Was the Qur’aan revealed all at once or piecemeal?

Some opinions suggest that the Qur’aan was revealed in a single night, and some say that the Qur’aan was revealed over several years in Makkah and Madinah. Do these opinions contradict one another? Is one right and the other wrong? Or are they both wrong?.

Praise be to Allaah.

Firstly:

The issue mentioned has two aspects, on one of which there is consensus and the other is a matter concerning which there are differences of opinion.

With regard to the aspect on which there is consensus, it is that the Qur’aan did not come down from heaven to the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) all at once; rather the Revelation came down to him from Allah piecemeal, according to events and circumstances.

There are verses which confirm that quite clearly with no confusion, and they affirm the wisdom behind its being revealed in that manner:

-1-

Allah, may He be exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning):

“And those who disbelieve say: Why is not the Qur’aan revealed to him all at once? Thus (it is sent down in parts), that We may strengthen your heart thereby. And We have revealed it to you gradually, in stages”

[al-Furqaan 25:32]. 

Shaykh ‘Abd ar-Rahmaan as-Sa‘di (may Allah have mercy on him) said: That is because every time something of the Qur’aan was revealed to him, it increased him in certainty and steadfastness, especially when there was cause for anxiety. The fact that Qur’aan was revealed when new developments occurred meant that it had greater impact and was more reassuring to the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him). And that was more effective than if it had been revealed before that, then was remembered when the new developments occurred.

“And We have revealed it to you gradually, in stages” means We revealed it slowly and sent it gradually. All of this indicates that Allah was taking care of His Book, the Qur’aan, and His Messenger, Muhammad (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him), as He sent down His Book in accordance with the situations faced by the Messenger and as needed to address unfolding issues.

End quote from Tafseer as-Sa‘di

-2-

Allah, may He be exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning) says:

“And (it is) a Qur’aan which We have divided (into parts), in order that you might recite it to men at intervals. And We have revealed it by stages”

[al-Isra’ 17:106].

Shaykh ‘Abd ar-Rahmaan as-Sa‘di (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “at intervals” means at an easy pace, so that they might ponder it and think about its meanings, and derive knowledge from it.

“And We have revealed it by stages” means: bit by bit, piecemeal over twenty-three years.

End quote from Tafseer as- Sa‘di, p. 468

What confirms the fact that the Qur’aan was revealed piecemeal is the suspension of the Revelation concerning the slander incident (al-ifk), in which ‘Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) was accused of adultery. The Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) was waiting for Qur’aan to be revealed, because of the enormity of the calamity and the accusation that was made against his wife, until the words of Allah were revealed (interpretation of the meaning):

“Verily! Those who brought forth the slander (against ‘Aa’ishah the wife of the Prophet SAW) are a group among you. Consider it not a bad thing for you. Nay, it is good for you. Unto every man among them will be paid that which he had earned of the sin, and as for him among them who had the greater share therein, his will be a great torment”

[an-Noor 24:11].

Another confirmation that the Qur’aan was revealed piecemeal is the first few verses of Soorah ‘Abasa (no. 80) which were revealed when the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) turned away from teaching the blind man Ibn Umm Maktoom in the hope that the leaders of Quraysh would become Muslim (as he was already talking to the leaders of Quraysh and the blind mind man came to him in the middle of that conversion).

Secondly:

With regard to that concerning which there is a difference of opinion, it has to do with the start of the revelation of the Qur’aan. Was it sent down all at once to the first heaven, then brought down to the Messenger (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) piecemeal, or was it all brought down in the same manner, piecemeal according to events, as stated above?

The reason for this difference of opinion is differences in understanding some verses which indicate that the Qur’aan came down at a particular time, such as the verses in which Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Quran, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong)”

[al-Baqarah 2:185]

“Verily! We have sent it (this Quran) down in the night of Al-Qadr (Decree)”

[al-Qadr 97:1].

And Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with him) clearly stated this understanding.

The scholars differed concerning this sending down; there are several opinions, the most well-known of which are two:

-1-

The view of the majority is that the Qur’aan was sent down from al-Lawh al-Mahfooz (the Preserved Tablet) to the first heaven on Laylat al-Qadr (the night of the Decree) all at once, then after that it was sent down in stages over twenty-three years.

It was narrated that Ibn ‘Abbaas said, concerning the verse “Verily! We have sent it (this Qur’aan) down in the night of Al-Qadr (Decree)”: The Qur’aan was sent down all at once on Laylat al-Qadr, then Allah sent it down to the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) bit by bit. “And those who disbelieve say: Why is not the Quran revealed to him all at once? Thus (it is sent down in parts), that We may strengthen your heart thereby. And We have revealed it to you gradually, in stages”

[al-Furqaan 25:32].

Narrated by an-Nasaa’i in as-Sunan al-Kubra, 6/519; there are similar versions of the report and several isnaads, hence al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar classed it as saheeh in Fath al-Baari, 9/4 and elsewhere.

-2-

The second opinion is that the revelation of the Qur’aan began on Laylat al-Qadr, then after that it was revealed in stages at various times, according to the unfolding of events and what the people needed. This is the view of the great Taabi‘i ash-Shu‘bi.

This difference of opinion – as you can see – does not have any real impact on the reality of the revelation of the Qur’aan in stages to the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him). It has been said that the reason for this revelation (being sent down all at once to the first heaven)  is to highlight the nobility and great status of the Qur’aan in the upper realm (the heavens).

Badr ad-Deen az-Zarkashi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: If it is asked: what is the reason for the Qur’aan being sent down to the first heaven all at once? The answer is to highlight its high status and the high status of the one to whom it was revealed. That was so as to announce to the inhabitants of the seven heavens that this was the last of the Books that was being sent down to the last of the Messengers and to the noblest of the nations.

End quote from al-Burhaan fi ‘Uloom al-Qur’aan, 1/230

Thirdly:

The Angel of Revelation who brought it down to the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him), Jibreel (Gabriel – peace be upon him) only heard it from the Lord of Glory, may He be exalted, then he passed it on to the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him), so he heard it with his ears and his heart understood it. Allah, may He be exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning):

“And verily, you (O Muhammad SAW) are receiving the Qur’aan from the One, All-Wise, All-Knowing”

[an-Naml 27:6]

“And if you do not bring them a miracle (according to their (i.e. Quraysh-pagans) proposal), they say: Why have you not brought it? Say: I but follow what is revealed to me from my Lord”

[al-A‘raaf 7: 203].

It was narrated that ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ood (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “When Allaah speaks via revelation, the people of heaven hear from heaven a clanging like a chain dragged across a rock and they swoon, then they remain like that until Jibreel comes to them. When he comes to them, they recover and say: O Jibreel, what did your Lord say? He says: The truth, and they say: The truth, the truth.”

Narrated by Abu Dawood, 4738; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: The fact that it – the Qur’aan – is written in al-Lawh al-Mahfooz and in pure pages in the hands of the angels does not contradict the idea that Jibreel brought it down from Allah, whether Allah wrote it down before sending Jibreel with it or after that. And if He sent it down written to Bayt al-‘Izzah (in the first heaven) in one go on Laylat al-Qadr, then He had written it all before sending it down. … If anyone says that Jibreel took the Qur’aan from the Book and did not hear it from Allah, this is false for a number of reasons – which the author then listed. End quote from Majmoo‘ al-Fataawa, 12/127, 128

We hope that this is sufficiently clear and we hope that you will remain in contact with us if you have any further questions about this matter or if you need to ask more questions about any matter of our religion. We ask Allah to help you and guide you to that which is in your best interests in this world and in the Hereafter.

And Allah knows best.

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