By Muhammad Al-Bahi
It is frequently claimed that Islam is valid only for primitive people, as it elevates them to a better standard, and that is why it appealed to tribal communities, while in civilized societies it is no longer in use.
But, what is meant by civilized societies? Does this refer to modern societies which are based on materialistic industrial culture?
Actually, the great advance in natural and mathematical sciences helps man upgrade his living standard, but it does not elevate his soul. Science has nothing to do with morals; it is mainly concerned with materialistic and mechanic aspects. Natural and mathematical sciences play a great role in disclosing secrets of the universe, but they are far away from human moral values. Rather, some people may be misled to follow materialistic laws, taking spiritual values slightly.
There is no correlation between materialistic civilization and elevated human values, i.e. between natural sciences and morality. To reach a high standard of morality, man should be rightly guided, and to perceive the existence of the Supreme Lord, Almighty Allah, man should be religiously guided.
Materialistic progress does not necessarily entail moral reform; a society may witness great advance in natural sciences, even though it has moral degeneration. So, if egoism and individualism prevails, ties of curtsy will weaken and people will lose their faith in Allah and, thus, the society will lose its humanitarian aspects. That is to say, if there’s a friction between materialistic and industrial culture man will tend to violate the rights of others, then this will mislead him to lose his dignity as a human being.
Thus, this shows that using modern sciences for destructive purposes makes man decline to a low standard of humanity.
Man is not a machine, for man has a free will, while a machine has no power of choice; it has to be operated, and it is man who operates the machine not the other way round. Man can manage his affairs and operate mechanical aspects of life wisely once he realizes morality, distinguishes between right and wrong, realized the value of curtsy and cooperation and sense the existence of the Allah overall.
Piety includes fearing Allah, righteousness, tolerance, patience and persistence on the right path, unlike the natural and mathematical sciences. They have no value unless they are accompanied by piety.
The message of Islam is to guide man to a better standard of humanity, no matter where man is, in a rural or urban industrial society. Almighty Allah describes Islam as a message that aims at sanctifying man’s soul and elevating him over the rank of brute animals. It is concerned mainly with the moral side of life, so as to guide deviant people to the right path. Thus, Islam is a universal message; it is revealed for people of all races everywhere and at all times. Almighty Allah says:
He it is Who hath sent among the unlettered ones a messenger of their own, to recite unto them His revelations and to make them grow, and to teach them the Scripture and Wisdom, though heretofore they were indeed in error manifest. Along with others of them who have not yet joined them. He is the Mighty, the Wise. (Al-Jumu`ah 62 : 2-3)
Deficiency of Educational Systems
It may be argued that man may do without Islam, as long as there is education that also elevates man’s manners and corrects his beliefs.
Nevertheless, there is no system of education that elevates man’s manners and beliefs in a way that makes him good for himself, his society and his Lord. If there is such educational system, then it is Islam in the name of education.
In fact, education guides man’s behavior and instill in him many values, but they disregard the religious side. Thus, education is full of defects and, thus, turn out as insufficient for man’s salvation.
Islam, by and large, is not only a guiding message; rather, it is concerned with preserving man’s belief in Allah and monotheism, and it encourages piety. So doing, it awakens man’s conscience and drives him automatically to realize moral values of life and follow the right path. By applying such values all man’s deeds will be good.
Put it short, Islam’s first target is man’s heart, to purify it and fill it with true faith; then his mind, to instill in it the moral values of life. This is something education falls short of doing, as it focuses on enlightening man’s mind, paying no heed to the spiritual and religious aspects.
Courtesy onislam.net with slight modifications.
Dr. Muhammad Al-Bahi was born in Osmaniyah village, Giza, Egypt, in 1905. He studied in Al-Azhar University. He joined the Department of Rhetoric and Literature. He studied philosophy in Germany and then obtained his doctorate in philosophy and Islamic studies from Hamburg University.
By Shahul Hameed
According to Islamic teachings, all living things are partners to humans in life and each species deserves respect. Environmentalists never tire of stressing the importance of water as the “source” of life on earth. In fact, the ever-glorious Qur’an is the only divine book that lays so much stress on how life is so closely linked to water:
And have not the ones who disbelieved seen that the heavens and the earth were an integrated (mass), then We [Allah] unseamed them, and of water We have made every living thing? Would they then not believe? (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:30)
Almighty Allah also says:
And Allah sends down from the skies water; so He gives life therewith to the earth after its death. Surely in that is indeed a sign for a people who listen. (An-Nahl 16:65)
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) has taught that any person who plants a crop that feeds another person, animal, or bird, will receive his or her due reward in Paradise, and that denying water to living beings or destroying trees or plants is viewed in Islam as a grievous sin.
Modern scientific methodology and technology have their roots in the experimental science propagated by the previous generations of Muslims. What came to be known as Islamic science never was a greedy venture to conquer the forces of nature, but an ethical pursuit of knowledge with a view to decipher the signs of Almighty Allah in nature as well as in the whole universe.
While Muslims are proud of their contributions to science and technology as a means of improving the quality of human life, they are happy that they have little to do with the development of such technologies as linked to the destruction of nature, the environment, and of living beings through the wasteful exploitation of God-given resources and through the manufacture and use of weapons of global destruction.
In his article “Islam and the Environment,” Arafat El-Ashi, director of the Muslim World League in Canada, observed that “Human life is sacred in the sight of Islam; hence, no one is permitted to take the life of another person except as life-for-life; and in Islam suicide is a crime” (Smith).
Islam gives an integrated view of life and reality, and it is unique in that it holds every human activity, whether this-worldly or the other-worldly, under the purview of religion. That is because Islam views life as an organic whole; whose divergent spheres are subject to the same guiding principles.
The Islamic Shari`ah is a body of laws meant to govern the whole of human life. The scholars of Islam have underscored five major objectives of the Shari`ah based on the noble Qur’an and the Sunnah of our Prophet Muhammad — peace and blessings be upon him (Al-Timimi). These objectives are the protection and promotion of the following:
1. Deen — Religion
2. Nafs — Life
3. Nasl — Progeny or family
4. `Aql — Intellect or mind
5. Maal — Property or wealth (Siddiqi)
Thus, having irresponsible sexual relations, that often lead to unwanted pregnancy and consequent infanticide, is most heinous from the viewpoint of Islam.
One may wonder why the preservation of life is second to the protection of religion. The answer is that everything, including the very idea of protecting life, comes from religion; for Muslims, the very purpose of human life on earth is to worship Almighty Allah alone (Al-Timimi).
Our concern here is the protection of life, which is the second objective of the Shari`ah. The sanctity of human life is declared repeatedly and most emphatically in the ever-glorious Qur’an. An example is the Qur’anic verse that reads:
If any one slew a person unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land, it would be as if he slew the whole people; and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. (Al-Ma’idah 5:32)
To kill just one innocent human is like killing the whole of humanity, and to save just one human amounts to saving the whole of humanity! Can we possibly find a better way of emphasizing the sanctity of human life?!
Among the pagan Arabs at old times, there existed the horrible practice of burying alive the newborn girls. Today, however, this practice further developed to kill the babies even before they are born! By this, modern people have made the crime of infanticide a small matter of medical expediency. This practice is strongly condemned in a number of Qur’anic verses. An example occurs in one of the earliest chapters revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) in which reference is made to the Day of Judgment and the signs preceding it; two of these verses read:
When the female infant buried alive will be asked, for what sin she was slain. (At-Takwir 81:8-9)
Indeed, by prescribing death penalty for the murderer, the Shari`ah aims at the protection of life. Yet, no one has the right to take the life of another except under due legal process. Moreover, it is a unique feature of the Shari`ah that it makes a provision for the family of the murdered so as to forgive the murderer. They can do so freely or after receiving some token financial compensation.
The third objective of the Shari`ah is the protection of the progeny or family. It is well known that Islam strictly prohibits the free mingling between opposite sexes. While marriage is permitted and encouraged by the Shari`ah, promiscuity is forbidden in no uncertain terms. Islam views the sexual impulse of the humans as something natural and beautiful, not as something dirty. That is why Islam has regulated such impulses and nurtured and satisfied them through marriage.
Islam seeks to strengthen the family because outside it, there is no real protection for children, especially in their early stage of growth when the attention and care given to them by their parents are of crucial significance. So, any action that undermines the family is considered a serious crime in Islam; punishments are prescribed proportionate to the seriousness of the criminal act.
Thus, having irresponsible sexual relations, that often lead to unwanted pregnancy and consequent infanticide, is most heinous from the viewpoint of Islam, and due punishments are prescribed for such serious violations of Allah’s commands.
But in “modern” societies, especially in the West, permissiveness, which means no accountability to anyone, is the norm. This is most abhorrent to Islam, however.
In short, safeguarding the institution of the family is essential for the security and stability of any society. Crimes and increasing mental disorders leading to suicides seen in Western societies are often traceable to the dissolution of family. Where families have broken down, children may well develop criminal tendencies ultimately giving rise to social disruption. Therefore, the family is seen as greatly important in maintaining peaceful life at the individual, social, and international levels.
- Murad, Khurram. “Shari`ah: The Way of Justice.” Young Muslims. Accessed 29 June 2008.
- Siddiqi, Muzammil H. “Ethics of Shari`ah and Our Responsibility.“IslamOnline.net.28 July 2005. Accessed 29 June 2008.
- Smith, Gar. “Islam and the Environment.” Islam Awareness. Accessed 29 June 2008.
- Al-Timimi, Ali. “Islam: The Cure for Societal Ills.” Islaam.com.18-20 Oct. 1993. Accessed 29 June 2008.
Courtesy onislam.net with slight modifications.
Professor Shahul Hameed is a consultant to IslamOnline.net. He was previously the Head of the Department of English, Farook College, Calicut University, and the president of the Kerala Islamic Mission in Calicut, India. He is the author of three books on Islam published in the Malayalam language. His books are on comparative religion, the status of women, and science and human values.
By Safuan Ramlan
The framework of Islamic thought represents a comprehensive view of life and the universe. A Muslim is therefore required to acquire both religious and worldly knowledge. In fact, Islam advocated knowledge at a time when the whole world was engulfed in ignorance. In a matter of years the early generation of Muslims became a learned and refined people, for Islam had awakened in them the faculty of intellect. Those early Muslims understood from the teachings of their religion that useful knowledge is necessary for the benefit of the self and of humanity. Hence, they pursued it to such a degree that they surpassed other nations in development and productivity and carried the torch of civilization for many centuries.
Muslim history abounds with examples of scientific and cultural ingenuity. Muslims inherited the knowledge of the nations that came before them, developed it and placed it in the context of a precise moral framework. Muslim scholarship made a vital contribution to the enrichment and advancement of human civilization.
While Europe was still in the dark ages, religious Muslims were making great advances in the fields of medicine, mathematics, physics, astronomy, geography, architecture, literature, and history documentation to mention but a few. Many important new procedures were transmitted to medieval Europe from Muslim regions, such as Arabic numerals with the principle of the zero vital to the advancement of mathematics and the use of algebra. Sophisticated instruments, including the astrolabe and the quadrant, as well as good navigational maps, were first developed by Muslims. Only after people lost sight of their religious beliefs and obligations did the scientific achievements of the Muslim world cease and fall into obscurity.
Similarly, Islam does not now oppose any modern inventions that are beneficial to mankind. It is sufficient that they be used in the name of God and for His cause. In reality, machines, instruments and devices have no religion or homeland. They can be used for either good or bad objectives, and the way they are used can affect much of the earth’s population. Even something so simple as a glass can be filled either with a nourishing drink or with a poison. Television can provide education or immorality. It is up to the user to decide, and a Muslim is commanded to make good use of all the means at his disposal while being prohibited from causing harm to himself or others. Failure to use the proper means toward benefit is, in effect, a deprecation of Islamic teachings.
A truly Islamic government is required to the best of its ability to provide all means that promote adequate education for its citizens. Education is a right for all individuals and the required moral duty of every capable Muslim. All able, intelligent and skilled individuals in an Islamic society are required to educate themselves not only in the basics of their religion but in necessary worldly affairs. Further, it is obligatory upon qualified people to study every beneficial field of knowledge. For example, since every society needs doctors, it becomes obligatory for some people to go into the field of medicine to fulfill the needs of society.
Advancements in science and technology are among the ways and means to achieve development of the Muslim world. Islam calls upon Muslims to pursue knowledge in the broadest sense of the word. Prophet Muhammad said, “Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim.” [Narrated by Ibn Majah] He also said, “For one who treads a path to knowledge, Allah will make easy the path to Paradise.” [Narrated by Muslim] And the Qur’an contains numerous references to knowledge and its importance, such as:
Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of night and day are signs for those of understanding. (Al `Imran 3: 190)
Say, ‘Are those who know equal to those who do not know?’ (Al-Zumar 39: 9)
Allah will raise those who have believed among you and those who were given knowledge by degrees. (Al-Mujadilah 58: 11)
Qur’anic verses encourage study and contemplation of the universe that surrounds us and is particularly concerned with those sciences that give human beings the ability to benefit from the world around them. While encouraging investigation, the Qur’an contains references to a variety of subjects which have been shown to be scientifically accurate. This is the fulfillment of God’s statement over 14 centuries ago:
We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth. (Fussilat 41: 53)
Thus, when a Muslim has a sincere and wholesome intention to obtain knowledge, it will also have a positive effect on his faith. For knowledge reinforces textual evidence for the existence of the Almighty Creator and assists in appreciation of the many scientific allusions found in the Qur’an.
There has never been an established scientific fact that contradicted the teachings of Islam. Whatever modern science discovers only increases the Muslim’s knowledge of God’s magnificent creation. Thus, Islam actively encourages scientific endeavors and the study of God’s signs in nature. It also welcomes beneficial technological advances and allows people to enjoy the fruits of human ingenuity.
To a Muslim, conflict between science and religion is an impossibility, for religion comes from God and so does His system of creation and development. The modern, purely materialistic approach to scientific and technological advancement has indeed granted man a measure of physical comfort, but not mental or spiritual comfort. Islam advocates the incorporation of knowledge within a just and balanced value system where anything beneficial for one’s spiritual and worldly improvement is encouraged and advocated.
Safuan Ramlan is a member of the Executive Team of the Malaysian Society for Engineering and Technology, Malaysia.
Taken with slight editorial modifications from gainpeace.com.
By FSTC Ltd.
The 15th-century German craftsman Johannes Gutenberg of Mainz is often credited with inventing the art and craft of printing. There is no doubt that this brought about a tremendous revolution in human communication and accumulation of knowledge, but was it really “invented” in 15th-century Europe? Gutenberg does seem to have been the first to devise a printing press, but printing itself, that is, making multiple copies of a text by transferring it from one raised surface to other portable surfaces (especially paper) is much older. The Chinese were doing it as early as the 4th century, and the oldest dated printed text known to us is from 868: the Diamond Sutra, a Chinese translation of a Buddhist text now preserved in the British Library.
What is much less well known is that, little more than 100 years later, Arab Muslims were also printing texts, including passages from the Qur’an. They had already embraced the Chinese craft of paper making, developed it and adopted it widely in the Muslim lands. This led to a major growth in the production of manuscript texts. But there was one kind of text which lent itself particularly to mass distribution: this was the private devotional collection of prayers, incantations, Qur’anic extracts and the “beautiful names” of God, for which there was a huge demand among Muslims, rich and poor, educated and uneducated.
So in Fatimid Egypt, the technique was adopted of printing these texts on paper strips, and supplying them in multiple copies to meet the mass demand. Several have been found by archaeologists in the course of excavations at Fustat (old Cairo), and the archaeological context has made it possible to date them to the 10th century. Other examples have come from various sites in Egypt, where the dry climate has helped to preserve them. The style of Arabic script used varies between late Kufic and different cursive naskh and other styles used in the Mamluk period (13th-16th centuries).
One good late example is printed on Italian watermarked paper of the 15th century. So Muslim printing continued for about 500 years. We do not know whether it may have influenced the eventual adoption of printing in Europe: there is no evidence, but the possibility cannot be ruled out, especially as the earliest European examples were block-prints. It has even been suggested that the Italian word tarocchi, meaning tarot cards (which were among the earliest block-printed artifacts in Europe), may have derived from the Arabic tarsh. But this is a highly speculative theory, and more evidence will be needed before it can be accepted. Some of these printed documents display quite sophisticated designs involving calligraphic headpieces, transverse lettering, geometric panels, roundels, and the use of color.
There is also a great variety of script styles. Nearly 60 examples of these Arabic printed pieces survive in European and American libraries and museums, and an unknown number in Egypt itself. One example, in private hands, may have been produced in Afghanistan, or Iran, where it is known from historical sources that paper money was also printed in the Mongol period. There are very few historical or literary references, however, to the production of printed texts. It has been suggested that this non-classical Arabic term signified tin plates with engraved or repoussé lettering, from which printed impressions were made. But it is also possible that Chinese-style wood-blocks were used. The exact techniques are still in doubt. What is not in doubt is that Muslims were practicing the craft of printing for some five centuries before Gutenberg.
– Bloom, Jonathan M., Paper Before Print: The History and Impact of Paper in the Islamic World. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001; see especially pp. 218-219. – Bulliet, Richard W., “Medieval Arabic tarsh: a forgotten chapter in the history of Arabic printing”, Journal of the American Oriental Society 107 (1987), pp. 427-438.
– Carter, Thomas F., The Invention of Printing in China and Its Spread Westward. Revised by L. Carrington Goodrich. New York: Ronald Press, 1955; see especially chapter 18.
– Depaulis, Thierry, “Documents Imprimés de l’Egypte Fatimide: Un Chapitre Méconnu de l’histoire de l’imprimerie“, Bulletin de la Société Archéologique, Historique et Artistique le Vieux Papier 35 / 349 (1998), pp. 133-136.
– Fenton, Paul B., “Une Xylographie Arabe Médiévale à la Bibliothéque Nationale et Universitaire de Strasbourg“, Arabica 50 i (2003), pp. 114-117.
– Jahn, Karl, “Paper Currency in Iran: A Contribution to the Cultural and Economic History of Iran in the Mongol Period“, Journal of Asian History 4 (1970), pp. 101-135.
– Krek, Miroslav, “Arabic Block Printing as the Precursor of Printing in Europe: Preliminary Report“, American Research Center in Egypt Newsletter, 129 (1985), pp. 12-16. – Levi Della Vida, Giorgio, “An Arabic block print“, Scientific Monthly 59 (1944), pp. 473-474.
– Lunde, Paul, “A missing link“, Aramco World Magazine 32 ii (1981), pp.26-27 (on block printed Arabic texts.)
– Schaefer, Karl, “Arabic Printing Before Gutenberg – Block-printed Arabic Amulets“, Middle Eastern languages and the print revolution: a cross-cultural encounter. A catalogue and companion to the exhibition. Ed. Eva Hanebutt-Benz – Dagmar Glass – Geoffrey Roper in collaboration with Theo Smets / Gutenberg Museum Mainz, Internationale Gutenberg-Gesellschaft. Westhofen: WVA-Verlag Skulima, 2002, pp.123-128.
– Schaefer, Karl, “Eleven Medieval Arabic Block Prints in the Cambridge University Library“, Arabica 48 ii (2001), pp.210-239. – Schaefer, Karl, “The Scheide tarsh.” Princeton University Library Chronicle 56 iii (1995), pp.400-430.
– Schaefer, Karl, “Enigmatic Charms: Medieval Arabic Block Printed Amulets in American and European Libraries and Museums.” Leiden: Brill, 2006 (Handbook of Oriental Studies, I/82).
Courtesy www.muslimheritage.com with slight editorial modifications.
FSTC stands for the Foundation for Science Technology and Civilization. The Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation (FSTC) is a British not-for-profit, non-political, and non-religious organisation founded in 1999 by a group of philanthropic historians, scientists, engineers and social scientists. It is dedicated to researching and popularising the history of pre-Renaissance civilisations, especially the Muslim civilisation, that have had an impact upon the scientific, technological and cultural heritage of our modern world.
Muhammad Ibn Musa Al-Khowarizmi, the father of algebra, was a mathematician and astronomer. He was summoned to Baghdad by Al-Mamun and appointed court astronomer. From the title of his work, Hisab Al-Jabr wal Mugabalah (Book of Calculations, Restoration and Reduction), Algebra (Al-Jabr) derived its name.
His book On the Calculation with Hindu Numerals, written about 825, was principally responsible for the diffusion of the Indian system of numeration (Arabic numerals) in the Islamic lands and the West.
Al-Khowarizmi left his name to the history of mathematics in the form of Algorism (the old name for arithmetic).
Al-Khowarizmi emphasized that he wrote his algebra book to serve the practical needs of the people concerning matters of inheritance, legacies, partition, lawsuits and commerce.
In the twelfth century Gerard of Cremona and Roberts of Chester translated the algebra of Al-Khowarizmi into Latin. Mathematicians used it all over the world until the sixteenth century.
Traditional systems had used different letters of the alphabet to represent numbers or cumbersome Roman numerals, and the new system was far superior, for it allowed people to multiply and divide easily and check their work. The merchant Leonardo Fibonacci of Pisa, who had learned about Arabic numerals in Tunis, wrote a treatise rejecting the abacus in favor of the Arab method of reckoning, and as a result, the system of Hindu-Arabic numeration caught on quickly in Central Italy. By the fourteenth century, Italian merchants and bankers had abandoned the abacus and were doing their calculations using pen and paper, in much the same way we do today.
In addition to his treatise on numerals, al-Khwarizmi also wrote a revolutionary book on resolving quadratic equations. These were given either as geometric demonstrations or as numerical proofs in an entirely new mode of expression. The book was soon translated into Latin, and the word in its title, al-Jabr, or transposition, gave the entire process its name in European languages, algebra, understood today as the generalization of arithmetic in which symbols, usually letters of the alphabet such as A, B, and C, represent numbers. Al-Khwarizmi had used the Arabic word for “thing” (shay’) to refer to the quantity sought, the unknown. When al-Khwarizmi’s work was translated in Spain, the Arabic word shay’ was transcribed as xay, since the letter x was pronounced as sh in Spain. In time this word was abbreviated as x, the universal algebraic symbol for the unknown.
Robert of Chester’s translation of al-Khwarzmi’s treatise on algebra opens with the words dixit Algorithmi, “Algorithmi says.” In time, the mathematician’s epithet of his Central Asian origin, al-Khwarizmi, came in the West to denote first the new process of reckoning with Hindu-Arabic numerals, algorithmus, and then the entire step-by-step process of solving mathematical problems, algorithm.
The Muslims of the 9th Century, including Abu Al-Wafaa’ turned Algebra into science. They created the zero and the decimal point.
Abu Al-Wafaa’ was the first person to demonstrate the sine theorem for spherical triangle: sin (a+b) = sin a cos b – cos a sin b. The word ‘sine’ is the exact translation of the Arabic word Jayb.
Taken with slight editorial modifications from islamic-study.org, with the same title which reads, Muslims’ Contribution in Algebra.
By Shahul Hameed
The human mind “can operate only on the basis of perceptions previously experienced by that very mind, either in their entirety, or in some of their constituent elements.” (See Muhammad Asad’s Message of the Qur’an) In other words, we cannot form a clear idea of something that happens entirely outside the realm of our past experiences; and therefore, it is natural that we find it difficult to comprehend the full meaning and relevance of mystical experiences like revelation.
The Qur’an makes a clear distinction between the perceptible world of experience and the unseen world of transcendental reality. Revelation is a means for God’s specially chosen messengers to receive divine messages; we may call it an exclusive channel of communication accessible to the prophets. For this reason, by way of an objective investigation, we can only study the credibility of the person who claims to have received a revelation, learn the circumstances, and observe the results.
The Qur’an says what means,
It is not fitting for a man that God should speak to him except by inspiration, or from behind a veil, or by sending of a messenger to reveal with God’s permission what God wills: for He is Most High, Most Wise. (Ash-Shura 42:51)
This means that God does not hold a face-to-face talk with any human. The divine message comes to the prophets through the angel Gabriel. There are other exceptional cases, such as the Prophet Abraham getting God’s message in a dream or Moses hearing God speaking to him from behind a burning bush. But again, these are exceptional cases.
How did the Prophet Muhammad receive revelation? According to his wife `A’ishah, the Prophet used to go in seclusion in the cave of Hiraa’ outside Makkah, where he used to worship God continuously for many days.
One day, an angel came to him and asked him to read. The Prophet, who was unlettered, replied, “I do not know how to read.” The Prophet related the incident: The angel caught me forcibly and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it anymore. He then released me again and asked me to read and I replied, “I do not know how to read.” Thereupon he caught me again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it anymore. He then released me and again asked me to read, but again I replied, “I do not know how to read” (or “What shall I read?”) Thereupon he caught me for the third time and pressed me, and then released me and said:
Read in the name of your Lord, Who created, created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Bountiful. (Al-`Alaq 96:1-3)
This happened in the year 610 CE, when the Prophet was 40 years old. During the 23 years from the revelation of these first verses, the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet in stages. It was not revealed at one time for a number of reasons: to enable the natural and steady development of the community of believers by gradually implementing the laws of God; to meet the requirements of the changing conditions and needs of that community; and to facilitate easy absorption and memorization of the Qur’an.
When the revelation progressed, the Prophet encouraged his companions to learn as many verses as possible. Whenever a revelation came, he called for a scribe and dictated it to him. He was careful to keep the revealed verses safely recorded. Consequently, the Qur’an was available in written form during the Prophet’s own time. In the Qur’an, God says what means,
This is indeed a Qur’an most honorable, in a book well guarded, which none shall touch but those who are clean: a revelation from the Lord of the worlds. (Al-Waqi`ah 56:77-80)
The exact ways in which the Prophet used to recite the Qur’an were also recorded and passed down from generation to generation.
In his last sermon the Prophet said, “I have left with you something which if you will hold fast to, you will never fall into error—a plain indication, the Book of God, and the practice of His Prophet.” (See Ibn Hisham’s Biography of the Prophet Muhammad) This makes it quite evident that the Qur’an in the written form—though not necessarily in a single volume—existed during his time.
There are also three hadiths in Sahih Al-Bukhari (one of the most accurate and authentic collections of Hadith (the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad)) that inform us that Angel Gabriel used to recite the Qur’an with the Prophet once a year during Ramadan, and that he recited it with him twice in the year the Prophet died.
The chief scribe who used to record the revelation dictated by the Prophet was Zayd ibn Thabit. After the Prophet’s death, in the battle of Yamamah, a large number of the companions who had memorized the Qur’an died. As a result, Caliph Abu Bakr As-Siddiq appointed Zayd to collect all the available written versions of the Qur’an and to produce a master copy.
When Zayd completed this work, he gave the collection of written materials to Abu Bakr, who kept it with him till his death. After his death, `Umar ibn Al-Khattab, the second caliph, finally gave it to his daughter Hafsah—one of the Prophet’s wives—for safekeeping. It was from this collection of material that Caliph `Uthman ibn `Affan prepared several copies in the form of the first books of the entire Qur’an. Some of these copies still exist today.
After the Qur’an was collected in a single volume—known as a mus-haf—Caliph `Uthman sent copies of it to the different provinces that were ruled by the Muslims. The succeeding generations of Muslims always included a large number of people who memorized the Qur’an in its entirety. The extent to which the Qur’an was preserved is also evident in the fact that the way in which the Prophet Muhammad used to recite the Qur’an was also recorded and passed down from generation to generation.
To this day, the Qur’an is read and memorized by many Muslims all over the world—many of them non-Arabic speakers. The Qur’an that a Muslim in Indonesia reads or memorizes is the exact same scripture as one which a Muslim in Mauritania reads or memorizes. This is the phenomenon God mentions in the Qur’an, when He says what means,
We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption). (Al-Hijr 15:9)
Courtesy onislam.net with slight modifications.
Professor Shahul Hameed is a consultant to the Reading Islam Website. He also held the position of the President of the Kerala Islamic Mission, Calicut, India. He is the author of three books on Islam published in the Malayalam language. His books are on comparative religion, the status of women, and science and human values.