The Authenticity of the Holy Quran
Al-Azhar Magazine – March 1974
The word ‘Quran’ is an infinitive noun from the root ‘Qaraa’ which signifies: he collected together things or he read or recited. According to some authorities, the name of this Holy Book, Al-Quran, is due to its gathering in itself the principal teachings of all the world Divine Books, rather its being a collection of the fruits of all the sciences etc. It also means a book that is or should be read. It was revealed in Arabic language to Prophet Muhammad ( peace be upon him) who delivered it to mankind. It was revealed in portions, every portion being written and committed to memory as soon as it was revealed. The revelation of it was spread over 23 years of the Holy Prophet’s life.
The Holy Quran speaks of itself under various names. It is called ‘Al-Kitab’(the Book) :
ذَٲلِكَ ٱلۡڪِتَـٰبُ لَا رَيۡبَۛ فِيهِۛ هُدً۬ى لِّلۡمُتَّقِينَ
(This is the Scripture whereof there is no doubt, a guidance unto those who ward off (evil)) (2:2)
It signifies the writing is complete in itself.
‘Al-Furqan’ ( the Distinguisher between right and wrong and between truth and falsehood):
تبَارَكَ ٱلَّذِى نَزَّلَ ٱلۡفُرۡقَانَ عَلَىٰ عَبۡدِهِۦ لِيَكُونَ لِلۡعَـٰلَمِينَ نَذِيرًا
(Blessed is He Who hath revealed unto His slave the Criterion (of right and wrong), that he may be a warner to the people. ) (25 : 1)
‘Al-Dhikr’ ( the Reminder):
إِنَّا نَحۡنُ نَزَّلۡنَا ٱلذِّكۡرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ ۥ لَحَـٰفِظُونَ
(Lo! We, even We, reveal the Reminder, and lo! We verily are its Guardian.) (15:9)
‘Al- Tanzil’( the revelation from a high):
وَإِنَّهُ ۥ لَتَنزِيلُ رَبِّ ٱلۡعَـٰلَمِينَ
(And lo! it is a revelation of the Lord of the Worlds, ) (26:192)
‘Al-Hukm’ ( the Judgement):
وَكَذَٲلِكَ أَنزَلۡنَـٰهُ حُكۡمًا عَرَبِيًّ۬اۚ وَلَٮِٕنِ ٱتَّبَعۡتَ أَهۡوَآءَهُم بَعۡدَمَا جَآءَكَ مِنَ ٱلۡعِلۡمِ مَا لَكَ مِنَ ٱللَّهِ مِن وَلِىٍّ۬ وَلَا وَاقٍ۬
(Thus have We revealed it, a decisive utterance in Arabic; and if thou shouldst follow their desires after that which hath come unto thee of knowledge, then truly wouldst thou have from Allah no protecting friend nor defender.) (13 :37)
‘Al-Huda’ (the Guidance):
وَأَنَّا لَمَّا سَمِعۡنَا ٱلۡهُدَىٰٓ ءَامَنَّا بِهِۦۖ فَمَن يُؤۡمِنۢ بِرَبِّهِۦ فَلَا يَخَافُ بَخۡسً۬ا وَلَا رَهَقً۬ا
(And when we heard the guidance, we believed therein, and whoso believeth in his Lord, he feareth neither loss nor oppression.) (72:13)
‘Al-Bayan’ ( the Explanation or Plain statement) :
هَـٰذَا بَيَانٌ۬ لِّلنَّاسِ وَهُدً۬ى وَمَوۡعِظَةٌ۬ لِّلۡمُتَّقِينَ
(This is a declaration for mankind, a guidance and an admonition unto those who ward off (evil))
(3 : 138)
‘Al-Burhan’ ( the Proof):
يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلنَّاسُ قَدۡ جَآءَكُم بُرۡهَـٰنٌ۬ مِّن رَّبِّكُمۡ وَأَنزَلۡنَآ إِلَيۡكُمۡ نُورً۬ا مُّبِينً۬ا
(O mankind! Now hath a proof from your Lord come unto you, and We have sent down unto you a clear light;) (4:174)
‘Al-Nour’ (the Light):
ٱلَّذِينَ يَتَّبِعُونَ ٱلرَّسُولَ ٱلنَّبِىَّ ٱلۡأُمِّىَّ ٱلَّذِى يَجِدُونَهُ ۥ مَكۡتُوبًا عِندَهُمۡ فِى ٱلتَّوۡرَٮٰةِ وَٱلۡإِنجِيلِ يَأۡمُرُهُم بِٱلۡمَعۡرُوفِ وَيَنۡہَٮٰهُمۡ عَنِ ٱلۡمُنڪَرِ وَيُحِلُّ لَهُمُ ٱلطَّيِّبَـٰتِ وَيُحَرِّمُ عَلَيۡهِمُ ٱلۡخَبَـٰٓٮِٕثَ وَيَضَعُ عَنۡهُمۡ إِصۡرَهُمۡ وَٱلۡأَغۡلَـٰلَ ٱلَّتِى كَانَتۡ عَلَيۡهِمۡۚ فَٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ بِهِۦ وَعَزَّرُوهُ وَنَصَرُوهُ وَٱتَّبَعُواْ ٱلنُّورَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أُنزِلَ مَعَهُ ۥۤۙ أُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ هُمُ ٱلۡمُفۡلِحُونَ
(Those who follow the messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write, whom they will find described in the Torah and the Gospel (which are) with them. He will enjoin on them that which is right and forbid them that which is wrong. He will make lawful for them all good things and prohibit for them only the foul; and he will relieve them of their burden and the fetters that they used to wear. Then those who believe in him, and honour him, and help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him: they are the successful) (7: 157)
‘Al- Haqq’ (the Truth):
وَقُلۡ جَآءَ ٱلۡحَقُّ وَزَهَقَ ٱلۡبَـٰطِلُۚ إِنَّ ٱلۡبَـٰطِلَ كَانَ زَهُوقً۬ا
(And say: Truth hath come and falsehood hath vanished away. Lo! falsehood is ever bound to vanish.) (17 :81)
Besides these names, there is also a large number of qualifying words applied to it. For instance, it is called : ‘Kareem’ (honourable); ‘Majeed’( Glorious); ‘Hakeem’ (Wise); ‘Mubarak’ (Blessed); ‘Mubeen’ ( the one making things manifest); ‘Fas’l’( Decision); ‘Azeem’ (Great).
The name Quran is frequently mentioned in the Book itself which also states, to whom, when in what language, how and why it was revealed. In one of the reports speaking of the revelation to prophet Muhammad, the Angel who brought the revelation is called ‘Al Namus al-Akbar’ ( the great Namus). Namus means the Angel who is entrusted with bringing down the messages of God to His Prophets. The same report adds that it was the very same Angel that brought revelation to Moses.
It should be noted that the Holy Quran’s statement in this regard:
وَإِنَّهُ ۥ لَتَنزِيلُ رَبِّ ٱلۡعَـٰلَمِينَ (١٩٢) نَزَلَ بِهِ ٱلرُّوحُ ٱلۡأَمِينُ (١٩٣) عَلَىٰ قَلۡبِكَ لِتَكُونَ مِنَ ٱلۡمُنذِرِينَ (١٩٤) بِلِسَانٍ عَرَبِىٍّ۬ مُّبِينٍ
(And lo! it is a revelation of the Lord of the Worlds, Which the True Spirit hath brought down . Upon thy heart, that thou mayst be (one) of the warners, In plain Arabic speech.) (26: 192-195)
قُلۡ نَزَّلَهُ ۥ رُوحُ ٱلۡقُدُسِ مِن رَّبِّكَ بِٱلۡحَقِّ لِيُثَبِّتَ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَهُدً۬ى وَبُشۡرَىٰ لِلۡمُسۡلِمِينَ
(Say: The holy Spirit hath revealed it from thy Lord with truth, that it may confirm (the faith of) those who believe, and as guidance and good tidings for those who have surrendered (to Allah).)
(16 : 102)
قُلۡ مَن كَانَ عَدُوًّ۬ا لِّجِبۡرِيلَ فَإِنَّهُ ۥ نَزَّلَهُ ۥ عَلَىٰ قَلۡبِكَ بِإِذۡنِ ٱللَّهِ مُصَدِّقً۬ا لِّمَا بَيۡنَ يَدَيۡهِ وَهُدً۬ى وَبُشۡرَىٰ لِلۡمُؤۡمِنِينَ
(Say (O Muhammad, to mankind): Who is an enemy to Gabriel! For he it is who hath revealed (this Scripture) to thy heart by Allah’s leave, confirming that which was (revealed) before it, and a guidance and glad tidings to believers; ) (2 : 97)
Thus, both the Holy Quran and the authentic reports make it clear that Divine revelations were brought to Muhammad, as well as other Prophets before him by the Anger Gebriel who is also called the Holy Spirit or the Faithful Spirit or the Great Namus.
The Holy Quran is the word of God revealed through the Holy Spirit, that is the Angel Gabriel. Though it was revealed in portions, as pointed out above, yet the entire revelation is one whole, delivered in one and the same manner. According to the Holy Quran, revelation is granted to man in three forms :
وَمَا كَانَ لِبَشَرٍ أَن يُكَلِّمَهُ ٱللَّهُ إِلَّا وَحۡيًا أَوۡ مِن وَرَآىِٕ حِجَابٍ أَوۡ يُرۡسِلَ رَسُولاً۬ فَيُوحِىَ بِإِذۡنِهِۦ مَا يَشَآءُۚ إِنَّهُ ۥ عَلِىٌّ حَڪِيمٌ۬
(And it was not (vouchsafed) to any mortal that Allah should speak to him unless (it be) by revelation or from behind a veil, or (that) He sendeth a messenger to reveal what He will by His leave. Lo! He is Exalted, Wise.) (42 : 51)
The first of these forms is called ‘Wahy’ which is used in its lateral sense i.e an inspiration or a suggestion thrown into the mind. It is not a message in words but simply an idea which clears up a doubt or a difficulty and it is not the result of a meditation.
The second form is described as speaking from behind a veil. The third form is that in which the messenger i.e. the Angel bearing the message, is sent to the recipient of the Divine Revelation, and the Divine message is delivered in words. This is the highest form of revelation. This third form of revelation is limited to the Prophets of God only, and the Angel entrusted with the Divine message in words is Gebriel.
For the delivery of the highest and most important Divine messages to humanity a higher form of revelation is chosen i.e. from in which the message is not simply an idea but it is clothed in actual words. The Prophet’s faculty of being spoken to by God is so highly developed that he receives the Divine messages, not only as ideas instilled into the mind or in the form of words uttered or heard, but actually as Divine messages in words deliverd through the Angel. In the terminology of Islam this is called ‘Wahy Mathluww’ ( revelation that is recited). The Holy Quran was from the beginning to the end delivered in this form the Prophet Muhammad ( peace be upon him ). In does not contain any other forms of revelation. It is, in its entirety, the revelation recited to the Prophet Muhammad distinctly in words. Thus the Quran is wholly the highest form of Divine revelation.
We are told in reports that before the highest form of revelation came to the Prophet, that is to say, before he received the first Quranic revelation used to have received the lower forms of revelations. According to Al-Bukhari, the first thing that came to the messenger of Allah of revelations were good visions so that he did not see a vision but it came true as the dawn of the day. The details of the law as expounded by him, and as met within the Sunna, belong to the first form of revelation; an idea instilled into the mind. This is called ‘Wahy Khafiyy’ (Inner revelation).
The most authentic book of ‘Sahih Al-Bukhari’ explains the nature of the Quranic revelation to the Prophet, quoting Haris Ibn Hisham, that once enquired of the Prophet how the revelation came to him and the reply was; “ It comes to me sometimes as the ringing of a bell and this is the hardest on me, then he leaves me and I remember from him what he says; and sometimes the Angel comes in the shape of a man and he talks to me and I Remember what he says”. In both cases the Angel Gebriel came to the Prophet and was seen by him; and delivered certain messages in words which the Prophet at once committed to memory.
The only difference between the two cases was that in once case the angel appeared in shape of a human being and uttered the words in a soft tone as one man talks to another; in the other case it is not stated in what form the angel came, but we are told that the words. Were uttered like the ringing of a bell, that is to say in hard tone, but still it was the Angel Gebriel who brought the message, as is clearly shown by the use of the personal pronoun – he leaves me – in the first part of the above report. So whether the angel appeared in human shape or not, whether the message was delivered in hard or soft tone, the one thing certain is that it was a message delivered in words; and therefore the Quranic revelation is entirely one message delivered in one form.
The revelation of the Quran in portions, and its arrangement, was a part of the Divine scheme. The Holy Quran is itself clear on these two points:
وَقَالَ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ لَوۡلَا نُزِّلَ عَلَيۡهِ ٱلۡقُرۡءَانُ جُمۡلَةً۬ وَٲحِدَةً۬ۚ ڪَذَٲلِكَ لِنُثَبِّتَ بِهِۦ فُؤَادَكَۖ وَرَتَّلۡنَـٰهُ تَرۡتِيلاً۬
(And those who disbelieve say: Why is the Qur’an not revealed unto him all at once? (It is revealed) thus that We may strengthen thy heart therewith; and We have arranged it in right order) (25: 32)
إِنَّ عَلَيۡنَا جَمۡعَهُ ۥ وَقُرۡءَانَهُ ۥ (١٧) فَإِذَا قَرَأۡنَـٰهُ فَٱتَّبِعۡ قُرۡءَانَهُ ۥ (١٨) ثُمَّ إِنَّ عَلَيۡنَا بَيَانَهُ
(Lo! upon us (resteth) the putting together thereof and the reading thereof. And when We read it, follow thou the reading; Then lo! Upon Us (resteth) the explanation thereof) (75 : 17-19)
These verses show that the collecting together of the various parts of the Quran and its arrangement were affected by the Prophet under the guidance of Allah through the Angel Gebriel. History also bears testimony to this statements, for there are numerous persons whom the Prophet used to write down portions of the Holy Quran immediately after their revelation. Among them are the following profound companions of the Prophet: Zaid Ibn Thabit, Abu Bakr, Umer, Uthman, Ali, Zubair, Ubbay, Hanzala, Abdullah Ibn Saad, Abdullah Ibn Arqaam, Abdullah Ibn Rawaha, Khalid and Abn Ibn Said.
It was customary with the Prophet of Allah that when the portions of different chapters were revealed to him, and when any verse was revealed, he called one of the writers of the Holy Quran and said to him: Write this verse in the chapter where such and such verses occurred. Though the Holy Quran was revealed in portions, yet it is a mistake to suppose that it remained long in fragmentary condition.
Its very name implies, it was a book from the first, and though it could not complete until the last verse was revealed, it was never without some form of arrangement. For this, there is the clearest testimony internal as well as external, that every single verse or part of a verse and every chapter that was revealed had its own definite place in the Holy Book. At Makkah in the earliest days there were Abu Bakr, Ali, Khadija, wife of the Prophet, and others who wrote down the portions revealed. The Prophet took the greatest care to have a writer and writing materials with him under all conditions, and even when he had to flee for his life to Madinah, he had still writing material, with him (Bukhari). At Madinah, ‘Zaid Ibn Thabit’ was chiefly called upon to do this work, and in his absence any of the other writers would take his table.
This was the reason why Zaid was chosen to collect the Quran writings in the time of Abu Bakr, and again to do the work of transcription in the times of Uthman.
The whole Quran thus was arranged by the Prophet himself under the Divine Guidance and existed in a complete and ordered form in the memories of people in the lifetime of the Prophet, but no complete written copied of it existed at the time, nor could such copies be made while the Prophet was still alive and receiving revelation. But the whole of the Quran in one arrangement was safely preserved in the memories of men who were called ‘Qurra’ (reciters). It happened, however, that many of the reciters fell in the famous battle of ‘Yamama’ in the Caliphate of Abu Bakr, and it was then that Umar urged upon Abu Bakr the necessity of compiling a standard written copy of the Quran. And this was compiled, not from the hundreds of copies that had been made by individual companions for their own use, but from the manuscripts written under the direction of the Prophet himself. The arrangement followed was that of the oral recitation as followed in the time of the Prophet. Thus a standard written copy as prepared which was entrusted to care of Hafza, wife of the Prophet and daughter of Umar (Al-Bukhari).
In fact the Holy Quran was preserved in complete written copies and, in the memories of the Companions of the Prophet under his own arrangements, guidance and supervision. The third Caliph Uthman ordered copies to be made from the standard copy prepared from the manuscript written in the presence of the Prophet, following the order of chapters which was followed by reciters under the directions of Prophet himself. Uthman also ordered to make those copies from the original copy which was entrusted to care of Hafza, under the supervision of the great writers companions of the Prophet: Zaid Ibn Thabit, Abdullah Ibn Zubair, Said Ibn Al-As, Abdu Rahman Ibn Haris Ibn Hisham. When they had made the required number of copies from the original copy, Uthman returned the original to Hafza, and sent to every quarter one of these standard copies, and ordered all other copies or leaves on which the Quran was written to be burnt.
There is a collective testimony of the purity of the Quranic text. It is a fact that every verse of the Holy Quran was , when revealed, promulgated and made public; it became a part of the public prayer and was repeated day and night to be listened to by an audience of hundreds. When the written manuscripts of the Holy Quran were first collected into one volume in the time of Abu BAkr, and later on when copies were made from that original in the time of Uthman, there was unanimous testimony of all the Companions that every verse that found a place in that collection was part of the Divine Revelation. As to what is called the differences of reading or writing we should bear in mind the following facts:
The Quran was revealed in the dialect of the Qureish, for it is in their language that it was revealed. If there was only difference it was a difference only as to the mode of writing or tone of reciting words. There was no change of words, no change of verses, and no change in the order of the chapters, but as the Companions of the Prophet believed every word and every letter of the Holy Quran to be the revealed Word of God, they gave importance even to the slight difference in writing or reading in the Holy Quran.
There were slight differences in the spoken language of different tribes, the language of the Qureish being the model for the literary language. Now the Holy Quran was revealed in the dialect of the Qureish, the literary language of Arabia. But when towards the close of the Prophet’s life people from different Arabian tribes accepted Islam in large numbers it was found that they could not pronounce certain words in the idiom of the Qureish, being habituated from childhood to their own idiom, and it was then that the Prophet allowed them to pronounce a word according to their own peculiar idiom. This was done only to facilitate the recitation of the Holy Quran. The written Quran was one, it was all in the cheste idiom of the Qureish, but people belonging to to other tribes were allowed to pronounce it in their own way. It would be seen from this that these differences very significant.
The reading of the Quran is considered a pious duty by every Muslim and is actually performed in practice by every person, man, woman and child. The Quran is the original source from which all principles and ordinances of Islam are drawn. It is actually the real foundation on which the whole superstructure of Islam rests, being the only, absolute and final authority in every discussion relating to the principles and the laws of Islam, it is perfectly right to say that the Holy Quran is the Sole Source from which all the teachings and the practice of Islam are drawn.