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How was Quran revealed?

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Bismillah wa alhamdulillah, wa-ssalatu wa-ssalamu ala Rasulillah.

Quran was revealed gradually over a period of 23 years. This was the 3rd and final stage of revelation. According to the vast majority of scholars, the Qur'an was revealed in 3 stages:
  1. Writing in Al-Lauh al-Mahfoodh
  2. Revelation to Lower heaven
  3. Revelation to our Prophet (SWS, Peace be upon him) by Jibreel over a period of 23 years
Let us look into these stages separately.

1. Writing in Al-Lauh al-Mahfoodh

Al-Qur'an was written in Al-Lauh al-Mahfoodh (The Preserved Tablet). Al-Lauh al-Mahfoodh is the tablet in which everything is written, everything that will happen from the beginning of creation to the end of time. Allah said in Quran -

{ بَلْ هُوَ قُرْءَانٌ مَّجِيدٌ (21) فِى لَوْحٍ مَّحْفُوظٍۭ (22) }
[(85:21) But this is an honored Qur'an (85:22) [Inscribed] in Al-Lauh al-Mahfoodh.]

The Prophet(SWS) said: "The first thing Allah created was the pen. He (Allah) said to it: 'Write'. It asked: 'What should I write, my Lord?' He said: 'Write what was decreed about everything till the Last Hour comes.' (Sunan Abi Dawud 4700, Book 42, Hadith 105, Authenticated by Al-Albani)
This writing happened in The Preserved Tablet and thus Qur'an is first written in The Preserved Tablet.

2. Revelation to Lower heaven

Allah then revealed the Qur'an to Al-bayt al-izza (House of Honor), a place in lower heaven. This has happened in Laylatul Qadr (The Night of Decree) in the month of Ramadaan, as per the Quranic verse 2:185

{ شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أُنزِلَ فِيهِ ٱلْقُرْءَانُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَٰتٍ مِّنَ ٱلْهُدَىٰ وَٱلْفُرْقَانِ }
[(2:185) The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. ]


{ إِنَّآ أَنزَلْنَٰهُ فِى لَيْلَةِ ٱلْقَدْرِ }
[(97:1) Indeed, We sent it (the Qur'an) down during the Night of Decree. ]

Ibn Abbas and others have said, "Allah sent the Qur'an down all at one time from the Preserved Tablet (Al-Lawh Al-Mahfuz) to the House of Honor (Baytul-'Izzah), which is in the heaven of this world. Then it came down in parts to the Messenger of Allah based upon the incidents that occurred over a period of twenty-three years."
(al-I'lbaree, al-Haakim, al-Nasaa'i and al-Baihaqee.)

3. Revelation to our Prophet (SWS) by Jibreel over a period of 23 years

This revelation happened over a period of 23 years in the lifetime of the Prophet (SWS). This stage is unique as compared with other revelations such as Injeel, Taurah, Zaboor. These earlier books were revealed to the respective prophets all at once.

{ وَإِنَّهُۥ لَتَنزِيلُ رَبِّ ٱلْعَٰلَمِينَ (192) نَزَلَ بِهِ ٱلرُّوحُ ٱلْأَمِينُ (193) عَلَىٰ قَلْبِكَ لِتَكُونَ مِنَ ٱلْمُنذِرِينَ (194) }
[(26:192) And indeed, the Qur'an is the revelation of the Lord of the worlds. (26:193) The Trustworthy Spirit has brought it down (26:194) Upon your heart, [O Muhammad] - that you may be of the warners. ]

But for Qur'an, the revelation to our Prophet (SWS) took place gradually as and when Allah decided with His infinite wisdom. Whenever Allah wanted to reveal some verses He would command Jibril to bring the verses to Prophet Muhammad (SWS). From the authentic narrations we find that Jibril would hear the portions of the Quran from Allah and then he will come to our Prophet (SWS) with that portion of Quran.

The process of transferring the verses from Jibril to Muhammad(SWS) are also a subject of discussion. In summary, there are 2 main ways in which the verses were transferred to Muhammad(SWS) from Jibril (AS):

Haarith ibn Hishaam asked the Prophet (sws), "Oh Allah's Messenger! How is the divine message revealed to you?" He (sws) responded, "Sometimes it comes to me like the ringing of a bell. This form is the hardest on me, and this state passes off after I have grasped what is inspired. Sometimes the angel comes to me in the form of a man and talks to me, and I grasp what he says." [Al-Bukhari]

After the revelation is complete, Prophet Muhammad(SWS) would remember all the verses revealed to him, and the explanation (tafsir) of the verses.

Allah knows best!

Compiled by:
Kazi Nasrat Ali,
Sr. Software Engineer
B.A. in Islamic Studies from Mishkah University

Sammamish, WA, USA
[Sept 25, 2016]

Further reading:
1. An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur'an by Yasir Qadhi
2. Ulum al-Qur'an by Ahmad von Denffer

See also: MyQuranStudy Community Page

SWS = SallaAllahu alaihi wa sallam, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him)