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.