QURA’N -THE LAST TESTAMENT
Qur’an (literally means; ‘Recitation’), the sacred scripture of Islam, the infallible word of God, a perfect transcription of an eternal tablet preserved in Heaven and revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) during his 23 years of his apostolic mission (610-632 C.E) for the guidance of humanity (Qur’an;12:104, 25:1, 38:87, 68:52, 81:27, 73:19). God says: “Blessed is the One Who has revealed Al-Furqan (the criterion to distinguish right from wrong: The Qur’an) to His servant, that he may be a Warner to the worlds”(Qur’an;25:1); “O Prophet, surely We have revealed to you the Book with the truth, for the instruction of Mankind. He who follows the
The Previous Scriptures for Limited Period:
The revelations received by the earlier messengers, some available in the form of books in Bible (Torah, Psalms, Gospel etc) were meant for specific people for specific time, besides not being in the original revealed form, their authenticity can not be established due to variant versions. Allah says: “He has revealed to you this Book (Qur’an) with the Truth, confirming whatever there still remains of the scripture which preceded it, as He revealed the Torah and Gospel, aforetime as a guidance unto mankind, and it is He who has bestowed (upon man) the standard by which to discern the true from the false. Behold, as for those who are bent on denying God’s messages- grievous suffering awaits them: for God is Almighty, an avenger of evil.”(Qur’an;3:3-4); "Truth has come and Falsehood perished: for Falsehood by its nature is bound to perish.”(Qur’an;17:81). Allah says: “And, verily, (the essence of ) this (revelation, i.e. Qur’an) is indeed found in the ancient books of divine wisdom (as well) (Qur’an;26:196,link , 61:6), Qur’an was foretold in Bible, Deutronomy; &18. Hence to discern the true from the false the previous scriptures have been abrogated and replaced with the final revelation.(Qur’an; 2:106-107, 16:101, ). Hence it is obligatory for the humanity to now follow it.
Flawless System of Recording and Preservation:
The Qur’an consists of 114 chapters (sūrahs) of varying length, revealed in Arabic language. The Qur’an, comprising 6236 verses (ayah) is unrivalled in its recording and preservation. The Prophet (peace be upon him) not only orally passed the Qur’an to the people of
Arabia, he also made
elaborate arrangements to ensure that its contents are preserved. The
companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) participated in this preservation
process in large numbers, through writing and memorizing the text and safely
transferring to the next generation. The Qur’an is not like the writings of the
New Testament, where as per Christian traditions, God inspired a scribe to
write down the scripture; the idea and words were those of the scribe while God
only supervised the scribe. In other cases, the Christians would like to
say that the scribe was inspired by God and revealed a certain idea to him. The
scribe then wrote it down in his own words.
In case of the Qur’an, the words and ideas are both Divine. The words and verses of the Qur’an were preserved, through the oral as well as the written traditions, in the lifetime of Prophet (peace be upon him), as also evident from the internal evidence from Qur’an, which repeatedly mentions itself as ‘al- kitaab’ (The Book) from the very beginning: “This (Qur’an) is the Book; in it is guidance sure without doubt to those who fear Allah.”(Qur’an;2:2);“Recite from this Book (Qur'an) which has been revealed to you”(Qur’an;29:45); “And recite (and teach) what has been revealed to thee of the Book of thy Lord: none can change His Words and none wilt thou find as a refuge other than Him.”(Qur’an;). Allah says: “By no means (should it be so)! For it (Qur’an) is indeed a Message of instruction: Therefore let who will keep it in remembrance. It is written in scrolls, which are honored, exalted, purified, and which remain in the hands of scribes, who are noble and virtuous.”(Qur’an;80:11-16).
Abdullah Yousaf Ali explains that: “At the time when this Sura Abasa (Chapter Number: 80) was revealed, at Makka; there were perhaps only about 42 or 45 Suras (Chapter) in the hands of the Muslims. But it was a sufficient body of Revelation of high spiritual value, to which the description given here could be applied. It was held in the highest honor; its place in the hearts of Muslims was more exalted than that of anything else; as Allah's Word, it was pure and sacred; and those who transcribed it were men who were honorable, just and pious. The legend that the early Suras were not carefully written down and preserved in books is a pure conjecture.
The efforts made later in the time of the first and the third Caliph were merely to preserve the purity and safeguard the arrangement of the text at a time when the expansion of Islam among non-Arabic-speaking people made such precautions necessary”. The details of the process of compilation of the Holy Qur’an is found in the books of history and exegesis, a glimpse here provide the insight to the process of its preservation and dissemination. Initially (while at
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to read out the revealed passages to
the small group of his followers who besides committing the revelation to their
memory also used to write it down on available writing material. Subsequently,
the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) himself unlettered, constituted a
committee of more than forty of his literate companions, who were assigned the
task of writing the Holy Book. Mecca
On receiving a verse or verses from Allah through revelation, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) used to call one of the members of the committee and dictated it. At this time, the Holy Prophet also used to instruct the scribe as to where the newly revealed verse or verses were to be placed in the Holy Qur’an. The Holy Prophet thus not only used to dictate scattered verses but also give a divine order of arrangement of each verse. Zaid bin Thabit (one of scribes) reports that after having dictated the verse, the Prophet (peace be upon him) would ask the scribe to read it out. Errors if any were rectified and the final draft was approved. Although the Qur’an had been compiled in the lifetime of the Prophet (died 632 C.E), yet need of preparation of official copy was felt during the reign of Abu Bakar, the 1stCaliph (632-634 C.E), for preservation of standard text to meet the requirements of ever expanding global Muslim community.
Abu Bakar constituted a committee under the chairmanship of Zaid bin Thabit. All the companions assisted him and the volume thus compiled was attested by hundreds of companions. During the period of 3rd Caliph (644-656 C.E) Uthman, a large number of non-Arabs also embraced Islam, who were found to be reciting Qur’an in varied dialects. Uthman in consultation with all the companions, got the copies of Qur’an written in accordance with the dialects and calligraphic style of the Quraysh, and these copies were placed in the major cities of the Muslim Caliphate, the expert reciters (Qari) to elucidate and teach the correct recitation were also made available. These copies served as the master copies for all the Muslims and numerous copies were prepared and circulated. Two of the master copies prepared by Uthman are still available in museums at Tashkent, and Istanbul, which are identical to any copy of Qur’an found in Indonesia, China, America, Australia, Morocco, France, Nigeria or any other part of the world. Thus the contribution of Uthman is not that he compiled the Qur’an for the first time, as is generally misunderstood, he in fact united the Muslims on one standard recitation of the Qur’an. (Details are narrated in Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 4.709, Narrated by Anas and Hadith, 6.510 Narrated by Anas bin Malik).
The Qur’an is the central to the life of Muslims, which is recited to the new born and to the one breathing his last. The devout Muslims routinely recite part of Qur’an daily, some completing one recitation in a month. Those who can not read are content to listen quietly. Every year in the month of fasting (Ramadan), recitation of complete Qur’an is completed by the prayer leaders (Hafiz) in (taraweeh) prayers. Every Muslim has to memorize some parts or chapters of Qur’an, as it is obligatory for every Muslim to recite some verses of Qur’an, in the original Arabic (not translation), in the five daily prayers at least seventeen times (in obligatory, faradh). Besides availability of written script, Muslims feel greatly honored all over the world to memorize the Qur’an word by word as a whole; they are called-Hafiz (Protector). At any one time there are Protectors (Hufaz) among all age groups in every village, town, city and country. Hence there are millions of Protectors (Hufaz) the world over, who are continuously being replaced by new one’s as the elders die in natural process.
This process of preservation of Qur’an in the memory and hearts of Muslims is in line with Allah’s saying: “And We have indeed made the Qur’an easy to understand and remember: then is there any that will receive admonition?”(Qur’an;54:17); “Surely We have revealed this reminder (Qur’an); and We will surely preserve it Our self”.(Qur’an;15:9). This is how Qur’an is transferred from ‘generation to generation’ through the process of Historical Continuity (Twater) in its original form without any distortion. Hence amazingly this scripture has remained unchanged over the past fourteen hundred years.
The earliest sūrahs (revealed during initial 13 years of prophethood, from 610 to 622 C.E known as Makkan period) call for strict monotheism, worship and obedience to Allah (One God), the moral and religious obedience in light of the coming Day of Judgment; the ones revealed later (10 years of Madni period from 622 to 632 C.E) generally provide directives for the creation of a social structure that will support the moral life called for by God. The Qur’an also provides detailed accounts of the joys of paradise for pious believers and the terrors of hell for sinners and disbelievers. The God who conveyed the revelations to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), through archangel Gabriel, is the same God, worshiped by Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Jesus and all other prophets mentioned in Bible. The stern justice of God is emphasized in Qur’an along with frequent references to his mercy and compassion for the repentant believers.
The Qur’an demands absolute submission (Islam) to God: "Surely Allah’s religion is (Man’s) self surrender to Him (Islam).”(Qur’an;).Both Qur’an and Traditions (Sunnah) of Prophet (peace be upon him) serve as the primary source of Islamic law (Shari’a). Qur’an is immutable in both form and content; the translations are just paraphrases to facilitate understanding of the actual scripture, in no way substitute to the original Arabic script (Appendix I). Qur’an is eternal guide for those who ponder. Allah says: “This Book (Al-Qur’an) which we have sent down to you (O Muhammad) is highly blessed, so that they may ponder upon its verses and the men of understanding may learn a lesson from it.”(Qur’an;38:29).
Some Qur’anic verses, draw the attention of humanity towards scientific phenomena, as His signs, related with Astronomy, Physics, Geography, Geology, Oceanology, Biology, Botany, Zoology, Medicine, Physiology, Embryology as well as General Science, mostly un known to humanity fourteen centuries ago, discovered recently proving miraculous nature of Qur’an as the word of God. The world's leading authority on orientalism and
Middle East, Princeton Professor Philip K. Hitti, in his
book ‘Islam, a Way of Life’, writes; “The Koran is dictated (by Allah). Any
quotation from the Koran can be introduced with ''saith Allah”. It is now for
the mankind to make their own choice; weather to follow the distorted and
corrupted ancient scriptures or the Last Testament, the message of divine
guidance available in its pure form- The Qur’an! Backed up with practical demonstration of its
application by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) available in the form of
written and oral record of Traditions (Hadith and Sunnah).
The Traditions (Sunnah) of The Prophet (PBUH):
Qur’an, reveled through Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) provides the basic guide lines, the details of its explanation, the way of living acceptable and pleasing to Allah are provided through the practical life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He received the inspiration (wahi) of two categories, Wahi Matlu, the exact words of God, Qur’an also to be recited in prayers and ‘Wahi Ghair Matlu’, not to be recited but practiced as told and demonstrated by the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the matters of faith and Din. “And (O Muhammad) follow that which is inspired in thee, and forbear until Allah give judgment. And He is the Best of Judges.”(Qur’an;10:109); “… O Muhammad, tell them: "It is not possible for me to change it myself. I follow only what is revealed to me…”(Qur’an;); “nor does he speak out of his own desire.” (Qur’an;53;2).
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the role model, Allah says: “You have indeed, in the life of Messenger of God, the 'Best Model' for him whose hope is in God and the Day of the Hereafter, and who engages himself much in the remembrance of God.”(Qur’an;33:21). Allah says: “O ye who believe! obey Allah and obey the Messenger and make not vain your deeds!”(Qur’an;47:33); “We sent not a messenger, but to be obeyed, In accordance with the will of Allah…”. (Qur’an;4:64). Obedience of Messenger has been repeatedly emphasized in Qur’an; 3:31,32,132, 4:59, 5:92, 8:20, 9:71, 12;8, 24:52, 54, 33:21, 33:71, 47:33, 48:28, 64:12. The Messenger (peace be upon him) practically demonstrated to lead the life according to Qur’an, therefore Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is also referred as living Qur’an. Prophet (peace be upon him) had been entrusted with great responsibility; Allah says: “We sent those Messengers with clear signs and scriptures; and now We have sent down the reminder (Qur’an) to you (O Muhammad), so that you may explain clearly to mankind as to what was sent to them so that they may think about it”(Qur’an 16:44).
The term Hadith derives from the Arabic root hdth, meaning "to report," "to happen," and so, "to tell a happening," to speak of” or "to have, or give, as news." Hence the traditions are seen as narrative and record. From it comes Sunnah (literally, a "well-trodden path," i.e., taken as precedent and authority or directive), to which the faithful conform in submission to the sanction that Hadith possesses and that legalists, on that ground, can enjoin. Tradition in Islam is thus both content and constraint, Hadith as the biographical ground of law and Sunnah as the system of obligation derived from it.
The Sunnah (Traditions) of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is a broader term which include his sayings, actions, approvals and disapprovals. Even if some action was performed in the presence and knowledge of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and he kept quite; then it is considered as his approval, because he would not tolerate wrong. There are repeated commands in Qur’an, for the believers to offer Prayer and pay charity: “Therefore establish Salah (prayer), pay Charity (Zakah) and obey the messenger, so that you may be shown mercy.”(Qur’an;24:56). But the detailed procedure to offer the Salah (prayer) and details for payment of obligatory Charity (Zakah) are not found in Qur’an; but in the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He laid down exceptions as elaborations of Qur’anic injunctions; for example it is prohibited to eat dead animals (Qur’an;5:3); Prophet (peace be upon him) specified the exception of fish and locust. Prohibition of donkey meat is not mentioned in Qur’an, but in Sunnah it is found to be prohibited and zebra as permissible. Marriage with aunt of wife is not mentioned in Qur’an, but Sunnah prohibit it. It is normal to say Prayer Call (Adhan) for Salah, but in Sunnah it is found that there is no Adhan for Eid and some other types of prayers. The authentic (Sahih) Hadith do not conflict with Qur’an, any apparent conflict could be due to misunderstanding by an individual, which will get reconciled if one goes in to the details and background.
The Traditions (Hadith and Sunnah) have been protected from corruption through record of continuous chain of reliable authentic narrators. It is through Hadith, that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has shaped and determined the behaviour patterns of the household of Islam by the posthumous leadership his personality exercised and will continue to exercise till eternity, Allah says in Qur’an: “It is He who has sent His Apostle with Guidance and the Religion of Truth to proclaim it over all religion: and enough is Allah for a Witness.”(Qur’an;48:28).
While the Qur’an was being received, there had been reluctance and misgiving about recording the words and acts of the Prophet, lest they be confused with the uniquely constituted contents of the divine scripture. At times Prophet (peace be upon him) prohibited some thing, which was later permitted; like initially women were prohibited to visit graves, as they used to make a lot of hue and cry but with more maturity they were later allowed. Although there was no formal system of recording of Hadith like the one followed for Qur’an, but there is also no authentic prohibition: Abu Saed Khidhri was reportedly prohibited by the Prophet (peace be upon him) to write Hadith along with Qur’an, to keep Qur’an pure. This incidence appears to have been quoted out of context, because some companions had been writing the sayings of Prophet (peace be upon him) in his lifetime with his permission; like Abdullah bin Umro bin Al As, Abu Rafi, Anas Bin Malik, Abu Hurairah; who had kept written record of Hadith in the form of many books, from which he used to teach many of his pupils. Humam bin Minbah being one of them, the book named after him; translated by Dr.Hamid Ullah.
The 1st Caliph Abu Bakar wrote 500 Traditions on request of his daughter Aysha, but washed them fearing that some of them which he had listened from others might not be accurately narrated, he did not want to be accused for any doubtful Hadith. Aysha (the mother of believers) herself a great scholar, used to refer Traditions in her correspondence on theological matters.
Umar, the 2nd Caliph discussed the writing of Traditions but discarded due to the fear, people mixing it up with or relegating Qur’an as done by the Jews and Christians with their scriptures. The 3rd Caliph Ali is reported to have asked the people to bring paper (costing one Dinar), then he dictated the Traditions. This is sufficient to establish that there were no prohibitions of writing of Traditions, which were transferred from father to son and from teacher to the pupils. The huge record of written letters and instructions of Prophet (peace be upon him) has been preserved in the books of history. The oldest collection of Hadith ‘Sahifa Hamam bin Manba through Abi Hurairah’ have been researched and authenticated by Dr.Hamidullah, has now been published.
The Science of Attestation of Traditions (Sunnah):
A tradition had to be sustained by an expert "The Science of Attestation” be able to satisfy rigorous formal criteria of their connection with the person of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through his "companions," by an unbroken sequence of "reportage". This science became so meticulous that there was no possibility of any error. Among the pioneers in Hadith in second century Hijra were historian Ibn Ishaq (died AH 150/C.E 767) and Malik ibn Anas, (died AH 179/C.E 795): The most revered of all traditionalists was Muhammad ibn Isma'il al- Bukhari (AH 194-256 /C.E 810-870 ), His Sahih occupied 16 years of editorial pains and scrutiny. He collected 300,000 Ahadith, and he memorized 200,000 of which some were unreliable. He included approximately 7,275 traditions with full isnad. Allowing for repetitions, the net total was 2,230, for which there was no doubt about their authenticity. He arranged the whole into 97 books and 3,450 chapters or topics, repeating the traditions that bore on several themes.
The others compilers of Hadith are Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj (AH 202-261/C.E 817-875), Abu Da`ud al-Sijistani (AH 202-275/C.E 817-889), Abu 'Isa Muhammad at- Tirmidhi (died AH 279/C.E 892), Abu' Abd ar-Rahman an-Nasa’i (AH 216-303 /C.E 830-915]) and Abu 'Abdallah ibn Maja (AH 210-273/C.E 824-886). Nor did they oust the earlier collection of Malik ibn Anas, but they formed the sources of later popular editions, intended to conflate material for didactic purposes. One such was the work of Abu Muhammad al-Baghawi (died AH 516/C.E 1122) called Masabih as-Sunnah ("The Lamps of the Sunnah"). Commentaries on all these classical musannafat, or compilations, were many, and important in education and piety. The Shi’a collection of Traditions was prepared by Abu Ja'far Muhammad al-Qulini (died AH 328/C.E 939) with the tilte of Kafi fi 'Ilm ad-Din (All You Need About the Science of Religious Practice).
There are special Ahadith attributed to Allah, called Hadith Qudsi, in which the Prophet says, “Allah says so and so”. The meaning of these Hadith was revealed to the Prophet but he put them in his own words, unlike the Qur’an which is the direct word of Almighty Allah and the Prophet conveyed it exactly as it was revealed to him. To quote one as an example, the Prophet says the Allah says: “I am so self-sufficient that I am in no need of having an associate. Thus he who does an action for someone else's sake as well as Mine will have that action renounced by Me to him whom he associated with Me.”(Hadith Qudsi 5). The status of Hadith Qudsi is next to Qur’an but they can not be recited in prayer (salah). Thus along with Qur’an, the Traditions (Hadith &Sunnah) of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) are the source of guidance for the humanity for ever. After Qur’an the authenticity of Hadith literature is doubtless, compared to any religious scripture, including the Bible, where even the names of authors are not known what to talk of the chain of transmission.
Contribution of Islamic Civilization for Humanity:
Besides acquiring the religious knowledge through study of Qur’an and Traditions (Sunnah) of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the pursuit of other branches of knowledge is also considered necessary for good living and better understanding of the message of Islam. Qur’an does not draw any dividing line between the spiritual and the worldly concerns of life but, rather, regards them as different aspects of one and the same reality. In many of its verses, the Qur’an calls upon the believer to observe all nature and to discern God’s creative activity (Qura’n;10:5, 2:164, 30:46, 40:57, 50:7 & many more) in its manifold phenomena and ‘laws’ , as well as to mediate upon the lessons of history (Qura’n;22:46,27:69,29:20, 30:9) with a view to gaining a deeper insight into man’s motivations and the innermost sprigs of his behaviour; and thus, the Qur’an itself is characterized as addressed to ‘those who think’ (Qura’n;47:24, 38:29). The contributions in the advancement of knowledge by the Islamic scholars, scientists and philosophers are enormous, which have been summed up in Encyclopedia Britannica:-
“The madrasahs (shools) generally offered instruction in both the religious sciences and other branches of knowledge. The contribution of these institutions to the advancement of knowledge was vast. Muslim scholars calculated the angle of the ecliptic; measured the size of the Earth; calculated the precession of the equinoxes; explained, in the field of optics and physics, such phenomena as refraction of light, gravity, capillary action, and twilight; and developed observatories for the empirical study of heavenly bodies. They made advances in the uses of drugs, herbs, and foods for medication; established hospitals with a system of interns and externs; discovered causes of certain diseases and developed correct diagnoses of them; proposed new concepts of hygiene; made use of anesthetics in surgery with newly innovated surgical tools; and introduced the science of dissection in anatomy. They furthered the scientific breeding of horses and cattle; found new ways of grafting to produce new types of flowers and fruits; introduced new concepts of irrigation, fertilization, and soil cultivation; and improved upon the science of navigation. In the area of chemistry, Muslim scholarship led to the discovery of such substances as potash, alcohol, nitrate of silver, nitric acid, sulfuric acid, and mercury chloride. It also developed to a high degree of perfection the arts of textiles, ceramics, and metallurgy.”
While Muslims were excelling in the field of knowledge and learning of science and technology, the conditions of Christendom at this period was deplorable. Under
and his orthodox successors the
Aesclepions were closed for ever, the public libraries established by
liberality of the pagan emperors were dispersed or destroyed. Learning was
branded as magic and punished as treason, philosophy and science were
exterminated. The ecclesiastical hatred against human learning had found
expression in the patristic maxims; “Ignorance is the mother of devotion” and
Pope Gregory the Great the founder of
the doctrine of ‘supremacy of religious authority’; gave effect to this
obscurantist dogma by expelling from Rome all scientific studies and burning
the Palatine Library founded by Augustus Caesar. He forbade the study of
ancient writers of Constantine
and Greece . He
introduced and sanctified the mythological Christianity which continued for
centuries as the predominating creed of Rome Europe
with its worship of relics and the remains of saints. Science and literature
were placed under the ban by orthodox Christianity and they succeeded in
emancipating themselves only when Free Thought had broken down the barriers
raised by orthodoxy against the progress of the human mind.
The influence of Islamic learning on the West has been phenomenal; an extract from Encyclopedia Britannica is an eye opener for those questioning the backwardness of Islamic civilization: “The decline of Muslim scholarship coincided with the early phases of the European intellectual awakening that these translations were partly instrumental in bringing about. The translation into Latin of most Islamic works during the 12th and 13th centuries had a great impact upon the European Renaissance. As Islam was declining in scholarship and
Europe was absorbing the fruits of Islam's
centuries of creative productivity, signs of Latin Christian awakening were
evident throughout the European continent. The 12th century was one of
intensified traffic of Muslim learning into the Western world through many
hundreds of translations of Muslim works, which helped Europe
seize the initiative from Islam when political conditions in Islam brought
about a decline in Muslim scholarship. By 1300 C.E when all that was worthwhile
in Muslim scientific, philosophical, and social learning had been transmitted
to European schoolmen through Latin translations, European scholars stood once
again on the solid ground of Hellenistic thought, enriched or modified through
Muslim and Byzantine efforts.” It continues: “Most of the important Greek
scientific texts were preserved in Arabic translations. Although the Muslims
did not alter
the foundations of Greek science, they made several important contributions
within its general framework. When interest in Greek learning revived in Western Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries,
scholars turned to Islamic Spain for the scientific texts. A spate of
translations resulted in the revival of Greek science in the West and coincided
with the rise of the universities. Working within a predominantly Greek
framework, scientists of the late Middle Ages reached high levels of
sophistication and prepared the ground for the scientific revolution of the
16th and 17th centuries.” According to Will Durant, the Western scholar, “For
five centuries, from 700 to 1200 (C.E), Islam led the world in power, order and
extent of government, in refinement of manners, scholarship and philosophy”. The Muslims can restore
and regain their lost glory through adhering to the teachings of Islam and its
true spirit, reviving the moral values and culture of learning, scholarship,
tolerance and moderation.