Qur’an is the word of God, directly revealed to the last Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him) during 23 years of his Apostolic mission [610-632 C.E]. It was instantly preserved by putting in to writing and memorization by his companions. God says:
“Surely this is a Glorious Qur’an, inscribed on an Imperishable Tablet.”(Qur’an;85:21-22).
God has taken responsibility to guard it against corruption:
“Surely We have revealed the reminder (Qur’an) and We will most certainly guard it (from corruption).”(Qur’an;15:9).
During all ages, millions of Muslim of all age groups memorize Qur’an comprising over 6000 verses; a unique distinction which makes Qur’an, the only book in human history to have been continuously preserved through this method along with the written form. No other scripture or book can rival this claim. Hence, since its revelation the Qur’an is being transferred in its original revealed form, continuously (twatar) from generation to generation.
Revealed in Arabic Language and Translations:
The Qur’an was revealed in Arabic, the language of Prophet, peace be upon him (and his clan Quraish of Makka). The translation (Tarjama) of the Qur’an means the expression of the meaning of its text in a language different from the language of the Qur’an, for understanding by those not familiar with Qur’anic Arabic. It is customary to quote the original Arabic Qur’anic text (ayah, verses) along with the translation, however this require special handling due to reverence of the sacred text, hence in this book for the convenience of handling by all categories of the readers, only the translation is given, which should also be handled with due respect. It is more appropriate for the reader to also consult the original Arabic Qur’an. The English translations by Abdullah Yousaf Ali, M.Pickthall, Muhammad Asad and F.Malik are popular. There is agreement among Muslim scholars that it is humanly impossible to transfer the meanings of original Qur’an word by word in an identical mode into another language. This is due to several reasons: firstly the Qur’an itself is a miracle and cannot be imitated by man. As a consequence of this, the translation of Qur’an is not considered as Qur’an. The translations of the Qur’an; e.g. into English, French, German and Urdu, etc, in principle are regarded as paraphrases. These translations can not be used in place of original Arabic Qur’an for ritual purposes. Secondly the words of different languages do not express all the shades of meanings of their original Arabic word, though they may express specific concepts. Hence narrowing down the meaning of the Qur’an to specific concepts in a foreign language would mean missing out other important dimensions. While reading the translations of Qur’an these aspects must always be kept in view.
The example of verse: “wa- huwa ‘alladhe khalaqa as- samaawaat wa- al- ‘ard. fe sittah ayyaam..” (Qur’an;11:7) is considered here.
The word ayyaamin Arabic means; ‘days’ or ‘long periods’ or ‘eons’ or ‘epoch’. The four translations being given here differ in their understanding:
“And it is He who has created the heavens and the earth in six eons” (M.Asad); “He is the One Who created the heavens and the earth in six periods” (F.Malik)
“And He it is Who created the heavens and the earth in six Days” (Pickthall); “He it is Who created the heavens and the earth in six Days” (Yousaf Ali).
The translation of ayyaamas ‘eons’ appears more scientific and accurate. Hence if some contradictions appear, it is due to the limitations of translation, not of Qur’an.
The Qur’an comprises 114 chapters, called Surahs, of very unequal length and each Surah comprises number of verses. The translation of references from Qur’an are mostly given within brackets “xyz” followed by reference of Surah and Ayah in bracketi.e: “Praise be to Allah the Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds.”(Qura’n;1:2). It implies that the translation is from Surah (chapter) Number 1 and verse number 2 of the same Surah.
Names of Chapters:
The names of Chapters (Surahs) can be found from the index. In this case the name of Surah Number 1 as given in Surah Index is Al-Fatiha meaning ‘The Opening’. The names of Chapters (Surahs) in Qur’an, in most of the cases have no special relation to the subject of the Surah but has been used merely as a symbol to distinguish it from other Surahs. The name comprise of a word used some where in the Surah. Taking example of 2ndSurahAL-BAQARAH (the Cow), which has been so named from the story of the Cow occurring in this Surah (verse number 67-73). Although this Surah is an invitation to the Divine Guidance and all the stories, incidents etc. revolve round this central theme. As this Surah has particularly been addressed to the Jews, many historical events have been cited from their own traditions to admonish and advise them that their own good lies in accepting the Guidance revealed to the Holy Prophet. It has not, however, been used as a title to indicate the subject of the Surah. It will, therefore, be as wrong to translate the name Al-Baqarah into “The Cow” or “The Heifer” as to translate any English name, say Baker, Rice, Wolf etc., into their equivalents in other languages or vice versa, because this would imply that the Surah dealt with the subject of “The Cow”. Many more chapters (Surahs) of the Qur’an have been named in the same way because no comprehensive words exist in Arabic (in spite of its richness) to denote the wide scope of the subject discussed in them. As a matter of fact all human languages suffer from the same limitation. However in some cases the name of Chapters (Surahs) indicate the subject matter i.e. the first SurahAl-Fatihah, which means ‘that which opens a subject or a book or any other thing’ or in other words, Al-Fatihah is a sort of ‘Preface’. Similarly Surah ‘Al Yousaf’ (Joseph) Surah number 12, is related with the story of Prophet Joseph (PBHH).
This is an endeavour to assist the reader in learning and understanding of the message of Quran.
The Holy Qur’an is the Last Divine Book – the miracle revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Anyone who alleges that the Holy Qur’an was compiled by Muhammad, refuses to acknowledge him as a prophet, but is virtually describing him as a ‘God’. We Muslims say, “There is no God except God and Muhammad is His Servant and His Messenger.” The Holy Qur’an is a book which cannot be compiled by any human being, nor can it be revealed by anyone but God. Therefore, anyone who says that Muhammad produced the Holy Qur’an is attributing Divinity to him.
The Unlettered Prophet, born in Backward Area:
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was illiterate. He never knew how to read or write and never went to school – in fact there was no school in his town at that time. The country he was born in had not known much of civilization or progress. How, then, could such a person produce a work like the Holy Qur’an? He came to Islam from a village surrounded by dark mountains and the wilderness of the desert – a remote place, unheard of at that time. No one in that village had any knowledge of the philosophy of Greece and Rome, nor of the literature of India and Iran. It was a village, devoid of any academic tradition and activity. There was no one even with a minimum level of education and knowledge. And our Prophet did not travel from his village, except to go to Busra in Syria, another village, slightly bigger than his own, where he only stayed for a few days. So, how could someone, with such a background produce a work like the Holy Qur’an?
Biographies have been written about men of genius, and the history of nations in different periods has also been written. But no other book has the same remarkable background as the Holy Qur’an. Mozart composed a piece of music when he was less than ten years old, and the well-known Arab poet, Bashsharibn Burd wrote a poem at a very early age. Likewise, Shakespeare has left us a rich collection of masterpieces. In fact he was not counted as an eminent literary figure during his lifetime.
Unusual Book, Unusual Person & Circumstances:
Great achievements have been produced; an unknown youth may write an excellent story or evolve a scientific theory because he is a genius. But ingenuity is not something only possessed by educated people or university graduates. It may appear in the most unexpected quarters. Those who become well-known in the scientific field or in literature or the arts may have been a century ahead of their times, excelling their contemporaries by fifty or even one hundred per cent. However, their excellence will be bound by certain limits and constraints. But no one, in the entire history of mankind, has lived in circumstances similar to those in which Muhammad (peace be upon him) lived, and at the same time has managed to convey a masterpiece to the world similar to the Holy Qur’an.
Excellent Literary Values, Law, Knowledge of Nature, Science & Metaphysics:
The Holy Qur’an excels in both its literary values and its unique treatment of law. It contains an entire legal system which is perfect in every detail. As for the theology therein, and the knowledge of the unseen, it gives information which is not known to anyone – information which the human intellect is unable to perceive. It reveals laws and phenomena pertaining to nature which were unknown to anyone, not only during the time of the Prophet” some of these laws were discovered only 1300 years later, while others still remain undiscovered.
The Holy Qur’an challenges all mankind. Men and the jinn were asked to produce ten chapters or at least one, like the chapters of the Holy Qur’an, but they failed to produce even one chapter. This challenge is still open, and the inability still continues. The illimitability of the book is now established beyond doubt. Its excellence is noticeable in every chapter. It would be incorrect to say it can be observed in some and not in others.
Unique Captivating Aspects for Each Reader:
We may liken it to a beautiful woman whose beauty is not attributed to or dependent on any single aspect of her appearance – neither her eyes, nor her limbs or specific dimension of her body. It is the composite whole which makes her beautiful. However, it is possible that a person reading the Holy Qur’an may be enamored by the particular part he is concerned with.
One well-known government official declared his faith in Islam when he heard the verse: Does man think that We cannot (resurrect him and) bring his bones together again? Yes indeed. We are able to make whole his very fingertips! (Qur’an;75:3-4). This verse made the official think about the reason why the Almighty referred to the fingertips in particular. What is their significance? Indeed, the fingertips consist of the various patterns of fingerprints. There are no two people whose fingerprints are identical. No doubt it is a Divine act of creation that remained unknown until its discovery in recent times. This is further proof that the Holy Qur’an is a Divine book, revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Source of Everlasting Knowledge for All Times:
There are more facts and information that still remain undiscovered yet are written about in the Holy Qur’an. Every now and then scholars find some new information in it which contributes to human knowledge in general and to the better understanding of Islam by all. It is therefore essential that the Holy Qur’an should be reinterpreted. The man of literature should interpret it according to his field of study, likewise the legal specialist, the astronomer, the psychiatrist, the social scientist and the historian. Each may interpret it in the light of his particular area of study and prove that it is the word of God.
The Living Miracle:
Once the miracles of earlier prophets had happened, they were over. But the miracle of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is ever present and it is renewed every day. The miracles of the earlier prophets served as proof of the message, while in the case of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), his message itself was a miracle. May peace be upon him and all the Prophets and Messengers.
Qur’an is the criteria (Furqan) to judge the right from falsehood. Muslims therefore believe in the other revealed books in the light of Qur’an, where ever the old scriptures differ with what is narrated in the Holy Qur’an, those contradictions are not accepted being a human fabrication or error. Moreover they were for specific people, for specific period, but Qur’an is the last scripture for the humanity till eternity, so now humanity has to believe in Qur’an as a source of divine guidance.