The Holy Qur'an

The Qur’an and Muslims Today – part 1

Most of the major religions of the world share the belief in one invisible Supreme God Who created all things and exercises power and control over their affairs. This God also communicates with man and to achieve this, He chooses human representatives who act as messengers to deliver messages for the guidance of mankind. Such messages are usually in the form of revelations and since they are believed to come from God, they are regarded as divine. Among the world’s major religions whose divine revelations are still available in one form or the other are Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The collections of Holy Scriptures for each of these religions include: Vedas (Hinduism), Avesta (Zoroastrianism), Tanach (Hebrew Bible) and Mizvoth (Judaism), the Holy Bible (Christianity) and the Holy Qur’an (Islam). Al-Qur’an This is the name of the Islamic Holy Scripture. The word means ‘a book that is oft recited’, and the name occurs several times in the Qur’an itself: The month of Ramadhan is that in which the Qur’an was sent down as a guidance for mankind… (Ch.2:V.186) And We have not taught him poetry, nor does it befit him. It is but a reminder and a Qur’an that makes things plain. (Ch.36:V.70) Besides this name, it is also referred to as al-Kitab (the Book), al-Furqan (the Discriminator), al-Dhikr (the Reminder), al-Hikmat (the Wisdom), al-Tanzil (the Revelation) and al-Karim (the Bounteous). According to Islamic belief, it is the revealed word of God – literally vouchsafed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw), by Angel Gabriel (Jibrail). Muslims believe it contains the last and final laws to be 55The Review of Religions – October 2006 The Qur’an and Muslism Today – (Part 1) By Dr. Abd-Latif Busari, Abuja, Nigeria granted to mankind by God. The Qur’an itself bears several testimonies to its divine origin: And this Qur’an is not such as might be devised by anyone except Allah… (Ch.10:V.38) The revelation of the Book is from Allah, the Mighty, the All- Knowing. (Ch.40:V.3) Early History According to Islamic history, the Holy Prophet(saw) had the habit of retiring to a cave in the outskirts of Makkah for meditation1. It was on one such occasion in around 610 AD when he was aged about forty years, that an angel appeared to him and five verses of Surah Al-Alaq (Ch.96) were revealed to him. Recite in the name of your Lord Who created, Created man from an adhesive clot. Recite! And your Lord is the Noblest. Who taught by the pen. Taught man what he knew not. (Ch.96:Vs.2-6) This marked the beginning of his prophetic ministry. It also marked the beginning of several visitations that spanned 23 years by the angel during which new verses were revealed or older ones rehearsed. Indeed, it is reported that the angel always rehearsed the whole of the Qur’an, from the beginning to wherever it ended at that time, during the month of Ramadan – which is the 9th month on the Islamic calendar. This practice has been re-enacted down the ages by Muslims all over the world, who attempt to finish the recitation of the Holy Qur’an, from the first to the last verse several times or at least once within this month. Unique Characteristics Right from the very beginning, the language in which the Qur’an was revealed is Arabic and up to now it remains the only language in which it is often recited, even though its text has been translated into virtually all the major languages of the world. The translation is to assist non-Arab Muslims in different parts of the world to understand the message of their Holy Scripture in their own languages, but its use in religious worship and sermons is still in Arabic. This is according to a divine directive: 56 THE QUR’AN AND MUSLIMS TODAY – PART 1 The Review of Religions – October 2006 We have made it a Qur’an in clear, eloquent language that you may understand. (Ch.43:V.4) Therefore, it is obligatory for all Muslims to learn the Arabic language or at least memorise few portions of the Qur’an in Arabic in order to engage in Islamic worship. This requirement has ensured that the Qur’an retains its original language and it is one of the means by which corruption or adulteration of its text has been prevented. Another unique characteristic is that unlike some other scriptures such as the Bible, the whole of the Qur’an was revealed to one man – the Holy Prophet(saw) – and it was compiled and handed down to later generations of Muslims as he had received it2. It is also worth noting that the Qur’an was not authored by the Holy Prophet(saw) in the same sense of the Gospel According to St. John being authored by Apostle John. He was only the medium through which it was revealed to mankind: On the Messenger lies only the conveying of the Message. And Allah knows what you reveal and what you hide. (Ch.5:V.100) And We send not the Messenger but as bearers of glad tidings and as warners. So those who believe and reform themselves, on them shall come no fear nor shall they grieve. (Ch.6:V.49) Indeed the Qur’an does not contain the opinion of the Holy Prophet(saw) let alone those of his companions or disciples. Rather, the sayings and practises of the Holy Prophet(saw), have been compiled into a separate volume called the Ahadith. The fact that the whole of the Qur’anic revelation was dictated, as soon as it was revealed, by the Holy Prophet(saw) to several scribes who immediately wrote it down; the fact that several companions of the Holy Prophet(saw) committed the whole Qur’an to memory and were constantly reciting it during the life of the Holy Prophet(saw); the fact that copies of the Qur’an that were made by Hadhrat Abu Bakr(ra) and Hadhrat Uthman(ra) (the first and third Khulafa respectively) transcribed from the original collections of the manuscripts written down during the Holy Prophet’s(saw) life and validated by those companions who had committed it to memory – all ensured that the Qur’an we have 57 THE QUR’AN AND MUSLIMS TODAY – PART 1 The Review of Religions – October 2006 today is as it was exactly revealed to the Holy Prophet(saw) over 1400 years ago. This is actually in fulfilment of a divine promise by Allah to safeguard the Qur’an: Verily, We Ourself have sent down this Exhortation, and most surely, We will be its Guardian. (Ch.15:V.10) The Qur’an thus occupies a unique position among all divine revelations in having its protection divinely ordained and its history in the past 1400 years bears this out. This is quite unlike most of the earlier revelations which were transmitted by oral tradition, through several generations, in the course of which the purity of their teachings had been altered. The Holy Qur’an alluded to this mistreatment and distortion of the word of God by past adherents where Allah cursed those who write words into their scriptures and impute it to God. And some of them are illiterate; they know not of the Book but their own false notions, and they do nothing but conjecture. Woe, therefore, to those who write the Book with their own hands, and then say: ‘This is from Allah,’ that they may take for it a paltry price. Woe, then, to them for what their hands have written, and woe to them for what they earn. (Ch.2:Vs.79-80) Speaking about the Bible, a Christian scholar, Dr. Robert Horton has this to say: ‘Over the years there were many religious writings. Some of these have been lost. Some were not good enough to include in the Bible. What we have today has come from long years of collecting, sorting and editing of the many documents… Often the authors of these writings were not known and some of the books were given the names of men who did not, in fact, write them.’ 3 For most of the major religions, the text of their divine scriptures, as we have them today, was not written down until many centuries after the Prophets who brought the message. Using the Bible as an example, at each step of the collection, compilation and copying of the various ‘books’ that make it up, those charged with these responsibilities took several liberties, sometimes well-inten- 58 THE QUR’AN AND MUSLIMS TODAY – PART 1 The Review of Religions – October 2006 tioned, but nevertheless contri- buting to the corruption of the original divine teachings. This is the opinion of several Christian authors and scholars4,5. For instance, Adolf Harnack wrote thus: ‘…..the fourth Gospel does not emanate or profess to emanate from the Apostle John, who cannot be taken as an historical authority… the author of the fourth Gospel acted with sovereign freedom, transposed events and put them in a strange light. He drew up the discussions himself and illustrated great thoughts with imaginary situations.”6 Among religious scriptures, the Qur’an alone stands out as not having had this history of corruption of its text. Spiritual Essence The invaluable moral precepts and teachings, designed to provide everlasting guidance for mankind, are the true essence of the Qur’an: This Book contains clear evidences for mankind and is a guidance and a mercy for a people who possess firm faith. (Ch.45:V.21) Muslims believe it is a scripture with practical injunctions, which if strictly followed gives one the assurance of meeting with Allah’s pleasure. The Qur’an contains valuable spiritual guidance on man’s relationship with God, his Creator, and guidance on man’s relationship with all other creations of God. Though guidance on these subjects may also be found in some other divine scriptures, the Qur’an additionally contains other teachings that are quite unique to it. For example, it is only the Qur’an that categorically recognises the truth in other divine scriptures. When describing true believers, it says they are those: Who believe in that which has been revealed to thee, and that which was revealed before thee, and they have firm faith in what is yet to come. (Ch.2:V.5) To show its acceptance of the validity of these earlier revelations, the Qur’an says: And We did send Messengers before thee, of them are some whom We have mentioned to thee, and of them there are some whom We have not mentioned to thee… (Ch.40:V.79) 59 THE QUR’AN AND MUSLIMS TODAY – PART 1 The Review of Religions – October 2006 An attempt to discriminate between Messengers of God who brought these revelations is disapproved of: …We make no distinction between any of His messengers. (Ch.2:V.286) Other unique teachings include its unequivocal rejection of the use of force or coercion in matters of faith: There should be no compulsion in religion. (Ch.2:V.257) The Qur’an reveals deep insight on the subjects of life after death, paradise and hell: They ask: ‘When will be the Day of Judgement?’ It will be the day when they will be tormented at the Fire. Taste ye the consequences of your mischief. This is what you were hastening towards.’ But surely the righteous will be in the midst of gardens and springs. (Ch.51:Vs.13-16) And no soul knows what joy of the eyes is kept hidden from them, as a reward for their good works. (Ch.32:V.18) The Qur’an promotes of the status of women: But whoso does good works, whether male or female, and is a believer, shall enter Heaven, and shall not be wronged even as much as the little hollow in the back of a date-stone. (Ch.4:V.125) The Qur’an has also cleared all the past prophets of the various slanderous charges against their persons. Relationship With Other Scriptures A cursory look at the history of world religions shows that usually almost all the adherents of a particular faith exhibit antagonism towards any new prophet. It is as if they believe that after their own prophet and the message he brought, there can be no other prophet again. In other words, their revealed law or guidance is final. Muslims also share a similar belief but with an important difference. Islam teaches that religion has over the ages undergone an evolutionary development and that revelations are progressive. The Holy Qur’an informs that Allah has sent revelations to many others before: 60 THE QUR’AN AND MUSLIMS TODAY – PART 1 The Review of Religions – October 2006 Thus Allah, the Mighty, the Wise, reveals to you and has revealed to those that preceded you. (Ch.42:V.4). Such revelations were granted according to the capacity of the people to understand and comply with the laws. So, the Qur’an has come at the end of a long chain of divine scriptures. The earlier scriptures were actually meant for specific peoples at specific periods in the spiritual development of mankind. Thus, progressively advanced laws were being revealed to mankind until the final stage is reached culminating in the revelation of the Qur’an. Being the most advanced, the Qur’an sheds complete light on all the essentials of faith and makes manifest what had hitherto remained obscure to mankind: O mankind! There has indeed come to you an exhortation from your Lord and a cure for whatever disease there is in the hearts, and a guidance and a mercy to the believers. (Ch.10:V.58). The message of the Qur’an is not only universal, it also serves the spiritual needs of mankind forever: Say, ‘If the ocean became ink for the words of my Lord, surely, the ocean would be exhausted before the words of my Lord came to an end, even though We brought the like thereof as further help.’ (Ch.18:V.110) Its truth will eventually prevail over all other revealed truth: He it is Who sent His Messenger with the guidance and the Religion of truth, that He may cause it to prevail over all religions, even if those who associate partners with God hate it. (Ch.61:V.10) It is in order to fulfil this divine plan that the Qur’an has been granted special protection: Verily, we Ourself have sent down this Exhortation, and most surely We will be its Guardian. (Ch.15:V.10) This is to save it from the fate that befell the earlier revelations and ensure that its message remains pure and unadulterated forever. 61 THE QUR’AN AND MUSLIMS TODAY – PART 1 The Review of Religions – October 2006 Also, in relation to earlier revelations, not only does the Qur’an affirm their truths and enjoins Muslims to believe in them: And who believe in that which has been revealed to thee, and that which was revealed before thee, and they have firm faith in what is yet to come. (Ch.2:V.5) It also claims that it has been foretold in the earlier scriptures. We read thus: And verily this is a revelation from the Lord of the worlds. The Spirit, Faithful to the Trust, has descended with it, on thy heart, that thou mayest be of the Warners in plain and clear Arabic tongue. (Ch.26:Vs.193-197) Islamic scholars have identified passages of such references about the Qur’an in earlier scriptures. For example, according to Qassim Ali Jairhazbhoy7, the Holy Prophet(saw) and his Revelation were foretold in Hindu Scriptures such as the Bhavishya Purana (Para 3, Khand 3, Adhya 3, Shalok 5-8) as well as in Atharva Vedas (Kanda 20, Sukta 127, Mantra 1-3). The Holy Scriptures of both Jews and Christians also foretold and bear testimony to the divine origin of the Qur’an. In Deuteronomy 18:18-19, we read: ‘I will raise up for them a prophet like unto you (Moses), from among their brethren and will put My words in his mouth and he will speak to them all that I command him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words which he shall speak in My name, I will require it of him.’ Muslims believe that the revelations in the Qur’an are the very words of God spoken to Muhammad(saw). They also believe passages in John 14:15 and John 16:7-13 to refer to the Holy Prophet(saw) as he is ‘the Prophet’ the Jews were expecting besides Christ(as) and Elisha(as) (Ilyas) and the Paraclete that Jesus(as) promised to send once he is gone. The Qur’an and Muslims Today The fate that befell earlier revelations as previously mentioned is that over time the corrupting influence of man had distorted their original message and introduced alien doctrines. According to 62 THE QUR’AN AND MUSLIMS TODAY – PART 1 The Review of Religions – October 2006 Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad(ru), a common form of distortion of religious truth is the deification of a prophet by his latter day adherents, making him a god or son of god8 usually after his death. The distortion may not stop at religious practices; it may even be incorporated into the religion’s scriptural texts. It is this latter type of distortion from which the Qur’an has, by divine ordinance, been protected. (continued next month). 63 THE QUR’AN AND MUSLIMS TODAY – PART 1 The Review of Religions – October 2006 We hope you have enjoyed reading this edition of the magazine. The Review of Religions will continue to provide discussion on a wide range of subjects and welcomes any comments or suggestions from its readers. To ensure that you regularly receive this monthly publication, please fill in your details below and we will put you on our mailing list. The cost of one year’s subscription is £15 Sterling or US $30 for overseas readers (Please do not send cash). Payments by US residents should be by check payable to “AMI” (US dollars 30) and sent direct to ‘The Review of Religions’, Baitul Zafar, 86-71 PALO ALTO ST, HOLLISWOOD. NY 11423-1203 (USA). 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