The Qur’an is the greatest gift of God to humanity and its wisdom is of a unique kind. Briefly stated, the purpose of the Book is to guard the previous revelations and restore the eternal truth of God, to guide humanity to the Straight Path and quicken the soul of man, to awaken the human conscience and enlighten the human mind.
The Qur’an is the Word of God revealed to Muhammad through the Holy Spirit Gabriel, and it is beyond human imagination to produce anything like it. Muhammad’s contemporaries were, by acclamation, the greatest masters of the Arabic language with most compelling motives to produce a rival text. But they could not produce anything like the Qur’an in content or style. Muhammad had no formal schooling and he made no secret of it. It is his greatest credit that he was an illiterate man rising from among illiterate people to teach the whole of mankind, literate and illiterate alike, the true message of God. This is the first fact about the Qur’an being the Word of God.
The second fact about this unique Book is the unquestionable authenticity of its contents and order, a quality which no other book of any kind has ever enjoyed or is likely to enjoy. The authenticity of the Qur’an leaves no doubt as to the purity, originality, and totality of its text. Serious scholars, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, have concluded, beyond doubt, that the Qur’an we use today is the very same Book which Muhammad received, taught, lived by, and bequeathed to humanity almost fourteen centuries ago. Some observations may illustrate this unexemplified authenticity of the Qur’an:
1. The Qur’an was revealed in portions and piecemeal, but it was never without some form of order and arrangement. The name of the Qur’an indicates that it was a Book from the very beginning (Qur’an, 2:2; 41:41-42). The arrangements of the Qur’an and the gradual revelation of its passages were the plans and will of God, a will by which Muhammad and his Companions abided (25:32; cf. 75:17).
2. The Arabs were distinguished by their extremely refined literary taste that enabled them to enjoy and appreciate the good pieces of literature. The Qur’an, by acclamation, was to their taste the most outstanding masterpiece of literature. They were moved by its touching tone and attracted to its extraordinary beauty. They found in it the greatest satisfaction and the deepest joy, and they embarked on a course of recitation and memorization of the Book. It was, and still is, admired, quoted and cherished by all Muslims and many non-Muslims.
3. It is incumbent upon every Muslim, man and woman, to recite a portion of the Qur’an every day in prayer and during the night vigilance. Recitation of the Qur’an is to the Muslims a high form of worship and a daily practice.
4. The Arabs were generally illiterate people and had to rely completely on their memories to preserve the poems and passages they liked most. They were distinguished for their sharp memories in which they stored their literary legacy. The Qur’an was acknowledged by all people of literary taste to be inimitable. So they hastened to commit it to their memories but only in the most remarkable and respectful manner.
5. During the lifetime of Muhammad, there were expert scribes and appointed recorders of the Revelations. Whenever he received a verse or a passage, he immediately instructed his scribes to record it under his supervision. Whatever they recorded was checked and authenticated by the Prophet himself. Every word was reviewed and every passage was put in its right order.
6. By the time Revelations were completed, the Muslims were in possession of many complete records of the Qur’an. They were recited, memorized, studied and used for all daily purposes. Whenever a difference arose, the matter was referred to the Prophet himself to settle the issue, whether it was connected with the text or the meaning or the intonation.
7. After the death of Muhammad, the Qur’an was already committed to many Muslim memories and numerous recording tables. But even that did not satisfy Abu Bakr, the First Calif, who was afraid the the death of large numbers of memorizers in battles might lead to serious confusion about the Qur’an. So he consulted the leading authorities and then entrusted Zayd Ibn Thabit, Muhammad’s Chief Scribe of Revelations, to compile a standard and complete copy of the Book in the same order as authorized by Muhammad himself. He did that under the supervision of the Companions of the Prophet and with their help. The final and complete version was checked and approved by all Muslims who heard the Qur’an from Muhammad and committed it to their memories and hearts. This was done less than two years after Muhammad’s death. Revelations were still fresh and alive in the minds of scribes, memorizers and other Muslim Companions of the Prophet.
8. During the Califate of ‘Uthman, about fifteen years after Muhammad, the compiled copies of the Qur’an were distributed widely in the new territories which came into contact with Islam. Most of the inhabitants did not see Muhammad or hear him. Due to regional and geographical factors, they were reading the Qur’an with slightly different accents. Differences in recitation and intonation began to arise and cause disputes among Muslims. ‘Uthman acted swiftly to meet the situation. After mutual consultation with all the leading authorities, he formed a committee of four men made up of the former scribes of Revelations. All the copies in use were collected and replaced by One Standard Copy which was to be used according to the accent and dialect of Quraysh, the very same dialect and accent of Muhammad himself. That dialect was adopted and standardized because it was the best of all dialects and the one in which the Qur’an was revealed. Thus, the Qur’an was again restricted to the accent and dialect of the man who received it. And from that time onwards, the same standardized version has been in use without the slightest change in words or order or even punctuation marks.
From these observations, scholars have concluded that the Qur’an stands today as it first came down, and as it always will be. To it there has never been any addition; from it there was no omission; and in it there occurred no corruption. Its history is as clear as daylight; its authenticity is unquestionable; and its complete preservation is beyond doubt.
The Qur’an is full unexemplified wisdom with regard to its source, its characteristics and its dimensions. The wisdom of the Qur’an derives from the wisdom of the author who could not have been any other than God Himself. It also derives from the compelling power of the Book which is inimitable and which is a challenge to all men of letters and knowledge. The realistic approach of the Qur’an, the practical solutions it offers to human problems, and the noble objectives it sets for man mark the Qur’anic wisdom as being of a special nature and characteristics.
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