Understanding the Quran

What is the Quran?

To understand the Quran, we must first attempt to understand the nature of the Quran itself. The story of the Quran begins with creation itself. In the beginning God created ‘the Pen’, divine and metaphysical in nature. Then God created ‘the Preserved Tablet’, and He ordered the Pen to write on the Tablet all knowledge, everything. He ordered the Pen to write down scripture, all scripture, including the Quran. Muslims believe that the Quran is the divine Word of God, the Spoken Word, that emanates from His essence, as is befitting His Majesty. As such, all divine scripture is the eternal Word of God, except that mankind tampered with previous scripture and altered its meaning, whilst the Quran is still preserved in its original form and will continue to do so until the Day of Judgement.

All knowledge was recorded in the Preserved Tablet, after which God created the heavens and the earth, placed mankind on earth as its custodians, sent messengers who received divine scripture as communication and guidance. The Messengers would convey scripture, the message of God, and His guidance to their respective people, until the final Messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him) arrived during the early part of the seventh century. Muhammad was born in Mecca to the chief tribe of the Arabs, the Quraysh. He was raised amongst the Arabs and was known to be a good and righteous man and earnt the highest societal accolades, al-Ṣādiq (the truthful) and al-‘Amīn (the trustworthy). Upon reaching the age of forty, during the month of Ramadan, in the Night of Power, God ordered the Archangel Gabriel, to reveal the entire Quran, from the Preserved Tablet to the lowest heaven. During that time the first portion of the Quran was revealed to Muhammad whilst he secluded himself in the cave of Hira for spiritual development. Thereafter, the

Quran would be revealed to Muhammad in portions, piecemeal, over a period of approximately twenty-three years, until Muhammad passed away.

The Quran is the direct, verbatim, Word of God that contains theological, juristic, and spiritual matters, necessary for coherent societal reform, for the benefit of mankind itself, and to live a life of discipline, morals, and good nature. It’s divine, miraculous, and inimitable nature reassures the reader that it is indeed the true Word of God. Whether it be its melodic recital, the universality of its message, or the eloquence of its language, it forms part of the readers experience and sustains the vitality and strength of its message harkening back to the primordial nature of mankind.

Revelation of Quran during the Prophets time

Unlike previous scriptures, the Quran was revealed for all humanity, all people, all generations and would continue to serve until the Day of Judgement. Therefore, Muhammad did not just receive the Quran in one go, but it was revealed bit by bit based on events, incidents and circumstances that occurred during the time of Muhammad’s prophethood. A particular occurrence, question or query by another, or lack thereof could result in a verse, a collection of verses or an entire chapter being revealed to Muhammad. Which he then conveyed, as an Arabic recital, to his companions, friends, and family members, who would commit revelation to memory or write it down on papyrus or parchments.

Muhammad did not just reveal the raw letter of the word but explained and taught its message to those around him. He practiced the teachings of the Quran and became a living embodiment of it. God directed every word, action and tacit approval of Muhammad, and his companions recorded not just the Arabic recital of the Quran, but they observed their prophet and recorded his teachings and preserved it in what is now known as the al-Ḥadīth literature.

A Message of God, a Book of guidance, the Quran is a unique scripture that produces a variety of multi-layered meanings and is conveyed through variant readings known as al-Qirā’āt. These readings are both dialectical enunciations as

well as skeletal variations that all adhere to a core meaning yet cater for a multitude of interpretations that stem from a robust framework which can be traced back to the Prophet himself as well as the earliest generations of Muslim scholarship.

Preservation of the Quran

The Quran was not just orally committed, in entirety, by memory, but it was also written down in Muhammad’s time in separate parchments. As early as six months after the passing of Muhammad, may peace and blessings be upon him, the Quran was preserved in one canonised compilation during the caliphate of his beloved companion, Abū Bakr. He had a three-tiered committee setup which would collect all parchments and summon all those who had memorised the Quran, each providing two witnesses testifying that they had indeed witnessed the oral transmission of the Quran from Muhammad. Thus, the entire Quran was compiled in one codex known as al-Muṣḥaf. This codex was a skeletal script of the oral tradition that catered for variant dialectical readings.

During the caliphate of the third leader of Islam, ‘Uthmān ibn ‘Affān, a second codex was put together focusing on the primary Qurashīshī dialect, making all other dialectical enunciations obsolete. Whilst the Quran had been revealed in seven different dialects during the time of Muhammad, all paid homage to the central dialect, that of the Quraysh. Yet ‘Uthmān’s codex catered for variant skeletal readings preserved in the al-Qirā’āt tradition. ‘Uthmān had multiple copies of his codex sent to the major centres of the Islamic world, to ensure that new Muslims and arrivals to Islam where learning and memorising the correct words of the Quran.

Understanding the Quran

An understanding of the Quran is not just predicated on the reading of the raw letter of the word. Whilst the melodic arabesques of its recital can indeed hold a reader in awe, appreciating the message of the Quran lies in a study of the Arabic language and the various Islamic. Whether one indulges in the science of al-Sīrah (the biography of Muhammad) in order to learn the causes of revelation; or al-

Ḥadīth to learn its interpretations or lessons; or al-Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) to learn about the laws extrapolated from it; or al-‘Aqīdah (theology) to gain an understanding of God and both the seen and unseen realms; or the theoretical sciences of al-‘Usūl to understand the principles of interpretation and extrapolation; each Islamic science provides a different window of insight into the message of the Quran.


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