Definition of the Quran
The Qur’an is defined as a Book of God which was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) through angel Jibril for the guidance of mankind. This definition is supported by chapter 2:2 of the Quran, which says: ‘This is the Book whereof there is no doubt, a guidance to those who fear Allah.’
Need and Reasons for the Revelation of the Qur’an.
- The word revelation is used for the message sent by God. So, the Holy Quran was revealed by God for the benefit of Mankind as seen in chapter 17:105. The commencement of this revelation was in 610 AD, lasting for a period of 23 years (610 AD up to 623 AD). Various factors combine in various ratios to explain the revelation of the Holy book:
- The Quran was revealed to guide mankind from confusion and darkness in which man was trotting into light. Chapter 2:2 says: ‘This is the Book whereof there is no doubt, a guidance to those who fear Allah.’ Quran provides guidance in various spheres of life (political, social, economic and spiritual). This guidance is necessary since man is not infallible.
- The Quran was revealed to unite mankind into a single brotherhood. God reminds man that he was created from a single person, Adam and from Adam, He created Eve. From this first pair of mankind, God created men and women, signifying that we are the same though we have various shapes, characteristics, colors, language etc. (4:1)
- It was revealed to clear doubts people had about the earlier revelations. The Quran came to confirm god’s messages which had been previously revealed. The Quran says in chapter 6:92: ‘And this is a blessed Book which We have sent down confirming (the revelations) which came before it…’
- It was revealed to confirm (fulfil) the prophecies of the earlier Prophets about Islam. For instance, Jesus had told his disciples about the coming of the final messenger with a final message. Chapter 61:6 says: ‘And remember Jesus the son of marry said: Oh children of Israel! I am the apostle of God sent to you confirming the Torah which came before me and to give glad tidings of a messenger to come after me whose name shall be Ahmad…’
- The earlier scriptures had been corrupted due man’s ulterior motives. None of these scriptures were still in existence. None had been preserved by the people to which they were sent which necessitated the revelation of the Quran. Chapter 3:78 says: ‘And verily, among them is a party who distort the Book with their tongues (as they read), so that you may think it is from the Book, but is not from the Book…’
- There was need for a universal Book because all the earlier revealed Books were sent to specific groups of people. Most of the Prophets and messengers were sent to the people of Israel. But due to their pompous character, they rejected the divine message and slew some Prophets. So, a universal message and messenger had to be sent as God says: ‘Verily, this (Quran) is no less than a message to (all) the worlds.’ 81:27
- The need to provide answers to the prevailing questions especially those posed to
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by the Quraish and the Jews. For instance, the Quran says: ‘And they ask you (Oh Muhammad) concerning the soul; Say: the soul is from Allah and you have not been given knowledge of it accept a little.’ 17:85
- It was revealed to give encouragement to the Prophet (PBUH) especially when he was disturbed and offended by the pagans of Mecca and the Jews. For instance, in the early years of his ministry, the pause in revelation which made the pagans jeer at him, taunted, threatened, slandered and persecuted him together with his followers. Chapter 93 was then revealed informing him that God was still with him.
- It was revealed to answer the prayers of the earlier Prophets. For instance, after the completion of the construction of the Ka’ba, Prophet Ibrahim prayedto God to raise a Prophet from among the descendants of Ismail. Chapter 2:129 says: ‘Our Lord! Send amongst them a messenger of their own, who shall recite unto them Your verses and instruct them in the Book…’
- There was a need for a book that would deal with modernity and scientific innovations. This is because, society keep metamorphosing which requires a message that befits the circumstances. Therefore, the laws given to former Prophets had to change because they were no longer relevant to the changing society.
- Quran was revealed to clear doubts about Prophets Ibrahim and Jesus. The Christians visualize Ibrahim as a Christian and they refer to Jesus as, not only the begotten son of god, but also as god besides Allah. But the Quran says: ‘Ibrahim is neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was a true Muslim.’
- It was revealed to act as a judgment of authority, that is, to judge between right and wrong. As already noted, no man is infallible and therefore, they all need the Quran to give them the detail of things so that they are able to distinguish between truth and falsehood. Chapter 13:37 says: ‘And thus have We sent it down to be a judgment of authority in Arabic…’
- It was revealed to announce the end of the ministry of Prophet-hood as seen in chapter 33:40 which says: ‘Muhammad (PBUH) is not the father of any man among you, but he is the messenger of Allah and the last of the Prophets…’ This also corroborates verse 3 of chapter 5 which scholars believe was the last portion to be revealed.
- It was revealed to warn the transgressors. In this vein, chapter 17:105 says: ‘We sent down the Quran and in truth has it descended, and We sent you (Oh Muhammad) for no other reason but to give glad tidings and warn the transgressors.’
- The Quran was revealed due to God’s will and pre-determination. God says in chapter 36:82 that: ‘Verily, when He intends a thing, His command is ‘Be and it is.’ God is the causer of everything and therefore, He used his absolute powers to determine the time and place of revelation of Quran.
How the Quran was Revealed (Course Of Revelation)
- The Holy Qur’an was revealed by the Almighty God to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) through angel Jibri for the guidance of mankind. Chapter 47:2 says: ‘But those who believe and do righteous good deeds, and believe in that which is sent down to Muhammad…’ This verse shows that, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) received the Quran from God.
- The revelation of the Qur’an commenced in the month of Ramadhan as seen in chapter 2:185 which says: ‘Ramadhan is the month in which the Quran was sent down as a guide to Mankind.’This means, out of the twelve months of the Islamic calendar, Ramadhan which is the ninth month, witnessed the revelation of the Quran.
- Out of the Thirty days of the month of Ramadhan, the revelation of the Quran commencedin a certain night called Lailatul Qadir, which means the night of power. This is seen in chapter 44:3 which says:‘We sent it down on a blessed night.’The blessed night mentioned in the above verse means the night of power (Honor/decree). This is corroborated by chapter 97:1, which says:‘We have indeed revealed this message in the night of power.’
- The Holy Qur’an was revealed in the month of Ramadhan all at once, during the night of power from the preserved Tablet (Lauhil mahfudh) to Baitul Izza (Exalted house) located in the lower Heaven. The lower Heaven is also called Earthly Heaven. It was from here that revelation was effected to the Prophet in parts and portions (piecemeal) in a period of 23 years.
- The first portion of the Quran to be revealed to the Prophet was chapter 96:1-5. This chapter is called Iqra which means read or proclaim. It is also called ‘Alaq to mean the clot of congealed blood. At this time, the Prophet was 40 years old. Angel Jibril found him in the cave of mountain Hira where he had gone for meditations and supplications.
- When angel Jibril appeared, he squeezed the Prophet (PBUH) three times, commanding himto read but the Prophet (PBUH) could not read anything. Then the angel recited for him the first five verses of chapter 96, thus:‘Read in the name of your Lord who has created! Has createdman from a clot of congealed blood. Read! And Your Lord is the Most Generous. Who has taught by the pen. Has taught man that which he knew not.’
- The Prophet (PBUH) recited the above verses and the angel disappeared. The Prophet (PBUH) went home and narrated the whole story to his wife Khadija who comforted him.
- Both the Prophet (PBUH) and Khadija consulted Waraqa, Khadija’s relative and a learned Christian, about it. Waraqa told the Prophet (PBUH) that he had encountered the one whom God had sent to Moses and that he would be driven out of the city by his people.
- After receiving the first message, revelation ceased for a certain period, but then resumed. This period is called Fatra. In other words, Fatra is a period of pause in revelation of the Quran. During this period, the Quraish were laughing at him saying his God had forgotten him.
- While commenting on the period of pause in revelation, Jabir bin Abdallah al Ansaari quoted the Prophet as saying that, while he was walking, he suddenly heard a voice from heaven and when he looked up, he saw the same angel who visited him at the cave of Hira. He rushed home and told his wife, Khadija to cover (wrap) him in a blanket. Then God revealed these verses: ‘Oh you covered in your cloak, arise and warn…’74:1-2
- Sometimes, there would last a long period between one revelation and another. For instance, there lasted a long period before the revelation of surat al Dhuha (93). It was such a period of deep grief and distress for the Prophet and he thought God had forsaken him.
- The mode in which the Quran was revealed to the Prophet (PBUH) is called Wahay matiluhu. It is also called Risaalah. That is, recited message. In this mode, God spoke to the Prophet through angel Jibril. That is why it is also called indirect mode of revelation.
- The revelation of the Quran came to him in form of sound of a ringing bell. This was meant to draw his attention to get himself prepared to watch an angel and receive the message.
- When this type of revelation came to him, it used to effect or cause a complete change in the person of the Prophet (PBUH) which others could see and notice. This is because, such a mode of revelation required an outside change of a once human nature to watch
an angel who came in an angelic nature and form. So, the Prophet (PBUH) had to get himself adjusted to the situation.
- In this case, the skin colour of the Prophet (PBUH) could change, his eyes could turn red, the weight of his body would increase, drops of sweat would be seen in his forehead,he would lower his head, etc. Aisha, the Prophet’s wife said that: ‘I heard Al Harith Ibn Hishaam ask the Prophet that, ‘Oh Allah’s Apostle, how is the Divine inspiration inspired to you?’
- The Prophet (PBUH) replied that: ‘Sometimes it is revealed like the ringing of a bell. This form of inspiration is the hardest of all, and then this state passesoff after I have grasped what is inspired.’
- Aisha also added that: ‘I saw on a very cold day the Prophet (PBUH) being inspired divinely and noticed sweat dropping from his forehead. ’ According to some scholars, the sound of the ringing bells were the wings of the Holy Spirit (angel Jibril).
- The second way (form) in which the revelation was sent down to the Prophet (PBUH), is when the angel appeared to him in a form of a human being. The Prophet (PBUH) said that this was the simplest to him since the angel used to come in the shape and form that befits human nature. The Prophet (PBUH) said:‘Sometimes the angel comes to me in a form of a man and talksto me and I grasp whatever he says.’
- During the course of revelation, we need to note that some chapters or verses were revealed when the Prophet (PBUH) was in Mecca. These are called Makki revelations.
They are short chapters and mostly addressing the concept of Tauhiid (Oneness of God). Others were revealed after the migration of 622 AD. These are called Madani revelations. They are long and containing Islamic legislation.
- The Qur’an was sent down to the Prophet (PBUH) in parts and portions on different appropriate occasions, such as in a journey, at home, in war, during day, during night, in company of companions or when he was alone. The whole process covered a period of 23 years. The first 13 years, the Prophet (PBUH) was in Mecca while the 10 years were spent in Medina.
- While as scholars unanimously agree that chapter 96:1-5 was the first portion of the Qur’an to be revealed, the last portion to be revealed has generated some debate.
Some have quoted chapter 2:281, others 2:282, 2:278, while others quoted chapter 5:3. But majority of them agree that chapter 5:3 was the last revelation and that, chapter 110 (Surat Nasir) was the last chapter to be revealed in full.
- Although the revelation of the Quran took 23 years to complete, God tells us that the entire Quran was placed into Prophet Muhammad’s soul during the month of Ramadhan on the night of destiny (17:1, 44:3, 53:1-18, 97)
- Thereafter, the angel Jibril helped the Prophet (PBUH) release a few verses of the Quran at a time from the soul to his (Prophet’s) memory
- When he died, he left the complete Quran written down in the chronological order of revelation, along with specific instructions as to where to place every verse. So, the Quran was put together into the final format as we have it today.
How did the Prophet (PBUH) receive the Quran?
(a) Discuss the course of the revelation of the Quran
(b) What lessons do we learn from the course of its revelation?
Why the Quran was revealed in piecemeal.
- Piecemeal revelation of the Quran means, the Quran was revealed in parts and portions or in bits. In other words, the Quran was not revealed as a log of wood (Not at once). Unlike other Books (Torah, Zabur and Injil), the Quran was revealed in parts and portions and this was due to the following factors:
- It was revealed in bits to strengthen the heart and faith of the Prophet and his followers. When the Prophet (PBUH) received the divine message, the people of Mecca bitterly opposed and confronted him which made life precarious. Chapter 6:33 says: ‘We know indeed the grief which their words cause you (Oh Muhammad): it is not you they deny, but is the verses of Allah that they wrong-doers deny.’
- To ease its understanding because, the Quran was addressed to the people who were illiterate. Chapter 62:2 says: ‘It is He who has sent amongst the unlettered ones a messenger from among themselves to recite to them His verses.’ The verses had to be internalized before others were revealed.
- To ease its memorization. Since majority of the Arabs lacked knowledge of the pen, they committed important messages to memory. Therefore, the Quran had to be revealed in bits to enable them recite it, memorize it, internalize and then implement its teachings.
- To enable the Prophet answer the questions that were raised to him by the Quraish from time to time. If it had been revealed at once, it would have been difficult for him to answer the questions. For instance, chapter 7:187 says: ‘They ask you about the final hour; when will be its appointed time! Say: the Knowledge thereof is with God Alone…’
- There was need for gradual transformation of society. The evil practices of the Arabs could not be abolished overnight. It required a gradual process.A good example is the abolition of alcohol. In this vein:
- Chapter 2:219 was revealed first: ‘They ask you (Oh Muhammad) concerning alcoholic drink and gambling. Say: in them is a great sin and (some) benefit for men, but the sin of them is greater than their benefit…’
- Chapter 4:43 came next which says: ‘Oh you who believe! Approach not prayer when you are in a drunken state.’
- The last chapter was 5:90. ‘Oh you who believe! Intoxicants, gambling and arrows for seeking luck, are an abomination of devil’s handiwork. So avoid that abomination in order that you may be successful.’
- To establish the fact that the Holy Quran was the very speech of Allah revealed to the
Prophet (PBUH) through the Holy Spirit. If it had been revealed at once in form of a
Book, the disbelievers of Mecca would have said the Prophet (PBUH) had fabricated it. Chapter 4:82 says: ‘Do they not consider the Quran with care? Had it been from other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much contradictions.’
- To cover the Prophetic mission of 23 years. When God revealed a verse of the completion of the Prophetic mission, the Prophet (PBUH) died soon afterwards. This is verse 3 of chapter 5 which says: ‘…this day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you and I have chosen for you Islamas your religion…’
- The verses of the Quran were revealed in reaction to a crisis. A crisis could be a scandal, a dilemma or an inquiry. An example of a scandal I s the false accusation of Aisha of having committed adultery with Safwan. A dilemma is exemplified by the issue of the captives of Badr (8:67). An inquiry is when the Arabs would ask questions for which the Prophet did not have immediate answers: for instance, questions about the soul, menstruation, sacred months etc. This necessitated a piecemeal revelation of Quran.
- The piecemeal revelation of the Quran was meant to allow human participation in the development of Islamic law. Sometimes God revealed a command with intention of tasting the faith of Muslims and once that was achieved, that command was replaced or softened. So, the Quran was not imposed on Muslims like the Torah was imposed on the Jews.
- The gradual revelation of the Quran was intended to suite certain circumstances and changes in times, that is, Mecca and Medina times (situation). In Mecca, there was need to preach against Idol worship and that is why makki verses or chapters rotated more on belief in the Oneness of God yet Madani revelations centered more on commands and prohibitions.
- To prove its unique and miraculous nature. The Book was revealed in parts and portions for a period of 23 years, to an unlettered Prophet, but not a single word or letter got
lost. The Prophet (PBUH) handed over the Quran to the Muslim community in its complete form as it was handed to Him by God through the Holy Spirit.
- Some verses had to be revealed to throw more light on others. This is called explanation of the Quran by the Quran itself. For instance, chapter 97 was revealed to explain verse 2 of chapter 42 which the companions had failed to understand. This is about the night of power found in the last ten days of the month of Ramadhan.
- The Quran had to be recorded by the Prophet’s scribes. So, its revelation in bits would enable them have ample time to do the work. After recording, they would go through the Quran together with the Prophet (PBUH) for him to prove whether there were no errors. Such exercise would have been very difficult if the Divine message was revealed at once.
- Quran is a weighty message that could not be received by mankind as a log of wood.
The Prophet’s experience at the time of revelation necessitated the course it took. Perspiration would cover his forehead, his body weight would increase, the skin colour would change, could lower his head, to mention a few.
- It was God’s will for the Quran to be revealed in bits. God says in chapter 36:82 that: ‘Verily, His command, when He intends a thing, is only that He says to it: Be and it is.’ His decisions are unquestionable.
Why was the Quran revealed in Arabia and to an Arab prophet?
- It was revealed in Arabia and Arabic language so that people would learn wisdom. In this case, the Arabic language is more expressive, eloquent and comprehensive. The language is complete in its roots and because of its richness, it is described as the language of wisdom. The Quran says: ‘We have sent it down as an Arabic Quran in order that you may learn wisdom.’ 12:2
- Since Prophet Muhammad was an Arab, it was natural and logical that the message should be revealed in his language. Chapter 41:44 says: ‘Had We sent this Quran in a language other than Arabic, they would have said; why are not its verses explained in detail (in our language)? What a Book not in Arabic and the messenger an Arab?’
- Initially the people who were to receive and recite the message were Arabs. So, in order for the message to be clearly understood by these people and the surrounding communities, the Quran had to be revealed in Arabic. In chapter 44:7, God says: ‘Thus, We have sent by inspiration to you an Arabic Quran that you may warn the mother of the towns (Mecca) and all around it.’
- Mecca was a commercial center where people from various areas of the world used to meet or converge. In this case, it would be easy for the Quran to be disseminated to other areas of the world. This made the revelation of the Quran in Arabia inevitable.
- Mecca was considered a spiritual center that used to attract many people. The ka’ba, the symbol of Islamic worship is in Mecca. But the situation was chaotic and the ka’ba was surrounded by 360 Idols, venerated by the Quraish. So, the Quran had to be revealed in Arabia so that the Ka’ba was cleansed of the fetishes.
- The Arabs were so much gifted with the art of memorization and this necessitated the revelation of the Quran in their country. Their power of committing information to memory meant that, the Quran was to be safeguarded once revealed in Arabia and in Arabic language.
- The conditions in Arabia were considered to be the worst in the whole world. The Quran says in chapter 9:97 that: ‘The Arabs of the desert are the worst in disbelief and hypocrisy.’ For instance, they would bury their children (daughters) alive, the system of transacting business was full of injustice.
- Prophet Ibrahim’s prayer is a factor that deserves mention. After completion of building of the Ka’ba, Ibrahim prayed to God to raise a Prophet from the descendants of Ismail. Chapter 2:129 says: ‘Our Lord! Send a messenger from among themselves who shall recite unto them Your verses and instruct them in the Book.’
- The revelation of the Quran in Arabiaand in Arabic language was necessary in that, the
Prophet (PBUH) would use it to answer the various questions raised to him by the Quraish on a number of issues. If the Quran had been revealed in a language other than Arabic, it would have been very difficult for the Prophet (PBUH) to deliver the message let alone answering the questions put to him by the Quraish.
- It was God’s decision to reveal the Quran in Arabia and in Arabic. Due to His infinite power and wisdom, His decisions are unquestionable by man. He says in Quran that when He intends to do something, He simply says to it ‘Be and it is’ as seen in chapter 36:82
- The Arabs were highly disunited which caused incessant political feuds leading to bloodshed. These were generated by too much tribalism and clan difference. In such circumstances, the revelation of the Quran was necessary to create political hygiene in society.
- The prophecies of the earlier Prophets like Jesus (Isa) were also necessitated the revelation of the Quran in Arabia. Jesus’s prophecy is found in chapter 61:6, ‘And (remember) when Jesus the son of Mary said: Oh children of Israel! I am the messenger
of Allah unto you confirming the Torah which came before me, and giving glad tidings of a Messenger to come after me whose name shall be Ahmad…’
- Muslim scholars have opined that God’s promise to Moses as seen in deutronomy chapter 18:18 explains the revelation of the Quran in Arabia. In the Book of deutronomy, God promised to raise a Prophet from the brethren of the Jews who shall be like Moses. The brethren of the Jews are the Arabs. Secondly, Prophet Muhammad and Moses share many things in common. Eg, both were illiterate, migrated etc.
- The presence of the Ka’ba can also explain the revelation of the Quran in Arabia. The Ka’ba is a sanctuary and a symbol of Islamic faith. It is considered to be the center of the world. At this place no one should be wronged and in Heaven, it is referred to as Baitul ma’muur (52:4). It was however surrounded by Idols which necessitated the revelation of the Quran, to cleanse it of the fetishes
- There were many religions in Arabia all competing for dominance. Some of these religions shared some stuff with the teachings of the Quran. For instance, the Hunafas who believed in the religion of Prophet Ibrahim recognized the Oneness of God. No wonder, they embraced Islam without raising too much dust.