Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
Quran: A revealed Book
The Quran is a book of God revealed to Prophet Muhammad. It did not come to him in the form of a complete book, but in parts over a period of 23 years. The first part was revealed in 610 A.D. when Prophet Muhammad was in Makkah. Subsequently, different parts continued to be revealed regularly, the final part being revealed in 632 A.D. when the Prophet was in Madinah.
There are 114 chapters in the Quran, both long and short. The verses number about 6600. To meet the needs of recitation, the Quran was divided into 30 parts. These parts were finally set in order under the guidance of the Angel Gabriel, through whom God had revealed the Quran.
When the Quran was revealed in the first quarter of the 7th century, paper had already been invented. This paper, known as papyrus, was made by hand from the fibres of certain trees. Whenever any part of the Quran was revealed, it was written down on papyrus, or in Arabic, qirtas. (6:7). During this process, people committed the verses to memory, the Quran being the only Islamic literature which was recited in prayer, as well as being read out for the purposes of da‘wah. In this way, the Quran continued to be simultaneously memorized as well as written down.
This method of preservation continued during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad. When the Prophet died in 632 A.D., he was succeeded by Abu Bakr, the first caliph of Islam, who took great pains to prepare a bound copy of the Quran. This copy was made on qirtas. Being square in form, it was called raba‘a — a square-shaped book. In this way, the Quran was preserved in bound form during the lifetime of the first caliph. The third caliph, ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, had several copies prepared of this bound Quran. He sent these to different cities, where they were kept in the great mosques. People not only recited from these copies, but also prepared more copies from them.
The writing of the Quran by hand continued till the printing press was invented in the 19th century and paper began to be manufactured on a large scale, thanks to the industrial revolution. Then, the Quran began to be printed. Printing methods went on improving and so the printing of the Quran also improved. Now printed copies of the Quran have become so common that they can be found in every home, mosque, library and bookstore. Today anyone can find a beautiful copy of the Quran, wherever he might be, in any part of the globe.