The Quran is the Divine Book which is God’s own word as revealed to Muhammad through the Angel of Revelation. It dictates the Law, initiates into the Unseen, purifies the soul and guides social progress. It can be said to be a complete code of conduct for all times.
The Quran, to-day, is a record of what the Prophet said while in a state of ecstatic seizure. The recording of the Prophet’s words in the beginning was haphazard. Verses were written on palm leaves, stones, the shoulder- blades of animals in short, any material which was readily available.
There is no doubt that, at the death of Muhammad, a good deal of the Quran was already written down, though not all of it, for while the Prophet was alive, new Suras or chapters, were constantly being added. There is also no doubt that a great deal of the Quran had been learnt by heart.
Tradition associates the collection of all this material to Abu Bakr, the first Caliph. The first authorised version was published in the times of Caliph Usman.
At the time of the Prophet, and just before he preached the new faith, there were several kinds of religious beliefs in Arabia. Paganism or heathenism of a crude and inartistic type without any ritual, pomp, mythology or philosophical speculation was rampant.
Then, there were colonies of Christians in parts of Arabia. Jewish and Zoroastrian communities were also to be found. In most cases, the outward form of each faith was preserved, but people had forgotten the true principles of their religion.
People had lost contact with spirituality. It was around this time that there arose a group of men called ‘hanifs’ who devoted themselves to religious meditation. These hanifs were monotheistic in their attitude.
It was at such a time that the Prophet preached his message. His faith had appeal because it had a socialistic and democratic flavour. It divided the estate of a person after his death in a fair manner, and compulsorily distributed it among his nearest relations, male and female.
It enjoined the giving of ‘zakat’ almost two-and-a-half per cent of one’s capital as alms every year. It preached equality among human beings and the brotherhood of man. In Islam, laws are intermixed with religion. It would, therefore, be relevent first to understand and appreciate the true spirit of Islam.
First of all, the Prophet himself never claimed that Islam was a new religion. He asserted that it was as old as the hills. In Quranic theory, Islam is a religion which has existed since the beginning of the world, and will exist till the day of Resurrection. Muhammad claimed that he was merely a man, a human being, like the other prophets, and was liable to err in human affairs, but was divinely guided and inspired in matters of religion.
Secondly, there is the principle of Tawhid or the unity of God. Islam is essentially monotheistic in direct contrast to the paganism of the times.
The third principle is that of brotherhood of man. Pride of colour or race was absolutely condemned by the Prophet. In his last sermon, the Prophet is reported to have said: The Arab is not superior to the non-Arab; the non-Arab is not superior to the Arab. You are all sons of Adam, and Adam was made of earth. Verily all Muslims are brothers…”