By Aftab Ahmad, New Age Islam
July 19, 2015
When the first five verses of the Quran were revealed to the holy Prophet Muhammad pbuh, he came home and shivered with cold. It was an extraordinary event in his life. Hadhrat Khadija wrapped him with all the warm clothes present in the house but still he shivered.
During later revelations too he had some fears. He thought he might forget what was revealed to him and so would try to concentrate on the verses revealed to him. He would try to repeat the verses recited to him by Angel Gabriel so that he memorized it. However, God assured him that it was His responsibility to ensure that he memorises the verses revealed to him and he does not forget them during his entire life.
This psychological fear of the prophet (pbuh) is evident in the Quran where God assures him that he should not bother about memorizing the verses. They will be preserved in his bosom and he will not forget them. On three occasions, God assures the prophet (pbuh) and these asides that are not part of the topics of revelations have also been included in the Surah. The study of these three occasions is interesting as well as meaningful. When you read the verses where God is discussing a subject and then seeing the prophet’s anxiety over his fear of forgetting the revealed verses, God pauses and then gives His assurance to him and then resumes the topic.
Here is the first instance of this interaction:
Surah Al Qiyamah
To your Lord, that Day is the [place of] permanence. Man will be informed that Day of what he sent ahead and kept back. Rather, man, against himself, will be a witness, Even if he presents his excuses.(Al Qiyamah.12-15)
Move not your tongue with it, [O Muhammad], to hasten with recitation of the Qur'an. Indeed, upon Us is its collection [in your heart] and [to make possible] its recitation۔ So when We have recited it, then follow its recitation. Then upon Us is its clarification [to you].(Al Qiyamah:16-19)
No! But you love the immediate And leave the Hereafter.[Some] faces, that Day, will be radiant, Looking at their Lord. And [some] faces, that Day, will be contorted, Expecting that there will be done to them [something] backbreaking. (20-25)
In the above quoted verses, when you read the verses in italics, you can clearly discern that from verse No. 12 to 15 God is discussing about Man’s acts and the Day of Judgment when he will be held accountable for his deeds. The holy prophet pbuh has not got accustomed to this new experience of getting revelation from Angel Gabriel under God’s supervision and so hastily repeats the verses being recited to him so that he does not forget it. Seeing holy prophet’s unease and eagerness, God assures him that He will ensure that he does not forget it and so he should first listen to the verse recited and then repeat it.
After that, revelation of the verses is resumed from Verse No. 20 to 25.
However, it is interesting to note that this aside which is not part of the discussion or the topic has been retained in the Quran. If you take out that portion, it will not make any difference to the context. However, there must be definitely some wisdom in retaining the asides in the Quran.
There is another instance of the same kind of aside where God again assures the prophet pbuh.
In the italics, there are again words of assurance from God (114) which is not part of the discussion. Then after the aside, God again resumes the topic.
And thus We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur'an and have diversified therein the warnings that perhaps they will avoid [sin] or it would cause them remembrance. So high [above all] is Allah, the Sovereign, the Truth.
And, [O Muhammad], do not hasten with [recitation of] the Qur'an before its revelation is completed to you, and say, "My Lord, increase me in knowledge."(Taha: 114)
And We had already taken a promise from Adam before, but he forgot; and We found not in him determination. (Taha: 115)
Surah Al Ala
Similarly, In Surah Al Ala also there is again assurance from God that the holy prophet pbuh should rest assured that he will not forget what is revealed to him and so he should not make haste in repeating the verses.
Exalt the name of your Lord, the Most High, Who created and proportioned, And Who destined and [then] guided And who brings out the pasture And [then] makes it black stubble.
We will make you recite, [O Muhammad], and you will not forget, Except what Allah should will. Indeed, He knows what is declared and what is hidden. And We will ease you toward ease. (6-8)
So remind, if the reminder should benefit; He who fears [Allah] will be reminded. (Al Ala:1-10)
After the words in italics are said, God again resumes the topic.
Probably, these Surahs are Makkan and it seems that these are revealed in the initial period of revelation when the holy prophet (pbuh) had not got accustomed to the experience and every time the verses were revealed, he would be very concerned over its memorization. Later on, when revelations became a routine affair and the holy prophet (pbuh) became very confident in receiving the revelations, he would receive it very comfortably. On later occasions, he would receive the revelations during his journey on camel’s back or when he would be sitting in the company of his holy companions.
These asides which are not part of the context can be explained from the following example.
A man reads out a paper on microphone before an audience in an auditorium. After reading a paragraph, he pauses and addresses the mike operator asking him to lower the microphone and lower the volume a little. After that he resumes reading out the paper.
The instructions to the mike operator are not part of the lecture and were not in the mind of the speaker. What does that convey to us then? It conveys to us that the paper was written for the particular audience and the instructions to the mike operator were impromptu and not preconceived.
Therefore, the asides that were retained in the Quran though they were meant only for the prophet and were said in a particular situation convey to us a certain message: that the Quran is not uncreated and has been revealed or created by God for a particular audience through a messenger who was from amongst them with all the human traits. Apart from these asides, there are also verses that have been revealed according to the questions asked by the Jews or the polytheists of Makkah, again conveying the message that the Quran is not uncreated and has been revealed or created by God for a particular audience in a particular context.
However, the study of these asides may yield more insights into them and more meaning can come out of them. Ulema have not given explanations for including these asides into the text of the Quran and the wisdom behind it.
Aftab Ahmad is a columnist for New Age Islam. He has been studying the Holy Quran for some time.