Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
The Quran is a medium-sized book as far as its volume is concerned. It comprises of 114 chapters or Surahs. The Quran is a revealed book: it is not authored by a human being. It is the actual word of God in human language. The Quran began to be revealed to Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace, through the angel Gabriel, in A.D. 610, while the Prophet was sitting in seclusion in the cave of Hira at the top of the Mountain of Light, two miles from Makkah. Thus the scriptures were not revealed in book-form at one point of time. The various parts were revealed as the occasion demanded. It was later compiled in Madinah during the last days of the Prophet. The entire revelation was completed over a period of 23 years. The last passage was revealed to the Prophet while he was addressing a gathering at Mount Arafat after performing his last Hajj in A.D. 622.
Since the Quran came into existence prior to the era of the press, it could be preserved in only two ways: either by committing the entire text to memory or by writing it on paper or other materials. That is why there have always been a large number of hafiz (those who committed the entire Quran to memory) in every age, right from the moment of revelation of the Quran to the present day. The earliest written copies of the Quran are still available in different museums, one of these being in Tashkent.
The Quran, addressed to mankind, tells us of God’s scheme for human existence: that man is placed on this earth for the purpose of being tested. The freedom he is given here is not as a matter of right, but as a matter of trial. On its outcome rests the eternal fate of man. The Quran asserts that human beings are eternal creatures, yet only an extremely small part of their lifespan has been assigned to this present world, the remainder ordained for the Hereafter. As we learn from the Quran, all the revealed books were sent by God so that man might be informed of the nature of his life.
The teaching of the Quran can be summed up under two basic headings: one, believing in One God and worshiping Him alone; and two, regarding all human beings as equal and according equal rights to all.
These two kinds of precepts can be expressed as monotheism and justice.
The teachings of the Quran can broadly be divided into two parts — abstractions and practicalities. The Quran, revealed as circumstances demanded, and not in a purely theoretical way, enshrines only the basic teachings of Islam. The detailed application of these teachings is to be found in the hadith (sayings and doings of the Prophet Muhammad).
Regarding social life, the essence of Islamic teaching is that God has granted freedom to everyone. This freedom in itself demands that people should lead their lives with restraint. Because, if freedom is exercised without restraint, it will inevitably result in clash and breakdown, destroying social life in their wake.
The most repeated invocation in the Quran is ‘In the name of God, the most beneficent the most Merciful.’ The occurrence of this invocation 114 times in the Quran is in itself an indication of how important it is.
Every piece of work must have a beginning. It is the Quran’s desire that when one initiates any undertaking one should begin by uttering the name of God. One is thus always reminded of God’s attributes of benevolence and compassion.