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Al-Quran, The Holy

Al-Quran, The Holy (Ar. Al-Qur'an, from qara, to read or recite) the holy book of the Muslim, is the compilation of Allah's revelations to the Prophet, hazrat muhammad (Sm), over a period of 23 years. The Quran is also known as al-furqan (that which differentiates between truth and falsehood), al-kitab (the book) and adh-dhikr (the remembrance). In formal speech the Quran is referred to as Quran majid, the glorious Quran. The Quran is divided into 30 sections of equal length for ease of recitation. In all there are 114 surahs (chapters), 7 manzils (stops), 16 sijdas (prostrations) and 6,666 ayats (verses) in the Quran. According to Majhab, the Quran has 15 Sijdahs. Also opinions differ on the number of ayats in the Quran. Many verses of the Quran are poetic in their use of rhyme and imagery, while others have the smooth flow and depth of prose. As the revealed words of Allah, the Quran must only be touched and handled in a state of purity.

The revelation of the Quran began about the year 610 AD, when the Prophet (Sm) was engaged in meditation in a cave of Mount Hira. On one of the last few nights of ramadan (Lailatul Qadr), the angel Jibrail appeared before the Prophet (Sm) and asked him to read. These lines form the opening verses of Surah 96. Some of the surahs were revealed in Makkah and some in Medina. The surahs revealed at Makkah, before the Prophet (Sm) migrated to Madina, are known as Makki and those revealed at Madina, after his migration, are known as Madani. The Makki surahs speak of Allah's existence, oneness, the veracity of the Quran, the day of judgement, resurrection, punishment and reward for sins and virtues, paradise and hell and moral teachings. The Madani surahs describe mostly religious rites, various rules and regulations.

The Quran was not compiled during the lifetime of the Prophet (Sm), as the revelations continued up to 632 AD, with the last revelation forming part of the sermon during the 'farewell pilgrimage', a few months before the Prophet's (Sm) death. The revelations were written down as they were received on leather, papyrus, stones, and leaves, but most were committed to memory. Those who memorised the Quran were known as hafiz. When quite a few hafiz were killed in the war of Yamama, Hazrat 'Umar became concerned about the preservation of the Quran. At his instance, Hazrat Abu Bakr, the first Khalifa, took steps to consolidate the different parts of the Quran into a single book. After Hazrat Abu Bakr's death, Hazrat 'Umar, now Khalifa, took the responsibility of preserving the Quran. However, it was during the time of the third Khalifa, Hazrat 'Uthman, that copies of the definitive text were made and sent to different parts of the world. This is why Hazrat 'Uthman is regarded as the compiler of the Quran (Zamiul Quran).

The most important teachings of the Quran is 'Tawhid', oneness of Allah and belief in the day of judgement. The Quran emphasises equality, amity and fraternity among human beings. It also has a liberal outlook towards other religions. It declares that no group of people in the world is excluded from the kindness of Allah and that Allah has sent prophets and messengers for the guidance of all human beings. An important aspect of the Quran is its description of historic events. These descriptions focus on the conflict of truth and falsehood as well as on the conflict of the followers of Allah and their enemies. The Quran also contains narratives about some prophets that Allah sent for the guidance of human beings. The Quran thus includes the stories of Hazrat Adam, Hazrat Nuh (Noah), Hazrat Ibrahim (Abraham), Hazrat Musa (Moses), etc.

The first interpreter of the Quran was Prophet Muhammad (Sm) himself. He used to explain the Quranic verses as they were revealed. Subsequently, Islamic scholars wrote interpretations of the Quran. Some famous books of tafsir (commentaries on the Quran), are Jami' al-Bayan fi Tafsir al-Quran, al-Kashshaf 'an Haqa'iq at-Tanzil, Tafsir-al Baydawi and Tafsir Ibn Kathir.

The Quran is the primary doctrinal source of Islam. It is followed by the hadith [the sayings of the Prophet (Sm)] and the Sunnah or the precepts of the Prophet (Sm). It is also believed that reciting and hearing the Quran in the original Arabic bring blessings to both reciters and audience. However, there are rules that have to be followed in order to recite the Quran as the revealed word of Allah. Muslims memorise several verses of the Quran to recite properly during namaz (prayers) or in times of stress and danger.

The Quran deals with a wide range of subjects. It has a detailed description about the Tawhid, foundation of Islam, and Hazrat Muhammad (Sm), the last and the greatest prophet. Four important areas in the descriptions of the Quran are 1. the relationship between the Creator and the creations, 2. relationship between Allah and mankind, 3. relationship between individuals and 4. relationship between humans and all other creations of Allah. The Quran ordains many problems having direct bearing on the welfare and well-being of mankind. These include 1. the mundane affairs of man and the improvements in the means of his living and conducting his lifestyle; 2. advice and normative suggestions with instances for development of mind and soul; 3. rules and regulations related to the welfare and well-being of mankind here and hereafter; 4. accounts of the life and activities of the former prophets so as enable man to draw lessons from their lives and acquire mental firmness, moral strength and courage; 5. description of rites and rituals required to lead a normal and healthy social life; 6. commands to conduct honest and just life and refrain from wrongdoing; and 7. the call for studying the mystery of creation of the universe and for acquiring knowledge about arts and sciences.

In general, the teachings of the Quran have emphasised equality, fellowship and brotherhood among all men. The Quran demonstrates liberal attitudes to all other religions. It declares that no nation or creation on earth is deprived of the blessings of Allah. Allah has sent prophets for every nation to guide them and convey to them Allah's messages. The Quran attests all Books revealed previously by Allah. Thus the Quran is a holy book not for a specific community only, rather it is for the mankind as a whole. It is a complete code of life. All men can live in peace and harmony and acquire merit for the other world if they live in accordance with the teachings of the Quran. [Abu Musa Mohammad Arif Billah]