Majid Fakhry, An Interpretation of the Qur’an; English Translation of the Meanings; A Bilingual Edition (2002)
The Qur’an is the sacred scripture of Islam. It consists of 114 Surahs or chapters which are divided into ayat or verses. Most of the Surahs were revealed piecemeal to Muhammad (s) during the two periods of his Call: the Meccan period (610-622 A.D.) and the Medinan period (622-632 A.D.).
The Meccan Surahs, which belong to the period of struggle against the Prophet’s own tribe of Quraysh in Mecca, are written in an incisive and impassioned style and proclaim in a fiery tone the imminence of the Hour and the horrors of Hell-fire. They summon mankind to heed the divine call with which Muhammad (s), the Messenger of God, is charged and which centres on the profession of the unqualified oneness and sovereignty of God and the urgency of returning to the true (hanif) religion of Abraham, founder of the Sacred Shrine of the Ka’ba in Mecca. This hanif religion, having been corrupted over the years by idolatry and other pagan practices, was now being revived and cleansed by Muhammad (s), whose spiritual call in the Qur’an is described for that reason as reviving or “confirming” the original or pure monotheism of Abraham. Even Jews and Christians, referred to as the People of the Book since they were recipients of a true revelation they are said to have corrupted, are summoned in the Qur’an to adhere to the only true revelation “sent down” to Muhammad (s).
This revelation, according to the Qur’an, has existed since all time in the Preserve Tablet (Surah 85/22) or the Mother of the Book (Surah 13/39) and was communicated to Muhammad (s) through the Angel Gabriel (Jibril) in pure Arabic, so as to instruct his own people and through them the rest of mankind. It is believed by Muslims to be the infallible Word of God (Kalam Allah).
The earliest revelation came to Muhammad (s) at the age of forty, as he was absorbed in meditation in Cave Hira’, just outside Mecca. Here, according to Muslim tradition, the angel Jibril spoke to him thus: “Read (iqra’) in the name of your Lord Who created …”; hence the name of the Qur’an, reading or recitation. Thereafter the revelations came to the Prophet at different intervals and were written down on palm-leaves, tablets of stone or simply committed to memory by the scribes or “secretaries of revelation”, the most famous of whom was Zayd Ibn Thabit.