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All praise is due to Allāh, the One Who revealed the Book on the greatest of creation as a warner and provider of good news. It is Allāh’s greatest and final revelation, the seal of His scriptures, revealed to the seal of the Messengers and their chief, Mohammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), through the intermediary of Allāh’s select angel, on the mightiest night of the chosen month.
May Allāh’s peace and blessings be upon His chosen messenger, the greatest exegete of Allāh’s words, through which his companions were guided to the ideal way of life. When Sa’d b. Hishām b. ‘Āmir (rady Allāhu ‘anhu) asked the mother of the believers, ‘Aisha (rady Allāhu ‘anha), about the conduct of the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), she knew any expression would fall short of elucidating the superiority of his manners and replied:
أَلَستَ تَقرَأُ القُرآنَ. قُلتُ : بَلَى . قَالَت: فَإِنَّ خُلُقَ نَبِيِّ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيهِ وَسَلَّمَ كَانَ القُرآنَ .قَالَ : فَهَمَمْتُ أَن أَقُومَ وَلَا أَسأَلَ أَحَدًا عَن شَيْءٍ حَتَّى أَمُوتَ
“She said: ‘Do you not read the Qur’ān?’ I said: ‘Of course.’ She said: ‘The character of the Prophet of Allāh sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam was the Qur’ān.’ Sa’d said: ‘I wanted to get up and not ask about anything else until I died…’”
The Qur’ān is a spring that never ceases to give. It is a wholesome curriculum and the cause of its adherents’ selection and distinction amidst a world running after narrow and subjective sources of guidance, codes, and legislations.
When approaching the Qur’ān, one must perceive it for what it is: a perpetually existing miracle and an inimitable wonder that has, since its revelation, continued to baffle the brightest minds and overwhelm the most thorough manmade texts and systems. Every other miracle besides it has ceased to exist. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) says:
مَا مِنَ الأَنْبِيَاءِ نَبِيٌّ إِلاَّ أُعْطِيَ مِنَ الآيَاتِ مَا مِثْلُهُ أُومِنَ أَوْ آمَنَ عَلَيْهِ الْبَشَرُ. وَإِنَّمَا كَانَ الَّذِي أُوتِيتُ وَحْيًا أَوْحَاهُ اللَّهُ إِلَىَّ فَأَرْجُو أَنِّي أَكْثَرُهُمْ تَابِعًا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ
“There was no prophet among the prophets but he was given miracles through which people had security or belief, but what I was given was the Divine Inspiration which Allāh revealed to me. So I hope that my followers will be more than those of any other prophet on the Day of Resurrection.”
The Qur’ān is the Muslim’s share of these divine signs and miracles, one that remains fully accessible and available to us today.
The Qur’ān was revealed during the age of poetry and the pinnacle of linguistic eloquence. Pre-Islamic Arabia was an era when men and women possessed such linguistic proficiency and expression that they would paint with their words and expressions what the hands of artists could not. They were people of piercing memory and oratory detail. Their powerful linguistic constructs were merged with colloquial expression. As such, poetry was proliferated, catching on to day-to-day discourse, reshaping narratives, changing balances of power, and creating reputations while destroying others. The strength of their language was such that it stood the test of time, and much of it is still preserved today.
It was right in the middle of this that Allāh revealed His challenge. This challenge was not only directed to the men who would proudly hang their impressive and distinctive literary pieces on the sanctified and oft-frequented Ka’bah, but to the whole world. This included the world of the Jinn, some of whose dubious work and literature were also known and documented. Allāh says:
قُلْ لَئِنِ اجْتَمَعَتِ الْإِنْسُ وَالْجِنُّ عَلَى أَنْ يَأْتُوا بِمِثْلِ هَذَا الْقُرْآنِ لَا يَأْتُونَ بِمِثْلِهِ وَلَوْ كَانَ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ ظَهِيرًا
“Say: ‘If both men and Jinn banded together to produce the like of this Qur’ān, they could never produce anything like it, even if they backed each other up.’”
The Qur’ān’s matchless linguistic style did not come at the expense of depth of meaning or ability to guide and reform. Its verses penetrated hearts, minds, and consciences. Jubair b. Mut’im (rady Allāhu ‘anhu), one of the leaders of Quraish and a scholar in genealogy, said:
سمعت النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يقرأ في المغرب بالطور. فلما بلغ هذه الآية: ﴿ أَمْ خُلِقُوا مِنْ غَيْرِ شَيْءٍ أَمْ هُمُ الْخَالِقُونَ * أَمْ خَلَقُوا السَّمَوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ بَلْ لَا يُوقِنُونَ * أَمْ عِنْدَهُمْ خَزَائِنُ رَبِّكَ أَمْ هُمُ الْمُصَيْطِرُونَ ﴾ [الطور: 35 – 37] كاد قلبي أن يطير
“I heard the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) reciting Surah al-Tur in the Maghrib prayer, and when he reached the verse: ‘Or were they created out of nothing, or are they the creators? Or did they create the heavens and the earth? No, in truth they have no certainty. Or do they possess the treasuries of your Lord or do they have control of them? Or have they been given the authority to do as they like?’ my heart was about to fly out of its place.”
In the early parts of the Da’wah, the Quraish elected one of its leaders, al-Waleed b. ‘Utbah. His mission was to negotiate with the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), hoping to bring an end to what they saw was becoming a threat to their social and economic fabric. Al-Waleed visited the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and said:
“You have put your people in great trouble: you have created divisions among them; you consider them to be fools; you talk ill of their religion and gods … if by what you are doing, you want wealth, we will give you enough of it so that you will be the richest man among us; if you want power, we will make you our chief and will never decide a matter without you.”
When he was done with his plea, the attentive and patient Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) replied with serenity and composure:
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم حم * تَنْزِيلٌ مِنَ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ * كِتَابٌ فُصِّلَتْ آيَاتُهُ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ * بَشِيرًا وَنَذِيرًا فَأَعْرَضَ أَكْثَرُهُمْ فَهُمْ لَا يَسْمَعُونَ * وَقَالُوا قُلُوبُنَا فِي أَكِنَّةٍ مِمَّا تَدْعُونَا إِلَيْهِ وَفِي آذَانِنَا وَقْرٌ وَمِنْ بَيْنِنَا وَبَيْنِكَ حِجَابٌ فَاعْمَلْ إِنَّنَا عَامِلُونَ
“In the name of Allāh, the All-Merciful, the Most Merciful. Ha Mim. A revelation from the All-Merciful, the Most Merciful. A Book whose verses have been demarcated for people who know as an Arabic Qur’ān, bringing good news and giving warning; but most of them have turned away and do not hear. They say, ‘Our hearts are covered up against what you call us to and there is heaviness in our ears. There is a screen between us and you. So, act – we are certainly acting (meaning we will not change our ways).’”
‘Utbah reclined back on his hands listening until the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) reached the verse of prostration, after which he prostrated. The noble Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) did not present a word of commentary or analysis. He merely recited the pure and unadulterated Qur’ān to a recipient whose Arabic eloquence and understanding was unquestionable. Nonetheless, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) knew it was something ‘Utbah had never heard before. Without a word’s question or objection, ‘Utbah got up and left. He was bewildered, changed, shaken, and unsettled.
Although he could not admit it, those sentiments transpired starkly on his face and demeanour to the extent that when his clansmen saw him, they asked: “What happened? He looks entirely different to when he set off.” In what was to become one of the most articulate and poignant expressions about the Qur’ān, ‘Utbah replied:
“By Allāh I heard what I have never heard the likes of before. By Allāh it is not poetry nor is it sorcery nor is it magic. People of Quraish, listen to me and make me responsible (for my position). Leave this man be, because by Allāh what he says will have serious effects (in the future). If the other Arabs overcome him, you will be saved from having participated in fighting your brother and others will deal with him. But if he prevails over Arabia, his sovereignty will inevitably be your sovereignty and his honour your honour.” They said: “You have been bewitched Abu al-Waleed.”
The Qur’ān’s impact reverberated throughout the world. It even shook the hearts of the educated Christian clergymen who were already versed in divine scripture and expression. For them, it was not only confirmation of what they knew, it also had the familiar hallmark of divine speech that they could not but be moved by. Allāh says:
وَإِذَا سَمِعُوا مَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَى الرَّسُولِ تَرَى أَعْيُنَهُمْ تَفِيضُ مِنَ الدَّمْعِ مِمَّا عَرَفُوا مِنَ الْحَقِّ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا آمَنَّا فَاكْتُبْنَا مَعَ الشَّاهِدِينَ
“When they listen to what has been sent down to the Messenger, you see their eyes overflowing with tears because of what they recognise of the truth. They say, ‘Our Lord, we have Iman! So, write us down among the witnesses.’”
Beyond the perceived world, the Qur’ān found its way into the heartlands of the hidden Jinn-kind, who were not only bewildered by its presentation, but also transformed. Allāh says:
قُل أوحِيَ إِلَيَّ أَنَّهُ استَمَعَ نَفَرٌ مِنَ الجِنِّ فَقالوا إِنّا سَمِعنا قُرآنًا عَجَبًا * يَهْدِي إِلَى الرُّشْدِ فَآمَنَّا بِهِ وَلَنْ نُشْرِكَ بِرَبِّنَا أَحَدًا
“Say: ‘it has been revealed to me that a band of the Jinn listened and said, ‘We have heard a most amazing recitation. It leads to right guidance so we have Iman in it and will not associate anyone with our Lord’”
Up until the Jinn said:
وَأَنَّهُ كانَ يَقولُ سَفيهُنا عَلَى اللَّهِ شَطَطًا
“The foolish among us (i.e. Iblees) used to utter vile slanders against Allāh.”
Its truth was irresistible. Whatever extent of obedience and servitude they had felt towards their master Iblees was overturned. Through only a short exposure to the Qur’ān they became witnesses to the malice of Iblees.
Maybe more strangely is the intense impact the Qur’ān had on the angels, despite their closeness to its source, as well as their knowledge and direct interactions with transcendent realities. Even though it was their leader Jibril (ʿalayhi al-Salām) who delivered it to the heart of the Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), they were still taken aback by it.
Usaid b. Hudair (rady Allāhu ‘anhu) reported that whilst he was reciting Surah al-Baqara at night, his horse tied beside him began to act startled and troubled. When he stopped reciting, his horse settled. When he started again, the horse was startled again. He stopped reciting and the horse settled. Usaid, afraid that his son Yahya who was sitting beside the horse would be trampled, stopped his recitation. The next morning, he informed the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) of his experience. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was delighted, exclaiming:
اقْرَأْ يَا ابْنَ حُضَيْرٍ. اقرأ يا بن حضير. قال: فأشفقتُ يا رسول الله أن تطأ يحيى, وكان منها قريبًا. فرفعتُ رأسي فانصرفتُ إليه, فرفعتُ رأسي إلى السماء فإذا مثل الظلة فيها أمثال المصابيح فخرجتُ حتى لا أراها. قال:
“Recite, b. Hudair! Recite, b. Hudair!” He said, “Messenger of Allāh! My son Yahya was near the horse and I was afraid that it might trample him. When I looked towards the sky and went to him, I saw something like a cloud containing what looked like lamps, so I left in order not to see it.”
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:
وتدري ما ذاك؟ قال: لا. قال: تلك الملائكة دنَت لصوتك, ولو قرأتَ لأصبحتْ ينظر الناس إليها لا تتوارى منهم
“Do you know what that was?” B. Hudair replied, “No.” The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “Those were Angels who came near to you for your voice and if you had kept on reciting till dawn, it would have remained there until morning when people would have seen it and it would not have disappeared.”
It was exposure to the Qur’ān that bore the most illustrious scholars, thinkers, and righteous men and women, even out of those who were otherwise headed for ruin. Imam al-Thahabi relates that the esteemed scholar of Islam al-Fudayl b. ‘Iyād had taken to banditry in his youth, raiding caravans and robbing travellers. At around that time he had fallen in love with a young girl. On one occasion he decided to climb up the wall of her house, and as he did so he overheard someone reciting:
أَلَمْ يَأْنِ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَن تَخْشَعَ قُلُوبُهُمْ لِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَمَا نَزَلَ مِنَ الْحَقِّ وَلَا يَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ مِن قَبْلُ فَطَالَ عَلَيْهِمُ الْأَمَدُ فَقَسَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ ۖ وَكَثِيرٌ مِّنْهُمْ فَاسِقُونَ
“Has the time not arrived for the hearts of those who have Iman to yield to the remembrance of Allāh and to the truth He has sent down, so they are not like those who were given the Book before for whom the time seemed over long so that their hearts became hard? Many of them are deviators.”
The verse jolted his heart and rejuvenated his dampened spiritual conscience. In one breath he said: “Yes Allāh, now is time.” Just a single verse sparked the beginning of his admired journey of worship and scholarship, becoming one of the greatest Imams of Islam.
The Qur’ān not only transformed but distinguished. The norms of social class, distinction, and recognition became all but redundant. Qur’ānic distinction were to eclipse social hierarchies forever.
A man called Nafi’ b. ‘Abd al-Hārith met ‘Umar (rady Allāhu ‘anhu) at a place called ‘Usfan. ‘Umar had employed Nafi’ as deputy over Makkah. In their meeting, ‘Umar asked Nafi’, “Who did you appoint as deputy over the people of the valley (during your absence)?” Nafi’ replied, “B. Abza.” ‘Umar asked, “Who is b. Abza?” Nafi’ replied, “He is one of our freed slaves.” ‘Umar said, “So you have appointed a freed slave over them?” Nafi’ said, “He is well versed in the Book of Allāh (‘azza wa jal) and he is well versed in the commandments and injunctions.” On hearing this, ‘Umar said:
أَمَا إِنَّ نَبِيَّكُمْ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَدْ قَالَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَرْفَعُ بِهَذَا الْكِتَابِ أَقْوَامًا وَيَضَعُ بِهِ آخَرِينَ
“Indeed, your Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “Through this Book, Allāh raises some and degrade others.”
Notice the words ‘your Prophet’, used to dispel any objection to this basis. The one best suited in the Qur’ān was worthy of assuming leadership over Islam’s holiest city, despite being a freed slave,. This is but one of thousands of examples in Islam’s elaborate history.
The Qur’ān in fact restored the life of a human civilisation that was more or less dead. The 600-year lull in heavenly revelation since the Abrahamic message of Jesus (ʿalayhi al-Salām) left much of humanity lost for guidance. Just as much of the world lurked in darkness and disarray, seemingly destined to hell, it found itself headed to Paradise. Just as it sunk into depression, misery, misguidance and loneliness, it was reintroduced to its Lord, for whose closeness our hearts were created.
From darkness, the world began to see unblemished realities and developed a clear and vibrant picture of exactly where we are going and how to get there. Humanity was thus salvaged by Allāh’s guidance, delivered entirely by His favour and grace (mann). Allāh says:
لَقَد مَنَّ اللَّهُ عَلَى المُؤمِنينَ إِذ بَعَثَ فيهِم رَسولًا مِن أَنفُسِهِم يَتلو عَلَيهِم آياتِهِ وَيُزَكّيهِم وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الكِتابَ وَالحِكمَةَ وَإِن كانوا مِن قَبلُ لَفي ضَلالٍ مُبينٍ
“Allāh showed great kindness (manna) to the believers when He sent a Messenger to them from among themselves to recite His Signs to them and purify them and teach them the Book and Wisdom, even though before that they were clearly misguided.”
Nothing is more worthy of our time than Allāh’s Book, for life is futile and meaningless without His guidance. In the same way, nothing is worse than our detaching from it because we would be detaching our lives from its essence, bringing death upon ourselves before the death from the dysfunction of our limbs. Throwing away the purpose of our existence is the same as not living at all.
It is no wonder that after speaking of the rejection of the pagans of Makkah, Allāh mentions the similar response other prophets received, comforting our Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) that this is the common way of guiders in communities inundated by customary misguidance. Allāh’s reminder of the unrivalled comfort and relief was to follow:
وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَاكَ سَبْعًا مِّنَ الْمَثَانِي وَالْقُرْآنَ الْعَظِيمَ
“We have given you the Seven Oft-repeated (meaning al-Fātiha) and the Magnificent Qur’ān.”
Nothing is worth yearning for compared to the gift of the Qur’ān. No wonder in the verse that immediately follows, Allāh instructs the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam):
لَا تَمُدَّنَّ عَيْنَيْكَ إِلَىٰ مَا مَتَّعْنَا بِهِ أَزْوَاجًا مِّنْهُمْ وَلَا تَحْزَنْ عَلَيْهِمْ وَاخْفِضْ جَنَاحَكَ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ
“Do not direct your eyes longingly to what We have given certain of them to enjoy. Do not feel sad concerning them. And take the believers under your wing.“
Let us embark on our journey through al-Ḥujurāt with the mindset that what we will study is the best advice we will ever receive. It should shape how we look at everything. It is the literal word of Allāh (‘azza wa jal) that should make us stand in awe and eager anticipation.
And all praise and thanks are due to Allāh.
 Bismillāh al-Rahmān al-Rahīm – after praising and thanking Allāh, the Source of Strength, and praising our beloved Messenger (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), I extend my heartfelt appreciation to those who were pivotal guides and supporters on our journey. Namely, Ustadh Asim Khan, whose weekly classes inspired me to share this resource with others and from whose classes and reflections I have sourced much of this work. It would not be an exaggeration to consider him one of its authors wherever I have made correct statements and derivations. I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to the committee of the University of Kingston Islamic Society, particularly the then-President brother Hamad Momin. I would also like to thank the cohort of students who insisted on inviting me to deliver a seven-part series on al-Ḥujurāt, receiving my inexperience and often disordered discussions with encouragement and engagement. I have involved a number of the most enthusiastic attendees in formulating this work, editing it, writing reflections, introductions, and conclusions. May Allāh reward these contributors and recognise them for their sincerity and commitment to the Qur’ān. Ameen.
 Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim on the authority of ‘Aisha (rady Allāhu ‘anha)
 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī on the authority of Abu Hurairah (rady Allāhu ‘anhu)
 Al-Qur’ān 17:88
 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī on the authority of Jubair b. Mut’im (rady Allāhu ‘anhu)
 Al-Qur’ān 41:1-5
 Prophetic Sīrah – B. Hisham
 Al-Qur’ān 5:83
 Al-Qur’ān 72:4
 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī
 Al-Qur’ān 57:16
 Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim on the authority of ‘Amir b. Wathila (rady Allāhu ‘anhu)
 A word we will explore further in forthcoming sections in shā Allāh
 Al-Qur’ān 3:164
 Al-Qur’ān 15:87
 Al-Qur’ān 15:88
Ahmed Hammuda is a regular contributor at Islam21c. His interests lie in Qur’anic Tafsir and the field of Middle East Affairs and how they reflect on Muslims living in the West. He is an Electrical Engineer by trade and has been involved in various Da’wah activities over the course of his education and working life. He has transferred the same analytical approach required in engineering into a careful and measured approach in his views and positions.