Collection of the Qur’an: Amin Ahsan Islahi’s View

Collection of the Qur’an: Amin Ahsan Islahi’s View


Tadabbur-i-Qur'ān

لَا تُحَرِّكْ بِهِ لِسَانَكَ لِتَعْجَلَ بِهِ (16) إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا جَمْعَهُ وَقُرْآنَهُ (17) فَإِذَا قَرَأْنَاهُ فَاتَّبِعْ قُرْآنَهُ (18) ثُمَّ إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا بَيَانَهُ (19)[1]

These verses urge the Prophet (sws) to be patient on the hastiness and various new demands of his opponents. It was with the sole support of divine revelation through which the Prophet (sws) was able to truly discharge the heavy responsibility of openly warning his people imposed on him by the Almighty. He was like a soldier, fighting at a battle front, who could not move even one step without guidance from his Lord. In order to torment him, his opponents would raise all sorts of demands and objections before him. In this manner, they would try their utmost to check his advance in his preaching mission. Earlier in this sūrah, one of their demands is cited: they would ask the Prophet (sws) to bring forth the Day of Judgement which he was threatening them with; if it was certain to come, why was it not arriving? Similarly, they would object that if the Qur'ān is God's word, why was it not revealed all at once? In short, they would shower objections from all sides, and the Prophet (sws), on the other hand, would wait for divine revelation to answer all these objections. It was through divine revelation that that his heart would receive strength, his soul would be rejuvenated, his intellect guided and his determination strengthened. Consequently, it is evident both from the Qur'ān and H*adīth that whenever there was a delay in the advent of revelation because of some divine wisdom, he would keep looking up to the heavens. This impatience and keenness would also be evident when Gabriel would deliver the revelation to him. Like an enthusiastic student he would want to learn all the revelation as soon as possible and also preserve it fully lest even a drop of this blessed rain go waste. With this background in mind, let us now deliberate on these verses.

By the words لَا تُحَرِّكْ بِهِ لِسَانَكَ لِتَعْجَلَ بِهِ the Prophet (sws) has been stopped from showing hastiness and impatience which would overcome him whenever a revelation would descend upon him. Although the subject of keenness and hastiness is very commonly found in the literature of most languages, it is almost impossible to express in words the hastiness and impatience with which the Prophet (sws) would be overcome when he would receive a revelation after a long gap and in the face of his opponents idle talk. When a child is hungry and his mother presses him to her bosom, he wants to drink all the milk in a single breath; when a traveller exhausted from traversing a desert sees a bucket full of water after a long wait, he wants to gulp all of it in one sip; similarly, if a person, suffering from the pangs of being away from his beloved, receives a letter from her, he would want to read each and every word of it in a single glance. Although these examples are deficient, yet as indicated earlier, they can give us some idea of the hastiness and anxiety so spontaneously expressed by the Prophet (sws) whenever he would be blessed with divine revelation.

The reasons for this impatience were many, as referred to before. Thus, for example:

  • All the strategy that needed to be adopted by him in the capacity of God's Messenger could only be known through divine revelation.
  • His spiritual, moral and intellectual needs could only be fulfilled through it.
  • He would receive from it the guidance needed to face the existing and future circumstances.
  • It was through it that he would be able to answer the objections and demands which his adversaries would keep posing to him every now and then.
  • His great love for knowledge and his sensitivity in preserving it also contributed very much to it.

All these motives were very genuine and noble; however, it was God's wisdom that the Qur'ān be revealed gradually – just as it was being done. Consequently, the Prophet (sws) was repeatedly urged to exercise patience. In Sūrah T*āhā (114-115) too he has been similarly urged. I have already referred to some aspects of this there. Here too the subject primarily is the same. However, with respect to his mental state during the time of revelation of this sūrah, here he has been subsequently assured of the preservation of the Qur'ān also. The Almighty has taken it upon Himself to collect and arrange it and to recite it before the Prophet (sws) and make him memorize it as well as to explain any verse of the Qur'ān which needs elaboration. The Prophet (sws) was told to be content on whatever portion of the Qur'ān he would receive and not show hastiness and anxiety about it. He should also not worry about its preservation. He should leave all these to his Lord. Every task would be completed at its appointed time in accordance with the wisdom of God.

The words إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا جَمْعَهُ وَقُرْآنَهُ sound an assurance to the Prophet (sws) on his anxiety referred to earlier. Since a great divine treasure was being entrusted to him, it was but natural for him to preserve each and every word that was being given in his custody. The Almighty has assured him that the responsibility of preserving and reciting it is His responsibility.

The word جَمْع is a comprehensive one: it means preservation in the heart of the Prophet (sws) and also bringing together all the parts of the Qur'ān. Consequently, the Prophet (sws) would continuously receive guidance regarding the placement of the revealed verses in various sūrahs. As a result, he would direct the collectors to insert these verses at their specific places. They, of course, obeyed these instructions diligently.

A further arrangement that was made by the Almighty was that in each Ramadān, the Prophet (sws) would read out the Qur'ān revealed till that time to Gabriel in order to safeguard any loss from memory. It is evident from various narratives that in the last Ramadān of the Prophet (sws) this reading took place twice. The word قُرْآنَه points to this reading.

The verse فَإِذَا قَرَأْنَاهُ فَاتَّبِعْ قُرْآنَهُ implies that the Prophet (sws) should not ask that the Qur'ān be quickly revealed to him. He should leave the matter to God, Who would reveal it in a specific amount as per His wisdom. He will also arrange to preserve and collect and arrange it. The Prophet's responsibility is to only follow the recital of what has been read out to him of the Qur'ān. He should read it, act on it and call people towards it. Also, he should pay no heed to the demand of people who are asking for its revelation in one go.

A further assurance is sounded to the Prophet (sws) in the verse ثُمَّ إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا بَيَانَهُ. If explanation is required of any part of the Qur'ān, it is the responsibility of the Almighty to furnish it. The Prophet (sws) need not fret about this. It will be done when the time comes. This is a reference to the tabyīn verses which were revealed to explain and elucidate a previously revealed directive or to abrogate or to complete it. I have referred to these elucidatory verses at a number of places in this tafsīr. The words كَذالِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللهٌ generally occur after them. They actually are the fulfilment of the promise mentioned in ثُمَّ إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا بَيَانَهُ.

I will now present excerpts from the tafsīr of my mentor Imām H~amīd al-Dīn Farāhī which he has written while explaining these verses. He writes:

The exegetes think that the cause of the haste mentioned in these verses is that the Prophet (sws) would be anxious about losing any part of the Qur'ān. I do not differ with this view; however, there are some more details in this which need to be understood.

When the Prophet (sws) would receive divine guidance, he would think that he was being given a great responsibility and that he was being entrusted with a great thing; the slightest of blemish or loss of even a single letter would hold him accountable before God. Simultaneously, he wished to receive more and more divine revelation for any part of it might be instrumental in giving guidance to his people. Both these aspects are very evident regarding this matter. Consequently, the assurance sounded to him in this sūrah takes into consideration both these aspects.[2]

The preservation of the Qur'ān has been promised by the Almighty both in a concise and comprehensive manner. Thus, for example, it is said:

وَإِنَّهُ لَكِتَابٌ عَزِيزٌ لَا يَأْتِيهِ الْبَاطِلُ مِن بَيْنِ يَدَيْهِ وَلَا مِنْ خَلْفِهِ تَنزِيلٌ مِّنْ حَكِيمٍ حَمِيدٍ (41: 41-42)

And this is a mighty scripture. Falsehood cannot reach it neither from in front of it nor from behind it. It is a revelation from a wise and glorious God. (41:41-42)

At another place, the words are:

إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ (9:15)

It was We that revealed the Reminder, and We shall Ourself preserve it. (15:9)

It is evident from these verses that there is no possibility of any addition or deletion in the Qur'ān. Consequently, there exists a consensus in the whole of this ummah that the Qur'ān has remained preserved. The popular view attributed to the Imāmiyyah sect that a part of the Qur'ān has been made to disappear is totally against the opinion of their authorities. Sayyid Murtadā, Muhammad ibn H~asan al-T~ūsī (popularly known as the Sheikh al-Tāi'fah), Abū 'Alī Tabarī, T~abrasī (the author of Majma' al-bayān), Muhammad ibn 'Alī ibn Bābawayh al-Qummī – all have vehemently denied this absurd view. Muhammad ibn 'Alī ibn Bābawayh al-Qummī says: "It is our belief that the very Qur'ān revealed to the Prophet by the Almighty is the one which is found between two covers in the Muslim ummah. There is not a single letter of the Qur'ān more than this. A person who attributes to us the view that we believe the Qur'ān consisted of more is a liar." Regarding the narratives which are found in their literature in this matter, Sayyid Murtadā says that those among the Imāmiyyah and the H~ashawiyyah sects who differ with this view are of no significance because their view is based on some weak Ahādīth that they regard to be authentic. However, on the basis of such weak Ahādīth, a provenand a certain reality cannot be rejected.

Farāhī subsequently goes on to state the conclusions he has drawn from the above quoted verses of Sūrah Qiyāmah:

First, the Qur'ān was collected and arranged in the lifetime of the Prophet (sws) and recited to him in a specific sequence. If this promise was to be fulfilled after his death, he would not have been asked to follow this new recital [referred to by the words: "So when We have recited it out, follow this recital"].

Second, the Prophet (sws) was directed to read the arranged Qur'ān in its new sequence … this directive means that the Prophet (sws) must have communicated the final arrangement of the Qur'ān the way it was finally recited to him. And this arrangement must have been the same as the one found in the guarded tablet (the lawh-i mahfūz). This is because the final recital had to match the original recital [found in the tablet].

Third, after this collection and arrangement, the Almighty explained whatever He intended to from among specifying a general directive or vice versa, furnishing supplementary directives and reducing the scope of some directives.[3]

Farāhī further states:

All these conclusions are evident from the Qur'ān and also corroborated by Hadīth literature. Consequently, the Prophet (sws) would read out whole sūrahs of the Qur'ān to people and this could not have been possible unless they had been read out to him in their specific sequences. The Companions (rta) would listen to and preserve the Qur'ān in accordance with this arrangement and abide by it. It is known that the Prophet (sws) would direct the Companions (rta) to place the revealed verses of the Qur'ān at specific places of specific sūrahs and the Companions (rta) would obey this directive. Then when some explanatory verse would be revealed, the Prophet (sws) would have it written at either the place immediately following the verses which needed this explanation or at the end of the sūrah in case these verses related to the whole theme of the sūrah.[4]

Deliberation reveals another distinct feature of these explanatory verses: they themselves contained words which would show that these verses have in fact been revealed as explanation. They would generally be of the wording: كَذَالِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللهُ أياتِهِ لِلنَّاسِ (thus does the Almighty explain His verses for people … )

Similarly, it is known from authentic and agreed upon narratives that once the whole of the Qur'ān had been revealed, Gabriel recited the complete Qur'ān to the Prophet (sws) in its real sequence. This clears many doubts about the sequence and arrangement of the Qur'ān.

(Translated from Tadabbur-i Qur'ān by Dr Shehzad Saleem)

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