By Femi Abbas
“Do you not see how Allah has set forth a parable of a wonderful ‘WORD’ like a fruitful tree with formidable roots that are firmly planted in the belly of the earth while its branches sprout magnificently into the firmament of the orbits, yielding edible fruits every season by Allah’s grace? Allah gives wonderful parables to men (of reason) that they may ponder over their existence and be mindful (of the wonders of the world)…” (Qur’an 14: 24).
The world is full of wonders. But those wonders cannot be fully enumerated by mortal beings because their enumerations will be limited to their times. Whatever might have been termed as wonder in the primordial or contemporary time could only be limited to certain generations. For instance, the wonders of the ancient times are quite different from those of the modern times. Yet they bear no names other than wonders.
Thus, when men of philosophical sciences or religious charlatans who claim to be ‘men of God’ talk of wonders or miracles, it can only be according to their myopic view of life in their immediate environments. The only globally permanent WONDER in human life, which is not limited to a particular time or place, is the Message of Allah called the Qur’an.
Irony of Life
It is rather ironic that even in this age of internet, some ignorant people still perceive Islam as a mere dogma like many other religions in which fabricated stories, abominable rituals and satanic superstitions thrive. This is quite far from the spiritual reality of Allah’s divine religion. But it takes only people with functional eyes to perceive the light. Ignorance is a disease which only knowledge can heal. It is some of those ignorant people that are currently wondering on why Muslims should engage ceremoniously in a competition on the recitation of the Qur’an as it is now happening in Lagos, Nigeria. Such people can never understand until the cloaks on their faces are lifted to enable them see the genuine light of life.
The Meaning of Qur’an
The word Qur’an means continuous recitation. It is so defined because of its inimitable origin which makes it a compelling daily recitation throughout the world, across nations, continents and centuries. For those who do not know, only the Qur’an, among all revealed Books, contains the unsurpassable words of Allah not only in the grandeur of its diction and splendour of its rendition but also in the depth of its meaning, substance and profundity.
The revelation of this sacred ‘Book’ to mankind through an unlettered desert Arab, named Muhammad (SAW) the son of Abdullah and Aminah, began in 610 CE and lasted for 22 years and three months (12 years in Makkah and10 years plus three months in Madinah). This sacred Book contains 114 chapters and 6236 verses (not 6666 verses often erroneously quoted by most Nigerian Muslim clerics). Of these 114 chapters, 86 were revealed in Makkah and 28 in Madinah. But the 28 chapters revealed in Madinah constitute over two thirds of the Book. And this is because the Makkah chapters are short and rhythmic while those of Madinah are long and prose-like.
The Preservation of the Qur’an
Although the Qur’an was revealed orally, its writing began as soon as its revelations commenced. The writing was however done initially on primitive materials such as wood, animal hide, back of trees, tablets of rock and others of the like which were then readily available. However, it was not until one year (633 CE) after the demise of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), that those writings were compiled into a book form not in a foreign language as in the case of the Bible but in Arabic which was its original language of revelation. And one of the wonders in documenting the Qur’anic revelations is the classification of those revelations into chapters and verses by Prophet Muhammad (SAW) himself despite his unlettered status.
Meanwhile, it must be noted here that one of the vital ways of preserving the contents of the Qur’an was memorization which made the confirmation of the written chapters and verses possible. No other religious Book has been so memorisable in human history. And that alone is a clear evidence of the divine origin of the Qur’an.
Manner of Presentation
The manner of presenting the Qur’anic revelations is simple and direct. It employs neither artifice nor conventional poses. Its main appeal is to man’s intellect, feelings and imagination. It does not only touch the anecdotes of previous Prophets and nations in different ages, it also catalogues the accounts of earlier revelations and covers the entire period of human existence from the beginning of creation to the very last Day of Judgment.
Authenticity of the Qur’an
It is an indisputable fact that the Qur’an remains the only revealed ‘BOOK’ in the world today that has consistently retained the originality of both its contents and the language of its revelation for over 1440 years. And that alone is enough a testimony to the proof of its divine origin. It also confirms not only the genuineness of the prophet-hood of Muhammad (SAW) as the arch-Messenger of Allah to mankind but also the lucidity of Arabic as the oldest sustained language of divine revelation in the world till today. Thus, just as there can be no proof of the identity of a messenger without the authenticity of the message he is ordained to deliver so can there be no proof of the genuineness of the prophetic mission of Muhammad (SAW) outside the proof of the originality of the Message contained in the Qur’an.
Features of the Qur’an
The features of the sacred Book called the Qur’an have no comparison among all other revealed books. For instance, it is only the Qur’an that leaves no aspect of life untouched just as it leaves no secret unrevealed. Problems and solutions; history and lessons; crimes and penalties; truth and justice; governance and equity; morality and righteousness; discipline and courage; friendship and trust; leadership and guidance; education and methodology; marriage and divorce; widowhood and orphanage; childhood and inheritance; poverty and wealth; opinion and logic; facts and figures; darkness and light; war and peace; power and magnanimity; angels, jinn and man; life and death; heavens and earth; all these and many other matters relating to man and his environment form the subjects of discussion and guidance in the ‘Divine Diary of Life called the Qur’an’.
Qur’anic Referential Insights
Unlike other revealed Books that preceded it, the Qur’an gives insight into some natural phenomena like sphericity of the orbit and revolution of the earth (Q. 39:5) the formation of the rain (Q. 30:48); the fertilization of the wind (Q. 15:22); the migration of the sun, the moon and the planets in their fixed orbits (Q. 36:29-38); the aquatic origin of all creatures (Q. 21:30); the duality of the sex of all living organisms including the plants and other creatures (Q. 36:35); the collective life of animals (Q.6:38); the living mode of the bees (Q. 16:69) and the successive phases of the child in its mother’s womb (Q. 22:5 & 23:14). Yet, the purpose of this Book is not to teach history, astronomy, philosophy or sciences but to pave man’s way towards understanding those phenomenal aspects of human life.
Proof of the Qur’anic Revelations
Some religious charlatans who perceive Islam through the conducts of certain malfeasant Muslims and see that sacred path of Allah as a dogma continue to ask for the proof of the genuineness of Qur’anic revelation as if other revelations before the Qur’an do not require proof. In reason and logic, asking for the proof of the Qur’an is like asking the sun to prove the vividness of its rays. Can anybody reasonably ask for the proof of the hair growing on his head? It is the nature and character of unbelievers to deny the truth and refute the manifest. But does it ever bother the sun in any way that some blind men or women deny its rays? Or can a brook be affected in any way if some herds boycott its water?
During the revelation of the Qur’an, Allah had foretold the reaction of certain pathological doubting ‘Thomases’ across generations of races whose hymns of denial would come from the abyss of falsehood even as they would cling remorselessly to the chord of ignorance. To such ‘Thomases’, the Qur’an owes neither explanation nor apology. They are free to live, die and be buried with their ignorance.
The Similitude of the Qur’an
The Qur’an is like gold which most fashionable people seek to possess directly or indirectly because of its material value but which only a few can recognize in its raw form. It takes geologists to identify the soil in which gold is naturally incubated. It takes miners to mine it out just as it takes smelters to smelt it before the goldsmith can transform it into a beautiful ornament. In the same manner, it takes categories of pious intellectuals to pursue the memorization, the recitation, the comprehension and the interpretation of the Qur’an to a loftily appreciable level.
To Muslims who understand the teachings of Islam through the Qur’an, all the genuine Messengers including Prophets Ibrahim (Abraham), Prophet Musa (Moses) and Prophet Isa (Jesus) are from Allah and all the divinely revealed ‘BOOKS’ written in the languages of the Messengers that brought them are series of the same Allah’s ‘MESSAGE’ to mankind. Those Messages are like envoys of a nation to another nation. Changing those envoys from time to time does not change the constitution of the nation they represent or the foreign policy of that nation. This fact has been firmly established in the Qur’an itself thus:
“The Messenger of Allah (Muhammad (SAW) believes in what has been revealed to him from his Lord; and every true believer also believes in Allah, His Angels, His revealed Books and His Messengers. We do not discriminate against anyone of them (those Messengers) as they say we hear and obey (the contents of the revelation). Oh God! We seek your forgiveness. To You is our return” Q. 3:285-286
It is evident that true Muslims are not known for maligning any Prophet or genuinely revealed ‘BOOKS’ that are devoid of traces of human tampering. Right from its very first day of revelation, the Qur’an has come with undeniable proof. But it takes only a divinely cleansed heart to comprehend such proof and acknowledge its authenticity. If anything, it is the Qur’an itself that should be called the master proof of all other celestial messages that preceded it. The Qur’an is the final divine revelation which has no human interference or tampering in any form. And that is why this sacred Book (Qur’an) does not harbour any contradiction like most other books.
Neither Prophet Muhammad (SAW), who brought this Sacred Book to mankind, nor any of his companions (or disciples), had a say in its contents. The Book contains no chapters or verses according to anybody. And unlike some other books, no one speaks in the Qur’an on behalf of Allah in the name of revelation. Even the personal expressions of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), which are meant to explain the contents of the Qur’an and called Hadith, cannot to be mingled with the verses of the Qur’an despite his endowed divine inspirations. And where such expressions seem to clash any part of the Qur’an they automatically become superseded by the contents of the Qur’an.
The Mirror of Life
Qur’an is the extraordinary compendium in which the activities of man from the very beginning of human existence to the end of human life are chronicled. It is the eternally concrete ‘MIRROR’ through which the descendants of Adam and Hawau can see life in its past, its present and its near and far future. This ‘MIRROR’ is the spectacle that heals the blind, the natural manure that fertilizes the human brain and the greatest treasure in the possession of mankind.
For the rightly guided mind, the Qur’an is the eye with which to see; the ear with which to hear and the sense with which to reason. It is the bridge across the dangerous valleys of life; the insurance against any satanic damnation; the passport with which to obtain permanent divine visa for salvation and the only reliable redeemer of mankind from the evil machinations of this ephemeral world.
For any divinely tamed mind therefore, life begins and ends with the Qur’an, Allah’s own tradition and the only authentic fountain from which man can draw and sip the living spring of wisdom. The sense that reasons with the Qur’an makes no mistake. Any mind that thinks with the Qur’an can never be- devilled. Any eye that sees with the Qur’an can never be blind. Any tongue that talks with the Qur’an can never stammer. Any power that genuinely rules with the Qur’an can never fall.
Meanwhile, the Almighty Allah warns in this glorious Book (the Qur’an) thus: “But whosoever deviates from My guidance, verily for him is life of subjugation and We shall raise him up a blind person on the Day of resurrection” (Q. 20: 124).
There is a raging controversy among Muslim scholars over the first and last revelations in the Qur’an. Much as this controversy is unwarranted, it may be necessary to clear the coast here (without claiming authority) if only for the purpose of authenticating history in its normal perspective.
It is an incontrovertible consensus that the first revealed chapter in the Qur’an is Suratul ‘Alaq (Chapter of the Clot). But the very first revelation reaching Prophet Muhammad (SAW) through Angel Jubril in 610 CE when he was 40 years old, was ‘BASMALAH’ (In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful) which prefixes every chapter in the Qur’an except one (Suratut-Tawbah). Basmalah is not just a whole verse in Suratul Fatihah, it is the very first verse in that chapter of the Qur’an that was revealed twice in the duration of the Qur’anic revelations. That chapter which is tagged ‘MOTHER of the BOOK’ was first revealed in Makkah and again in Madinah.
The Last Revelation
As for the last revelation in the Qur’an, majority of Nigerian Muslim scholars believe that it is chapter 5, verse 3 of the Qur’an which says: ”Today, I have perfected your religion for you and completed my favour on you. And, I am pleased with Islam for you as religion”.
That verse of the Qur’an that was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (SAW) at ‘Arafah while he was performing his farewell Hajj in 632 CE couldn’t have been the last revelation because it came about 81 days before the demise of the Prophet (SAW). Rather, authentic research confirms that another revelation came about nine days before the Prophet’s sickness and eventual demise. This can be found in Qur’an 2: 281 which says: “And fear the day when you shall all return to Allah; the day when every soul shall be requited according to its deserved portion and none shall be wronged”.
That is the Qur’an for you, the Diary of life
for those seeking divine guidance and the Mirror of life for those expecting Allah’s equanimity on earth as well as His eternal pleasure in the Hereafter. Whatever is in human possession beyond the Qur’an is mere ephemerality that will end up with its possessor in vanity.
With the closing session of the 34th edition of National Competition of Qur’an Recitation in Lagos today (Saturday, January 4, 2020), ‘The Message’ column hereby joins millions of Muslims around the world, who have been watching the glorious event, in congratulating the cerebral contestants, the dedicated organisers, the committed stake holders and the faithful guests who participated in making that historic occasion a success. We pray the Almighty Allah to further shower His interminable blessings upon you all with His eternal guidance and protection against diabolism of Satan and his evil archers among humans and Jinn. AMIN!
Femi Abbas is a veteran journalist