GUARDING THE MESSAGE OF THE QUR’AN

IJTIHAD

by Mehol K. Sadain

Muslims believe that the Noble Qur’an is a revelation from ALLAH, just like the other revelations are to other Prophets, the most commonly known of whom are Nabiy Ibrahim (Abraham with the Suhuf) Nabiy Musa (Moses with the Tawrah), Nabiy Daud (David with the Zabur) and Nabiy Isa (Jesus with the Injil), as can be seen in the following verses:

“And this is in the Books of the earliest (revelations): The Suhuf of Abraham and Moses.” [Al-Qur’an, 87:18-19]

“It was We who revealed the Tawrah (to Moses). Therein was guidance and light. By its standards have been judged the Jews by the Prophets who bowed to ALLAH’s Will, by the rabbis and the doctors of law…” [Al Qur’an, 5:44]

“And it is your Lord that knoweth best all things that are in the heavens and on earth; and We made some of the Prophets to excel others, and We gave to David the Sabur (Psalms).” [Al-Qur’an, 17:55]

“And in their footsteps, We sent Jesus, son of Mary, confirming the law that came before him. We sent him the Injil in which was guidance and light, and confirmation of the law that had come before him.” [Al-Qur’an, 5:46]

In Islam, belief in the Books is ranked alongside submission to ALLAH alone, and belief in all the Prophets who relayed the message of Oneness, thus:

“Say, we believe in ALLAH, and in what has been revealed to us, and what has been revealed to Abraham, Ismael, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, and the Books given to Moses, Jesus, and the Prophets, from their Lord. We make no distinction between one and the other; and to ALLAH we bow in submission.” [Al-Qur’an, 3:84]

The Noble Qur’an, as ALLAH’s revelation is called the Kalaamullah or Words of ALLAH, and is considered as final and guarded:

“It is We who have sent down the Remembrance (in Arabic, “Dhikra” which is considered the Message of the Qur’an), and surely, We will guard it (from corruption).” [Al Qur’an, 15:9]

The critics of the preservation of the Qur’an have argued that the Book is not exactly perfectly preserved. According to a Western writer, David Wood, the proofs of this are “early Muslim sources” where “we find that entire chapters of the Qur’an have been lost… individual verses were forgotten, and words and phrases were changed”. He then uses these allegedly historical accounts and narratives to show that the Qur’an is not a perfectly preserved Book; and even compares it to the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered in their original forms. What Wood does not say is that when found, the Dead Sea Scrolls were not complete, but the ones discovered were preserved. If then he argues that the Dead Sea Scrolls were preserved even if these are not complete, how can he say that the Qur’an is not preserved, just because according to him, it does not seem to be complete, based on historical narratives?  

Then too, the narratives mentioned by Wood come from traditions which are bound to change as they are passed from narrator to narrator. This is the reason why the ahadith or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad have been subjected to intense scrutiny to confirm their authenticity, before they are made sources of law and belief. In short, these narratives are not always reliable; and to use them as arguments to a clear verse in the Qur’an like Ayat 15:9 will not pass muster in Islamic scholarship. The simple reason is the Qur’an is the highest authority in Islamic teaching, and is ranked before the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in terms of veracity and credibility. A similar but lesser analogy in the western sense is the relationship between a constitution and a congressional legislation, with such legislation expected to bow before the authority of the constitution.

Finally, Wood and other similarly-situated critics misses the real message of Ayat 15:9, with no thanks to over-eager Muslim interpreters who heap uncalled for meanings to the verse.

A careful reading of the verse shows that it simply talks about Dhikra which literally translates to “Remembrance”. It does not directly talk of Kitab or “Book”, which is how the Qur’an is addressed in the Qur’an itself:

“This is THE BOOK. In it is Guidance sure (without doubt) to those who reverence ALLAH.” [Al-Qur’an, 2:2] 

The “remembrance” in Ayat 15:9 seems to refer to the Message that ALLAH has sent through Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and the rest of the Prophets, as the next Āyat 10 and 11 make clear:

“We did send (messengers) before thee, amongst the sects of old. But never came a messenger (rasuulin) to them, but they mocked him.” [Al-Qur’an, Āyat 10-11]

In short, the guarantee of “guarding” is made on Adh-Dhikra or the Remembrance, which is a remembrance of the Message of Oneness relayed by all the Prophets. To be precise, it is the remembrance of the message of Oneness of ALLAH that ALLAH has committed to guard in Ayat 15:9.

And true enough, the message of the Noble Qur’an has not changed and has not been corrupted. More important, neither have there been any addition to, or deletion from, the Qur’an more than 1400 years after its one and only official copy has been compiled, printed and reprinted, in the various copies of the Qur’an that the Muslims of old and contemporary days have read and learned by heart.

Indeed, ALLAH has kept His promise to guard the Remembrance. MKS

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