The Qur’an is the 4th and last sacred book of the Almighty. Allah revealed it to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The Quran is the book of guidance for all humankind. Likewise, Allah Himself assumes the responsibility for the protection of this holy book.
Allah’s Book is a source of great inspiration, guidance and wisdom for millions of Muslims worldwide. We all need to know the story of the revelation and compilation of the Quran. Thus, we commit to understanding how important this sacred book is to all of us.
The book of Allah is the focal point of faith. It is essential for establishing the foundations of an Islamic society. It is the basis of its sharia, legal instructions and Law. We can say that the book of Allah is a living miracle. The Holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) over a period of up to 23 years. During this period, Allah revealed the Qur’an, which we recite with bribes and in a different order from the one we see today.
In this article, we are going to discuss the Quran by describing the history of its revelation. Also, we will see the measures taken to preserve it. Finally, we propose to discover the story of its compilation through Muslim history.
The linguistic meaning of the word Qur’an
There are several different opinions regarding the linguistic meaning of the word Quran.
According to the majority of scholars, including At-Tabaree, the word Qur’an derives from the verb “Qara’a“, which means “to read, to recite”. In this case, the word “Qur’an” would be the verbal name (masdar) of “Qara’a”. It would thus be translated as “the recitation” or “the reading”. Allah says:
“And [it is] a Qur’an which We have separated [by intervals]” [Al-Israa ’17: 106].
And He said:
“Indeed, upon Us is its collection [in your heart] and [to make possible] its recitation. So when We have recited it [through Gabriel], then follow its recitation.” [Al-Qiyaamah 75: 17-18]
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The opinion of Imam Ash Shafi’ee
For his part, Imam Ash-Shafi’ee believed that the word Qur’an was a proper name that did not derive from any other word like “Torah” or “Injeel”. He was reciting the word without hamza (Quran). Ibn Kathir’s Qira’aah also pronounces the word Qur’an in this way (meaning Quran).
Abu al Hassan’s opinion
According to another opinion, that of Abu al-Hassan, Ali al-Ach’ari, the word Koran comes from the root “Qarana“, which means “to join, to associate”. For example, the pilgrimage in which we combine Umrah and Hajj is called Hajj Qiraan (from the same root word). Therefore, the meaning of the word “Qur’an” would be: “That which unites” because its verses and its Suras combine to form this book. In this case, the word would be pronounced the same as Imam ash-Shafi’ee, without the hamza.
The opinion that the Quran comes from the word Qaraa’n
A fourth opinion is that the Quran comes from the word “Qaraa’in”, which means “to be like”. Therefore, the Qur’an is made up of verses that help each other in understanding and suras that resemble each other in beauty and prose. This is the point of view of Yahya ibn Ziyad ad-Daylamee, famous grammarian of Kufa.
The opinion that the Qur’an comes from the word Qar ‘
According to another opinion, the Quran comes from “Qar ’“, which means“ to combine ”. It is called such because it combines stories, orders, promises and punishments. This is the opinion of Ibn Al-Atheer in his An-Nihaayah. However, the strongest opinion and that of the majority of scholars is the first, namely that the word Qur’an is the verbal name for “Qara’a” and therefore means “recitation”. Proof of this is that it is named such in the Quran (and most Qira’aats pronounce the word with a hamza), and the word conforms to Arabic grammar as a verbal noun of Qara’a.
The merits of the Qur’an
Let us first look at the merits of the Quran.
Allah Almighty has said about its preservation and divine nature in the Quran:
“And [mention] the Day when We will resurrect among every nation a witness over them from themselves. And We will bring you, [O Muhammad], as a witness over your nation. And We have sent down to you the Book as clarification for all things and as guidance and mercy and good tidings for the Muslims.” (16: 89)
It is the book of guidance, mercy and good news. Other than that, we as Muslims should believe that the Quran is an error-free book.
Allah says in the Quran regarding the authenticity of its preservation:
“Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an, and indeed, We will be its guardian.” (15: 9).
Thus, we can say that the book of Allah in its present form is the same as that which Allah revealed to the Prophet (PBUH). Therefore, there can be no doubt as to its divine character.
The revelation of the Qur’an
Allah revealed the Quran to the last Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The form of this revelation is called in Arabic “Wahee“. In Islamic terminology, “Wahee” can be literally defined as: “The divine message of Allah transmitted to those chosen by Himself (the prophets)”.
Allah gives us descriptions of “wahee” in the Quran:
“And We inspired to the mother of Moses” (28: 7).
He also says:
“That is from the news of the unseen which We reveal to you” (3:44)
So, Allah revealed the Quran in the form of Wahee to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This revelation took different forms. While sleeping while awake etc. The process of revelation of the Quran began in the month of Ramadan. Allah (SWT) says in the Holy Quran:
“The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an” (2: 185)
Allah did not reveal the Qur’an in one piece. Indeed, this revelation was gradual. Thus, He revealed a small number of verses (ayah) at a time. Allah also explains the reason for the partial revelation of the Quran over a period of 23 years in this verse:
“And [it is] a Qur’an which We have separated [by intervals] that you might recite it to the people over a prolonged period. And We have sent it down progressively.”(17: 106)
Therefore, the revelation process was step by step, during which Allah revealed the verses to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This revelation depended on specific cases, thus facilitating the circulation and propagation of information to followers of Islam.
So, Allah sent the divine message slowly to enable the new Muslim Arabs to change and accept the new religion. They could thus live according to the teachings of Islam.
The staged revelation also created a constant bond between Allah and His Beloved Prophet (PBUH). It provided moral support in times of need and distress.
“So (it is revealed), so that we can strengthen your heart.” (25: 106)
Makkan and Madinan Phase
When we review the process of the Quran’s revelation on the Holy Prophet (PBUH), we find that it is quite a long journey. The whole Quran, which is actually the speech of Allah Almighty, comprises 86 Makkan surahs and 28 Madinan surahs that collectively make 114 surahs.
The Mekkan verses
The revelation of The Makkan verses to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) started in the city of Makkah before the Hijrah. In the Makkan phase, the major task of the Prophet (PBUH) was to call strayed people towards Islam. This revelation period for the Makkan verse of the Quran lasted for around 13 years.
Subject Matter of Makkan Verses of Qur’an
Makkan verses are comparatively shorter in the address to the people of Makkah, including Muslims and non-Muslims both. Thus, the reader can observe a stern tone while discussing the strengths and oneness of Allah. It speaks about the day of judgment and how we will be accountable to Allah while highlighting rewards and punishments. It often discusses the stories of previous Prophets and nations, speaking about the bad outcomes for the polytheists too.
Example of Makkan Surah
‘Surah Fatihah’ is one example of Makkan verses, mainly discussing the ultimate power Allah holds and how we need his guidance and forgiveness.
English Translation of Surah Fatihah
“All praise is for Allah—Lord of all worlds,
the Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
Master of the Day of Judgment
You ˹alone˺ we worship and You ˹alone˺ we ask for help.
Guide us along the Straight Path
the Path of those You have blessed—not those You are displeased with, or those who are astray.”
Subject Matter of Madinan Verses of Qur’an
However, Madinan verses represent all those surahs revealed to the Holy Prophet (PBUH) after He migrated to Madinah, even if he was outside the city at the time of revelation. These surahs were relatively longer and addressed to the people of Madinah, which was a Muslim majority holding city. Hence many verses were addresses as, “Oh, you believer!” and had a softer tone as Muslims were already on the right path.
Madinan verses mention rulings and laws without discussion since it was appropriate for the people at that time. Madinan surahs can be classified as a guide for detailed rules related to worship and social dealings. It spoke elaboratively about the concept of ‘Jihad’ and the importance of leadership while dealing with hypocrisy as it bulged in Madinah.
While all the revelations of Makkan surahs occurred before the hijra, their memorization and documentation were not in the same order as their revelation order. Some Ayats’ revelations were at short intervals, and sometimes the entire Surah’s revelation was in one go.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) told his scribes to record the Ayats in the Surah it belonged to. When came the revelation of a new surah. He would recite it in the order it was to be documented. Once the Madinan surahs had begun revealing, the Prophet (PBUH) instructed his companions to position them before or after some Makkan Surahs. While there are Surahs that may be Madinan but have a few Makkan verses in them, and vice versa. A Surah is graded as Makkan or Madinan based on the plurality of the ayah therein.
Example of Madinan Surah
‘Surah Al-Ma’idah’ is an example of Madinan verses, explaining the pilgrimage guidelines and highlighting the importance of not hunting any animal until after the pilgrimage is over.
“O, believers! Do not violate Allah’s rituals ˹of pilgrimage˺, the sacred months, the sacrificial animals, the ˹offerings decorated with˺ garlands, nor that ˹pilgrims ˺ on their way to the Sacred House seeking their Lord’s bounty and pleasure. When the pilgrimage has ended, you are allowed to hunt. Do not let the hatred of a people who once barred you from the Sacred Mosque provoke you to transgress. Cooperate in goodness and righteousness, and do not cooperate in sin and transgression. And be mindful of Allah. Surely Allah is severe in punishment.”
Benefits of knowing the Differences Between the Makkan and Madinan Verses
It allows one to:
- Distinguish between the revoking verses from the abrogated.
- Become familiar with the dates of specific Islamic laws when they were revealed and whom they address.
- Praise the greatness of the Almighty Allah and the Quran, specifically in the lives of early Muslims.
- Fully understand the context and the purpose of particular Surah and Ayah.
- Recognize that the Quran’s revelation to Prophet (PBUH) requires memorization and comprehension.
The compilation of the Qur’an
In the beginning, the Quran was kept in the form of memorization of the verses of the Holy Quran. But later, the process of compiling the Quran began to keep it in book form.
When it comes to the compilation of the Quran, it has been divided into specific parts and periods of history in which different Muslim rulers at different times have made different contributions to make the compilation of the Quran better and More reliable.
We will discuss the different stages of the compilation of the Quran through Islamic history, which made it possible to visualize and read the Quran in its current form.
At the time of the Prophet PBUH
The first step in the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): Compiling the Quran was initiated for the first time in the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). At this point, the arrangement and order of the suras and verses (ayahs) has been specified by the Prophet (PBUH), and the text has been written.
However, at this point, the Quran was not compiled into a single book. It was comparatively available on separate sheepskin and was memorized in its entirety by several companions of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
During the reign of Caliph Abu Bakr
The second stage of compilation took place during the caliphate of Abu Bakar (R.A). During the battle of Yamama, many companions (sahaba), who had memorized the Quran, were martyred.
This became a source of concern for many companions of the Prophet (PBUH), and they feared for the preservation of the Quran. This is why Umar (R.A) suggested that the Caliph collect the Quran and compile it into a single book to ensure its preservation.
Abu Bakr (RA) liked this idea but feared it because the Prophet (PBUH) himself had never taken this step and feared that this action would be considered an anomaly afterwards. However, he later changed his mind and ordered Zain bin Thaabit (RA) to be the editor and compile the Quran into book form. All the members of the commission were renowned Huffaz (having memorized the Quran) from Quran. That is, they had already memorized it in its entirety.
After listening to various Huffaz and cross-referencing the various written verses of the Quran found on tree leaves, burning skins and leather skins, he compiled a final copy of the Qur’an, which was then presented to Caliph Abu Bakr (RA ).
Once all the text had been gathered and compiled, the commission reread it carefully and certified that it was correct and present in its entirety. Thus, the earliest version of the Quran in book form was compiled in the life of Abu Bakr (R.A), the first caliph of Islam.
During the reign of Caliph Uthman
During the third Caliph Uthman (R.A) era, a serious issue related to the recitation of the Quran arose. Although the text of the Qur’an has been universally accepted, Arabs from different parts of the Islamic State have recited it according to their dialect.
These presented two problems: first, everyone considered their dialect to be correct, which gave rise to arguments; and second, there was concern that if this continued, there would no longer be a universally accepted version of the Quran.
To overcome these issues, Uthman (R.A) asked Hafsa (R.A) to provide the earlier compilation of the Quran so that more copies could be made. In addition, he also formed a committee consisting of Zain bin Haris (RA) and a few other companions to ensure that they agree on the pronunciation of the original copy and produce more versions of this copy in the same manner.
The commission prepared the text accordingly. Then several copies were made and sent to different parts of the Islamic State with instructions that only this text was to be considered the official and authentic text of the Qur’an.
Since that day, the Holy Quran has remained in its original form intact and will remain so in the future by the Grace and Blessings of Allah Almighty.
Despite this, Almighty Allah Himself has taken responsibility for preserving the Qur’an. However, he had the work done by humans. Different rulers, at different times, have made efforts to ensure that the Quran is preserved in a universal form without any deviation in terms of the textual content that we have today from which we recite.
This article about the importance and merits of the Holy Qur’an is now completed. If you want to know more about the Quran, memorize it and learn how to recite it: memorization program of the Quran.