What is the Qur’an for Muslims? Why do they believe in it to be a message from their Creator? What are the facets of its glory according to their perception? Etc.”
The previous, among other questions are very likely to be directed towards Muslims in different circles. Answering all of them in one short post is unlikely, but I shall try to shed some light on the matter in a brief way.
The Qur’an is the final message of our creator through which we can get to contact him, learn about His attributes, know what He desires from us, and live rightly through its guidance. Its main characteristic is that it was preserved in writing, and through memorization during the prophet’s time. Thereafter, it was delivered from one generation to the next in a recurring manner that assures its correctness and authenticity.
In order to stand as evidence and guide for all people ever since its revelation till the end of time, the Qur’an was made miraculous in many facets; its linguistic construction is the most perfect, its artistic depictions are breath taking, its verses allude to scientific facts in several fields that match the discoveries made centuries later, and it foretold some future events that had actually happened proving its legitimacy as a true message from the Omniscient Creator who has created everything. In this post, I’m going to concentrate on the first facet of the Qur’an’s beauty, that is its linguistic construction.
Ever since Prophet Muhammad started reciting the Qur’an to his people, the sound of recitation has always stolen the hearts of those who listened. The greatest Arab poets of all ages have stood in awe in front of the beautiful rhythmic recitation that is neither poetry nor prose, but a recitation of a very unique nature. Even today you can still see people being deeply touched by the sound of the Qur’anic recitation while they are not Muslims nor do they know any Arabic. The method in which the prophet recited the Qur’an, and taught to all Muslims, was later recorded by Muslim scholars as a complete branch of the Islamic sciences known as (‘Ilm Al-Tajweed). Amazingly, if this science, or method of recitation, is tried on any book other than the Qur’an, it fails and doesn’t work. It’s an inimitable rhythmic tone created by The Almighty solely for His own words.
A man named “Al-Walid Ibn Al-Moghirah” who was among the mightiest and most bitter disbelievers during the prophet’s time, he was the father of the famous companion “Khaled Ibn Al-Walid”, he was one of the richest and most famous leaders of Quraish tribe, and was widely known of his vast knowledge of all kinds of Arabian poetry. Because of this, the other leaders asked him to visit the prophet and argue with him regarding what he preaches, may he convince the prophet to give it up. When this man went to confront the prophet P.B.U.H. and he listened to the prophet reciting the Qur’an, his heart was taken by it to the extent that when this reached the disbelievers and they asked him about it, he said:
“I don’t know what to say, I swear by the gods, there isn’t a man among you who is more knowledgeable than me of poetry, its rhymes and kinds, and by the gods do I swear that what he (i.e. Muhammad) says isn’t like any of those kinds, what he says has unique beauty and grace, its high tone is fruitful and its low tone is abundant, it ascends overtop any other word and nothing ascends atop of it, and it crushes down what’s beneath it.”
On hearing this, another leader and bitter enemy of the prophet named “Amr Ibn Hesham” told “Al-Walid”: “Your people won’t accept this from you and they won’t be satisfied unless you say something bad about what he recites.”
Al-Walid thought for a while and then said: “It is some sort of overwhelming magic”. [Recorded by Al-Hakem and Al-Dhahaby]
The disbelievers even urged one another to make noise beside any Muslim reciting the Qur’an so that they may forbid others from hearing what he says. Allah described the disbeliever’s attitude in the Qur’an where He says: “And those who disbelieved said: ‘Listen not to this Qur’an and make noise in the midst of its recitation that you may gain the upper hand’.” [The Qur’an (41:26)].
The influence of the Qur’anic recitation could also be sensed significantly in the following story. When the persecution of the Makkan pagans reached its peak during the early years of the prophet’s call, Abu-Bakr (the companion) decided to immigrate to Abyssinia. On his way out of Makkah he was intercepted by a man named “Ibn Al-Doghonnah” who asked him where he was going, so Abu-Bakr answered: “I was driven out by my people; I wish to seek refuge somewhere else where I can worship my God freely.”
Ibn Al-Doghonnah said: “A man like you Abu-Bakr is not to go away nor be driven out, you take care of the poor and look after your relatives. I’m your neighbor, so go back home, and worship your lord without any fear.”
Then he went and visited the leaders of the tribe to tell them that he has granted Abu-Bakr asylum from their persecution. They accepted on the condition that Abu-Bakr only worships his God inside his house, and recites whatever he wants only inside the house.
Hence, Abu-Bakr built a small hermitage in the yard of his house in which he prayed everyday and read the Qur’an in solitude. Passing by the hermitage, the people started listening to his recitation, he was a weepy who couldn’t hold his tears when reciting the verses of the Qur’an. This frightened the leaders of the tribe, so they sent for Ibn Al-Doghonnah and told him that they were afraid Abu-Bakr would charm their families and they asked him to forbid Abu-Bakr from reciting the Qur’an in a loud voice for the sake of his former asylum guarantee. Ibn Al-Doghonnah went to Abu-Bakr and asked him to stop reciting the Qur’an in a loud voice. Abu-Bakr then said: “I turn back to you your asylum guarantee and suffice with Allah’s asylum and his messenger’s.” This was how the Qur’an affected both, those who believed in it, and those who did not.
This is “ ‘Omar Ibn Al-Khattab” the prophet’s second caliph narrating the story of his faith saying: “When I heard the Qur’an, my heart softened, I wept and Islam entered my heart.” [Recorded by Ibn-Hisham] And this is “Al-Jubair Ibn-Mut’am” the companion narrating the story of his faith, he said that when he was captured as a POW in the battle of Badr, he was brought back to Madinah with the Muslims’ army. During one of the prayers, he heard the prophet P.B.U.H. reciting the chapter called “At-Tur” in the Maghrib (i.e. Sunset) prayers, when the prophet recited: “Were they created of nothing, or were they themselves the creators?” Al-Jubair said: “This was the first portion of faith that entered my heart.” [Recorded by Bukhari and Muslim]
By all means, don’t take my word for it, download any part you choose from the Qur’an and listen to it yourself from different reciters with different nationalities, and then make up your mind. Even those who read the Qur’an or a reliable translation of the meanings of the Qur’an and ponder over its verses are affected by it. Many contemporary non-Muslims who read the Qur’an had this same feeling. About this, the famous Palestinian poet “Nicola Joseph Hannah” (1923-1999) said: “I read the Qur’an and it stunned me, I indulged in its meanings and it fascinated me, I read it again and I believed. How couldn’t I believe when the miracle of the Qur’an is between my hands, and I’m looking at it and feeling it all the time, it’s a miracle not like any other, an everlasting divine miracle that proves itself and it doesn’t need anyone to speak about it nor preach it.”
A female British scholar named Ayesha Bridget Honey, who studied Philosophy in one of the Canadian universities described the Qur’an’s influence on her saying: “However hard I try, I cannot fully estimate the impression the Qur’an left on my heart. Before I finished the third Surah (i.e. chapter), I had prostrated myself before the Creator of the universe. This was my first Salaat (prayer) and since that time by the grace of Allah I am Muslim.”
Again, by all means, don’t take my words for granted, get your own copy of the Qur’an, read as much as you can from it, and ponder over its verses. Try to listen to it being recited in Arabic and judge for yourself.
Written By: Ehab Shawky