcibly and pressed his chest so hard that he could not bear the pressure. The angel then released Muhammad and asked him once more to read. Again he replied “but I do not know how to read”. The angel held him forcibly three times and Muhammad responded each time that he did not know how to read (or asked what shall I read). The angel then related to him the first words of Qur’an.
Read! In the Name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists). He has created man from a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood). Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous, Who has taught by the pen, He has taught man that which he knew not. (Al-`Alaq 96:1-5)
After this first revelation, which Muhammad found frightening; he was not visited by the angel Gabriel again for an undetermined amount of time. The next time he encountered him (the angel) he was walking alone. Prophet Muhammad heard a voice from the heavens. When he looked up he saw the angel sitting on a chair between the sky and the earth. Muhammad was afraid and ran home seeking comfort and asking to be wrapped in blankets. The second revelation occurred at this time.
O you covered in garments arise and warn the people of a severe punishment… (Al-Muddaththir 74:1-5)
Over the next 23 years until shortly before Prophet Muhammad’s death, the Qur’an was revealed in stages. Several reasons have been suggested for this. Some say that it was revealed slowly to offer Prophet Muhammad support and address issues as they arose.
Aisha, the wife of the Prophet, narrates that when asked about how the divine inspiration was revealed Prophet Muhammad replied, “Sometimes it is like the ringing of a bell, this form of inspiration is the hardest of all and then this state passes after I have grasped what is inspired. Sometimes the Angel comes in the form of a man and talks to me and I grasp whatever he says”. (Al-Bukhari)
Ibn `Abbas described Prophet Muhammad as bearing the revelation “with great trouble and moving his lips quickly”.(Al-Bukhari) As the words of Qur’an were revealed to Prophet Muhammad he began to commit them to memory.
Memorization was considered important and was widely practiced even in the early years of Islam. Prophet Muhammad requested that his companions memorize Qur’an and used various measures to assure that the revelation was preserved in their memories. According to ibn Ishaq, compiler of one of the first biographies of Prophet Muhammad, `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud was the first man, after Muhammad, to recite the Qur’an publicly and on this occasion was severely beaten. Prophet Muhammad’s closest companion Abu Bakr was also known to recite Qur’an outside his home in Mecca. (Al-Bukhari)
Qur’an was memorized by the companions during Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime and this tradition has continued through the following generations. Even today Muslims unable to read Arabic memorize the exact same words that were memorized by the Arabs of the 7th century CE. The majority of the Arabs were unlettered, including Prophet Muhammad; however the importance of the written word was well understood.
Preserving the divine revelation was paramount; therefore trustworthy and knowledgeable people memorized and wrote down the words of Qur’an. These included the four men destined to follow Muhammad as leaders of the Muslim nation and a man named Zaid ibn Thabit, who would be instrumental in the preservation of Qur’an for the many generations to follow.
Writing materials were difficult to obtain and in these very early days portions of Qur’an were written onto animal skins, thin light colored stones, bones, and even bark. The companions would write down the words of revelation and Prophet Muhammad would listen to the men recite from the written word to make sure there were no mistakes. It could be said that the Qur’an was written down under the direct supervision of Prophet Muhammad. The Qur’an was not revealed in order, however the Angel Gabriel instructed Prophet Muhammad on how to compile the Qur’an in the divinely inspired correct sequence.
 Lauh Al-Mahfuz (the preserved tablet) is the book in which God wrote the divine decrees and the destiny of all of creation. It was with God before the creation.
 Suyuti’ in Al Itqan Fi Ulum Al Quran, Beirut, 1973, Vol. I pp. 39-40 based on three reports from ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbas, in Hakim, Baihaqi and Nasa’i.
Muslims believe that the Qur’an is the word of Allah.
The authenticity of any scripture is considered from two significant aspects; the first is its authenticity with regard to its divine origin, and the other is its preservation in its original form.
Muslims believe that the Qur’an is the word of Almighty Allah revealed to His Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and that it has retained its purity throughout history. Therefore, today, after centuries of turmoil, it remains the only divine book that has been protected from any form of corruption.
What is Meant by the “Qur’an“?
First, it should be emphasized that, by the Qur’an, we do not mean its translation into any other language, but we mean the original Arabic scripture. This is, for instance, in contrast with the Christian point of view considering any translation of the Bible as the Word of God.
Most Christians are not concerned about the original language of the scriptures of the Bible as long as they have a translation in their own language. Muslims, on the other hand, would never call a translation of the Qur’an “The Qur’an.” To them the Qur’an is that in the original Arabic which was revealed fourteen centuries ago to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
It was, beyond any doubt, revealed to him in Arabic and it is still read in the same way as the Prophet recited it to his Companions. Almighty Allah says,
Thus we have revealed it as an Arabic Qur’an, and have displayed therein certain threats, that peradventure they may keep from evil or that it may cause them to take heed. (Ta-Ha 20: 113)
The Qur’an and its Translation
It is known that a translator chooses words and phrases from the vocabulary of the target language to express what he understands of the original text. He may not fully succeed in expressing what he wants to convey, nor can he rule out the possibility of a different choice and order of words and phrases by another translator.
In the course of translation, the first casualty is always the typical idiom of the source language. Even in the best translation, much of the power and appeal of the original text is, somehow, lost.
This leads us to the fact that the Qur’an, as the Word of Allah, maintains perfect harmony between its content and language. One may understand the meaning of the Qur’anic text from a translation, preferably with sufficient explanation. However, the beauty, appeal and influence of its language, could hardly be convoyed to non-Arabic speaking people.
The foregoing is meant only to point out the limitations of translation. This is not meant to decry the use of translation in general, as it is essential for non-Arabs.
It is noteworthy that the Qur’an came to Arabia at a time when Arabic poetry had reached its peak; but the master-poets of that day could not equal the Qur’anic richness in diction, style or beauty.
Moreover, the Qur’an challenged the Arabs – the commanders of language, eloquence and fluency – to invent ten surahs or even one surah like the Qur’an but they could not. Almighty Allah says,
Say: “If the whole of mankind and Jinns were to gather together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they backed up each other with help and support. (Al-Israa’ 17: 88)
He, the Almighty, also says,
Or they say: He has invented it. Say: Then bring ten surahs, the like thereof, invented, and call on everyone you can beside Allah, if ye are truthful! (Hud 11: 13)
The Qur’an’s Effects on Language and Society
The Qur’an was able to hold the Arabic language in thrall from the moment it was revealed. Indeed, its haunting rhythms rocked the whole of Arabia from Sudan to Syria and from Morocco to Oman.
While the languages of most of the other scriptures had become dead, the Qur’an continues to occupy the top position as an abiding model for literary Arabic. In fact, Arabic has defied the usual norms of the evolution of languages throughout history.
The French scholar, Ernest Renan (1823-1894), who carried out extensive research on Semitic languages, said about Arabic:
“The Arabic language is the most astonishing event of human history. Unknown during the classical period, it suddenly emerged as a complete language. After this, it did not undergo any noticeable changes, so one cannot define for it an early or a late stage. It is just the same today as it was when it first appeared.”
In acknowledging this “astonishing event of human history” the French Orientalist, was in fact, acknowledging the miraculous nature of the Qur’an. It was the Qur’an’s phenomenal literary style which preserved the Arabic language from alteration that other languages have undergone.
There is no other book in human history that has molded, and continues to mold, the lives of generations of people as the Qur’an. It has reformed and refined all the aspects of the lives of Muslims.
The Qur’an has been miraculous to all human beings. It is the book that:
- Reformed and refined the lives of thousands of Bedouins who had not thought of anything beyond the confines of their clans,
- Transformed the shepherds of Arabia into Caliphs and judges “Qadis“,
- Brought into being the renowned universities and centers of learning that awakened a new enlightenment in the world that no other civilization of the world could match.
This was indeed a brilliant and lasting miracle of Almighty Allah reflected through the Qur’an, because Prophet Muhammad’s only source of inspiration for the revolution he brought about was the Qur’an. With Allah’s Book in hand, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) formed a model of the nucleus of a universal society in Arabia.
This society was formed out of those scattered and cantankerous desert tribes who had very little scientific knowledge or material resources. Their initiation into a stable Islamic cultural order was effected independent of all the socio-political systems or powers existing in the world at that time.
The Qur’an was the backbone of this unique spiritual revolution which has shone throughout history. The verses of the Qur’an were revealed to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) over 23 years of his life. As soon as the Prophet received these verses, he dictated them to his Companions who not only wrote them down, but also learned them by heart.
There were so many people who had memorized the Qur’an, that from the first day of its revelation, the Qur’an was in the hands and hearts of the people. You cannot say this about the Bible or about any other scripture.
Before the death of the Prophet, the entire Qur’an had been written down, examined and verified by the Prophet himself. From that time onwards, it has remained intact; safe from any corruption as several of its copies were in the possession of Muslims.
So, it was impracticable, even impossible, to make any changes to its verses even if someone had strongly intended to do so. Moreover, distorting the Qur’an was impossible as Allah Almighty has promised to protect it, He says,
Surely We have revealed the Reminder (Qur’an) and We will assuredly guard it “from corruption” (Al-Hijr 15: 9)
At the time of the Prophet’s death, a number of his Companions had already compiled the portions of the Qur’an into one volume. During the reign of the first Caliph, Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him), a leading scholar and scribe of the Prophet, Zayd ibn Thabit (may Allah be pleased with him), was appointed to compile an official version. After meticulous work, he prepared the official collection (mushaf ).
An Everlasting Miracle
One of the foremost reasons for the Qur’an’s continuing incorruptibility is that it has been preserved in Arabic, its original language, unlike the Bible. Thus, we can see that the Qur’an we have today is the same Qur’an that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) received from Almighty Allah. Its authenticity and genuineness therefore, is unimpeachable. Almighty Allah says,
And say: The truth has come and the falsehood has vanished; surely falsehood is a vanishing “thing”. (Al-Israa’ 17: 81)
He, the Almighty also says,
If there were a Qur’an with which mountains were moved, or the earth was cloven asunder, or the dead were made to speak, “it would be this one!” (Ar-Ra`d 13: 31)
One of the miracles of the Qur’an, which was revealed 14 centuries ago, is that it can be read and understood by the Arabic-speakers living today. Every language undergoes changes as time passes, and a period of one or two hundred years is long enough for a language to undergo substantial changes.
Thus, anyone who knows the rudiments of the history of languages knows that logically, it would be impossible for Arabic-speakers of today to read and understand a book that is fourteen centuries old.
Yet, every day, every hour, every minute, in fact every second of the 24 hours of the 365 days in every year of the past centuries have been alive with reading and studying the Qur’anic verses. That, certainly, will go on forever.
The volume and scope of the Qur’an increase in every imaginable way with the coming of multimedia. This had started at the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and it has continued unceasingly till the present day, making this the ever-present miracle of Prophet Muhammad, rivaling all other miracles so far.
Even the invaders who ravaged the Islamic lands and triumphed over the Muslims, owing to their military superiority, lost their dominance in the end when they were confronted with the spiritual power of Islam, and eventually, most of them adopted the religion of the people they had conquered.
Almighty Allah says:
This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah. (Al-Baqarah2: 2)
The foregoing inevitably leads us to the conclusion that the Qur’an is undoubtedly the word of Allah the Almighty.
Source: Taken with slight modifications from onislam.net.