By: Professor Maqsood Jafri
The etymological meaning of the Quran is to read. It is a book which is like a fathomless and boundless sea. One has to dive in to it to fetch the pearls of wisdom. The very first verse revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the cave of Hira was: “Read! In the name of your Lord who created.” (96:1)
By Quran we mean the verses revealed to the prophet of Islam. It is the word of God. It is the Greatest and the Ever-current miracle of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) the last Apostle of God. It was revealed on the Night of Qadr (2:185; 44-3; 97:1).
About the authenticity of the Quran the disbelievers used to create doubts in the minds of the people. They used to make hue and cry about it. The Quran says: “And those who disbelieve say: listen ye not to this Quran and make noise therein” –
But about the Quranic truth and genuineness the Quran in the chapter The Heifer declares: “This is the Book, there is no doubt in it (being the word of God). (It is) a guidance for the pious ones” (2:2).
In Sura Al-Imran once again Allah regards the Quran as the Book of Guidance. The Quran says: “Here is a plain statement to men, a guidance and instruction to those who fear Allah.” The people who are not pious and chaste and who do not fear Allah are incapable of enjoying the fresh and sweet fruit of this spiritual tree. They are misguided because of their stale souls and dullness of minds. About them in Sura The Heifer the Quran says; “Allah has set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing, and on their eyes is a veil; great is the penalty they (incur)” – (2:7). At another place the Quran says that many people get astray and many receive guidance from the Quran. The Quran clarifies that only the wicked and unchaste ones go astray. Such immoral debauches have no clean heart and mind to sip the pure water from the Eternal spring of Sagacity.
The Quran is a Book of Wisdom for wise people. In Sura Yunus it says: “These are the verses of the Book of Wisdom” (10:1). There is a full chapter in the Quran entitled Luqman (The wise). Luqman was a physician, philosopher and saint. The ascription and dedication of a full chapter to his name shows immense reverence for the man of wisdom in the sight of God. This Sura starts with these words: “These are verses of the Wise Book, a guide and a mercy to the doers of Good.”(20:2-3).
The miracle of the Quran is that it gives eloquent and elegant message in a few words. Its preciseness and conciseness makes it marvelous. It has 114 chapters and 6666 verses. But according to the punctuation ascribed to the Holy Prophet by the Majmou-ul-Byan the number of the Quranic verses is 6263. The different schools of the reciters-Kufi, Hijazi, Macci, Madani, Egyptian and Syrian differ in this regard. It carries injunctions, parables, admonitions, exhortations, advices, stories and tenets.
The Holy Quran at different places makes different claims about the nature of the Quran. Briefly they are as such.
The Quran is the revelation of Allah. In Sura Fussilat the Quran says: “Falsehood cannot reach it from before it or behind it. It is revelation from one who is All-wise, praiseworthy.” (41:42). Then in Sura Abraham the Quran announces: “A Book which we have revealed to you in order that you might lead mankind out of the depths of darkness in to light.” (14:1). In Suras, The Poets: The Crowds; The Sure Reality: The Adoration: The Pilgrimage and The Israelites, the Quran announces it to be the revelation and word of God. The infidels who challenged its truth and authenticity the Quran in Sura Yunus are likewise mentioned; “Thus is the word of your Lord proved true against those who rebel: verily they will not believe.” Then in the same Sura they are challenged in these words: “This Quran is not such as can be produced by other than Allah; on the contrary it is a confirmation of (revelation) that went before it, and a fuller explanation of the Book – wherein there is no doubt from the Lord of the worlds – or do they say, he forged it? Say: Bring then a Sura Like it, and call (to your aid) anyone you can, besides Allah, if it be you speaks the truth” (10:37-38).
It has been brought by the arch angel Gabriel. In Sura The Poets, the Quran says: “verily this is a revelation from the Lord of the worlds. With it came down the spirit of Faith and Truth. To your heart and mind, that you may admonish in the perspicuous Arabic tongue” (26:192-195). The following verses also mention about Arabic language (12:2; 12:37; 41:3). The reason being the people directly addressed is to understand its message and act on it.
The Quran is a guide and warning for all human beings. In Sura, The Sure Reality the Quran announces: “It is a reminder for the heedful.” (69:48). The Quran says that only the men of thinking pay heed to its verses. In Suras, The Cattle; The Abraham; The Saad; The TaHa; The Al-Imran: The Light; and The One Wrapped Up, The Quran says that it is the Book of Admonition and warning.
It is mentioned in the previous scriptures. In Sura, The Poets the Quran says: “It (The Quran) is certainly in the scriptures of the previous peoples.” There can be no omission and commission in the Quran. It is free from “Tahreef”. Allah has promised to preserve it. The Quran in Sura, The Rocky Tract says: “It is WE who have sent down the reminder (The Quran) and WE will preserve it “(15:9). Then in Sura The Inevitable Event Allah says: “That this is indeed a Quran most honorable in a Book Well-guarded, which none can touch but those who are clean; A revelation from the Lord of the worlds” (56:77-80).
The Holy Quran is the fundamental reference of source and guidance for judgments. No Un-Quranic verdict, decree or decision can be accepted by the Muslims. The Quran in Sura The Table Spread says; “Do they then seek the judgment of the Time of Ignorance? Who could be better at giving judgment than Allah for people with certainty?” (5:50).
In Suras, The Mary; The Cattle; The Pilgrimage and The light, it is said that our verses are clear and explicit. In Sura, The Time the Quran says; “It is we who have sent the Quran down to you little by little” (76:23). The Quran is a light of Allah to show the right and straight path to humankind. In Suras, The Battle Array; The Table Spread: The Consultation and The Mutual Loss and Gain the Quran has been regarded as Light from Allah.
The Quran is a criterion between right and wrong. It guides to the Right path. It is a healing for the believers. It is a book of Balance and Justice. Hence we see how the Quran speaks of the Quran. The Quran was compiled during the life time of the Holy Prophet. He had set its order. The Quran was recorded in writing at least by the following persons on the instructions of the Holy Prophet; Harzat Ali bin Abi Talib; Abdullah Bin Masood; Maaz bin Jabal and Obai Bin Kaab.
During the life time of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) it was duly collected and had been given the form to be called a complete Book. As it had seven to ten recitations Harzat Usman gave instruction to Zaid bin Thabit to prepare its final copy on one recitation. The other copies he ordered to destroy or burn. Since then there is only one Quran in the whole Muslim world and all sects of Muslims recite the same Quran. There are no two or three Qurans. The Quran which Hazrat Ali had complied and collected on the guidance and instruction of the Holy Prophet was also the same Quran with the correct punctuation, pronunciation and recitation. During the period of caliphate Hazrat Ali people recited the same Quran, collected by Zaid bin Sabit.
Hajjaj Bin Yusuf, a cruel and tyrant Muslim ruler ordered for the punctuation of the Quran for easy and correct reading and understanding of the Quran for the non-Arabs. But for non-Arabic speaking people still it is a problem. They do not recite the Quran with translation in their mother tongues and do not follow it. They should recite the Quran with translation. On the other hand most of the Arabs recite it but do not ponder over its meaning and do not learn any lesson from the Quran. They are oblivious of message. For all such people the Quran in Sura The Criterion says; “Then the messenger will say; O my Lord! Truly my people took this Quran for just foolish nonsense.”
Let Allah grant us grace and wisdom to recite the Quran with understanding and act upon its glorious message. In the words of Dr. Allama Iqbal “I make open what is hidden in my heart. The Quran is not only a Book, it is more than that.” What is more than that? Let us ask the Quran about this mystery. In Sura Hashr (The Gathering) the Quran says; “Had we sent down this Quran on a mountain, verily, you would have seen it humble itself and leave asunder for fear of Allah. Such are similitude which we propound to men that they may reflect.” (59:21)
The Quran claims that it can cleave the earth and move the mountains. It is a book of Law, wisdom, system, code and miracles. It is a final revelation carrying the basic message of earlier prophets. It is a master piece of immense literary, intellectual and spiritual value. The Quran provides bases for universal values and is a complete code of life.
While concluding a few citations from the writings for some non-Muslim scholars about the Quran may seem befitting. Thomas Carlyle says: Sincerity, in all sense, seems to me the merit of the Quran.” J.C. Wilson opines: “The Quran is the most esteemed and most powerful religious Book in the world.” Harry Gaylord Dorman states: “It is a literal revelation of God, dictated to Mohammad by Gabriel, perfect in every letter.” Hence the Quran aptly announce: “we have revealed for you (O Men) a Book which is a message for you: Will you not then understand.” (21:10)
(The writer is an eminent speaker and scholar on comparative religions and a political activist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)