The Authenticity of the Qur’an

👤 Written By: M. Amir Ali, Ph. 🕔 Posted on: July 13, 2017 - 20:52 👁 Views: 254

The Authenticity of the Qur’an

How do we know that the Qur’an we have today is the word of God?

The importance of this question cannot be underestimated. Scriptures form the bedrock of a religion’s teachings and typically compel people to follow them on the assumption that they are of divine origin. However, with so many competing claims, it is no longer sufficient to rely on mere assumption alone to feel confident that a religious scripture ought to be trusted as Truth. If being a “Muslim” means “one who surrenders to the will of Allah”, then every Muslim should know that it really is the will of Allah that one is surrendering to.

To answer the question, we first need to establish that the Qur’an we have today is the same Qur’an as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (p) and that no corruption has taken place in the transmission of that message. In other words, we initially need to prove the fact that the Qur’an has survived history, perfectly preserved. Secondly, we need to establish who the author of the Qur’an really is. This may be done by eliminating all possible authors that are unacceptable to reason. That is, we may be certain of the definite author by eliminating all unlikely authors. This two-step process is outlined below:

I. The Recording and Perfect Preservation of the Qur’an

The Glorious Qur’an, the Muslims’ religious Scripture, was revealed in Arabic to the Prophet Muhammad (p) through the angel Gabriel. The revelation occurred piecemeal, over a period of twenty-three years, sometimes in brief verses and sometimes in longer chapters [1].

The Qur’an (lit. a “reading” or “recitation”) is distinct from the recorded sayings and deeds (Sunnah) of the Prophet Muhammad (p), which are instead preserved in a separate set of literature collectively called the “Ahadith” (lit. “news”; “report”; or “narration”).

Upon receiving revelation, the Prophet (p) engaged himself in the duty of conveying the message to his Companions through reciting the exact words he heard in their exact order. This is evident in his inclusion of even the words of Allah which were directed specifically to him, for example: “Qul” (“Say [to the people, O Muhammad]”). The Qur’an’s rhythmic style and eloquent expression make it easy to memorize. Indeed, Allah describes this as one of its essential qualities for preservation and remembrance (Q.44:58; 54:17,22,32,40), particularly in an Arab society which prided itself on orations of lengthy pieces of poetry. Michael Zwettler notes that “in ancient times, when writing was scarcely used, memory and oral transmission was exercised and strengthened to a degree now almost unknown” [2]. Large portions of the revelation were thus easily memorized by a large number of people in the community of the Prophet (p).

The Prophet (p) encouraged his Companions to learn each verse that was revealed and transmit it to others [3]. The Qur’an was also required to be recited regularly as an act of worship, especially during the daily meditative prayers (salat). Through these means, many repeatedly heard passages from the revelation recited to them, memorized them and used them in prayer. The entire Qur’an was memorized verbatim (word for word) by some of the Prophet’s Companions. Among them were Zaid ibn Thabit, Ubayy ibn Ka’b, Mu’adh ibn Jabal, and Abu Zaid [4].

Furthermore, the sequence or order of the Qur’an was arranged by the Prophet (p) himself and was also well-known to the Companions [5]. Each Ramadan, the Prophet (p) would repeat after the angel Gabriel (reciting) the entire Qur’an in its exact order as far as it had been revealed, while in the presence of a number of his Companions [6]. In the year of his death, he recited it twice [7]. Thereby, the order of verses in each chapter and the order of the chapters became reinforced in the memories of each of the Companions present.

As the Companions spread out to various provinces with different populations, they took their recitations with them in order to instruct others [8]. In this way, the same Qur’an became widely retained in the memories of many people across vast and diverse areas of land.

Indeed, memorization of the Qur’an emerged into a continuous tradition across the centuries, with centers/schools for memorization being established across the Muslim world [9]. The Qur’an is perhaps the only book, religious or secular, that has been memorized completely by millions of people [10]. Leading orientalist Kenneth Cragg reflects that “this phenomenon of Qur’anic 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 (Qur’anic 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” [11].

The entire Qur’an was however also recorded in writing at the time of revelation from the Prophet’s dictation by some of his literate companions, the most prominent of them being Zaid ibn Thabit [12]. Others among his noble scribes were Ubayy ibn Ka’b, Ibn Mas’ud, Mu’awiya ibn Abi-Sufyan, Khalid ibn Waleed and Zubayr ibn Awwam [13]. The verses were recorded on leather, parchment, scapulae (shoulder bones of animals) and the stalks of date palms [14].

The codification of the Qur’an (i.e. into a ‘book form’) was done soon after the Battle of Yamama (11AH/633CE), after the Prophet’s death, during the Caliphate of Abu Bakr. Many companions became martyrs at that battle and it was feared that unless a written copy of the entire revelation was produced, large parts of the Qur’an might be lost with the death of those who had memorized it. Therefore, at the suggestion of Umar to collect the Qur’an in the form of writing, Zaid ibn Thabit was requested by Abu Bakr to head a committee which would gather together the scattered recordings of the Qur’an and prepare a suhuf – loose sheets which bore the entire revelation on them [15]. To safeguard the compilation from errors, the committee accepted only material which had been written down in the presence of the Prophet (p) himself, and which could be verified by at least two reliable witnesses who had actually heard the Prophet (p) recite the passage in question [16]. Once completed and unanimously approved of by the Prophet’s Companions, these sheets were kept with the Caliph Abu Bakr (d. 13AH/634CE), then passed on to the Caliph Umar (13-23AH/634-644CE), and then Umar’s daughter and the Prophet’s widow, Hafsa [17].

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The Authenticity of the Qur’an

👤 Written By: M. Amir Ali, Ph. 🕔 Posted on: July 13, 2017 - 20:52 👁 Views: 254
👤 Posted By: Tamseelah Qamar Hashmi, the News Editor, All Round View

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