Question # 384: Some opinions suggest that the Quran was revealed in a single night – laylatul qadr, and some say that the Quran was revealed over several years. Do these opinions contradict one another?

bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: There is a consensus among scholars that the Qur’an did not come down from heaven to the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) all at once; rather the Revelation came down to him from Allah piecemeal, according to events and circumstances. The view of the majority is that the Qur’an was sent down from al-Lawh al-Mahfooz (the Preserved Tablet) to Bayt al-‘Izzah (in 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. The second opinion is that the revelation of the Qur’an 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.

Long Answer: There is a consensus [among scholars] …that the Qur’an did not come down from heaven to the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) all at once; rather the Revelation came down to him from Allah piecemeal, according to events and circumstances. There are verses which confirm this quite clearly with no confusion, and they affirm the wisdom behind its being revealed in this manner. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an:

  • “And those who disbelieve say: Why is not the Qur’an 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.” (Soorah Al-Furqan, 25:32)

Shaykh ‘Abd ar-Rahman as-S’adi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “That is because every time something of the Qur’an was revealed to him, it increased him in certainty and steadfastness, especially when there was cause for anxiety. The fact that the Qur’an was revealed when new developments occurred meant that it had greater impact and was more reassuring to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم). 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’an, and His Messenger, Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم), as He sent down His Book in accordance with the situations faced by the Messenger and as needed to address unfolding issues.”

  • “And (it is) a Qur’an which We have divided (into parts), in order that you might recite it to men at intervals. And We have revealed it by stages.” (Soorah Al-Isra, 17:106)

Shaykh ‘Abd ar-Rahman as-S’adi (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.”

What confirms the fact that the Qur’an was revealed piecemeal is the suspension of the Revelation concerning the slander incident (al-ifk), in which ‘Aishah (رضي الله عنها) was accused of adultery. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) was waiting for Qur’anic verses to be revealed, because of the enormity of the calamity and the accusation that was made against his wife, until the words of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) were revealed: “Verily! Those who brought forth the slander (against ‘Aishah, the wife of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم)) 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.” (Soorah An-Noor, 24:11)

Another confirmation that the Qur’an was revealed piecemeal is the first few verses of Soorah ‘Abasa which were revealed when the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) turned away from teaching the blind man Ibn Umm Maktum (رضي الله عنه) 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 the conversion).

Next, 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’an. Was it sent down all at once to the first heaven, then brought down to the Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) 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’an came down at a particular time, such as the verses in which Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an:

  • “The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong).” (Soorah al-Baqarah, 2:185)
  • “Verily! We have sent it (this Qur’an) down in the night of Al-Qadr (Decree).” (Soorah al-Qadr, 97:1)

And Ibn ‘Abbas (رضي الله عنه) clearly stated this understanding.

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

The view of the majority is that the Qur’an 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 ‘Abbas (رضي الله عنه) said, concerning the verse “Verily! We have sent it (this Qur’an) down in the night of Al-Qadr (Decree).” The Qur’an was sent down all at once on Laylat al-Qadr, then Allah sent it down to the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) bit by bit. “And those who disbelieve say: Why is not the Qur’an 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.” (Soorah Al-Furqan, 25:32). (an-Nasa’i)

The second opinion is that the revelation of the Qur’an 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 Tabi‘i (successor) ash-Sh’abi.

This difference of opinion – as you can see – does not have any real impact on the reality of the revelation of the Qur’an in stages to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم). It has been said that the reason for this revelation (being sent down all at once to the first heaven) was to highlight the nobility and great status of the Qur’an 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’an 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. (al-Burhan fi ‘Uloom al-Qur’an.)

The Angel of Revelation who brought it down to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم), Jibril (عليه السلام) only heard it from the Lord of Glory (سبحانه و تعالى) then he passed it on to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم), so he heard it with his ears and his heart understood it. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an:

  • “And verily, you (O Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم)) are receiving the Qur’an from the One, All-Wise, All-Knowing.” (Soorah Al-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.” (Soorah Al-A’raf, 7: 203)

It was narrated that ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ood (رضي الله عنه) said: The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “When Allah 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 (عليه السلام) comes to them. When he comes to them, they recover and say: O Jibril, what did your Lord say? He says: The truth, and they say: The truth, the truth.” (Abu Dawood)

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: The fact that it – the Qur’an – is written in al-Lawh al-Mahfooz and in pure pages in the hands of the angels does not contradict the idea that Jibril (عليه السلام) brought it down from Allah, whether Allah wrote it down before sending Jibril (عليه السلام) 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 Jibril (عليه السلام) took the Qur’an from the Book and did not hear it from Allah, this is false for a number of reasons – which the author then listed. (Majmoo‘ al-Fatawa)

(The above reply is based on answer provided by Islamqa.info on the topic)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam