Islamic Perspectives

How to introduce the Qur’an to non-Muslims

The Qur’an is the word of Almighty God. It’s not a history text book or a science manual. It’s the word of God speaking to us directly. How do we speak to a non-Muslim about the Qur’an? How can we introduce the Qur’an to him? There is a lot of nonsense and untruth spoken out there about Islam and the Qur’an. There are a lot of misconceptions, there is a lot of deliberate mischief. We should avoid all the mischief and avoid all the misconceptions and speak as Muslim, and say what Muslims believe about the Qur’an.

As for me, I’ve been a Muslim now for 14 years or so. Alhamdulillah. And the more I know of the Qur’an, the more ignorant I realize I have been about the Qur’an. At the same time, the more beautiful I see the Qur’an to be.

Recently, I was in London and I heard a talk by a Muslim scholar, and he was talking about the Qur’an, answering to a question, and he gave a very beautiful idea which I will share with you.

He described the Qur’an and said: “Imagine a building site, you go to visit a building site and all you see on the building site are heaps of sand and cement and buckets of water and bricks here and there, people rushing around and moving about, and you would have no idea looking at the building site what the building is going to look like.

The only one on that site who has a vision in his mind of what the building will look like is the architect. He knows what the final building will be like. The Qur’an is like that.

The Qur’an was revealed over 23 years and it was revealed in this city and that city, maybe two parts of the same verse were revealed 20 years apart, and maybe the second part was revealed first and then the first part of the verse was revealed 15 years later and anyone looking at all the bits of the Qur’an that were revealed wouldn’t quite understand what the final thing would look like. Allah alone, the architect of all things, knew what it was going to look like.

And then right at the end, the angel Gabriel and Prophet Muhammad, the order the Qur’an was revealed. And what we have now, the Qur’an that we look at was put together by Prophet Muhammad and Angel Gabriel in a way that all the verses revealed in different places over 23 years were put in the order as we find them today.

And you know the extraordinary thing, like that building site, we find one verse was revealed here, one verse was revealed there for a particular reason in answer to a particular situation… then when it was all put together, the most extraordinary thing happened, the most miraculous thing happened. We find that there are rhymes within verses, that there are themes and sub-themes within verses that no one could possibly have imagined when they were being revealed at the time.

They were revealed here and there, piece by piece, but when it was all put together out came a marvelous book that no one could have imagined in the beginning. It was like all the parts of the jigsaw were put together. The Architect of it all knew what it will look like in the end. But people looking at it here and there just thought these verses were responding to particular situations. When they were all put together at the end, the situation they responded to was perhaps completely different - it was now a complete code of life for all time to come.

The Qur’an was revealed orally, not in writing. This little thing teaches us something about the Qur’an. It is a miracle of Allah. It was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Some  people who like to cause mischief say that “Prophet Muhammad invented the Qur’an, it was all of his own making.”

I hope that showing you that idea of the building site, it would have been impossible for a human being to make such a perfect manual complete with rhymes. There is an extraordinary symmetry within the Qur’an that is quite miraculous. Leave all that to one side, it’s all very beautiful.

Another thing I’d like to tell you about the Qur’an if you are not Muslim is that the Qur’an we read today was revealed 14 hundred years ago. If you look at any Qur’an copy from any country from any century of the last 14 hundred years, you will see that it is exactly the same Qur’an, it is completely without change, alteration or adulteration.

The Qur’an was revealed orally, it was revealed not in writing. It was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) by the angel Gabriel orally and then Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, remembered the verses and told other people and they learned the verses by heart. Not one person, but the whole community learnt it. He revealed to his companions what had been revealed to him and then they all memorized it and eventually, after a few years, not too many, they all got together and said “well is this what was revealed.. yes this is what was revealed… no that word is wrong… the whole community got together and agreed on what they had all remembered and the Qur’an was put together and written down but it’s meant to be listened to, it’s meant to be recited, it’s not meant to be a written book. It was revealed for us to hear.

So if you’re not Muslim, a little thing I would encourage you to do is listen to the Qur’an. You know, some people say “Oh, I’ve read the Qur’an” as if to say, I know everything about it.

The Qur’an is the word of Almighty God, it’s not a history text book, it’s not a science manual; it’s the word of God speaking to us for our guidance. It’s not something you just begin at one page and finish it. We must read it with a certain reverence. When Muslims read the Qur’an, they wash their hands, they keep the Qur’an in a place of honour, in their homes the Qur’an is kept in a place of honour, it is never put on the floor for example. It’s treated with care and gentleness. The Qur’an is not something we take lightly, it’s Allah Almighty speaking to us.

So as Muslims we believe that the mistakes made in the past regarding divine teaching, were corrected by the Qur’an for all time to come and Allah the Almighty took the responsibility to safeguard this book forever. And what is He saying? The Qur’an is the final message of God Almighty to mankind. Did He speak to mankind before? Yes, He did, in many ways through many messengers.

As Muslims, we believe that the Qur’an confirms every divine message and messenger who had come before it. It rejects any falsehood that went before it. and if there are things in previous books that had gone before it.

So for example, in one of the Gospels chosen by the Christian Church to be part of their canonical scripture, or in the four, it tells us that Jesus is the son of God, whereas the Qur’an tells us that he is not. So as Muslims, we believe that the mistakes made in the past regarding this teaching were corrected by the Qur’an. The Gospels chosen by the Christian Church tell us that Jesus died on the cross while the Qur’an tells us of a certainty they crucified him not, he did not die on the cross. So as Muslims, we say the previous teaching is wrong.

But if there were things in the Gospel and the Torah that the Qur’an confirms we say yes they are true, and if there are things in the Gospel and in the Torah that are not in the Qur’an, we don’t know where they come from.

So if we’re telling people about the Qur’an, we’re telling people that the Qur’an is the final word of Almighty God, Allah, to mankind. It’s His last word; it’s like the latest and final instruction manual for life; it’s telling us how to live our lives as Allah Almighty wants us to live.

You know it’s easy, you can take a verse here or a verse there and those mischief makers often do this, they take words out of context. I did a debate in Cambridge University once and someone asked a question: “Sir, what about all of these quotations of the Qur’an” and he read about killing people and doing this and that. I said I’m very pleased you asked that question. I said I’ve got my own list and I read a list from the Bible and it was about slaughtering babies and bashing the heads against stone and ripping babies from the mother’s womb and at the end I said “my dear friend I no more believe that those quotations sum up the teachings of Judaism or Christianity, than I believe that the words you’ve quoted me reflect the teachings of the Qur’an. We must understand all of the words in their context.”

A final thought for those mischief-makers. They like to tell us as Muslims what we believe. Well I’m tired with non-Muslims telling me what I believe as a Muslim. Muslims do not believe what mischief makers would have us believe. A final word: the Qur’an is the word of God. It’s the word of Allah, His final word to His creation. I encourage you to listen to it. (