About the Qur'an (1)
What is the Qur'an?
The Qur'an is the final revelation from God to His creation and though its basic message is the same as that revealed to previous Prophets of Allah and contained in their books the Qur'an is universal in nature thus it applies for all times to come and in all situations.
Muslims are not only exhorted to believe in the earlier Prophets but also the revelations to Prophet Moses PBUH in the Torah (Taurat), the Psalms (Zabur) of Prophet David and the Gospels (Injeel) revealed to Prophet Jesus PBUH in their original form.
To deny any of God's Prophets or their messages is tantamount to placing oneself outside Islam. The final message from God to mankind, revealed through the Prophet Muhammed PBUH is the Qur'an.
The Qur'an mentions many of the previous Prophets by name.
In some instances major parts of their individual lives are related while in others only relevant incidents are cited as a means of teaching and guiding later generations.
In addition it clearly conveys to us that there were many more Prophets who were sent by Allah but are not mentioned in the Qur'an.
"We did aforetime send apostles before thee: of them there are some whose story We have related to thee and some whose story We have not related to thee..." (Qur'an 40:78)
"No falsehood can approach it from before or behind it: It is sent down by One Full of Wisdom, Worthy of all Praise." (Qur'an 41:42)
The Qur'an is not a part of creation but from the eternal essence of Allah, therefore its protection is assured on earth though the whole world were to mock it and were bent on its destruction.
It is a Glorious Qur'an guaranteed heavenly protection as it is inscribed in a Tablet Preserved." (Qur'an 85:21-22).
"We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; And We will assuredly guard it from corruption." (Qur'an 15:9)
For Muslims the Qur'an is the first source of knowledge on issues pertaining to Islamic Law (Shari'ah)
Every human being has been awarded a certain amount of knowledge, which they transpose into instinct, reasoning, experience and habits.
Muslims consider that these alone are insufficient to equip themselves with a true understanding of normality and the moral and ethical knowledge necessary for the life of the individual if he is to contribute to the well being of the society of which he is a part.
A source of guidance, which forms and outlines the values and principles, shaping the life of the human being bringing peace and harmony to man's soul and personality, is therefore necessary for mankind.
From the beginning of creation man has received communication from God, to guide him and protect him from the dangers he is faced with through his misguided belief in his own autonomy, self dependency and deceit.
"Is he then, to whom the evil of his conduct is made alluring, so that he looks upon it as good, (equal to one who is rightly guided)". (Qur'an 35:8)
In Islam there are two sources which flow together to form the wellspring of Islamic Ethics and a unique guidance both in theory and practice for mankind.
These are the Qur'an, the word of God revealed to the Prophet Muhammad through the Angel Gabrael, and the Sunnah, the teachings of the last Prophet, Muhammad PBUH.
"God! there is no God but He, - the Living, the Self - Subsisting, Eternal. It is He Who sent down to you in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; As a guide to mankind, and He sent down the Criterion (of judgement between right and wrong). (Qur'an 3:2-3)
"You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah an excellent example for him who hopes in Allah and the Final Day, and who remembers Allah frequently." (Qur'an 33:21)
The Qur'an is the last of the Divine revelations sent down by God to mankind.
It is primarily a book of guidance, source of knowledge and code of ethics from the Creator to His created.
It is described as the `the only weapon to help your frail existence as you struggle against the forces of evil and temptation in this world.
It is the only `light' (nur), as you grope in the darkness, with which to find your way to success and salvation. It is the only healing (shifa') for your inner sickness, as well as the social ills that may surround you.
"It is the constant reminder (dhikr) of your true nature and destiny, of your station, your duties, your rewards, your perils.' These are verses of the Wise Book, a Guide and a Mercy to the Doers of Good."(Qur'an 31:2-3)
What Does it Contain?
The Qur'an is a book of complete guidance covering life in general. As such it appeals to the conscience of people as it invites them to think and encourages reflection before rejecting or denying their Lord and Creator.
"We showed him the Way: whether he be grateful or ungrateful (rests with His will)." (Qur'an76:3)
As well as instructing us about our economic, social, educational and political needs it also provides advice in matters such as marriage, divorce, birth, death, property, inheritance, trade and commerce, civil and criminal law and many other areas of common concern to every individual Muslim and the Muslim community as a whole.
More than anything it is through the Qur'an that one comes nearer and closer to the Creator. It informs man about God and His attributes and how He relates Himself to mankind.
It instructs man about himself and his relationship with his Creator, about his environment and how to conduct himself and his affairs and dealings with his fellow man and society at large whether Muslim or Non-Muslim.
It encourages the Muslim to aspire towards a higher spiritual existence of which it knows he is capable, embracing the attributes of his Creator and transforming them into mercy, justice and love both in his personal and public life in order to develop a virtuous society.
It guides and trains the Muslim character towards inculcating virtues of hope, patience, truthfulness and honesty so that one proceeds through life by the straight path exercising courage and endurance in all his dealings and affairs.
"Verily this Qur'an guides to that which is most right and stable, and gives glad tidings to the Believers who do good deeds, that they shall have a magnificent reward." (Qur'an 17:9)
In return for existing and behaving within the limits set down in the Qur'an God promises many rewards. Spiritual gifts to enhance and strengthen ones journey such as guidance, mercy, knowledge, wisdom, healing, remembrance and light as well as earthly rewards like honour, dignity, well being, prosperity, peace, success and victory are assured to the Believer.
"Good is the reward for those who do good in this world. Spacious is Allah's earth! Those who patiently persevere will truly receive a reward without measure!" (Qur'an 39:10)
How it was Revealed
As Muslims we believe that God revealed his message of guidance through human beings chosen specifically by Him for this purpose.
They were called Prophets who came from different parts of the world at various times, and when chaos, confusion or evil prevailed in human society.
The basic message of all Prophets from God, and hence of all scriptures they brought, is one and the same message from God to man.
"And verily We have raised in every nation a messenger (proclaiming): serve Allah and shun false gods." (16:36)
"That which We have revealed to you of the Book is the Truth, -confirming what was revealed before it: For Allah is assuredly- with respect to His servants - well acquainted and Fully Observant." (Qur'an 35:31)
This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed my favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. (Qur'an 4:3)
The Qur'an is the words of Allah which were entrusted to the Angel Gabriel to be brought down to its first abode which was that pure and sublime heart, the like of which man has never had - the heart of the Prophet Muhammad blessings and peace be upon him.
His behaviour as a chosen messenger of Allah was such that when Aisha (his wife) was questioned about it she said he was a walking Quran.
The revelation, which came to the Prophet in pure classical Arabic, remains today exactly as it was revealed over fourteen hundred years ago.
"It is He Who has Taught the Qur'an." (Qur'an 55:2)
"This is Arabic, pure and clear." (Qur'an 16:103)
The word Qura'a means to read or recite. For the Muslim it is the only revelation accepted in the practice and performance of the five prescribed daily prayers.
It is important for us to inculcate in ourselves the habit of consulting the Qur'an as it is deeply relevant to our concerns and experiences.
One may be attracted to Islam through a number of ways but it is only through reading the Quran one will find the true meaning of life and the guidance to perfect it.
Since the essence of man does not change its message is as relevant for us today and for all our future generations as when it was first revealed.
It has an eternal relevance for all people, being the word of the Eternal God. Ones approach to the Quran should always be as a humble servant of Allah without pride or arrogance so that the heart is open to its message and guidance.
To read or recite it at any time is considered an act of worship in itself and therefore brings with it the same blessings and rewards as for those who first heard it recited, understood its meanings and learned how to implement it in their lives from the Prophet Muhammad PBUH.
To strive to learn to read the Quran in Arabic is particularly encouraged while further study helps one to begin to understand the depth of its meaning and the richness and beauty of its inner secrets. In this way one begins to internalise it and reflect it in character.
"And recite the Qur'an in slow, measured rhythmic tones." (Qur'an 73:4)
During the period of revelation, which began in the month of Ramadan and continued until its completion after 22 years 5 months and 14 days, many of the Companions of the Prophet PBUH recorded on parchment and committed to memory the entire Qur'an.
During the period of Khilafah, which immediately followed the death of the Prophet PBUH Islam, spread rapidly throughout Arabia. Word was brought to Uthman RAA, the Khalifa of the time, that due to this the Qur'an was being recited in various dialects, which would eventually lead to distortion of its meaning and message.
One of the companions Zaid Ibn Thabit, who was not only renowned for his recording of the Qur'an but also his scrupulous attention to the correctness of every detail, was called upon by Uthman RAA to compile and distribute the correct and standard version.
Zaid RAA achieved this through calling together the large numbers of narrators (Tawater) who transmitted the Qur'an both verbally and in written form in a collection of writings (Mushaf).
Despite their number and location every syllable was agreed upon. The beautiful art of memorising the Qur'an is an admirable skill in which there are great blessings and is therefore encouraged by Muslims throughout the world.
For convenience and particularly to ensure its complete recitation during the fasting month of Ramadan, the Qur'an is divided into 30 sections or parts (Ajza).
It contains 114 Chapters (Surahs) within which there are 6236 Verses (Ayahs).
The Qur'an begins with Surah Al Fatiha, the opening chapter of 7 verses and referred to as the essence of the Book. It is recited at the beginning of every unit (Ra'ka) of the Prayer which means it is repeated at least 17 times per day in the cycle of the 5 prescribed daily prayers.
It concludes with Surah An Nas a final appeal for us to place our trust in God as our guide and protector rather than in man who, due to the weaknesses in his nature and character, will surely disappoint us. It also warns us to be cautious and mindful of the evil whisperings within our hearts.