HISTORY OF THE HOLY QURAN
Islam appeared in the form of a book: the Quran. Muslims, consider the Quran (sometimes spelled "Koran") to be the Word of God as transmitted by the Angel Gabriel, in the Arabic language, through the Prophet Muhammad. The Muslim view, moreover, is that the Quran supersedes earlier revelations; it is regarded as their summation and completion. It is the final revelation, as Muhammad is regarded as the final prophet - 'the Seal of the Prophets." In a very real sense the Quran is the mentor of millions of Muslims, Arab and non-Arab alike; it shapes their everyday life, anchors them to a unique system of law, and inspires them by its guiding principles. Written in noble language, this Holy Text has done more than move multitudes to tears and ecstasy; it has also, for almost fourteen hundred years, illuminated the lives of Muslims with its eloquent message of uncompromising monotheism, human dignity, righteous living, individual responsibility, and social justice. For countless millions, consequently, it has been the single most important force in guiding their religious, social, and cultural lives. Indeed, the Quran is the cornerstone on which the edifice of Islamic civilization has been built. The text of the Quran was delivered orally by the Prophet Muhammad to his followers as it was revealed to him. The first verses were revealed to him in or about 610, and the last revelation dates from the last year of his life, 632. His followers at first committed the Quran to memory and then, as instructed by him, to writing. Although the entire contents of the Quran, the placement of its verses, and the arrangement of its chapters date back to the Prophet, as long as he lived he continued to receive revelations. Consequently, the Holy Text could only be collected as a single corpus - "between the two covers" - after the death of Muhammad. This is exactly what happened. After the battle of al-Yamamah in 633, 'Umar ibn al-Khattab, later to become the second caliph, suggested to Abu Bakr, the first caliph, that because of the grievous loss of life in that battle, there was a very real danger of losing the Quran, enshrined as it was in the memories of the faithful and in uncollated fragments. Abu Bakr recognized the danger and entrusted the task of gathering the revelations to Zayd ibn Thabit, who as the chief scribe of the Prophet was the person to whom Muhammad frequently dictated the revelations in his lifetime. With great difficulty, the task was carried out and the first complete manuscript compiled from "bits of parchment, thin white stones - ostracae - leafless palm branches, and the memories of men." Later, during the time of 'Uthman, the third caliph, a final, authorized text was prepared and completed in 651, and this has remained the text in use ever since. The contents of the Quran differ in substance and arrangement from the Old and New Testaments. Instead of presenting a straight historical narrative, as do the Gospels and the historical books of the Old Testament, the Quran treats, in allusive style, spiritual and practical as well as historical matters. The Quran is divided into 114 surahs, or chapters, and the surahs are conventionally assigned to two broad categories: those revealed at Mecca and those revealed at Medina. The surahs revealed at Mecca - at the beginning of Muhammad's mission - tend to be short and to stress, in highly moving language, the eternal themes of the unity of God, the necessity of faith, the punishment of those who stray from the right path, and the Last Judgment, when all man's actions and beliefs will be judged. The surahs revealed at Medina are longer, often deal in detail with specific legal, social, or political situations, and sometimes can only be properly understood with a full knowledge of the circumstances in which they were revealed All the surahs are divided into ayahs or verses and, for purposes of pedagogy and recitation, the Quran as a whole is divided...
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