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  Introduction to the Quran  

Even before the  Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was chosen by Allah as His messenger, he used to want to be all alone, so that he could think deeply about life. To do  this, he used to go away to the Cave of Hira on Mount An-Nur on the outskirts of Mecca.. One night in the year A.D. 610, the Angel Jibril (Gabriel) appeared to him in  this cave. He commanded him: “Read. in the  name of your Lord!” Astonished, the  Prophet replied:“ I do not know how to read.”  The angel repeated these words three times, to which the Prophet gave the same reply. Then the angel said: “Read, in the name of your Lord, who created, who  created man from a clot. Read! And  your Lord is the most bountiful.” (96:1)

So began the revelation of the Holy Quran, in the Prophet’s  fortieth year. After memorizing each revelation, he instructed his Companions to do likewise.  He also called for a scribe ( katib al-wahy) to write down every word.   There were finally about twenty nine scribes all recording the divine revelations. The entire  Quran, which took 23 years to complete, was later memorized  by hundreds of the Prophet’s Companions during his lifetime.

The Earliest Copies of the Quran

The Caliph Uthman  sent copies of the  Quran to far-off places such as Damascus, Kufa  and Basra, keeping one for himself and returning the original copy  to  Hafsa. Two of these very early  copies,  called Mushaf Uthman, still exist today, one in the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul and the other  in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

Until the tenth century, Kufic, with its square-shaped letters, was  the only script used to write the Quran.  Later, in the eleventh century, the master  calligrapher, Ibn al- Bawwab, developed new styles  of writing based on the rules laid  down by Ibn Muqla. During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Arabic script continued to improve and often the pages would be intricately decorated with gold and  silver.. The calligraphers were well rewarded for their work   and this led to there  being different schools of calligraphy in Iraq, Egypt, Syria and Iran. It is the modified Maghribi  style of writing, developed in the period of the Ottoman Caliphs, which is  now mostly  in use.

As early as the tenth century, wooden blocks were used to print the Quran.  Moveable type was first used to print the Quran in Arabic in Germany in 1649.  This was followed  by copies printed during the  17th, 18th and 19th centuries by Muslims in RussiaKazan, Iran and Turkey.

The Early Translation of the Quran

To introduce Islam to neighbouring lands, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)  sent to  their various rulers letters  containing passages from the Quran.. The following  was included in the letter  to the Najashi (Negus) of Abyssinia: “He is Allah besides whom there is no other deity. He is the sovereign Lord, the Holy, the Giver  of Peace, the Keeper of  Faith, the Guardian, the Mighty One, the All-Powerful, the Most High! Exalted be Allah   above the partners they attribute to Him.” (59:23)

These letters  were translated either by the messengers, i.e. the Prophet’s Companions, or by the kings’ interpreters. In this way, parts of the Quran  began to  be translated during the Prophet’s own lifetime. Salman al-Farisi, a Companion of the Prophet from Persia,   translated the first Surah, al-Fatiha, into Persian. The  first complete translations  were done in Persian in the tenth century under the rule  of the   Samanid king.   The first translation of the Quran into Latin  was done in 1143 for Peter, the Abbot  of the Monastery of Cluny, but was not published  until 1543 at Basle.  Over the centuries, this was followed  by translations into German, Italian, Dutch, French and English. The first Muslim to translate the Quran into English was Muhammad Abdul-Hakim Khan of  Patiala, India, in 1906. This was followed by a number  of translations, the best  of these being the translation with commentary  by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (Lahore,1934) and a translation by Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall (Hyderabad, India, 1938).

The Message of the Quran

The Quran, the true word of God,  is an eternal guide for the whole of  mankind. It answers all such questions as: “Why has God placed humanity on earth?” “What is  His scheme of things in creating such a vast universe?” “How should we lead our lives?” What will happen to us after death?” etc.  .In it man meets his Lord, beholds His promises and rejoices in His good tidings. It opens with the words: “Praise be to God, Lord  of the Universe.” This is a way  of saying: “Thank  You, Allah,  Maker and Sustainer of all the creatures in the world.”  That is, He is  One who, truly caring for  His subjects, provides for all their needs.

One who discovers the Almighty in all His power and glory, suddenly finds the Lord forever in his heart and thoughts. This leads to a spontaneous outpouring of thanksgiving and adoration: “Inspire me, Lord, to render thanks for the favours You have bestowed on me and my parents,  and to do good work that will please You.” (27:19)

The Divine Scheme of Things

The Quran was revealed to give glad tidings to the righteous and a warning to transgressors: “We have revealed to you this Book so that, by their Lord’s will, you may  lead  men from darkness to the light; to the path of the Mighty, the Glorious One, the path of Allah.” (14:1) Indeed, the Quranic mission is to make human beings fully understand God’s plan. Although upright by nature, everyone must still undergo a period of testing during his short time on  this earth, so that  in the next world he may be justly rewarded  or punished for his deeds or misdeeds in this life.  For this trial to be valid, everyone has been given the freedom to choose either the right path, as  is shown in the divine scriptures, or the wrong path  — that of his own desires.

To test man, Allah has so arranged that Satan will spring upon him “from the  front and  from the rear, from the right and from the left” (7:17). But if he reads the Quran with understanding, he will never  go astray. Moreover, the Quran shows that the joys of this life should be taken as a foretaste of  Paradise, and not as an unconditional blessing. Man’s freedom to savour these joys should never,  therefore, be misused.

A Spiritual and  Moral Guide

The Quran gives us rules for what is right and  wrong in every aspect of daily life. It  lays down man’s duties  not only to his Creator but also to  himself and his fellow men. It  defines true piety as belief in God, the Last Day, the angels, the Book and the prophets and urges us to be kind to those in  need.

The Quran is  an eternal book, warning man of the coming of the Last Day. It is a verbal Trumpet, blown before the actual Last Trumpet announcing the Day of Judgement. The successful are those awakened by it.

The Children’s Encyclopaedia of the Quran,  presenting mainly the stories of the prophets and other notable Quranic tales, gives us role models by which to  live our lives so that Allah may be pleased with us. (1,227 words)



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  Quran Foundation is founded under the aegis of CPS International