By Ali Unal
By the Qur’an we mean the rhythmic verses, phrases, sentences and the chapters uttered by the Holy Prophet of Islam, not in his own words, but as the book of God, revealed verbatum to him, and which he proclaimed as his everlasting miracle bearing testimony of his Prophethood. He challenged with this Qur’an not only the Arabs of his own time who doubted its Divine origin, but also those Arabs and non-Arabs who would disbelieve it in the future.
God had revealed His books to His Prophets before the Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace), which were sent down in the same way as He revealed the Qur’an to him. God informs us in the Qur’an of the names of some of the books He had sent down to Prophets before the holy Prophet of Islam, namely the Pages of Abraham, the Torah, the Zabur (the Psalms), and the Injil (the Gospel). We have not been informed of the names of the books given to other Prophets, so regarding other religious books, we are not in a position to say with certainty whether they were originally revealed books or not.
The Qur’an exists exactly as it was revealed to the Holy Prophet of Islam
The Qur’an is fully preserved and not a jot or title has been changed or left out of it. It was revealed over twenty-three years on different occasions, and during this gradual revelation, each verse, sentence, phrase or chapter was written down and memorized by many Companions of the Prophet. Thus the Qur’an was put into writing and collected and arranged under the supervision of the Holy Prophet himself. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) passed away, all the verses and chapters of the Qur’an were in written form and in the memories of many Companions. At the battle of Yamama, which took place during the caliphate of Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, seventy of the Companions who knew the Qur’an by heart were martyred, and Umar, in fear that the Qur’an might be lost, went to the Caliph and counseled him to collect the Qur’an into a complete book. Abu Bakr instructed Zayd Ibn Thabit to undertake this task, and it was announced that whosoever had the whole Qur’an, or any part of it, with him should produce it. Then chapters of the Qur’an were collected from the pieces of wood, bones, and pieces of leather, and they were all compared with the memories of the living reciters. People used to come to Zayd with passages and he used to accept a passage only when it was supported by at least two pious, knowledgeable persons. It should also be noted here that there were some Companions who had written down the whole Qur’an before the demise of the Holy Prophet.
The third Caliph ‘Uthman ordered Zayd, Abdullah Ibn Zubayr, Said Ibn al-‘As, and ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Harith to prepare copies of the Qur’an, and after this task had been accomplished he sent the copies to the far corners of the State. In recent years, one of these copies was found in Turkistan, and it was found to be a verbatum version of what we have today. So the Qur’an exists exactly as it was revealed to the Holy Prophet of Islam (upon him be peace); not a word-nay, not a dot of it-has been changed. It is available in its original text and the Word of God has now been preserved for all time.
The former Divine books available are only translations of their originals sent down in languages which have long been dead
The former Divine books were sent down in languages which have long been dead. In the present era, no nation or community speaks those languages, and there are only a few people who claim to understand them. Thus, even if these books existed today in their original and unadulterated form, it would be virtually impossible to understand them correctly, and to interpret their injunctions and put these into practice. Furthermore, an important point is that the original texts of most of the former Divine books were lost altogether, and only their translations exist today, and it goes without saying that the translation can never be the same as the original. Therefore, even if they had not been corrupted, this would mean that we still do not have them in original. The Qur’an, on the other hand, exists in the language in which it was revealed, and this language is a living one; millions of people speak it, and millions more know and understand it.
Many things have been inserted into the former Divine books which are against reality, opposed to reason, and which affront every instinct of justice. The Old Testament, for example, depicts the Prophet Aron as an idol-maker or idol-worshipper, David as adulterer or a man of loose conduct, and the Prophet Solomon as idol-maker, idolater, and a man practicing witchcraft. The Qur’an purifies from all ungodly thoughts and actions Jesus, Aron, David, Solomon, and all other Prophets from Adam to the Last One (peace be upon them all). It expressly negates what the four Gospels affirm concerning the crucifixion , resurrection and physical sufferings of Jesus at the hands of the Jews. It denies the doctrine of sonship, the incarnation theory, and the theories of transmigration of the souls, and union with God. From the beginning to the end, the whole book is full of wisdom and truth, with nothing unjust, indecent and misleading in it.
What is the Qur’an and how can it be defined?
The Qur’an is the eternal interpretation of the book of the universe and the interpreter of sciences dealing with the phenomena of creation. It comments upon the visible and invisible worlds, and discloses the spiritual treasures of the Divine Beautiful Names in heavens and the earth. The Qur’an is the key to perceiving the hidden realities behind the events taking place in both nature and human life, and is the tongue of the Hidden World in the Manifest World. It is like the sun shining in the spiritual sky of Islam, and is the sacred map of the next world. It is the expounder of the Divine Attributes, Names, and Acts, and the educator of mankind guiding them to truths and virtues. It is a book of law and prayer, and also a book of wisdom and invocation, a book of Divine commands and worship, and it is a book which contains everything to satisfy man’s spiritual needs.
The Qur’an is the Word of God, the Lord of the worlds, and it has descended from the High Throne of God, in which God’s Beautiful Names are manifested at the highest level of manifestation. It is the collection of the commands to mankind from the Deity of mankind. It is the discourse of God to all the creatures. It is the collection of all the favors of God, the All-compassionate, and is the Divine message to mankind. It is the Holy Book of wisdom containing all the principles necessary for man’s happiness both in this, and the next world.
There is actually no problem of a theological, social, economic, political, or even scientific nature that the Qur’an has not dealt with briefly or in detail, openly or by way of allusions or symbolically. Its method of approach and presentation is unique to itself, and never deals with a topic in the systematic way used by any other author of theology. On the contrary, it expressly says that it has adopted a special manifold method of its own which is termed ‘tasrifi’, that is, the display of varieties of topics and the shifting from one subject to another, and then the reverting to the previous one and repeating the same subject with deliberation and purpose. It uses unique and rhythmical forms of recitation to facilitate the understanding, and the remembering of it:
We have indeed turned about for men in this Qur’an every manner of similitude.. (17:89)
Behold how We turn about the signs, that they may understand. (6:65)
The matchless eloquence of the Qur’an
Verses are linked with rhythm and symmetry of form to show forth the signs of the Divine Unity. Thus the Holy Qur’an stirs the depths of the human emotion and intellect to reflect on the unity in variety and harmony in diversity. The Qur’an employs a particular rhythm in each chapter and presents various topics in a variety of ways, which disclose a unique beauty with matchless eloquence. The attentive reciter and intelligent auditors experience what the Qur‘an itself describes:
God has sent down the fairest discourse as a Book, some parts of which confirm and resemble others, whereat shiver the skins of those who fear their Lord; then their skins and their hearts soften to the remembrance of God. That is God’s guidance.. (39:23)
The Qur’an challenges
Although the Arabs of the Prophet’s time were highly intelligent and practiced in poetry and eloquence, they were unable to produce anything like the Qur’an. Likewise the hundreds of thousands of literary men who have lived since that time have been incapable of duplicating it. Indeed the Prophet challenged those of his age and mankind at large, to join in hands until the Resurrection to bring the like of ten chapters or even one. That they are incapable of this is a proof of the Qur’an’s Divine origin.
If you are in doubt concerning what We have sent down unto Our servant (Muhammad), then bring a chapter like it, and call your witnesses, apart from God, if you are truthful. (2:23)
This Qur’an is not such as to be forged by (any one) but (it is a revelation from) God, but it is a confirmation of (the Scriptures) that went before it and (the clearest) explanation of the Book, wherein is no doubt, from the Lord of all being. Or do they say, ‘He (Muhammad) has forged it?’ Say you: ‘Bring you then a chapter like it and call on (to your aid) whomsoever you can, apart from God (because He has sent it down), if you are truthful. (10:37-38)
Say you: “(Even) if men and jinn get united to produce the like of this Qur’an, they will never produce its like, even though some of them to the others be helpers.” (17:88)
No one has been able to produce the like of a single chapter of the Qur’an, even of the shortest one like ‘Abundance (Kawthar)’, and will not be able to do so until the Day of Resurrection. The opponents of Islam have always resorted to arms to resist the Qur’an, but in vain. As a Muslim scholar has pointed out, if the Qur’an or Islam had been resisted by argument, or science, or the power of eloquence, it would never have been necessary to resort to arms to repel it. As time passes the Qur’an becomes ‘younger and fresher’ since its hidden unlimited treasures are disclosed one by one. Islam is the only way of life under which the hopes of today’s miserable humanity can be rediscovered.
Said Nursi, Sozler (The Words 1, The Words 2), Istanbul, 1958
Suat Yildirim, Kur’an-i Kerim ve Kur’an Ilimlerine Giris, Istanbul, 1983
S.H. Nasr, Ideals and Realities of Islam, London, 1966
M.M. Pouya, The Genuineness of the Holy Qur’an, Karachi
Suphi es-Salih, Kur’an Ilimleri (Turkish trans.) Konya
Abdurrahman Cetin, Kur’an Ilimleri ve Kur’an-i Kerim Tarihi, Istanbul,1982
Toshihiko Izutsu, Kur’an’da Allah ve Insan (Turkish trans.) 1975
Kur’an’da Dini ve Ahlaki Kavramlar (Turkish trans.) 1984