The Qur’ân is the name given to Allah’s speech that He revealed to His servant and Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him); speech that is recited as an act of worship, is miraculous, and cannot be imitated by man. It is the name of Allah’s Book, and no other book is called by this name. The most common names for Allah’s Book are al-Qur’ân (the Recital) and al-Kitâb (the Book). This is an indication of how much care has been taken in its preservation, both in the memories of people as well as in written form. Each way of preserving it reinforces the other.
The Qur’ân is revelation from Allah
Revelation is where Allah imparts whatever knowledge He wills to those whom He chooses to receive it. Allah gives this knowledge to them in order for them to convey it to whomever else He wishes.
All the Messengers of Allah experienced revelation. Allah says:
Verily, We have sent Revelation to you (O Muhammad) as We have sent Revelation to Noah and the prophets who came after him. We had sent revelation to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, the Tribes, Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon. And to David We gave the Psalms. And Messengers We have told you about before, and Messengers We have not told you about – and to Moses We spoke directly.
The possibility of divine revelation cannot be denied by anyone who believes in the existence of Allah and in His omnipotence. Allah maintains His creation in any manner that pleases Him. The connection between the Creator and his Creation is by way of His Messengers, and these Messengers only know what Allah wants from them by way of revelation, either directly or indirectly. The rational mind cannot dismiss the possibility of revelation, since nothing is difficult for the all-powerful Creator.
The Nature of Revelation
Revelation is not a personal experience that a Prophet brings forth from within himself. It is not a spiritual state that a person can attain by doing certain meditations or spiritual exercises. Quite the contrary, revelation is a communication between two beings: one that speaks, commands, and gives, and another who is addressed, commanded, and receives. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) – as with every Prophet – never confused himself with the One who gave the revelation to him. As a human being, he felt his weakness before Allah, feared Allah’s wrath if he should disobey, and hoped for Allah’s mercy.
He sought help from Allah, submitted to what he was commanded to do, and was on occasion even sternly reprimanded by Allah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) admitted his absolute inability to alter even one word of Allah’s Book.
And when Our clear signs are recited to them, those who hope not for a meeting with Us say: ‘Bring a Qur’ân other than this or change it.’ Say (O Muhammad): ‘It is not for me to change it of my own accord. I only follow what is revealed to me. I fear, if I were to disobey my Lord, the punishment of an awful day.’ Say: ‘If Allah had willed, I would not have recited it to you nor would He have made it known to you. I have lived with you a whole lifetime before it came to me. Have you no sense?’
This should make perfectly clear the difference between the essence, attributes, and ways of the Creator and those of His Creation.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) took great care to maintain a distinction between his own speech (the Hadîth) and the direct speech of Allah, though both were the result of revelation. For this reason, in the early period of revelation, he used to prohibit anything that he uttered to be written down except for the Qur’ân. This preserved for the Qur’ân its distinctiveness as being the very word of Allah, unmixed with the speech of people.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) would also make a distinction in his own speech between his own opinions and what came from Allah as revelation.
He said: “I am only a human being like yourselves. Opinions can be right or wrong. But, when I say to you that Allah said something, then know that I will never attribute something false to Allah.”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) had no hand in the revelation that he received. Revelation is a force external to the being of the Prophet (peace be upon him). He was not able to manipulate it in any way. This is supported by the fact that certain crises would befall the Prophet (peace be upon him) or one of those around him that required an immediate solution, but he found no verse of Qur’ân to recite to the people. He had to remain silent and wait, sometimes in desperation, until Allah, in His wisdom, revealed what was needed.
A good example of this is the time when `A’ishah, the wife of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was accused of adultery by some of the hypocrites, though she was innocent. People began to say things that were painful for the Prophet (peace be upon him) until his heart was about to burst. He was unable to prohibit this. All he could say was: “O `A’ishah, I have heard this or that. If you are innocent, then Allah will show your innocence, and if you fell into sin, then seek Allah’s forgiveness.”
A whole month passed like this before the revelation came down declaring `A’ishah’s innocence and exonerating the household of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
In brief, revelation has nothing to do with the choices and wishes of the one who receives it. It is an unusual, external occurrence. It is a force of knowledge, because it gives knowledge. It is free from error. It comes only with the truth and guides only to what is right.
How revelation comes to the angels and to the Messengers
In the Qur’ān it is mentioned that Allah speaks to the angels. Allah says:
And (remember) when your Lord revealed to the angels: ‘Verily I am with you, so keep firm those who have believed’
Revelation to the angels happens by Allah speaking to them and the angels hearing from Him.
Revelation comes to Allah’s human Messengers either directly or through an intermediary. In the case of an intermediary, it is the angel Gabriel who brings the revelation. There are two ways that this occurs:
1. The angel would come to him with a voice like the clanging of a bell. This is the severest way revelation would come to the Messenger (peace be upon him). Such a harsh sound demands the full attention of the one being addressed with it. When the revelation came in this manner, it was extremely demanding upon all of the Messenger’s faculties (peace be upon him).
2. The angel would come to him in the form of a man. This was easier than the previous way, since the form of the angelic Messenger was familiar to the human Messenger (peace be upon him) and easier to relate to.
Both of these ways are mentioned by the Prophet (peace be upon him) in his answer to al-Hârith b. Hishâm when he asked how the revelation came to him. Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “Sometimes he comes to me like the clanging of a bell, and this is the most difficult for me. It weighs upon me and I commit to memory what he says. And sometimes the angel comes to me in the form of a man and speaks to me and I commit to memory what he says.”
Revelation without an intermediary happens in two ways:
1. A good dream: `A’ishah relates: “It began as a good dream during sleep. He would not have a dream except that it would come as clear as day.”
This was to prepare Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) to receive revelation while awake. The whole Qur’ân was revealed while the Prophet (peace be upon him) was awake.
The story of Abraham (peace be upon him) when he was commanded to sacrifice his son demonstrates how a dream can be revelation that must be acted upon.
So We gave him glad tidings of a forbearing boy. And when he was old enough to walk with him, he said: “My son, I have seen in a dream that I am sacrificing you. So look, what do you think?” He said: “O my father, do what you are commanded. By Allah’s will, you shall find me to be among those who are patient.” Then, when they had both submitted themselves and he had laid him prone on his forehead, We called out to him: “O Abraham, you have fulfilled the dream.” Thus do We reward the righteous. That was indeed a manifest trial. And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice. And We left for him a goodly remembrance for later generations. Peace be upon Abraham! Thus indeed do We reward the righteous. Verily, he was one of Our believing servants.
If that dream had not been revelation that had to be obeyed, Abraham (peace be upon him) would never have gone forward to sacrifice his son, but in fact he almost did so. He was only stopped because Allah commanded him to stop and ordered him to sacrifice something else instead.
The good dream is not only for the Prophets. It remains for the believers, even though it is not revelation. Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “Nothing remains of prophecy except for glad tidings.” When he was asked what these glad tidings were, he said: “Dreams.”
2. Allah speaking directly from behind a barrier: This happened to Prophet Moses, (peace be upon him). Allah says:
When Moses came to Our appointed meeting, his Lord spoke to him.
Allah also says:
And Allah spoke to Moses directly.
This also happened to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) on the night of his Journey and Ascension when he was taken up into the heavens and his Lord spoke to him.
All of these ways of receiving revelation are mentioned in the Qur’ân. Allah says:
It is not for a human being that Allah should speak to him except as revelation or from behind a barrier, or by sending a Messenger who reveals by His leave whatever He wishes. Verily, He is All-Knowing, All-Wise.
The Qur’ân is the Speech of Allah
The Qur’ân is Allah’s speech, literally not metaphorically. He revealed it to His Messenger (peace be upon him) to convey His warning to all the worlds.
Muhammad (peace be upon him) merely conveyed the Message. Anyone who doubts this has to assume that either the Prophet himself made it up or someone else taught it to him.
As for the first of these two possibilities – the idea that the Qur’ân, in all of its eloquence, was a product of the brilliance, insightfulness and spiritual sensitivities of
Muhammad (peace be upon him) – it is rejected for a number of reasons:
1. No matter how brilliant or insightful a person might be, there is no way that he could discuss the happenings of nations lost to antiquity, issues of belief and Divine Law, the rewards and punishments of Heaven and Hell, and future events, all in such great detail without any contradiction and with a most perfect style and literary form. The Prophet (peace be upon him) had never once read a book nor met with any historian.
2. The Qur’ân makes to the disbelievers a stern challenge that they will never be able to produce a chapter similar to it. Such a challenge would never have come from the Messenger (peace be upon him), who was known for his wisdom and good judgment, to the most eloquent and fluent speakers around, especially since he wanted his Message and his call to be successful and enjoy wide acceptance.
3. The Qur’ân, in some places, sternly rebukes Muhammad (peace be upon him) where he acted upon his own judgment in something and did not decide on what is best. The Qur’ân clarified the truth and showed the error of the Prophet (peace be upon him). No rational person would come with declarations of his own error and circulate them among the people. If he had any say in the Qur’ân at all, he would have hidden these passages from the people. Allah says:
And if he had forged a false statement concerning Us, We surely would have seized him by his right hand and would certainly have ripped out his artery of life. And none of you could have withheld us from punishing him.
4. Many verses of the Qur’ân begin with the imperative verb “Say!” As a matter of fact, this occurs more than three hundred times, addressing Muhammad (peace be upon him) and directing him with respect to what he should say. He, thus, did not follow his own desires; he followed only what was revealed to him. He was the one being addressed, not the speaker; he was quoting what he had heard, not expressing what he felt.
5. Complete harmony exists between what the Qur’ân says regarding the physical world and what has been discovered by modern science. This has been a source of amazement for a number of contemporary western researchers. Though the Qur’ân makes mention of a number of very specific scientific issues – from fields such as embryology, oceanography, and astronomy – it does not contradict any scientific fact.
The second possibility offered by the doubtful is that the Prophet (peace be upon him) learned the Qur’ân from someone else. There are a number of reasons why this claim is false:
1. Muhammad (peace be upon him) was illiterate. He grew up among a people who were generally illiterate. They knew only how to speak eloquently and fluently. Due to their idolatry, they did not associate with the Christians and Jews.
This is of the news of the unseen that We reveal unto you (O Muhammad). Neither you nor your people knew it before this. So be patient. Surely, the good outcome is for the pious.
This verse clearly mentions that the Arabs had no knowledge of these things. It is not recorded in history that any of the Arabs objected to the fact that this verse declared them ignorant of the things that this verse is referring to.
2. The Arabs never attempted to contradict the Qur’ân or take credit for any part of it, in spite of their violent rejection of it. Though the Qur’ân challenged their most eloquent speakers to bring a chapter like it, none of them ever attempted it. They knew the truth of the situation and did not want to face the disgrace of defeat, since they were the masters of eloquence in poetry, prose, and persuasive speaking.
3. The Qur’ân is in Arabic and the Jews and Christians spoke other languages. None of the historical references mention that the Prophet (peace be upon him) ever sat with monks and rabbis to learn from them.
The Qur’ân is in the most fluent Arabic, a language foreign to the Jews and Christians. Allah says:
The tongue of the one they refer to is foreign, while this is in clear Arabic.
4. The Qur’ân takes a stance against the Jews and Christians, refuting their misconceptions and arguments and inviting them to believe in the Messenger and the Message that he came with. It is very unlikely that these same Jews and Christians would be the source of the Qur’ân, especially considering how they turned away from it, disbelieved in it, and rejected the Messenger.
The Preservation of the Qur’ân and the Integrity of Its Text
Allah revealed the Qur’ân to be His last, all-embracing scripture containing the final manifestation of the Divine Law. This necessitates that it has to be safeguarded from the mischievous hands of men and from all corruption. This protection has been a reality from the time the Qur’ân was revealed until today. It shall remain so until Allah inherits the Earth and everything on it. It contains no additions or deletions. It has reached us by so many chains of transmission that it is impossible for them to have conspired on a lie. It has been recorded and memorized innumerable times.
There has been no change in its text over time, not even in a single word. Some of those who have committed it to memory cannot speak Arabic; nevertheless, they recite it exactly as it was revealed.
Allah has guaranteed the integrity of the Qur’anic text. Allah says:
Verily, it is We who have sent down the Remembrance, and surely We will guard it from corruption.
And the Word of your Lord has been fulfilled in truth and in justice. None can change his words. And He is the all-Hearing, the All-Knowing.
As for the previous scriptures, they were for a limited duration of time. Allah gave human beings the responsibility of preserving them, and they lost them through corruption, alteration, and concealment. Allah says:
Verily, We revealed the Torah, wherein is guidance and light, by which the Prophets who submitted themselves passed judgment, and (likewise) did the rabbis and priests, as they were entrusted with the protection of Allah’s Book, and they were witnesses thereto.
The Qur’ân has been preserved in exactly the form it was revealed. This fact is agreed upon by all those who study the text of the Qur’an, both Muslim and Non-Muslim.
The preservation of the Qur’ân was achieved in many ways. During the lifetime of the Prophet (peace be upon him), the following factors facilitated its preservation:
1. The revelation came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) in a manner that was conducive to memorization. When he was asked how the revelation came to him, Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “Sometimes, he comes to me like the clanging of a bell, and this is the most difficult for me. It weighs upon me and I commit to memory what he says. And sometimes the angel comes to me in the form of a man and speaks to me and I commit to memory what he says.”
2. The angel would review the Qur’ân with the Prophet. This would take place every year during the month of Ramadân. Gabriel would approach him every night in Ramadan and recite to him from the Qur’ân. In the final year of his life, Gabriel recited it to him twice during the month of Ramadân. All of this was out of the greatest care for the preservation of the Qur’ân and the accuracy of its recitation.
3. The revelation was recorded in writing and reviewed. The Messenger (peace be upon him) had scribes who would write down the revelation as it came down. He would then have it read to him again until he was sure that what was written was correct.
4. Only the Qur’ân was allowed to be recorded during the early years to prevent anything else from being confused with it, like the hadîth of the Prophet (peace be upon him) or commentary of the Qur’ân. After the Qur’ân was firmly established and there was no danger of it getting mixed up with other texts, he permitted other things to be written.
5. Learning and teaching the Qur’ân were actively encouraged. The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to encourage his Companions to learn and teach the Qur’ân and to memorize it and assist each other in memorizing it. He would have those most learned in the Qur’ân lead the prayers and lead the armies. There was a good reason for everybody to memorize the Qur’ân, for it is the book that must be recited during the obligatory prayers and its injunctions must be used as the basis for the activities of daily life.
5. The Arabs had very strong memories. They rarely missed anything. This was especially true for the Qur’ân, which came with the highest, most eloquent literary style that made memorizing it all the easier and more desirable. A great number of people memorized it and committed it to writing. It was memorized by young and old, men and women, city dwellers and Bedouins.
After the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him), the Companions were active in memorizing, recording, and preserving the Qur’ân. Two great historical events exemplify this:
1. During the reign of the first Caliph Abû Bakr al-Siddîq, many of the people who memorized the Qur’ân died in war. He and a few other leading Companions began to fear that the Qur’ân would be lost when the people who memorized it died off. He ordered that the Qur’ân should be compiled. Every written copy of the Qur’ân was referred to, even fragments written on wood or leather, and all those who memorized the Qur’ân were brought forward. Then the Qur’ân was brought together in one volume to be kept in the care of the Caliph and the Caliphs that succeed him.
2. The Arabs, by the grace of Allah, were allowed to recite the Qur’ân according to their various dialects to make things easy on them.
During the reign of the third Caliph, `Uthmân ibn `Affân, this started to cause some confusion among the Muslims, so he decreed that all Muslims must recite the Qur’ân in one manner, according to the dialect of Quraysh, the most prominent Arab tribe. He then had a number of copies made of the Qur’ân and had them distributed to the different provinces and major cities.
It has been confirmed by certain orientalists that some early scholars looked at the Uthmani manuscripts or copies of them in different cities of the Muslim world. Quatromere was among the most prominent of these, as indicated by Bergestrasser and Pretzel in their historical study of the text of the Qur’ân.
The famous explorer Ibn Batûtah saw some of the manuscripts that were purported to be Uthmani in Granada, Marrakech, Basra, and elsewhere during his many journeys.
It is well known that Ibn Kathîr of Damascus (a scholar of the 8th century A.H.) saw the Uthmani Qur’ân that had been sent to Syria. He shares this distinction with Ibn al-Jazarî and ibn Fadl Allah al-`Umarî. Some researchers are of the opinion that this manuscript then spent some time in the Russian Tsar’s archives in what is now Leningrad then was sent to England. Others believe that it remained in the main mosque in Damascus until it caught fire in the year 1310.
It is known with certainty by every researcher that no other book has received the same level of care or reached us with so many chains of authority.
Thus, the Qur’ân – as Chevalier said – came “…more complete and more precise than any person could expect.”
No wonder, since this is the book of Allah about which Allah said:
Falsehood does not approach it from before it or behind it. It is a revelation from the All-Wise, the Worthy of Praise.
The following is the testimony of some Western scholars:
Lobloa says: “The Qur’ân is the only sacred scripture existing today that has had no changes made to it worth mentioning.”
Moyer says: “The Qur’ân that was compiled by `Uthmân has been passed down from hand to hand in numerous ways until it reached us without any alterations. It has been preserved with the greatest care, so much so that it has suffered no changes worth mentioning.”
We can say that it has suffered no changes at all in all of its innumerable copies that are in circulation throughout the Muslim lands. All of the Muslim sects, no matter how much they might differ, use only one Qur’ân. This consensus of use over the same exact accepted text up to the present day is the greatest proof that the text is accurate and authentic.
Professor Maurice Bucaille says that in the libraries of Europe, like the National Library in Paris, there are a number of manuscripts of the Qur’ân that date back to the second and third century of Islam.
The Qur’ân was revealed in stages
Allah revealed the Qur’ân to Muhammad (peace be upon him) to guide humanity. When the Qur’ân came down, it was an auspicious occasion, extolled throughout the heavens and the Earth. It first came down from the Protected Tablet to the Abode of Might in the lowest heaven in the month of Ramadân, on the night known as the Night of Decree. The angels at this time came to know the special honor that the people that were going to follow Muhammad (peace be upon him) were to have. They were to have the new Message and become the greatest nation brought forth for humanity.
It was then sent down a second time in stages, this time to Muhammad (peace be upon him). This way of being revealed was different than it had been for the previous scriptures. This startled the disbelievers among the Arabs and made them argumentative until the divine wisdom behind it became apparent. The Messenger (peace be upon him) did not receive the Message all at once to try and convince his people who were steeped in arrogance and pride. The revelation came down to him in stages, strengthening his heart and consoling him, responding to the circumstances that he faced, until Allah perfected the faith and completed His favor.
And those who disbelieve say: “Why is the Qur’ân not revealed to him at once?” (It is revealed) thus that We may strengthen your heart with it. We have revealed it to you gradually, in stages. And no example or similitude do they bring, but We reveal to you the truth and the better explanation thereof.
The Qur’ân was revealed in stages over a period of twenty-three years, the period of Muhammad’s mission (peace be upon him). The wisdom behind this is as follows:
1. It served to strengthen the heart of the Prophet (peace be upon him). The Prophet (peace be upon him), from the start, had to face arrogance, rejection, and abuse from his people, while he desired only to invite them and guide them. He needed to have the Qur’ân come to him time and again in response to the circumstances, to strengthen his heart and to console him. This is one reason why the Qur’ân is full of the stories of the previous Prophets and the pride, arrogance, and abuse that they had to withstand from their people and how the outcome of their efforts was victory and divine assistance, which is the destiny of all those who adhere to Allah’s religion.
2. It emphasized the inability of the disbelievers to produce something like it. The failure of the disbelievers to rise to the challenge and come with a chapter like it becomes more acute with the Qur’ân coming in stages. The challenge would have appeared far more daunting had the Qur’ân been revealed all at once.
3. It eased the memorization and comprehension of the Qur’ân. The Qur’ân was revealed to an illiterate nation, most of whom could neither read nor write. Had the Qur’ân been revealed all at once, it would not have been easy for the people to commit it to memory and to ponder over its meanings. The best way to facilitate its memorization was for the Qur’ân to be revealed in stages. It made it easier for the people to understand its verses and to apply its teachings in their lives.
4. It allowed the revelation to respond to circumstances. People would not have been so ready to embrace this new faith, had the Qur’ân not dealt with them with wisdom and provided its cure for sin and bad character in palatable doses. The Qur’ân’s approach was like a medicine for the heart. Whenever something happened to the people, the injunction for it was revealed, guiding them in the clearest way to what was right and laying the foundations for an Islamic jurisprudence that responds to circumstances and contingencies.
5. It provided a clear proof that the Qur’ân was revelation from Allah, the All-Wise. The Qur’ân took over twenty years to be revealed, coming down a verse here and a few verses there over a protracted period of time. In spite of this, a person who reads it finds it to be most perfectly composed, most eloquent in style, and consistent in meaning. Its verses and chapters fit together perfectly. If the Qur’ân had been of human origin, coming as it did in response to events and circumstances, there would have been inconsistency in its style. It would have been impossible for it to come out so smooth and flowing in its style, so harmonious in meaning.
Had it been from other than Allah, they would surely have found therein many a contradiction.
Commentary of the Qur’ân
One who studies Qur’anic commentary will find that it adheres to the following methodology:
1. The Qur’ân as commentary on itself:
The best way to ascertain exactly what a speaker intends from a specific statement is to refer to other statements of that speaker, taking into consideration the linguistic norms of the speaker’s language. This means that it is necessary to know the language in which the Qur’ân was revealed as well as Arabic usages and idioms. The Qur’ân is in Arabic. The Messenger that it was revealed to was an Arab. The first people to receive the message were Arabs. The Qur’ân came in a style that was familiar to them.
A Qur’anic commentator might have to collect all the relevant verses in one place and then look at them together to find how they are interrelated. For example, one verse might specify the general import of another, qualify it, or clarify its meaning.
2. The words of the Prophet (peace be upon him) as commentary on the Qur’ân:
When it is not clear from the Qur’ân itself what a verse means, its explanation is sought from the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). The Sunnah comes to explain the Qur’ân. Allah says:
And We have sent down to you (O Muhammad) the Remembrance that you may explain clearly to the people what has been sent down to them, that perhaps they might give thought.
The Sunnah explains some things in detail that are mentioned in the Qur’ân in the most general terms, like the details of the obligatory prayer, the fast, the Zakâh tax, and the Hajj pilgrimage. The Sunnah gives the details on how to perform these acts of worship, what is necessary for their proper performance, what is recommended, and what is prohibited.
It also discusses when these acts of worship are to be performed and in what measure. The Sunnah goes into far greater detail on these matters than the Qur’ân. The Sunnah also comes to specify what is general in the Qur’ân, qualify what is unqualified, and clarify what is difficult to understand. For this reason, Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “I have been given the Qur’ân and something else like it.”
3. The commentary of the Companions:
When the Qur’ân and Sunnah are not enough to get a clear understanding of a certain text, its commentary is sought from the words of the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him). They were the best acquainted with it, having witnessed the circumstances surrounding the revelation firsthand. Their understanding of the Qur’ân was the most complete. They were the most knowledgeable and most righteous, especially the scholars among them.
4. The commentary of the Successors:
When the correct understanding of a Qur’anic text cannot be ascertained from the previous sources, then the commentator may turn to the following generation, because they were closer to the time when the revelation came down and were more familiar with its language and style. They had more knowledge of the Sunnah and of the Companion’s statements. They were, moreover, from the generations whose preferential status was attested to by the Prophet (peace be upon him).
The Law of the Qur’ân Abrogates All Previous Manifestations of the Divine Law
Abrogation in the Divine Law is an established fact. It has even occurred within one manifestation of the Divine Law. Its occurrence is generally in secondary matters of law, not fundamental principles. Allah says:
“Whatever We abrogate of Our verses or cause to be forgotten, We come with better than it or with that which is similar. Do you not know that Allah is capable of all things?”
The Law that came with Jesus (peace be upon him) abrogated part of the Law that came with Moses (peace be upon him). Allah says, relating the words of Jesus to the Children of Israel:
And I have come confirming that which was before me of the Torah and to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden to you…
As for Islamic Law, it abrogates all the previous manifestations of the Divine Law. What is meant here are those things that are susceptible to abrogation in the first place. As for the fundamentals of belief, like the unity of Allah, the prohibition of idolatry, and the fundamentals of worship – matters that form the basic call of all the Messengers – they are not subject to abrogation. The only aspects of the Law that may be abrogated are the particulars and the details.
Islamic Law is lasting, remaining suitable for every place and time, and embracing the goodness of the previous manifestations of the Law. Allah says:
“And We have sent down to you (O Muhammad) the Book in truth, confirming the Scriptures that came before it and a witness over them.”
The fulfillment of the faith with the revelation of the Qur’ân
The Qur’ân was revealed fourteen centuries ago, but the meanings contained therein are as ancient as they are new. It contains the essence of all the previous scriptures and all the advice given to humanity since the dawn of human existence. The Qur’ân is the summation of all the great wisdom that has ever reached the ears of people of all nations and ages. It is the culmination of every manifestation of the Divine Law that humanity has ever needed. It contains all the certain truths and is a testament of Allah’s concern for His servants from the time that they were first created through to today, and until the end of the world.
Allah makes this clear in the chapter of the Qur’ân entitled al-A`lâ (the Most High), where He first mentions some of His signs in Creation, then commands His Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him) to remind the people; He then explains how those who purify themselves find success and how those who fail to take heed meet with failure and how the nature of man is to prefer the life of this world, though the Hereafter is better and more lasting. After all of this, Allah says:
Verily this is in the earliest of scriptures, the scriptures of Abraham) and Moses.
The faith was perfected with the revelation of the Qur’ân; humanity would never need anything else. Allah says:
“Today, I have perfected for you your faith, completed my favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.”
The miraculous inimitability of the Qur’ân
The miracle known as a mu`jizah:
A mu`jizah is a miraculous occurrence – thus running contrary to the laws of nature – that is specifically intended by Allah to demonstrate the truthfulness of His Messengers and for the Messenger to use as a proof to his people. It often takes the form of something that his people excel at to show them that the Power and Might of Allah are greater than all others. Among these miracles was the camel of Sâlih (peace be upon him), the staff of Moses (peace be upon him) and the splitting of the sea for him, and Jesus (peace be upon him) bringing the dead back to life and healing the sick.
The conditions for something to be a mu`jizah:
1. It must go against the laws of nature that the people are accustomed to. It must defy any natural explanation.
2. It must occur as a challenge to the disbelievers. It must be something that they would have been able to accomplish, had it not been from Allah.
3. It must be irreproducible. If anyone can reproduce it, it is not a miracle at all.
4. It must not be a miraculous event that declares the one claiming prophethood to be a liar. For example, if a person claims prophethood and petitions an animal to speak to support him, but it speaks and calls him a liar, then this miracle would not be a mu`jizah.
These Miracles are of Two Types: Physical and Intellectual
Most of the miracles of the previous Prophets were of a physical nature, whereas the greatest miracle of Muhammad (peace be upon him) is intellectual. We are referring to the Qur’ân. Perhaps the reason for this is that this miracle is for the lasting Message and must remain visible to all insightful people of every generation until the Day of Judgment. The miracles of the other Prophets have passed into history; no one experienced them except for those that were present at that time. The miracle of the Qur’ân, however, remains until the Day of Judgment. For this reason, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “There has been no Prophet except that he was given signs that would allow the people to believe in him. What I have been given is only a Revelation that Allah has revealed to me, so I hope to have the greatest number of followers on the Day of Judgment.”
The many facets of the Qur’anic miracle:
The Qur’an is miraculous in every way. It will remain so no matter how much time progresses. It is miraculous in its words and in its meaning, in its statements and its injunctions. It is miraculous in the knowledge that it contains. The masters of every science and discipline will find in the Qur’ân what will amaze them with its accuracy and detail. This is among the greatest proofs that the Qur’ân is from Allah.
1. The literary miracle of the Qur’ân:
The Qur’ân is a miracle of eloquence and literary mastery, challenging the Arabs who were the most eloquent and fluent of speakers to come with but a chapter like it, no matter how small. The Qur’ân challenges them even to collaborate on producing such a chapter. But no one has ever been able to do so or even attempted it, in spite of there being more than enough reason for them to want to do so. Their hatred and enmity for Islam, their desire to thwart Muhammad (peace be upon him), and their immense, competitive pride in their language were more than enough reasons for them to try. In spite of this, their inability was more than apparent. Their tongues were still; their hearts mute. They confessed that the Qur’ân could not have been from the speech of men, neither from their poetry nor their prose. It could not even have been from their magicians and soothsayers. It was definitely not of this world.
The context of this challenge:
Before the beginning of Muhammad’s call (peace be upon him), the Arabs had attained the highest level possible in eloquence, fluency, and the art of speech. The word itself was dear to their hearts and more sacred than almost anything else, so much so that they would hang the seven best poems on the door of the Ka`bah, the most sacred place to them.
The poem wielded great power in Arab society. The status of a tribe could diminish simply because a poet ridiculed it. Likewise, a tribe’s status could be elevated by a poet’s exquisite praise.
So that the miracle of Muhammad (peace be upon him) could be more powerful and more evident, Allah made it a miraculous book to be recited, coming from an illiterate man who had never written anything in his life nor learned any science or art from another.
Distinctive Features of the Qur’anic Miracle:
1. It is appropriate for the nature of the Message, since the Message of Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the last of the Divine Messages. It is a Message for all of humanity in every time and every land until the Day of Judgment. It is appropriate that the miracle for this Message should be as lasting. Previous Messengers were sent to specific people at a specific time. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The Prophets were sent to their own people specifically. I was sent for all of humanity.”
2. The miracle and the Law are one and the same. The Qur’ân itself is the miracle and it contains the injunctions of the Law.
This was not the case for the previous Prophets. The Message of Muhammad (peace be upon him) that contains the Law is the miracle and the miracle is the Law.
3. It attests to the truth of the previous Prophets: The miracle of Muhammad – the Qur’ân – bears witness to the existence of the previous Prophets, the truthfulness of their Message, and the correctness of what they conveyed to the people.
The verses of challenge in the Qur’ân:
- Say (O Muhammad) if mankind and jinn were to come together to produce something like this Qur’ân, they would not be able to do so, even if they were to help one another.
- Or they say: “He has forged it.” Say: “Then bring ten forged chapters like it and call whoever you can besides Allah if you are truthful.” If then they do not answer you, know that it is sent down with the Knowledge of Allah, besides Whom there is no other God. Will you then be Muslims?
- And if you are in doubt concerning that which We have sent down to Our servant, then produce a chapter like it and call your witnesses besides Allah if you be truthful. If you do not do so – and you will never do so – then fear a fire whose fuel is men and stones prepared for the disbelievers.
Examples of the Arab reaction to the Qur’ân:
1. `Utbah b. Rabî`ah came to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) to dissuade him from proclaiming the Message. Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) read to him from the Qur’ân. `Utbah listened attentively, sitting with his hands behind his back until Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) was done. He then went his people. When they saw him approach, they began speaking to one another, saying: “By Allah, he has a different expression on his face than the one that he had when he left.” When he took his seat among them, they asked him: “What is the matter with you?”
He said: “The matter with me is that – by Allah – I have heard words the likes of which I have never heard before. By Allah, it is neither poetry, nor magic, nor fortune telling. O Quraysh, obey me and hold me accountable for it.”
He continued: “Leave this man to what he is doing and avoid him, for by Allah, his words that I have heard contain a great proclamation. If the Arabs turn against him, then others have solved our problem. If he triumphs over them, then his wealth will be your wealth, his might will be your might, and you will be the most pleased with him.”
They said: “By Allah, he has bewitched you with his tongue.”
He responded: “This is my opinion. Do what you please.”
2. Al-Walîd b. al-Mughîrah came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the Prophet recited to him from the Qur’ân. Al-Mughîrah seemed to relent to him. Abû Jahl got word of this and he went to al-Walîd and said: “Uncle, your people wish to collect some money and give it to you, because you went to Muhammad to oppose what he has.”
Al-Walîd said: “The tribe of Quraysh well knows that I am the wealthiest among them.”
Abû Jahl said: “Say something so your people will know that you reject and despise it.”
He responded: “What should I say? For by Allah, there is none among you more knowledgeable about poetry than myself. I know more about its form and its meter. I even know the poetry of the Jinn. By Allah, it does not resemble any of that. What he says has such sweetness and beauty. It begins fruitfully and becomes all the more copious as it goes on. It transcends everything else and nothing else can transcend it. It lays to waste anything that is lesser.”
Abû Jahl said: “By Allah, your people will not be pleased until you say something bad about it.”
Al-Walîd said: “Give me time to think.” After thinking for a while, he said: “This is magic of old that he received from someone else.”
Allah speaks about him in the Qur’ân, saying:
Leave Me to deal with the one I created to be lonely, and then bestowed upon him great wealth and sons abiding in his presence and made life smooth for him. Yet he desires that I give him more. Nay! For verily he has been stubborn to Our signs. On him I shall impose a fearful doom. For verily, he considered, then he planned. Then he looked. Then he frowned and showed displeasure, then turned away in pride and said: ‘This is nothing but magic of old. This is nothing but the speech of a human being.’ I will cast him into the Hellfire.
The Miraculous Way the Qur’ân Discusses Matters of the Unseen
The unseen refers to everything that was unknown and unknowable to Muhammad (peace be upon him), such as events of other times that he did not witness and had no knowledge of. This includes what the Qur’ân says about the beginnings of Creation and about everything that has happened since the time Adam (peace be upon him) was created to the time of Muhammad (peace be upon him). Likewise, this includes many events that occurred during his time, like the plots and schemes of his enemies that Allah disclosed to him by way of revelation.
The unseen is of two kinds, past and future. Both are featured in the Qur’ân.
The unseen of the past includes what is said about the nations of old and the events of the past. All of this shows the truthfulness of Muhammad’s prophethood (peace be upon him) and that the Qur’ân is truly from Allah. This includes what is told about the Prophets like Adam, Noah, Hûd, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, and about his mother Mary (peace be upon them all) and about their respective peoples like `Ad, Thamûd, the Children of Israel, and Pharaoh.
For this reason, Allah said:
This is of the news of the unseen that We reveal to you; neither you nor your people knew it before this. So be patient. Surely the good outcome is for the God-fearing.
Allah says, after relating the story of Mary and how Zechariah got custody over her:
This is a part of the news of the unseen that We reveal to you (O Muhammad). You were not with them when they cast lots as to which of them would be charged with the care of Maryam and you were not with them when they disputed.
The presence of these events of the past in the Qur’ân, portrayed in such great detail, is a clear proof that it is revelation from Allah and not from a human being. A person who grew up in an environment like the one that Muhammad (peace be upon him) grew up in would have no way to acquire such knowledge which must be passed down from others in some way. In that illiterate environment, there was no one who knew of these events in such detail. Yes, the Jews and Christians knew a little about these matters, but they lived at the far ends of the Arabian Peninsula and kept very much to themselves and had little influence on those around them. They were very covetous over the knowledge of old that they had, fearing that others might become competition for them and endanger the status that they enjoyed.
The unseen of the future includes things like the Qur’ân’s declaration that the Romans would defeat Persia. Allah said:
The Romans have been defeated in the nearest land (of Syria), and they, after their defeat, will be victorious.
This then occurred just as the Qur’ân said it would.
Likewise, are the things that the Qur’ân says will face some of the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him). For example, Allah says:
He knows that there will be some among you who are sick, others traveling in the land, yet others fighting in Allah’s cause.
This is one of the first verses of the Qur’ân to be revealed.
The Qur’ân also foretells of the Muslim victory in battle. Allah says:
…Or they say: ‘We are a great multitude, victorious.’ Their multitude will be put to flight and they will show their backs.
This then occurred in the Battle of Badr.
The Qur’ân speaks of new means of transport that will come into existence. Allah says:
And He has created horses, mules, and donkeys for you to ride and as an adornment. And He creates others of which you have no knowledge.
We can see that the means have transportation have gone through many changes over time.
The Miracle of the Divine Law embodied in the Qur’ân
The One Who created the universe and everything in it – the most noble and honored of which is the human being – has chosen for his most honored creation a constitution to regulate his life and guide his behavior and his relationship with his own kind and with his Creator. He has placed upon the application of this Law consequences in this world and in the Hereafter. In this world, a person can realize peace of mind, dignity, and comfort. He can feel true humanity, appreciate the Divine Wisdom behind his being created, brought into existence, and being preferred over the rest of Creation. The Qur’ân contains the regulations that humanity needs to conduct their lives. No aspect of life is left without being considered and provided with specific legislation.
The legislative and moral aspects of the Qur’ân are themselves a great proof that the Qur’ân is from Allah. The highest moral standards and legal principles that are contained within the Qur’ân, in their comprehensiveness, completeness, and detail, are beyond anything that can be achieved by man.
The existence of a comprehensive Law that covers every aspect of human life on both the individual and societal level goes beyond what the greatest human minds could ever conceive. Moreover, this system of law came on the tongue of an illiterate man who was not acquainted with the writings and philosophies of the ancients. He never embarked on any travels for learning or explorations around the world to observe their laws and norms.
This Divine Law has lasted for generations, for centuries, without losing its luster. Any objective observer has to admit to its divine origins and its suitability for application in every place and in every era.
Examples of the Law embodied in the Qur’ân:
1. The Qur’ân contains laws pertaining to worship, human activities, the penal system, and retribution, all of which strengthen society and implant a sense of cooperation between its members. It provides them with order, facilitates their obedience, and gives them a society guided by faith. This can clearly be seen in the laws pertaining to prayer, the Zakâh tax, fasting, and the Hajj pilgrimage.
Prayer is a means of individual development that forms the character of a person, enabling him to act in a harmonious way with others and to take direction from someone else (the leader of the congregational prayer).
The Persian general Rustum articulated this during the Battle of al-Qâdisiyyah when he saw the Muslims praying in their ranks behind the one who was leading the prayer. He said: “`Umar (the Caliph) has torn my heart by teaching the Arabs the concept of order.”
The Zakâh tax removes class hatred and hostility from society and provides a sense of social responsibility and security among Muslims.
Fasting creates a sense of unity between all Muslims and teaches them patience, will power, and a sense that Allah is taking their deeds to account, both the deeds that they perform openly and those that they perform in secret.
The Hajj pilgrimage brings equality between all people and reminds them of the Day of Judgment to come. It is a visible testimony of the equality between Muslims and of Islamic unity, regardless of race or color. It is the realization of Allah’s words
Truly this nation of yours is one nation and I am your Lord, so worship Me.
2. The Qur’ân contains a number of specific legislations for both the individual and society that prevent division and strife between Muslims, or limit the effects of such divisions when they occur and keep them from continuing and spreading.
For this reason, legislation comes to protect human life. Retribution is legislated for both life and limb. Allah says:
O you who believe, the law of retribution is prescribed for you in case of murder; the free for the free, the slave for the slave, and the female for the female. If the killer is forgiven by his injured brother, then prosecution according to usage and payment of the blood money in fairness. This is alleviation and a mercy from your Lord, so after this, whoever transgresses the limits shall have a painful torment.
And We ordained therein for them: a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and retribution in injuries. But if anyone remits the retribution by way of charity, it shall be for him an expiation. And whosoever does not judge by that which Allah has revealed, such are the transgressors.
3. Laws are provided that safeguard human honor and warn against violating it. For one thing, sexual contact is forbidden outside of marriage. Allah says:
The woman and man guilty of illegal sexual intercourse, flog each of them a hundred stripes. Let not pity withhold you in their case in a punishment prescribed by Allah if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a party of the believers witness their punishment. The fornicator marries none but the fornicatress or an idolatress, and the fornicatress marries none other than a fornicator or an idolater. Such a thing is forbidden to the believers.
4. The Qur’ân provides legislation to protect the wealth and possessions of people. It prohibits seizure of other’s property through fraud, deception, force, usury, and all other forbidden means. Allah says:
And do not consume one another’s property unjustly, or give it in bribes to the rulers that you may knowingly consume part of another’s property unjustly.
And Allah has permitted commerce and prohibited interest.
The Law requires payment of the Zakâh tax and encourages voluntary charity, increasing the circulation of wealth throughout society. It prohibits hoarding wealth and withholding it from those who have a right to it and those who are in need. All of this prevents the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few who live off of the labor and toil of others. Allah says:
…so it will not circulate (only) between the wealthy among you.
5. The state as outlined in the Qur’ân, when it was established in history was unprecedented in that it realized all the components of prosperity, security, justice, and all of the manifestations of strength, greatness, and glory. This came as a result of applying the laws of the Qur’ân, because the state derives its greatness and glory from the principles that it provides for humanity and its vigilance in applying them with integrity and justice. Among the most important of these principles are the following:
A. Mutual consultation: The Qur’ân links consultation to the basic activities of a believer, like prayer and Zakâh, for it is also a basic aspect of the believer’s character. Allah says: And those who avoid the greater sins and licentiousness, and when they are angry, forgive. And those who answer the call of their Lord and perform the prayer and conduct their affairs by mutual consultation, and who spend of what We bestow on them. And those who, when a great wrong is done to them, defend themselves. The Qur’ân does not define how this consultation has to be carried out. This is out of leniency, flexibility, and mercy, because the best method may be different for different generations.
B. Absolute justice between citizens: The Islamic State does not tolerate that the strong should take away the rights of the weak. People are equal before the law and before the courts: the ruler and the ruled, the strong and the weak, the young and the old. For this reason, we see that establishing justice between people is one of the primary aspects of the Divine Message. Allah says:
So unto this then invite the people and stand firm as you are commanded and follow not their desires but say: ‘I believe in what Allah sent down in his book and am commanded to establish justice between you. Allah is our Lord and your Lord. For us are our deeds and for you are your deeds. There is no dispute between you and us. Allah will assemble us all, and to Him is the final return.
O you who believe, stand firmly for justice as witnesses for Allah, even though it be against yourselves, your parents, or your kinfolk, whether rich or poor. Allah is a better protector for them. So follow not your desires lest you avoid justice. And if you lapse or fall away, then verily Allah is ever Well-Acquainted with what you do.
Rasulullah SAW bersabda: "Barangsiapa yang Allah SWT menghendaki kebaikan (Surga) baginya, niscaya ia dibuat pandai dalam ilmu agama." (HR. Al-Bukhari dari Muawiyah)