Every religion revealed by God was, in its original form, eternal in character, just as the sun and the moon, the air and the water have a timeless character about them. Religion, in fact, is another name for eternal values, which in their nature are timeless and uniformly applicable in all situations and at all times.
A religion loses its relevance in succeeding ages when it is no longer preserved in its pristine form owing to human additions and interpolations. The Prophet of Islam, who came in the 7th century, did not bring a new religion. His mission in fact was aimed at sifting the divinely revealed parts from the human additions, which had swept into the ancient religions over the ages and reveal them again in the form of the Quran – the preserved word of God.
The divine religion that God had sent throughout history through His prophets thus needed to be established in its original form. This was done through the Quran as revealed to Prophet Muhammad. This reality has been expressed thus in the Quran:
“I will show mercy to those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in the Torah and the Gospel, he enjoins on them good and forbids them evil, and makes lawful for them the good things and forbids them the bad things, and removes from them their burden and the shackles that were upon them. So those who shall believe in him, and honour and support him, and help him, and follow the light that has been sent down with him shall surely triumph.” (7:157)
In this verse “burden” and “shackles” mean human addition. It is these human additions, which make a religion irrelevant in succeeding ages. When a religion is purified of human additions, the question of irrelevance with the time automatically vanishes. Since Islam is free from all these additions, there is no possibility of Islam being irrelevant at any time or in any situation.
The real and basic demand of Islam is that man should believe in one God. He should worship Him alone. He should embody truth, honesty, justice and other moral values. In short, within his own private sphere, he should fully obey God. Obviously, these teachings of Islam do not clash with the demands of modern times, which are equally practicable today.
When you read the Quran, you will repeatedly find stated that it is the word of God. Apparently this is a plain fact. But when seen in context, it is an extraordinary statement. There are many books in the world, which are believed to be sacred. But, except for the Quran, we do not find any religious book, which thus projects itself as the word of God. This kind of statement, appearing uniquely in the Quran, gives a point of departure to the reader. He then studies it as an exceptional book, rather than as a common book written by human beings. We find recurring in the Quran statements worded more or less as follows: “O man, it is your Lord, who is addressing you. Listen to His words and follow Him.” Even this style of address is quite exceptional. This kind of direct divine invocation is not present in any other book. It leaves a lasting impression on man. He feels his Lord is directly addressing him. This feeling compels man to take the assertions of the Quran with extreme seriousness, rather than treat them like everyday statements in an ordinary book. The style of compilation of the Quran is also unique. Books written by human beings usually have their material arranged in order from A to Z, according to the topic. But the Quran does not follow a pattern of this kind, so that to the common man it appears to be lacking in order. When looked at in reality, however, it will emerge as an extremely coherent and orderly book, and quite majestic in its style of writing. While reading the Quran, we feel that its writer is on a very high pedestal from where He is looking down and addressing the whole of humanity, which is His special concern. This address focuses on different groups of human beings, while encompassing all of them.
One special aspect of the Quran is that at any moment its reader can consult its Writer, put his questions and receive answers, for the Writer of the Quran is God Himself. He is a living God. As man’s Creator, He directly hears and answers man’s call.
The Quran is a book of God revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. It did not come to him in the form of a complete book, but in parts over a period of 23 years. The first part was revealed in 610 A D, when the Prophet Muhammad was in Makkah. Subsequently, different parts continued to be revealed regularly, the final part being revealed in 632, when the prophet was in Madinah.
There are 114 chapters in the Quran, both long and short. The verses number about 6600. To meet the needs of recitation, the Quran was divided into 30 parts. These parts were finally set in order under the guidance of the Angel Gabriel, through whom God had revealed the Quran.
When the Quran was revealed in the first quarter of the 7th century, paper had already been invented and in circulation. This paper, known as papyrus, was made by hand from the fibres of certain trees. Whenever any part of the Quran was revealed, it was written down on papyrus, or in Arabic, qirtas. (6:7). During this process, people committed the verses to memory, the Quran being the only Islamic literature which was recited in prayer, as well as being read out for the purposes of da‘wah. In this way, the Quran continued to be simultaneously memorized as well as written down.
This method of preservation continued during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad. When the prophet died in 632 A D, he was succeeded by Abu Bakr, the first caliph of Islam, who took great pains to prepare a bound copy of the Quran. This copy was made on qirtas. Being square in form, it was called raba‘a — a square-shaped book. In this way, the Quran was preserved in bound form during the lifetime of the first caliph. The third caliph, ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, had several copies prepared of this bound Quran. He sent these to different cities, where they were kept in the great mosques. People not only recited from these copies, but also prepared more copies from them.
The writing of the Quran by hand continued till the printing press was invented in the 19th Century and paper began to be manufactured on a large scale, thanks to the industrial revolution. Then, the Quran began to be printed. Printing methods went on improving and so the printing of the Quran also improved. Now printed copies of the Quran have become so common that they can be found in every home, mosque, library and bookstore. Today anyone can find a beautiful copy of the Quran, wherever he might be, in any part of the globe.
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