An Introduction To The Quran

The Quran is the book which was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) (the Prophet, hence) over a period of twenty-two years, starting on the first of the month of Ramadan in the Arab year 195 (August 3rd, 610 CE), and ending on the ninth of the month of Dhu al-Hijjah in the Arab year 216 (November 7th, 631 CE). We base the dating system which we adopt here on the Arab calendar which was adopted in Mecca in the year 416 CE under the aegis of Qussay, the leader and founder of Quraysh. The Prophet (PBUH) himself was a direct descendant of Qussay from the fifth generation after him. 

The Arab calendar was based on a cycle of twelve years. At the end of the third year in the first quarter of the cycle, an intercalary month of 33 days was added, while at the end of the third year in each of the remaining three quarters of the cycle, an intercalary month of 34 days was added. This intercalation brought the Arab lunar year in complete alignment with the solar year every twelve years. The Quran calls this intercalation Nassee.

The Quran was then completed on November 7th, 631CE. The Prophet (PBUH) passed away four months and one week after that date, which had marked the completion of his mission. He passed away on March 13th, 632CE.

As already mentioned, the Quran was revealed over a period of twenty-two years. During the first twelve years of these twenty-two years, the Prophet (PBUH) was still residing in his hometown of Mecca. The last ten years of this period of twenty-two years, which were also the last ten years in the Prophet (PBUH)’s life, he spent in Medina, having emigrated there on the first of the month of Rabi al-Awwal in the Arab year 207 (February 14th, 622 CE). As a result of this circumstance, the part of the Quran which was revealed in Mecca is referred to as Meccan, and the part which was revealed in Medina is referred to as Medinan.

Although we said earlier that the Quran is a book, we must hasten to add that it differs from a modern book in three important aspects.

First, a modern book is constituted of chapters, where each chapter is dependent on the chapters which precede it and leads to the chapters which follow it. The Quran is not constituted of chapters but of Surahs. Each Surah of the Quran is a self-contained and autonomous unit, independent of all the other Surahs of the Quran. Thus, the Quran cannot be read or studied the way a modern book is read or studied. To read or study a modern book, we must start with the first chapter and then go on to the next chapter and so on. The Quran cannot be read or studied in this manner. It must be read or studied one Surah at a time.

The Quran differs from a modern book in yet another aspect. The chapters of a book are composed of sentences. The Surahs of the Quran are composed of Ayahs. The sentences of a modern book follow a standardized pattern. No such standardization is followed by the Ayahs of the Quran. In fact, the Surahs of the Quran follow quite a varied pattern. Thus, in nineteen Surahs of the Quran, the first Ayah in the Surah consists of just two to five letters of the alphabet. In three other Surahs, the first Ayah in the Surah consists of just one word. In yet three other Surahs, the first Ayah in the Surah consists of just two words. Similarly, in three other Surahs, the first Ayah in the Surah starts with a single letter of the alphabet followed by an oath.

Although these Ayahs occur in no less than 41 Surahs of the Quran, which amount to 40% of its Surahs, they nevertheless constitute a special case among its Ayahs. Furthermore, they amount only to an infinitesimal fraction of the total number of Ayahs in the Quran which amounts to 6236 Ayahs.

These Ayahs form an exception to the rule which specifies the general form of an Ayah of the Quran. But what is this rule? The general rule is that an Ayah of the Quran is composed of one or more sentences and is delineated by a rhyme which occurs at its end. This rhyme is common to it and to the group of Ayahs in the midst of which it happens to fall. Thus, whereas a sentence in a modern book has a more or less standardized form and length, this is not the case with the Ayahs of the Quran. In the Quran, the Ayahs vary considerably in length and composition .

There is a third aspect in which the Quran differs from a modern book. In modern books, the chapters are commensurate with one another in length. The Quran does not hold to this convention at all. The Surahs of the Quran vary greatly in length one from another. We can best illustrate this aspect of the Quran by noting that each of the three shortest Surahs in the Quran has only three Ayahs, whereas the three longest Surahs have 206, 227 and 286 Ayahs, respectively.

However, hand-in-hand with this disparity in the length of the Surahs of the Quran goes the fact that the majority of the Surahs of the Quran are relatively short in length. Thus, half of the Surahs of the Quran are less than 37 Ayahs in length each, while nearly 90% of the Surahs in the Quran do not exceed 118 Ayahs in length.

Therefore, we can assert that our discussion of the physical features of the Quran leads us to the conclusion that the Quran is sui generis. It is a unique book which can be read, or studied, or understood only on its own terms. In particular, the Quran cannot be approached with any pre-conceived notions about what a book aught or aught not to be.

To check out some verses from The Quran, visit this page.

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Mohammad Hussein Saffouri

Mohammad Hussein Saffouri is a former Palestinian refugee who dwells in USA now. He is a former Professor of Physics, and he has been studying and writing about the Quran for over two decades.

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