Ultimate manifestation of God's grace
By: Muhammad Asad
READ in the name of thy Sustainer, who has created - created man out of a germ-cell! Read - for thy Sustainer is the Most Bountiful One who has taught [man] the use of the pen - taught man what he did not know. (Quran 96:1-5)
With these opening verses of the ninety-sixth surah - with an allusion to man's humble biological origin as well as to his consciousness and intellect - began, early in the seventh century of the Christian era, the revelation of the Qur'an to the Prophet Muhammad, destined to continue during the twenty-three years of his ministry and to end, shortly before his death, with verse 281 of the second surah:
And be conscious of the Day on which you shall be brought back unto God, whereupon every human being shall be repaid in full for what he has earned, and none shall be wronged. (Quran 2:281)
Between these first and last verses (the first and the last in the chronological order of their revelation) 1 unfolds a book which, more than any other single phenomenon known to us, has fundamentally affected the religious, social and political history of the world. No other sacred scripture has ever had a similarly immediate impact upon the lives of the people who first heard its message and, through them and the generations that followed them, on the entire course of civilization. It shook Arabia, and made a nation out of its perennially warring tribes; within a few decades, it spread its world-view far beyond the confines of Arabia and produced the first ideological society known to man; through its insistence on consciousness and knowledge, it engendered among its followers a spirit of intellectual curiosity and independent inquiry, ultimately resulting in that splendid era of learning and scientific research which distinguished the world of Islam at the height of its cultural vigor; and the culture thus fostered by the Qur'an penetrated in countless ways and by-ways into the mind of medieval Europe and gave rise to that revival of Western culture which we call the Renaissance, and thus became in the course of time largely responsible for the birth of what is described as the "age of science": the age in which we are now living.
"How shall I behave in order to achieve the good life in this world and happiness in the life to come?" However often individual Muslims may have misread this answer ..
All this was, in the final analysis, brought about by the message of the Qur'an: and it was brought about through the medium of the people whom it inspired and to whom it supplied a basis for all their ethical valuations and a direction for all their worldly endeavors: for, never has any book - not excluding the Bible - been read by so many with a comparable intensity and veneration; and never has any other book supplied to so many, and over so long a span of time, a similarly comprehensive answer to the question, "How shall I behave in order to achieve the good life in this world and happiness in the life to come?" However often individual Muslims may have misread this answer, and however far many of them may have departed from the spirit of its message, the fact remains that to all who believed and believe in it, the Qur'an represents the ultimate manifestation of God's grace to man, the ultimate wisdom, and the ultimate beauty of expression: in short, the true Word of God.
Introduction to "The Message of the Quran" by Muhammad Asad
1 - It is to be borne in mind that, in its final compilation, the Qur'an is arranged in accordance with the inner requirements of its message as a whole, and not in the chronological order in which the individual surahs or passages were revealed.
Opening Chapter of the Quran - A prayer for guidance
In the name of God, the most gracious, The dispenser of grace: - All praise is due to God alone, the Sustainer of all the worlds, - The Most Gracious, the Dispenser of Grace, - Lord of the Day of Judgment! - Thee alone do we worship; and unto Thee alone do we turn for aid. - Guide us the straight way - The way of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed Thy blessings, not of those who have been condemned [by Thee], nor of those who go astray!
Second chapter of the Quran - Confirmation of guidance
Alif. Lam. Mim. - THIS DIVINE WRIT, let there be no doubt about it is [meant to be] a guidance for all the God-conscious - Who believe in [the existence of] that which is beyond the reach of human perception, and are constant in prayer, and spend on others out of what We provide for them as sustenance; - And who believe in that which has been bestowed from on high upon thee, [O Prophet,] as well as in that which was bestowed before thy time: for it is they who in their innermost are certain of the life to come! - It is they who follow the guidance [which comes from their Sustainer; and it is they, they who' shall attain to a happy state!
Muhammad Asad translation available with explanatory notes at IslamiCity Comprehensive Quran Search
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