FOR PEOPLE WHO THINK
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.
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.
Between these first and last verses (the first and the last in the
chronological order of their revelation) 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 vigour; 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.
All this was, in the final analysis, brought about by the message of the
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 endeavours: 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.
--Muhammad Asad, Foreward in The Message of the Quran pp.i-ii