³The ultimate manifestation of God's grace for man, the ultimate wisdom, and the ultimate beauty of expression: in short, the word of God.² This is how the German scholar, Muhammad Asad, once described the Qur'an. If one were to ask any Muslim to depict it, most likely they would offer similar words. The Qur'an, to the Muslim, is the irrefutable, inimitable Word of God. It was revealed by God Almighty, through the instrument of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The Prophet (pbuh) himself had no role in authoring the Qur'an, he was merely a human secretary, repeating the dictates of the Divine Creator:
"He (Muhammad) does not speak of his own desire. It is no less than an Inspiration sent down to him." [53:3-4]The Qur'an was revealed in Arabic, to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), over a period of twenty-three years. It is composed in a style so unique, that it cannot be deemed either poetry or prose, but somehow a mixture of both. The Qur'an is imimitable; it cannot be simulated or copied, and God Almighty challenges mankind to pursue such an endeavor if he thinks he can:
"Or do they say he forged it? Say: Bring then a chapter like unto it, and call (to your aid) anyone you can, beside God, if it be you speak the truth." [10:38].The Qur'an's language is indeed sublime, its recitation moving, as one non-Muslim scholar noted, it was like ³the cadence of my heartbeat². Due to its unique style of language, the Qur'an is not only highly readable, but also relatively easy to remember. This latter aspect has played an important role not only in the Qur'an's preservation, but in the spiritual life of Muslims as well. God Himself declares,
"And We have indeed made the Qur'an easy to understand and remember; then is there anyone that will receive admonition?" [54:17]One of the most important characteristics of the Qur'an is that it remains today, the only holy book which has never changed; it has remained free from any and all adulterations. Sir William Muir noted, "There is probably in the world no other book which has remained (fourteen) centuries with so pure a text." The Qur'an was written down during the lifetime and under the supervision of the Prophet, who himself was illiterate, and it was canonized shortly after his death by a rigorous method which scrutinized both written and oral traditions. Thus its authenticity is unblemished, and is its preservation is seen as the fulfillment of God's promise:
"We have, without doubt, sent down the Message, and We will assuredly guard it from corruption." [15:9]The Qur'an is a book which provides the human being the spiritual and intellectual nourishment he/she craves. Its major themes include the oneness of God, the purpose of human existence, faith and God-consciousness, the Hereafter and its significance. The Qur'an also lays a heavy emphasis upon reason and understanding. In these spheres of human understanding, the Qur'an goes beyond just satisfying the human intellect; it causes one to reflect on implications. There are Qur'anic challenges and prophecies. One of the most exciting fields in recent years has been the discovery that, of the significant amount of scientific information in the Qur'an, including the event of the Big Bang, embryological data, and other information concerning astronomy biology, etc., there is not a single statement that has not been borne out by modern discoveries In short, the Qur'an fulfills the heart, the soul, and the mind.
Perhaps the best description of the Qur'an was given by Ali, the cousin of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) when he expounded upon it as,
"The Book of God. In it is the record of what was before you, the judgment of what is among you, and the prophecies of what will come after you. It is decisive, not a case for levity. Whoever is a tryant and ignores the Qur'an will be destroyed by God. Whoever seeks guidance from other than it will be misguided. The Qur'an is the unbreakable bond of connection with God; it is the remembrance full of wisdom and the straight path. The Qur'an does not become distorted by tongues. nor can it be deviated by caprices; it never dulls from repeated study; scholars will always want more of it. The wonders of the Qur'an are never ending. Whoever speaks from it will speak the truth, whoever rules with it will be just, and whoever holds fast to it will be guided to the straight path." [Al-Tirmidhi]