The Quran: its Revelation and Compilation Part 1 (Islam 1.5)

Beliefs & Sources of Authority

1.5. The Qu’rān (Part 1)

The Qur’ān is the sacred Book that Muslims believe was revealed to Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), the last of the Prophets. The Qur’ān was revealed to him gradually, bit-by-bit over a 23 year period – from the time of his call to be a Prophet in 610CE until shortly before his death in 632CE. Muslims believe that Allāh does not speak directly to humankind, rather He created them, then sent to them Messengers to inform them that Allāh created them and commands them to worship Him. This is in order to distinguish which of humankind will have faith in a Lord they will not see or speak to until after death. Revelation is conveyed to mankind through the Angel Jibreel (Gabriel). Allāh said:

“And it is not for any human being that Allah should speak to him except by revelation or from behind a partition or that He sends a messenger to reveal, by His permission, what He wills. Indeed, He is Most High and Wise. And thus We have sent to you (O Muhammad) an Inspiration, and a Mercy of Our Command. You knew not what is the Book, nor what is Faith? But We have made it (this Quran) a light wherewith We guide whosoever of Our slaves We will. And verily, you are indeed guiding mankind to the Straight Path.” (42: 51-53)

The experiences of revelation upon the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) were strong and hard to bear. He would sometimes shake and sweat (even on a cold day) when the verses were sent to him. He said in a Hadeeth:

“Sometimes it is like the ringing of a bell, this form of inspiration is the hardest of all and it passes away after I have grasped what is inspired. Sometimes the Angel comes in the form of a man and talks to me and I grasp what he says.” (Bukhārī)

Many of the verses revealed were responses to questions that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Companions were in need of being answered or the verses were revealed in response to situations the Muslims found themselves in. These are, in fact, situations that people still find themselves in. For example: whether to fast on a journey or whilst one is ill, how to perform ablution for prayers, or what to do if one cannot find water for it, etc.

Compilation Of The Qur’ān

The Qur’ān was conveyed to Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), he recited it to his Companions, some of whom memorized it, whilst others wrote it down on parchment, leather and even bone. There were many memorizers of the Qur’ān, and that remains the case till today. The first official compilation of the Qur’ān was made in Madīnah, the city of the Prophet, after his death. The Qur’ān was revealed by Allāh in several dialects of the Arabs. All of them memorized by the people. In 650CE, the Caliph Uthmān (may God be pleased with him) decided after consultation with other senior Companions that one official written version of the Qur’ān was needed due to fear that variant recitals may cause confusion, death of the memorizers, and fear of some people not remembering it correctly. The process was initiated in approximately 633CE by the Caliph Abu Bakr after a large body of memorizers were killed at the battle of Yamama. A compilation was held by Abu Bakr, then passed to the Caliph Umar, who then passed it to his daughter Hafsah, the wife of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). `Uthmān took this copy from Hafsah and appointed a committee of three who were very proficient, and from them there was Zaid Ibn Thābit (initially appointed by Abu Bakr). Uthmān said to them:

“In case you disagree with Zaid bin Thābit on any point in the Qur’ān, then write it in the dialect of Quraish, the Qur’an was revealed in their tongue.”

They fulfilled their duty, and when they had written many copies, ‘Uthmān returned the original manuscripts to Hafsah. He then sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur’ānic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt. It is important to note that the Hafsah’s copy was not destroyed which indicates that it was in accordance to the `Uthmānic compilation. All of this proving that the Qur’ān the Muslims have today is in fact the very same recited by the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

Qur’ān: The Speech of Allāh conveyed by Jibreel to Muhammad. The Book which is God’s final revelation (or Words) to humankind.

Surah: A chapter of the Qur’ān. The Qur’ān consists of 114 Surahs in total. The first Surah is short and is called Al-Fātihah. It is recited by Muslims in every prayer. Al-Fātihah is followed by longer Surahs. Generally speaking the longer Surahs are at the beginning of the Qur’an and the shorter one’s at the end.

Āyah: Each chapter (or Surah) has within in verses or Ayāt (singular: Āyah). Al-Fātihah has 7 Āyāt.

People with doubts:

Some people do not believe that Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was visited by an Angel or that he received revelation from Almighty God. How do Muslims reply to this idea?

Summary

You should know the and understand Muslim accounts of the revelation and the compilation of the Qur’an. It was revealed over 23 years by way of the Angel of Revelation, Jibrīl. The “official” version of `Uthmān was completed in 650CE even though its compilation started with Abu Bakr.

Questions:

  1. How long did the revelation of the Qur’an take place?
  2. What happened to the Prophet when he was receiving revelation?
  3. What were the verses of the Qur’an first written on?
  4. Why did Uthmān decide an official written version of the Qur’an was needed?
  5. What is a Surah?
  6. What is an Āyah?
  7. How many Surahs are there in the Qur’an? And what is their general order?

NOTE:

I initially compiled these worksheets for my students at the Redstone Academy (aged between 13 and 16 years), Moseley Road, Birmingham, UK who are working towards their General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). I felt that others who do not attend the school can also benefit from these topics since they are presented in simple bitesize chapters. I have relied upon GCSE text books and adapted them for my classes.

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