Introduction to Qur'anic Studies - 2
June 12, 2013
AMDA, Sterling Heights, MI
الحمد لله رب العالمين والصلاة والسلام على سيد المرسلين وعلى آله وأصحابه أجمعين فَأعُوْذُ بِاللهِ مِنَ الشَيْطَانِ الرَّجِيم بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيم
رَبِّ اشْرَحْ لِي صَدْرِي وَيَسِّرْ لِي أَمْرِي وَاحْلُلْ عُقْدَةً مِّن لِّسَانِي يَفْقَهُوا قَوْلِي
Last week we had our first session of the Qur’anic tafsir discourses. I had told you that before beginning the actual tafsir of the blessed surahs and ayaat of the noble Qur’an, it would be beneficial if we initially had some idea about ‘Uloom al-Quran or the sciences of the Qur’an so that we are able to appreciate what tafsir is all about and how it helps us to understand the meaning of the divine words.
In this regard, there was a discussion last week on topics related to the definition, meaning and attributive names of the Qur’an and the Quran’s relationship with previous Scriptures. We had seen that all Scriptures in their original forms were revelations from God Almighty given to His prophets. The source, the attributes, and the basic universal message of all Scriptures were the same.
Later, with passage of time, these Scriptures were either lost or manipulated through human intervention. Additions, deletions, fabrications, and other alterations in the text took place. As a result there is no previous Scripture found in its original form. The Qur’an is the last and final revelation of Allah sent to His last and final messenger, Muhammad (SAW). The protection of the Qur’an against any change was undertaken by Allah Himself. History is witness to the fact that the Qur’an remains unaltered in its pristine purity, and will remain so till the end of times.
Today, in sha Allah, there will be some discussion on the Quran’s relationship with hadith, the authenticity of the Qur’an, the preservation of the Qur’an, the language and style of the Qur’an, and some other related topics.
Relationship between the Qur’an and Hadith
وَأَنْزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الذِّكْرَ لِتُبَيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ مَا نُزِّلَ إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ
“And We have sent down the Reminder to you so that you can make clear to mankind what has been sent down to them so that hopefully they will reflect” (al-Nahl, 16:44).
وَمَا يَنْطِقُ عَنِ الْهَوَى إِنْ هُوَ إِلاَّ وَحْيٌ يُوحَى
e does not speak from his own desire. It is nothing but Revelation revealed” (al-Najm,53:3-4).
And the Prophet (SAW) stated this point in one of his recorded statements which said, “Indeed, I was given the Qur’an and something similar to it along with it.” He was referring to his divinely guided sayings and actions.
Because the Prophet (SAW) was guided by revelation in his personal life, his character and social interactions became prime examples of moral conduct for Muslims until the Last Day. Exhorting believers to follow the Prophet’s example, Allah says in Surat al-Ahzab,
لَقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِمَنْ كَانَ يَرْجُو اللَّهَ وَالْيَوْمَ الآَخِرَ وَذَكَرَ اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا
“The Messenger of Allah is an excellent model for those of you who put your hope in Allah and the Last Day and remember Allah very often.” (al-Ahzab, 33:21).
Consequently, the daily life of the Prophet as recorded in Hadith represents an ideal code of good conduct. In fact, when the Prophet's wife `A'ishah (RA) was asked about his conduct, she replied, "His character was the Qur'an." He followed the Qur’an very meticulously and lived the Qur’an at every moment; in every detail of his life. His life was the reflection of Allah’s Words. He became the Qur’an in person—the embodiment of the Qur’an. Addressing His beloved Prophet, Allah says in Surat al-Qalam:
وَإِنَّكَ لَعَلى خُلُقٍ عَظِيمٍ
“And you are surely on an exalted standard of character” (al-Qalam, 68:4).
The Qur’an and hadith together represent the true and the complete picture of the divine scheme of life for humankind. They complement each other. Indeed, what is implicit in the Qur’an becomes explicit in the Hadith. The Qur’an and the hadith both constitute the basic sources of Islamic law. The importance of the Quran and the example of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) plays a vital role in forming a valid and satisfying worldview for the human being in whatever time or place he or she may live. Since the Quran is the final and complete message of God to humanity and since there will be no prophet after Muhammad (SAW), it is especially important for people everywhere to discover or rediscover the meaning and relevance of the Quran to their lives. Whether you live in the north or the south, the east or the west, whether you live in the so-called developed and advanced world or the underdeveloped and impoverished world, whether you are a male or female, young or old, the Quran has a message for you.
The Quran stresses the Oneness of God and the duty of the human being to acknowledge and worship God alone. If we approach the Quran with sincerity it reveals the age old questions about the nature of the human being, the purpose of his life and the various choices and destinies open to him. In other words: Who are we? What are we doing here on earth? And where do we go from here?
Preservation of the Qur’an
Unlike the previous scriptures, the Qur’an remains intact without any change. The final Word of Allah (SWT) will never change.
لاَ تَبْدِيلَ لِكَلِمَاتِ اللّهِ
“No change can there be in the Words of Allah” (Yunus, 10:64).
We learn from the Qur’an that Allah (SWT) Himself has preserved and protected the Qur’an for all times to come. Allah (SWT) says in Surat al-Hijr,
إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ
“It is We Who have sent down the Reminder and We Who will preserve it” (al-Hijr, 15:9).
It was required from the previous recipients of the former scriptures, particularly the Rabbis—Jewish scholars, to protect and safeguard their books. History proved that they did not preserve the Torah that was given to Musa (AS). The Injil or the Gospel on the other hand, was never recorded at the time of Prophet ‘Isa (AS).
The Qur’an is considered to be the last edition of Allah’s scriptures and meant to give guidance to the entire mankind unlike the case of the previous scriptures that were meant for the Prophets’ specific people. Allah (SWT) makes it very clear that no falsehood can approach the Qur’an.
لَا يَأْتِيهِ الْبَاطِلُ مِن بَيْنِ يَدَيْهِ وَلَا مِنْ خَلْفِهِ تَنزِيلٌ مِّنْ حَكِيمٍ حَمِيدٍ
“No falsehood can approach it from before or behind it: It is sent down by One Full of Wisdom, worthy of all Praise” (Fussilat, 41:42)
In other words, the text as well as the essential interpretation of the Qur’an shall always be protected and preserved from any fabrication, manipulation, addition, deletion or any alteration. There will be a difference of opinion regarding its interpretation; however, the essential meaning will remain the same. In other words, the basic final message to humanity is protected and can never change. In summary, there are two very important principles in the Muslims’ beliefs (aquida or dogma) regarding the Qur’an: (1) It is the absolute True Word of God, and (2) It is preserved and can never be corrupted or changed.
Where is the Original Qur’an?
The Qur’an we have with us is the certified attested copy of the original Qur’an, which is in the preserved guarded tablet with Allah (SWT) in the seventh heaven.
بَلْ هُوَ قُرْآنٌ مَّجِيد فِي لَوْحٍ مَّحْفُوظٍ
“It is indeed a glorious Quran; inscribed on the Guarded Tablet” (al-Buruj, 85, 21:22).
The original Qur’an is hidden and protected in a Book that can only be touched by the most purified of Allah’s creatures—the angels.
إِنَّهُ لَقُرْآَنٌ كَرِيمٌ () فِي كِتَابٍ مَكْنُونٍ () لَا يَمَسُّهُ إِلَّا الْمُطَهَّرُونَ ()
“Indeed it is a noble Qur’an in a hidden book. None can touch it except the purified ones” (al-Waqi’ah, 77-79).
The word used to describe the angels is al-Mutahharun, which means those who are pure, not to confuse with the word al-Mutatahhirun, which means those who purify themselves such as men. The Muslim jurists have deduced from this ayah a legal injunction that no Muslim should touch the Qur’an in a state of impurity. Actually the Qur’an is part of a larger book called Umm ul-Kitab (Mother of the Book), which also contains the previous divine revelations.
وَإِنَّهُ فِي أُمِّ الْكِتَابِ لَدَيْنَا لَعَلِيٌّ حَكِيمٌ
“And surely, it is in the Mother of the Book, in Our Presence, high (in dignity), full of wisdom (al-Zukhruf, 43: 4).
How did the Qur’an come down?
Was it revealed all at once or in stages? Actually, the Qur’an was sent down to us from the hidden book in two stages. In the first stage, the whole Qur’an was sent down in one piece to the first heaven (al-Sama’u al-Duniya).
شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ
“It was the month of Ramadan when the Qur’an was sent down (al-Baqarah, 2:185).
The night in which the whole Qur’an was sent down is called al-Lailat ul-Qadr or the Night of Power.
إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ
“Indeed, we sent it down on the Night of Power” (al-Qadr, 97:1).
This is believed to be in one of the last ten nights of Ramadan.
Anzala / Yunzilu in Arabic means to bring something down at once in one piece.
The second stage of revelation was done piecemeal. The Qur’an was revealed gradually in stages over a period of 23 years of the Prophethood of Muhammad (SAW).
إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا عَلَيْكَ الْقُرْآنَ تَنزِيلًا
“It is We who have sent the Qur´an down to you little by little (gradually)” (al-Insan, 76:23).
Nazzala / Yunazzilu in Arabic means to send down something gradually.
Why was the Qur’an revealed gradually? In order to strengthen the resolve and determination of the Prophet (SAW). We have in Surat al-Furqan,
وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَوْلَا نُزِّلَ عَلَيْهِ الْقُرْآَنُ جُمْلَةً وَاحِدَةً كَذَلِكَ لِنُثَبِّتَ بِهِ فُؤَادَكَ وَرَتَّلْنَاهُ تَرْتِيلًا
"Those who disbelieve say, ‘Why has not the Qur’an been sent down to him all at once?’ Thus it is, that we may strengthen your heart with it, and We have recited it [to you] in a measured tone" (al-Furqan, 25:32).
What was the period when the Qur’an was revealed?
Muhammad (SAW) began receiving revelations when he was forty years of age in the year 610 CE and continued to receive revelations until shortly before his death in 632 CE. The first five ayaat revealed to Muhammad (SAW) were:
اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ () خَلَقَ الْإِنْسَانَ مِنْ عَلَقٍ () اقْرَأْ وَرَبُّكَ الْأَكْرَمُ () الَّذِي عَلَّمَ بِالْقَلَمِ () عَلَّمَ الْإِنْسَانَ مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ
" Read! In the name of your Lord, who created: created man from a clotز Read! Your Lord is the Most Bountiful; He Who taught by the pen; taught man what he did not know” (al-‘Alaq, 96:5).
As for the last ayah, it is generally believed to be ayah 3 of Surat al-Ma’idah that contains the words,
الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الْإِسْلَامَ دِينًا
“Today I have perfected your deen for you and completed My blessing upon you and I am pleased with Islam as a deen for you” (al-Ma’idah, 5:3).
Some other scholars say it was ayah 281 of Surat al-Baqarah which says,
وَاتَّقُوا يَوْمًا تُرْجَعُونَ فِيهِ إِلَى اللَّهِ ثُمَّ تُوَفَّىٰ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ مَّا كَسَبَتْ وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ
“Fear the Day when you shall be made to return to Allah; then every soul shall be paid in full what it has earned; and they shall not be wronged” (al-Baqarah, 2:281).
Where was the Qur’an revealed?
It was revealed in a small part of the Arabian Peninsula called al-Hijaz that includes the cities of Mecca, Medina, Taif, and Tabuk. Jeddah is not part of al-Hijaz. Nearly two-third of the Qur’an was revealed in Mecca. For nearly ten years Muhammad (SAW) kept teaching, preaching, and conveying the message of Islam to the people of Mecca. After the tenth year of revelation, and after death of his uncle Abu Talib who had protected him all through, Muhammad (SAW) went to Ta’if to seek refuge because of the death threats against him. The people of Ta’if rejected him and drove him out of the city. Allah (SWT) instructed him to migrate to Medina. The pre-migration period of 13 years is called the Meccan period. It was in the post migration period that the other third of the Qur’an was revealed. This is called the Medinan period.
There are two ayaat of the Qur’an that were revealed during the Prophet’s night journey and ascension (al-Isra wa al-Mi’raj). These are the last two ayaat (285 & 286) of Surat al-Baqarah.
What is the language of the Qur’an?
It is common knowledge that the language of the Qur'an is Arabic. Allah (SWT) says,
إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ قُرْآناً عَرَبِيّاً لَّعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ
"We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur'an in order that you may learn wisdom" (Yusuf, 12:2).
The question is which Arabic? There are different types of Arabic. For example, the Arabic that is spoken in Tunisia today will not be understood by the Arabic spoken in Egypt or Syria, because of their many different dialects and accents. The same was true during the days of the Prophet (SAW). There were different slangs and colloquial expressions that changed from area to area. The Qur’an was revealed in the language spoken and understood in Hijaz and to be more specific, it was the language of the Bedouins of Hijaz and not the urban population of Hijaz. This can be inferred from Surat al-Shu’ara.
وَكَذَلِكَ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ قُرْآَنًا عَرَبِيًّا لِتُنْذِرَ أُمَّ الْقُرَى وَمَنْ حَوْلَهَا
"And thus we have revealed to you an Arabic Qur’an that you may warn [the people of] the Mother of the Towns an those around it" (al-Shura, 42:7).
What is the Style of the Qur'an?
None of the traditional styles can describe the Qur'an. It is neither that of prose, nor that of poetry. Certain parts of the Qur’an do have rhyme and rhythm patterns; however, we cannot say that it is poetry. Actually Allah (SWT) testifies that it is not poetry.
وَمَا عَلَّمْنَاهُ الشِّعْرَ وَمَا يَنبَغِي لَهُ إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا ذِكْرٌ وَقُرْآنٌ مُّبِينٌ
“We have not taught him any poetry nor would it be fitting for him. This is merely a Reminder and a clear Quran” (Ya Seen, 36:69).
The Qur’an is not an essay, a play, a drama, or a novel. The definition of a book cannot apply to the Qur'an. A book contains chapters. The chapters of a traditional book usually don’t repeat subjects that were discussed in earlier chapters. However, the same subjects may be found in more than one surah. The Story of Adam and Iblis, for example, appears in seven surahs of the Qur’an. Although one of the names of the Qur’an is the Book (al-Kitab), but this is not in the traditional sense of a book.
The Qur'an is unique in its style. The closest to its style is that of a sermon (khutbah) or oration. One may regard the Qur’an as a collection of divine orations or khutbas. Just as a sermon may discuss different subjects, so is the case with the Qur’an. Same subjects are usually repeated either for emphasis or for introducing a new idea to the same subject. The Qur’an was revealed on the heart of the Prophet (SAW). A khutba too should appeal to the hearts of the people. The Qur’an is a collection of Divine khutbas comprised of ayaat, signs or symbols.
أَقُولُ قَوْلِي هَذَا وَأَسْتَغْفِرُ اللَّهَ لِي وَلَكُمْ وَلِسَائِرِ المُسْلِمينَ وَالمُسْلِمَاتْ فَاسْتَغْفِرُوهْ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ
وصل الله عَلَى خيرِ خَلقه مُحمَّدٍ وعلى آله وأصحابه أجمعين- بِرَحْمَتِكَ يا أرْحَمَ الرَّاحِمِين
Wassalamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.