December 6, 2020

Knowing the Qur’aan

What is the Qur’aan?

The Qur’aan is the Book that contains the Words of God (1) revealed to Muhammad (2) (SA‘WS) (3) through Archangel Gabriel (4). It is the most complete, all-inclusive and the only preserved version of God’s revelations. With the revelation of this latest Book, Allaah SWT has rendered the books revealed to earlier messengers such as Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them) obsolete. Whatever good and truth was revealed in those books has been fully covered in the contents of the Qur’aan. No one, therefore, has any need whatsoever to refer to the old books.

1  God refers to Allaah, the Creator of the universe, and the God of all prophets and messengers such as Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Hereinafter, He will be mostly mentioned by His personal name, Allaah. As explained in the preface, frequently, Allaah will also be followed by “SWT” as a symbol of the reality that He is infinitely glorified and exalted.
2  Hereinafter, he will be referred to as "the Prophet".
3  This is an abbreviation for the Arabic phrase that means: May Allaah shower His blessing and peace upon him. See the preface for the full explanation.
4  His Arabic name is Jibreel, who is also called the "trusted spirit". The Qur’aan introduces itself in the following words: "Verily this is a systematic revelation from the Lord of all creations: the trusted spirit came down with it, revealing it into your mind, in clear Arabic language; and it has been described in the books of former peoples." (Ash-Shu‘araa 26:192-196).

The Qur’aan contains laws, commandments and guidance for humanity from Allaah SWT applicable to all times until the Day of Judgment. It outlines the way of life that Allaah has decreed for human beings. Anyone who wants to worship God as He wants to be worshipped has no choice but to follow the Qur’aan.

It has been named “Qur’aan” by Allaah SWT Himself. The name means “a coherent collection that is often read and recited”. What an appropriate name for the book that is read and recited by more than a billion Muslims in and outside their five daily prayers. Hundreds of thousands of them know the whole book by heart from cover to cover and they recite it daily to keep it fresh in their memory.

The Qur’aan is not an ordinary book. This is the book that made Prophet Muhammad (SA‘WS), a solitary and unlettered person, the most effective leader of the world, as well as the most ardently loved and most devotedly revered human being in history. He has been recognized by researcher after researcher as the person who has influenced the world the most (5). In obedience to the revelation of its initial set of verses, he started a movement that was constantly guided by its subsequent revelations until the movement succeeded in its mission, and Islam, the Qur’aanic way of life, was fully established in Arabia.

5  See “100 Most Influential People of the World” by Michael H. Hart, as an example.

Through the Islamic movement launched by the Prophet under its guidance, this book created an evolutionary revolution that has changed the map of the world for good. It caused the world’s only complete revolution in the shortest time frame in every aspect of the life of those impacted by it. It reformed their personalities, changed their attitudes, revolutionized their way of life, refined their tastes, united their ranks, opened their hearts, raised their spirits, organized their community, stabilized their society and gave them the wisdom to lead the world. Its adherents became the supporters of the weak, the helpers of the poor, the emancipators of women, the liberators of the exploited, the redeemers of the slaves, keepers of the peace, enforcers of justice and fairness and the teachers of knowledge, sciences and wisdom. They are the people who brought light to the dark ages. In short, this book was instrumental in establishing the Kingdom of God that Jesus had foretold and for which the Jews were awaiting the coming of their Messiah.

This is a book of fiery oration, passionate discourses, heart moving impact, tear flowing appeal, convincing reasoning, mesmerizing eloquence, exquisite literary style and charming prose. None of these adjectives is exaggerated. No superlative for it can be overemphasizing. The original listeners were stunned by its beauty. To resist its heart-piercing impact, not wanting to believe the facts it presented, they used to plug their ears. Since it was so effective, the simple-minded thought it was some kind of magic spell. The intelligentsia concluded it could not be the words of a human being.

Although it is a religious book, it has hardly any similarity to the books of other religions in terms of style, approach, subject matter or arrangement of its contents.

Usually, people’s approach to religion is emotional. When reading religious literature, they switch off their intellect so that they can blindly believe what the religion teaches. Not so with the Qur’aan! It does not appreciate blind followers. Rather, it challenges the reader to think, visualize and reflect instead of believing blindly or reading passively. It requires engagement of both emotion and intellect during the reading and reflection process.

Let us explore some of its salient features in more detail.

The Word of God

When Muslims say that the Qur’aan is the Word of Allaah SWT, they do not mean merely God inspired word. It is not a case where the ideas inspired by God were written in human words. It is literally the ‘Word of God’. Every word of the Qur’aan was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (SA‘WS) from Allaah SWT through Archangel Gabriel. It is the Eternal Word of the Eternal God. Not only did Allaah SWT reveal it, He also dictated its order of compilation and undertook to preserve it forever.

The revelation started coming to Muhammad (SA‘WS) when he was appointed to be the messenger of Allaah SWT at the age of forty. It continued for about twenty-three years until the revelation of the Qur’aan was completed. As the revelation was received it was immediately dictated to the scribes of the Qur’aan and committed to the memory by the followers of Islam. During this time, Muhammad (SA‘WS) spoke his own words and delivered speeches which, although God inspired, were not the Word of God, hence, were strictly distinguished from the Qur’aan.

From the first revelation to the last, the text of the Qur’aan has never been revised, edited, redacted or altered either by Allaah or by the Prophet. Every word of Allaah revealed to the Prophet became a permanent part of the Qur’aan forever. Even a temporary instruction given to the Prophet as a part of the revelation was conveyed by the Prophet to people, exactly as it was revealed, without any alteration whatsoever. Thus, every word brought to the Prophet has been preserved in its original form forever.

The Premises, the Subject Matter and the Objective

Premises

Whether you believe in the Qur’aan or not, you must, however, keep the Islamic premises in mind if you want to understand the message of the Qur’aan. The premises briefly are:

  • Human beings and the universe they are living in are planned creations of a Creator whose name in the Qur’aan is Allaah. Allaah, the Lord of the Universe, gave human beings knowledge, intellect and conscience along with freedom to choose and act.
  • Life in this world is a period of test for every human being. The test is: Who, using one’s free will, chooses to live a life of obedience to the Creator and who chooses to live otherwise. Those who choose to live in obedience of Allaah SWT will have a life of contentment and fulfillment in this world and a happy, joyous and comfortable life in the Gardens of Paradise in the Hereafter. Those who choose to disregard their duty and responsibility to Allaah SWT will have an unsettled life in this world and will be punished in Hell in the Hereafter.
  • To help people follow the right way, out of His mercy, He educated the first human couple in the proper way of life (Islam). Subsequently, He sent various prophets and messengers to do the same thing. Each prophet and messenger was sent to encourage people to obey Allaah SWT. Every messenger was also to establish the Kingdom of God and was given appropriate instructions and/or a book containing the guidance for people. Finally, Muhammad (SA‘WS) was sent with the Qur’aan for the same mission, but as the last Messenger of Allaah SWT.

Subject Matter

From the perspective of these premises, the subject matter of the Qur’aan is guidance for humankind; i.e., identifying the appropriate and inappropriate ideas, thoughts, actions and behaviours for people. Various traits of human behaviour are mentioned along with the consequences they are going to bring, and different kinds of human personalities are described indicating the types of personalities that are destined to eternal success and others that are heading to utter failure (6).

This is a book wherein you, as a person as well as a human being, are talked about. When reading it, you will see yourself individually described in different places. If you are attentive and reflective during its study, you will find yourself at times as if you are seeing yourself in a mirror. There, it will also advise you how you ought to be.

Through this Book, God talks to you and instructs you about what is good for you, warns you of what is going to harm you, explains what is expected of you, and recommends to you the way you should respond to its message.

6  "We have systematically sent down to you the Book explaining everything clearly, and a guidance and mercy and good news for the Muslims" (An-Nahl 16:89).

Objective

Its objective is to persuade people to adopt behaviour that will bring them success and salvation in the Hereafter while making this world a better place to live. For that purpose, it also wants to educate people to establish in this world a society permeated with love, justice, generosity, peace and excellence (i.e., a Kingdom of God). At the same time, its mission is to discourage people from bad behaviour by warning them of the terrible consequences in this world and the horrible punishment in the Hereafter. Thus, it was sent down to guide people to establish justice, peace and excellence on the globe by implementing the Islamic way of life as the world order.

Revelation

The nature of the revelation of the Qur’aan is not such that Allaah SWT wrote a book and sent it down in a printed and bound form. Here is how it happened:

Allaah SWT selected a human being (Muhammad SA‘WS) to be His messenger. He entrusted Muhammad (SA‘WS) the responsibility to launch a movement to reform a degenerated society, call people to God, organize them in a cohesive society and establish a Kingdom of God based on the principles, laws and regulations given by Him. For this purpose, He gave His messenger guidance at every step of the way and every stage of his mission until the mission was fully accomplished (7). The Qur’aan is the collection of all those instructions, commentaries, advice, rules, regulations, principles, commands, prohibitions, etc. given by Allaah SWT in His own Words throughout the mission of Prophet Muhammad (SA‘WS). In short, the Qur’aan was the God-given manifesto, main organ and mainstay of a great movement (8) started by Muhammad (SA‘WS) and it was revealed little by little over a 23-year period, as and when a message was required to keep the movement progressing and on track.

7  Tell them, "The holy spirit has brought it down gradually in successive revelations validly from your Lord to bring firmness to those who believe and as a guidance and good news for Muslims." (An-Naĥl 16:102).
"And it is a Qur’aan which We have divided into parts and sent it down caringly in successive revelations so that you can recite it to people as per their needs at different stages." (Al-Israa 17:106).

"Those who disbelieve say, "Why has not the Qur’aan been revealed to him all at once?" Thus do We reveal – in order that We strengthen your mind by it – We recite it to you gradually in well-sequenced and relevant fragments. 33 And they do not come to you with any objection or argument but We bring you the relevant, valid response and the best explanation." (Al-Furqan 25:32-33).
8  Hereinafter referred to as the "Islamic movement".

Initially, the verses were brief and the soorahs were short. They were easy to remember but very effective in their impact on the listeners. As the capacity of the listeners to understand the message grew, the structure of the verses and the content changed accordingly. As the people became more accustomed to Qur’aanic style and as the believers got more used to memorizing and reciting it, the length of the soorahs  grew along with the believers’ ability and dedication.

Preservation

The Qur’aan is the only religious book (attributed to God) that has remained in its pristine form since it was revealed. People can doubt the fact of it being the revelation of Allaah SWT, but no one can ever challenge the fact that not even a letter has been changed, added to or deleted from it. The Qur’aan itself states categorically that it will always remain protected because Allaah, Who revealed it, is also its Protector (9).

9  "Verily, it is We Who have systematically sent down the Reminder and indeed We are its Guardian.." (Al-Ĥijr 15:9)

The preservation of the text of the Qur’aan was achieved in more than one way. One of the means was capitalizing on the keen memory power of Arabs. For example, they were famous for committing to memory not only their own genealogies but also those of their camels and horses.

God had bestowed His Prophet with an extraordinary ability to remember. Whatever revelation Muhammad (SA‘WS) received was imprinted indelibly in his memory never to be forgotten.

In addition, immediately at the receipt of a revelation, Muhammad (SA‘WS) would call one of his scribes and dictate the text with the instructions as to where in the existing collection that revelation was to be placed.

Lastly, all Muslims had to learn the Qur’aan to be able to recite it five times a day in their formal worship (Ŝalaah). Thus, it was immediately memorized word by word by the believers. Memorization of the Qur’aan is such an important aspect of worship, that the Muslims made special efforts to learn the whole Qur’aan word by word and keep repeating it throughout the year. By the time of the Prophet’s death, hundreds of Muslims had memorized the full text of the Qur’aan.

Since the early days of Islam, there has never been a period that did not have thousands of Muslims who have memorized the whole Qur’aan in its entirety. Every year in the month of Ramadhaan, these people recite the whole Qur’aan to the congregation in their Salaah over the month from beginning to the end. The recitation itself is so meticulously carried out that not even mispronunciation of a word or a syllable of the Qur’aan is allowed to go uncorrected.

Thus, it was preserved in writing as well as through memorization by devoted followers whose learning chain from one teacher to the next has been authenticated and documented. Some original copies of officially documented Qur’aan are still available in the museums of the world. This is the only religious book the authenticity of which can be proven anytime by picking up some copies from different parts of the world, printed and written during various centuries and then checking them out with the recitation of any Muslim in the world. You will not find any differences in its text.

Style and Composition

From the brief note about its revelation, it is clear that the writing style of an ordinary book cannot be suitable for a multi-purpose book that is to guide a movement during its evolution, on its successful completion, and its adherents forever in the future. It should also be remembered that it was published, spread and propagated through recitation and spoken communication - not in the form of magazines, pamphlets and booklets. Hence, the Qur’aan is not composed in a writing style, but in an oratory style.

Even the intent of the speech was not just to inform, educate, plead or argue a point of view like a professor or a philosopher does. Above and beyond its informative, educational and advocacy roles, its objective was to create a revolution in the outlook, lifestyle and social paradigms of its audience. It was aimed at transforming the society by appealing to every aspect of human personality including heart and mind, intellect and emotions, scientific wisdom and artistic faculties, hope and fear, and logic and feelings. It had to sell its message to people of diverse attitudes, intellect, levels of understanding, backgrounds and perspectives. It was designed to concurrently accomplish multiple tasks of bringing the point home, changing the thoughts, eliciting the emotions, dismantling the opposition, training the followers, motivating the believers, winning the hearts of the enemies, convincing the doubters, exposing the falsehood and eradicating evil and immorality.

That is why you will see the Qur’aan discussing side by side and one after the other: matters of faith, moral injunctions, rules of law, calls to religion, admonitions, criticism, warnings, glad tidings, evidence, historical anecdotes, cosmic phenomena, etc. You will see one subject starts immediately after another without an evident transition; the speech keeps shifting suddenly between the first, second or third person; and, the speaker and addressee keep changing within the same discourse or paragraph. History is given unlike any book of history; philosophy and metaphysics are talked about in a non-philosophical fashion; law is given unlike any statutes of law we are accustomed to; politics, economics and civics are discussed unlike books of social sciences; and, human development and cosmic phenomena are mentioned unlike a book of science. We will describe the use of scientific facts in a subsequent section of this chapter but let us see how it deals with history.

The Qur’aan liberally uses some historical anecdotes, examples of previous civilizations and episodes from the lives and missions of previous prophets, but it does not describe those things like a historical account is ordinarily given. This is because it is not a book of history. It is book of morality and guidance. Its primary purposes of mentioning history is to:

  • Explain the points it has to make about its subject matter;
  • Support its conclusions; and.
  • Underscore its assertions.

Thus, when it uses historical examples, it usually does not even give the full historical account. Concisely and briefly, it mentions only that episode of history or only that(those) aspect(s) of the episode which is (are) essential for the point to be made. Even at that, it will mention only as little a part as possible for people of understanding to get the point. Sometimes, the same episode or the same aspect of an episode is repeated at several different places but depending upon the points to be made or emphasized, the details of the episode mentioned will be different. At one place one aspect may be elaborated and other aspects hinted briefly, while at another place some other aspect of the same episode will be given in more detail while the former aspect may be omitted or only briefly alluded to. Referring to the same episode in varying details at different locations might appear repetitious. But there are almost always subtle nuances in the points to be made, emphasized or underscored that a discriminating reader does not find them repetitious but rather appreciates the subtleties. Even when the same words are repeated, the context gives it a new emphasis. Putting all the pieces together, a coherent story emerges especially in the case of the episodes of the prophets of God.

A Unique Book

The Qur’aan is a unique book not only because of its features already mentioned but also because of the order of its compilation, the arrangement of its contents, its eloquence, its miraculous nature and many other aspects too numerous to cover. To fully benefit from its study, it is necessary to become familiar with some of its unique characteristics.

Unlike Your Idea of a Book

People expect a book to be arranged in a style they have become accustomed to. The organization of the material in one book might differ somewhat from another depending on its subject matter, but the layouts are essentially similar. Books are usually organized into parts, chapters, section, subsections, etc. according to the topics and sub-topics covered in it. Not so with the Qur’aan.

The Qur’aan is unlike any idea or perception of a book you might have in your mind. It is a unique book with a unique arrangement of its contents.

The basic units organizing the Qur’aan are Aayaat (verses; singular: Aayah or a verse) and soorahs. The word ‘soorah’ is roughly translated as ‘chapter’. But a soorah is not a chapter in the same sense as the chapter of a book is commonly taken to mean. Although each soorah (chapter) has an opening and closing and a main theme, most of the soorahs keep on reiterating essential Islamic teachings and core values over and over again. Such reminders and admonitions are dispersed throughout the soorahs well fitted in between the discussions of the main theme.

The Qur’aan has some 6,236 Aayaat (verses) that are divided into 114 soorahs. The soorahs vary in length and contents. The longest soorah has 286 verses while the shortest soorah contains only three.

Every soorah has a name, which does not necessarily represent the topic of the soorah. It is usually only a symbol to identify a certain soorah. Usually all it signifies is “The soorah wherein such and such a word has occurred”. For example, Al-Baqarah (the cow) is the name of the longest soorah of the Qur’aan. Its contents have nothing to do with a cow except that a brief anecdotal reference about the slaughter of a cow by the Jews has been mentioned in that soorah. An-Naml (the ant) is the name of the soorah wherein an incident in the life of Prophet Sulayman (King Solomon) regarding an ant has been mentioned. Otherwise, the contents of the soorah have nothing to do with an ant. All a name implies is “The soorah wherein Al-Baqarah (the cow) has been mentioned” or “The soorah wherein An-Naml (the ant) has been mentioned”. In fact, that is how Muslims used to refer to the soorahs initially. But slowly, for the ease of use and brevity, the sentence was dropped in favour of the one identifying word. Almost all names are like that. They are mostly symbols for the identity of soorahs, not the topics of chapters. There are, however, a few exceptions. Some soorahs like Soorah Al-Faatiĥah (the opening), Soorah Al-Ikhlaaŝ (the pure unity) and Soorah Yoosuf (Joseph) are the names of the soorahs as well as their topics.

Another clarification in case of names of soorahs is also warranted. Some people may think that, the Qur’aan, being a sacred religious book, must have used only sacred objects for the names of its soorahs. This is not true. The use of a word to identify a soorah in itself does not accord any sanctity or importance whatsoever to that word, or to the object represented by that word.

Unlike a Religious Book You may be Accustomed to

Canonical religious books (like the Torah, Gospels, etc.) are mostly arranged in the manner of history books and narrated in a story-like manner. The Qur’aan does use historical accounts and anecdotes to achieve its objective of providing guidance to mankind (as previously explained); however, unlike other religious books, its subject matter is NEITHER the history of mankind, NOR the history of certain people, NOR the report of the ministry of Muhammad SA‘WS, NOR any mythologies of religious nature. That is why its contents are not arranged like other religious books; e.g., it does not start with the human origin and end with the apocalypse; or, it does not begin with the nativity of Muhammad (SA‘WS) and end with the completion of his mission or his death.

Compilation and Order

So far, we have discussed that the Qur’aan is not written or arranged like any other religious or secular book as the usual style and arrangement is inappropriate for the purposes of the Qur’aan. Is it then compiled in the order its revelations were received? Shouldn’t it have been? The answer to both of these questions is: Absolutely not! Yet the arrangement is not arbitrary or haphazard either.

The order of every verse and every soorah has been dictated by the Author, Allaah SWT Himself. As and when a soorah, a portion of a soorah or a discourse was revealed, Prophet Muhammad (SA‘WS) was told where the new revelation fits. The instructions were given along with every revelation indicating that the new verses will be put in ‘such and such’ soorah; before ‘such and such’ verse; and, after ‘such and such’ verse. In the case of revelation of a full soorah, it was indicated where it was to be placed in the order of the soorahs. Therefore, as soon as the last verse of the Qur’aan was revealed, the orderly compilation of its verses and soorahs was automatically and instantly completed as well.

Every revelation was a super concise message that was sent to provide timely guidance pertinent to the circumstances at the time of revelation. It did not contain any details of the background or circumstances but, everyone – the Prophet, the Muslims and the disbelievers – all understood its message clearly because they were all living those circumstances. Compiling those concise messages of the Qur’aan in their order of revelation would have been counterproductive to the purposes of the Qur’aan. The compilation in the order of revelation would have been useful to people only if a detailed history of its revelation and every minute detail of the circumstances in which it was revealed would have been documented and appended with the revealed word. Without such an appendage explaining the background in detail, the arrangement in the order of revelation would have been confusing and ineffective in providing full guidance. It would have created unnecessary gaps in the thought process impeding the understanding of the Qur’aan and would have reduced the text to a collection of incoherent messages, cryptic messages and instructions. Appending every minute detail to capture the background and impact of the revelation fully, on the other hand, would have been beyond human capabilities. It would have also defeated the purpose of God’s revealing His own Word instead of His inspiring someone to write it. It would have created the same problems that previously revealed books suffered. The word of God would have been contaminated with the word of historians and human writers. The book would have been comprehensible only to the doctors of divinity. Instead, the same revelations were compiled in a different order, placing each revelation in its place just as pieces of a jig-saw puzzle are inserted in their places, automatically taking the shape of a superbly coherent, cohesive, meaningful and clear book whereby the context of the verses effectively determines the meanings of the pure word of God. That is one of the miraculous aspects of the Qur’aan - a miraculous book of pure words of Allaah SWT, available and comprehensible to every man and women of every level of knowledge and understanding living in any part of the World.

The guidance needs of a movement in its evolutionary phases are different in nature than those after the attainment of its revolutionary goals. Hence, the arrangement of the verses and soorahs of Qur’aan at the completion should naturally have been different than the order in which they were revealed. The order of the revelation was in keeping with the evolution of the Islamic movement and its needs. A new message to a new people unfamiliar with the message had to start with the education of basics in a gradual way.

After the completion of the movement, the Muslims needed to be frequently reminded of and refreshed about their obligations and responsibilities, and the laws and the regulations. They also needed to be on guard against the pitfalls and problems the believers before them, the Jews and Christians, were beset with. Hence, the soorahs containing such details that were revealed towards the end of the mission were put in the beginning, while the soorahs revealed in the beginning were mostly put towards the end. To understand one aspect of the profundity of compiling the Qur’aan in a different order than the revelation order, consider the example of the construction of a house. The way a house is initially constructed and the way its facilities are subsequently used take two totally different approaches and need different types of documentation. When constructing, the work starts with excavations, site servicing and laying of the foundations. Then it is built from the ground up. Once the construction is completed, the frontage of the house and the main useable area get the most attention, use and exposure. Foundations are attended to only when repairs and maintenance are warranted.

Looking at the arrangement of the soorahs in the Qur’aan and finding that usually the longer soorahs are in the beginning, while the shorter soorahs are at the end, it may be speculated that the arrangement of the soorahs is in the descending order of the size. That is not true either. Arrangement of soorahs has a lot deeper significance than mere length. The order of the Qur’aan is in fact an order of miraculous coherence and flow as elaborated in the next section “Some Guidelines for Understanding the Qur’aan”.

Repetitious Variety

That brings us to another point of repetitions in the Qur’aan. Some basic realities of faith are so much emphasized and repeated in the Qur’aan that a person ignorant of its style and its objective may not be able to appreciate it. But those who understand the objective, the subject matter and the mission of the Qur’aan can very well see the wisdom and the benefits of such repetitions.

First of all, every person has a different way of relating to issues. Different individuals need a point to be stated differently to fully understand it. The Qur’aan being the guidance for all mankind has to cover the important points in such a way that every human being of every intellectual level and understanding has an equal opportunity to get the point. For that reason, the fundamental points are made in different contexts, in different styles and in different places (10).

10  "And verily We have spelled out all matters of guidance in this Qur’aan in diverse ways for people, but humankind is, most of all, argumentative." (Al-Kahf 18:54).

Secondly, the Qur’aan was the guide for the mission carried out by Muhammad (SA‘WS) and his followers over 23 years. It was essential that the fundamental teachings are repeated in various ways at every stage of the movement so that people do not lose sight of them under the pressures of the current circumstances. Also, the new adherents joining the movement can immediately be taught the key subjects already covered in the past.

Thirdly, regardless of which part of the Qur’aan is recited, the reader is constantly reminded of the essential teachings again and again so that the message is inculcated in his/her mind firmly and solidly. It is also the miracle of the Qur’aan that the repetition is done in such a variety of modes, level of detail and different styles that it does not become a burden on the heart or mind. It always has some kind of newness in it.
These reasons for repetitions also explain in another way why the Qur’aan does not have the usual arrangement of a book. A book compiled according to set topics and sub-topics would have been devoid of all the benefits of variety mentioned herein.

Eloquence and Literary Excellence

The Qur’aanic prose is superbly elegant, eloquent and par excellence in literal quality. It is humanly impossible even for literary masters to produce such an extensive work of consistent quality with its intense poetic impact and a soul-piercing force. This was in itself an explicit miracle for Arabs of that time – especially coming from the mouth of an unlettered person who had no such training in, nor exhibited any penchant for, Arab poetry and composition.

Arabs as a whole had superb literary taste. They were keen for literary excellence and appreciated its beauty. In fact, they were so proud of their linguistic capabilities and heritage that they thought of other nations around them as ‘Ajam (dumb) people. The beauty of its prose was one of the factors that were helping Prophet Muhammad (SA‘WS) open the hearts of people to hear his message. People even started plugging their ears when in the vicinity of Muhammad (SA‘WS) so that they were not impacted by the eloquence of the words or the excellence of the text. The combined impact of the beauty of the Qur’aan and the beauty of his personality was so effective that people started calling him a ‘magician’.

Another factor that causes the loss of the flow and meaning of the Qur’aanic text is the custom of listing the translated verses individually in columns, emulating the Biblical style. That style is not appropriate for the Qur’aanic prose which should be printed in continuous paragraphs style as the ordinary writings are printed. You can take a beautiful paragraph of English prose, separate its individual sentences, put them into a column and you will see how much of its beauty is lost. To minimize such loss of flow, we have arranged the verses in short paragraphs, as and when warranted.

The Qur’aan—The Living Miracle

Every prophet and messenger of God was sent with miracles to show that he was a special person from God and to establish his credibility. Moses’ staff turned into a snake and he was able to pass through the parted sea. Jesus cured the blind and lepers, and raised the dead. What were the miracles of Muhammad SA‘WS?
The life of Prophet Muhammad (SA‘WS) was full of miracles. The list of his miracles is long and they are as amazing as Moses’ or Jesus’ miracles. There was one miracle, however, which he always presented as his special miracle. Whenever the non-believers demanded a miracle, it was the one they were asked to look at. That miracle is the Qur’aan which in fact is a living miracle (11).

11  Yet they say, "Why are not miraculous signs sent down to him from his Lord?" Say, "The signs are only with Allaah, and I am merely a warner to convey the warnings clearly." Is it not enough for them that We have sent down to you the Book which is recited to them? (Al-‘Ankaboot 29:50-51).

The miracles of Moses were performed but cannot be verified or repeated now. We can only read about them and believe in them. The same goes with the most astounding miracles of Jesus. But the Qur’aan is the only miracle that can be witnessed, experienced and validated by any sincere, willing person until the Last Day.

God gives his messengers the miracles suitable for their time. The miracles cover a field or an area of human endeavours that is highly regarded in a given society. A messenger’s miracles astound the people and establish the messenger’s supremacy in that domain by exceeding and surpassing all the expected levels of excellence in it. For example, during the time of Moosa (Moses), magic had gained pre-eminence in the society, consequently Allaah SWT gave him the miracles that would surpass any performance of magic. During Jesus’ era, healing and medicine were the greatest areas of concern. Hence, Jesus’ miracles were concentrated in that area. Arabs were crazy about eloquence and literary excellence, Allaah SWT gave Muhammad (SA‘WS) the miracle of the Qur’aan. There is, however, more to it than that. Because Prophet Muhammad (SA‘WS) was going to be the last prophet during this intellectually oriented age of knowledge, he was given the appropriate miracle for the coming times, i.e., the miracle of knowledge that inspires the intellect.

The Qur’aan is a living miracle not only because people can witness its features such as: Its excellence of language, the beauty of its style, its impact on the hearts and minds, it being free from any inconsistencies, it being meticulously preserved, it being the only memorized book, the revolution it created, the lives it changed and keeps on changing, the universal principles it has taught to humanity, the moral standards it has set forth, the purity of its teachings, the validity of its reports, the awe it inspires, the fear it creates, the hope it builds and the personality it prepares; but also because it is a living miracle from the scientific point of view as well.

It is the only religious book, and Islam is the only religion, that is not at odds with science. It rather encourages scientific thought and approach in its followers. Although it is not a book of science, it sometimes uses scientific facts to make its points. In fact, it keeps showing its miracles with the passage of time and the advancement of human knowledge. For examples, see the author’s booklet about the Qur’aan “A Book Unlike Any Other”.

Posted in Qur'aan on December 6, 2020 by Ayub Hamid

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