God revealed his final revelation to mankind in the form of the book which is today universally known as the Quran. The word Quran literally translates to ‘the recitation’ in Arabic. This is the very word of God Almighty: a complete record of the exact words revealed by God through the Archangel Gabriel to Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him).
The Quran was memorized by Prophet Muhammad and his followers, dictated to his companions, and written down by scribes, who cross-checked it during the Prophet's lifetime. Not one word of its 114 surahs (chapters) has been changed over the centuries. The Quran is in every detail the same unique and miraculous text that was revealed to Muhammad over fourteen centuries ago.
The Quran is the principle source of every Muslim's faith and practice. It deals with all subjects that concern us as human beings, including wisdom, doctrine, worship and law; but its basic theme is the relationship between God and His creatures. At the same time, the Quran provides guidelines for a just society, proper human conduct and equitable economic principles.
"He (God) has sent down to you the Book (the Qur'an) with truth, confirming what was revealed before; And He sent down the Torah (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this as a guide in humankind; and He sent down the Criterion (the Qur'an)." (Qur'an 3:3-4)
This was not God’s first revelation to mankind. He had revealed his will as guidance previously to mankind, and each time in different languages to communicate to different people. This time the chosen language of revelation was Arabic, simply because the person to whom it was revealed was an Arabic speaker. This person was the Last messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him). If it was the case that God chose Muhammad (peace be upon him) as his Last Messenger, but the language of revelation was not Arabic, then it is clear this would not have the effect desired as nobody would understand what was being revealed, nor would it be any kind of guidance.
As mentioned, Muhammad (peace be upon him) was not the only person to receive divine revelation, he was simply the Last of the people to receive it. All the Messengers of Allah experienced revelation. Allah says:
“Verily, We have sent Revelation to you (O Muhammad) as We have sent Revelation to Nuh (Noah) and the prophets who came after him. We had sent revelation to Ibrahim (Abraham), Ismail (Ishmael), Ishâq (Isaac), Yaqub (Jacob), the Tribes, Isa (Jesus), Ayyub (Job), Yunus (Jonah), Harun (Aaron), and Sulayman (Solomon). And to Dawud (David) We gave the Psalms. And Messengers We have told you about before, and Messengers We have not told you about – and to Musa (Moses) We spoke directly.”
So it is clear that God had revealed his will to mankind before. Some of which he has mentioned in the Quran, and some which he has not. From this it is clear that there are other religions in the world today which most probably to have there origin from the One God, Allah. Whether it is Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism etc…The message of these religions at one time was preached by certain individuals as previously mentioned. Whether these were also messengers from Allah, only he knows best.
What is clear however is that the original teachings which were taught by the messengers, and revealed by Allah had through time been altered and changed by humanity. This is why Allah sent down the final revelation, the recitation, the Quran to the Last Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a final guidance to mankind.
The Quran at a glance
The Quran was revealed piecemeal throughout a period of about 23 years. The Prophet received the first revelation in 610CE, in the
The first revelation was the first five verses of Surah (chapter) Al-Alaq: "Iqra bismi rabbikalla dhi khalaq. Khalaqal insana min alaq. Iqra wa rabbukal akram. Alladhi 'allama bil qalam. 'Allamal insana malam ya’lam, " which means "Read in the name of your Lord who created, created man from a clot. Read, for your Lord is most Generous, Who teaches by means of the pen, teaches man what he does not know." (96: 1-5)
The last revelation was the third verse of Surah Al-Maidah, which was sent down to the Prophet in 632 C.E. : "Al yawma akmaltu lakum dinakam wa atmamtu alaikam ni'mati wa raditu' lakumul islama dinan''," which means "Today I perfected your religion for you and completed my favor to you and have chosen for you Al-Islam as your religion." (5:3)
Surah Al-Fatiha (The Opening Chapter) was the first complete chapter to be revealed and Surah An-Nasr was the last.
The Arabs of that time were renown for their rich literature and had excelled in the art of poetry and literature. But even the best of them failed to mach the power of the Quran. The Quran challenged them to come up with one chapter similar to it, a challenge that was later reduced to a challenge to come up with atleast one verse. But they never rose up to the challenge despite their opposition to Muhammad and his message. What was even more astonishing to them was the fact that Muhammad, an illiterate, never possessed the ability to recite or even to speak poetry.
Al-Quran is divided into thirty equal divisions, which are called juz in Arabic. There are 114 chapters, of varying length. The longest chapter is Al-Baqarah consisting of 286 verses and the shortest chapter is AlKawthar consisting of three verses only. The whole Quran has 6,236 verses.
The chapters revealed before the migration of the Prophet to Madina are called Makkan, whereas those sent down after the migration are called Madinan.
Makkan chapters generally consist of brief sentences which are full of enthusiasm, poetical, lofty and brilliant. They stress the Unity and Majesty of Allah, the Most Exalted, Most High (SWT), denounce idol worship, promise paradise for the righteous and warn wrongdoers of their punishment in Hellfire, confirm the prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH), and remind humanity of the past prophets and events of their time.
On the other hand, the Madinan chapters are lengthy and the verses are more prosaic. They outline ritualistic aspects of Islam such as Zakah, Fasting, and Hajj, lay down moral and ethical codes, criminal laws, social, economic, and state policies, give guidelines for foreign relations, rules and regulations for battle and the captives of war. They also contain descriptions of some of the early battles of Islam, condemnation of hypocrites, emphasis on the unified basic message of all the past prophets, and confirmation that the process of prophethood and revelation is complete, so that no Prophet will come after Muhammad [PBUH], no new book will be revealed, and Allah's religion is complete through Al-Quran. So here Allah [SWT] exhorted the followers of truth to make Al-Quran as their only guide.
The Quran is not just a beautiful Arabic literature but also a great source of wisdom. The Quran is the last revealed word of God and the basic source of Islamic teachings and laws. It deals with a variety of subjects including the basic beliefs of Islam, morality, worship, knowledge, wisdom, God-and-man relationships, and relations among human beings. Comprehensive teachings on which sound systems of social justice, politics, economics, legislation, jurisprudence, law and international relations can be built from an important part of the Holy Quran.
The Quran is considered the eternal miracle of Islam. It is the complete and best guide for living one's life and seeking Allah's pleasure The teachings of the Quran are universal, addressed to all people throughout the world regardless of their creed and color. They enlighten man's soul, purify his morals, condemn all wrongs, order good deeds and call for the establishment of justice and fraternity through obeying Allah as the supreme authority. The Quran provides the regulations that create the proper relations between man and Allah and man and man. It leads man to understand his role in this world, encourages him to think and ponder, and guides him in the usage of natural resources. In short, the Quran provides all the guidance that humanity needs. Without the guidance of the Quran, humanity would still be groping in the darkness of ignorance.
The Quran was revealed piecemeal, according to the needs of the time. Angel Jibrail [PBUH] brought it to the Prophet [PBUH] who would memorize it. Afterwards, it was preserved in two ways.
First, through memorization, there were a number of early Muslims who would memorize each revelation as soon as it was revealed and thus had the whole Quran memorized at the time of the final revelation. The tradition of memorizing the entire Quran still continues, and a person who does so is called a Hafize Quran.
Second, the Quran was preserved through writing. Whenever any revelation took place, it was written at once on tablets, palm branches, shorn of leaves, or animal skin. This was done primarily by Zaid bin Thabit, who was the main scribe out of the 42 scribes of the revelation. The Prophet [PBUH] set the order of the chapters under the guidance of Angel Jibrail [PBUH] and ordered his companions to maintain that order. Abu Bakr, the first caliph of Islam, compiled the Quran, and Uthman, the third caliph, made numerous copies and sent one copy to each state capital.
In this way every word was written down and preserved during his lifetime by his companions. The Quran contains 114 chapters; 6616 verses; 77,934 words; and 323,671 letters that have remained unchanged since the end of revelation ( more than 1400 years ago ! ) The original and complete text of the Quran is in Arabic and translations of its meaning in most known languages are available in major libraries and bookstores.
Hadith, the teachings, sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad, accurately reported and collected by his devoted companions, explain and elaborate the Quran verses. Over the decades, the Muslims were very meticulous in gathering and authenticating these teachings. Not only did they preserve the teachings in detail, they also preserved with them the chain of narrators that related these teachings and also information about these narrators.
Al-Quran is the only ever living miracle. Today no other miracle of any prophet exists. According to a survey, the number of Huffaz (persons who have memorized the whole Quran) today is more than 10 million. Millions of editions and copies were printed and handwritten in almost every part of the world. They were also translated into most of the languages of mankind. During the period of over 1400 years since the Quran was revealed, not a single letter was changed. This is one of the greatest miracles of the Quran.
A Message from The Quran
The Quran contains a lot of wisdom pertaining to all aspects of life. The following verses are a small portion of wisdom that reminds men of some of their duties towards God.
33 And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honor.
34 And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy, and say : "My Lord ! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was small."
35 Your Lord knows best what is in your inner-selves. If you are righteous, then, verily, he is Ever Most Forgiving to those who turn unto Him again and again in obedience, and in repentance.
36 And follow not ( i.e., say not, or do not witness not, etc.) that of which you have no knowledge ( e.g. to say, "I have heard ..", or, "I have seen ..", while in fact he has not heard or seen). Verily ! hearing, and the sight, and the heart, of each one of you will be questioned ( by Allah.)
37 And walk not on the earth with conceit and arrogance. Verily, you can neither rend nor penetrate the earth, nor can you attain the stature like the mountains in height.
38 All the bad aspect of these ( the above mentioned things) are hateful to your Lord.
39 This is (part) of the al-hikmah ( wisdom, good manners, and high character, etc.) which your Lord inspired to you. And set not up with Allah any other god lest you should be thrown into Hell, blameworthy and rejected ( from His Mercy.)
(Translation from the Quran 17:33-39)