What is the Quran and where did it come from?
“Whoever does good deeds will benefit himself and whoever does evil will harm himself” (45:15)
The Quran is a Divine miracle of literature [Prophecy – Science – Warnings – Wisdom – Truths] and it has been preserved in the original language for over 1,400 years. Humanity has received divine guidance only through two channels:
- The Word of Almighty Allah in the scriptures; Torah, Zaboor, Injeel and Quran
- The Prophets inspired by Allah to communicate His will to mankind
These two things have always gone together, hand in hand. More importantly, there were at that time, tens of thousands of companions who had memorised the complete Quran from the instruction of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Even the Prophet himself (peace be upon him) used to recite it with the Angel Jibreel once a year, and in the last year of his life, he recited it two times just before the month in which he left this world.
Next, the Caliph Abu Bakr entrusted the collection of the Quran to be written into one volume by one of the Prophet’s scribe, Zaid Ibn Thabit. He kept it till his death. Then from the original text, which now resides in the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul, Turkey, the next Caliph, Uthman, prepared several exact copies and sent them to various Muslim territories such as Turkey and other places.
These scriptures are still in museums, with one copy currently residing in an English museum. One thing is for sure; all copies of the Quran are exactly the same. Today many Muslims from these areas are still memorising the Quran.
The Quran was so meticulously preserved because it is the book of guidance for all of humanity for all times. That is why it does not address just the Arabs, in whose language it was revealed. In fact, Arabs today comprise no more than 13% of the Muslims in the world.
We are comfortable with reading books that present information, ideas and arguments systematically and coherently. Naturally, when we begin reading the Quran, we expect that this book too will revolve around a definite subject. That the subject matter of the book will be clearly defined at the beginning and will then be neatly divided into sections and chapters, after which discussion will proceed in a logical sequence. We likewise expect a separate and systematic arrangement of instruction and guidance for each of the various aspects of human life.
However, as soon as we open the Quran we encounter a completely unfamiliar genre of literature. We notice that it embodies precepts of belief and conduct, moral directives, legal prescriptions, encouragement and admonition, censure and condemnation of evildoers, warnings to deniers of the truth, good tidings and words of consolation and good news to those who have suffered for the sake of God, arguments and corroborative evidence in support of its basic message, allusions to stories from the past and to signs of God visible in the universe.
Moreover, these countless subjects alternate without any apparent system, quite unlike the books to which we are accustomed to. The Quran deals with the same subject over and over again, each time understood in different terminology.
The reader also encounters sudden transitions from one subject matter to another. The audience and speaker constantly change as the message is directed to one and then to another group of people. There is no trace of familiar division into chapters and sections. Likewise, the treatment of different subjects is unique. If a historical subject is raised, the narrative does not follow the pattern familiar in historical accounts. In discussions of philosophical or metaphysical questions, we miss the familiar expressions and terminology of formal logic and philosophy.
Cultural and political matters, or questions pertaining to man’s social and economic life, are discussed in a way very different from that usual in works of social sciences. Juristic principles and legal injunctions are clarified, but quite differently from the manner of conventional works. When we come across an ethical instruction, we find its form differs entirely from anything to be found elsewhere in the literature on ethics.