The Quran, also referred to as Al-furqaan (The Criterion), is a derivative of the Arabic word qar’aa meaning ‘to read’, as a means to lead the followers on the path of clarifying the truth and establishing monotheism – declaring full faith to The Creator, Allah. The full revelation of the whole Quran took approximately 23 collective years to be completed, commencing in the Ramadan of the year 609 CE – roughly 22nd December in the Gregorian calendar – up until the year 632 CE, in Dhul Hijjah, coinciding with the year of the Prophet (pbuh)’s death. The revelations began in Makkah, with a total of 92 chapters that were revealed in 13 years of the revelation period – not in chronological order – and coming to a stop in Madinah, with a total of 22 chapters to be revealed over the span of 10 non-consecutive years.
At 40 years old, soon after receiving his prophethood, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) would regularly spend most of his time on Mount Hira, a cave located a little distance away from Makkah. There he would meditate, pray, and contemplate the various aspects of human life and behavior, such as the widespread injustice and discrimination practiced by the Jahilliya (ignorants) in the Pre-Islamic era. In the year 609 CE, he began experiencing dreams that would carry messages of spiritual importance, marking the first form of revelation. In the years to come, in the month of Ramadan (9th month in the Islamic Calendar), on Laylatul Qadr (the night of decree), Angel Jibreel’s presence was revealed to the Prophet (pbuh) as he (Jibreel) commanded the Prophet (pbuh) to recite a few verses, marking the first (5) verses to be included in the Quran:
Recite in the name of your Lord who created –
Created man from a clinging substance.
Recite, and your Lord is the most Generous,
Who taught by the pen.
Taught man that which he knew not.(Quran 96:1 – 96:5)
This day and event is further marked in the Islamic calendar, drawing on proof from various verses of the Quran:
The month of Ramadan [is that] in which was revealed the Quran, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.(Quran 2:185)
Following this, there was a three (3) year gap between the first and the second revelation, which carried an abundance of spiritual practices and prayers stemming from the Prophet (pbuh)’s depressive state. Upon receiving the second revelation, the Prophet (pbuh) began preaching to his followers, and further spreading awareness on the teachings of the Quran. The last and final revelation(s) of the Quran was in the 18th Century (632 CE), in the month of Dhul-Hijjah (12th month in the Islamic Calendar), said to have been received by the Prophet (pbuh), as he was delivering a sermon, with some claims bearing evidence that it was between nine or eighty one days prior to his passing.
There are varying discussions as to which is the exact verse to be revealed last, but most commonly accepted to be is the one carrying a message of warning, and a reminder to the followers on the remembrance of their Lord:
And fear a Day when you will be returned to Allah. Then every soul will be compensated for what it earned, and they will not be treated unjustly.(Qur’an 2:281)
Although when arranged chronologically, the longest chapters come first, followed by the shorter ones in descending order, they do not necessarily follow the actual order of the revelation. The first ever verses to be revealed to the Prophet (pbuh) are in the ninety-sixth (96th) chapter of the Quran when viewed in the chronological order. The chapter is titled Surah Al-Aa’alaq (The Clot), in which Angel Jibreel instructed the Prophet (pbuh) to read, and to read in the name of the Lord – coinciding, once again, with the actual derivative of original word that the ‘Quran’ stems from.
According to popular belief, while most of the chapters would be revealed in pieces, a few verses at a time, there were some others that were revealed to the Prophet (pbuh) all at once for particular reasons. It cannot yet be fully assessed on the total number of chapters to be revealed in one consecutive moment, but the ones we know of are Surah Al-Fatihah, Surah Yusuf, Surah Alkawthar, and Surah An’am. An interesting fact to consider is that the 12th Chapter, Surah Yusuf, was revealed to the Prophet (pbuh) in one sitting, as a lesson at the time when the Jews questioned the Israelites’s migration from Egypt to Canaan.
Another chapter that holds an interesting feature is the 9th Chapter, Surah Tawbah. This chapter on Repentance begins without mention of the Lord – the Bismillah popularly recited at the beginning of every chapter is excluded here. Even though there is no clear Hadith (saying) of the Prophet (pbuh) indicating the underlying reasoning for this feature, there is this explanation from Ali bin Abi Talib:
‘Abbas asked ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib why there is no Bismillah and ‘Ali said: “Because Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem is safety and Bara’a [At-Tawbah] was revealed with the sword [that is, it is talking about fighting].’
According to authentic hadith compiled by Imam Bukhari and other scholars, at the time of revelations the Prophet (pbuh) would experience different complex sensations in the form of physiological and/or environmental changes, including but not limited to:
- Excessive dampness and body warmth accompanied by breaking of cold sweat on an otherwise chilled day
- A divine, graphic vision
- Auditory disturbance bearing similarity to the ringing of a loud bell or the buzzing of bees
- His companions noted physical changes to his demeanour, i.e: vibrant, blood-red facial complexion, and a hot, sweaty forehead
- It was said that if revelations came to him as he was riding, the animal that he was mounted on would lay on the ground
- A heavy feeling, to the point where he would have his thighs pressing firmly onto the person seated next to him
When it came to a point where these sensations would cease, the Prophet (pbuh) would take on a relaxed demeanour and commence reciting the verses that had just been revealed to him. Upon deeper evaluation, it was concluded that these physiological changes bore no resemblance to what is normally experienced at the time of drowsiness or fatigue, as they came to him (pbuh).
At 63 years of age, Prophet Muhamamd (pbuh) received the last and final revelation(s) of the Quran – believed to be the longest verse in the whole Quran, and the message and teachings of the Quran and the religion came to perfect completion:
Prohibited to you are dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah, and [those animals] killed by strangling or by a violent blow or by a head-long fall or by the goring of horns, and those from which a wild animal has eaten, except what you [are able to] slaughter [before its death], and those which are sacrificed on stone altars, and [prohibited is] that you seek decision through divining arrows. That is grave disobedience. This day those who disbelieve have despaired of [defeating] your religion; so fear them not, but fear Me. This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion. But whoever is forced by severe hunger with no inclination to sin – then indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.(Qur’an 5:3)
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