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9. REASONS FOR SENDING DOWN THE QUR’ᾹN IN STAGES (4) Other reasons for sending down the Qur’an in stages are: 5. to facilitate memorizing, understanding and applying its contents. The Qur’an was revealed to people where the vast majority of them were illiterate. The pre-Islamic Arabs did not see any importance of writing, and therefore, they preserved their literature in their lips and hearts. Unlike our modern proverb saying, “The weakest ink is better than the strong memory”, their motto was ‫العلم في الصدور َل في السطور‬ )“Knowledge is in the heart (memory), not in lines (of writing)”. It was not by accident that Allah revealed the Qur’an to people who were endowed with strong memory. Allah says in the Qur’an, َ ‫ه َو الَّذي َب َع‬ ‫ِّين َرسول منهم َيتلو َعلَيهم آ َياته َوي َز ِّكيهم َوي َعلِّمهم‬ َ ‫ث في اْل ِّمي‬ )2:‫ض ََلل مبين (الجمعة‬ َ ‫اب َوالحك َم َة َوإن َكانوا من َقبل لَفي‬ َ ‫الك َت‬ He it is Who sent among the unlettered ones a Messenger (Muhammad) from among themselves, reciting to them His Verses, purifying them (from the filth of disbelief and polytheism), and teaching them the Book (the Qur’an) and Wisdom (i.e. the Sunnah of the Prophet). And verily, they had been before in manifest error. (Q. 62:2) ‘Umar r.a. himself advised people to memorize the Qur’an each in five verses, as it was revealed by Gabriel averagely in five verses. By memorizing they also learned the deep meanings of these verses. The “unlettered ones”, those who were illiterate refer to the Arabs. In another verse those who are illiterate refers to the Arabs as follows: ‫ِّين أَأَسلَمتم َفإن أَسلَموا َف َقد اه َتدَوا َوإن‬ َ ‫اب َواْل ِّمي‬ َ ‫ين أوتوا الك َت‬ َ ‫َوقل للَّذ‬ َّ ‫ك ال َب ََلغ َو‬ )22:‫ّللا َبصير بالع َباد (آل عمران‬ َ ‫َت َولَّوا َفإ َّن َما َعلَي‬ And say to those who were given the Scripture and those who are illiterates: “Do you submit yourselves?” If they do, they are rightly guided; but if they turn away, your duty is only to convey the message; and Allah is


All-Seer of (His) servants. (Q. 3:20) The Qur’an commentator Ibn Khathīr in his commentary said this: “Mentioning the unlettered ones in specific here does not mean that Muhammad s.a.w. was only sent to them, because the blessing of the Arabs is greater than that of other nations.” He then cited some other verses, including that states that the Prophet was sent to the whole mankind, as follows: َّ ‫قل َيا أَي َها ال َّناس إ ِّني َرسول‬ )851:‫ (اْلعراف‬... ‫ّللا إ َليكم َجميعا‬ Say (O Muhammad): “O mankind! Verily, I am sent to you all as the Messenger of Allah…” (Q. 7:158) 6. to challenge those who reject the Qur’an as the very words of Allah revealed to Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. and to show its miraculous nature. There were many allegations against Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. by the pagans of Makkah, such as being suffered from epilepsy, being a poet, a magician, a soothsayer, being taught by someone from the Torah and the Injil (Bible), so that he often referred to them in the Qur’an. They said that if it were truly from Allah, and he was a true Messenger as he claimed, they asked him many unreasonable things, such as: ‫ك َج َّنة‬ َ َ‫ون ل‬ َ ‫ أَو َتك‬.‫ك َح َّتى َتفج َر َل َنا م َن اْلَرض َينبوعا‬ َ َ‫َو َقالوا لَن نؤم َن ل‬ َ ‫ أَو تسق َط ال َّس َما َء َك َما َز َعم‬.‫ار خ ََللَ َها َتفجيرا‬ ‫ت‬ َ ‫من َنخيل َوع َنب َفت َفجِّ َر اْلَن َه‬ َّ ‫َعلَي َنا ك َسفا أَو َتأت َي ب‬ ‫ك َبيت من زخرف أَو َتر َقى‬ َ َ‫ون ل‬ َ ‫ أَو َيك‬.‫اّلل َوال َم ََلئ َكة َقبيَل‬ ‫ان َربِّي‬ َ ‫ك َح َّتى ت َن ِّز َل َع َلي َنا ك َتابا َنق َرؤه قل سب َح‬ َ ‫في ال َّس َماء َولَن نؤم َن لرق ِّي‬ ‫اس أَن يؤمنوا إذ َجا َءهم الهدَى إ َّل‬ َ ‫ َو َما َم َن َع ال َّن‬.‫َهل كنت إ َّل َب َشرا َرسول‬ َّ ‫ث‬ َ ‫أَن َقالوا أَ َب َع‬ ‫ون‬ َ ‫ان في اْلَرض َم ََلئ َكة َيمش‬ َ ‫ قل َلو َك‬.‫ّللا َب َشرا َرسول‬ َّ ‫ قل َك َفى ب‬.‫ين َل َن َّزل َنا َعلَيهم م َن ال َّس َماء َملَكا َرسول‬ ‫اّلل َشهيدا‬ َ ‫مط َمئ ِّن‬ )09-02:‫ان بع َباده َخبيرا َبصيرا (اإلسراء‬ َ ‫َبيني َو َبي َنكم إ َّنه َك‬ And they say: “We shall not believe in you (O Muhammad) until you cause a spring gush forth from the earth for us; Or you have a garden of datepalms and grapes, and cause rivers to gush forth in its midst abundantly; O you cause the heaven to fall upon us in pieces, as you have pretended, or you bring Allah


and the angels before (us) face to face; Or you have a house of zukhruf (like silver and pure gold), or you ascend up into the sky, and even then we will put no faith in your faith in your ascension until you bring down for us a Book that we would read.” Say (O Muhammad): “Glorified (and Exalted) is my Lord [(Allah) above all that they (polytheists) associate with Him]! And I anything but a man, sent as a Messenger?” and nothing prevented men from believing the guidance came upon them, except that they said: “Has Allah sent a man as His Messenger?” Say: “If there were on the earth, angels walking about in peace and security, We should certainly have sent down for them from the heaven an angel as a Messenger.” Say: “Sufficient is Allah for a witness between me and you. Verily, He is Ever WellAcquainted, All-Seer of His slaves.”(Q. 17:90-96) These Makkan pagans even asked the Prophet to send them punishment as evidence of His prophethood. Allah said: ‫َوإ َذا تت َلى َع َليهم آ َيات َنا َقالوا َقد َسمع َنا َلو َن َشاء َلقل َنا مث َل َه َذا إن َه َذا‬ ‫ك َفأَمطر‬ َ ‫ان َه َذا ه َو ال َح َّق من عند‬ َ ‫ َوإذ َقالوا اللَّه َّم إن َك‬.‫إ َّل أَ َساطير اْلَ َّولين‬ َّ ‫ان‬ َ ‫ّللا لي َع ِّذ َبهم َوأَن‬ ‫ت‬ َ ‫ َو َما َك‬.‫ارة م َن ال َّس َماء أَو ائت َنا ب َع َذاب أَليم‬ َ ‫َعلَي َنا ح َج‬ َّ ‫ان‬ )11-18:‫ون (اْلنفال‬ َ ‫ّللا م َع ِّذ َبهم َوهم َيس َتغفر‬ َ ‫فيهم َو َما َك‬ And when Our Verses (of the Qur’an) are recited to them, they say: ”We have heard (the Qur’an); if we wish we can say the like of this. This is nothing but the tales of the ancients.” And (remember) when they said: “O Allah! If this (the Qur’an) is indeed the truth (revealed) from You, then rain down stones on us from the sky or bring on us a painful torment.” And Allah would not punish them while you (Muhammad) are among them, nor will He punish them while they seek (Allah’s) Forgiveness. (Q. 8:31-33) One of the Prophet’s arch-enemy, al-Naḍr ibn al-Ḥārith, who frequented the city of Ḥīrah in Persia as a trader, passed by worshippers citing the Bible, bowed down and prostrated


themselves. When he came to Makkah he found the Prophet was doing the same thing, citing the Qur’an, bowed down and prostrated himself. He then said, “We have heard it, if we want we can say something like it,” namely, what he had had heard from the worshippers in Ḥīrah. He was so sure that the Prophet was not sent by Allah, that he asked Allah to rain down stones on them. This reminds us of the late Ahmad Deedat who was so convinced that Jesus had never claimed himself to be God, and never said, “I am God, worship Me,” in any Bible in any language. He said that if they find any, he would worship him, which means, he would be an apostate, a Christian. Although it is true that Allah sent Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. but He would not do what the Quraysh idolaters wished, namely, to punish them, as the Prophet was among them, and many of them asked Allah’s forgiveness. The Qur’an said that Allah is "the creator of everything" َ Q. 6:102; 39:62 and 40:62), and challenged them )‫(خالق ك ِّل َشيئ‬ that their idols could not even create a fly. Allah said, ‫ون من‬ َ ‫ين َتدع‬ َ ‫ب َم َثل َفاس َتمعوا لَه إنَّ الَّذ‬ َ ‫َيا أَي َها ال َّناس ضر‬ َّ ‫دون‬ ‫ّللا لَن َيخلقوا ذ َبابا َولَو اج َت َمعوا لَه َوإن َيسلبهم الذ َباب‬ َّ ‫ف‬ ‫ َما َقدَروا‬.‫الطالب َوال َمطلوب‬ َ ‫ضع‬ َ ‫َشيئا َل َيس َتنقذوه منه‬ )37-31:‫ّللا َل َقوي َعزيز (الحج‬ َ َّ َّ‫ّللا َح َّق َقدره إن‬ َ َّ O people! A parable is set forth, therefore listen to it: surely those whom you call upon besides Allah cannot create a fly, though they should all gather for it, and should the fly snatch away anything from them, they could not take it back from it, weak are the invoker and the invoked.(Q. 22:73-74) Ibn ‘Abbas said that the idolaters overlaid their idols with saffron, then it became dry and the fly took it away. Al-Suddī said that they gave them food, and the fly came and ate it.


The Qur’an commentator al-Qurṭubī (d. 609-669 /1214-1273) gives us three possible meanings here: (a) the idolaters who seek help from the idols to make them nearer to Allah, and the idols themselves which cannot answer their request are both weak; (b) the idols who are unable to protect themselves from the fly that can sting their body and snatch anything from them, and the fly itself are both weak. Even we human beings, let alone the idols, cannot take back our food eaten by flies, after being digested; (c) the idolaters themselves and the idols they are worshiping are both weak. Al-Qurṭubī says further that the fly has four distinctive characteristics: lowliness, weakness, dirtiness, and its great in number. However, the idols could not create even such abased creature, the fly. One of my teachers at the Secondary School in early 50s told us that scientists had successfully made an artificial egg, but it could not hatch. Certainly it could not, as there was no life in it. The pagan Arabs in pre-Islamic and early Islamic period worshiped idols to make them near to Allah. They said, as mentioned in the Qur’an, ‫ين ا َّت َخذوا من دونه أَول َيا َء َما َنعبدهم إ َّل لي َقرِّ بو َنا‬ َ ‫َوالَّذ‬ َّ ‫إلَى‬ )1:‫ (الزمر‬... ‫ّللا زل َفى‬ And those who take protectors (gods) besides Him (say): “We worship them only that they may bring us near to Allah”… (Q. 39:3) The Makkan idolaters’ allegation that the Qur’an was not from Allah, but from the Prophet’s own words was challenged by the Qur’an with the following verses which were revealed in the early period of Islam where the Muslims were still weak: ‫ون اف َت َراه قل إن اف َت َريته َف َعلَيَّ إج َرامي‬ َ ‫أَم َيقول‬ )15 :‫ون (هود‬ َ ‫َوأَ َنا َبريء ممَّا تجرم‬ Or they (the pagans of Makkah) say:


“He (Muhammad) has fabricated it (the Qur’an).” Say: “If I have fabricated it, upon be my crimes, but I am innocent of (all) those crimes which you commit.”(Q. 88:15) The Prophet was told by Allah to tell them, “If I lied it is only me who would bear the consequence of it, not you.” َّ ‫ون لي م َن‬ ‫ّللا َشيئا‬ َ ‫ون اف َت َراه قل إن اف َت َريته َف ََل َتملك‬ َ ‫أَم َيقول‬ ‫ون فيه َك َفى به َشهيدا َبيني َو َبي َنكم َوه َو‬ َ ‫ه َوأَعلَم ب َما تفيض‬ )1 :‫ال َغفور الرَّ حيم (اْلحقاف‬ Or say they: “He (Muhammad) has fabricated it?” Say: “If I have fabricated it, still you have no power to support me against Allah. He knows best of what you say among yourselves concerning it (i.e., this Qur’an)! Sufficient is He as a witness between me and you! And He is Oft-Forgiving, the Most Merciful.” (Q. 46:8) Allah told the Prophet to tell them that had he invented the Qur’an none of them would be able to help him from Allah’s punishment. ‫ك لتنذ َر َقوما َما‬ َ ‫ون اف َت َراه َبل ه َو ال َحق من َر ِّب‬ َ ‫أَم َيقول‬ . )1 :‫ون (السجدة‬ َ ‫ك لَ َعلَّهم َيه َتد‬ َ ‫أَ َتاهم من َنذير من َقبل‬ Or say they: “He (Muhammad) has fabricated it?” Nay, it is the truth from your Lord, so that you may warn a people to whom no warner has come before you (O Muhammad): in order that they may be guided. (Q. 32:3) Here Allah told the Prophet to convince him that the Qur’an is the truth, and his duty was to warn people who had not received any prophet before. ‫ون اف َت َراه قل َفأتوا ب َعشر س َور مثله مف َت َر َيات َوادعوا‬ َ ‫أَم َيقول‬ َّ ‫َمن اس َت َطعتم من دون‬ )81 :‫ين (هود‬ َ ‫صادق‬ َ ‫ّللا إن كنتم‬ Or they say: “He (Muhammad) forged it (the Qur’an).” Say: “Bring you then ten sūrahs (chapters) like it, and call whomsoever you can, other than Allah (to your help!


If you speak the truth” (Q 11:13). ‫ورة مثله َوادعوا َمن اس َت َطعتم‬ َ ‫ون اف َت َراه قل َفأتوا بس‬ َ ‫أَم َيقول‬ َّ ‫من دون‬ )11 :‫ين (يونس‬ َ ‫صادق‬ َ ‫ّللا إن كنتم‬ Or do they say: “He (Muhammad) has forged it?” Say: “Bring, then, a surah (chapter) like it, and call upon whomsoever you can besides Allah, if you are truthful.” (Q. 10:38) Here the challenge of the Qur’an is reduced to one chapter, and the shortest one is sūrat al-Kawthar (chapter 108) consisting of of 3 verses and 10 words. The next short one is sūrat al-‘aṣr (chapter 103) consisting of 3 verses and 14 words, then followed by sūrat al-Ikhlāṣ (chapter 112), consisting of 5 verses and 15 words (if we do not consider wa meaning “and” as one word). Had anyone accepted the challenge, and how far did he succeed or fail, will be dealt with, inshā Allāh, in the next khuṭbah. (CIVIC, 7 February, 2014) :‫المراجع‬ ‫المكتبة الشاملة‬ ‫تفسير الطبري‬ ‫تفسير القرطبي‬ ‫افسير أبن كثير‬

9 reasons for sending down the qur’ᾱn in stages (4)