Category: Islamic Wisdom

Why Quran was revealed gradually on Mohammad (pbuh) and not all at once

The entire noble Qur’an was not revealed to the Holy Prophet Mohammad all of a sudden. On the contrary, it was revealed, little by little, over a span of nearly twenty three years. At times, the angel Jibrael would come with a small verse, or even with some unit of a verse. Then, there were times when several verses would be revealed at one time. The smallest portion of the Quran which was revealed as such is

ghairu olid dharar

(al-N isa: 4:94) which forms part of a long verse. On the other hand, the whole of Surah al-Anam (Chapter 6) was revealed at one time.

Rather than being revealed all at once, why was the Quran revealed little by little? The polytheists (mushriks) of Arabia had themselves put this question to the Holy Prophet. Allah Almighty has taken it upon Himself to answer the question in the following words:

why hasnt Quran sent down all at once

It is sufficient to understand a gist of the wisdom behind the gradual revelation of the Holy Quran as stated by Imam al Razi in his explanation of this verse. He says:

  1. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) was ummiyy, that is, being unlettered, he did not know how to read or write. So, had the entire Quran been revealed at one time, it would have been difficult to remember and document. Contrary to this, Prophet Musa knew reading and writing, therefore, the Torah was revealed to him at one single time.
  1. If the entire Quran had been revealed all at once, the immediate compliance of all its injunctions would have become obligatory, and this would have gone against the wise graduation which has featured as a matter of concern in the Shariah of Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
  1. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) had to go through ever-new tortures inflicted by his people. That Angel Jibrael came, again and again, with the words of the noble Quran, made his stand against these tortures bearable, and gave strength to his heart.
  1. A large portion of the Quran is devoted to answers given to people who posed questions, while some other portion refers to various particular events. Therefore, the revelation of those verses was appropriate at the time when those questions were asked, or those events came to pass. This increased the insight of Muslims and when the Quran unfolded that which was unseen, its truth became all the more manifest.

 

Cause and background of revelation of particular verses (Sabab al nuzul)

The verses of the noble Quran are of two kinds. In the first place, there are the verses that Allah Almighty revealed on His own. Their revelation was not caused by some particular event or a question asked by someone. In the second place, there are those verses which were revealed in answer to some question or with reference to some event. This could be termed as the background of these verses. This background is known, in the terminology of the commentators, as the sabab of nuzul (cause of revelation) or the shan of nuzul (the background of revelation). The background of revelation is, therefore, very important in the exegesis of the noble Qur’an. There are many verses the meaning of which cannot be correctly understood unless the circumstances underlying their revelation become known.

Why humans need Divine Guidance or Revelation (Wahy)

Allah Almighty has sent man into this world as a matter of test, and in return for his being obligated with certain duties, the whole universe has been placed at his service. For this reason man, once he is in the world, must do two things:

  1. He should make the best use of this world, and of things created in it.
  2. While using this world to his advantage, he should keep the injunctions of Allah Almighty in sight and do nothing that goes against His will and pleasure.

For these two functions man needs knowledge. Therefore, unless he knows the reality of this world, the properties of different things and the manner in which they can be put to use, he cannot use anything in this world to his advantage. Likewise, unless and until he knows the will of Allah Almighty as to what pleases Him and what displeases Him, it will be impossible for him to lead a life in line with the will of Allah Almighty.

Sources of acquisition of knowledge and their functional limits

Allah Almighty, along with the creation of man, has created three things through which he could continue receiving knowledge of the above-mentioned matters of concern. These are:

  1. Man’s senses, that is, the eyes, the ears, the nose, the mouth, the hands and the feet.
  2. The reason.
  3. The Wahy.

Consequently, man finds out many things through his senses, many others through reason, and the knowledge of things he cannot get through these two sources are bestowed upon him through Wahy.

The arrangement between these three sources of knowledge is such that each one has its limits, and a particular sphere of activity beyond which it does not work. In natural sequence, the knowledge of things

man collects through his senses cannot be deduced through bland reason. For instance, you know by seeing a wall with your eyes that its colour is white. But, should you close your eyes and try to find out the colour of that wall on the sole strength of your reason, this will then be impossible. Similarly, the knowledge of things that comes through reason cannot be discovered by senses alone. For instance, you cannot find out as to who made that wall by simply seeing it with your eyes or touching it with your hands. Not at all, you rather need reason to arrive at that conclusion.

In short, reason gives no guidance as far as the five senses work efficiently, and when the five senses become helpless, reason starts functioning. But, even the guidance given by this reason is not unlimited. This too stops at a certain limit. Then there are things the knowledge of which can neither be acquired through senses nor through reason. For instance, to find out about this very wall, as to what manner of its use will please Allah Almighty and what manner of its use will displease Him, is possible neither through senses nor through reason. In order to give man the answer to such questions, the source that Allah Almighty has prescribed is what is known as Wahy. And the method it follows is that Allah Almighty selects one of His servants amongst the mankind, ordains him as His messenger and to him He reveals His Word. This Word is Wahy or divine revelation.

This makes it clear that Wahy is the highest source of knowledge for man and it offers to him the answers to questions about his life which cannot be solved by means of reason and senses, but, he still essentially needs to have that knowledge. This further explains that reason and perception alone are not enough to show man the way. It is rather all the more necessary, almost inevitable, that the Divine Wahy be there for his guidance.

Absolute comprehension of Allah’s command isn’t a prerequisite for following it.

Since Wahy is basically needed where reason does not work, it is, therefore, not necessary that everything communicated through Wahy be compulsively comprehended through reason. On the contrary, as reason is no help in finding out the colour of some object since that is the job of the senses, so is the knowledge of many religious beliefs, the gracious giving of which is the sole prerogative of Wahy and not of reason. Furthermore, trusting reason alone for their comprehension is not sound and correct.

To begin with, it is totally senseless to discuss the issue of Wahy with a person who, God forbid, does not accept the very existence of God. But, for a person who believes in the existence of Allah Almighty and has faith in His perfect power, it is not at all difficult to understand that Wahy is a rational need, that it is possible and that it is there for real.

If you have faith in the fact that this universe has been created by an absolutely powerful entity and He is the One who has sent man down here to accomplish some particular mission, how then is it possible to imagine that He, after once having created man, would leave him off in total darkness, without ever telling him why did he come into this world, what his duties were, where was he destined to go and how could he realize the purpose of his life? How could a person, whose sanity is still there, send one of his servants on a certain trip under a designated mission without ever telling him the purpose of the trip while he is leaving, nor explaining it to him later on through some message as to why he has been sent out there and what duties he is supposed to carry out during the trip? When a man of ordinary reason cannot do something like this, how can something like this be imagined with respect to the most Holy Lord of the Universe under Whose ultimate wisdom this whole system of the universe is functioning? After all, how is it possible that the Being, that did create such a mind-boggling system composed of the moon, the sun, the sky, the earth, the stars and the planets, would remain unable to institute some arrangement of communication with His servants, through which human beings could be given guidance about the purpose of their lives? If there is faith in the ultimate wisdom of Allah Almighty, then admitting that He did not forsake His servants in the dark, will become all the more necessary; rather on the contrary on a serious and honest reflection it will become amply clear that He has surely instituted some regular system for their guidance. And so, this very regular system of guidance is known as Waby (Revelation) and Risalah (Prophethood).

This makes it crystal clear that Waby is not only a religious belief but also a rational need and the rejection of which amounts to a rejection of the ultimate wisdom of Allah Almighty.