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Books Section > The Living Thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad by Maulana Muhammad Ali > Prefatory Note


Prefatory Note:

The following brief sketch of the life of the Prophet Muhammad, the reformation he brought about and the great ideas which he gave to the world are based almost entirely on the Holy Quran. The Prophet's best-known name is Muhammad, which means the praised one. Another name by which he was known is Ahmad which means the praising one. The Quran, properly Qur’an, is the name of the Scripture which the Prophet claimed to have been revealed to him by God. This too is a significant name, and means what is or should be read or recited. The name of the religion which the Prophet preached is Islam, which again is a significant name and means entering into peace; the follower of this religion is called a Muslim, which means one who has found peace. The terms Muhammadan and Muhammadanism have never been in vogue among the followers of this religion.

The Holy Quran was revealed to the Prophet piecemeal during a period of twenty-three years, from the fortieth year of his life to his death [sixty-third year]. It is divided into 114 chapters, each chapter being called a sura. The larger chapters are sub-divided into sections, each section being called a ruku. Each chapter consists of a number of verses. The chapters are of unequal length, the longest chapter containing about one-twelfth of the entire book while the smallest contains only three verses. Some of the chapters were revealed entire, but the revelation of the majority of the larger chapters extended over years, and some of the smaller ones were also revealed in pieces. When a chapter was revealed in parts, the Prophet specified the place of the verse or verses revealed. Thus the arrangement of the verses in each chapter was entirely his own. The arrangement of the chapters was also the Prophet's own work. Every part revealed was both written down and committed to memory, as soon as it was revealed, by the Prophet's Companions. The whole of the Quran according to the Prophet's arrangement was safe in the memories of men in the Prophet's life-time, while the written manuscripts were gathered together immediately after his death, by the orders of Abu Bakr, his first successor. Therefore, all Muslims wherever they may be living have the same Quran.

About two-thirds of the Holy Quran was revealed at Mecca where the Prophet passed thirteen years of his life after the Call, and about one-third at Medina where he passed the last ten years of his life. In arrangement the chapters revealed at Mecca are intermixed with those revealed at Medina. The following table will give the reader an approximate idea of the historical order of revelation of the chapters as they stand in the present arrangement:

Early Mecca period

60 chapters:

1, 17-21, 50-56, 67-109, 111-114.

Middle Mecca period

17 chapters:

29-32, 34-39, 40-46.

Last Mecca period

15 chapters:

6, 7, 10-16, 22, 23, 25-28.

Early Medina period

6 chapters:

2, 8, 47, 61, 62, 64.

Middle Medina period

12 chapters:

3-5, 24, 33, 48, 57-60, 63, 65.

Last Medina period

4 chapters:

9, 49, 66, 110.

The Holy Quran is the chief, and admittedly the most reliable, source of the Prophet's teachings, the principles being all laid down in it. Sunna (lit., a way or rule or manner of acting), which means the Prophet's practice, is a secondary source of what the Prophet taught. Hadith literally means a saying, but in its technical sense it is the narration or record of Sunna. In effect Sunna and Hadith cover the same ground and are applicable to the Prophet's actions, practices and sayings, but Hadith is a wider term as it contains, in addition to the record of the Prophet's practices, prophetical and historical elements. Sunna or Hadith was recognised from the very beginning as affording guidance in religious matters, and its need, its force as law and its preservation are all traceable to the life-time of the Prophet, though undoubtedly Hadith collections in book-form came later.

The collection of Hadith passed through five stages before it assumed the form of Musnad and Jami'. The latter brings the knowledge of Hadith to perfection, and it not only arranges reports according to their subject matter, which is not the case with Musnad, but is also of a more critical tone. Six collections of Hadith are recognised in this class by the Ahl Sunna as reliable, commonly known as Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Ibn Maja and Nasa'i. Of these Bukhari which is the first in point of time is the most critical also, and undoubtedly occupies the first place in reliability. In this treatise Bukhari has been referred to more frequently than any other collection. Occasionally the Mishkat, which is a collection of Hadith taken from the above six books and some other collections, such as Baihaqi, Dar Qutni, etc., and has been translated into English, has also been referred to.

All references given in this treatise without an indication of the name are to the Holy Quran, the first figure representing the number of the chapter and the second figure the number of the verse. All other references are indicated by name. In the reference to Hadith collections, the first figure represents the number of the book and the second the number of the chapter.

Muhammad Ali
Muslim Town,
Lahore, India [Now in Pakistan].

3/12/1946

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Books Section > The Living Thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad by Maulana Muhammad Ali > Prefatory Note

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