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The preservation of the Qur’an

The Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in sections throughout the twenty-three years of his prophethood. The Era of the Prophet (PBUH) 609-632 CE

The Qur’an was the main miracle given to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to prove that he was a true prophet of Allah and not an imposter. So, the Qur’an had to be saved to prove to the later generations that Muhammad (PBUH) was really the last prophet of Allah. All of the false prophets who came after Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) brought books which they claimed to be revealed from Allah, but none of them have the miraculous ability to be memorized by thousands, nor have they improved on the message of the Qur’an.

One of the leading orientalists, Kenneth Cragg, said the following regarding the memorization and preservation of the Qur’anic text, “This phenomenon of Qur’anic recital means that the text has traversed the centuries in an unbroken living sequence of devotion. It cannot, therefore, be handled as an antiquarian thing, nor as a historical document out of a distant past.”[1] Another orientalist scholar, William Graham, wrote: “For countless millions of Muslims over more than fourteen centuries of Islamic history, ‘scripture’, al-kitab, has been a book learned, read and passed on by vocal repetition and memorisation. The written Qur’an may ‘fix’ visibly the authoritative text of the Divine Word in a way unknown in history, but the authoritativeness of the Qur’anic book is only realized in its fullness and perfection when it is correctly recited.”[2] Yet another, John Burton, stated: “The method of transmitting the Qur’an from one generation to the next by having the young memorize the oral tradition of their elders had mitigated somewhat from the beginning the worst perils of relying solely on written records…”[3] At the end of a voluminous work on the Qur’an’s collection, Burton stated that the text of the Qur’an available today is “the text which has come down to us in the form in which it was organised and approved by the Prophet….What we have today in our hands is the mushaf[4] of Muhammad.”[5]

With every succeeding generation of Muslims, the numbers of those who memorized all of the Qur’an has increased. Today there are literally hundreds of thousands of Muslims throughout the world who have done so.

There is no other book, religious or otherwise, which has been memorized on this scale in recorded history. The Qur’an is about four-fifths the length of the New Testament of the Christians, yet not a single person in recorded history is known to have memorized the New Testament completely.  In fact, if all of the books in the world were somehow destroyed, the only book which could be rewritten, word for word, without a single mistake is the Glorious Qur’an.

The Qur’an has been preserved in both the oral as well as written form in a way no other religious book in history has.

Tashkent, This is one of the oldest Quran in the world about1400 years old , it was compiled in Medina during Othman time , the third caliph (ruler) of islam , and one of the companion of the prophet Muhammad .

Tashkent, This is one of the oldest Quran in the world about1400 years old , it was compiled in Medina during Othman time , the third caliph (ruler) of islam , and one of the companion of the prophet Muhammad .




Why did Allah preserve the Qur’an and allow His earlier books of divine revelation to be changed or lost?  The answer to that question lies in the following facts:

  1.  The earlier prophets and their books were sent to a particular people in particular periods of history. Once the period ended, a new prophet was sent with a new book to replace the previous book. So, it was not necessary that these books be preserved by Allah. The preservation of the earlier books was left up to the people as a test for them.  Thus, when the people went astray, they changed what was written in the books which their prophets brought in order to make allowable the things which were forbidden to them. In that way, all of the earlier books of revelation became either changed or lost.

2.  Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was the last prophet whom Allah sent, and he was not sent to a particular people or a particular time. He was sent to all of mankind until the end of the world.  Allah said in the Qur’an,

{ وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلاَّ كَافَّةً لِلنَّاسِ بَشِيرًا وَنَذِيرًا وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لاَ يَعْلَمُونَ }

I have only sent you (Muhammad) as a giver of glad tidings and a warner to all mankind, but most men do not understand.”[6]

Thus, his book of revelation, the Qur’an, had to be specially preserved from any form of change or loss so that it would be available to all the generations of man until the last day of the world.

The significance of the Qur’an’s preservation is that Islam has been kept in its original purity because of it.  Humanity can always return to the sources of Islam no matter what people may have added or forgotten in time. All of the essential principles of Islam are to be found in the Qur’an.  Consequently, the preservation of the Qur’an meant the preservation of Islam in its final form. The loss of the Gospel of Jesus means that Christians can never return to the true teachings of Prophet Jesus except by accepting Islam.[7] Similarly, the original Torah was lost when Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians.[8] Thus, the Jews cannot return to the pure teachings of Prophet Moses except by following Islam.

It is only in Islam that the pure teachings of the prophets have been preserved without any change.  That is why Allah said in the Qur’an,

Verily, the only acceptable religion to Allah is Islam.

By: Dr. Bilal Philips

[1]  The Mind of the Qur’an, p. 26.

[2]  Beyond the Written Word, p. 80.

[3]  An Introduction to the Hadith, p. 27.

[4]  The Arabic term used to refer to the text of the Qur’an.

[5]  The Collection of the Qur’an, p. 239-40.

[6] Soorah Saba’ (34):28.

[7] See The Five Gospels, pp. 2-16.

[8] See The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, vol. 14, p. 757.

The Challenge of Qur’aan

The Challenge of Qur’aan

The Challenge of Qur’aan

The Qur’aan is not only unique in the way in which it presents its subject matter, but it is also unique in that it is a miracle itself. By the term “miracle,” we mean the performance of a supernatural or extraordinary event which cannot be duplicated by humans. It has been documented that Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) challenged the Arabs to produce a literary work of a similar caliber as the Qur’aan, but they were unable to do so in spite of their well-known eloquence and literary powers. The challenge to reproduce the Qur’aan was presented to the Arabs and mankind in three stages:

l. The Whole Qur’aan:
In the Qur’aan, Allaah commanded the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) to challenge all of creation to create a book of the stature of the Qur’aan,
“Say: ‘If all mankind and the jinn would come together to produce the like of this Qur’aan, they could not produce its like even though they exerted all and their strength in aiding one another.’” [Soorah al-Israa’ (17):88]

2. Ten Soorahs:
Next, Allaah made the challenge ostensibly easier by asking those who denied its divine origin to imitate even ten soorahs of the Qur’aan:

“Or do they say that he has invented it? Say (to them), ‘Bring ten invented soorahs like it, and call (for help) on whomever you can besides Allaah, if you are truthful.” [Soorah Hood (11):13]
This final challenge was to produce even a single soorah to match what is in the Qur’aan, whose shortest soorah, al-Kawthar, consists of only three verses:

“And if you all are in doubt about what I have revealed to My servant, bring a single soorah like it, and call your witnesses besides Allaah if you are truthful.” [Soorah al-Baqarah (2):23]

These challenges were not just empty words with no one caring to prove them wrong. Prophet Muhammad’s (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) call to monotheism, to the abolition of idolatry in all its forms, and to the equality of slaves and their masters threatened the whole socio-economic framework of Makkah society in general, and the position of the ruling Qurayshee tribe from which the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) came in particular. Makkah, the trading center of Arabia, as well as its spiritual center, desperately wanted to stop the spread of Islaam. Yet all that the Prophet’s opponents had to do to crush the movement was to make up a single soorah like any one of those which the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) and his followers were reciting to the people. A number of Qurayshee orators and poets tried to imitate the Qur’aan, but they failed. They then resorted to offering him vast amounts of wealth, the position of king over them, and the most noble and beautiful of their women in exchange for his promise to stop inviting people to Islaam. He responded to them by reciting the first thirteen verses of Soorah Fussilat, until they asked him to stop. [Collected by al-Haakim, al-Bayhaqee, Aboo Ya’laa and Ibn Hishaam, and declared hasan by lbraaheem al-‘Alee in Saheeh as-Seerah an-Nabaweeyah, p.64.] The Quraysh also resorted to torturing their slaves and relatives who had embraced Islaam in a vain attempt to cause them to revert to paganism. Later they organized an economic boycott against the Prophet his followers and the members of his clan, Banoo Haashim, in an attempt to starve them into submission. But even this plan eventually failed. Finally, they plotted to kill him in his home by sending armed young men from each of the clans of Quraysh in order that the guilt of his murder be shared by all the clans, making revenge by the Prophet’s clan impossible.

However, Allaah enabled the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) and his followers to flee Makkah and join a new band of converts who had arisen among the tribes of a city to the north called Yathrib. Islaam spread rapidly through the clans of Yathrib, and within a year Muslims became the city’s majority. Prophet Muhammad was then made the ruler, and the name of the city was changed to Madeenah an-Nabee (The City of the Prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam), which was then shortened to “Madeenah.” Over the next eight years, the clans of Makkah and its neighboring lands mounted a series of unsuccessful battle campaigns against the emerging Muslim state in Madeenah, which ended with the Muslim invasion of Makkah itself.

All of this bloodshed could have been avoided if only the Quraysh and their allies had been able to produce a mere three lines of poetry or flowing prose similar to the shortest soorah of the Qur’aan. Hence, there can be no doubt about the inimitability of the Qur’aan’s literary style, about the miracle of its rhyme and the marvel of its rhythm.

It has been suggested that the inimitability of the Qur’aan is not necessarily unique, for great English poets like Shakespeare, Chaucer, or great poets in any language tend to have distinctly unique styles which set them apart from their contemporaries. However, if, for example, some leading poet of today were to make an in-depth study of Shakespeare’s writings and write a sonnet in Shakespeare’s style in old ink and on old paper, then claim that he had discovered a lost poem of Shakespeare’s, the literary world would probably accept this claim, even after careful study. Thus, even the greatest of poets could be imitated, no matter how unique his style was, just as the famous painters have been imitated. [In fact, some English scholars consider much ofwhat has been attributedto Shakespeare to have been written by his contemporary, Christopher Marlowe.] The Qur’aan, however, is way above this level, as attempts to forge chapters have been made throughout the ages, yet none has withstood close scrutiny. And, as was mentioned before, the incentive to imitate the Qur’aan was more intense during the time of its revelation when literally skills were at their peak than at any other time, yet there was no successful attempt.

Courtesy: Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips

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