The Qur'an
 

The Qur'an from the Mouth of its First Addressee

 

Fourteen hundred years have passed since what is believed to have been the last link on the chain of divine revelation, the Holy Qur’an, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). This also marks the time when our beloved Prophet assumed the responsibility of this significant role. Many verses in the Qur’an introduce and explain its very own qualities. (See 1:103; 10:57; 17:9; 37:77; 56:77-80; 69:40-48). The best description of the divine book undoubtedly comes from the Qur’an itself. The following is a brief explanation of the Messenger of Allah’s experience throughout the period of revelation, being the first addressee of the divine words.

By examining the sources at hand, we learn about the Prophet’s reaction to the initial revelation he received on Mount Hira (Tabari, history, 2/298-299). The Messenger of Allah, until that day, hadn’t an inkling as to his role of prophecy. He could not read nor write, and experienced some confusion when he was first addressed by the archangel Gabriel. Upon hearing the address of the archangel Gabriel, saying, “Oh Muhammad! You are truly the Messenger of Allah,” (Bukhari, Ta’bir, 1) he came to understand that he had been honored with this divine mission. Prophet Muhammad explains the first instance and first experience in revelation wherein he was faced with the angel of revelation in the following way: “(A being I was unfamiliar with) came to me and said ‘read.’ I replied ‘I don’t know how to read.’ He took a hold of me and squeezed me until I lost my strength. Then he let me go and repeated, ‘read’ again. I repeated ‘I don’t know how to read.’ It held me again and squeezed me until I lost my strength. It let me go and said, ‘read.’ I responded saying, ‘I don’t know how to read,’ It took hold of me and squeezed me [one last time] until I lost my strength and said the following to me, ‘Proclaim! (or read!) in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood. Proclaim! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful, He Who taught (the use of) the pen, Taught man that which he knew not .’” (96; Bukhari, Bad’ul Wahiy, 1)

The Qur’an, which is a miracle in both its style and content, had the ability to deeply affect each person who heard it, because it was the most beautiful of words (Surah Az-Zumar, 23)

 The Prophet would at times repeat the revelation, which had been entrusted to him in order to remember and to remind others of its grave importance. Sometimes he would worry greatly, but Allah reassured him that he need not worry (87:6-8; 75:16-19). Further, this “weighty message” that was revealed to him (73:5) was both advice and a warning, “We have not sent down the Qur'an to thee to be (an occasion) for thy distress, but only as an admonition to those who fear (Allah).” (20:2-3). The first addressee of this revelation was the Messenger of Allah and the first person who was ordered to follow it was also the Messenger (6:50, 56, 106). Even though his only duty was to spread the message (3:20), he couldn’t help but become overwhelmed by extreme sorrow in the face of those who didn’t accept his invitation and turned away from the divine message (18:6).

The Qur’an, which is a miracle in both its style and content, had the ability to deeply affect each person who heard it, because it was the most beautiful of words (Surah Az-Zumar, 23). The Messenger of Allah said: “Each Prophet was given a miracle which was believed (upon occuring). The (miracle) given to me was that of the Qur’an which Allah revealed to me. On the Day of Judgment, I hope that I will be (among the rest of the prophets) the one with the largest following.” (Bukhari, I’tisam, 1). This wish of the Messenger of Allah was not in vain, because the miracle of the Qur’an that was given to him was more effective than all other miracles.

The Messenger of Allah who was aware of the influential style of the Qur’an, would take care to read it with a beautiful voice and a manner true to its form. One of the companions of the Prophet, Bara bin Azib, said that he had “Not heard someone whose voice and reading” of Surah At-Tin, which the Prophet recited during Isha prayer, “was more beautiful than the Messenger of Allah.” (Bukhari, Tawheed, 52). Abdullah bin Mughaffal, too, had witnessed the Messenger of Allah recite Surah Al Fatiha in a loud and billowing voice, while riding his camel during the year in which Mecca was conquered (Muslim, Salat-ul Misafirin, 34). One day, Abdullah bin Mas’ood, whom the Messenger of Allah summoned so that he would recite the Qur’an to him, said “Shall I recite the Qu’ran to you, the one it has been revealed to?” in apparent surprise over the Messenger’s request. The Messenger of Allah responded, “Yes, I like listening to the Qur’an from others.” Abdullah bin Mas’ood, who began reciting the Qur’an upon hearing this, reached the verse, “How (will it be) then, when We bring from each nation a witness and We bring you (O Muhammad) as a witness against these people?” (4:41); at this point the Messenger of Allah said, “Enough.” There were tears coming down his eyes.” (Bukhari, Tafseer, 88)

Both the literary style and the striking messages of the Qur’an, deeply touched the Arabs of the Jahiliyya, who were well versed in the art of poetry. For this reason they would practically block their ears so that they would not hear it.

The tediousness that the Messenger of Allah displayed in ensuring that the Qur’an was read beautifully was not in vain. Both the literary style and the striking messages of the Qur’an,  deeply touched the Arabs of the Jahiliyya, who were well versed in the art of poetry. For this reason they would practically block their ears so that they would not hear it. However, the Qur’an reveals that the disbelievers tried to disregard the miracle of the divine words, “The Unbelievers say: "Listen not to this Qur'an, but talk at random in the midst of its (reading), that ye may gain the upper hand!” (41:26). Jubair bin Mut’eem, who was still a disbeliever at the time and had travelled to Medina on business, overheard the Messenger of Allah reciting Surah at-Tur while leading maghrib prayer, and said “I felt that at the moment I heard the Qur’an, my heart was about to break into pieces.” (Ahmed bin Hanbal, Musnad, 4/85). The conversion of Omar ibn Al-Khattab (ra) to Islam upon hearing his sister and brother-in-law reading verses from the Qur’an is one of the most beautiful examples. Abu Bakr (ra), one of the closest friends of the Messenger of Allah and one of the first Muslims, was reading the Qur’an and performing the ritual prayer in the yard of his home during the troublesome times in Mecca and the disbelieving women and children gathered around him to watch in both awe and appreciation. Because the state of Abu Bakr, who couldn’t control his tears each time he heard the recitation of the Qur’an, affected those around him, the leaders of Quraish had taken precautions against him, out of fear that he would lead their women and youth astray. (Bukhari, Kafala, 4).

The Prophet would recite the Qur’an regularly. (Ahmad bin Hanbal, Musnad, 4/9). In line with the command, “…And recite the Qur’an in slow, measured rhythmic tones.” (73:4), he would pause between the verses (at-Tirmidhi, Qir’aa, 1) and when the verses referring to prostration (“Ayatus Sajdah”) were recited, he would prostrate (Muslim, Masajid, 20). He would say that Allah (swt) answers prayers made while the Qur’an is being recited and that Allah the almighty responds to each verse a person utters while reading Surah al-Fatiha (Muslim, Salat, 11). When a verse referring the sovereignty of Allah was recited, he would praise him and pray for a matter that required supplication; and when a verse referring to seeking refuge in Allah was recited, he would seek refuge in Allah (Muslim, Salatul Misafirin, 27). One day, in response to Abu Bakr’s address to him, “You have aged oh Messenger of Allah!” Prophet Muhammad responded, “The chapters Hud, Waqia, Mursalat, Naba and Takwir [of the Qur’an] have aged me" (Tirmidhi, Tafsir ul Qur’an, 56), in an attempt to emphasize the heavy responsibility he bore as well as the unsettling affects of some of the chapters of the holy Book.

The Masjid an-Nabawi was the main venue for Qur’anic learning. The Messenger of Allah would come to the masjid, read a few verses from the Qur’an and encourage his companions to learn the Qur’an by saying that learning a few verses is more beneficial than having the same number of camels (Muslim, Salat ul Misafirin, 41). There were companions who would remain by his side during the morning, evening and night prayers, memorizing the chapters he recited. For example, a female companion had learned Surah al-Qaf during the Friday prayers she attended while listening to the Prophet himself (Muslim, Jum’ah, 51). He had become so at one with the learning, teaching, explanation and application of the Qur’an that Aisha (ra), when responding to a companion who inquired about the manners of the Messenger of Allah, said, "Do you not read the Qur'an? His manners were the Qur'an." (Abu Dawud, Tatawwu', 26)

The function of the Qur’an as “…a guide and a mercy to those who believe,” (27:77) can only be realized through thorough understanding and adequate following of this holy Book. As for the hypocrites who, despite knowing the words of Allah, don’t apply it to their lives, Allah the Almighty has said, “Do they not then earnestly seek to understand the Qur'an, or are their hearts locked up by them?” (47:24)

    The Messenger of Allah, who said that the “best amongst you is he who learns the Qur’an and teaches it,” (Bukhari, Tafsir, Abasa, 1), desired that his ummah put forth great effort to become familiar with the words of Allah. He noted that one of the two types of people to be envied is he whom Allah has granted the opportunity to learn the Qur’an and who recites (reads) it day and night, thereby acting in accordance with its teachings (Bukhari, Fadail ul Qur’an, 20). According to his analogy, a person who learns, teaches and applies the teachings of the Qur’an is like a container that spreads the scent of its musk in every direction, and a person who doesn’t teach it is like a container of musk that cannot spread its scent because its lid is shut. (At-Tirmidhi, Fadail ul Qur’an, 2). And in another hadith he likens a believer who reads the Qur’an to an orange with a wonderful taste and aroma; a believer who doesn’t read the Qur’an to a tasty date with no aroma; a hypocrite who reads the Qur’an to a beautifully scented but bitter basil and a hypocrite who doesn’t read the Qur’an to a watermelon that has no scent and is bitter in flavor (Muslim, Salat-ul Misafirin, 37).

The function of the Qur’an as “a guide and a mercy to those who believe,” (27:77) can only be realized through thorough understanding and adequate following of this holy Book. As for the hypocrites who, despite knowing the words of Allah, don’t apply it to their lives, Allah the Almighty has said, “Do they not then earnestly seek to understand the Qur'an, or are their hearts locked up by them?”(47:24). Allah (swt) goes further to say that those who read the book without comprehending its meaning and wisdom will not be able benefit fully from its guidance. The Messenger of Allah has indicated that, “Islam is a straightforward path and the Qur’an is a caller on to this straightforward path.” (Ahmad bin Hanbal, Musnad, 4/182). He has likened the wisdom and guidance sent which descended from the heavens with him to a bountiful rain (Bukhari, 'Ilm, 20). Because the Messenger of Allah did not want the showers of mercy that fell upon the believer to be fruitless, he didn’t find appropriate that the holy Qur’an be recited in haste (Darimi, Salat, 173).

The companions of the Messenger, who took his sensitivity to heart, learned the verses in sets of 10 and did not move on to the next set until they fully understood their meanings and applied it to their lives (At-Tabari, Tafsir, 1/80). The Messenger of Allah, who used the [knowledge of the] Qur’an as a criteria for appointment in everything from leading prayer (Nasai, Imamat, 11) to commanding an army (at-Tirmidhi, Fadail ul Qur’an, 2) called upon every member of his Ummah, including himself, to the guidance of the Qur’an and when parting from this world, left the Qur’an as a will for those who expected a will from him. The Exalted Qur’an, which the Prophet asked in his farewell sermon that we hold on tightly to in order not to falter and which he entrusted to us until the Day of Judgment (Muslim, Hajj, 19), continues to enlighten our path with its everlasting light even 1400 years after its first revelation.

 

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