As explained in my Quranic Architecture page as well as Quranic Architecture Summary post, this site presents an entirely new vision of the Quran’s arrangement (order of surahs) and organization (from mid-life in time to edges-of-life closer to timelessness) as forming a spiral correlated to the shape of a chambered nautilus shell, where each surah fits into a separate chamber, naturally descending in size from outer to inner with the final Surah Al-Nass – people – in the center. It shows how the Quran’s message is not randomly arranged but rather forms a surprisingly precise fit in what has become known as an especially beautiful example of sacred geometry found in nature.
In this interview between two scholars, a Christian and a Muslim, the Christian interviewer sees in the order of surahs evidence of the Quran’s supposed human compilation (placement of surahs), as distinguished from the quality of the text. The Quran’s sacred architecture offers evidence that its compilation was neither random nor merely human but an intrinsic part of its message the prophet could not possibly have envisioned on his own, even if he were aided by a thousand visionary scribes. And there is physical evidence that it was possibly compiled during Prophet Mohammad’s lifetime, lending weight to the idea that the order of surahs was also part of the original manuscript, even more convincingly as the various Quranic manuscripts were compared to each other.
The Arrangement of the Quran is by Divine Revelation
In the interview linked above, this is how the discussion went:
Jonas Atlas (the Christian scholar Interviewer): The different revelations weren’t put in chronological order, for example, and the surahs are ordered longest to shortest. That implies quite some ‘human’ influence on the eventual Qur’an, does it not?
M.A.S. Abdel-Haleem (the Muslim scholar interviewee): I am convinced that there is a great unity in the material of every single surah. People often think it is a jumble of things. But it isn’t. Through long studies of the ‘linguistic habits’ of the Qur’an I can tell you that it is meticulously put together.Halal monk website
The constant complaint from Orientalists and other non-Muslims has been the lack of chronological order. What they miss, of course, is that truly Divine revelations would present a text from the eternal perspective, since God does not “dwell in time” and is not subject to the cycle of birth and death. It is the predominantly human-authored books of the Bible which are arranged in a roughly chronological order, a human but not Divine preference.
Although many Biblical texts are openly human authored, such as the letters of Paul, a number of those books or chapters that were originally sent by Allah, as stated in the Quran, also follow chiastic (ring/mirror) composition, itself a validation of their having been indeed revelations and not simply written under the vague heading of “inspiration,” by which the dominant empiricism-faithful culture essentially erases God from any hand in bringing us such books. Chiastic form or ring composition gives the text an element of “timelessness” in that it is circular rather than linear, the latter a clear chronological timeline such as one finds in novels, stories, histories, and even instructional “how-to” books. But the hand of God reveals itself again.
Evidence of Quran’s Structure Revealed in Prophet’s Lifetime
In 2015, the Birmingham Quran Manuscript, written on both sides of two parchment leaves, was radiocarbon dated with 95.4% accuracy to between 568 and 645 AD, making it the earliest known Quranic manuscript, coinciding with the period of revelation during Prophet Mohammad’s lifetime from c. 570-632 CE. Even though the range is slightly wider, it is surprisingly close. According to Professor David Thomas (in above link):
These portions must have been in a form that is very close to the form of the Qur’an read today, supporting the view that the text has undergone little or no alteration and that it can be dated to a point very close to the time it was believed to be revealed.
One two-page leaf contains verses 17–31 of Surah 18 (Al-Kahf) while the other leaf the final eight verses 91–98 of Surah 19 (Maryam) and the first 40 verses of Surah 20 (Ta-Ha), all in their present day sequence and conforming to the standard text. (Emphasis mine.) The text also contains divisions between surahs.
The fact that this more ancient manuscript conforms to the text we have today was discovered in comparing later manuscripts with this one. This includes the top ten Oldest Quranic manuscripts. There was simply no substantial difference, neither in the words nor the sequence or order.
The photo above compares a page from the Birmingham Manuscript to the same page from a present-day Mus’haf (written copy of the Quran). The excellent site where I found this photo made by the author and his son to prove how perfectly aligned these two are, despite over 14 centuries having passed between them (!), also has comparison photos like this one for all four pages of the manuscript.
This provides physical evidence suggesting that the order of surahs was also written during Prophet Mohammad’s lifetime, debunking the notion popular among non-Muslims (whose aim is often to debunk Islam) that the order itself was a human intervention. This idea sits well, oddly enough, with some Saudi scholars and other Muslims who view the arrangement of the Quran and the order of surahs as immaterial to the value of the text, or some of whom may prefer the status quo, claiming the order of surahs was done by later scribes, for reasons suggested below. But many other scholars believe the entire Quran including its arrangement is Divinely ordained, not an artifact of human compilation or copying.
The evidence suggests that contrary to the current dogma, perhaps Uthman the Caliph was not coming up with this order on his own, but was actually copying from a clear original. Or that such details as the order of surahs and sequence of the text were indicated in the original.
This same division between surahs is given, interestingly, as evidence that the manuscript’s date must be much later than the radiocarbon dating, claiming that such early manuscripts did not have surah divisions. But if this is the oldest manuscript, how can they know such markings weren’t used? And the Hejazi script used has already been associated with the other earliest manuscripts. In any case, the later date in the radiocarbon dating of the Birmingham manuscript would put it just after the prophet’s death, making it still the oldest Quranic text known as of this writing. And those who argue against the early date include not only the usual Orientalist-style detractors but those Muslim scholars who rushed in to disparage the findings. In fact, some even claim it may have come from the Abbasid era, way beyond the evidence’s perimeters. One wonders why…
Quran Preserved by Allah’s Will in the Hands of People
That these two parchment pages survived is evidence of Divine intervention (in my faith-based viewpoint). The British were highly interested in finding and studying ancient manuscripts, especially from the Middle East including ancient Egypt in a time Muslims were no longer in a position to protect their own treasures. Many Muslim sultans ruled their subjects with authoritarian regimes, which in itself the Quran discourages, and their example of seeking worldly luxury and harems of women under their control is highly anti-Quranic behavior, a model the Saudi regime is more aligned with than Prophet Mohammad’s egalitarian and principled one. Eventually those medieval sultans, weakened by corruption, were conquered, resulting in the Spanish Inquisition and the destruction of great libraries and manuscripts.
The British ultimately supplanted them and their ilk as protectors of ancient manuscripts even without religious motivations per se because they had the wherewithal and could be trusted. Had they not done this, we could easily have lost such critical documents in the hands of Muslims, who through corruption per above lost their status as preservers of knowledge and truth. This does not mean there weren’t Muslims who contributed to preserving such documents. But the rulers who sought the pleasures of this world lost untold books and manuscripts, as well as Andalusia itself and its legacy. And God is aware of who are the trustworthy among people and who are corrupters and violators.
Quran as Enlightenment
Today one sees a revival of interest in the Quran among both Muslims and non-Muslims, seeking knowledge in it, a Book which shows us that knowledge is light. And both parties today, at least the best of them, have a vested interest in religious freedom, something the Quran espouses. “No compulsion in religion” (Quran 2:256) is a famous Quranic phrase summarizing this. No such phrase exists in the currently-existing Bible or Torah. Yet followers of both books now quite frequently espouse freedom of religion and thought, and thank God for that.
For years, freedom of mind was a tenet of the Enlightenment espoused by Europe and America, at least as an idea and source of inspiration, as Islam was once also a keeper of the Light of knowledge for what was then a Europe ravaged by the consequences of ignorance. Perfection is never a human quality, but we speak of trust and reliability based on a higher level of ethics. When Muslims forgot the Quran and its mandate to seek knowledge and understanding, as well as maintain that higher ethics, they lost everything. And America and Europe, the so-called West, once promoters of the ideals of liberty and justice for all, are now being exposed as corrupters and violators of those very principles, with earth and its ecosystems, as well as humanity’s rights and resources, leaning towards fascism not only as they have imposed it on others to gain access to other people’s resources, but as they are adopting it now for themselves, spurred by those among them who deceptively champion ignorance and keeping wealth in the hands of the minuscule few (making people afraid of charitable justice falsely renamed “socialism”).
Now then is the time to seek enlightenment again in the Quran, with a renewed understanding of its message for all time, perhaps especially our time, by re-evaluating our interpretations of it in light of what the Quran actually says, not what others want us to think it says. Actions speak louder than the words of PR, “public relations”: in fact actions expose the truth behind the lies.
The United States claims to promote democracy and justice, while they’ve been installing and financing dictators in other countries so they could take their wealth. France claims to uphold the principles of equality and liberty, while they prohibit free practice of a religion as supportive of those principles as Islam. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States claim to be Muslim, while they create a war that killed millions of innocent people and children, and never said even a word, let alone took action, against Islamophobia around the world or the extermination of Muslims such as the Uighurs in China or the Rohinjia in Burma.
The Quran condemns such actions, and the violators are well aware of that, but those who are rich and in power, referred to in the Quran as the mutrifeen, are in fact enemies of the Quran and even feel threatened by its strong condemnations of what they are currently doing.
In fact, no one in the worldwide core group of mutrifeen want anyone to read the Quran and follow its message of mutual cooperation, trust, and especially spending from what Allah gave them of His bounty, because they live in fear and arrogance. So they dupe the public into thinking the Quran promotes war and killing “infidels,” a word coined by Christians during the Crusades. This is an obvious lie, using words taken out of context, a practice now people in the US are using against each other, as the country falls apart. Terrorism itself began in multiple cultures as a reaction to colonialism and its clones that created dysfunctional societies whose youth see how they were deprived of a future by the massive oppression of the past but have no means to respond. So it is with this background that we bring the architecture of that very Quran as a wholistic view of its undeniably powerful message to revive truth, purpose, meaning, goodwill and justice to humanity. Its value to all increases the more its universality becomes apparent.
The Quran as Universal Message of Truth and Justice
What other sacred book has survived in its entirety unscathed for over 14 centuries? To be sure, there are examples of sacred texts that have been preserved, at least parts of them. And it is to those texts as well that the Quran speaks.
In this view, the very significant Bismalah, in a sense the “crown” of the Quran, has a deep meaning and connection to multiple traditions, uniting them under one coherent understanding. For example, it links to the ancient Chinese concept of Yin/Yang in the dynamic between the names Al-Rahman the Almighty Creator and Al-Raheem the All-Merciful Receptive One where there is even an echo of their connection in the sound of the name al-Rahman like yang and al-
Raheem like yin. These qualities are perfectly balanced in an eternal dynamic with Allah the Exalted alone. The name Al-Rahman also sounds very close to the Indian name of Brahman who is considered the eternal Origin of and Supreme power over all things, without gender and ineffable, beyond what has become associated with the word “God”. Certainly that “concept” is the same as the Quranic idea of Allah the Ineffable exalted, with the exception of using the ancient Arabs’ concept of “god” to enlighten them as to the only Reality supplanting those false “personal” identities. The Quran then revives these meanings back to their Source in Allah, whose Arabic name exemplifies these meanings as well as the human heart to which this Quran is directed, reminding us that with every heartbeat, we die and are resurrected in His name.
The zodiac constellations, taken in popular culture as another commodity to sell to the public, are revived in the Quran as signs of the sacred journey of our lifetime, redirecting it back to Allah the Exalted in whose Presence we become the high-status people we were created to be, in a realm beyond our comprehension.
The Quran connects us to sacred geometry, exemplified in the chambered nautilus shell, about which people now have much more knowledge. It is intended to be interactive today, in this moment, a navigational guide helping us negotiate not only this life, but what comes after death. The calendar months themselves correlate with the Quran’s architecture, which even tells us, if we study it closely, when exactly is Laylat Al-Qadr “the night of decree,” so we can benefit from it. It gives us prayers and a way to connect with Allah regularly, frequently, building in our hearts a place like a virtual mosque. It speaks not to one provincial interest or ethnic group or club, but to all people everywhere at all times, even the jinn who are in another dimension we cannot see (normally).
The Quran’s insistence that the only road to purification of one’s soul is spending from what Allah has given us of His bounty, in Arabic zakat, closely associated in the Quran with connecting to Him in salat which means “connection,” makes economic justice a primary objective. Those interpretations which limit zakat to a specific percentage have lost the original message where the zakat is the “excess,” that part of one’s wealth which is way beyond one’s needs. Those Muslim mutrifeen who live in luxurious excess while those human beings they supposedly “rule” live without sufficient food, without shelter, without means of subsistence, are violating this rule and hence are never “purified” but will be presented in front of the Almighty in a state of utter defilement. Yes I’m talking about Saudi Arabia, but many others around the world as well. The super-rich should be worried. But of course the arrogant only worry about their bottom line, not thinking they will one day be lined up on the bottom of the worst place imaginable.
The Quran addresses such issues as pollution and climate change, the sacredness of all life and the fact that animals also pray in their own way, true justice, freedom of mind and worship, mutual respect between the sexes and the way to respect each other’s sacred boundaries, the meaning of effective charity not trickle-down charity, how to implement democracy, and mutual cooperation and learning, all this and more. So will we not then use our minds? Afa la t’aqiloon?