The time period of the Quran’s revelation is calculated using the life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). He was granted prophethood at the age of 40 and died at the age of 63. It was during this period of 23 years that humankind was blessed with the revelation of the Quran.
The most common follow-up question is why. Why was the Quran revealed over such a long period of time? There are several explanations to this. We will explore the ones provided by Allah in the Quran itself.
“And said those who disbelieved, ‘Why has the Quran not been revealed to him all at once?’ (It has been sent down) in this way (i.e. in parts) so that We make your heart firm, and We revealed it little by little.“(Quran 25:32)
In this verse, the purpose of the Quran’s gradual revelation was to strengthen the hearts of the Prophet (pbuh) and the believers with him. Let’s take a minute, and think about that.
Imagine that your career counselor told you everything you need to do for the next 20 years of your professional life in a single weekend seminar. Yes, you might be incredibly grateful, and appreciate that you received all that information. You might rave about how amazing it was, and that you now know everything you need to do to be successful. The question is, what would happen next? Would you really be able to take all that information in at once? Would you even remember it after a week? How likely are you to apply it?
Among the benefits of receiving knowledge in stages is the ability to take it in, digest it and apply it. To go through that process and gain the wisdom, understanding, and strength of heart that comes with personal growth. Yes, you could get all the information at once. Yet in order to apply it, you would need to break it up into smaller, more manageable steps. Our Lord, the Blessed, the Supreme, did this for us in advance. One reason for the Quran to be revealed over so many years is to strengthen people’s hearts.
Let us look at another ayah from the Quran.
“And We have divided the Quran in portions, so that you may recite it to the people gradually, and We have revealed it little by little.(Quran 17:106)
In this verse, Allah is saying that the Quran is meant to be read and recited in sections. That people are meant to hear it, and learn from it, over time. The Quran itself is not designed to be taken in all at once. The gradual revelation of the Quran allowed for matters to be resolved as they came up. It also gave people time to understand and apply the information.
We can see how both of these reasons interact by taking a look at the life of the Prophet (pbuh) and the companions that lived with him. During the life of the Prophet (pbuh), any incident that required explanation was responded to in the Quran. It is much easier to remember how to deal with a situation in the future if you are guided through it the first time around. This occurred multiple times throughout the life of the Prophet (pbuh). The following are a few examples.
An incident occurred when a Muslim woman, Sayyidah Khaulah bint Tha’labah, suffered an abnormal divorce. She came to the Prophet (pbuh) and complained about her situation. After some discussion, the verses in the beginning of Surah Al-Mujadila (58) were revealed. The verses begin with Allah stating that He heard their conversation, and continues with the explanation of how to deal with the situation.
Imajine being in the Prophet (pbuh)’s Masjid watching that discussion take place. Then just a little while later, Allah himself responded with acknowledgment and guidance. How much would your faith increase knowing that Allah hears your conversations, that He responds to your distress, guiding you through your problems? How much strength would that give to your heart? How beautifully would it fortify your faith? Would that same information have such an effect if it were given at any other time, place, or situation?
During the Battle of Uhud, a companion with a striking resemblance to the Prophet (pbuh) was killed. This caused a rumor to spread that the Prophet (pbuh) had died. Upon hearing this, the Muslims suffered a terrible shock. It was in response to this situation the following verses of the Quran were revealed:
“Muhammad is only a messenger before whom many messengers have been and gone. If he died or was killed, would you revert to your old ways? If anyone did so, he would not harm God in the least. God will reward the grateful.”(Quran 3:144)
It was this same verse that comforted the companions of the Prophet (pbuh) when he actually died, several years later. During Uhud they had a chance to think about it. Upon the death of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) they had to chose. Thinking about, and planning for, an emotionally difficult situation is one of the best ways to maintain your stance. It strengthens hearts. Every difficulty that people face came to pass in some form during the revelation of the Quran. During these incidents, the Quran was (and still is) the light used to guide the whole of humanity through them.
So why did the Quran come in pieces and not all at once? So that it could be recited to people in stages, and so the hearts could be strengthened.
May Allah grant us the regular reading of the Quran in stages.
May He strengthen our hearts thereby.
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