What is the Quran and why is it important?

The Quran is considered the literal word of Allah, the final and most important book of guidance for humanity given to Prophet Muhammad (SAW), the last messenger to mankind.  It consists of 114 chapters that guide all aspects of human existence, including the origin and final destination.  Muslims hold the Quran as the most important source of authority.

The word Quran means recitation and its verses are recited by Muslims throughout the world.  For Muslims, undoubtedly the best form of remembrance of Allah is the recitation of the Quran.  

 Allah says ‘This is a Blessed book which We revealed to you, that they may reflect upon its verses, and those with understanding may take heed.’

Quran 38:29.

What important lessons does the Quran teach?

Through its verses, the Quran teaches Muslims how to live their lives in the best possible manner as commanded by Allah and shown in practice by the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) during his life.  His words and actions are the perfect blueprint for people to follow if they want to please the Creator. 

The Quran also talks about some of the past prophets and what challenges they faced and what they did to overcome them.  One of the reasons for this is to show people today how both triumph and adversity come to everyone, no matter what their status, and how to behave and act best in these circumstances. 

Islam teaches that Allah is One without any partner and is merciful and kind, all-hearing and all-knowing and guides mankind through scriptures, prophets and signs.

Sayings of the Prophet regarding the Quran

The Prophet of Allah (SAW) said ‘Allah has His own people among mankind.  They asked ‘O Messenger of Allah, who are they?’  He replied ‘they are the people of the Quran:  the people of Allah and His chosen people.’ (ibn Majah)

In another hadith, the Prophet of Allah (SAW) said ‘The Quran will be brought on the Day of Judgement and will say (for its reciter): ‘My Lord, adorn him.’  So he will be made to wear a crown of nobility.  Then it will say: ‘My Lord, give him more.’  So he will be clothed with a suit of nobility.  ‘Then it will say: ‘My Lord, be pleased with him.’  So Allah will be pleased with him and it will be said to him: ‘Recite and rise up, and be increased in reward with every verse. (Tirmidhi)

When was the Quran revealed?

The Quran was revealed incrementally over a period of 23 years beginning from when Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was 40 years old until the year of his death at 63.  This corresponds to 632 AD in the Gregorian calendar. So it is the last of the divinely revealed books following the Torah given to Moses, Zaboor (Psalms) given to David and Injeel (Gospel) given to Jesus (peace be on them all).  

Incidentally, it is incumbent on Muslims to believe in all the previous divinely revealed books as they were originally given to their respective prophets and is a part of their faith. The Quran was transmitted orally by the Angel Jibrail (Gabriel) over the 23 year period and was revealed when the circumstances were called upon, not in any particular number of verses or in any fixed time of the day or year.  Sometimes only a few verses were revealed while at other times, entire chapters were given.

The first revelation of the Quran was as 5 verses in a cave called Hira near Mecca, present-day Saudi Arabia.  All subsequent verses and chapters revealed from then until the Prophet migrated out of Mecca are called Makki Surahs and there are 86 of them.   When he migrated approximately 13 years after the first revelation to the city of Medina, which was called Yathrib until then, the revealed chapters were called Madani Surahs and there are 28 of these.

Reflecting on the Quran’s verses

Reciting the Quran without understanding or reflection is not the goal.  The main objective is that the reciter ponders over the meaning of the Quran and understands and reflects on its teachings.  The Quran actually reproaches those who do not reflect on it: 

‘Then do they not reflect upon the Quran? If it had been from (any) other than Allah, they would have found within it much contradiction. And when there comes to them information about (public) security or fear, they spread it around. But if they had referred it back to the Messenger or to those of authority among them, then the ones who [can] draw correct conclusions from it would have known about it. And if not for the favour of Allah upon you and His mercy, you would have followed Satan, except for a few.’ 

Quran 4:82-83

‘Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding. Who remember Allah while standing or sitting or (lying) on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, (saying), “Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You (above such a thing); then protect us from the punishment of the Fire.’ 

Quran 3:190-191

The great scholar of Islam, Imam al-Nawawi has stated: ‘The reciter is enjoined to be sincere in recitation, and to seek the pleasure of Allah thereby, not seeking to gain anything else.  He should follow the proper etiquette of the Quran and remember in his heart that he is having a private conversation with Allah and that he is reciting His Book.  So he should recite it as though he could see Him, for even if he cannot see Him, Allah sees him.’

The great scholar ibn al-Qayyim wrote:  There is nothing more beneficial for the heart than reading the Quran with contemplation and reflection….reciting a single ayah (verse) with contemplation and reflection is better than reciting the entire Quran without any contemplation or reflection.’

Benefits of reciting the Quran

It brings a context to one’s life.  Many positive and negative things happen daily in a person’s life.  The Quran reminds people what is actually important and puts these daily events in a context as compared to the eternal life of the hereafter where there are only two possible final destinations, Paradise or Hell.

You can learn about the Sunnah of Allah through the reminders in the Quran, where you are informed about how Allah designed the world to work in a certain way and stories of history in the Quran reflect a pattern where people gain great wealth and power and so became arrogant and forgetful of the favours that Allah gave them and after rejecting reminders from scriptures, prophets and signs, the arrogant self indulgent are destroyed and the humble, grateful servants are given victory and preserved.

Your Imaan (faith) and knowledge will increase as a result of reading and contemplating on the verses.  Not only do you gain the reward for reading, but your knowledge increases also and as a result, your faith also advances to bring you closer to the Creator.

Reciting daily gives a spiritual cleaning to your heart.  Sins are committed by everyone but by reading daily, we’re reminded of how great Allah is and to disobey him is a big deal which leads us to ask for forgiveness and therefore forgiven which cleanses the heart.

The rewards of reciting the Quran are many.  A hadith (saying of the Prophet SAW) states whoever reads a letter from the Book of Allah will have a reward.  And that reward will be multiplied by ten.  I am not saying that ‘Alif, Laam, Meem’ is one letter, rather I am saying that ‘ALif’ is one leter, ‘laam’ is a letter and ‘Meem’ is a letter.’  (Tirmidhi) So each letter read brings not just a reward but a tenfold reward.

Teaching the Quran, even one word or sentence will give the teacher a reward every time that is recited by the student.  If the knowledge is then passed on to others by the student, everyone involved will be rewarded including the original teacher.

Uthman ibn Affan (RA) said: If your hearts were pure, they would never have enough of reciting Allah’s words.’  Imam Ahmad Kitab al-Zuhd)

Rewards of reading the Quran

Our beloved Prophet (SAW) said: ‘When a man dies and his relatives are busy in funeral, there stands an extremely handsome man by his head.  When the dead body is shrouded, that man gets in between the shroud and the chest of the deceased.

When after the burial, the people return home, two angels, Munkir and Nakkeer (names of two special Angels), come in the grave and try to separate this handsome man so that they may be able to interrogate the dead man in privacy about his faith.  But the handsome man says, ‘He is my companion, he is my friend.  I will not leave him alone in any case.  If you are appointed for interrogation, do your job.  I cannot leave him until I get him admitted into Paradise ‘.

Thereafter he turns to his dead companion and says, ‘I am the Qur’an, which you used to read, sometimes in a loud voice and sometimes in a low voice.  Do not worry. After the interrogation of Munkir and Nakkeer, you will have no grief.’

When the interrogation is over, the handsome man arranges for him from Al-Mala’ul A’laa (the angels in Heaven) silk bedding filled with musk.

Read Quran as (SAW) said: ‘On the Day of Judgement, before Allah, no other Intercessor will have a greater status than the Quran, neither a Prophet nor an angel.’

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