The Noble Qur'an, the Word of Allah, is the final Revelation sent down to humanity through Allah's Messenger Muhammad (s.a.w), the Seal of the Prophets. It is a unique Book which guards the previous revelations and restores the eternal message and truth of Allah (s.w.t). It represents the first and primary source which constitutes the way of life and code of conduct, the Straight Path, known as Islam.
The message of the Qur'an contains guidance and wisdom in the form of laws, stories, parables and arguments for those who have an intellect. Hence it is essential for the believer to deeply understand the meanings and implications of the Book of the Creator, in order to truly reflect and correctly act upon it. For this purpose, ever since the Muslims received the Qur'an, they not only have dedicated themselves to its message, but also to its setting and framework which served to facilitate its understanding and implication. The result of their application and preoccupation with issues related to the understanding of the Qur'an, led to the development of disciplines and branches of knowledge that are known as 'Ulum al-Qur'an, the sciences of the Qur'an.
'Ulum al-Qur'an has become an inseparable part of Qur'anic education because it is indispensable knowledge for correctly understanding and internalising the Qur'an. It is regrettable to note that there are very few texts available for the Muslim English reader to assist him or her in learning the Qur'an. The aim of this column is to fill this gap and help towards understanding the Qur'anic message by introducing disciplines related to its circumstances, setting and framework.
'Ulum al-Qur'an is therefore defined as the branch of knowledge concerned with investigating and studying the Qur'an. Its subjects involve the following:
- The evolution and development of this discipline.
- The various names and lexical meaning of 'al-Qur'an'.
- Nature of revelation (wahi).
- Method of collection (jam') and preservation (hifdh) of the Qur'an.
- Oral and manuscript transmission of the Qur'anic revelation.
- Exegesis (tafseer)
- Schools of tafseer.
- Methods of tafseer.
- Ta'weel and deviant exegesis's.
- Conditions required of the exegesist (mufassir).
- The scholars of tafseer and their books.
- Recitations (qira'aat)
- The Seven Forms (sab'ah ahruf).
- The dialects of Quraysh.
- Reasons and occasions of revelation (asbab al-nuzul).
- Makkan and Madinan surahs.
- The abrogating (al-nasikh) and abrogated (al-mansukh) verses.
- The muhkamat and mutashabihat verses.
- Form, language and style of the Qur'an.
- The virtues of the Qur'an and the etiquettes of its recitation.
- The distinctive features and miraculous nature of the Qur'an.
- Other issues of special importance today related to Qur'anic studies
- The scientific trends in the Qur'an: a contemporary miracle.
- The stance of orientalists, colonialists and missionaries towards the Qur'an.
- Translation and interpretation of the Qur'an.