THE GENERAL FEATURES OF THE QUR’AN
The Qur’an consists of the rhythmic verses, phrases, sentences, and chapters relayed by the Prophet as they were revealed to him by God, and which he proclaimed as the everlasting miracle testifying to his Prophethood. He challenged the Arabs of his time who doubted its Divine origin, as well as all unbelieving Arabs and non-Arabs who would come later.
God revealed His books to His Prophets before Prophet Muhammad in exactly the same way. God informs us in the Qur’an of some of them: the Pages of Abraham, the Torah, the Zabur (the Psalms), and the Injil (the Gospel). We do not know the names of the books given to other Prophets, and therefore cannot say with certainty whether they were originally revealed books or not.
These earlier Divine books were sent down in now-dead languages that only a few people today claim to understand. Given this, even if these books still existed in their original and unadulterated form, it would be virtually impossible to understand them correctly and to interpret and implement their injunctions.
Furthermore, as the original texts of most of these earlier Divine books have been lost with the passage of time, only their translations exist today. Obviously a translation can never be the same as the original. Therefore even if they had not been corrupted, we still would not have them in their original form. The Qur’an, on the other hand, exists in its original language, which is still spoken and understood by millions of people.
The movement of returning to the Qur’an, which began about a century ago, continues with its ups and downs. The Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad over a 23-year span and mostly on different occasions. This last “version” of the Divine Word, which was planted in the Last Prophet as a seed, grew swiftly and raised on its stem, put out its shoots, came to leaf, blossomed, and yielded fruit in all aspects of life. Almost one third of the world lived a peaceful life under its calm, serene shade for many centuries.
However, the Qur’an was veiled by the neglect and unfaithfulness of its “friends” and the pitiless hostility of its “enemies.” As a result, the rapacious appetite of the modern Prometheus produced by scientific materialism has engulfed the globe like a poisonous octopus. After a few centuries of misery in the clutches of this octopus, Muslims all over the Muslim world felt the dire need of returning to the Qur’an and found that this Word of God was as fresh as when it was first revealed and is “growing younger as time gets older.”
The Muslims’ very essence was deeply injured by this poison, and they and other people are looking for an immediate cure. Only the Word of God has this cure, but only “doctors,” upon whom humanity’s future depends, can present it. If the Qur’an had been understood fully and accurately and practiced effectively, these modern poisons would have found only a few Muslim customers even it they had been presented in golden cups. Unfortunately, these poisons are easily injected into Muslim minds, and some so-called Muslim “doctors” who should have defied them with the Qur’an took them as if they were the antidote. They even have identified the true cure—the Qur’an—with them and, furthermore, have ventured to test it in the laboratory tubes where the poisons are produced.
The first step to understanding the Qur’an is to understand Arabic, the language in which it was revealed, for language has the same meaning for a text as bodily features have for a person. The essential existence of a text lies in its meaning, just as a person’s essential existence lies in his or her spirit. Bodily features are the externalized form assumed by the spirit, and therefore serve as a mirror in which to see into his or her character. In the same way, the Qur’an’s language and styles are the form of its meaning and cannot be separated from it.
The second step is to penetrate its meaning, which requires living it. Although its language constitutes its outer form and structure, and therefore is very important in penetrating its meaning, restricting its understanding to linguistic understanding means restricting oneself to form or formalism. One can penetrate the Qur’an’s meaning, in which its essential existence lies, through purifying the “heart” (the spirit’s seat) by avoiding sin and evil, performing the necessary acts of worship, and living a pious life.
In the words of the late Professor Haluk Nurbaki, a Turkish scientist, the Qur’an is “like a rose that continuously grows petals in the womb of time.” As science develops and contributes to penetrating its depths of meaning, the Qur’an blooms to an even greater extent and grows younger and fresher. Thus, having sufficient knowledge of such topics as the abrogation of laws, laws and principles dependent on certain conditions, and unconditioned, general, and particular rules and the occasions on which the verses were revealed is not enough; the general principles of natural science also must be known. Since Prophet Muhammad received the Qur’an and taught and practiced it in his daily life as an infallible authority, knowledge of his Sunna, his practice of the Qur’an, and his example of living Islam also are indispensable to understanding the Qur’an.
The Qur’an is not a book of science, history, or morality. Nor is it a book in the literal sense of the word. It is a book to be practiced, for it came to guide people to truth, to educate them intellectually and spiritually, and to govern their individual and social life. Therefore, it can be understood only through daily practice. Remember that the Qur’an was not revealed all at once, but over a 23-year period on many diverse occasions. Separating the Qur’an and practical life means reducing it to the status of an ordinary book to be read. It does not unfold itself to any significant degree to those who consider it to be no more than this.
Moreover, the Qur’an is a medium-sized book that, at first glance, contains repetition. However, it declares that everything wet or dry is in a Manifest Book (itself) (6:59). A Prophetic saying states that it contains the history of previous peoples, tidings of those to come after its revelation, and solutions to disagreements among people. It addresses and satisfies all levels of understanding and knowledge, regardless of time and place.
Hundreds of interpreters have written commentaries on it during the 14 centuries of its existence, and none have claimed to understand all of its various aspects and meanings. Thousands of jurists have inferred laws from it and based their reasoning upon it, but none have asserted that they have inferred all of the laws contained therein or understood all of the reasons behind its injunctions and prohibitions. All pure and exacting scholars who “marry” mind and heart, all revivers (the greatest, saintly scholars who come when needed to revive and restore Islam) find their ways in it, all saints derive their sources of inspiration and ways of purification from it, and all authentic Sufi paths depend upon it. And yet, like a source of water that increases as it flows, it remains as if untouched.
The Qur’an’s miraculous eloquence gives it this depth and richness of meaning. Its creative and artistically rich style is only one element on which its eloquence is based. It frequently speaks in parables and adopts a figurative, symbolic rhetoric using metaphors and similes. This is natural, for the Qur’an contains knowledge of all things and addresses all levels of understanding and knowledge.
Ignoring this symbolic and artistic style caused the Zahiriya movement to appear. These people were content with a superficial, narrow-minded understanding of the Qur’an’s outward meaning. At the other extreme, the Batiniya (esotericism) movement searched for the whole truth in symbols and neglected the expressions’ outer meaning. Both currents are harmful, for the middle way is always preferable.
definition of the Qur'an
According to most scholars, the word Qur’an is an infinitive form of the verb qa-ra-e (reading or reciting) and so literally means a thing recited by adding letters and words to one another. Others say it comes from another infinitive, qar’ü (to collect), and so the Qur’an means “that which collects.” ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas narrates that qur’an in: It is for Us to collect it and promulgate it (75:17) means being collected and established in the heart. For this reason, some assert that since the Qur’an collects and contains the “fruit” of all previous Scriptures and all knowledge, it is called Qur’an.
According to Abu Musa al-Ash‘ari and those sharing his opinions, Qur’an is derived from the verb qa-ra-ne (adding and attaching one thing to another) and, since it consists of chapters and verses arranged together, it was named Qur’an. Other scholars, among them Imam Shafi‘i, affirm that qur’an was not derived from any word, but rather is the proper name given to the Book that God revealed to His Last Messenger.
The Qur’an is the Word of God and therefore eternal (having no beginning in time) and uncreated. But as a book conveyed to the Prophet by Archangel Gabriel and composed of letters and words, recited, touched, and listened to, it is not
The general definition of the Qur’an is as follows: The Qur’an is the miraculous Word of God revealed to Prophet Muhammad, written down and transmitted to succeeding generations by many reliable channels, and whose recitation is an act of worship and obligatory in daily
The Qur’an describes some of its features as follows:
The month of Ramadan in which the Qur’an was sent down as a guidance for humanity and clear proofs of the Guidance and the Criterion. (2:185)
This Qur’an could not have been invented (by anyone) apart from God, but confirms what was (revealed) before it, a fuller explanation of the Book—wherein there is no doubt—from the Lord of the Worlds. (10:37)
We have sent it as an Arabic Qur’an that you may understand and use your reason. (12:2)
This Qur’an guides to that which is most right, and gives good tidings to believers who do deeds of righteousness, that theirs will be a great reward. (17:9)
And in truth We have made the Qur’an easy to reflect and take lesson, but will any take heed? (54:17)
That this is a noble Qur’an, in a hidden, guarded Book. (56:77-78)
The Qur’an has other titles, each of which describe one of its aspects and thus can be regarded as one of its attributes, such as: the Book, the Criterion, the Remembrance, the Advice, the Light, the Guidance, the Healer, the Noble, the Book in Pairs, the Mother of the Book, the Truth, the Admonishment, the Good Tiding, the Book Gradually Revealed, the Knowledge, and the Clear.
The Qur’an is the book that Prophet Muhammad conveyed to humanity as God’s Word and that testifies to his Prophethood. Being his greatest miracle, it challenges the Arabs of that time and all people to come until the Last Day to produce even a single chapter like it. The Qur’an is unparalleled among Divine Scriptures as regards its preservation and transmittal to later generations without the slightest alteration. There is no difference among the copies of the Qur’an that have circulated throughout the world since its first revelation.
Concerning the Qur’an, Prophet Muhammad says:
The Qur’an distinguishes between truth and falsehood. It is not for fun, for those who reject it will be punished. It contains the history of previous peoples and tidings of those who will come later, and rules on people’s disagreements. Those who look elsewhere for guidance are led astray by God. It is God’s strong rope, the wise instruction, and the Straight Path. It is a book that desires cannot deviate or tongues confuse, one that does not bore scholars or wear them out due to repetition, and one possessing uncountable admirable aspects. All who hear it say: “We heard a wonderful Qur’an guiding to righteousness, and so we believe in it.” Those who base their words on it speak truly. Whoever judges by it judges justly, and whoever calls to it calls to
We close this topic with Said Nursi’s definition:
The Qur’an is an eternal translation of the great book of the universe and the everlasting translator of the various “languages” in which Divine laws of the creation and operation of the universe are “inscribed”; the interpreter of the books of the visible, material world and the world of the Unseen; the discoverer of the immaterial treasuries of the Divine Names hidden on Earth and in the heavens; the key to the truths which lie beneath the lines of events; the tongue of the Unseen world in the visible, material one; the treasury of the favors of the All-Merciful One and the eternal addresses of the All-Glorified One coming from the world of the Unseen beyond the veil of this visible world; the sun of the spiritual and intellectual world of Islam and its foundation and plan; the sacred map of the worlds of the Hereafter; the expounder, the lucid interpreter, articulate proof, and clear translator of the Divine “Essence,” Attributes, Names and acts; the educator and trainer of the world of humanity and the water and light of Islam, which is the true and greatest humanity; the true wisdom of humankind and their true guide leading them to happiness; and for human beings it is both a book of law, a book of prayer, a book of wisdom, a book of worship and servanthood to God, and a book of commands and invitation, a book of invocation, and a book of reflection, a holy book containing books for all the spiritual needs of humankind, and a heavenly book which, like a sacred library, contains numerous booklets from which all the saints and the eminently truthful, and all the purified and discerning scholars have derived their ways peculiar to each, and which illuminates each of these ways and answers the needs of all those with different tastes and temperaments who follow them.
Having come from the Supreme Throne of God, and originated in His Greatest Name, and issued forth from the most comprehensive rank of each Name, the Qur’an is both the word of God as regards His being the Lord of the worlds, and His decree in respect of His having the title of the Deity of all creatures, and a discourse in the name of the Creator of all the heavens and Earth, and a speech from the perspective of the absolute Divine Lordship, and an eternal sermon on behalf of the universal Sovereignty of the All-Glorified One, and a register of the favors of the All-Merciful One from the viewpoint of the all-embracing Mercy, and a collection of messages some of which begin with a cipher, and a holy book which, having descended from the surrounding circle of the Divine Greatest Name, looks over and surveys the circle surrounded by the Supreme Throne of God.
It is because of all these that the title of “Word of God” has been, and will always be, given to the Qur’an most deservedly. After the Qur’an come the Scriptures and Pages which were sent to some other Prophets. As for the other countless Divine words, some of them are conversations in the form of inspirations coming as the particular manifestations of a particular aspect of Divine Mercy, Sovereignty, and Lordship under a particular title with particular regard. The inspirations coming to angels, human beings and animals vary greatly with regard to their universality or particularity.
The Qur’an is a heavenly book, which contains in brief the Scriptures revealed to the previous Prophets in different ages, and the content of the treatises of all the saints with different temperaments, and the works of all the purified scholars each following a way particular to himself; the six sides of which are bright and absolutely free of the darkness of doubts and whimsical thoughts; whose point of support is with certainty Divine Revelation and the Divine eternal Word, whose aim is manifestly eternal happiness, and whose inside is manifestly pure guidance.
And it is surrounded and supported: from above by the lights of faith, from below by proof and evidence, from the right by the submission of the heart and the conscience, and from the left by the admission of reason and other intellectual faculties. Its fruit is with absolute certainty the mercy of the Most Merciful One, and Paradise; and it has been accepted and promoted by angels and innumerable people and jinn through the
1. ‘Abdurrahman Cetin, Kur’an Ilimleri ve Kur’an-i Kerim Tarihi (Istanbul: 1982), 30-32.
2. Hayreddin Karaman, Fikih Usulu (Istanbul: n.d.), 67.
3. O. Zeki Mollamehmedoglu, Sunen-i Tirmizi Tercumesi, vol. 5, hadith no: 3069, 3093.
4. Said Nursi, The Words (trans.) (Izmir: Kaynak, 1998), 2:2-4.
Qur'an's style and depth of meaning
As the Qur’an deals with all issues of theological value and surpasses all scriptural records of pre- or post-Islamic ages in the abundant variety of its contents, its approach, presentation, and solution are unique. Rather than dealing with a topic in the usual systematic manner employed by theologians or apostolic writers, it expressly says that it has its own special manifold method: tasrifi. In other words, it shows variety, changes topics, shifts between subjects, reverts to the previous one, and deliberately and purposefully repeats the same subject in unique rhythmic and recitative forms to facilitate understanding, learning, and memorization:
See how We display the revelations and signs so that they may understand and discern
The Qur’an shows the universe’s order. As almost all types or varieties of existing things present themselves to us side by side or mingled, the Qur’an displays varieties linked together with a specific rhythm to show the signs of God’s Unity, even while acknowledging that such a style will cause some opponents to doubt its Divine authorship (6:106). It also explains why it does this: to encourage the human intellect to reflect on unity in variety and harmony in diversity. In fact, each chapter deals with numerous topics in various ways, a characteristic that only adds to its unique beauty and matchless eloquence. An attentive reciter or intelligent audience can enjoy such rhythmical pitches to the extent that the Qur’an itself declares:
God has sent down the most beautiful message in the form of a book, consistent in itself, in pairs, whereat do shudder the skins of those who are in awe before their Lord, and then their skins and hearts become pliant to the remembrance of God. Such is God’s guidance: He guides with it whomsoever He wills. And (as for) those whom God allows to go astray, there is no guide for them. (39:23)
In addition, the Qur’an’s verses and chapters are not arranged chronologically. Some verses revealed and placed together are preceded and followed by other verses. Some chapters and verses are lengthy; others are short. This “inconsistent” arrangement is an aspect of its miraculousness and also one of the most important reasons why many Orientalists and their Muslim imitators criticize it.
The Qur’an exhibits the universe’s order. Just as there is both a whole–part and holistic–partial (or universal–particular) relation among its contents, the same relation is found in the Qur’an. In other words, a body is a whole consisting of parts (e.g., the head, arms, legs, and other organs). Any part cannot wholly represent the body, although each part is a whole in itself, because the whole body cannot be found in any of its parts. Humanity and all species are holistic or universal, for each species is composed of the members, each of which contains all features of the species and therefore represents the species. Each person is an exact specimen of humanity in structure.
In the same way, each Qur’anic verse is a whole in itself and has an independent existence. It can be located anywhere in the Qur’an without harming either the composition or the meaning. In addition, there is an intrinsic relation among all verses or between one verse and all the others. Bediüzzaman Said Nursi writes that:
The verses of the Qur’an are like stars in a sky among which there are visible and invisible ropes and relationships. It is as if each Qur’anic verse has an eye that sees most of the verses and a face that looks towards them, so that it extends to them the immaterial threads of relationship to weave a fabric of miraculousness. A single sura can contain the whole “ocean” of the Qur’an, in which the whole universe is contained. A single verse can comprehend the treasury of that sura. It is as if most verses are small suras, and most suras a little Qur’an. In fact, the whole Qur’an is contained in Surat al-Fatiha, which itself is contained in the
At first glance, this unique tasrifi style sometimes seems to produce contradictory verses. But this is not the case, for the Qur’an is like an organism having all of its parts interlinked. As a result of this whole–part arrangement and the holistic–partial relationship among verses, a correct understanding of a verse often depends upon a complete understanding of the Qur’an. This is another unique characteristic, another aspect of its miraculousness, and another sign of its Divine authorship.
This characteristic is very important in Qur’anic interpretation, for the Qur’an is the written counterpart of the universe and humanity. In addition, the Qur’an, the universe, and humanity are three “copies” of the same book, the first being the “revealed and written universe and humanity,” and the second and third each being a “created Qur’an.” Given this, the Qur’an also teaches us how to view humanity and the universe.
Therefore, any apparent contradiction among its verses is really due to the reader’s misunderstanding. One whose being is unified with the Qur’an sees no contradiction, as he or she is free of all contradictions. If people view the Qur’an in light of their particular worlds, which are full of contradictions, of course they will see contradictions. This is why those who seek to approach the Qur’an first have to be free of all contradictions.
Arabic, the language of revelation, is the Qur’an’s outer body. Religion does not consist only of philosophy or theology, but is a method of unifying all dimensions of our being. Therefore, Arabic is an essential, inseparable element of the Qur’an. It was chosen as the language of revelation not only so that the Arabs of that time would understand it, but because a universal religion requires a universal language.
The Qur’an views the world as the cradle of human brotherhood and sisterhood. It seeks to unite all races, colors, and beliefs as brothers and sisters and servants of the One God. Its language is a basic factor that helps people ponder religious realities and unite all dimensions of their being according to Divine standards. Translations cannot be recited in prescribed prayers, for no translations can be identical with the original language. Without Arabic, one can be a good Muslim but can understand only a little of the Qur’an.
The Qur’an is the source of all knowledge in Islam, be it religious or spiritual, social, scientific, moral, legal, or philosophical. As the guide to all truth, it has four main purposes: demonstrating God’s Existence and Unity, establishing Prophethood and the afterlife, promulgating the worship of God, and setting forth the essentials of justice. Its verses mainly dwell on these purposes, and thus contain creedal principles, rules governing human life, detailed information on the Resurrection and the afterlife, how to worship God, morality, direct or indirect information on some scientific facts, principles of civilizational formation and decay, historical outlines of previous civilizations, and so on.
The Qur’an is a source of healing, as applying it in daily life cures almost all psychological and social illnesses, as well as a cosmology, epistemology, ontology, sociology, psychology, and law revealed to regulate human life for all people, regardless of time or place. In fact, the Prophet declares: “The Qur’an is more lovable to God than the heavens and Earth and those in them.”
The Qur’an’s verses, linked with rhythm and symmetry of form to show the signs of Divine Unity, stir our emotions and intellect to reflect upon unity in variety and harmony in diversity. Each chapter has a particular rhythm and presents several topics in various ways. Such a style discloses a unique beauty with matchless eloquence. Attentive reciters and intelligent listeners experience what the Qur’an describes:
God has sent down the fairest discourse as a Book, some parts of which confirm and resemble others, whereat shiver the skins of those who fear their Lord; then their skins and their hearts soften to the remembrance of God. That is God’s guidance. (39:23)
Although the Arabs of the Prophet’s time were highly intelligent and well-versed in poetry and eloquence, they could not produce anything like the Qur’an. Likewise, none of the countless literary figures who have lived since then has duplicated it. In fact, the Prophet challenged his contemporaries and humanity at large, regardless of time or place, to create even one chapter like those of the Qur’an. That they have failed to do so is a proof of the Qur’an’s Divine origin.
If you doubt concerning what We have sent down to Our servant (Muhammad), bring a chapter like it, and call your witnesses, apart from God, if you are truthful. (2:23)
This Qur’an cannot be forged by (any one) but (is a revelation from) God confirming (the Scriptures) that went before it and (the clearest) explanation of the Book, wherein is no doubt, from the Lord of all being. Or do they say: “He (Muhammad) has forged it.” Say: “Then bring a chapter like it and call on whomsoever you can (to help you), apart from God (for He has sent it down), if you are truthful. (10:37-38)
Say: “(Even) if humanity and jinn united to produce the like of this Qur’an, they will never be able to do so, even though some of them help the others.” (17:88)
No one has produced a composition that can equal a chapter of the Qur’an, even the smallest one (Surat al-Kawthar), and no one will ever be able to do so. Those who oppose Islam always have taken up arms. But their attempts have come to naught, with the sole exception of Andalusia (Islamic Spain). As one Muslim scholar points out, if people could defeat the Qur’an or Islam through argument, science, or eloquence, they would not have to resort to arms. The Qur’an becomes younger and fresher as time passes, for this process allows its hidden unlimited treasures to be disclosed one by one. Today, Islam is the only way of life that offers us any hope.
As almost every verse has an independent existence, it also has intrinsic relations with every other verse and with the Qur’an as a whole. Given this, understanding and interpreting a verse requires a complete and holistic knowledge and understanding of the Qur’an. This is why Muslims say that the Qur’an’s main interpreter is the Qur’an itself.
Bediüzzaman Said Nursi frequently draws our attention to the miraculous depths of meaning contained in the Qur’an’s wording. For example, Arabic’s definite particle al adds inclusiveness to the word, and so he interprets al-hamdu (the praise) at the beginning of Surat al-Fatiha as: “All praise and thanks that everyone has given and will give until the Last Day to others since the beginning of human life on Earth, for any reason and on any occasion, are for God.”
Also, from the characteristics of the words used and their order in:
Out of what We have provided for them they give as livelihood (2:3) he infers the following rules or conditions of giving alms:
In order to make their alms-giving acceptable to God, believers must give out of their livelihood a certain amount that will not make it necessary for them to receive alms. Out of in out of what expresses this condition.
Believers must not transfer another person’s goods to the needy, but must give from their own belongings. The phrase what We have provided for them points to this condition. The meaning is: They give (to maintain life) out of what We have provided for you (to maintain your life).
Believers must not remind those who receive their alms of the kindness they have received. We in We have provided indicates this condition, for it means: “I have provided for you the livelihood out of which you give to the poor. Therefore, you cannot put any of My servants under obligation, for you are giving out of My property.”
Believers must not fear that they may become poor through giving to others. We in We have provided points to this. Since God provides for us and commands us to give others, He will not cause us to become poor by giving to others.
Believers must give to those who will spend it for their livelihood, and not to those who will waste it. The phrase They give as livelihood points to this condition.
Believers must give for God’s sake. We have provided for them states this condition. It means: “Essentially, you give out of My property and so you must give in My Name.”
What in out of what signifies that whatever God provides for a person is included in the meaning of provision. Therefore, believers must give out of their goods and also out of whatever they have, such as a good word, an act of help, a piece of advice, and teaching. All of these are included in the meaning of rizq (provision) and giving others as livelihood.
Along with these conditions, the meaning of the original three-word expression becomes: “Out of whatever We have provided for them as goods, money, power, knowledge, and intelligence, and so on, believing that it is We Who provide and therefore without feeling any fear that they may become poor because of giving and putting under obligation those to whom they give, they give to the needy who are sensible enough not to waste what is given to them, such amount that they themselves will not be reduced to needing to receive alms themselves.”
This is just one of the thousands of examples of the Qur’anic expressions’ miraculous profundity and meaning.
5. Said Nursi, The Words (trans.) (Izmir: Kaynak, 1997), 2:10-11, 44.
The present Qur’an is the one which was revealed to Prophet Muhammad
God Almighty has sent more than 100,000 Prophets to humanity. Islam defines Prophets as those who came with important tidings (“the tidings of religion”) concerning belief in God’s Existence and Unity, angels, Prophethood’s mission and Prophets, Revelation and Divine Scriptures, the Resurrection and afterlife, and Divine Destiny (including human free will). The tidings also include offering a life based on this belief, promises related to accepting belief, and warnings related to rejecting it. The frequent corruption of religion by various communities has caused Prophets to be sent to revive and restore it, and also to amend some rules or bring new laws concerning daily life. Such Prophets usually were given a Book and are known as Messengers, the greatest of whom are Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (42:13).
The name of the religion that God Almighty revealed through all Messengers is Islam. Just as the laws ordering and operating the universe remain the same and constant, and just as all people have the same basic characteristics, essential needs, and final destination regardless of when and where they live, it is natural for religion to be based on the same essentials of belief, worship, and morality. As this religion gradually was corrupted, altered, or contaminated with borrowings from false creeds, God sent different Messengers at different times.
Muhammad was sent as the last Messenger and with the perfected form of the Divine religion (Islam). God protects this final and perfected religion by promising to preserve the Qur’an and telling the Prophet to live his life by the rules that He revealed to him (known as the Sunna): Without doubt, We sent down the Message and We will preserve it (15:9). People who followed the messages brought by Moses and by Jesus later on called them Judaism and Christianity, respectively, whereas Islam has retained its original and God-given name.
In this world, as God Almighty acts behind natural or material causes, He also uses causes or means to preserve the Qur’an. One of these is having the Qur’an written down during the Prophet’s lifetime and under his direct supervision so that nothing could be deleted, added, or changed. All copies of the Qur’an in existence during the 14 centuries of Islam are exactly the same. Unlike other earlier Scriptures, the Qur’an has been preserved in its original form or text and in the language in which it was revealed. Thus the following points are of considerable significance:
The Qur’an was revealed in parts. God Almighty undertook its preservation, due recitation, and its part’s arrangement. He revealed to His Messenger where each revealed verse and chapter was to be placed:
Do not move your tongue (with the revelation) so that you may hasten (committing) it (to memory). It is for Us to collect it and to promulgate it. But when We have promulgated it, follow its recital (as promulgated). Then it is also for us to explain it. (75:16-19)
High above all (considerations) is God, the Sovereign, the Truth. Do not show haste to receive and recite the Qur’an before its revelation to you is completed; but rather say: “Lord, increase me in knowledge.” (20:114)
The Almighty emphasizes that no falsehood can touch the Qur’an or cast doubt on its authenticity:
These are the people who rejected the Message when it came to them. But the fact is that this is a noble, mighty Book. No falsehood can approach it from before or behind. It is a Revelation being sent down from One All-Wise, All-Praised. (41:41-42)
Once a year, the Messenger reviewed all that had been revealed up to that point with Archangel Gabriel. In his last year, after the revelation was completed, Gabriel came twice for this purpose. The Messenger concluded from this that he would die
From the very beginning, the Companions paid the utmost attention to the Qur’an and tried their best to understand, memorize, and learn it. In fact, the Qur’an ordered them to do so:
When the Qur’an is recited, give ear to it and pay heed, that you may obtain mercy
Only a few people could read and write when the Revelation began. After the Battle of Badr (624), the first military encounter between the Muslims and the Makkan polytheists, Makkan prisoners of war were freed only after they taught ten Madinan Muslims how to read and write. The beneficiaries of this policy then tried to memorize the Qur’an for several reasons: reciting some verses is obligatory during the prescribed prayers; the Qur’an was very original for them; it purified their minds of prejudice and wrong assertions, their hearts of sins, and illuminated them; and it built a society out of illuminated minds and purified hearts.
To understand the extent of their effort and the number of those who did so, 70 Companions who had memorized it were martyred at Bi’r al-Ma’una (625). During the Prophet’s lifetime, another 70 or so were martyred.7 When the Prophet died, several Companions knew the Qur’an by heart, among them ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr, Hudayfa ibn al-Yaman, Salim, Mu‘adh ibn Jabal, Abu al-Darda, Ubayy ibn Ka‘b, and ‘A’isha and Umm Salama (two of the Prophet’s wives). New converts or immigrants to Madina were sent to Companions to learn the Qur’an. As the subsequent reciting raised a humming noise, the Prophet asked them to lower their voices so that they would not confuse each
The Qur’an was revealed piecemeal and mostly on certain occasions. Whenever a verse, chapter, or group of verses was revealed, it was memorized by many Companions and written down by scribes chosen by the Prophet specifically for that purpose. The Messenger also told them where to place it in the
Qur’an.9 Known as the Scribes of the Revelation, these 40 or so Companions also copied the pieces for themselves and preserved
At the time of the Prophet’s death, ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, Mu‘adh ibn Jabal, Abu al-Darda, Ubayy ibn al-Ka‘b, and other Companions already had assembled these portions in book form. ‘Ali arranged them
chronologically.11 After the Battle of Yamama (633), during which around 700 memorizers were martyred, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab asked Caliph Abu Bakr about compiling an “official” version. Zayd ibn Thabit, a leading scholar and memorizer, was chosen for the task. After a meticulous work, he prepared the official collection
The Almighty declares: It is for Us to collect it and to promulgate it (75:17). The Qur’an’s verses and chapters were arranged and collected according to the Prophet’s instructions [while he was still alive], which were guided by the Revelation. The official version was formed after the Battle of Yamama. When a disagreement appeared over the pronunciation of certain words, the formal version was copied and sent to important centers during the reign of Caliph ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan
One of the foremost reasons for the Qur’an’s continued incorruptibility is that it has been preserved in its original language. No one in the Muslim world has ever thought to supersede it with a translation, and so it was never exposed to imprecise or mistaken translations, or to additions or deletions.
In conclusion, the Qur’an that we hold in our hands today is the same Qur’an that the Prophet received from God. Its authenticity and genuineness cannot be contested. No Muslim scholar of any standard has ever doubted this, and none have questioned that the Prophet spoke every word that we find in the Qur’an today.
Some may ask why the Almighty did not preserve other Scriptures. First, He has preknowledge of everything and thus knew and predetermined that human well-being and happiness would require a final Prophet. He chose Prophet Muhammad for this position. Through him, He perfected Islam so that it would address all levels of knowledge of understanding and solve all human problems until the Last Day. As this would obviate the need for another Prophet to revive or restore the religion, He preserved the Qur’an. Second, it is not a sign of God’s favor to Muslims to preserve the Qur’an. Rather, as His predetermination includes human free will, He knew that Muslims would be devoted to their Book more than any other people would be devoted to their own. He has preserved the Qur’an by creating the means for its preservation.
6. Suad Yildirim, Kur’an-i Kerim ve Kur’an Ilimlerine Giris (Istanbul: 1983), 43, 62-63.
7. Suphi al-Salih, Kur’an Ilimleri (trans.) (Konya: n.d.), 55.
8. Ibid., 57 (reporting from Zarkani).
9. The Qur’an, although revealed over a period of 23 years, has been called the Qur’an since the beginning of its revelation.
10. Al-Salih, Kur’an Ilimleri, 61 (reporting from al-Zarkashi’s Al-Burhan).
11. M. M. Puye, Genuinness of the Holy Qur’an (Karachi: 1974), 95-98 (reporting from al-Suyuti’s Al-Itqan, and from Tabarani and Ibn al-Asakir.
12. Yildirim, Kur’an-i Kerim, 62-66; al-Salih, Kur’an Ilimleri, 62-65.
13. Yildirim, Kur’an-i Kerim, 66-70; al-Salih, Kur’an Ilimleri, 65-73.
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Izutsu, Toshihiko. Kur’an’da Allah ve Insan (Turkish trans.). 1975.
———. Kur’an’da Dini ve Ahlaki Kavramlar (Turkish trans.) 1984.
Nasr, S. Hossein. Ideals and Realities of Islam. London: 1966.
Nursi, Said. Sozler (The Words, 2 vols.). Istanbul: 1958.
Pouya, M. M. The Genuineness of the Holy Qur’an. Karachi: 1974.
Al-Salih, Suphi. Kur’an Ilimleri (Turkish trans.). Konya: n.d.
Yildirim, Suat. Kur’an-i Kerim ve Kur’an Ilimlerine Giris. Istanbul: 1983.
O. Zeki Mollamehmedoglu, Sunen-i Tirmizi Tercumesi, vol. 5.
‘Abdurrahman Cetin, Kur’an Ilimleri ve Kur’an-i Kerim Tarihi (Istanbul: 1982).
Hayreddin Karaman, Fikih Usulu (Istanbul: n.d.)
April 15, 2002