The Quran is Divine communication to humans and the speech of God, the Word of God, delivered to His final Messenger Muhammad. The revelation of the Quran is not a single event, rather a process. Here is a simplified version of the process by which the final scripture of God, the Quran, came about.
The Quran was not revealed all at once. Its revelation, as you will see below, was over a 23-year period. This was to allow the early Muslims to learn and study the Quran as they went along, making it easier for them to implement its teachings. At times, Quran passages were revealed due to a circumstance or event occurring. The Quran covers themes of faith and belief, commandments of God, reward and punishment, the after life, paradise and hell, stories of past messengers and nations, and other themes.
Here are the phases of the Quran’s revelation:
Stage 1 -Year 13 BH/610 CE: The Quran as a whole was revealed from the Preserved Document to the lowest of the seven heavens on the Night of Special Status in the Month of Ramadan in the year that Muhammad was commissioned as a Messenger of God. God says, “We sent it down on the Night of Glory.” [97:1] This night occurs in the month of Ramadan.
Stage 2 – Year 13 BH – 11 AH/ 610-632 CE: From that time, different passages and sections of the Quran were revealed to the Messenger Muhammad by the Archangel Gabriel, over a period of 23 years. The first passages revealed were the opening five passages of Chapter 96. The Archangel Gabriel would study and review the Quran with the Messenger Muhammad every year of his ministry and did so twice in his final year.
Stage 3: The Messenger Muhammad would recite the revealed passages to his disciples, who would record and memorize them. The primary way to preserve the Quran was through oral transmission, as that was the tradition of the people. Some of the disciples were tasked as scribes of the Quran. He would tell them which passage went into which chapter, and where its place was. In this way, the Quran was easy to memorize, understand, and study. The Quran was therefore recorded both in the hearts of people and on parchments and other writing materials of the time. Certain disciples had different parts of the recorded Quran, whereas many had memorized it in its entirety by heart.
Stage 4 – 12 AH/ 633 CE: During the reign of the first Caliph Abu Bakr, as the disciples of the Messenger Muhammad began to pass away, he ordered that all the parchments of the Quran be brought together, and asked a group of experts to ensure it was done correctly. Therefore, the Quran was now in the form of a manuscript.
Stage 5 – 24-25 AH/ 644-645 CE: During the reign of the third Caliph Uthman, the Quran was copied from those parchments and placed in the form of a master copy using a script that could produce a recitation of the Qur’an as it was revealed. That master copy and its script became the standard for all other subsequent copies. This master copy process was overseen by experts. Official copies were sent to all the major cities of the then Muslim world.
Stage 6: Old Arabic was written without vowels and dictation marks, as the Arabs could read it by virtue of their understanding of Arabic. During the reign of the fourth Caliph Ali and with many non-Arabs entering into Islam, reading old Arabic became difficult. It is said that around that time or shortly afterwards, vowels and other markings were added in order to make the reading easier.
Since that early time of the Messenger Muhammad, Muslims the world over have been reciting one and the same Quran. Until today, the Quran is memorised by millions of Muslims, ensuring it cannot be altered and thus preserving the Quran.