My Journey to Islam: The Miraculous Quran
Let me state at the outset that, after being Muslim for many years now, if I were given the topic of “The Miraculous Quran,” as I see it now, I would be emphasizing and discussing aspects that were completely unknown to me at the time that I was studying Islam as a non-Muslim.
I have been studying the Quran for over thirty years now, and it never fails to fascinate me. In fact, the phenomenon of continually finding new fascinating aspects of the Quran has been true for Muslim scholars throughout the years.
Over the centuries, as they have spoken about the Quran, later scholars recognized the miraculous aspects that the earlier scholars mentioned while coming across other aspects that they consider no less remarkable and amazing.
Thus, for example, in the past century, we have had Aishah bint al Shaati, Sayyid Qutb, and Mustafa Saadiq al-Raafi’ee all adding components to the overall theory of the miraculous nature of the Quran. Lately, many have emphasized what are called the “scientific miracles of the Quran,” a topic we shall try to visit toward the end of this lecture.
However, this lecture is about “my story” and my path to Islam via the Quran. Therefore, I will emphasize the aspects of the Quran that influenced me the most at that time, and I will give less time to other aspects that I have studied in detail since then.
A Very Brief Introduction to the Prophet Muhammad and the Quran
I am sure that most of you have some familiarity with the Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, and the Quran, but for some points that I will make later, I believe a very brief introduction to the two is in order. Muhammad was born around 570 years after the birth of Jesus Christ. He was born in Mecca, in the Arabian Peninsula.
The people of Mecca were devoted to idol worship. The area was not known as a place of advanced civilization or learning at its time. In fact, the Prophet Muhammad was illiterate.
At the age of forty, Muhammad received his first revelation. Although he was known among his people as “the trustworthy,” the majority of the Arabs belied him and soon after started a massive campaign to persecute those who believed in him.
After thirteen years of preaching in Mecca, the Prophet himself left for the city of Medina, where he already had some followers. They made him the leader of the city. The disbelievers of Mecca did not rest and attempted to militarily squash the new faith.
However, what was originally a small band of Muslims grew in number and were able to withstand the onslaught of the disbelievers. Within ten years, the Prophet himself led an army back to Mecca and conquered it in a bloodless victory. Thus, Islam became victorious in Arabia and began spreading throughout the world.
The Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, finally died in 632. As for the Quran, it was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad over twenty-three years. It was revealed directly to him via the angel Gabriel. He would receive the revelation and then convey it to his followers. Thus, the Quran is very different from the Bible.
There are no human contributions to the Quran; it is only the revelation from God. In other words, you will not find any stories about the Prophet written by his Companions in the Quran. In fact, you will not even find in the Quran any of the Prophet’s speech outside of what he stated to be the revelation of the Quran.
The Prophet’s own words have been kept completely separate from the Quran. One final note, the Quran is only in Arabic. The best translation is not the Quran. Once you lose something in its original wording and rely only on translation, the original is truly lost.
The Story of My Conversion and My Near Baptism
The story of my conversion is not the most fascinating. However, one aspect is of interest: the effect that the Quran had on me. My family moved to California from Spain. Thus, we were nominally Catholic. I had very little exposure to any religion until a friend of mine in school invited me to their church.
I started attending, and this was the first time that I began to read the Bible. I was definitely taking everything very seriously. There then came the time to be baptized. I had no problem with it except that I decided that, since this was the first religion I was exposed to, I should just look around at other religions to make sure that I was certain about what I was doing.
I did not think this would actually affect my final decision, while, in reality, that near baptism led me to become a Muslim. I started studying all the religions I could find. This, obviously, is what led me to the Quran.
Studying the Quran in 1976: The Quran Versus Many Non-Muslim Writers
You should keep in mind that this took place in 1976. This was before the Iranian Revolution and Islam being plastered all over the media. I didn’t know any Muslims at the time. (I was living in a relatively small college town and I incorrectly assumed that there were no Muslims there.) Thus, there was no one trying to convince me of the truth of Islam.
In fact, I eventually converted to Islam before ever meeting a Muslim, doing my best to learn the prayers from a book written by a missionary, T. P. Hughes’ "The Dictionary of Islam." Therefore, the information I was receiving about Islam came mostly from non-Muslims writing about Islam.
There were very few books available to me at that time written by Muslims. In fact, I only recall coming across one work written by a Muslim, a relatively small work by Maudoodi. However, I was able to find a couple of copies of the Quran translated by Muslims.
In particular, I was reading the translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. In essence, it was truly the Quran versus several works written by non-Muslims. In general, these non-Muslims were forced to praise Islam every now and then but always tried to find some fault with the very basis of the faith. Thus, they came up with many theories about the Prophet Muhammad and the Quran.
I would be reading their critique side-by-side with the Quran. Most of the authors I was reading were clearly saying that the Quran was not a revelation from God but simply written by the Prophet Muhammad.
Such was the view expressed by Richard Bell in "The Qur’an: Translated With a Critical Re-arrangement of the Surahs," Arberry in his introduction to his translation of the Quran, Kenneth Cragg in "The Call of the Minaret," and others.
However, as Montgomery Watt noted, this in itself presented a host of questions. If Muhammad were a phony, did he do what he did maliciously? He was not known to be an insincere or malicious person beforehand, what then led to his change?
Furthermore, if he did it maliciously, how did he come up with all of the information contained in the Quran, especially while living in a place like Mecca? Did he have teachers; if so, who were they and where is it documented that he had teachers?
To be frank, I was not very impressed with those who claimed that the Prophet had some teacher who gave him all of the information that the Quran contained. No one could show me anything about this teacher.
However, the more I read the Quran, the more I became convinced that it could not be written by a human being. I would go back to these non-Muslim books and, in reality, they were not addressing the most pressing issue: the origins of the Quran. (Kenneth Cragg probably came the closest to doing so but still did not deal with this issue.)
I was not interested in what you thought Muhammad might have done, I was convinced that the Quran was unique. I was more interested in where the Quran came from. The only real theory I received in that direction from the non-Muslims was that Muhammad must have had a vast amount of teachers.
I was already skeptical about this theory, as I stated earlier. However, there was one more point. If there were so many teachers that Muhammad had to use to gather all of this information, why was he considered to be a phony or a madman before his mission?
I just did not believe that these Meccans were such good actors that they could fool people who knew that he was a regular guy before this mission.
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Back to My Search
You might have thought that it was a done deal by this time and that I became a Muslim, but the truth is that I fell into a long bout of indecision. I was about 98% convinced that the Quran was a revelation from God.
In my opinion, the disbelievers of Mecca failed to produce anything remotely resembling the Quran. However, I was worried that maybe this type of literature was produced somewhere else and Muhammad got a hold of it and used it. Although I was not convinced, I needed to look further into the issue.
For all I knew, Muhammad (peace be upon him) could have been an avid traveler. The more I looked into this issue, the more it was clear that he was not. Therefore, I returned to the question of whether the Quran could be produced somewhere else.
I was leaning toward conversion but just could not make the jump. It was here that I found another verse in the Quran, and that verse is the one that had the most influence on me. It is verse 9:33:
"He it is Who has sent His Messenger (Muhammad) with guidance and the Religion of Truth (Islam), to make it superior over all religions even though the polytheists, disbelievers (in the Oneness of Allah) hate (it)."
That verse was the tipping point for me. Everything pointed toward the Quran is unique. That verse basically states that if you find this unique book, I guarantee that Muhammad is a Prophet and that Islam is the religion.
What I found about that verse was the fact that, as I was studying the Quran, I was hearing the exact same wording repeated in the Quran in several places. This was enough for me. I was already leaning toward conversion.
Therefore, I converted to Islam. Once I converted, I thought that I should move on from the Quran. However, after converting, I read books that criticized the Quran, and I can say that those criticisms did not have much more weight than the ones I read before converting.
Once I studied Arabic and became more knowledgeable about the Quran, the more I realized how amazing the Quran was. However, as I stated at the outset, the most fascinating aspect of the Quran for me is that, every time I pick it up, I see something that I never noticed before.
The Quran as the Word of God
One of the reasons that I felt that I had to mention this to you was because I wanted you to know what convinced me that the Quran was from God. It is one thing to say, “I believe in the Quran” and quite another to say, “I know that the Quran is from God.”
The second is obviously a much stronger statement. However, I just wanted to emphasize a point I had already stated earlier, namely, it is difficult to see how the Quran could be a forgery, yet nobody had the information to counter the Quran.
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There are many aspects of the Quran that point to its divine origins. A few of these include:
The Scientific Miracles of the Quran:
While not the primary reason for my conversion, the scientific accuracy of the Quran has been a subject of much discussion in recent times. Verses that seem to align with modern scientific knowledge were revealed over 1,400 years ago. Some scholars argue that the Quran contains descriptions of natural phenomena that could not have been known at the time of its revelation.
The Quran is renowned for its unparalleled linguistic excellence. Its unique style and eloquence challenged the best poets of the time and remain unmatched even today. For me, the linguistic aspect of the Quran points to its divine nature.
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The Quran contains historical accounts confirmed by archaeological and historical research. These accurate descriptions of past events indicate a source of knowledge beyond human capacity.
The Quran contains prophecies that have come true. For example, it prophesied the victory of the Romans over the Persians, and this happened shortly after the revelation.
Consistency and Coherence:
The Quran is a highly consistent and coherent book, with a clear structure and message. It's remarkable how all the diverse topics and themes come together to convey a comprehensive message.
Spiritual and Moral Guidance:
The Quran provides profound spiritual and moral guidance. It addresses the core questions of human existence, purpose, and morality.
Challenges and Unique Style:
The Quran challenges people to produce anything like it, even a single chapter. Its unique style and literary qualities are unparalleled.
In conclusion, the Quran is a multifaceted scripture that can be seen as miraculous from numerous angles, whether it's through the beauty of its language, the depth of its guidance, the scientific knowledge embedded within it, or the historical accuracy it demonstrates.
For me, the Quran stands as a living testament to its divine origin. Throughout my journey to Islam, the Quran played an instrumental role in guiding me toward the truth, and it continues to inspire and guide me to this day.
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