Introduction to the Quran

Introduction to the Quran C

(This session is also available in audio and video)

Let's talk about revelation.  Since God cannot be seen or heard, and because the nature and built of a human being can not receive directly from God, his message has to be delivered through revelation. 

But what is the meaning of revelation?  Revelation is to inform someone secretly or quietly. When someone like a salesman comes to your door and you don't have the time to meet with them, you might motion to a family member to let that person go.  In essence, you have informed your family member quietly that you did not want to see that person, and revealed your wishes to them.

There are many forms of Revelations that were mentioned in the Quran. God has revealed to the angels, he also revealed to people other than prophets such as the mother of Moses, and to many of his creation as stated in this verse:

“Your Lord revealed to the bees: ‘Build dwellings in the mountains and the trees, and also in the structures which men erect. “(Chapter 16: Verse 68)

Furthermore, the devils have revealed to each other and to human beings.

However when the word revelation is used, it usually takes the specific meaning of God revealing his message to his prophets.  There are three forms that revelation may take as mentioned in the following verse:

“It is not fitting for a man that God should speak to him except by inspiration, or from behind a veil, or by the sending of a messenger to reveal, with God's permission, what God wills: for He is Most High, Most Wise. “ (42:51)

Let's take these forms one by one.

First: Inspiration.  When God inspires someone, he throws the idea into the person's heart, the person would then act on it.  However, as we know there are many ideas that pop into one's head, or are felt in one's heart.  How do we know which one of them is true revelation?

When true inspiration comes from God to a person, the person finds him or herself completely content and at peace with that thought.  A person would act on it without experiencing any  objection or self-doubt.  Even if such inspiration calls for an action that is typically against the thoughtful mind.  Let's take an example of this type of revelation from the Quran:

We revealed to Moses' mother, ‘Suckle him and then when you fear for him cast him into the sea.  Do not fear or grieve; We will return him to you and make him one of the Messengers.’ “ (28:7)

What woman -in her right mind- would throw her baby into the sea when she fears most for his life?  She would basically be throwing her baby from grave danger into certain death. Yet Moses' mother felt completely at peace with this action when she was inspired by God.

Second: Revelation from behind a veil.  Every major religion, be it Judaism Christianity or Islam, had its message delivered partly by this method, for example when the prophet was commanded to start the five daily prayers, God spoke to him from behind a veil, the same way he spoke to Moses previously.

and third: revelation through a messenger sent from God. The Quran was exclusively revealed by sending a direct messenger which was the angel Gabriel.  The Quran was not revealed by inspiration to the prophet, nor was it though direct speech by God behind a veil.  The Quran was delivered solely by the angel messenger, so there would be absolutely no doubt of its origin.  The prophet used to hear a loud noise like the tolling of a bell before the angel Gabriel would come and become visible to him.  The presence of the angel would take a heavy toll on the prophet; his face would change color.... if he was sitting next to one of his companions or resting his leg on them, that person would feel the prophet's leg get so heavy... they would describe it as a boulder.  If he was riding on a horse or on a camel, the animal would labor from feeling such intense weight. 

Initially, these stressful encounters took their toll on the prophet (peace be upon him).  Then, after the first few Revelations of verses, there was a period of pause and the angel did not return to the prophet for a while.  During that time the prophet started to miss and long for receiving Revelations from God.  Usually when you miss something, or when you do hard work and then take a period of rest you might start longing for the sweetness of hard work and achievement.  This feeling makes the work easier for you when you return. You actually start looking forward to it.  When you miss the pleasures you get from it, you can overcome the hard parts easily.   God says in Chapter 94:

Have We not comforted your heart; Relieved you of the burden which had been a heavy weight upon your back and granted you an exalted reputation?   So truly where there is hardship there is also ease; truly where there is hardship there is also ease.  (94:1-6)

Let's take note of yet another proof of the truthfulness of the message of the Quran.  At times the prophet would receive a long chapter from the Quran in one meeting with the angel Gabriel.  When the revelation session was over, the prophet would recite the new verses to his companions, who in turn would write them down.  The new verses maybe long and may take 30 minutes or an hour to recite as the companions wrote them down; and then when the time for the next prayer comes, the prophet would recite the same verses verbatim as he lead the prayers.  Anyone of us can speak for 30 minutes to an hour and ask others to record our speech.  However, none can repeat their speech word for word and letter for letter an hour later.  The fact that the prophet used to do exactly that is evidence that this was revealed to him and ingrained into his memory through a higher power.

There are verses of the Quran which are very similar to each other, there are even a few verses that differ by one letter only, which makes it clear that the prophet was not reciting casual speech or conveying a general meaning.  He recited and repeated verses that were very specific and very difficult to memorize.  It is not a matter of routine, and not a specific style in writing, the prophet had nothing to do with it.  It is simply an issue of revelation as mentioned in the Quran:

“and neither does he speak out of his own desire: The Quran is nothing less than a revelation that is sent to him.” (53:3-4)