The Qur’an is a record of the exact words revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad. It was memorized by Muhammad (peace be upon him) and then dictated to his Companions, and written down by scribes, who cross-checked it during his lifetime.
Not one word of its 114 surahs (chapters) has been changed over the centuries, so that the Qur’an is in every detail the unique and miraculous text which was revealed Muhammad fourteen centuries ago.
Muslims believe the Qur’an to be God’s final revelation. They believe it is the literal word of God, revealed over many years, to His final prophet, Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him.
The Qur’an is full of wisdom. It is full of the wonder and glory of God, and a testament to His mercy and justice. It is not a history book, a storybook, or a scientific textbook, although it contains all of those genres.
The Qur’an is God’s greatest gift to humanity – it is a book like no other. In the second verse of the second chapter of the Qur’an, God describes the Qur’an by calling it :
…a book whereof there is no doubt, a guidance to those who are pious, righteous, and fear God. (Al-Baqarah 2:2)
The Qur’an is core to Islam. Believing in it is a requirement. One who does not believe in the Qur’an, in its entirety, cannot claim to be a Muslim.
The Messenger (Muhammad) believes in what has been sent down to him from his Lord, and (so do) the believers. Each one believes in God, His Angels, His Books, and His Messengers. (They say,) ‘We make no distinction between one another of His Messengers’ — and they say, ‘We hear, and we obey. (We seek) Your forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the return (of all)’. (Al-Baqarah 2:285)
Islam has two primary sources, the Qur’an, and the authentic Traditions of Prophet Muhammad, that explain and sometimes expand on that of the Qur’an.
And We have not sent down the Book (the Qur’an) to you (O Muhammad, except that you may explain clearly unto them those things in which they differ, and (as) a guidance and a mercy for a folk who believe. ( An-Nahl 16:64)
The Qur’an was delivered to Prophet Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel and revealed in stages over a period of 23 years.
And (it is) a Quran which We have divided into parts, in order that you might recite it to men at intervals. And We have revealed it by stages. (Al-Israa’ 17:106)
Prophet Muhammad was commanded by God to convey the Qur’an to all of humankind and the responsibility weighed heavily upon him. Even in his farewell address he called on the people present to bear witness that he had delivered the message.
The Qur’an explains the concept of God, it explains in detail what is permissible and what is forbidden, it explains the basics of good manners and morals, and gives rulings about worship. It tells stories about the Prophets and our righteous predecessors, and describes Paradise and Hell. The Qur’an was revealed for all of humankind.
The book in which the Qur’an (the words of God) are contained in is called a mushaf . The Qur’an is considered so unique in content and style that it cannot be translated; therefore, any translation is considered an interpretation of the meanings of the Qur’an.
When God sent Prophets to the various nations He often allowed them to perform miracles that were relevant to their particular time and place. In the time of Moses magic and sorcery were prevalent therefore Moses’ miracles appealed to the people he was sent to guide. In the time of Muhammad, the Arabs, although predominantly illiterate, were masters of the spoken word. Their poetry and prose were considered outstanding and a model of literary excellence.
When Prophet Muhammad recited the Qur’an – the words of God – the Arabs were moved tremendously by its sublime tone and extraordinary beauty.
The Qur’an was Prophet Muhammad’s miracle from God. Muhammad was unable to read or write therefore the Arabs knew that he was unlikely to have produced such eloquent words, but even so some refused to believe that the Qur’an was the word of God. God therefore challenged them, in the Qur’an, to produce a rival text.
And if you (Arab pagans, Jews, and Christians) are in doubt concerning that which We have sent down (i.e. the Qur’an) to Our slave (Muhammad), then produce a chapter of the like thereof and call your witnesses (supporters and helpers) besides God, if you are truthful. (Al-Baqarah 2:23)
Of course they were unable to do so. In contrast to those who questioned the origin of the Qur’an, many Arabs converted to Islam after hearing the recitation. They knew immediately that such sublime beauty could originate only from God.
Even today it is possible to see Muslims moved to tears while listening to or reciting the Qur’an. In fact some people, unable to understand even one word of the Arabic language are moved by the intrinsic beauty of the Qur’an.
After establishing that Qur’an is the word of God and that it is a recitation, it is also important to understand that Qur’an has remained unchanged for more than 1400 years.
Today when a Muslim in Egypt holds his mushaf in his hands and begins to recite you can be sure that in far away Fiji another Muslim is looking at and reciting the exact same words. There are no differences. The child in France holding his first mushaf is tentatively reciting the same words that flowed from the lips of Prophet Muhammad.
God assures us in Qur’an that He will surely protect His words. He says,
Verily, it is We Who have sent down the Qur’an and surely, We will guard it (from corruption). (Al-Hijr 15:9)
This means that God will guard against anything false being added or any part of it being taken away. It is protected from tampering and if anyone attempts to distort the meanings of Qur’an, God will guide someone to expose the deception.
Muslims believe that the previous revelations from God, including the Torah and the Gospels of Jesus were either lost in antiquity, or changed and distorted, so it is a source of comfort to them knowing that God’s words – the Quran – are now well guarded.
God sent down the Qur’an, from above the heavens, to the Angel Gabriel in the glorious month of Ramadan. The story of how this recitation was revealed and how Qur’an came to be available worldwide, with an interpretation of the meanings translated into over 100 languages.