Ramadan: the Month of the Quran
Before it came to be known as the month of Fasting, the companions of the Prophet knew Ramadan as a month of the Quran, the last and everlasting divine guidance to humanity.
"The month of Ramadan is a month in which the Quran came down. Therefore, it is a guidance for humankind and clear proof for the guidance and the scale (between right and wrong). So, whoever of you sights the month must observe fasts that month, and whoever is ill or on a journey must make up the same number (of days which one did not observe fasts from other days. This is because Allah intends for you ease, and he does not want to make things difficult for you. On the contrary, he wants that you must complete the same number of days and that you must glorify Allah for having guided you so that you may be grateful to Him." (2:184).
The revelation began in the month of Ramadan. The night in which the process of revelation is referred to in the Quran as the blessed night: We sent it (the Quran) down on a holy night, (44:2) or the Night of Decree, Verily, we have sent it (this Quran) down in the Night of Al-Qadr. (97:1). The message's strength, clarity, simplicity, and universality glorified the night as an unforgettable night.
With its 6332 ayas (sentences) spread in 114 suras (chapters) divided into seven stages and 30 parts, the Prophet finalized and compiled it in his lifetime. He was the recipient of the message and the only human being who knew what it was. Only the Prophet could testify, verify and approve what the Quran consisted of because no other human being in his time shared that experience. He put his seal of approval on the finality of the divine message and gave his instructions on its arrangement. The Prophet ensured that every verse revealed to him was in writing at the time of its revelation.
One of the companions, Bara'a, narrates that the Prophet immediately asked a scriber to write it down whenever he received a verse. He referred to the following verse, which a scriber wrote down. Such believers as remain passive - other than the disabled - cannot be deemed equal to those who strive hard in God's cause with their possessions and lives: God has exalted those who strive hard with their possessions and their lives far above those who remain passive. Although God has promised the ultimate good unto all [believers], yet has God exalted those who strive hard above those who remain passive by [promising them] a mighty reward (4:95),
It is also mentioned in Masnad Ahmed, Sunan Abi Dawood, Sunan Nasai, Jami Tirmidhi, Ibn Habban, and Musdark Hakim that Usman bin Affan, the third Caliph, narrated the following. Whenever a verse came down, the Prophet called scribes immediately and gave them specific instructions to write it in the sura (chapter).
Zaid bin Thabit mentioned in Sahih Bukhari that there were at least four from Ansar of Medina, Abi binKaab, Maadh ibn Jabal, Zaid in the lifetime of the Prophet and Abu Zaid who had the entire Quran has written with them. In Medina, Abdullah bin Saeed bin al-As, a calligrapher, was specially instructed to teach the art of writing the Quran to the citizens of Medina.
Besides other materials, the paper was available to write the Quran. The scriptures refer to the word paper twice: But even if we had sent down unto thee [O Prophet] writing on paper, and they had touched it with their own hands – those who are bent on denying the truth would indeed have said, "This is nothing but a deception!" (6:7).
"And this, too, is a divine writ which We have bestowed from on high. It is - blessed, and it confirms the truth of whatever remains [of earlier revelations]. So that thou mayest warn the foremost of all cities and all who dwell around it. Those who believe in the next life do believe in this [warning]. And it is they who are ever-mindful of their prayers. (6:92) The Quran also uses the word Riq, "In a Scroll unfolded; (52:3), a kind of paper made from the skins of animals.
In the books of Ahadith, we come across the names of at least 45 more companions who knew how to read and write the Quran. They are (in alphabetical order):
Abdu Rehman bin Hur bin Umr bin Zaid
Abdulla Saeed bin al As
Abdullah bin Arqam Zahri
Abdullah bin Rawah
Abdullah bin Saad bin Ab Sarh
Abdullah bin Zaid
Abdullah in Abdullah bin Abi Salool
Abu Yunis Maula Ayesha
Ala bin Hadhrami
Ali ibn Talib
Aseed bin hadheer Aus bin Khauli
Ayesha bint Abi Bakr
Fatima bin Muhammad
Hafsa bint Umar
Jaheem binal Salt
Khalid bin Saeed bin al-As
Khalid bin Walid
Muaqaib bin Fatima
Muawiya bin Abi Safiyan
Mughaira bin Shaaba
Muhammad bin Salma
Nafe bin Tareeb bin Umr bin Naufal Najiatu Tafawi
Sad bin al Rabee
Sad bin al-As
Sad bin Ibadah
Shahar bin Saad
Sharjeel bin Hasna
Ubi ibn Kaab
Umar bin al-Khattab
Umme Habiba bint Abi Safiyan
Amr bin Al-As
Umr bin Rafe
Usman bin Affan
Zaid bin Thabit
Zubair bin Awwam
The Prophet was keen on preserving the Quran in writing. So he had a scriber with ink and pen available to him all the time.
The Quran describes itself as a book (Kitab), a word that appears 230 times in various contexts.
There are narrations in many books that suggest Abu Bakr at the insistence of Second Caliph Umar bin al-Khattab, who compiled the Quran. Or the third Caliph finalized the last version. But the verdict of the Quran about its finalization, preservation, authenticity, and compilation is overriding. For example, "We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption)." (15:17). "And (moreover) We have guarded them against every evil spirit accursed." (15:17). Or "This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. (5:3).
Obviously, the Caliphs' efforts were to make copies of the Quran from the original for wider distribution in the Muslim world. It is evident from the writings of Ibn Hazm in his book Kitab ul Fisl that over 100,000 copies of the Quran were present in the world as a whole at the time of Umar bin Al-Khattab.
The Quran describes itself as a book that proves the commonality of the divine messages previously revealed to earlier prophets that were not preserved in the original form by their followers. It also asserts that the divine message has essentially been the same, revolving around three main principles;
1) The source of all divine messages is Allah, the initiator and the creator of the universe,
2) guidance from a higher and neutral source is for human beings to lead a simple and disciplined life. Only by following divine guidance can human beings discipline their lives the same way as everything else in the universe runs in perfect order.
3) life is in constant evolution, and death would not end the life but move in a different stage of existence where individuals and groups would be held accountable for everything that they do and say in their limited life in this world.
The greatest miracle of the Quran is the consistency of this message evident in all its suras (chapters) and ayas (sentences). Of course, the linguistic beauty and style are apparent to only those who understand the language. Still, the clarity and consistency of the message are for everyone regardless of their linguistic skills. In other words, every sura of the Quran has relations with its overall message with variations in emphasis. Every aya focuses on a particular aspect of the message within the context of the comprehensive guide.
Thus the month of Ramadan offers the believers a unique opportunity to refresh their understanding of the guidance. It reminds them to live it for an entire month to discipline the remaining months around that. Thus, the first task for every believer is to get connected with the divine guidance on a disciplined, consistent, and regular basis.
Fasting enables a person to live the principle of self-control and self-discipline, which is essential to realize the strength and the relevance of the divine message.
Seemingly, many Muslims do not know the Arabic language and hence find it hard to understand its recitation. Moreover, we have traditions informing us that reading the Quran gives us the reward of reading one letter to the equivalent of the 30 letters reward. Thus, the mercy and the divine measurement for good deeds are limitless.
Besides earning a reward for reading the Quran without understanding, we can also make efforts in the month of Ramadan to read it with compassion. It may even double or triple the reward. It is no harm to read the Quran with translation. Non-Arabic speaking believers can recite the Quran in Arabic and listen to its pronunciation during the Taraweeh prayers, besides reading the translation in their languages to understand the essence of the divine message. This understanding will enable us to get closer to the guidance of Allah.
Often it is argued that it is difficult to understand the Quran in any other language. The Quran, on the other hand, repeats the following verse four times: "And We have indeed made the Qur'an easy to understand and remember: then is there any that will receive admonition? (54:17) And among his wonders are the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your tongues and colors.
For in this, behold, there are messages indeed for all who have [innate] knowledge! (30:22)
The reading of the Quran with meaning would allow us to understand the divine message and inspire us to appreciate its relevance for us in our times. Thus, in addition to reading the Quran, we can also make efforts to live it.
We spend much of our efforts correcting our pronunciation of the Quran. First, of course, it is essential to perfect the proper sound of every letter and word. However, the primary purpose of understanding the Quran must always remain the focus. So that we could live the Quran the way our Prophet lived it.
"The month of Ramadan is a month in which the Quran came down. Therefore, it is a guidance for humankind and clear proof for the guidance and the scale (between right and wrong). So, whoever of you sights the month must observe fasts that month, and whoever is ill or on a journey must make up the same number (of days which one did not observe fasts from other days. It is because Allah intends for you ease, and he does not want to make things difficult for you. On the contrary, he wants that you must complete the same number of days and that you must glorify Allah for having guided you so that you may be grateful to Him." (2:184).