Thursday, 16 October 2008

Why Study the Qur'an

The Unadulterated Text:

God Almighty has been giving guidance to mankind at large all through the ages. Wherever there were people, even in the remotest part of the earth, Divinely appointed Messengers were sent to guide them in believing in the Oneness of God, (Allah), doing good and refraining from evil. Some of the messengers were given written messages. However, their messages were not properly preserved. We find indications of improper perseveration, even in the lifetime of the messengers themselves, e.g. the Tablet given to Moses was broken and the Gospel given to Jesus was not duly written in his life time. Later on four versions of the Gospel were produced.

In the year 571 after Jesus, Allah sent the Final Messenger, Prophet Muhammad (pboh), an Arab by birth. He also received a divinely revealed message, over a period of 23 years. The complete and perfect code of life was given to man through him, never to be destroyed, mutilated, adulterated, challenged or doubted. His followers, called Muslims, are fortunate upholders of this perfect and complete code, called the Qur'an.

The Qur'an was revealed to Muhammad (pboh) message after message. The mode of revelation selected by the Almighty is one that leaves no room for doubt. The Angel Gabriel brought the verses upon the Divine command to the Prophet (pboh). Firstly, the angel read it and the Prophet (pboh) repeated after him, then the Prophet (pboh) recited and the Angel listened, then the Prophet (pboh) dictated to the available scribe when the angel left. After copying, the scribe read what he had written while the Prophet (pboh) listened to make sure that there were no errors from the dictation. When this was completed the Prophet (pboh) instructed as to where the verse or verses were to be placed in the different chapters, and the companions memorised them accordingly. The companions also made their own personal copies.

In this way the Qur'an was copied, as well as memorised by most of the followers of Prophet Muhammad (pboh). Each companion took pride in teaching the Qur'an to others due to the fact that the Prophet (pboh) is reported to have said that the best person is he who learns the Qur`an and teaches it to others. In this way the message was transmitted throughout the ages in its original form.

God Almighty communicated with His messengers in different ways, viz.

(a) Through inspiration
(b) By speaking to them directly
(c) By sending Angel Gabriel with the Divine message.

Although He used the three different methods to communicate with Muhammad (pboh) it is only (c) He used to reveal the Qur'an. And some of the messages, which were given to him through speech in the same way as He (Allah) spoke to Moses, were again brought down by Gabriel as revelation to be put in the appropriate places as Gabriel would have directed, if those words were to be recorded as part of the Qur`anic text.

With the exception of a few specially appointed messengers, all the divinely appointed guides were just for their people, and their messages were orally transmitted. Due to this the difficulty of perseveration the laws and principles taught, resulted in, either distortion or destruction later on.

The text of the Holy Qur'an has “no human element” in it. Every word that we now read is the same as in the reading at the time it was revealed to the Prophet of Islam (pboh).

Allah did not reveal the Qur'an in the same way as He caused to descend the Scriptures before it. In many cases the completed text was revealed at one time, e.g. the Books of Moses and Jesus. The Qur'an came down over a period of 23 years. One reason for this is, that Allah created situations before revealing the text in order that the people may use it as guidance. So that people found the revelation appropriate and applicable. In this way the text became more meaningful and easier to preserve.

The Qur’an explains itself:

No one is authorized to give a personal opinion on any portion of the Qur’an; or to take a verse out of context and use it for selfish purposes. The reading, the meaning and explanation of the Book have all been revealed by Allah. In this connection He says:

Move not thy tongue concerning the (Qur’an) to make haste therewith. It is for Us to collect and promulgate it. But when We have promulgated it follow thou its recital. Nay, more, it is for Us to explain it. (75:16-19).

In this process of getting the Message, one has to be familiar with references to the same matter at different places in the Qur’an.

An example of how the Qur'an Explains Itself.

Allah says:

He (Allah) has created man. (55:3).
It is He (Allah) Who has created man from water. (25:54).

But people became confused as to the origin of man, since we believe that Adam was made form clay. In order to clarify this Allah says:

He (Allah) began the creation of man with (nothing more than) clay and made his progeny from a quintessence of the nature of a fluid despised. (32:7-8).

So while Adam was originated form clay, his progeny originated from a fluid. This the Lord states in the following verse:

He has created man from a sperm drop (16:4)

He elaborated upon this as follows:

Man did We create from a quintessence (of clay). Then We placed him (as a drop) of sperm in a place of rest, firmly fixed. Then We made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood; then of that clot We made a lump; then We made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then We developed out of it another creature; So blessed be Allah, the Best to Create. (23:12-14).

After narrating the process of creation, Allah reminds us of resurrection, etc. For example He says:

Does man think that he will be left without a purpose (as a goal)? Was he not a drop of sperm emitted? Then did he become a leech-like clot; then did Allah make and fashioned (him) in due proportion. And of him He made two sexes male and female. Has He (Allah) not the (same) Power to give life to the dead? (75: 36 – 40).

There are those with ulterior motives who try to justify their own “invention of sect” in Islam with verses from the Qur`an. These people, however, cannot change the original text, but ascribe meanings and in some instances translations to the text, in order to justify their own beliefs. Because the original text remains unadulterated, it is easy to recognise the mistakes of the translator or commentator.

According to the records found in the Holy Qur'an the original language of man was Arabic. Adam and Eve begged for forgiveness in Arabic. Their prayer which is recited by many Muslims numerous times for the day is as follows:

Our Lord, We have wronged ourselves, and if Thou dost not forgive us, we will surely be of the losers. (7:23)

All communications between the Prophets and Allah seem to have been in Arabic. It is the communication between the Prophets and their respective peoples that was in the language that they spoke.

Allah says to us in His Holy words,

We sent not a messenger except (to teach) in the language of his (own) people, in order to make (things) clear to them. (14:4)

And among the Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors. Verily! in that are signs for those who know. (30:22).

The Arabic Qur’an:

Allah, in His Wisdom, created mankind in different tribes and nations, with different colors, speaking different languages, observing different customs, yet having similar beliefs and worshipping the same one God.

To every tribe and nation He sent guidance and a messenger to teach the people in their own language. Each messenger who came to a particular people spoke the language of the people and taught them belief, the ways of worship and the Hereafter in their own language in order that they were able to understand and act upon the lessons given.

This could mean that all the Messengers received appropriate portions of the Qur'an or the translation of the Message of the Qur'an to give to their people.
Allah says:

The fact that Allah says:

The Word of Allah does not change (10:64), means that it is the same Word or portion of it He gave to all the Messengers that came before Muhammad (pboh). And when Jibraeel was directed to bring commands or narrations from the Qur'an, it was translated by the respective Messenger.

How the Qur'an was revealed:

The term al Qur'an is used for the complete code revealed by Allah to Muhammad (upon whom be peace). Literally, it means, ‘the revelation, which is read, recited, or written in volume.’

The Qur’an is comprised of Surahs (Chapters), 114 in number. Each Surah is composed of Ayats (Verses), and the length of the Surah varies, so too are the lengths of the verses.

The longest is Surah al Baqarah (the Cow) with 286 ayats, and the shortest is al Kauthar, with only 3 ayats. The entire Qur’an is divided into 30 sections, for the sake of convenience and this forms the basis for recitation in optional Worship during the nights of Ramadan by those who know the whole book by memory. In all the form of worship in Islam, a certain portion of the Qur’an must be recited, and as such, it is the most widely read book in the world.

Even the first reference is to reading of the Holy Words, and the first command was to read. At the age of forty years, while Muhammad (pboh) was in the cave of Hira, the angel Gabriel came to him bringing the following revelation:

Read in the name of thy Lord, Who creates,
Created man from a clot,
Read, and thy Lord is most honourable,
Who taught with the Pen,
Taught man what he knew not. (96:l-5).

From then onwards, for twenty three years there was to be a continuous process of receipt of revelations, committing them to memory, writing them down and regular rehearsals of what was received previously, either in worship or in congregation with the Prophet (pboh) listening.

The revelations comprise among other things, description of the Attributes of Allah. It discusses rewards and punishments, (i.e. heaven and hell). It contains a complete moral code for life, using historical facts to show the strong and weak points of past nations. It is the source of legislation and as such enumerates a whole list of do’s and don’ts. It contains some regulations for worship; it mentions scientific as well as philosophical problems; and students of the Holy Qur’an can also find verses in reference to cosmological and astronomical facts.

Non-Muslims and polemic writers are very fond of trying to establish, that the Messenger (pboh) incorporated into Islam the available knowledge of Christianity and Judaism, in Arabia. They also claim that Prophet Muhammad (pboh) copied from their Books while compiling the Qur'an. All such accusations are false.

The Qur’an records even in the time of the Prophet, (pboh) such accusations. So if such are the sayings of present day critics, it is nothing new to us.

Commenting on such people Allah says:

And when there comes to them a Book from Allah, confirming what is with them, although from old they had prayed for victory against those without faith, when there comes to them that which they (should) have recognized, they refused to believe in it. (2:89)

Apart from Khadija and Abu Bakr, the first two members of the tribe of the Quraish who embraced Islam, the other early converts were Jabr, Yasir, A’ish, Qays and Addas, the Syrian Christian slaves of non-Muslim Quraish of Makkah.

If the earliest and the latest enemies of Islam insist that the messenger came to know of the Christian teachings from these slaves, it would mean that at a later stage, while embracing Islam at the hands of Muhammad(pboh) they fell victims to their own forgery. This contention is not only untenable, but absolutely ridiculous. The Qur’an itself is very clear about this same argument. It says:

And indeed We know that they say: Only a mortal teaches him. The tongue of him whom they hint at is foreign, and this is clear Arabic language. (16:l03)

That the Qur’an is a revealed Book of Allah is a fact that cannot be denied. It is being recognized by the world today, that even if Muhammad (pboh) was a genius, he could not have produced a book of this sort, containing so many facts, scientific and otherwise, which were unknown during his time, and he himself being unlettered. Only recently, were some of these facts discovered and many more discoveries will be made as advancement in the Scientific and technological fields continue.

The Qur`an: the Word of Allah:

Allah communicated with all His creatures in different ways either by inspiration, through instinct and intuition or through speech. In the case of communication to man it was through speech. He spoke to individuals, and to messengers on behalf of their followers. His universal communication to mankind at large is the Holy Qur’an. This He calls His Word. For example He says:

If one of the Pagans asks you for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the ‘Word of Allah’. (9:6)

And recite (and teach) what has been revealed to thee of the Book of thy Lord; none can change His Words. (18:27).

The Qur’an - the Word of Allah - has been properly protected and guarded from the time it came into existence. In the beginning it was secured in Lauhi Mahfuz, (i.e. the Divine Tablet). Allah says:

Nay, this is a Glorious Qur’an (inscribed) in a Tablet preserved. (85: 21-22)

This is indeed a Qur`an most honourable in a Book well guarded, which none shall touch but those who are clean; a revelation from the Lord of the Worlds. (56: 77-80)

One important difference between the revelations to the previous messengers and that of Muhammad (peace be on him) is constancy of language in the case of Prophet Muhammad (pboh) with regards to what was spoken and that of the revealed text. The Message was revealed in the language of the Prophet (pboh). The Qur’an says:

Had We sent this as a Qur’an (in a language) other then Arabic, they (i.e. the critics and non believers) would have said: “Why are not its verses explained in detail? What (a Book) not in Arabic and (a messenger) an Arab? (41:44)

Being the Word of Allah, the Qur’an is perfect in grammar, and construction of sentences, there are no contradictions, imperfections or inconsistencies. Allah says:

(This is) a Qur’an in Arabic free from imperfections defects or crookedness, in order that they may guard against evil. (39:28)

So efficient is the message from every point of view, that the All Wise Lord has issued a challenge to the world for all times to come, i.e.

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. (17:88).

Even the messenger, Muhammad (peace be on him) who was recipient of this Divine Code has been the most perfect model mankind ever had. And before his Divine Mission had started he was known as “the trusted one”.

This Holy Book will never become adulterated as Allah gave an undertaking the He will protect and preserve it. He says:

We have, without doubt sent down the Message, and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption) (15:9)

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