The holy book of Islam is called the Qur’an which is literally translated to mean The Reading or The Recitation. This book was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad verse by verse over a period of 23 years and is the center of gravity for all Islamic life and practices. The text was originally revealed in the Arabic language and its meaning has since been translated to many other languages; however, only the original Arabic text is considered the actual word of God. All other translations are subject to potential alteration or corruption by human error. For this reason, millions of Muslims the world over become hafiz which means that they protect the integrity of the Holy Qur’an by memorizing it. Because enough people have memorized it word for word, it becomes nearly impossible to corrupt its meaning by changing words or pronunciations over time. Broken down into a collection of 114 chapters, or surahs, the Quran is not arranged according to the time or place of revelation. It is loosely organized by length of surah and has become the most memorized book in the world. Through stories, parables and direct instructions, the Qur’an is the word of God and His Guidance for how to live a proper, pious life in the belief and worship of One True God.
Some might ask why God even sent revelation and messengers such as the Quran in the first place. Ever since people began innovated their inherent, natural submission to one God (fitrah) and began associating things in worship with Him, God has sent Prophets and Messengers in order to implore them to Monotheism or Tawhid. Prior to the revelation of Muhammad, God sent prophets to guide their own nations. With the Holy Quran comes the universal message for all of mankind and jinn and the answer to the question of the meaning of life : And I (Allah) created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (Alone). (Quran 51:56)
The miracle of the Qur’an is evident in many ways. Firstly, it came down to Muhammad is stages and sometimes revelation was very different than we would imagine it. They would come at various times of day and night and sometimes it would be clear for Muhammad, while other times he learned a verse just from feeling it. Immediately, Muhammad would recite what he had received to his companions who would race to memorize it and catalogue it in their minds. Thus the Qur’an began in the oral tradition of the Arabs it was sent to.
Why does God reveal the Holy Quran through His angels? Why not reveal it directly to a Prophet or mankind? The answer to this question comes in Surah 42, Verse 51 : It is not fitting for a man that Allah should speak to him except by inspiration of from behind a veil or by the sending of a Messenger to reveal with Allah’s permission what Allah wills: for He is Most High Most Wise.
Part of this miracle was that Muhammad was illiterate, meaning he could neither read nor write, and yet anyone who hears the poetic perfection of the Qur’an can testify that its writer must have had some divine knowledge or inspiration. Muslims do not believe Muhammad wrote the Qur’an but rather received it directly from God. This accounts for its total perfection as a text. At the time of revelation, Muhammad relied heavily on scribes to write down what he had received and then had them read it back to him in order to ensure that it was exactly as he had recited it. These written texts were accumulated by the scribes and eventually the whole of the Qur’an was written down in the lifetime of Muhammad.
Following the death of Muhammad, the scribes and his companions compared their transcriptions and compiled the text into a single volume. This original copy was kept in the home of the Prophet’s wife, Hafsah. Over time, as the Islamic empire grew and Hafiz Muslims were killed in battle and non-Arabic nations were included in the empire, the leader of the Muslim community after the Prophet, Abu Bakr, took it upon himself to codify the text and disperse it throughout the growing nation. Museum manuscripts of the Qur’an from the earliest centuries of Islamic rule match those that are found in circulation today. It is because of this attention to detail and prevention of corruption of the text that the Qur’an has remained true to what was revealed to Muhammad starting in 610CE.