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An Introduction to the Sciences of the Quran pdf

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 An Introduction To The Sciences Of The Quran
  • Book Author:
Ahmad von Denffer
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The Qur’an contains the revelations of Allah, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, to mankind. It is the message from God to man and therefore of utmost importance to us. To properly grasp a message, one needs first of all to understand its contents exactly, and for this purpose one must study the Qur’an deeply and in detail. In fact, some people do spend their whole lives studying the Qur’an, reading and reflecting upon it and, as they grow and develop, both physically and spiritually, they discover for themselves new meanings and implications.

Secondly, some special knowledge of the circumstances that surround the message is also necessary for fuller understanding of its meaning and implications. Although some part of this special knowledge can be derived from the Qur’an itself, there remain other areas of knowledge that can only be discovered by wider study and research.

Muslims have from earliest times, applied themselves not only to the message from Allah the Qur’an but also to its setting and framework, and the preoccupation with these ultimately developed into the ‘sciences’ of or ‘knowledge’ about the Qur’an, known as ” ulum al-qur’an’.

The proper approach to the Qur’an, in my humble view, can be described in three stages. You must:

  • first, receive the message of the Qur’an, by hearing or reading it;
  • second, understand the message of the Qur’an by reflecting upon it and studying its meanings;
  • third, apply the message of the Qur’an by ordering your personal life as well as the life of society according to its message.

The branch of knowledge, called ‘ulum al-Qur’an may be used as a means for the accomplishment of the second stage, understanding the message of the Qur’an, by understanding its setting and circumstances.

According to a general definition, ‘ ulum al-qur’an [Sabuni, Muhammad ‘Ali: al-tibyan fi ‘ulum al-qur-an, Beirut, 1970, p. 10.] denotes studies concerned with the book of revelations sent down upon the last Prophet Muhammad, [The customary blessings on the Prophet (Allah’s blessings and peace beupon him) each time his name is mentioned will not be repeated in the text, but the reader is kindly requested to observe this Muslim tradition.] namely:

  • Its revelation.
  • Its collection.
  • Its order and arrangement.
  • Its writing down.
  • Information about the reasons and occasions of revelation.
  • About what was revealed in Makka and what in Madina.
  • About the abrogating and abrogated verses.
  • About the ‘clear’ and the ‘unclear’ verses. The term also covers Qur’an-related studies, such as:
  • The explanation of verses and passages by the Prophet himself, his Companions, their followers and the later

exegetes of the Qur’an.

  • The methods of explanation.
  • The scholars of exegesis and their books.

The aim of this book as all ‘ulum al-qur’an is to help towards a better understanding of the Qur’anic message by providing information on its setting, framework and circumstances. To a great extent it is a descriptive account of the traditional subject of ‘ulum al-qur’an. Some branches of ‘ulum al-qur’an, such as the divisions of the text, style, literary form etc., have only been touched upon briefly, while others that seemed more important have been dealt with in more detail. In particular such topics related to the understanding of the text (asbab al-nuzul, al-nasikh wa al-mansukh, etc.) have been treated more extensively while others, such as the ‘seven ahruf’ or the ‘Uthmanic writing, which are of benefit only to readers with a good knowledge of classical Arabic, have been introduced, but not elaborated upon.

I have restricted myself to presenting the generally-accepted views on the issues and, where no consensus exists, have referred to the most important of the divergent opinions. Although I do have my own views on some questions, my basic aim in this ‘Introduction’ is generally to inform the reader about the subject, and not to guide him overtly or covertly towards my own conclusions.

There are a number of matters related to the study of the Qur’an to which I have drawn special attention since this ‘Introduction’ to the ‘ulum al-qur’an is aimed at a special readership, namely, young educated Muslims with little or no access to the original sources on the subject. I have therefore included several topics, of special relevance for that readership, such as:

  • Orientalists and the Qur’an.
  • Translations of the Qur’an.
  • Modern interpretation of the Qur’an.
  • Language of the Qur’an.
  • Reading and recitation of the Qur’an.

Again, particularly for the benefit of these readers, I have often quoted typical examples to illustrate the various points discussed and make them more easily comprehensible.

Finally, to assist readers not familiar with Arabic, I have supplied references to English translations, where available (such as translation of hadith books, etc.). However, on certain topics (e.g. asbab al-nuzul or al-nasikh wa al-mansukh) there is no literature available as yet in English and references had to be restricted to Arabic sources only.

I have also attempted to note in the bibliography at least one or two books in English for each section, from which more insight may be gained on the topic discussed.

May this volume (to the best of my knowledge, the first of its kind in a European language) fulfil its purpose and assist you to grasp fully the message of the Qur’an and to apply it in your life, and may Allah accept this humble effort and forgive its shortcomings. Ahmad von Denffer Leicester. Ramadan 1981/1401

The Qur’an and Revelation


God’s Communication with Man

God communicated with man. This is the key concept of revelation upon which all religious belief if more than a mere philosophical attempt to explain man’s relationship with the great ‘unknown’, the ‘wholly other’ is founded. There is no religious belief, however remote it may be in time or concept from the clear teachings of Islam, which can do without or has attempted to do without God’s communication with man.

Man denies God

God’s communication with man has always accompanied him, from the earliest period of his appearance on this planet, and throughout the ages until today. Men have often denied the communication from God or attributed it to something other than its true source and origin. More recently some have begun to deny God altogether, or to explain away man’s preoccupation with God and the communication from Him as a preoccupation with delusion and fantasy. Yet even such people do not doubt that the preoccupation of man with God’s communication is as old as man himself. Their reasoning is, they claim, based on material evidence. Following this line of thought they feel that they should deny God’s existence, but are at the same time compelled to concede the point for material evidence is abundant that man has ever been preoccupied with thinking about God and the concept of God’s communication with man. Empiricism and Realism.

Their general approach to emphasize material evidence in the search for reality and truth, is surely commendable. Not only empiricist philosophy but also commonsense tell us that one should accept as real and existent what can be grasped empirically, that is, by direct experience, by seeing, hearing, touching and so on. While there may be in other systems of thought, other criteria for the evaluation of reality, at present it is a materialistic philosophy that rules the day, and though many people (especially the ‘religious’ type) are saddened by this and wish back the ‘old days of idealism and rule of the creed’, I personally think that we have to accept the present state of affairs not as ideal and unchangeable, but as our point of departure and moreover that doing so is of some advantage to us.

Creation is Material Evidence for God

Many now accept empiricism as their guiding principles and God gives ample evidence, material evidence, capable of verification by all empiricists, for His being and existence. The wide earth, the whole universe of creation, are evidence, material evidence, for God. No empiricist would deny that the earth and the universe do exist. It is only that he does not always perceive them as ‘creation’, for then he would have to argue from the material evidence that he has to a mighty and puissant cause, to reason and purpose behind it. Such an argument would by no means be in contradiction with his empiricist, rational and scientific line of thought, rather in perfect agreement with it.

Man’s Pride

I do not wish to discuss here in any detail why then, despite this, man denies God and disregards His communication with man. Suffice to say that the cause must be seen in man’s self-perception, his arrogance and false pride. Having discovered that he and his kind constitute the peak of ‘creation’, he thinks himself autonomous, self-dependent, absolutely free and fully equipped to be master of the universe. Somehow, this self-perception too has been with man from his early days. He has always thought himself better than anything else. [The question of how evil came into the world has preoccupied many sincere seekers after the truth. The answer which the Qur’an gives is simple yet convincing if seen against all the evidence of historical and contemporary human civilization. At the root of all evil in this world is disobedience to God, resulting from the belief that one is superior to another. From this belief stems oppression of man by man discrimination, crime and all other evils that rule the day. The test lies in obedience to God, for seen against God, the ‘wholly other’, all creation is indeed on the other side and equal. In Sura al-A’raf (7) it is related that God asked all angels to bow before Adam, the first man. The angels obeyed, and observed God’s will, except Iblis. When asked why he opposed God’s will, he replied: ‘ana khairun minhu’ I (Iblis) am better than him (Adam), you created me from fire and created him from clay‘ (Al-Qur’an 7:12) . This then is the beginning of all evil, for it is Iblis who after this makes it his mission to incite men also to act against God’s will.]

Guidance for Man

Muslims, referring to the Holy Qur’an, also conclude that from the beginning of his life on earth, man has received communication from God, to guide him and protect him from such self-perception and deceit:

‘We said: Get ye down all from here; and if, as is sure, there comes to you guidance from Me,

whosoever follows My guidance on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve’ (Al-Qur’an


[I shall use the following two English translations of the Holy Qur’an: A. Yusuf Ali, (Ali, Abdullah Yusuf: The Glorious Qur’an: Text, Translation and Commentary. Leicester, 1978) and M. Pickthall (Pickthall, Mohammad Marmaduke: The Meaning of the Glorious Koran, New York, 1963) .]

This message and promise has been communicated by God to all mankind, all children of Adam, as the Qur’an explains:

‘O ye children of Adam! Whenever there come to you apostles from amongst you, rehearsing My signs unto you those who are righteous and mend (their lives) on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve’ (Al-Qur’an 7:35).

The Messengers

The guidance from God comes through the apostles or messengers, and they bringwith them the scripture from God:

‘We sent before time Our apostles with clear signs and sent down with them the book and the balance (of right and wrong) that men may stand forth in justice …’ (Al-Qur’an 57:25).

The basic message of all prophets from God, and hence of all scriptures they brought, is one and the same message from God to man:’

‘And verily We have raised in every nation a messenger, (proclaiming): Serve Allah and shun false gods …’ (Al-Qur’an 16:36).

The Names of the Prophets and their Number

The Qur’an mentions the following prophets by name: Adam, Nuh, Ibrahim, Isma’il, Ishaq, Lut, Ya’qub, Yusuf, Musa, Harun, Dawud, Sulaiman, Ilyas, Al-Yasa’, Yunus, Ayyub, Zakariya, Yahya, ‘Isa, Idris, Hud, Dhul Kifl, Shu’aib, Salih, Luqmaan, Dhul Qarnain, ‘Uzair, Muhammad.

This does not mean, however, that only these have been God’s prophets. Indeed the Qur’an is very clear that the number of prophets is much larger and that to each community from among mankind God has sent His messenger:

‘We did aforetime send apostles before thee: of them there are some whose story We have related to thee and some whose story We have not related to thee …’ (Al-Qur’an 40:78).

‘To every people (was sent) an apostle …’ (Al-Qur’an 10: 47).

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