What is the Qur'an?
The Qur'an is a record of the exact words revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammed. It was memorized by Muhammad and then dictated to his Companions, and written down by scribes, who cross-checked it during his lifetime. Not one word of its 114 chapters, Surahs, has been changed over the centuries, so that the Qur'an is in every detail the unique and miraculous text which was revealed to Muhammad fourteen centuries ago.
The Qur'an, the last revealed Word of God, is the prime source of every Muslim's faith and practice. It deals with all the subjects which concern us as human beings: wisdom, doctrine, worship, and law, but its basic theme is the relationship between God and His creatures. At the same time it provides guidelines for a just society, proper human conduct and an equitable economic system.
The Prophet (PBUH) himself had no role in authoring the Qur'an, he was merely a human secretary repeating the dictates of the Divine Creator.
"He (Muhammad) does not speak of his own desire. It is no less
than an inspiration sent down to him." (Qur'an 53:3-4)
The Qur'an was revealed in Arabic, to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) over a period of twenty-three years. It is composed in a style so unique, that it cannot be deemed either poetry or prose, but somehow a mixture of both. The Qur'an is inimitable. It cannot be simulated or copied, and God Almighty challenges mankind to pursue such an endeavour if he thinks he can:
"Or do they say he forged it? Say: Bring then a chapter like unto
it, and call (to your aid) anyone yon can, beside God, if it be you
speak the truth." (Qur'an 10:38).
The Qur'an's language is indeed sublime, its recitation moving, as one non-Muslim scholar noted, it was like the cadence of my heartbeat. Due to its unique style of language, the Qur'an is not only highly readable, but also relatively easy to remember. This latter aspect has played an important role not only in the Qur'an's presentation. but in the spiritual life of Muslims as well. God Himself declares,
"And We have indeed made the Qur'an easy to understand and
remember; then is there anyone that will receive admonition?"
One of the most important characteristics of the Qur'an is that it remains today, the only holy book which has never changed; it has remained free from any and all adulterations. Sir William Muir noted, "There is probably in the world no other book which has remained (fourteen) centimes with so pure a text." The Qur'an was written down during the lifetime and under the supervision of the Prophet, who himself was illiterate, and it was canonized shortly after his death by a rigorous method which scrutinized both written and oral traditions. Thus its authenticity is unblemished, and its preservation is seen as the fulfilment of God's promise:
"We have, without doubt, sent down the Message, and We will
assuredly guard it from corruption." (Qur'an 19:9)
Perhaps the best description of the Qur'an was given by Ali (AS), the cousin of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) when he expounded upon it as:
"The Book of God. In it is the record of what was before you, the
Judgement of what is among you, and the prophecies of what will
come after you. It is decisive, not a case for levity. Whoever is a
tyrant and ignores the Qur'an will be destroyed by God. Whoever
seeks guidance from other than it will be misguided. The Qur'an
is the unbreakable bond of connection with God; it is the
remembrance full of wisdom and the straight path. The Qur'an
does not become distorted by tongues, nor can it be deviated by
caprices; It never dulls from repeated study; scholars will
always want more of it. The wonders of the Qur'an are never-
ending. Whoever speaks from it will speak the truth, whoever
rules with it will be just, and whoever holds fast to it will be
guided to the straight path." (Authenticated by: At-Tirmidhi)