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The Quran : literally meaning "a recitation", is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God Allah and the Final Testament, following the Old and New Testaments. It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language. The Quran is divided into 114 suras of unequal length which are classified either as Meccan or Medinan depending upon their place and time of revelation. Muslims believe the Quran to be verbally revealed through angel Jibrīl, Gabriel, from God to Muhammad gradually over a period of approximately twenty-three years beginning in 610 CE, when Muhammad was forty, and concluding in 632 CE, the year of his death. Muslims further believe that the Qur'an was precisely memorized, recited and exactly written down by Muhammad's companions
after each revelation was dictated by him.
Shortly after Muhammad's death the Quran was compiled into a single book by order of the first Caliph Abu Bakr and at the suggestion of his future successor Umar. Hafsa, Muhammad's widow and Umar's daughter, was entrusted with that Quranic text after the second Caliph Umar died. When the third Caliph Uthman began noticing slight differences in Arabic dialect he sought Hafsa's permission to use her text to be set as the standard dialect, the Quraish dialect now known as Fus'ha, Modern Standard Arabic. Before returning the text to Hafsa Uthman made several thousand copies of Abu Bakr's redaction and, to standardize the text, invalidated all other versions of the Quran. This process of formalization is known as the "Uthmanic recension".
The present form of the Quran text is accepted by most scholars
as the original version compiled by Abu Bakr.
Muslims regard the Quran as the main miracle of Muhammad, the proof of his prophethood and the culmination of a series of divine messages that started with the messages revealed to Adam, regarded in Islam as the first prophet, and continued with the Suhuf Ibrahim, Scrolls of Abraham, the Tawrat, Torah or Pentateuch of Moses, the Zabur, Tehillim or Book of Psalms, of David, and the Injil, Gospel, of Jesus. The Quran assumes familiarity with major narratives recounted in Jewish and Christian scriptures, summarizing some, dwelling at length on others and in some cases presenting alternative accounts and interpretations of events.
The Quran describes itself as a book of guidance, sometimes offering detailed accounts of specific historical events, and often emphasizing the moral significance
of an event over its narrative sequence.
Islamic tradition relates that Muhammad received his first revelation in the Cave of Hira during one of his isolated retreats to the mountains. Thereafter, he received revelations over a period of 23 years. According to hadith and Muslim history, after Muhammad immigrated to Medina and formed an independent Muslim community, he ordered many of his companions to recite the Quran and to learn and teach the laws, which were revealed daily. It is related that some of the Quraysh who were taken prisoners at the battle of Badr regained their freedom after they had taught some of the Muslims the simple writing of the time. Thus a group of Muslims gradually became literate. As it was initially spoken, the Quran was recorded on tablets, bones, and the wide, flat ends of date palm fronds. Most suras were in use amongst early Muslims since they are mentioned in numerous sayings by both Sunni and Shia sources, relating Muhammad's use of the Quran as a call to Islam, the making of prayer and the manner of recitation. However, the Quran did not exist in book form at the time of Muhammad's death in 632. There is agreement among scholars that Muhammad himself did not write down the revelation.
Sahih al-Bukhari narrates Muhammad describing the revelations as, "Sometimes it is revealed like the ringing of a bell" and Aisha reported, "I saw the Prophet being inspired Divinely on a very cold day and noticed the sweat dropping from his forehead as the Inspiration was over." Muhammad's first revelation, according to the Quran, was accompanied with a vision. The agent of revelation is mentioned as the "one mighty in power", the one who "grew clear to view when he was on the uppermost horizon. Then he drew nigh and came down till he was distant two bows' length or even nearer." The Islamic studies scholar Welch states in the Encyclopaedia of Islam that he believes the graphic descriptions of Muhammad's condition at these moments may be regarded as genuine, because he was severely disturbed after these revelations. According to Welch, these seizures would have been seen by those around him as convincing evidence for the superhuman origin of Muhammad's inspirations. However, Muhammad's critics accused him of being a possessed man, a soothsayer or a magician since his experiences were similar to those claimed by such figures well known in ancient Arabia. Welch additionally states that it remains uncertain whether these experiences occurred before or
after Muhammad's initial claim of prophethood.
The Quran describes Muhammad as "ummi", which is traditionally interpreted as "illiterate," but the meaning is rather more complex. Medieval commentators such as Al-Tabari maintained that the term induced two meanings: first, the inability to read or write in general; second, the inexperience or ignorance of the previous books or scriptures, but they gave priority to the first meaning. Muhammad's illiteracy was taken as a sign of the genuineness of his prophethood. For example, according to Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, if Muhammad had mastered writing and reading he possibly would have been suspected of having studied the books of the ancestors. Some scholars such as Watt prefer the second meaning of "ummi", they take it to
indicate unfamiliarity with earlier sacred texts.
The final verse of the Qur'an was revealed on the 18th of the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah in the year 10 A.H., a date that roughly corresponds to February or March 632. The verse was revealed after the Prophet finished delivering his sermon at Ghadir Khumm. The first sura of the Quran is repeated in daily prayers and in other occasions. This sura, which consists of seven verses, is the most often recited sura of the Quran :
"Praised be God, Lord of the Universe, the Beneficent, the Merciful and Master of the Day of Judgment, You alone We do worship and from You alone we do seek assistance, guide us to the right path, the path of those to whom You have granted blessings, those who are neither subject to Your anger nor have gone astray."
Muḥammad ibn, ʿAbdullāh ibn : 570 CE – 8 June 632 CE, is considered to be the last Messenger and Prophet of God in all the main branches of Islam. Muslims also believe that the Quran, which is the central religious text of Islam, was revealed to Muhammad by God, and that Muhammad was sent to restore Islam, which they believe to be the unaltered original monotheistic faith of Adam, Ibrahim, Musa, 'Isa, and other Prophets. The religious, social, and political tenets that Muhammad established with the Quran became the foundation of Islam and the Muslim world.
Muhammad, the son of 'Abdullah and his young wife Aminah, was born in 570 CE, approximately, in the city of Mecca in the Arabian Peninsula. He was a member of the family of Banu Hashim, a respected branch of the prestigious and influential Quraysh tribe. It is generally said that
'Abd al-Muttalib named the child "Muhammad" (Arabic: مُـحَـمَّـد).
Muhammad was orphaned when young. Some months before the birth of Muhammad, his father died near Medina on a mercantile expedition to Syria. When Muhammad was six, he accompanied his mother Amina on her visit to Medina, probably to visit her late husband's tomb. While returning to Mecca, Amina died at a desolate place called Abwa, about half-way to Mecca, and was buried there. Muhammad was now taken in by his paternal grandfather Abd al-Muttalib, who himself died when Muhammad was eight, leaving him in the care of his uncle Abu Talib. In Islamic tradition, Muhammad's being orphaned at an early age has been seen as a part of divine plan to enable him to "develop early the qualities of self-reliance, reflection, and steadfastness". Muslim scholar Muhammad Ali sees the tale of Muhammad as a spiritual parallel to the life of Moses, considering many aspects of their lives to be shared. The Quran said about Moses: "I cast the garment of love over thee from Me, so that thou might be reared under My eye. .. We saved thee from all grief, although We tried thee with various trials. .. O Moses, I have chosen thee for Mine Own service" (Quran 20:39-41). Taking into account the idea of this spiritual parallelism, together with other aspects of Muhammad's early life, it has been suggested that it was God under Whose direct care Muhammad was raised and prepared for the responsibility that was to be conferred upon him. Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan argued that Muhammad's orphan state made him dependent on God and close to the destitute, an
"initiatory state for the future Messenger of God".
According to Arab custom, after his birth, infant Muhammad was sent to Banu Sa'ad clan, a neighboring Bedouin tribe, so that he could acquire the pure speech and free manners of the desert. There, Muhammad spent the first five years of his life with his foster-mother Halima. Islamic tradition holds that during this period, God sent two angels who opened his body, took his heart from his soul and removed his blood, then washing him with Zamzam water.
In Islamic tradition, this incident signifies the idea that God purified his prophet
and protected him from sin.
Islamic belief holds that God protected Muhammad from involving in any disrespectful and coarse practice. Even when he verged on any such activity, God intervened. Prophetic tradition narrates one such incident in which it is said on the authority of Ibn Al-Atheer that while working as herdsman at early period of his life, young Muhammad once told his fellow-shepherd to take care of his sheep so that the former could go to the town for some recreation as the other youths used to do. But on the way, his attention was diverted to a wedding party, and he sat down to listen to the sound of music only to fall asleep soon. He was awakened by the heat of the sun. Muhammad reported that he never tried such things again.
Around the age of twelve, Muhammad accompanied his uncle Abu Talib in a mercantile journey to Syria, and gained experience in commercial enterprise. On this journey Muhammad is said to have been recognized by a Christian monk, Bahira, who prophesied about
Muhammad's future career as a prophet of God.
Around the age of twenty five, Muhammad was employed as the caretaker of the mercantile activities of Khadijah, a distinguished Quraysh lady, now widowed. Attracted by his business success and honesty, she sent a marriage proposal to Muhammad through her maid-servant Meisara. As Muhammad gave his consent, the marriage was solemnized in the presence of his uncle. At that time, Muhammad was twenty-five, and Khadijah was forty years of age. Despite the apparent disparity of age between them, the union was a happy one by all accounts.
Between 580 CE and 590 CE, Mecca experienced a bloody feud between Quraysh and Bani Hawazin that lasted for four years, before a truce was reached. After the truce, an alliance named Hilf al-Fudul, The Pact of the Virtuous, was formed to check further violence and injustice; and to stand on the side of the oppressed, an oath was taken by the descendants of Hashim and the kindred families, where Muhammad was also a member. In later days of his life, Muhammad is reported to have said about this pact, "I witnessed a confederacy in the house of 'Abdullah bin Jada'an. It was more appealing to me than herds of cattle. Even now in the period of Islam
I would respond positively to attending such a meeting if I were invited."
Islamic tradition credits Muhammad with settling a dispute peacefully, regarding setting the sacred Black Stone on the wall of Kaaba, where the clan leaders could not decide on which clan should have the honor of doing that. The Black stone was removed to facilitate the rebuilding of Kaaba because of its dilapidated condition. The disagreement grew tense, and bloodshed became likely. The clan leaders agreed to wait for the next man to come through the gate of Kaaba and ask him to choose. The 35-year-old Muhammad entered through that gate first, asked for a mantle which he spread on the ground, and placed the stone at its center. Muhammad had the clans' leaders lift a corner of it until the mantle reached the appropriate height, and then himself placed the stone on the proper place. Thus, an ensuing bloodshed
was averted by the wisdom of Muhammad.
Muslims believe that Muhammad is the last and final messenger and prophet of God who began receiving direct verbal revelations in 610 CE. The first revealed verses were the first five verses of sura Al-Alaq that the archangel Gabriel brought from God to Muhammad in the cave Mount Hira.
After his marriage with Khadijah and during his career as a merchant, although engaged in commercial activities and family affairs, Muhammad gradually became preoccupied with contemplation and reflection. and began to withdraw periodically to a cave named Mount Hira, three miles north of Mecca. According to Islamic tradition, in the year 610 CE, during one such occasion while he was in contemplation, the archangel Gabriel appeared before him and said 'Recite', upon which Muhammad replied: 'I am unable to recite'. Thereupon the angel caught hold of him and embraced him heavily. This happened two more time after which
the angel commanded Muhammad to recite the following verses :
In the name of thy Lord and Cherisher,
Who created, Created man, out of mere blood :
Proclaim ! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful,
He Who taught the use of the scribing of scrolls,
Taught man that which he knew not.
Quran, chapter 96 (Al-Alaq), verse 1-5
This was the first verbal revelation. Perplexed by this new experience, Muhammad made his way to home where he was consoled by his wife Khadijah, who also took him to her Christian cousin Waraqah ibn Nawfal. Waraqah was familiar with scriptures of Torah and Gospel. Islamic tradition holds that Waraka, upon hearing the description, testified to Muhammad's prophethood. It is also reported by Aisha that Waraqah ibn Nawfal later told Muhammad that Muhammad's own people would turn him out, to which Muhammad inquired "Will they really drive me out ?" Waraka replied in the affirmative and said "Anyone who came with something similar to what you have brought was treated with hostility ; and if I should be alive till that day, then I would support you strongly." Some Islamic scholars argue that Muhammad was foretold in the Bible.
In Islamic belief, revelations are God's word delivered by his chosen individuals, known as Messengers to humanity. According to Islamic scholar Muhammad Shafi Usmani, God created three media through which humans receive knowledge: men's senses, the faculty of reason, and divine revelation; and it is the third one that addresses the liturgical and eschatological issues, answers the questions regarding God's purpose behind creating humanity, and acts as a guidance for humanity in choosing the correct way. In Islamic belief, the sequence of divine revelation came to an end with Muhammad. Muslims believe these revelations to be the verbatim word of God, which were later collected together, and came to be known as Quran,
the central religious text of Islam.
Early Preaching and Teachings
During the first three years of his ministry, Muhammad preached Islam privately, mainly among his near relatives and close acquaintances. The first to believe him was his wife Khadijah, who was followed by Ali, his cousin, and Zayd ibn Harithah. Notable among the early converts were Abu Bakr, Uthman ibn Affan, Hamza ibn Abdul Muttalib, Sa'ad ibn Abi Waqqas, Abdullah ibn Masud, Arqam, Abu Dharr al-Ghifari, Ammar ibn Yasir and Bilal ibn Rabah. In the fourth year of his prophethood, according to Islamic belief, he was ordered by God to make public
his propagation of this monotheistic faith (Quran 15:94).
Muhammad's earliest teachings were marked by his insistence on the oneness of God
(Quran 112:1), the denunciation of polytheism (Quran 6:19), belief in the Last judgment
and its recompense (Quran 84:1–15), and social and economic justice (Quran 89:17–20). In a broader sense, Muhammad preached that he had been sent as God's messenger; that God is One who is all-powerful, creator and controller of this universe (Quran 85:8–9, Quran 6:2), and merciful towards his creations (Quran 85:14); that worship should be made only to God; that ascribing partnership to God is a major sin (Quran 4:48); that men would be accountable, for their deeds, to God on last judgment day, and would be assigned to heaven or hell
(Quran 85:10–13); and that God expects man to be generous
with their wealth and not miserly (Quran 107:1–7).
Opposition and Persecution
Muhammad's early teachings invited vehement opposition from the wealthy and leading clans of Mecca who feared the loss not only of their ancestral paganism, but also of the lucrative pilgrimage business. At first, the opposition was confined to ridicule and sarcasm which proved insufficient to arrest Muhammad's faith from flourishing, and soon they resorted to active persecution. These included verbal attack, ostracism, unsuccessful boycott, and physical persecution. Biographers have presented accounts of diverse forms of persecution on the newly converted Muslims by the Quraysh. The converted slaves who had no protection were imprisoned and often exposed to scorching sun. Alarmed by mounting persecution on the newly converts, Muhammad in 615 CE directed some of his followers to migrate to neighboring Abyssinia (present day Ethiopia), a land ruled by king Aṣḥama ibn Abjar famous for his justice, and intelligence. Accordingly, eleven men and four women made their flight,
and were followed by more in a later time.