Amazing!!! by GARY MILLER
The Amazing Qur’an
by Gary Miller
Calling the Qur’an amazing is not something done only by Muslims, who have an appreciation for the book and who are pleased with it; it has been labeled amazing by non-Muslims as well. In fact, even people who hate Islam very much have still called it amazing.
One thing which surprises non-Muslims who are examining the book very closely is that the Qur’an does not appear to them to be what they expected. What they assume is that they have an old book which came fourteen centuries ago from the Arabian desert; and they expect that the book should look something like that – an old book from the desert. And then they find out that it does not resemble what they expected at all. Additionally, one of the first things that some people assume is that because it is an old book which comes from the desert, it should talk about the desert. Well the Qur’an does talk about the desert – some of its imagery describes the desert; but it also talks about the sea – what it’s like to be in a storm on the sea.
Some years ago, the story came to us in Toronto about a man who was in the merchant marine and made his living on the sea. A Muslim gave him a translation of the Qur’an to read. The merchant marine knew nothing about the history of Islam but was interested in reading the Qur’an. When he finished reading it, he brought it back to the Muslim and asked, “This Muhammed, was he a sailor?” He was impressed at how accurately the Qur’an describes a storm on a sea. When he was told, “No as a matter of fact, Muhammed lived in the desert,” that was enough for him. He embraced Islam on the spot. He was so impressed with the Qur’an’s description because he had been in a storm on the sea, and he knew that whoever had written that description had also been in a storm on the sea. The description of “a wave, over it a wave, over it clouds” was not what someone imagining a storm on a sea to be like would have written; rather, it was written by someone who knew what a storm on the sea was like. This is one example of how the Qur’an is not tied to a certain place and time. Certainly, the scientific ideas expressed in it also do not seem to originate from the desert fourteen centuries ago.
Many centuries before the onset of Muhammed’s Prophethood, there was a well-known theory of atomism advanced by the Greek philosopher, Democritus. He and the people who came after him assumed that matter consists of tiny, indestructible, indivisible particles called atoms. The Arabs too, used to deal in the same concept; in fact, the Arabic word dharrah commonly referred to the smallest particle known to man. Now, modern science has discovered that this smallest unit of matter (i.e., the atom, which has all of the same properties as its element) can be split into its component parts. This is a new idea, a development of the last century; yet, interestingly enough, this information had already been documented in the Qur’an which states:
” He [i.e., Allah] is aware of an atom’s weight in the heavens and on the earth and even anything smaller than that…”
Undoubtedly, fourteen centuries ago that statement would have looked unusual, even to an Arab. For him, the dharrah was the smallest thing there was. Indeed, this is proof, that the Qur’an is not outdated.
Another example of what one might expect to find in an”old book” that touches upon the subject of health or medicine is outdated remedies or cures. Various historical sources state that the Prophet gave some advice about health and hygiene, yet most of these pieces of advice are not contained in the Qur’an. At first glance, to the non-Muslims this appears to be a negligent omission. They cannot understand why Allah would not “include” such helpful information in the Qur’an. Some Muslims attempt to explain this absence with the following argument: “Although the Prophet’s advice was sound and applicable to the time in which he lived, Allah, in His infinite wisdom, knew that there would come later medical and scientific advances which would make the Prophet’s advice appear outdated. When later discoveries occurred, people might say that such information contradicted that which the Prophet had given. Thus, since Allah would never allow any opportunity for the non-Muslims to claim that the Qur’an contradicts itself or the teachings of the Prophet, He only included in the Qur’an information and examples which could stand the test of time.”
However, when one examines the true realities of the Qur’an in terms of its existence as a divine revelation, the entire matter is quickly brought into its proper perspective, and the error in such argumentation becomes clear and understandable. It must be understood that the Qur’an is a divine revelation, and as such, all information in it is of divine origin. Allah revealed the Qur’an from Himself. It is the words of Allah, which existed before creation, and thus nothing can be added, subtracted or altered. In essence, the Qur’an existed and was complete before the creation of Prophet Muhammed, so it could not possibly contain any of the Prophet’s own words or advice. An inclusion of such information would clearly contradict the purpose for which the Qur’an exists, compromise its authority and render it inauthentic as a divine revelation.
Consequently, there was no “home remedies” in the Qur’an which one could claim to be outdated; nor does it contain any man’s view about what is beneficial to health, what food is best to eat, or what will cure this or that disease. In fact, the Qur’an only mentions one item dealing with medical treatment, and it is not in dispute by anyone. It states that in honey there is healing. And certainly, I do not think that there is anyone who will argue with that!
If one assumes that the Qur’an is the product of a man’s mind, then one would expect it to reflect some of what was going on in the mind of the man who “composed” it. In fact, certain encyclopedias and various books clam that the Qur’an was the product of hallucinations that Muhammed underwent. If these claims are true – if it indeed originated from some psychological problems in Muhammed’s mind – then evidence of this would be apparent in the Qur’an. Is there such evidence? In order to determine whether or not there is, one must first identify what things would have been going on in his mind at that time and then search for these thoughts and reflections in the Qur’an.
It is common knowledge that Muhammad had a very difficult life. All of his daughters died before him except one, and he had a wife of several years who was dear and important to him, who not only proceeded him in death, but at a very critical period of his life. As a matter of fact, she must have been quite a woman because when the first revelation came to him, he ran home to her afraid. Certainly, even today one would have a hard time trying to find an Arab who would tell you, “I was so afraid that I ran home to my wife.” They just aren’t that way. Yet Muhammed felt comfortable enough with his wife to be able to do that. That’s how influential and strong a woman she was. Although these examples are only a few of the subjects that would have been on Muhammed’s mind, they are sufficient in intensity to prove my point. The Qur’an does not mention any of these things – not the death of his children, not the death of his beloved companion and wife, not his fear of the initial revelations, which he so beautifully shared with his wife – nothing; yet, these topics must have hurt him, bothered him, and caused him pain and grief during periods of his psychological reflections, then these subjects, as well as others, would be prevalent or at least mentioned throughout.
A truly scientific approach to the Qur’an is possible because the Qur’an offers something that is not offered by other religious scriptures, in particular, and other religions, in general. It is what scientists demand. Today there are many people who have ideas and theories about how the universe works. These people are all over the place, but the scientific community does not even bother to listen to them. This is because within the last century the scientific community has demanded a test of falsification. They say, “If you have theory, do not bother us with it unless you bring with that theory a way for us to prove whether you are wrong or not.”
Such a test was exactly why the scientific community listened to Einstein towards the beginning of the century. He came with a new theory and said, “I believe the universe works like this; and here are three ways to prove whether I am wrong!”. So the scientific community subjected his theory to the tests, and within six years it passed all three. Of course, this does not prove that he was great, but it proves that he deserved to be listened to because he said, “This is my idea; and if you want to try to prove me wrong, do this or try that.” This is exactly what the Qur’an has – falsification tests. Some are old (in that they have already been proven true), and some still exist today. Basically it states, “If this book is not what it claims to be, then all you have to do is this or this or this to prove that it is false.” Of course, in 1400 years no one has been able to do “This or this or this,” and thus it is still considered true and authentic. I suggest to you that the next time you get into dispute with someone about Islam and he claims that he has the truth and that you are in darkness, you leave all other arguments at first and make this suggestion. Ask him, “Is there any falsification test in your religion? Is there anything in your religion that would prove you are wrong if I could prove to you that it exists – anything?” Well, I can promise right now that people will not have anything – no test, no proof, nothing! This is because they do not carry around the idea that they should not only present what they believe but should also offer others a chance to prove they’re wrong. However, Islam does that. A perfect example of how Islam provides man with a chance to verify it authenticity and “prove it wrong” occurs in the 4th chapter. And quiet honestly, I was surprised when I first discovered this challenge. It states:
“Do they not consider the Qur’an? Had it been from any other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much discrepancy.”
This is a clear challenge to the non-Muslim. Basically, it invites him to find a mistake. As a matter of fact, the seriousness and difficulty of the challenge aside, the actual presentation of such a challenge in the first place is not even in human nature and is inconsistent with man’s personality. One doesn’t take an exam in school and after finishing the exam, write a note to the instructor at the end saying, “This exam is perfect. There are no mistakes in it. Find one if you can!”. One just doesn’t do that. The teacher would not sleep until he found a mistake! And yet this is the way the Qur’an approaches people. Another interesting attitude that exists in the Qur’an repeatedly deals with its advice to the reader. The Qur’an informs that reader about different facts and then gives the advice: “If you want to know more about this or that, or if you doubt what is said, then you should ask those who have knowledge.” This too is a surprising attitude. It is not usual to have a book that comes from someone without training in geography, botany, biology, etc., who discusses these subjects and then advises the reader to ask men of knowledge if he doubts anything.
Yet in every age there have been Muslims who have followed the advice of the Qur’an and made surprising discoveries. If one looks to the works of Muslim scientists of many centuries ago, one will find them full of quotations from the Qur’an. These works state that they did research in such a place, looking for something. And they affirm that the reason they looked in such and such a place was that the Qur’an pointed them in that direction. For example, the Qur’an mentions man’s origin and then tells the reader, “Research it!” It gives the reader a hint where to look and then states that one should find out more about it. This is the kind of thing that Muslims today largely seem to overlook – but not always, as illustrated in the following example. A few years ago, a group of men in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia collected all if the verses in the Qur’an which discuss embryology – the growth of the human being in the womb. They said, “Here is what the Qur’an says. Is it the truth?” In essence, they took the advice of the Qur’an: “Ask the men who know.” They chose, as it happened, a non-Muslim who is a professor of embryology at the University of Toronto. His name is Keith Moore, and he is the author of textbooks on embryology – a world expert on the subject. They invited him to Riyadh and said, “This is what the Qur’an says about your subject. Is it true? What can you tell us?” While he was in Riyadh, they gave him all of the help that he needed in translation and all of the cooperation for which he asked. And he was so surprised at what he found that he changed his textbooks. In fact, in the second edition of one of his books, called Before We Are Born…. in the second edition about the history of embryology, he included some material that was not in the first edition because of what he found in the Qur’an. Truly this illustrates that the Qur’an was ahead of its time and that those who believe in the Qur’an know what other people do not know.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Keith Moore for a television presentation, and we talked a great deal about this – it was illustrated by slides and so on. He mentioned that some of the things that the Qur’an states about the growth of the human being were not known until thirty years ago. In fact, he said that one item in particular – the Qur’an’s description of the human being as a “leech-like clot” (‘alaqah) at one stage – was new to him; but when he checked on it, he found that it was true, and so he added it to his book. He said, “I never thought of that before,” and he went to the zoology department and asked for a picture of a leech. When he found that it looked just like the human embryo, he decided to include both pictures in one of his textbooks. Dr. Moore also wrote a book on clinical embryology, and when he presented this information in Toronto, it caused quite a stir throughout Canada. It was on the front pages of some of the newspapers across Canada, and some of the headlines were quite funny. For instance, one headline read: “SURPRISING THING FOUND IN ANCIENT BOOK!”! It seems obvious from this example that people do not clearly understand what it is all about. As a matter of fact, one newspaper reporter asked Professor Moore, “Don’t you think That maybe the Arabs might have known about these things – the description of the embryo, its appearance and how it changes and grows? Maybe there were not scientists, but maybe they did something crude dissections on their own – carved up people and examined these things.”
The professor immediately pointed out to him that he [i.e., the reporter] had missed a very important point – all of the slides of the embryo that had been shown and had been projected in the film had come from pictures taken through a microscope. He said, “It does not matter if someone had tried to discover embryology fourteen centuries ago, they could not have seen it!”. All of the descriptions in the Qur’an of the appearance of the embryo are of the item when it is still too small to see with the eye; therefore, one needs a microscope to see it. Since such a device had only been around for little more than two hundred years, Dr. Moore taunted, “Maybe fourteen centuries ago someone secretly had a microscope and did this research, making no mistakes anywhere. Then he somehow taught Muhammad and convinced him to put this information in his book. Then he destroyed his equipment and kept it a secret forever. Do you believe that? You really should not unless you bring some proof because it is such a ridiculous theory.” In fact, when he was asked “How do you explain this information in the Qur’an?” Dr. Moore’s reply was, “It could only have been divinely revealed.”!
Although the aforementioned example of man researching information contained in the Qur’an deals with a non-Muslim, it is still valid because he is one of those who is knowledgeable in the subject being researched. Had some layman claimed that what the Qur’an says about embryology is true, then one would not necessarily have to accept his word. However, because of the high position, respect, and esteem man gives scholars, one naturally assumes that if they research a subject and arrive at a conclusion based on that research, then the conclusion is valid. One of Professor Moore’s colleagues, Marshall Johnson, deals extensively with geology at the University of Toronto.
He became very interested in the fact that the Qur’an’s statements about embryology are accurate, and so he asked Muslims to collect everything contained in the Qur’an which deals with his specialty. Again people were very surprised at the findings. Since there are a vast number subjects discussed in the Qur’an, it would certainly require a large amount of time to exhaust each subject. It suffices for the purpose of this discussion to state that the Qur’an makes very clear and concise statements about various subjects while simultaneously advising the reader to verify the authenticity of these statements with research by scholars in those subjects. And as illustrated by the Qur’an has clearly emerged authentic. Undoubtedly, there is an attitude in the Qur’an which is not found anywhere else. It is interesting how when the Qur’an provides information, it often tells the reader, “You did not know this before.” Indeed, there is no scripture that exists which makes that claim. All of the other ancient writings and scriptures that people have, do give a lot of information, but they always state where the information came from.
For example, when the Bible discusses ancient history, it states that this king lived here, this one fought in a certain battle, another one had so may sons, etc. Yet it always stipulates that if you want more information, then you should read the book of so and so because that is where the information came from. In contrast to this concept, the Qur’an provides the reader with information and states that this information is something new. Of course, there always exists the advice to research the information provided and verify its authenticity. It is interesting that such a concept was never challenged by non-Muslims fourteen centuries ago. Indeed, the Makkans who hated the Muslims, and time and time again they heard such revelations claiming to bring new information; yet, they never spoke up and said, “This is not new. We know where Muhammad got this information. We learned this at school.”
They could never challenge its authenticity because it really was new! In concurrence with the advice given in the Qur’an to research information (even if it is new), when ‘Umar was caliph, he chose a group of men and sent them to find the wall of Dhul-Qarnayn. Before the Qur’anic revelation, the Arabs had never heard of such a wall, but because the Qur’an described it, they were able to discover it. As a matter of fact, it is now located in what is called Durbend in the Soviet Union. It must be stressed here that the Qur’an is accurate about many, many things, but accuracy does not necessarily mean that a book is a divine revelation. In fact, accuracy is only one of the criteria for divine revelations.
For instance, the telephone book is accurate, but that does not mean that it is divinely revealed. The real problem lies in that one must establish some proof of the source the Qur’an’s information. The emphasis is on the reader. One cannot simply deny the Qur’an’s authenticity without sufficient proof. If, indeed, one finds a mistake, then he has the right to disqualify it. This is exactly what the Qur’an encourages. Once a man came up to me after a lecture I delivered in South Africa. He was very angry about what I had said, and so he claimed, “I am going to go home tonight and find a mistake in the Qur’an.” Of course, I said, “Congratulations. That is the most intelligent thing that you have said.” Certainly, this is the approach Muslims need to take with those who doubt the Qur’an’s authenticity, because the Qur’an itself offers the same challenge. And inevitably, after accepting it’s challenge and discovering that it is true, these people will come to believe it because they could not disqualify it. In essence, the Qur’an earns their respect because they themselves have had to verify its authenticity. An essential fact that cannot be reiterated enough concerning the authenticity of the Qur’an is that one’s inability to explain a phenomenon himself does not require his acceptance of the phenomenon’s existence or another person’s explanation of it.
Specifically, just because one cannot explain something does not mean that one has to accept someone else’s explanation. However, the person’s refusal of other explanations reverts the burden of proof back on himself to find a feasible answer. This general theory applies to numerous concepts in life, but fits most wonderfully with the Qur’anic challenge, for it creates a difficulty for one who says, “I do not believe it.” At the onset of refusal one immediately has an obligation to find an explanation himself if he feels others’ answers are inadequate. In fact, in one particular Qur’anic verse which I have always seen mistranslated into English, Allah mentions a man who heard the truth explained to him. It states that he was derelict in his duty because after he heard the information, he left without checking the verity of what he had heard. In other words, one is guilty if he hears something and does not research it and check to see whether it is true. One is supposed to process all information and decide what is garbage to be thrown out and what is worthwhile information to be kept and benefited from at a later date. One cannot just let it rattle around in his head. It must be put in the proper categories and approached from that point of view. For example, if the information is still speculatory, then one must discern whether it’s closer to being true or false. But if all of the facts have been presented, then one must decide absolutely between these two options. And even if one is not positive about the authenticity of the information, he is still required to process all of the information and make the admission that he just does not know for sure. Although this last point appears to be futile, in actuality, it is beneficial to the arrival at a positive conclusion at a later time in that it forces the person to at least recognize, research and review the facts. This familiarity with the information will give the person “the edge” when future discoveries are made and additional information is presented. The important thing is that one deals with the facts and does not simply discard them out of empathy and disinterest.
The real certainty about the truthfulness of the Qur’an is evident in the confidence which is prevalent throughout it; and this confidence comes from a different approach – “Exhausting the Alternatives.” In essence, the Qur’an states, “This book is a divine revelation; if you do not believe that, then what is it?” In other words, the reader is challenged to come up with some other explanation. Here is a book made of paper and ink. Where did it come from? It says it is a divine revelation; if it is not, then what is its source? The interesting fact is that no one has with an explanation that works. In fact, all alternatives have bee exhausted. As has been well established by non-Muslims, these alternatives basically are reduced to two mutually exclusive schools of thought, insisting on one or the other. On one hand, there exists a large group of people who have researched the Qur’an for hundreds of years and who claim, “One thing we know for sure – that man, Muhammad, thought he was a prophet. He was crazy!” They are convinced that Muhammad (SAW) was fooled somehow. Then on the other hand, there is another group which alleges, “Because of this evidence, one thing we know for sure is that that man, Muhammad, was a liar!” Ironically, these two groups never seem to get together without contradicting. In fact, many references on Islam usually claim both theories. They start out by saying that Muhammad (SAW) was crazy and then end by saying that he was a liar. They never seem to realize that he could not have been both!
For example, if one is deluded and really thinks that he is a prophet, then he does not sit up late at night planning, “How will I fool the people tomorrow so that they think I am a prophet?” He truly believes that he is a prophet, and he trusts that the answer will be given to him by revelation. As a matter of fact, a great deal of the Qur’an came in answer to questions. Someone would ask Muhammad (SAW) a question, and the revelation would come with the answer to it. Certainly, if one is crazy and believes that an angel put words in his ear, then when someone asks him a question, he thinks that the angel will give him the answer. Because he is crazy, he really thinks that. He does not tell someone to wait a short while and then run to his friends and ask them, “Does anyone know the answer?” This type of behavior is characteristic of one who does not believe that he is a prophet. What the non-Muslims refuse to accept is that you cannot have it both ways. One can be deluded, or he can be a liar. He can be either one or neither, but he certainly cannot be both! The emphasis is on the fact that they are unquestionably mutually exclusive personal traits.
The following scenario is a good example of the kind of circle that non-Muslims go around in constantly. If you ask one of them, “What is the origin of the Qur’an?” He tells you that it originated from the mind of a man who was crazy. Then you ask him, “If it came from his head, then where did he get the information contained in it? Certainly the Qur’an mentions many things with which the Arabs were not familiar.” So in order to explain the fact which you bring him, he changes his position and says, “Well, maybe he was not crazy. Maybe some foreigner brought him the information. So he lied and told people that he was a prophet.” At this point then you have to ask him, “If Muhammad was a liar, then where did he get his confidence? Why did he behave as though he really thought he was a prophet?” Finally backed into a corner, like a cat he quickly lashes out with the first response that comes to his mind. Forgetting that he has already exhausted that possibility, he claims, “Well, maybe he wasn’t a liar. He was probably crazy and really thought that he was a prophet.” And thus he begins the futile circle again.
As has already been mentioned, there is much information contained in the Qur’an whose source cannot be attributed to anyone other than Allah. For example, who told Muhammad about the wall of Dhul-Qarnayn – a place hundreds of miles to the north? Who told him about embryology? When people assemble facts such as these, if they are not willing to attribute their existence to a divine source, they automatically resort to the assumption someone brought Muhammad the information and that he used it to fool the people. However, this theory can easily be disproved with one simple question: “If Muhammad was a liar, where did he get his confidence? Why did he tell some people out right to their face what others could never say?” Such confidence depends completely upon being convinced that one has a true divine revelation. For example, the Prophet (SAW) had an uncle by the name of Abu Lahab. This man hated Islam to such an extent that he used to follow the Prophet around in order to discredit him. If Abu Lahab saw the Prophet (SAW) speaking to a stranger, he would wait until they parted and then would go to the stranger and ask him, “What did he tell you? Did he say, ‘Black.’? Well, it’s white. Did he say, ‘Morning.’? Well, it’s night.” He faithfully said the exact opposite of whatever he heard Muhammad (SAW) and the Muslims say. However, about ten years before Abu Lahab died, a little chapter in the Qur’an was revealed to him. It distinctly stated that he would go to the Fire (i.e., Hell). In other words, it affirmed that he would never become a Muslim and would therefore be condemned forever. For ten years all Abu Lahab had to do was say, “I heard that it has been revealed to Muhammad that I will never change – that I will never become a Muslim and will enter the Hellfire. Well I want to become a Muslim now. How do you like that? What do you think of your divine revelation now?” But he never did that. And yet, that is exactly the kind of behavior one would have expected from him since he always sought to contradict Islam. In essence, Muhammad (SAW) said, “You hate me and you want to finish me? Here, say these words, and I am finished. Come on, say them!” But Abu Lahab never said them. Ten years! And in all that time he never accepted Islam or even became sympathetic to the Islamic cause. How could Muhammad possibly have known for sure that Abu Lahab would fulfill the Qur’anic revelation if he (i.e., Muhammad) was not truly the messenger of Allah? How could he possibly have been so confident as to give someone 10 years to discredit his claim of Prophethood? The only answer is that he was Allah’s messenger; for in order to put forth suck a risky challenge, one has to be entirely convinced that he has a divine revelation.
Another example of the confidence which Muhammad (SAW) had in his own Prophethood and consequently in the divine protection of himself and his message is when he left Makkah and hid in a cave with Abu Bakr during their emigration to Madeenah. The two clearly saw people coming to kill them, and Abu Bakr was afraid. Certainly, if Muhammad (SAW) was a liar, a forger and one who was trying to fool the people into believing that he was a prophet, one would have expected him to say in such a circumstance to his friend, “Hey, Abu Bakr, see if you can find a back way out of this cave.” Or “Squat down in that corner over there and keep quiet.” Yet, in fact, what he said to Abu Bakr clearly illustrated his confidence. He told him, “Relax! Allah is with us, and Allah will save us!”
Now, if one knows that he is fooling the people, where does one get this kind of attitude? In fact, such a frame of mind is not characteristic of a liar or a forger at all. So, as has been previously mentioned, the non-Muslims go around and around in a circle, searching for a way out – some way to explain the findings in the Qur’an without attributing them to their proper source. On one hand, they tell you on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, “The man was a liar,” and on the other hand, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday they tell you, “He was crazy.” What they refuse to accept is that one cannot have it both ways; yet they need both excuses to explain the information in the Qur’an.
About seven years ago, I had a minister over to my home. In the particular room which we were sitting there was a Qur’an on the table, face down, and so the minister was not aware of which book it was. In the midst of a discussion, I pointed to the Qur’an and said, “I have confidence in that book.” Looking at the Qur’an but not knowing which book it was , he replied, “Well, I tell you, if that book is not the Bible, it was written by a man!” In response to his statement, I said, “Let me tell you something about what is in that book.” And in just three to four minutes I related to him a few things contained in the Qur’an. After just those three or four minutes, he completely changed his position and declared, “You are right. A man did not write that book. The Devil wrote it!” Indeed, possessing such an attitude is very unfortunate – for many reasons. For one thing, it is a very quick and cheap excuse. It is an instant exit out of an uncomfortable situation. As a matter of fact, there is a famous story in the Bible that mentions how one day some of the Jews were witnesses when Jesus raised a man from the dead. The man had been dead for four days, and when Jesus arrived, he simply said, “Get up!” and the man arose and walked away. At such a sight, some of the Jews who were watching said disbelievingly, “This is the Devil. The Devil helped him!” Now this story is rehearsed often in churches all over the world, and people cry big tears over it, saying, “Oh, if I had been there, I would not have been as stupid as the Jews!” Yet ironically, these people do exactly what the Jews did when in just three minutes you show them only a small part of the Qur’an and all they can say is, “Oh, the Devil did it. The devil wrote that book!”. Because they are truly backed into a corner and have no other viable answer, they resort to the quickest and cheapest excuse available. Another Example of people’s use of this weak stance can be found in the Makkans’ explanation of the source of Muhammed’s message. They used to say, “The devils bring Muhammad that Qur’an!” But just as with every other suggestion made, the Qur’an gives the answer. One verse in particular states:
“And they say, ‘Surely he is possessed [by jinn], ‘but it [i.e., the Qur’an] is not except a reminder to the worlds.”
Thus it gives an argument in reply to such a theory. In fact, there are many arguments in the Qur’an in reply to the suggestion that devils brought Muhammad (SAW) his message. For example, in the 26th chapter Allah clearly affirms:
“No evil ones have brought it [i.e., this revelation] down. It would neither be fitting for them, nor would they be able. Indeed they have been removed far from hearing.”
And in another place in the Qur’an, Allah instructs us:
“So when you recite the Qur’an seek refuge in Allah from Shaytaan, the rejected.”
Now is this how Satan writes a book? He tells one, “Before you read my book, ask God to save you from me.”? This is very, very tricky. Indeed, a man could write something like this, but would Satan do this? Many people clearly illustrate that they cannot come to one conclusion on this subject. On one hand, they claim that Satan would not do such a thing and that even if he could, God would not allow him to; yet, on the other hand, they also believe that Satan is only that much less than God. In essence they allege that the Devil can probably do whatever God can do. And as a result, when they look at the Qur’an, even as surprised as they are as to how amazing it is, they still insist, “The Devil did this!” Thanks be to Allah, Muslims do not have that attitude. Although Satan may have some abilities, they are a long way separated from the abilities of Allah. And no Muslim is a Muslim unless he believes that. It is common knowledge even among non-Muslims that the Devil can easily make mistakes, and it would be expected that he would contradict himself if and when he wrote a book. For indeed, the Qur’an states:
“Do they not consider the Qur’an? Had it been from any other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much discrepancy.”
In conjunction with the excuses that non-Muslims advance in futile attempts to justify unexplainable verses in the Qur’an, there is another attack often rendered which seems to be a combination of the theories that Muhammad (SAW) was crazy and a liar. Basically, these people propose that Muhammad was insane, and as a result of his delusion, he lied to and misled people. There is a name for this in psychology. It is referred to as mythomania. It means simply that one tells lies and then believes them. This is what the non-Muslims say Muhammad (SAW) suffered from. But the only problem with this proposal is that one suffering from mythomania absolutely cannot deal with facts, and yet the whole Qur’an is based entirely upon facts. Everything contained in it can be researched and established as true. Since facts are such a problem for a mythomaniac, when a psychologist tries to treat one suffering from that condition, he continually confronts him with facts. For example, if one is mentally ill and claims, “I am the king of England,” a psychologist does not say to him “No you aren’t. You are crazy!” He just does not do that. Rather, he confronts him with facts and says, “O.K., you say you are the king of England. So tell me where the queen is today. And where is your prime minister? And where are your guards?” Now, when the man has trouble trying to deal with these questions, he tries to make excuses, saying Uh… the queen… she has gone to her mother’s. Uh… the prime minister… well he died.” And eventually he is cured because he cannot deal with the facts. If the psychologist continues confronting him with enough facts, finally he faces the reality and says, “I guess I am not the king of England.” The Qur’an approaches everyone who reads it in very much the same way a psychologist treats his mythomania patient. There is a verse in the Qur’an which states:
“Oh mankind, there has come to you an admonition [i.e., the Qur’an] from your Lord and a healing for what is in the hearts – and guidance and mercy for the believers.”
At first glance, this statement appears vague, but the meaning of this verse is clear when one views it in light of the aforementioned example. Basically, one is healed of his delusions by reading the Qur’an. In essence, it is therapy. It literally cures deluded people by confronting them with facts. A prevalent attitude throughout the Qur’an is one which says, “Oh mankind, you say such and such about this; but what about such and such? How can you say this when you know that?” And so forth. It forces one to consider what is relevant and what matters while simultaneously healing one of the delusions that the facts presented to mankind by Allah can easily be explained away with flimsy theories and excuses. It is this very sort of thing – confronting people with facts – that had captured the attention of many non-Muslims. In fact, there exists a very interesting reference concerning this subject in the New Catholic Encyclopedia.
In an article under the subject of the Qur’an, the Catholic Church states, “Over the centuries, many theories have been offered as to the origin of the Qur’an… Today no sensible man accepts any of these theories.”!! Now here is the age-old Catholic Church, which has been around for so many centuries, denying these futile attempts to explain away the Qur’an. Indeed, the Qur’an is a problem for the Catholic Church. It states that it is revelation, so they study it. Certainly, they would love to find proof that it is not, but they cannot. They cannot find a viable explanation. But at least they are honest in their research and do not accept the first unsubstantiated interpretation which comes along. The Church states that in fourteen centuries it has not yet been presented a sensible explanation. At least it admits that the Qur’an is not an easy subject to dismiss. Certainly, other people are much less honest. They quickly say, “Oh, the Qur’an came from here. The Qur’an came from there.” And they do not even examine the credibility of what they are stating most of the time. Of course, such a statement by the Catholic Church leaves the everyday Christian in some difficulty. It just may be that he has his own ideas as to the origin of the Qur’an, but as a single member of the Church, he cannot really act upon his own theory. Such an action would be contrary to the obedience, allegiance and loyalty which the Church demands. By virtue of his membership, he must accept what the Catholic Church declares without question and establish its teachings as part of his everyday routine. So, in essence, if the Catholic Church as a whole is saying, “Do not listen to these unconfirmed reports about the Qur’an,” then what can be said about the Islamic point of view? Even non-Muslims are admitting that there is something to the Qur’an – something that has to be acknowledged – then why are people so stubborn and defensive and hostile when Muslims advance the very same theory? This is certainly something for those with a mind to contemplate – something to ponder for those of understanding!
Recently, the leading intellectual in the Catholic Church – a man by the name of Hans – studied the Qur’an and gave his opinion of what he had read. This man has been around for some time, and he is highly respected in the Catholic Church, and after careful scrutiny, he reported his findings, concluding, “God has spoken to man through the man, Muhammad.” Again this is a conclusion arrived at by a non-Muslim source – the very leading intellectual of the Catholic Church himself! I do not think that the Pope agrees with him, but nonetheless, the opinion of such a noted, repute public figure must carry some weight in defense of the Muslim position. He must be applauded for facing the reality that the Qur’an is not something which can be easily pushed aside and that, in fact God is the source of these words. As is evident from the aforementioned information, all of the possibilities have been exhausted, so the chance of finding another possibility of dismissing the Qur’an is nonexistent. For if the book is not a revelation, then it is a deception; and if it is a deception, one must ask, “What is its origin” And where does it deceive us?” Indeed, the true answers to these questions shed light on the Qur’an’s authenticity and silence the bitter unsubstantiated claims of the unbelievers. Certainly, if people are going to insist that the Qur’an is a deception, then they must bring forth evidence to support such a claim. The burden of proof is on them, not us! One is never supposed to advance a theory without sufficient corroborating facts; so I say to them, “Show me one deception! Show me where the Qur’an deceives me! Show me, otherwise, don’t say that it is a deception!” An interesting characteristic of the Qur’an is how it deals with surprising phenomena which relate not only to the past but to modern times as well. In essence, the Qur’an is not and old problem. It is still a problem even today – a problem to the non-Muslims that is. For everyday, every week, every year brings more and more evidence that the Qur’an is a force to be contended with – that its authenticity is no longer to be challenged! For example, one verse in the Qur’an reads:
“Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together, then We clove them asunder, and made from water every living thing? Will they not then believe?”
Ironically, this very information is exactly what they awarded the 1973 Noble Prize for – to a couple of unbelievers. The Qur’an reveals the origin of the universe – how it began from one piece – and mankind continues to verify this revelation, even up to now. Additionally, the fact that all life originated from water would not have been an easy thing to convince people of fourteen centuries ago. Indeed, if 1400 years ago you had stood in the desert and told someone, “All of this, you see (pointing to yourself), is made up of mostly water,” no one would have believed you. Proof of that was not available until the invention of the microscope. They had to wait to find out that cytoplasm, the basic substance of the cell, is made-up of 80% water. Nonetheless, the evidence did come, and once again the Qur’an stood the test of time. In reference to the falsification tests mentioned earlier, it is interesting to note that they, too, relate to both the past and the present. Some of them were used as illustrations of Allah’s omnipotence and knowledge, while others continue to stand as challenges to the present day. An example of the former is the statement made in the Qur’an about Abu Lahab. It clearly illustrates that Allah, the Knower of the Unseen, knew that Abu Lahab would never change his ways and accept Islam. Thus Allah dictated that he would be condemned to the Hellfire forever. Such a chapter was both an illustration of Allah’s divine wisdom and a warning to those who were like Abu Lahab.
An interesting example of the latter type of falsification tests contained in the Qur’an is the verse which mentions the relationship between the Muslims and the Jews. The verse is careful not to narrow its scope to the relationship between individual members of each religion, but rather, it summarizes the relationship between the two groups of people as a whole. In essence, the Qur’an states that the Christians will always treat the Muslims better than the Jews will treat the Muslims. Indeed, the full impact of such a statement can only be felt after careful consideration of the real meaning of such a verse. It is true that many Christians and many Jews have become Muslims, but as a whole, the Jewish community is to be viewed as an avid enemy of Islam. Additionally, very few people realize what such an open declaration in the Qur’an invites. In essence, it is an easy chance for the Jews to prove that the Qur’an is false – that it is not a divine revelation. All they have to do is organize themselves, treat the Muslims nicely for a few years and then say, “Now what does your holy book say about who are your best friends in the world – the Jews or the Christians? Look what we Jews have done for you!” That is all they have to do to disprove the Qur’an’s authenticity, yet they have not done it in 1400 years. But, as always, the offer still stands open!
All of the examples so far given concerning the various angles from which one can approach the Qur’an have undoubtedly been subjective in nature; however there does exist another angle, among others, which is objective and whose basis is mathematical. It is surprising how authentic the Qur’an becomes when one assembles what might be referred to as a list of good guesses. Mathematically, it can be explained using guessing and prediction examples. For instance, if a person has two choices (i.e., one is right, and one is wrong), and he closes his eyes and makes a choice, then half of the time (i.e., one time out of two) he will be right. Basically, he has a one in two chance, for he could pick the wrong choice, or he could pick the right choice. Now if the same person has two situations like that (i.e., he could be right or wrong about situation number one, and he could be right or wrong about situation number two), and he closes his eyes and guesses, then he will only be right one fourth of the time (i.e., one time out of four). He now has a one in four chance because now there are three ways for him to be wrong and only one way for him to be right. In simple terms, he could make the wrong choice in situation number one and then make the wrong choice in situation number two; OR he could make the wrong choice in situation number one and then make the right choice in situation number two; OR he could make the right choice in situation number one and then make the wrong choice in situation number two; OR he could make the right choice in situation number one and then make the right choice in situation number two. Of course, the only instance in which he could be totally right is the last scenario where he could guess correctly in both situations. The odds of his guessing completely correctly have become greater because the number of situations for him to guess in have increased; and the mathematical equation representing such a scenario is 1/2 x 1/2 (i.e., one time out of two for the first situation multiplied by one time out of two for the second situation).
Continuing on with the example, if the same person now has three situations in which to make blind guesses, then he will only be right one eighth of the time (i.e., one time out of eight or 1/2 X 1/2 X 1/2). Again, the odds of choosing the correct choice in all three situations have decreased his chances of being completely correct to only one time in eight. It must be understood that as the number of situations increase, the chances of being right decrease, for the two phenomena are inversely proportional.
Now applying this example to the situations in the Qur’an, if one draws up a list of all of the subjects about which the Qur’an has made correct statements, it becomes very clear that it is highly unlikely that they were all just correct blind guesses. Indeed, the subjects discussed in the Qur’an are numerous, and thus the odds of someone just making lucky guesses about all of them become practically nil. If there are a million ways for the Qur’an to be wrong, yet each time it is right, then it is unlikely that someone was guessing. The following three examples of subjects about which the Qur’an has made correct statements collectively illustrate how the Qur’an continues to beat the odds.
In the 16th chapter the Qur’an mentions that the female bee leaves its home to gather food.Now, a person might guess on that, saying, “The bee that you see flying around – it could be male, or it could be female. I think I will guess female.” Certainly, he has a one in two chance of being right. So it happens that the Qur’an is right. But it also happens that that was not what most people believed at the time when the Qur’an was revealed. Can you tell the difference between a male and a female bee? Well, it takes a specialist to do that, but it has been discovered that the male bee never leaves his home to gather food. However, in Shakespeare’s play, Henry the Fourth, some of the characters discuss bees and mention that the bees are soldiers and have a king. That is what people thought in Shakespeare’s time – that the bees that one sees flying around are male bees and that they go home and answer to a king. However, that is not true at all. The fact is that they are females, and they answer to a queen. Yet it took modern scientific investigations in the last 300 years to discover that this is the case.
So, back to the list of good guesses, concerning the topic of bees, the Qur’an had a 50/50 chance of being right, and the odds were one in two.
In addition to the subject of bees, the Qur’an also discusses the sun and the manner in which it travels through space. Again, a person can guess on that subject. When the sun moves through space, there are two options: it can travel just as a stone would travel if one threw it, or it can move of its own accord. The Qur’an states the latter – that it moves as a result of its own motion. To do such, the Qur’an uses a form of the word sabaha to describe the sun’s movement through space. In order to properly provide the reader with a comprehensive understanding of the implications of this Arabic verb, the following example is given. If a man is in water and the verb sabaha is applied in reference to his movement, it can be understood that he is swimming, moving of his own accord and not as a result of a direct force applied to him. Thus when this verb is used in reference to the sun’s movement through space, it in no way implies that the sun is flying uncontrollably through space as a result of being hurled or the like. It simply means that the sun is turning and rotating as it travels. Now, this is what the Qur’an affirms, but was it an easy thing to discover? Can any common man tell that the sun is turning? Only in modern times was the equipment made available to project the image of the sun onto a tabletop so that one could look at it without being blinded. And through this process it was discovered that not only are there three spots on the sun but that these spots move once every 25 days. This movement is referred to as the rotation of the sun around its axis and conclusively proves that, as the Qur’an stated 1400 years ago, the sun does, indeed turn as it travels through space.
And returning once again to the subject of good guess, the odds of guessing correctly about both subjects – the sex of bees and the movement of the sun – are one in four!
Seeing as back fourteen centuries ago people probably did not understand much about time zones, the Quran’s statements about this subject are considerably surprising. The concept that one family is having breakfast as the sun comes up while another family is enjoying the brisk night air is truly something to be marveled at, even in modern time. Indeed, fourteen centuries ago, a man could not travel more than thirty miles in one day, and thus it took him literally months to travel from India to Morocco, for example. And probably, when he was having supper in Morocco, he thought to himself, “Back home in India they are having supper right now.” This is because he did not realize that, in the process of traveling, he moved across a time zone. Yet, because it is the words of Allah, the All-Knowing, the Qur’an recognizes and acknowledges such a phenomenon. In an interesting verse it states that when history comes to an end and the Day of Judgment arrives, it will all occur in an instant; and this very instant will catch some people in the daytime and some people at night. This clearly illustrates Allah’s divine wisdom and His previous knowledge of the existence of time zones, even though such a discovery was non-existent back fourteen centuries ago. Certainly, this phenomenon is not something which is obvious to one’s eyes or a result of one’s experience, and this fact, in itself, suffices as proof of the Qur’ans authenticity.
Returning one final time to the subject of good guesses for the purpose of the present example, the odds that someone guessed correctly about all three of the aforementioned subjects – the sex of bees, the movement of the sun and the existence of time zones – are one in eight!
Certainly, one could continue on and on with this example, drawing up longer and longer list of good guesses; and of course, the odds would become higher and higher with each increase of subjects about which one could guess. But what no one can deny is the following; the odds that Mohammed, an illiterate, guessed correctly about thousands and thousands of subjects, never once making a mistake, are so high that any theory of his authorship of the Qur’an must be completely dismissed – even by the most hostile enemies of Islam!
Indeed, the Qur’an expects this kind of challenge. Undoubtedly, if one said to someone upon entering a foreign land, “I know your father. I have met him,” probably the man from that land would doubt the newcomer’s word, saying, “You have just come here. How could you know my father?” As a result, he would question him, “Tell me, is my father tall, short, dark, fair? What is he like?” Of course, if the visitor continued answering all of the questions correctly, the skeptic would have no choice but to say, “I guess you do know my father. I don’t know how you know him, but I guess you do!” The situation is the same with the Qur’an. It states that it originates from the One who created everything. So everyone has the right to say, “Convince me! If the author of this book really originated life and everything in the heavens and on the earth, then He should know about this, about that, and so on.” And inevitably, after researching the Qur’an, everyone will discover the same truths. Additionally, we all know something for sure: we do not all have to be experts to verify what the Qur’an affirms. One’s iman (faith) grows as one continues to check and confirm the truths contained in the Qur’an. And one is supposed to do so all of his life.
May God (Allah) guide everyone close to the truth.
An engineer at the University of Toronto who was interested in psychology and who had read something on it, conducted, researched, and wrote a thesis on Efficiency of Group Discussions. The purpose of his research was to find out how much people accomplish when they get together to talk in groups of two, three, ten, etc. The graph of his findings: people accomplish most when they talk in groups of two. Of course, this discovery was entirely beyond his expectations, but it is very old advice given in the Qur’an:
“Say, ‘I exhort you to one thing – that you stand for Allah, [assessing the truth] by twos and singly, and then reflect…..’
In conclusion I ask you to consider with care the following:
Additionally, the 89th chapter of the Qur’an mentions a certain city by the name of ‘Iram (a city of pillars), which was not known in ancient history and which was non-existent as far as historians were concerned. However, the December 1978 edition of National Geographic introduced interesting information which mentioned that in 1973, the city of Elba was excavated in Syria. The city was discovered to be 43 centuries old, but that is not the most amazing part. Researchers found in the library of Elba a record of all of the cities with which Elba had done business. Believe or not, there on the list was the name of the city of ‘Iram. The people of Elba had done business with the people of ‘Iram!
“And they say, ‘Why are not signs sent down to him from his Lord?’ Say, ‘Indeed, the signs are with Allah, and I am but a clear warner.’ But is sufficient for them that We have sent down to you the Book [i.e. Qur’an] which is rehearsed to them? Verily, in that is mercy and a reminder to people who believe.”
by Sabeel Ahmed
While writing this article, the author is at the final stage of his medical programme in Ross University, New York. He is the Co-chairman of the Da’wa Committee and Board of Director at the Muslim Community Center Masjid (the largest mosque in the state of Illinois). He is also a member of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) where he is actively involved in the ‘toll free da’wa hotline’ 1-800-662-islam, having first-hand experience in handling calls by non-Muslims. He was a student of Shaykh Ahmed Deedat and his main field of interest is in comparative religion.
There are hundreds of religions flourishing around the world: Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Bahaism, Babism, Zoroastrianism, Mormonism, Jehovas Witnesses, Jainism, Confucianism etc. And each of these religions claim that their scripture is preserved from the day it was revealed (written) until our time. A religious belief is as authentic as the authenticity of the scripture it follows. And for any scripture to be labeled as authentically preserved it should follow some concrete and rational criteria.
Imagine this scenario:
A professor gives a three hour lecture to his students. Imagine still that none of the students memorized this speech of the professor or wrote it down. Now forty years after that speech, if these same students decided to replicate professor’s complete speech word for word, would they be able to do it? Obviously not. Because the only two modes of preservation historically is through writing and memory.
Therefore, for any claimants to proclaim that their scripture is preserved in purity, they have to provide concrete evidence that the Scripture was written in its entirety AND memorized in its entirety from the time it was revealed to our time, in a continuous and unbroken chain. If the memorization part doesn’t exist parallel to the written part to act as a check and balance for it, then there is a genuine possibility that the written scripture may loose its purity through unintentional and intentional interpolations due to scribal errors, corruption by the enemies, pages getting decomposed etc, and these errors would be concurrently incorporated into subsequent texts, ultimately loosing its purity through ages.
Now, of all the religions mentioned above, does any one of them possess their scriptures in its entirety BOTH in writing AND in memory from the day of its revelation until our time.
None of them fit this required criteria, except one: This unique scripture is the Qur’an – revelation bestowed to Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h) 1,418 years ago, as a guidance for all of humankind.
Lets analyze the claim of the preservation of the Quran…
‘In the ancient times, when writing was scarcely used, memory and oral transmission was exercised and strengthened to a degree now almost unknown’ relates Michael Zwettler.1
Prophet Muhammad (S): The First Memorizer
It was in this ‘oral’ society that Prophet Muhammad (S) was born in Mecca in the year 570 C.E. At the age of 40, he started receiving divine Revelations from the One God, Allah, through Archangel Gabriel. This process of divine revelations continued for about 22.5 years just before he passed away.
Prophet Muhammad (S) miraculously memorized each revelation and used to proclaim it to his Companions. Angel Gabriel used to refresh the Quranic memory of the Prophet each year.
‘The Prophet (S) was the most generous person, and he used to become more so (generous) particularly in the month of Ramadan because Gabriel used to meet him every night of the month of Ramadan till it elapsed. Allah’s Messenger (S) use to recite the Qur’an for him. When Gabriel met him, he use to become more generous than the fast wind in doing good’.2
‘Gabriel used to repeat the recitation of the Qur’an with the Prophet (S) once a year, but he repeated it twice with him in the year he (Prophet) died’.3
The Prophet himself use to stay up a greater part of the night in prayers and use to recite Quran from memory.
Prophet’s Companions: The First Generation Memorizers
Prophet Muhammad (S) encouraged his companions to learn and teach the Quran:
‘The most superior among you (Muslims) are those who learn the Qur’an and teach it’.4
‘Some of the companions who memorized the Quran were: ‘Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali, Ibn Masud, Abu Huraira, Abdullah bin Abbas, Abdullah bin Amr bin al-As, Aisha, Hafsa, and Umm Salama’.5
‘Abu Bakr, the first male Muslim to convert to Islam used to recite the Quran publicly in front of his house in Makka’.6
The Prophet also listened to the recitation of the Qur’an by the Companions: ‘Allah Apostle said to me (Abdullah bin Mas’ud): “Recite (of the Quran) to me”. I said: “Shall I recite it to you although it had been revealed to you?!” He Said: “I like to hear (the Quran) from others”. So I recited Sura-an-Nisa’ till I reached: “How (will it be) then when We bring from each nation a witness and We bring you (O Muhammad) as a witness against these people?”‘ (4:41) ‘Then he said: “Stop!” Behold, his eyes were shedding tears then’.7
Many Quranic memorizers (Qurra) were present during the lifetime of the Prophet and afterwards through out the then Muslim world.
‘At the battle of Yamama, many memorizers of the Quran were martyred. ‘Narrated Zaid bin Thabit al Ansari, who was one of those who use to write the Divine Revelations: Abu Bakr sent me after the (heavy) casualties among the warriors (of the battle) of Yamama (where a great number of Qurra were killed). Umar was present with Abu Bakr who said: “Umar has come to me and said, the people have suffered heavy casualties on the day of (the battle of) Yamama, and I am afraid that there will be some casualties among the Qurra (those who memorized the entire Quran) at other places. . .”‘8
‘Over the centuries of the Islamic Era, there have arisen throughout the various regions of the Islamic world literally thousands of schools devoted specially to the teaching of the Quran to children for the purpose of memorization. These are called, in Arabic, katatib (singular: Kuttab). It is said that the Caliph ‘Umar (634-44) first ordered the construction of these schools in the age of the great expansion’.9
Second Generation Memorizers:
“…Quranic schools were set up everywhere. As an example to illustrate this I may refer to a great Muslim scholar, of the second Muslim generation, Ibn ‘Amir, who was the judge of Damascus under the Caliph Umar Ibn ‘Abd Al-Aziz. It is reported that in his school for teaching the Quran there were 400 disciples to teach in his absence”.10
Memorizers in Subsequent Generations:
The Number of Katatib and similar schools in Cairo (Egypt) alone at one time exceeded two thousand.11
Currently both in the Muslim and non-Muslim countries there are thousands of schools with each instructing tens of hundreds of students the art of memorizing the entire Quran. In the city of Chicago itself, there are close to 40+ Mosques, with many of them holding class for children instructing them the art of Quranic memorization.
Further Points of Consideration:
* Muslims recite Quran from their memory in all of their five daily prayers. * Once a year, during the month of Fasting (Ramadan), Muslims listen to the complete recitation of the Quran by a Hafiz (memorizer of the entire Quran) * It’s a tradition among Muslims that before any speech or presentation, marriages, sermons, Quran is recited.
Quran is the only book, religious or secular, on the face of this planet that has been completely memorized by millions. These memorizers range from ages 6 and up, both Arabic and non-Arabic speakers, blacks, whites, Orientals, poor and wealthy.
Thus the process of memorization was continuous , from Prophet Muhammad’s (S) time to ours with an unbroken chain.
“The method of transmitting the Quran from one generation to the next by having he young memorize the oral recitation of their elders had mitigated somewhat from the beginning the worst perils of relying solely on written records…” relates John Burton12
“This phenomenon of Quranic recital means that the text has traversed the centuries in an unbroken living sequence of devotion. It cannot, therefore, be handled as an antiquarian thing, nor as a historical document out of a distant past. The fact of hifz (Quranic Memorization) has made the Qur’an a present possession through all the lapse of Muslim time and given it a human currency in every generation never allowing its relegation to a bare authority for reference alone” reflects Kenneth Cragg.13
Written Text of the Qur’an
Prophet Muhammad (S) was very vigilant in preserving the Quran in the written form from the very beginning up until the last revelation. The Prophet himself was unlettered, did not know how to read and write, therefore he called upon his numerous scribes to write the revelation for him. Complete Quran thus existed in written form in the lifetime of the Prophet.
Whenever a new revelation use to come to him, the Prophet would immediately call one of his scribes to write it down.
‘Some people visited Zaid Ibn Thabit (one of the scribes of the Prophet) and asked him to tell them some stories about Allah’s Messenger. He replied: “I was his (Prophet’s) neighbor, and when the inspiration descended on him he sent for me and I went to him and wrote it down for him…”14
Narrated by al-Bara’: There was revealed ‘Not equal are those believers who sit (home) and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah’ (4:95). The Prophet said: ‘Call Zaid for me and let him bring the board, the ink pot and scapula bone.’ Then he (Prophet) said: ‘Write: Not equal are those believers…’15
Zaid is reported to have said: ‘We use to compile the Qur’an from small scraps in the presence of the Apostle’.16
‘The Prophet, while in Madinah, had about 48 scribes who use to write for him’.17
Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar relates:… ‘The Messenger of Allah (S) said: “Do not take the Qur’an on a journey with you, for I am afraid lest it should fall into the hands of the enemy.”‘18
During the Prophet’s last pilgrimage, he gave a sermon in which he said: ‘I have left with you something which if you will hold fast to it you will never fall into error – a plain indication, the Book of God (Quran) and the practice of his Prophet…’19
‘Besides the official manuscripts of the Quran kept with the Prophet, many of his companions use to possess their own written copies of the revelation’.20
‘A list of Companions of whom it is related that they had their own written collections included the following: Ibn Mas’ud, Ubay bin Ka’b, Ali, Ibn Abbas, Abu Musa, Hafsa, Anas bin Malik, Umar, Zaid bin Thabit, Ibn Al-Zubair, Abdullah ibn Amr, Aisha, Salim, Umm Salama, Ubaid bin Umar’.21
‘The best known among these (Prophet’s Scribes) are: Ibn Masud, Ubay bin Kab and Zaid bin Thabit’.22
‘Aisha and Hafsa, the wives of the Prophet had their own scripts written after the Prophet had died’.23
The complete Quran was written down in front of the Prophet by several of his scribes and the companions possessed their own copies of the Quran in the Prophet’s lifetime. However the written material of the Quran in the Prophet’s possession were not bounded between the two covers in the form of a book, because the period of revelation of the Qur’an continued up until just a few days before the Prophet’s death. The task of collecting the Qur’an as a book was therefore undertaken by Abu Bakr, the first successor to the Prophet.
Written Quran in First Generation:
At the battle of Yamama (633 CE), six months after the death of the Prophet, a number of Muslims, who had memorized the Quran were killed. Hence it was feared that unless a written official copy of the Quran were prepared, a large part of revelation might be lost.
Narrated Zaid bin Thabit al-Ansari, one of the scribes of the Revelation: Abu Bakr sent for me after the casualties among the warriors (of the battle) of Yamama (where a great number of Qurra, memorizers of the Quran, were killed). Umar was present with Abu Bakr who said: “Umar has come to me and said, the people have suffered heavy casualties on the day of (the battle) of Yamama, and I am afraid that there will be some casualties among the Qurra at other places, whereby a large part of the Quran may be lost, unless you collect it (in one manuscript, or book)…so Abu Bakr said to me (Zaid bin Thabit): You are a wise young man and we do not suspect you (of telling lies or of forgetfulness) and you used to write the Divine Inspiration for Allah’s Apostle. Therefore, look for the Qur’an and collect it (in one manuscript)’…So I started locating the Quranic material and collecting it from parchments, scapula, leafstalks of date palms and from the memories of men (who know it by heart). . .”24
Now, a committee was formed to under take the task of collecting the written Quranic material in the form of a book. The committee was headed by Zaid bin Thabit, the original scribe of the Prophet, who was also a memorizer of the complete Quran.
‘…Zaid bin Thabit had committed the entire Quran to memory…’25
The compilers in this committee, in examining written material submitted to them, insisted on very stringent criteria as a safeguard against any errors.
1. The material must have been originally written down in the presence of the Prophet; nothing written down later on the basis of memory alone was to be accepted.26 2. The material must be confirmed by two witnesses, that is to say, by two trustworthy persons testifying that they themselves had heard the Prophet recite the passage in question.27
‘The manuscript on which the Qur’an was collected, remained with Abu Bakr till Allah took him unto Him, and then with Umar (the second successor), till Allah took him unto Him, and finally it remained with Hafsa, ‘Umar’s daughter (and wife of the Prophet)’.28
This copy of the Quran, prepared by the committee of competent companions of the Prophet (which included Memorizers of the Quran) was unanimously approved by the whole Muslim world. If the committee would have made an error even of a single alphabet in transcribing the Quran, the Qurra (memorizers of the Quran) which totaled in the tens of hundreds would have caught it right away and corrected it. This is exactly where the neat check and balance system of preservation of the Quran comes into play, but which is lacking for any other scripture besides the Quran.
Official written copy by Uthman
The Quran was originally revealed in Quraishi dialect of Arabic. But to facilitate the people who speak other dialects, in their understanding and comprehension, Allah revealed the Quran finally in seven dialects of Arabic. During the period of Caliph Uthman (second successor to the Prophet) differences in reading the Quran among the various tribes became obvious, due to the various dialectical recitations. Dispute was arising, with each tribe calling its recitation as the correct one. This alarmed Uthman, who made an official copy in the Quraishi dialect, the dialect in which the Quran was revealed to the Prophet and was memorized by his companions. Thus this compilation by Uthman’s Committee is not a different version of the Quran (like the Biblical versions) but the same original revelation given to the Prophet by One God, Allah.
Narrated Anas bin Malik: Hudhaifa bin Al-Yaman came to Uthman at the time when the people of Sham (Syria) and the people of Iraq were waging war to conquer Armenia and Azherbijan. Hudhaifa was afraid of their differences in the recitation of the Quran, so he said to Uthman, ‘O chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book (Quran) as Jews and Christians did before’. So Uthman sent a message to Hafsa saying, ‘Send us the manuscripts of the Quran so that we may compile the Quranic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you’. Hafsa sent it to Uthman. ‘Uthman then ordered Zaid bin Thabit, ‘Abdullah bin Az-Zubair, Said bin Al-As and Abdur Rahman bin Harith bin Hisham to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies. Uthman said to the three Quraishi men, ‘In case you disagree with Zaid bin Thabit on any point in the Quran, then write it in their (Quraishi) tongue’. They did so, and when they had written many copies, Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied and ordered that all the other Quranic materials whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt…”29
Again a very stringent criteria was set up by this Committee to prevent any alteration of the Revelation.
1. The earlier recension (Original copy prepared by Abu Bakr) was to serve as the principal basis of the new one.30 2. Any doubt that might be raised as to the phrasing of a particular passage in the written text was to be dispelled by summoning persons known to have learned the passage in question from the Prophet.31 3. Uthman himself was to supervise the work of the Council.32
When the final recension was completed, Uthman sent a copy of it to each of the major cities of Makka, Damascus, Kufa, Basra and Madina.
The action of Uthman to burn the other copies besides the final recension, though obviously drastic, was for the betterment and harmony of the whole community and was unanimously approved by the Companions of the Prophet.
Zaid ibn Thabit is reported to have said: “I saw the Companions of Muhammad (going about) saying, ‘By God, Uthman has done well! By God, Uthman has done well!”33
Another esteemed Companion Musab ibn Sad ibn Abi Waqqas said: “I saw the people assemble in large number at Uthman’s burning of the prescribed copies (of the Quran), and they were all pleased with his action; not a one spoke out against him”.34
Ali ibn Abu Talib, the cousin of the Prophet and the fourth successor to the Prophet commented: “If I were in command in place of Uthman, I would have done the same”.35
Of the copies made by Uthman, two still exist to our day. One is in the city of Tashkent, (Uzbekistan) and the second one is in Istanbul (Turkey). Below is a brief account of both these copies:
- The copy which Uthman sent to Madina was reportedly removed by the Turkish authorities to Istanbul, from where it came to Berlin during World War I. The Treaty of Versailles, which concluded World War I, contains the following clause:
‘Article 246: Within six months from the coming into force of the present Treaty, Germany will restore to His Majesty, King of Hedjaz, the original Koran of Caliph Othman, which was removed from Madina by the Turkish authorities and is stated to have been presented to the ex-Emperor William II”.36
‘This manuscript then reached Istanbul, but not Madina (Where it now resides)’.37
- The second copy in existence is kept in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. ‘It may be the Imam (master) manuscript or one of the other copies made at the time of Uthman’.38
It Came to Samarkand in 890 Hijra (1485) and remained there till 1868. Then it was taken to St.Petersburg by the Russians in 1869. It remained there till 1917. A Russian orientalist gave a detailed description of it, saying that many pages were damaged and some were missing. A facsimile, some 50 copies, of this mushaf (copy) was produced by S.Pisareff in 1905. A copy was sent to the Ottoman Sultan ‘Abdul Hamid, to the Shah of Iran, to the Amir of Bukhara, to Afghanistan, to Fas and some important Muslim personalities. One copy is now in the Columbia University Library (U.S.A.).39
‘The Manuscript was afterwards returned to its former place and reached Tashkent in 1924, where it has remained since’.40
‘Two of the copies of the Qur’an which were originally prepared in the time of Caliph Uthman, are still available to us today and their text and arrangement can be compared, by anyone who cares to do, with any other copy of the Quran, be it in print or handwritten, from any place or period of time. They will be found identical’.41
It can now be proclaimed, through the evidences provided above, with full conviction and certainty that the Prophet memorized the entire Quran, had it written down in front of him through his scribes, many of his companions memorized the entire revelation and in turn possessed their own private copies for recitation and contemplation. This process of dual preservation of the Quran in written and in the memory was carried in each subsequent generation till our time, without any deletion, interpolation or corruption of this Divine Book.
Sir Williams Muir states, ” There is otherwise every security, internal and external, that we possess the text which Muhammad himself gave forth and used”.42
Sir William Muir continues, “There is probably no other book in the world which has remained twelve centuries (now fourteen) with so pure a text”.43
This divine protection provided to the Quran, the Last Reveled Guide to Humanity, is proclaimed by the One God in the Quran:
We* (Allah) have, without doubt, send down the Message; and We will assuredly Guard it (from corruption)’ (Quran – Chapter 15, Verse 9). *(‘We’ is the plural of Majesty, and not the Christian plural of trinity)
Compare this divine and historical preservation of the Quran with any literature, be it religious or secular and it becomes evident that none possesses similar miraculous protection. And as stated earlier, a belief is as authentic as the authenticity of its scripture. And if any scripture is not preserved, how can we be certain that the belief arising out of this scripture is divine or man made, and if we are not sure about the belief itself, then our salvation in the hereafter would be jeopardized. Thus this above evidence for the protection of the Quran from any corruption is a strong hint about its divine origin. We request all open hearted persons to read, understand and live the Quran, the ‘Manual for Mankind’.
- Michael Zwettler, The Oral Tradition of Classical Arabic Poetry, p.14. OhioState Press: 1978
- Transmitted by Ibn Abbas, collected in Sahih Al-Bukhari, 6.519, translated by Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan
- Transmitted by Abu Hurayrah, collected in Sahih Al-Bukhari, 6.520, translated by Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan
- Transmitted by Uthman bin Affan, collected in Sahih Bukhari, 6.546, translated by Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan
- Jalal al-Din Suyuti, ‘Al-Itqan fi-ulum al-Quran, Vol. I p.124
- Ibn Hisham: Sira al-nabi, Cairo, n.d., Vol.I, p.206
- Bukhari, 6.106
- Bukhari, 6.201
- Labib as-Said, the Recited Koran, Translated by Bernard Weiss, M.A.Rauf, and Morroe Berger, The Darwon Press, Princton, New Jersey, 1975, pg.58
- Ibn al Jazari, Kitab al-Nash fi al-Qir’at al-Ashr, Cairo al-Halabi, n.d._ vol. 2, p. 254, also Ahmad Makki al-Ansari, al-Difa’ An al-Qur’an. Cairo, Dar al-Ma’arif, 1973 C.E., part I, p.120
- Labib as-Said, the Recited Koran, Translated by Bernard Weiss, M.A.Rauf, and Morroe Berger, The Darwon Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1975, pg.59
- John Burton, An Introduction to the Hadith, p.27. EdinburghUniversity Press: 1994
- Kenneth Cragg, The Mind of the Qur’an, p.26. George Allah & Unwin: 1973
- Tirmidhi, Mishkat al-Masabih, No. 5823
- Bukhari, 6.512
- Suyuti, Itqan, I, p.99
- M.M.Azami, Kuttab al-Nabi,Beirut, 1974
- Muslim, III, NO. 4606, also 4607, 4608; Bukhari, 4.233
- Ibn Hisham, Sira al-nabi, p.651
- Suyuti, Itqan, I, p.62
- Ibn Abi Dawud: Masahif, p.14
- Bayard Dodge: The fihrist of al-Nadim: A Tenth Century Survey of Muslim Culture, New York, 1970, pp.53-63
- Muwatta Imam Malik, Lahore, 1980, no.307, 308, translation by M. Rahimuddin
- Bukhari 6.201
- Labib as-Said, The Recited Koran, translated by Bernard Weiss, et al. 1975, p.21.
- Ibn Hajar, Fath, Vol. IX, p.10
- ibid., p.11
- Bukhari, 6.201
- Bukhari, 6.510
- Ibn Hajar, Bath, IX, p. 15
- Suyuti, Itqan, Vol.I, p.59
- ibid., p.59
- Naysaburi, al-,Nizam al-Din al-Hasan ibn Muhammad, Ghara’ib al-Quran wa-ragha’ib al-furqan. 4 vols. To date. Cairo, 1962
- Ibn Abi Dawud, p.12
- Zarkashi, al-, Badr al-Din, Al-Burhan fi-ulum al-Quran, Cairo, 1957, Vol. I, p. 240.
- Fred L. Israel, Major Peace Treaties of Modern History, New York, Chelsea House Pub., Vol. II, p. 1418
- Makhdum, op.cit., 1938, p.19
- Ahmad Von Denffer, Ulum Al-Qur’an, Islamic Foundation, revised ed., 1994, p.63
- The Muslim World, Vol.30(1940), pp. 357-8.
- Ahmad von Denffer, Ulum Al-Quran, Islamic Foundation, revised Ed., 1994, p.63
- ibid., p,64
- Sir Williams Muir, Life of Mohamet, Vol.I. Introduction