The greatest miracle was the revelation of the Qur’an which was transmitted by the Prophet in passages of unequal length at different times over a period of twenty-three years.
As soon as the Prophet received each inspired message he recited it to his audience and they in turn repeated it to the community, which was made up of people who were fond of literature and eagerly awaited each new message, whether they were partisans or adversaries.
As the Prophet dictated each new passage it was written down by the scribes on anything within reach, on thin white stones, pieces of parchment, wood, leather, or whatever was available. Tradition counts up to twenty-nine different persons in Medina who served as secretaries; a lesser number of scribes recorded the revelations received in Mecca. From the very beginning the faithful never failed to record the revealed messages, even during the persecutions. Among these scribes were included the first five Caliphs: Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Mi, and Mu’awiya.
Thus the holy book of Islam became known in both an oral and written form. In its oral form it was called Qur’an, that is, Recital. In its written form it was called Kitab, or Scripture.
At the beginning the written extracts were not put in order or even gathered together, for other messages were expected.
As time went on several groups of verses began to grow up and tended to become independent unities as new verses were added according to the instructions given by the Prophet, who was following the orders of the Revealer Spirit. Although the text was originally scattered in its written form, it always had a definite order in the Prophet’s mind and in the minds of the faithful, with each verse or group of verses fitting into its proper place in the structure of the whole. In the Prophet’s lifetime there were hundreds of his Companions, called “Qur’an bearers,” who were specialists in reciting the Book and knew by heart every Surah in its proper place in the structure.
At the death of the Prophet the Qur’an was preserved in the memories of the faithful as well as in writing. While in its oral form every Surah was complete and in its proper place in the order known today, in its written form it was nothing but scattered documents written on many different materials. During the year following the death of the Prophet no one worried about the written form because there were innumerable oral witnesses among them as living copies of the Qur’an complete in its final form. But about a year after the Prophet’s death seventy of the Qur’an bearers were killed in the battle with Musailima, the false prophet, and it became clear that it would be necessary to guard against the loss of the oral tradition by gathering the written documents into a book easy to handle and use for reference. The idea of preparing the book was suggested by Umar and carried out by Zaid Ibn Thabit, a Qur’an bearer who had attended the last recital of the Qur’an by the Prophet and a man known for his intelligence, integrity, and competence.
Under the guidance of Zaid Ibn Thabit the correct written form of the Qur’an was determined by including only those passages which were verified by two witnesses as having been written down at the dictation of the Prophet and as being in the oral text of the last recital by the Prophet. This official collection is distinguished from the other personal, oral versions by an absolute rigorism which excluded from the text any explanatory notes and even eliminated the Surah titles. When the written form was completed it was given to the first Caliph, Abu Bakr, who entrusted it to Umar when he designated him the second Caliph. Since the third Caliph had not been chosen at the time of Umar’s death, he gave it to his daughter Hafsah who was one of the widows of the Prophet.
The universal authority of the written form of the Qur’an dates from its publication by the third Caliph, Uthman, who received it from Hafsah and ordered four secretaries to write as many copies of the document as there were big towns in the Islamic Empire. From that time the Uthman edition has been the only one in use in the Islamic world.
Ever since the earliest days the question has been raised as to whether the Qur’an was of divine or human origin. The explicit and implicit testimony of the Qur’an is that the author is God Himself. It is never the Prophet who speaks in the Qur’an. The Scripture either refers to him in the third person or addresses him directly, O Prophet, O Messenger, We reveal to thee, We send thee, do this, recite this; such is the language of the Qur’an.
The direct proof of the divine origin of the Qur’an is manifest all through the Scripture itself. It is also shown by the peculiar phenomena which accompanied every revelation of the Qur’an, according to the testimony of the true tradition. The Prophet’s contemporaries were objective witnesses of the visible, tangible, and audible signs of the mysterious accompanying phenomena which made evident the real source of the Qur’an and opened the eyes of the truth-seekers. In the presence of the Revealer Spirit the Prophet’s inspired face was illumined, like a mirror; there was silence; conversation stopped as if in moments of absence of mind; his body relaxed as if in sleep and a mysterious buzz was heard around him, as in a telephone conversation where the one listening is the only one who can hear distinctly enough to understand. There was nothing voluntary about these phenomena, for the Prophet could neither avoid them when they came nor bring them into being when he earnestly desired to receive a message. On many occasions the Prophet sought a revelation but it was not given; then, sometimes after an interval as long as a month, the mysterious phenomena would come, appearing suddenly and vanishing abruptly, after which the people with him would listen to the wonderful text.
The literary style and contents of that text are conclusive evidence of the divine origin of the Qur’an, but before considering that evidence let us turn to the arguments by which attempts have been made to prove that the origins were human. It is to the honor of Islam that the Qur’an records all hypotheses, reasonable or absurd, by which the contemporaries of the Prophet attempted to establish human origins for the Scripture. If the origins were human, they must have come from Muhammad’s environment, from other religions in that environment, or from the meditations and reasoning of the human author. Let us examine the activities of the Prophet before and during his apostolate and see what he could have learned from his surroundings or from his own meditations.
It is scarcely necessary to point out that at the beginning of Islam neither the ideas nor the practices of the people of Mecca show any resemblance to the teachings of the Qur’an. There is no relation between the pure unitarian system, the most perfect and refined ethics of the Holy Book of Islam, and the ignorance, paganism, superstitious idolatry, arrogant materialism, infanticide, prostitution, incest, dowry extortion, oppression of orphans, disregard for the poor, and scorn of the weak which were characteristics of Mecca in those times.
An effort has been made to show that the teachings of the Qur’an are similar to those of the Sabians, a sect well-known in Mecca at that time. But the Sabians were idolatrous and polytheistic, worshiping the stars and angels with a mixture of pagan, Christian, and other rites. Their pilgrimage was not to the Kaba, but to Harran in Iraq, and their prayers were to the stars at sunrise, at noon, and at sunset, three times when prayer is prohibited in Islam.
It was also suggested that Muhammad might have been influenced by the travelers and immigrants who came to Mecca: the Abyssinians or Romans, the laborers or wine merchants. It is clear that our Personage could not have known the vulgar class of immigrants for he lived either alone, in complete solitude, or as a shepherd, or as a big merchant in a caravan, or in the high society with the leaders of the community. Even if he had any contact with such people, their lack of religious knowledge would have been evident, and as the Qur’an points out, their foreign language would have made communication impossible (Surah XVI, 103).
It has been argued that in Muhammad’s travels he became acquainted with Arab tribes which had been converted to Christianity and got his ideas from them. Many scholars, ancient and modern, have pointed out that such contact with Christianity is unlikely but that, even if it did happen, the Christianity practiced in that part of the world was so debased that it was indistinguishable from paganism. The fourth Caliph, Ali, said that the tribe Taghlib had taken from Christianity nothing but the habit of drinking wine. Wherever Muhammad traveled he found beliefs to be rectified, deviations to be brought back to the right way. Nowhere did he find a moral or religious model which could have been copied for his work of reform.
Again, it has been suggested that the Prophet gleaned his teachings from the reading of books recording previous revelations. But the Qur’an categorically denies that he knew how to read or write (Surah XXIX, 48). Furthermore, the Bible was not available in Arabic until many centuries after the Prophet’s time, and the Bible in other languages was out of reach of the common people. The few biblical ideas which may have circulated among the common people were so vague and often contradictory that they cannot be the basis for the precision, extensiveness, unity, and vigor of the material in the Qur’an.
Nor can it be argued that Muhammad was influenced by Jewish teachings after he came to Medina, where he was in contact with Jewish scholars. Even before the Hijrah the Holy History had been revealed in all its true details in the Meccan Surahs, and the Qur’an had condemned the believers in the Pentateuch as followers of satanic inspiration, unworthy of being accepted as teachers or examples (Surah XVI, 63). In the revelations in Medina the Qur’an goes even further in its condemnation of the followers of the Pentateuch (Surah II, 79-80; III, 75; IV, 161). The psychological attitudes on both sides made Jewish influence on Islamic thought practically impossible. The majority of the Jewish scholars adopted an antagonistic position which was far from the benevolent attitude of teachers. Those of the Israelite scholars who were impartial enthusiastically welcomed the Prophet in Medina and declared their conversion to Islam, thereafter as disciples recognizing him as their Master. Between the two categories of the hostile or the submissive, there was no place for a third group of friendly tutors.
Thus it is clear that the teachings of the Qur’an cannot be attributed to the influence of the environment on Muhammad. There remains the question as to whether or not he could have created the Qur’an by himself through the use of meditation and reason. To a limited extent, reason could have revealed the falseness of idolatry and the senselessness of superstition, but how could it know how to replace them? It is not by mere thinking that facts can be known, that previous events can be described, yet the Qur’an was always in perfect accord with the essential data of the Bible, even those hidden from Muhammad by scholars. Mere intellect by itself could not have given such details. The Qur’an confirms that before the revelation Muhammad did not know any book nor even the meaning of faith (Surah XLII, 52). He could not possibly have guided others, for he did not even know how to guide himself in religious matters. He was ignorant of all the legislative, moral, social, and ritual details which are included in the revelation of the Qur’an. It was not by reason, or by the study of books, but only by revelation that Muhammad could know the creative God and the divine attributes. Only as it was revealed to him could he define the relation between God and the visible and invisible worlds and specify the future reserved to man after death.
We have seen that the Qur’an could not have human origins traceable either to the experience of Muhammad in the environment of his time or to his ability to construct the Holy Book by use of his reason. We have seen that the divine origin of the Qur’an is attested by the mysterious phenomena which always preceded a revelation. Now let us look further and consider the internal evidence for the divine origin in the literary form and contents of the Qur’an.
The literary form of the Qur’an is distinguished clearly from all other forms, whether they are poetry, rhythmic or non-rhythmic prose, the style of the common people, or that of the Prophet himself. The exceptional eloquence of Muhammad was always acknowledged and is known to us in countless instructions which he gave after careful thought, or dictated as non-Quranic insights. In all such passages there is not the slightest resemblance between them and the revealed messages.
We feel such ascendant power in the revealed texts that they penetrate the soul. The infidels in the time of the Prophet considered the form of the text such an extraordinary phenomenon that they used to call it magic. Even in modern times those who can understand the Arabic text recognize its sublime character without being able to explain it.
In our lectures on exegesis at Al Azhar University in Cairo, the oldest university in the world, the following analysis is used to point out the ways in which the literary form of the Qur’an transcends the powers of man and defies imitation.
The form of the Qur’an reflects neither the sedentary softness of the townsman nor the nomadic roughness of the Bedouin. It possesses in right measure the sweetness of the former and the vigor of the latter.
The rhythm of the syllables is more sustained than in prose and less patterned than in poetry. The pauses come neither in prose form nor in the manner of poetry, but with a harmonious and rhythmic symmetry.
The words chosen neither transgress by their banality nor by their extreme rarity, but are recognized as expressing admirable nobility.
The sentences are constructed in a dignified manner which uses the smallest possible number of words to express ideas of utmost richness.
The brevity of expression, the conciseness, attains such a striking clearness that the least learned man can understand the Qur’an without difficulty.
At the same time there is such a profundity, flexibility, suggestivity, and radiance in the Qur’an that it serves as the basis of the principles and rules for the Islamic sciences and arts, for theology, and for the juridical schools. Thus it is almost impossible in each case to express the ideas of a text by one interpretation only, either in Arabic or in a foreign language, even with the greatest care.
Quranic speech appears to be superhuman in its transcendence of the psychological law that intellect and feeling are always found in inverse proportion to each other. In the Qur’an we find constant cooperation between the two antagonistic powers of reason and emotion, for we find that in the narrations, arguments, doctrines, laws, and moral principles the words have both a persuasive teaching and an emotive force. Throughout the whole Qur’an the speech maintains a surprising solemnity and powerful majesty which nothing can disturb.
Finally, when we pass from the structure of a sentence, or a group of sentences dealing with the same subject, to the structure of the Surah and of the Qur’an as a whole, we find an over-all plan which could not have been created by man.
We know that the Qur’an was revealed in long and short fragments over a period of twenty-three years and that they have been arranged according to neither their chronological order nor their subject matter but in an independent, complicated order which appears to be arbitrary. As each revelation appeared it was placed in its fixed place, given its number among the verses, and its place was never changed. Thus, for every revealed verse there are two different orders, the chronological order based on the date of its revelation and the architectural order which determined its place in the composition of the Book. Throughout the long period of the revelations these two orders were strictly followed for every verse, every Surah, and the whole work.
In the chronological order, every revelation meets the need of the hour and links with the previous and following ones in a gradual progress in teaching and legislation. For instance, consider the main outline of these successive stages: it begins with the simple command, “Read!” (Surah XCVI, 1); then goes on to the apostolic charge, “Preach!” (Surah LXXIV, 2); then the call at first to the near relatives only (Surah XXVI, 214), extended next to the whole town (Surah XXVIII, 59), then to the neighboring towns (Surah VI, 92), and at last to humanity (Surah XXI, 107). Consider also the general outline of the progress in teaching in its two big divisions: first the fundamental bases of the work in the Surahs of Mecca; then the codified application of those general principles in the Surahs of Medina. This long course of events continued from the day of the grotto, when Muhammad was simply warned that he would receive a divine teaching, until the day of the last pilgrimage, when he was told that his mission was accomplished and he had nothing else to do on earth. After receiving the revelations for twenty-three years, he was called back.
Nothing, therefore, has been improvised in the Qur’an. Everything was foreseen and formed as a whole and in every detail, from the beginning to the end, including the death of the Prophet. Who could have formed and carried out such a complete plan? Who other than God from whom came this heavenly mission?
In addition to the chronological order there is the architectural order in the Qur’an. The very texts which follow in the chronological order the most wise educational plan were taken from their historical positions and fixed in the architectural order, every one in a definite frame already built to receive it, taking its place in those units of different length called Surahs. What makes it so wonderful is that once each Surah is completed from those scattered parts it is a unit faultlessly formed, artistically, linguistically, and logically. A special musical rhythm runs equally through all parts of the speech; there is a common, harmonious style, and a logical plan in the development of the ideas expressed.
It is clear that to establish such a scheme in advance the author would have had to foresee not only the problems which would arise from the events of the next twenty-three years, and their solutions, but also the literary form, the musical tone and rhythm in which it would be expressed, the appropriate structure for all the revelations yet to come, and the precise spot in that framework where each revelation would be fixed.
It must be confessed that no man or any other creature is capable of knowing the future in such detail or creating such a Book. Only the Divine Omniscience could be the creator of the Qur’an.
The teachings of the Qur’an are universal, addressed to all people throughout the world regardless of their origins and revealed to mankind to enlighten man’s spirit, to purify his morals, to unify his society, and to replace the domination by the powerful with justice and fraternity. As is confirmed in Surah XVI, 89, all human problems can be solved through the Qur’an, either directly or indirectly: “And We reveal the Scripture unto thee as an exposition of all things.”
This revelation in the Qur’an deals primarily with the Supreme Truth and with virtue. All the rest of the contents of the text, such as knowledge of the soul, the sciences of the nature of the heavens and the earth, history, prophecy, warnings, and the like, are only means to strengthen the message of the Qur’an, to give it more weight and conviction. The great theologian al-Ghazali, who died A.H. 505 (AD 1111), pointed out in his Pearls of the Qur’an that 763 verses are concerned with knowledge, and 741 verses with guidance in virtue. For him these 1504 verses represent the most precious substance of the Book, while the remaining 5112 verses are, so to speak, the envelope or shell of the teachings.
According to the Qur’an, the act of faith must include these three elements:
Belief in God
Belief in His messages addressed to humanity
Belief in the Day of Judgment.
The starting point in Islam is belief in God, the Almighty, the Benefactor, the Creator of everything, the only proper object of worship. In the attempts to persuade the polytheists to accept this pure monotheism, the chief point at issue is the question of the proper object of worship. The Qur’an in many passages points out that the pagans confess that there is but one Creator and Administrator of the universe (Surah XLIII, 9), but their mortal mistake is that in their worship they associate secondary gods with God and claim that those secondary gods are capable of interceding with Him on their behalf and winning His favor. The Qur’an uses arguments based on reason and on tradition to bring back those who have strayed from monotheism into polytheism.
In the rational arguments directed at the polytheists, the Qur’an emphasizes their agreement that creation and providence are attributed exclusively to God and seeks to persuade them to the exclusive worship of God. How can one equate the creature to the Creator? Is it conceivable that the being which has created nothing equals the One who has created everything? (Surah XVI, 17). Is it not illogical to invoke that which never answers us, which never even hears our appeal? (Surah XLVI, 5). Is it not ungrateful on our part to forget the Benefactor who grants us our happiness, the Benefactor to whom we address all our supplications in times of disaster? Is it not ungrateful to associate with Him in worship others who are incapable of either good or evil actions? (Surah XVI, 53-54). And finally, those polytheists who pretend that any man or saint or other being has the power of mediation or intercession with the great God must prove that it can be done (Surah II, 255; XIII, 33; XXXIX, 3).
In addition to the rational arguments against polytheistic worship, the Qur’an points to the unanimous testimony of the prophetic traditions. “There has not been one previous prophet to whom We have not revealed this truth that there is no God but Me, therefore worship Me” (Surah XXI, 25). “Ask the divine messengers who preceded you: Have We allowed them to worship other gods than the Merciful?” (Surah XLIII, 45).
While the starting point of faith is belief in God as the Creator, the Benefactor, and the only object of worship, it must be recognized that God is also the Legislator. He commands our actions and our emotions. He requires our trust and obedience. This truth can be known by natural intelligence, by common sense and conscience, and also by the confirmation given in the Qur’an. God has given man the natural power to discern good and evil, justice and injustice (Surah XCI, 7-8), but the experience of all time shows that passions, work, and material and worldly preoccupations sometimes turn our minds away from the highest ideals and lead us to erroneous judgments and practical mistakes. Therefore the Divine Mercy did not abandon us to our natural intelligence alone. To check any tendency in us toward declining our responsibilities, God has reinforced our natural intelligence with revealed Truths (Surah XXIV, 35).
In order that His commandments might be known to men without dependence on reason alone, God chose among men and Angels those worthy of receiving and transmitting the divine light, sending to every nation or large tribe His warning (Surah XVI, 36). Those who refuse to believe in any spokesman of God refuse to believe in God himself, for every divine messenger has been given proof of the divine origin of his revelations (Surah LVII, 25).
The first two elements in the faith of Islam, belief in God and in His messages , are not complete without the third: belief in the Day of Judgment. God is Creator, God is Legislator, and God is also the supreme Judge. He is the beginning and the end; to Him all men must turn to give an account of their deeds and to receive from Him equitable retribution according to their merits (Surah XL, 16; LVII, 3; II, 281). The doctrine of life after death includes belief in the survival of the soul and the resurrection of the body. The belief in the survival of the soul did not give rise to difficulties, but the impious objected with irony to the doctrine of the resurrection of the body: “Give us back our fathers if you speak the truth!” (Surah XLIV, 36).
The Qur’an opposed such superficial reasoning by pointing out the argument from nature, how the earth is at one time dead and dry and then living and fertile. (Surah XXII, 5-7; XXX, 50). The Qur’an establishes that resurrection is not only possible, it is certain. It is certain because God has promised it, and it is certain because it is required by wisdom and justice in order to give to each creature a just retribution for his deeds. Otherwise, the creation of man would have been in vain. “Deemed ye then that We had created you for naught, and that ye would not be returned unto Us?” (Surah XXIII, 115). Nor should it be thought that good and bad men would be treated in the same way, giving them similar life and death (Surah XLV, 21). In the Day of Judgment, justice will be given to all men.
Belief in God the Creator, God the Legislator, and God the Judge is not enough in itself. The Qur’an teaches that a genuine believer must have that faith and must also observe the law; it requires sincere belief and laborious obedience. In giving its commandments it awakens in us a sense of good and evil, of beauty and ugliness. “God could not order indecent things” (Surah VII, z8). “Tell them: My Lord forbids only what is indecent done in public or in private; deeds of the limbs or of the heart, such as any impious action and any unjustified violence” (Surah VII, 33). “The faithful do not defame the reputation of those who are absent. Would any one of you like to eat his dead brother’s flesh?” (Surah XLIX, 12). The Qur’an points out that such ideals of universal duty were always taught by wise men and the saints. The names of Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Moses, and Jesus are often mentioned as having taught such virtues and the necessity for prayer, charity, fasting, and the like.
Thus it is clear that the Qur’an has preciously preserved these previous teachings concerning virtue which were true, but we must notice that the Qur’an does not synthesize the sometimes divergent previous teachings; it marks out its own way by a spontaneous impulse. While it preserves the religious and moral patrimony, it adorns it more, crowning the divine building on which all the prophets have collaborated. By means of a variety of proofs convincing to the mind and attractive to the heart, the teaching concerning the divine attributes, the destiny of the soul, and the moral duties of man is much more developed in the Qur’an than anywhere else.
For instance, instead of only prohibiting drunkenness, the Qur’an stops the evil at its source by strictly forbidding the use of all intoxicants. Again, after reconciling the two apparently opposed principles of the Old and New Testaments, the principles of Justice and Charity, the Qur’an adds quite a new dimension which can be called the Code of Politeness, Discretion, and Propriety (Surah IV, 86; XXIV, 27 -28, 31, 58-62). With the Decalogue of Moses, we are still in the fundamental and elementary laws, as if on the ground floor of morality. With the Sermon on the Mount we already find ourselves on a very high level at which charity excels justice and the heavenly kingdom scorns the earthly realm. Finally, through the laws of the Qur’an we reach the summit where charity and justice are combined and there is a total disinterestedness which aims at the absolute Good which is God. It is God Himself who must be borne in mind while carrying out His will by living a virtuous life.
In the revelations of the Qur’an, as in every previous revelation, a new and original contribution is added to the earlier ones. It is the purpose of the Qur’an to “confirm and to safeguard the former books” (Surah V, 48). “Safeguard,” in that verse, means to discard the alterations and false interpretations unjustly attributed to the earlier revelations (Surah XVI, 63-64). The text of the Qur’an itself is safeguarded against any additions or changes because God Himself promised to be its protector (Surah XV, 9). As for the other books, they were written by men and left to their protection (Surah V, 44).
In addition to the Qur’an’s primary aim of revealing religious and moral truths, there arc secondary objectives designed to strengthen faith in the Creator or to support the faithful in their hope. It is striking to discover the extent to which the explanations of the natural world, God’s creation, correspond precisely with the latest discoveries of cosmology, anatomy, physiology, and the rest of the positive sciences. For instance, consider these remarkable examples of scientific knowledge: the sphericity of the earth (XXXIX, 5), the formation of rain (XXX, 48), fertilization by the wind (XV, 22), the aquatic origin of all living creatures (XXI, 30), the duality in the sex of plants and other creatures, then unknown (XXXVI, 35), the collective life of animals (VI, 38), the mode of life of the bees (XVI, 69), the successive phases of the child in his mother’s womb (XXII, 5; XXIII, 14).
A constant support to the faithful in their hope is the fulfillment of prophecies. In a short passage in Surah XLIV the Qur’an predicted accurately the different stages through which the Islamic preaching would pass and the different attitudes toward it which would be taken by the first adversaries, how they would at first be heedless and careless, then conciliatory and interested, and finally opposed and obviously hostile. At the same time it was predicted that the ungrateful town of Mecca would at first endure an awful misery which would bring some of the people from incredulity to an attraction of their souls toward heaven, then it would have prosperity which would make them forget God, and finally Mecca would suffer a humiliating defeat in the first battle (Surah XLIV, 9-16). Other verses announce the triumph of Islam, the permanence of its doctrine, the growth of the empire of young Islam, and the inability of any earthly power to annihilate Islam (XIII, 18; XIV, 24; XXIV, 55; VIII, 36).
The Qur’an also predicted the eternal schism in Christendom (V, 14), the dispersion of the Israelites (VII, 168), their world (VII, 167), their everlasting need of a protecting ally (III, 112) , and the dominance until the day of resurrection persecution until the end of the world (VII, 167), their everlasting need of a protecting ally(III, 112), and the dominance of the Christians over the Jews until the day of resurrection (III, 55).
It must be noted that not only have the prophecies of the Qur’an been confirmed, but the Qur’an has thrown out this challenge: nothing can ever contradict the prophecies of the Qur’an, neither in the past, the present, nor the future (XLI, 42).
Who could ever give guarantees against space and time other than the Master of Space and Time Himself?
The divine origin of the Qur’an is evident for all the reasons which have been considered in this discussion. The possibility of human origin has been eliminated. Nowhere in the Qur’an is the personal character of the Prophet reflected, nowhere is there an echo of his daily joys and sorrows or of his earthly surroundings. There are no indications of geographical, atmospherical, racial, tribal, or individual peculiarities in the subjects treated. Only that which is necessary for the education of humanity is found in the Qur’an. The revelations were accompanied by visible signs of their divine origin. The linguistic and stylistic form of the Qur’an give positive signs of its divinity. The religious and moral teachings are clear evidence of its divine origin, free from the possibility of borrowing from other books.
It is for this reason that the Qur’an holds the highest place in Islam. For Muslims, the Qur’an is not only the text of prayers, the instrument of prophecy, the food for the spirit, the favorite canticle of the soul; it is at the same time the fundamental law, the treasure of the sciences, the mirror of the ages. It is the consolation for the present and the hope for the future.
In what it affirms or denies, the Qur’an is the criterion of truth. In what it orders or prohibits, it is the best model for behavior. In what it judges, its judgment is always correct. In what it discusses, it gives the decisive argument. In what it says, it is the purest and most beautiful expression possible in speech. It calms or incites most effectively.
Since the Qur’an is the direct expression of the divine will, it holds supreme authority for all men. The obedience due to our parents, our superiors, our community, or the Prophet himself is given only when it is based on a principle found in the Book of God. Their commands are obligations to us only so long as they transmit the divine commandment or do not contradict it.
It is edifying to know how the Prophet himself regarded the text of the Qur’an. He could not by his own will retouch it in the slightest; he interpreted it exactly as any commentator would a text which was not his own. And when he postponed carrying out any of its commandments even for a short time, in order to treat kindly the souls of the faithful and to forestall the objections of adversaries, we see the Revelation reproaching him most severely. Those reproaches he accepted with resignation and left engraved forever in the text (Surah XXXIII, 37). This constantly humble, submissive, and reverential attitude toward the words of God is sincerely confessed in the Qur’an itself: “Recite: my prayer, my acts of devotion, my life and my death belong exclusively to God, the Ruler of the Universe, lone Ruler and without partner. Of this I received the order and I am the first of the submissives” (Surah VI, 163-64).
Mohammad Abd Allah Draz, in K.W. Morgan, ed.,
Islam: the Straight Path,
New York, Ronald Press, 1958