Top Ten Things You May Not Have Known About the Qur’an

by Sheikh Furqan Jabbar

1) According to Islamic belief, the Qur’an is the verbatim word of God. This statement might be something you would think could be also be applied to the Bible as well, the difference however is that the Bible is a text which has been divinely inspired by God [1] whereas the Qur’an is the literal words used by God to convey a message to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as well as the rest of mankind via the angel Gabriel.

Seeing as this is the manner in which Muslims theologically view the Qur’an, one could understand how a fair deal of angst or offence is taken when there is talk of Qur’an-burning or Qur’an-defiling (for such behaviour is not only an affront on a religion, culture and people but also God himself). It is also for this reason that religiously or politically motivated bigots will not hesitate to make use of such things in order to drum up attention [2] to either themselves or their causes.

2) The very text of the Qur’an is believed to be so blessed that each letter of the Qur’an uttered in its original Arabic entails a good deed. [3] These good deeds will not only counted by the angels but will also be brought forth by them as evidence of good life on the Day of Judgement (Yawm Al-Qiyamah). In a prophetic tradition found in the collection of Imam Muslim, the Qur’an itself (by virtue of the blessings it has been endowed with) will gain a form of sentience during this time in order to intercede [4] for those who recited it and lived their lives by it. It is for this reason that pious Muslims regularly attempt to recite the Qur’an, some attempting to do so from beginning to end whilst others a special effort to do so during the month of Ramadan.

3) As Muslims believe in the existence of devils, demonic possessions, the evil eye and sorcery, the Qur’an is also used as a tool to ward off the ill-effects of any one of these supernatural dangers. The practice of doing so is referred to as “ruqya” and was performed since the early days of Islam. According to Muslim scholars, certain suras (i.e. chapters) or verses are more effective than others. For example, reciting Surat Al-Baqarah (the Chapter of the Cow), which incidentally is the longest chapter in the Qur’an, will cause Satan to flee from one’s home, reciting the last two chapters of the Qur’an (Surat Al-Falaq and Surat An-Nas), otherwise known as “al-Mu’awidhatayn”, [5] will negate the ill-effects of sorcery or the evil-eye whilst reciting the Ayat Al-Kursi (i.e. “The Verse of the Throne”) will protect one from general supernatural harm. Additionally, the Qur’an is used as a means to attain blessing during illness. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself was facing illness and very close to death, he was (according to a tradition in Bukhari and Muslim) reported to have recited al-Mu’awidhatayn over himself. [6]

4) As well as being a scripture which defines religious duties, the Qur’an is a text which describes the afterlife, the oneness and nature of God and the mission of the various Prophets that were sent through the ages. One of the words which the Qur’an frequently uses in order to describe itself is “adh-Dhikr” (i.e. “the Remembrance”). As such, the Qur’an does not necessarily see itself as establishing a completely new religion. Rather, it is a continuation of the same message [7] preached by Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them both).

In the case of Jesus (who is reffered to as ‘Isa), the Qur’an acknowledges him as the wise, noble and miraculous messiah that Christianity does; it nonetheless does not ascribe upon him any kind of divinity and rather than referring to him as “the son of god,” it refers to him as “the son of Mary.” Given that the central Prophet of Islam is mentioned 4 times in the Qur’an, it is noteworthy to mention that Moses is mentioned 136 times in the Qur’an, whilst Jesus (peace be upon them both) is mentioned 25 times.

5) The Qur’an was revealed over a period of twenty-three years. In addition to this, the first revelation (which was al-Alaq) began in 610 AD after Muhammad (peace be upon him) came into contact with the Archangel Gabriel on the cave of Hira. The longest sura (i.e. chapter) in the Qur’an is Surat al-Baqarah which is of 286 ayaat (i.e. verses). The shortest of chapters is al-Kawthar which is a mere three ayaat. Whereas al-Baqarah is said by Muslim Historians to be revealed gradually, over a long period of time, al-Kawthar is said to have been revealed in one go through a dream experienced by the Prophet (peace be upon him).

Scholars differ as to what the final words of revelation were, the majority seem to believe that it may have been the third verse of al-Ma’idah: [8] “This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion…” They are general in agreement however that the final chapter to be revealed in it’s entirety is Surat an-Nasr, it speaks of people embracing Islam in crowds and is as follows:

“When comes the help of Allah, and victory,”

“And you see the people enter in the religion of Allah in crowds,”

“Celebrate the praises of your Lord and pray for forgiveness for he is oft-returning (in grace and mercy).”

6) Given that Muslims are supposed to recite from the Qur’an in order to complete their five daily prayers, and there are roughly 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide it may be fair to say that the Qur’an is the most memorised book or even the most recited book in the world. Muslims aim to memorise the Qur’an (usually but not always at early age) as the act of doing so is deemed blessed and commendable. The one who memorises the entire Qur’an is referred to as a hafiz and is typically chosen to lead congregational prayers.

7) According to Muslims, revelation of the Qur’an was presented to Muhammad (peace be upon him) in three ways. A hadith (i.e. prophetic tradition) found in the collection of al-Bukhari quotes the Prophet (peace be upon him) describing them: “Sometimes it comes to me like the ringing of a bell, which is the hardest of all, then it passes once I have grasped what is said. And sometimes the angel comes to me in the form of a man and speaks to me, and I grasp what he says…”

8) Being that the Qur’an is written in an advanced form of Arabic otherwise referred to as fuss-haa (or what we would simply refer to in English as “Classical Arabic”), the Qur’an has served as a basis for Muslims and non-Muslims to understand the Arabic language itself. According to Oliver Leaman, a professor of philosophy and zantker professor of Judaic studies, criticisms of the Qur’an’s Arabic are “usually resented by Muslims scholars and Arab Christians alike.” [9] Regarding the Qur’an’s eloquence and style, the Encyclopaedia Britannica [10] says: “The Qurʾan has long been considered the supreme standard of eloquence in the Arabic language. Qurʾanic Arabic has been studied by non-Arab Muslims all over the world.”

9) Muslims use the Qur’an as a means of worship. In this sense the Qur’an can be regarded as a ‘living text’ for it is not only recited voluntarily by Muslims who seek to increase their records of good deeds and thus gain closeness to God, it is also to be recited within their five obligatory prayers. The very first sura (i.e. chapter) of the Qur’an, referred to as al-Fatihah (i.e. the Opening) is of seven verses (ayaat) and is recited at the beginning of each unit of prayer. This means that the Muslim that pray their five daily prayers will recite al-Fatihah at least seventeen times per day.

10) Owing to the fact that the Qur’an was memorised as well as written down, even after a period of 1400 years or so, its original Arabic text has not changed. There have been no alterations and no amendments [11] to the literal text of the Qur’an. One of the leading orientalists, Kenneth Cragg, stated: “This phenomenon of Qur’anic recital means that the text has traversed the centuries in an unbroken living sequence of devotion. It cannot, therefore, be handled as an antiquarian thing, nor as a historical document out of a distant past.” Another orientalist, John Burton, stated: “ “the text which has come down to us in the form in which it was organised and approved by the Prophet…What we have today in our hands is the mushaf (i.e. copy) of Muhammad.”



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