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DISTINGUISHING FEATURES OF THE QURAN AMONG THE WORLD SCRIPTURES

All divine scriptures of the world have played significant roles, guiding mankind in different lands in different ages; their adherents are still living under their cool and comfortable shades. By describing the distinguishing features of the Quran, we in no sense, mean to denigrate any other scriptures: the comparison is just academic. No intermediary needed between the Quran and God The Quran is the only book accessible to everyone without barricades directly linking its reader to God, no intermediary, no priest needed in between. The Quran teaches its readers directly in plain words, what to do and what not to do. The novelty of the above fact of the Quran may be evaluated in relative terms when one comes to know that Vedas were forbidden to be read even heard by general masses. At times people of lower strata of the society were penalized for reading or even hearing the Vedas. Reading and learning the Vedas was exclusively reserved for the elite class of Brahmins and Acharyas. The most recited book Apart from general instruction to read the Quran whenever one desires, the believers are commanded to recite a portion of it however small but a minimum of three verses, in their daily-five-time prayers. So the Book does not remain exclusive to a higher plane of the elite and scholars of the society but it comes down to the general masses. All over the globe, the daily five times obligatory prayers are being held, so at any point of time a portion of this book is being chanted in some where some corner of the world. No doubt other religious scriptures are also recited but for comparative analysis we may point out that there is no such binding on the adherents to recite daily at least a portion of it and that too five times a day. System of memorization: unique system of Oral Preservation Right from the time the Quran was revealed; the Prophet very sagaciously established a system (not just recommendation) of memorization of the Book. There are many scholars called Hafiz (memorizer) who memorize the whole Book, start to end. The number of those who memorize some parts of the Quran,some passages here some there, is innumerable, practically the same as equal to the number of Muslims living on the face of earth because each Muslim, man or woman, youth or old ,has to recite some portions of it in their daily five time prayers. Look at another aspect: the way the Muslims deal with the Quran the world over: it is recited by them in prayers, held in congregation, led by an Imam, reciting loudly and others standing in rows behind him listening silently.This is the daily practice but in the month of Ramadan the entire Quran is recited. Now the remarkable point is this that during the prayer if the Imam makes a mistake, any of the persons behind him is entitled to point out the mistake then and there and correct him. This practice has been going on for the last fourteen hundred years. This is a unique process of Oral Preservation. There has not been any such system among the adherents of other scriptures.

Easy to memorize We can call it a miracle that the Quran is easily memorized. There is a verse Allah says we have made it easy to remember. [Quran 54:17] And We have indeed made the Qur'an easy to understand and remember: then is there any that will receive admonition?" This is repeated again three times in the same chapter: 54:22-32-40. As told above, those who commit to memory the entire Quran, along with all the accent and punctuation marks, are called the Hafiz or the Preservers. They are not monks or priests given to shun the world and devote themselves to the study and practice of religion rather, they are ordinary men and come from all walks of life. Some of them may be doctors, engineers, lawyers, businessmen, artisans and farmers. No one, not even a single person has ever memorized any other book in the world, religious or secular, scientific or spiritual. This is a striking difference between the Quran and the rest of the books of the world. The Quran is the only book in the history of mankind that has been committed to memory in its entirety. Today there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people who can recite the entire Quran by memory in its original rhyme and order. It is a common experience in Muslim community to find small kids of age ten or so who have memorized the Quran in full and the amazing part is this that their native tongue is different from Arabic: they dont understand yet they do memorize. It can never become extinct, even if all of its written copies are destroyed. The hafiz would be able to reproduce the entire text from memory. The Quran is immortalized in this manner, and preserved for posterity. Such an extraordinary phenomenon is nothing short of a miracle! In case of other Scriptures there may be a few who might have memorized their scriptures in full. I am unfortunate that I have not met with or heard of a single such memorizer-scholar of other sacred books like Bible, Torah or Veda. Original language of the Quran remains unchanged The Quran was revealed in Arabic, the same language which has existed till date without any interlude of time being non- existent from the world. For a comparison see what happened to other scriptures i. The Vedas are written in Sanskrit, they are claimed to be given to man since the dawn of the world and they were revealed to not a single person but to several sages through different passages of time , so how one can claim with certitude that all through, the language of the people in the vast land of India in different ages remained the same as todays Sanskrit. This doubt is multiplied by the fact that even today with all the facilities available this language is unfortunately not spoken even in a single township. ii. Somewhat similar is the case with Torah and Psalm and the books of the Old Testament. They were revealed in different time periods, and compiled by some other scholars in different periods. The history tells that there was a period after first diaspora that the Book was lost when Israelis were driven out of Jerusalem and many years afterwards Prophet Ezra got it compiled from different sources.(see the detail in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torah )

iii. The original book revealed to Christ was not in Hebrew of today but in a dialect of Hebrew, sometime called Aramaic. It was compiled by not Christ but by some other persons much after he was out of scene and that too not in Hebrew but in Greek language; thus the New Testament is also not available in the Original language of Christ. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bible ) The Quran is the only book that has a distinction of being preserved in its original language. iv. This Quranic experience is intertwined through Arabic literature and civilization and, in an extended fashion, through the arts and civilization of other non-Arab Islamic societies. Quranic calligraphy, the visual manifestation of the Qur'an, is the basis for Arabic calligraphy and one of the most distinctive features of Islamic architecture. Qur'anic inscriptions can be found on almost any major work of architecture, offering yet another form of remembrance (dhikr ). Almost all of the major works of art in the Islamic world draw on Qur'anic allusion. Language of the Quran as lingua franca The Quran is in Arabic that is lingua franca of people scattered over a large area of the globe. Another important aspect not to be overlooked is this that Muslims of all over the world, whatever may be their lingua franca; they use Arabic for daily prayers. The modern written language Modern Standard Arabic is derived from the language of the Quran (known as Classical Arabic or Quranic Arabic). It is widely taught in schools, universities, and used to varying degrees in workplaces, government and the media. The two formal varieties are grouped together as Literary Arabic, which is the official language of 26 states and the liturgical language of Islam. Modern Standard Arabic largely follows the grammatical standards of Quranic Arabic and uses much of the same vocabulary. (See Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic_language) No original language of other scriptures is now used as lingua franca (After creation of Israel in 1948 , now Hebrew is being tried to implement there. As of now, there are two official languages in Israel - Hebrew and Arabic. The language Hebrew, which became extinct for centuries, as it was not spoken after the biblical times, has been revived in the late 19th century. The language now is the most widely spoken language in Israelquoted from: AsiaRooms.com )

Challenge of the Quran Diction, rhythm, style and a vast number of subjects dealt with and many of the scientific descriptions which proved true ,all these make the Quran unparalleled , so much so that it throws challenge to all , to bring a book or even a verse equivalent in diction and structure of it and to show any discrepancy in it. [Quran 2:23] And if you doubt any part of what We have, bestowed from on high, step by step, upon Our servant [Muhammad], then produce a surah of similar merit, and call upon any other than God to bear witness for you -if what you say is true!) [Quran 2:24] And if you cannot do it-and most certainly you cannot do it-then be conscious of the fire whose fuel is human beings and stones which awaits all who deny the truth! [Quran 4:82] "Do they not ponder the Quran (with care)? Had this book been from anybody but Allah, you would have found many inconsistencies.

It is usual for any author of a book to implore its readers to find any discrepancy in his book and suggest him modification required at any place. But the author of the Quran not only does not ask such things but contrary to all usual manners throws challenge to its readers to find any discrepancy in the book. This sends a shock wave in the readers mind. There is no such challenge from any of the other religious scriptures. The Scientific Descriptions in the Quran There are a number of scientific descriptions in the Quran; they are so pertinent and compatible to the latest knowledge in various fields of Science that make one simply amazed. Many examples we have cited in other chapters mainly, in the chapter The Scientific Descriptions of the Quran, one is required to see these there. Descriptions of Gender determination is based on the semen of man and womans ovum has no role in it the Space is not Vacuum but filled with Interstellar gas and dust the fetus inside the womb is behind three veils(layers) are knowledge of only the recent times. This feature places the Quran on a prominent position among the world Scriptures. An extra note: WHY MANY OF THE SCRIPTURES CHANGED ? There are many factors; we indicate some of them below: i) Since scribes had to make copies by hand, inadvertent errors often slipped by into the scriptures. Subsequent scribes, then copied the errors of oversight as the word of God, and the mistakes multiplied. ii) Books could not withstand the pressures of time. They were easy targets during periods of persecution. Scribes copied them one at a time, and the process was painstaking and slow. It took weeks, if not months to produce a single copy, but only minutes to burn an entire roomful of books to ashes. Throughout history, libraries have been ransacked and razed and books have been banned, burnt and banished. Countless number of books have become extinct over the years. They have been lost during forced migrations and exodus due to war, famine, and disease. iii) Sometimes overzealous defenders of faith interpolated verses to make it more defendable and palatable to the people. This they did with good intention but could not imagine the fatal consequences it cast on the Book. iv) Sectarian and internecine struggle muddied the Book. All sects fiddled with the text to foster their own beliefs. Counterfeit and corrupted copies of the text crept into circulation, and threw doubt on the validity of all versions. v) Sometimes kings and rulers appointed councils to alter and edit portions of a Book to cater their own whims and suite their actions. With the absolute power of the state at their disposal, they canonized their own concoction of verses and issued edicts banning all other versions. How the Quran could withstand the above mentioned pressures? Three systems worked simultaneously right from the day of the first revelation to the Prophet:

i)

Oral transmission

A unique system of memorization was institutionalised, even the way of utterance of each word was categorised. Muslims males or females, kids or youth, all were inspired to memorise at least some portions of the Quran. Many sayings of the Prophet are there in which he foretells of glad tidings to those who memorise the Quranic verses. ii) Written transmission

The Prophet started to get the verses written right from the first day. Despite scarce writing materials and dearth of scribes, he took utmost care to get each revealed verse in writing, in its proper place in a chapter and he further directed to recite these in daily prayers in the sequence prescribed by him; the same sequence as we see in the Quran today. iii) Recitation loudly in three out of five daily prayers

The five daily prayers were institutionalised to be held in congregation. The leader of the congregation, called Imam who happens to be a Hafiz (memorizer of the whole or part of the Quran) stands in leading position and all others behind him in rows, shoulder to shoulder. If the the Imam commits any mistake in reciting ,any one behind him is entitled to point out it and the Imam has to re-recite that verse; such is an unique system followed all over the Islamic world. These three systems have worked well as guards to check the inflow of any deliberate or inadvertent material in the Quran.(A detailed discussion on this subject is given in a separate chapter Preservation and Authenticity of the Quran)