According to Allaah’s statements in His Book, there were two distinct revelations of the Qur’aan which took place. It is important that these two revelations be understood in order to clear up the apparent contradictions in the various terms used in the Qur’aan and Sunnah to describe the Qur’aan’s revelation. On one hand, the Qur’aan is referred to as having been revealed in its totality in Ramadaan or on Laylatul-Qadr, the Night of Decree; while on the other hand, it is referred to as having been continuously revealed in segments up until just before the death of the Prophet (ﷺ)
The First Revelation
Allaah caused the Qur’aan to descend from the Protected Tablet (al-Lawh al- Mahfooth) on which it was written to the lowest heaven. In this revelation all of the Qur’aan was sent down at one time to a station in he lowest heaven referred to as “ Bayt al-‘Izzah” (The House of Honor or Power). The blessed night on which this descent took place is called “ Laylatul-Qadr” (The Night of Decree), one of the odd-numbered nights in the last ten days of the month of Ramadaan. Allaah referred to this initial revelation as follows:
“Haa Meem. By the Clear Book, verily, I revealed it in a blessed night.”
“Verily, I revealed it on the Night of Decree
“The month of Ramadaan in which I revealed the Qur’aan as guidance to mankind …”
These verses have to refer to the initial revelation because it is a known fact that the whole Qur’aan was not revealed to Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) on a single night in Ramadaan. Ibn ‘Abbaas stated that the Qur’aan was first separated from its station in the upper heavens and placed in Bayt al-‘Izzah in the lowest heaven. One version states that this took place on the Night of Decree in Ramadaan.Had it been Allaah’s wish, the Qur’aan could then have been revealed as a whole to the Prophet (ﷺ) in a single revelation. This was the method by which all of the earlier books of revelation were sent down. But, Allaah chose to divide the revelation into two parts. The first revelation within the heavens represented an announcement to the inhabitants of the heavens that the final book of revelation was being sent down upon the last of the prophets.
The Second Revelation
From the lowest heaven sections of the Qur’aan were then taken down by the angel Jibreel to Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). This process of revelation continued over the twenty-three years of his prophethood. This revelation began with the first five verses of Soorah al-‘Alaq. These verses were revealed to the Prophet (ﷺ) while he was on a spiritual retreat in the cave of Hiraa’ near Makkah. However, the first complete soorah to be revealed was Soorah al-Faatihah. The revelation of this portion of Qur’aan marked the beginning of the final phase of prophethood. The last soorah to be revealed was Soorah an-Nasr. This soorah was brought down in Minaa during the Farewell Hajj of the Prophet (ﷺ), which took place at the end of the tenth year after the Hijrah. According to Ibn ‘Abbaas, the last verse to be revealed was verse 281 in Soorah al-Baqarah, the last of a series of verses dealing with interest. Allaah has referred to the second revelation in the following way:
“And (it is) a Qur’aan which I have divided into parts in order that you (Muhammad) may recite it to the people gradually, and I have revealed it by successive revelation.”
EDUCATIONAL BENEFITS OF SEGMENTED REVELATION
The process of education depends on the following two basic principles: (a) taking into account the mental level of the students, and (b) developing their mental, spiritual and physical abilities with material which guides their thought processes in the correct direction. Both of these important principles have been carefully taken into consideration by the revelation of the Qur’aan in segments. Gradation of legislation took into account the level of the Muslim community during its various stages of development. The revelation of corrections and answers at the time when they were most needed trained, developed and guided the mental, spiritual and physical faculties in the right direction.
The question which naturally arises here is why the earlier books of revelation were revealed as a whole. The answer to this question lies in the role of the earlier books and the history of prophethood. The earlier books were sent for short periods in human history and were directed to specific nations or tribes.
They contained principles which were not time or situation oriented and could be revealed all at once, at the beginning of a mission or at any point during it. It should also be noted that the earlier books were not in themselves miracles, whereas in the case of the Last Prophet (ﷺ), it was the major miracle given to him, for, as was mentioned earlier, the segmentation of the revelation combined with the consistency of style was a proof of its divine origin. Also, the earlier prophets were both preceded and followed by other prophets, so each prophet and his book represented a segment of the overall revelation.
Thus, the gradation in legislation took place from prophet to prophet. Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) was the last of the prophets and his book of revelation contained the essential messages of all previous books. Thus, his followers had to be properly prepared to carry the final message to the world. As such, the gradation in legislation had to take place within the message itself.
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