Qur’an—The Sacred Book of Islam
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Qur’an, according to Muslim belief, is a revealed book: it is not authored by a
human being, but is the true word of God in human language. A medium-sized book
so far as its volume is concerned, it comprises 114 chapters or surahs (77,439
words). Its revelation to the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace, through the
angel Gabriel, began in A.D. 610, while the Prophet was sitting in seclusion in
the cave of Hera at the top of the Mountain of Light, two miles from Mecca. The
scriptures were not revealed at one point of time. Their various parts were
revealed as and when the occasion demanded. The entire process was completed
over a period of 23 years, the last passage being revealed to the Prophet while
he was addressing a gathering at Mount Arafat on the occasion of his last Hajj
in A.D. 622. The entire volume was later compiled in Medina during the last
days of the Prophet.
Qur’an came into existence long before the days of the printing press, there
were only two ways of preserving it: either by committing the entire text to
memory, or writing it down on paper or other materials. That is why there have
always been a great number of Hafiz (those who committed the entire Qur’an to
memory) in every age, right from the Qur’an’s first revelation. The earliest
written copies are still available in different museums, one of these being in
Qur’an, addressed directly to mankind, tells us of God’s scheme for human
existence: that man is placed on this earth for the purpose of being tested. The
freedom he has here has not been given him as a matter of right, but as a means
to allow him to prove his moral fibber. It is the outcome of this test which
will ultimately decide man’s eternal fate. It is asserted in the holy book that
human beings are eternal creatures, yet only an infinitesimal part of their
lifespan has been assigned to the present world, while the remainder has been
ordained for the Hereafter.
learn from the scriptures, all the previously revealed books had been sent by
God so that man might be informed of the nature of his life. The Qur’an, the
last of the revealed books, endorses all the revealed books which preceded it.
But this endorsement applies to them only in their original, pristine versions.
The religious scriptures preceding the Qur’an were—as is claimed by their
followers—divine in origin. But from the point of view of academic
authenticity, they have lost their original credibility. This is due to
alteration, deletion and interpolation. According to the Qur’an, the only
authentic version of God’s message to mankind is that revealed by Him to His
of the Qur’an tells us that it is individual-based rather than system-oriented.
That is, the actual target of the holy book is to change the thinking of the
individual. Changing the system is not the Qur’an’s direct objective. For the
system is subservient to the individual and not the individual to the system.
That is why the utmost emphasis is placed on inculcating right thinking in man.
Yet, it is not the method of the Qur’an to set out everything in advance, in
detail. It rather encourages individuals to think for themselves along the
proper lines, so that they may discover for themselves the great truths of
life. In educational terminology this is called the discovery method.
teachings can be summed up under two basic headings: (1) believing in One God
and worshipping Him alone; (2) regarding all human beings as equal and
according equal rights to all. In brief, monotheism and justice for all. The
Qur’an enshrines these basic teachings, dealing with them in their abstract and
practical forms, but for a detailed application of their wisdom, one must go to
the hadith (the sayings and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad).
As far as
social life is concerned, the essence of Islamic teaching is that God has
granted freedom to everyone. This freedom in itself demands that people should
lead their lives with proper restraint. For if freedom is exercised without
restraint, it will inevitably result in friction, outright clashes and the
descent of society into chaos. Social equilibrium can be maintained only if
conscience (nafs lawwama) prevails over ego (nafs ammara). In social life, our
actions elicit good or evil depending upon whether we have activated the ego or
the conscience of the person or persons concerned.
one initiates any undertaking, the Qur’an states expressly that one should
begin by uttering the name of God. One thus always reminds oneself at the
outset of God’s attributes of benevolence and compassion. It is also a way of
determining that all projects will be launched not with personal but with
divine intentions, and that all actions stemming therefrom will be merciful
rather than exploitative in nature. The most frequently repeated invocation in
the Qur’an is: "In the name of God, the most Beneficent, the most
Merciful." The recurrence of this phrase no less than 114 times is in
itself a clear indication of how important it is.