Due to the virtues of Ramadan, it has been called by many virtuous names. Amongst many, it is known as the month of Al-Quran. There are multiple scriptural texts which point to the encouragement of enlivening the days in Ramadan with recitations and reflections of the Quran. Indeed, Ramadan and the Quran bear a special relationship with one another. Allah s.w.t. mentions in Surah Al-Baqarah:
شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أُنزِلَ فِيهِ ٱلْقُرْءَانُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَـٰتٍ مِّنَ ٱلْهُدَىٰ وَٱلْفُرْقَانِ
Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed as a guide for humanity with clear proofs of guidance and the standard (to distinguish between right and wrong)
(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:185)
Often in Ramadan, many members from our community would hold circles (now even virtually in the Covid period) to recite the holy book, calling it ‘Tadarus Al-Quran’ where the participants would read to a certain extent and pass it on to the next person to continue the recitation. Many of these circles would eventually reach the final Quranic chapter near the end of Ramadan. This tradition, in fact, can be traced back to the Rasulullah s.a.w. The Prophet s.a.w. would recite the Quran with Jibril a.s. together on all the nights of Ramadan.
وكانَ جِبْرِيلُ يَلْقَاهُ في كُلِّ لَيْلَةٍ مِن رَمَضَانَ، فيُدَارِسُهُ القُرْآنَ
Jibril used to meet him (the Prophet s.a.w) every night in Ramadan and read the Quran with him
Some scholars also view, from the mentioned hadith, that although it is also encouraged to recite the Quran at any time of the day, it is even more prefered for the Quran to be read at night. Just as how the additional Sunnah prayers performed at night are highly valued within the religion, it is the same for the recitation of the Quran.
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلْمُزَّمِّلُ. قُمِ ٱلَّيْلَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا. نِّصْفَهُۥٓ أَوِ ٱنقُصْ مِنْهُ قَلِيلًا. أَوْ زِدْ عَلَيْهِ وَرَتِّلِ ٱلْقُرْءَانَ تَرْتِيلًا
O you wrapped (in your clothes)! stand at night (for prayer) except a little - half of it, or a little less, or make it a little more; and recite the Qur'an (properly) in a measured way.
(Surah Al-Muzammil, 73:1-4)
With so much emphasis on reciting the Quran in Ramadan, this article will look into how the Quran was descended from the Heavens to humanity. Are there any differences between the eventful observances of Laylatul Qadr (Night of Qadr) and Nuzul Al-Quran (Descent of the Quran)? And how did the Quran develop into the holy book that we hold on to today?
We have all come to understand that the descent of the Quran happened in the month of Ramadan. The Quran is then said to have descended on both the nights of Laylatul Qadr and Nuzul Al-Quran. While the exact date of Laylatul Qadr remains unknown by the wisdom of Allah s.w.t, some of our scholars view that Nuzul Al-Quran happened on the 17th of Ramadan as marked in many of our Hijri calendars today.
How can both dates be so different? And how can we narrow down the dates of the Quran’s descent?
To understand this matter, it is first important to know that there are stages to the Quran’s descent. The Quran that was recorded in the Lauh Mahfuz (Preserved Tablet) was first sent down, all at once, to the lowest Heavens (Sama’-Dunya) on the night known as Laylatul Qadr.
إِنَّآ أَنزَلْنَـٰهُ فِى لَيْلَةِ ٱلْقَدْرِ
Indeed, (it is) We (Who) sent this (Quran) down on the Night of Qadr
(Surah Al-Qadr, 97:1)
In another verse, Allah s.w.t. says
إِنَّآ أَنزَلْنَـٰهُ فِى لَيْلَةٍ مُّبَـٰرَكَةٍ ۚ إِنَّا كُنَّا مُنذِرِينَ
Indeed, We sent it down on a blessed night, for We always warn (against evil)
(Surah Ad-Dukhan, 44:3)
Both Laylatul Qadr and Laylatul Mubarakah indicate the same night where the first stage of the Quran’s descent to humanity happens.
Then, from the lowest Heavens, the Quran was sent down and revealed to the Prophet s.a.w. gradually in parts throughout the span of 23 years of prophethood, both in Makkah and Madinah. Unlike the previously revealed scriptures such as the Tawrah, Zabur and Injil, the Quran was not revealed to Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. as a complete book all at once. This gradual revelation upon the Prophet s.a.w. marks the second stage of the Quran’s descent.
The first revelation to descent upon the Prophet s.a.w. is known as the night of Nuzul Al-Quran. This happened when the Prophet s.a.w. first met Jibril a.s. on Jabal Nur (Mount Light) in the cave of Hira where the angel asked him to read thus revealing the first five verses of Surah Al-’Alaq:
ٱقْرَأْ بِٱسْمِ رَبِّكَ ٱلَّذِى خَلَقَ. خَلَقَ ٱلْإِنسَـٰنَ مِنْ عَلَقٍ. ٱقْرَأْ وَرَبُّكَ ٱلْأَكْرَمُ. ٱلَّذِى عَلَّمَ بِٱلْقَلَمِ. عَلَّمَ ٱلْإِنسَـٰنَ مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ
Read, (O Prophet,) in the Name of your Lord Who created—He created humans a clinging clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous, Who taught by the pen—taught humanity what they knew not.
(Surah Al-’Alaq, 96:1-5)
This is in consistent with the hadith reported by Aishah r.a:
حتَّى فَجِئَهُ الحَقُّ وهو في غَارِ حِرَاءٍ، فَجَاءَهُ المَلَكُ فِيهِ، فَقالَ: اقْرَأْ، فَقالَ له النبيُّ صَلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّمَ: فَقُلتُ: ما أنَا بقَارِئٍ، فأخَذَنِي فَغَطَّنِي حتَّى بَلَغَ مِنِّي الجَهْدُ، ثُمَّ أرْسَلَنِي فَقالَ: اقْرَأْ، فَقُلتُ: ما أنَا بقَارِئٍ، فأخَذَنِي فَغَطَّنِي الثَّانِيَةَ حتَّى بَلَغَ مِنِّي الجَهْدُ، ثُمَّ أرْسَلَنِي فَقالَ: اقْرَأْ، فَقُلتُ: ما أنَا بقَارِئٍ، فأخَذَنِي فَغَطَّنِي الثَّالِثَةَ حتَّى بَلَغَ مِنِّي الجَهْدُ، ثُمَّ أرْسَلَنِي فَقالَ: (اقْرَأْ باسْمِ رَبِّكَ الذي خَلَقَ) - حتَّى بَلَغَ - (عَلَّمَ الإنْسَانَ ما لَمْ يَعْلَمْ)
“..till suddenly the Truth descended upon him while he was in the cave of Hira. The angel came to him and asked him to read. The Prophet replied, "I do not know how to read." (The Prophet added), "The angel held me (strongly) and pressed me so hard that I felt drained. He then released me and again asked me to read, and I replied, "I do not know how to read," whereupon he held me again and pressed me a second time till I was drained. He then released me and asked me again to read, but again I replied, "I do not know how to read (or, what shall I read?)." Thereupon he held me for the third time and pressed me and then released me and said, "Read: In the Name of your Lord, Who has created (everything). Has created man from a clot. Read and Your Lord is Most Generous. (He) who taught by (means of) the pen. (He) taught humanity what they knew not"
Scholars differ in terms of the actual date of Nuzul Al-Quran. Some scholars, such as Imam At-Tabari, view that it happened on the 17th of Ramadan. Others view that it happened on the 21st or other dates within Ramadan. There are even other views of it happening in other Hijri months as well. Many scholars, however, agree that it happened on a Monday. Abu Qatada r.a. reports:
وَسُئِلَ عَنْ صَوْمِ يَوْمِ الاِثْنَيْنِ قَالَ: ذَاكَ يَوْمٌ وُلِدْتُ فِيهِ وَيَوْمٌ بُعِثْتُ أَوْ أُنْزِلَ عَلَىَّ فِيهِ
He was then asked about fasting on Monday, whereupon he said: It was the day on which I was born. on which I was appointed with prophethood or revelation was sent to me
In Summary, Laylatul Qadr refers to the first stage of the Quran’s descent while Nuzul Al-Quran refers to the first revelation from the second stage of the Quran’s descent. Both of which happened during the month of Ramadan.
During the Prophet’s time, the Quran was not in the form of a compiled book that we see today. Instead, the Quran was memorised by heart. The Prophet s.a.w. mentioned in a hadith:
خُذُوا القُرْآنَ مِنْ أَرْبَعَة مِن عَبْدِ اللهِ بنِ مَسْعُود وَسَالِم وَمُعَاذ بِن جَبَل وَأُبَيْ بن كَعَب
Take the Quran from four people: Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud, Salim, Muaz Ibn Jabal and Ubayy Ibn Ka’ab (r.a.)
Although there are only four companions that are mentioned in the hadith, there are many others who also memorised the Quran, being Uthman Ibn Affan, Ali Ibn Abi Talib, Abu Darda’, Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari and Umm Waraqah r.a. just to name a few.
Even when writing was not yet considered to be the main medium for transmitting knowledge, the Prophet s.a.w. also assigned scribers such as Zayd Ibn Thabit r.a. to write the revealed Quranic verses or chapters with whatever material they had.
After the Prophet’s departure from this world, the companions eventually became the main references for the Holy Quran. It later became a concern notably after the battle of Yamamah when a large number of those who memorised the Quran, also known as the Huffaz, were martyred in battle.
Umar Ibn Al-Khattab r.a. suggested the idea of gathering and documenting the Quran into a single copy for future references. Abu Bakr r.a. as the Caliph at that time eventually agreed to the idea and assigned the lead scriber Zayd Ibn Thabit r.a. to lead a team and undertake this momentous task.
Thus the first manuscript of the Quran in a single copy/book remained with Abu Bakr r.a. until his departure from this world, and onto Umar Ibn Al-Khattab r.a, and then later to his daughter Hafsah r.a. during the time of the third Caliph, Uthman Ibn ‘Affan r.a.
The second task to gather the Quran happened during the time of Uthman Ibn ‘Affan r.a. when the Muslim community began to grow at an exponential rate. Many were very new to Islam. This later led to the multiple ‘styles’ of recitation. Another team to undertake the task led by Zayd Ibn Thabit r.a. was thus commenced by Uthman r.a. in order to prevent confusion and to standardise the styles of recitation guided by the Quraysh dialect - in which the Quran was revealed in their tongue. This standardised style and script were later coined as Rasm Uthmaniyy (Uthmani Script), the version that we use today.
Uthman r.a. then ensured that it was made into multiple copies to be sent to the major cities of the time and had the other written materials burnt.
It is also important to note that despite the Quran being gathered much later after the Prophet’s demise, he s.a.w. have also mentioned the specific order of the Quranic chapters and verses. This meant that every word and order of the Quran is verbatim. The companions have agreed upon this by cross-checking their own respective notes and memorisation of the Quran.
Through the massive contributions of the companions and our scholars, we are now able to enjoy reciting and learning the Quran with much ease. Today, Muslims around the world continue to try and memorise the Quran making it a communal obligation (Fardh Kifayah) - not to be mistaken for individual obligation. This huge effort and success can also be seen as part of the ways Allah s.w.t. protecting the holy Quran until the end of time:
إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا ٱلذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُۥ لَحَـٰفِظُونَ
It is certainly We Who have revealed the Reminder (Quran), and it is certainly We Who will preserve it.
(Surah Al-Hijr, 15:9)
Let us take this opportunity to be a part of the communal effort of preserving the Quran by learning how to recite it and internalising its meanings to embody the Quranic values in our daily lives. There are many rewards to reciting the Quran especially in the month of Ramadan.
May Allah s.w.t. accept our efforts and bless us by the Quran.
And Allah knows best.