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Islam and Spiritualism ( 2 Oct 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Preservation of the Quran: An Objective Probe (Part 1)


Syed Manzoor Alam, New Age Islam

October 03, 2013

“We have, without doubt, sent down the revelation, and We will surely guard it (from corruption).” (5:9)

This is a glorious Quran (inscribed) in a tablet preserved!” (85:21-22)

There are two primary sources of Islam. They are the Quran and the authentic sayings of the Prophet. The reason they are called ‘primary’ is because both of them are revelatory in nature, they are based on the revelation, either in word and meaning, as is the case with the Quran or revelation of meaning, with the Prophet (pbuh) using his own words, as we find in Hadith or Sunnah.

The Quran has had great impact on history; it changed the lives of countless people who embraced Islam and in influencing the whole world. The Quran was the major moving and dynamic force; and we hear the case of Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens), Malcolm X etc who, after reading the translation of the meaning of the Quran like Yusuf Ali , which does not even capture the whole essence of the Quran, accepted Islam.

When we speak about the primary sources and when we learn to respond to objections and all the campaign to discredit Islam, its teachings, its Book, and its Prophet then we need, in fact to make sure of two things. First, how do we know that the Quran indeed is the Word of Allah, and not to say that it was a book that was written by a group of Arabs, just like the various authors of the Bible; or that the Quran was written by Muhammad (pbuh), as we find in most Social Studies books; or those who say that the Quran is just a sort of compilation from various sources. Because there are similarities in the Bible and the Quran, so they say that Muhammad (pbuh) must have studied all of these and compiled it, or rather I should say “copied” it in one book. This is called the authority of the Quran, but in this series of articles I will not go into that.

The other aspect of ascertaining why the Quran is very important for Muslims is not just the matter of authority but also authenticity. By authenticity, I mean, how do we know that the Quran today that we have is the same as it was at the time of the Prophet?

First of all, let us see the internal evidence. Although it is not the ace card, yet it is important to know whether the thing is what it claims to be. In the Quran there are direct evidences to show that it will be preserved:

“We have, without doubt, sent down the revelation, and We will surely guard it (from corruption).” ( 5:9)

“[It is recorded] in honoured sheets, Exalted and purified,  [Carried] by the hands of messenger angels,  Noble and dutiful.” (80:13-16)

The Prophet used to speed up the recitation when Gabriel dictated the Quran to him, because the Prophet was afraid that he might miss a word and Allah assured the Prophet:

“So high [above all] is God, the Sovereign, the Truth. And, [O Muhammad], do not hasten with [recitation of] the Qur’ān before its revelation is completed to you, and say, “My Lord, increase me in knowledge.” (20:114)

But there is also something directly pertaining to preservation of the Quran:

“Move not your tongue with it, [O Muhammad], to hasten with it [i.e., recitation of the Qur’ān].  Indeed, upon Us is its collection [in your heart] and [to make possible] its recitation. So when We have recited it [through Gabriel], then follow its recitation. Then upon Us is its clarification [to you].” (75:16-19)

But in what sense was the promise made in the Quran for its preservation. Here we find evidence internally of the promise of preserving the Quran. First of all it is memory, which is more important. It is interesting to notice, for example that in one Hadith in Sahih Muslim, it is said that the Prophet (pbuh) was told that he will be given a Quran which will not be erased (with water or anything). The promise is that this Quran can never disappear (even if Pastor Terry burns all the Quranic copies of the world). You can burn all copies of the Quran of the world, you can erase any manuscript, and the truth is that the Quran will still remain as it has been for over 1400 years.

We are told quite clearly in Ch 24 that the Quran will be preserved mainly in the hearts of the people.

“The Quran is a clear sign in the hearts (sudoor) those who are given knowledge”

These are ample internal evidence to show the preservation of the Quran. Now let me come to a controversial issue. Some people may say:”Does God preserve His Word? Either He does or He doesn’t. And since you (i.e., Muslims) believe in the revelation given to Jesus and Moses and others, they must also be preserved. So why is it that you Muslims claim that all the previous scriptures are not in pristine purity?” As a Muslim, what can we say? Yes, God indeed preserves His revelations and they (the revelations given to Jesus and Moses and others) were the word of Allah.

We can dismiss this argument very quickly and very easily, but I would like to elaborate it a little. What do you mean by Word of Allah? Do you mean it has to be specifically in a title of a book given in the scriptures? The word Bible was not uttered by any of the Prophet. The word Bible is not in the Bible. When we speak about the Word of Allah, we mean His revelation, His guidance. That guidance can come and did come from one prophet and then elaborated or repeated to another prophet. So when we speak about the Quran as the last preserved Word of Allah and revelation, it is the Word of Allah preserved!

Even if people failed to preserve other books, ultimately Allah was able to preserve His guidance in the Quran. Even if you take some basic concepts like the oneness of God (which is the most important idea), in spite of all the changes, yet both the Old Testament and the New Testament (both combined is the Bible) speaks about oneness of God. All major world religions have the concept of one God. But the Quran gives a very precise way to answer it.

“And We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], the Book [i.e., the Qur’ān] in truth, confirming that which preceded it of the Scripture and as a criterion (or guardian or watcher) over it. So judge between them by what God has revealed and do not follow their inclinations away from what has come to you of the truth.” (5:48)

This means that the Quran confirms the previous revelations; but its job is also to sift: to accept what matches with the Quran and to reject or improves upon what goes against it.