The revelation of the Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad r began when he was forty years old in Mecca, and continued when he migrated to Madina, where he died. Thus, the revelation of the Qur’an lasted for twenty years. It was also said that it lasted for twenty-three years according to disagreement regarding the Prophet’s age when he died, whether he died when he was sixty or sixty-three years old.
The Manner of Revelation of the Qur’an
A complete sûra might be revealed to the Prophetr, or some ayãts of a sûra, and later on, these ayãts were combined together to form a complete sûra.
The First Revelation
The beginning of sûra al-Alaq was the first revelation of the Quran the Prophet r received, and then sûra al-Muddathir and
It was also said that the first revelation was sûra al-Muddathir and it was said that it was sûra al-Fãtiha. However, the first opinion is the correct one due to what was mentioned in the authentic hadîth narrated by ‘Ãisha, may Allah be pleased with her. She reported in the long narration regarding beginning of the revelation, “The angel came to the Prophet r when he was in Hira cave, and asked him to read. The Prophet r replied 'I do not know how to read'. The Prophet r added, ‘The angel caught me forcibly and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it any more. He then released me and asked me again to read and I replied, ‘I do not know how to read’. Then he caught me again and pressed me a second time until I could not bear it any more. He then released me and asked me again to read, and again I replied, ‘I do not know how to read’. Then he caught me for the third time and pressed me, and then released me and said: ‘Read - O Prophet – in the name of your Lord, who created. He created man from a blood-clot. Read – O Prophet – and your Lord is the most generous one. He taught by the pen. He taught man what he knew not.’ [1-5 al-Alaq]. [al-Bukhãrî] After that, the Prophet r returned to his family with this revelation and with his heart beating severely. And he said, ‘Cover me! Cover me!’ They covered him, until his fear subsided. In another report by Jãbr b. Abdul Allah, he said that the Prophet r said, ‘Cover me!’, and then Allah revealed, ‘O you who wrapped himself with his garment.’ [73-1] [al-Bukhãrî]
The last revelation was sûra an-Nasar . It was also said that the last revelation was the aya in which usury was mentioned in sûra al-Baqra [275-281], and it was said the aya before it.
During the life of the Prophet r, the Qur’an was preserved in sheets (suhuf) and memorized by the companions of the Prophet r. When the Prophet died, Ali b. Tãlib, may Allah be pleased with him, retired to his house and collected the Qur’an in a chronologically arranged, written form. If his musuhaf was found, it would have great knowledge; however, it was not found.
When many of the companions of the Prophet r died on the day of Yamãma, in fighting Musyylima, the liar, Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, advised Abû Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, to collect the Qur’an lest it should be lost by the death of its memorizers. Abû Bakr collected the Qur’an in sheets (suhuf), where the sûras were not arranged as the same arrangement of the present Qur’an. These sheets remained with AbûBakr until he died, then they were kept with Umar until he died, and after that with his daughter Hafsah, the mother of the believers.
During this period, sheets written by the companions, may Allah be pleased with them, in which there were differences in the recitation of the Qur’an spread among the Muslims. Thus, Huthayfa b. al-Yamãn advised caliph Uthmãn b. Affãn, may Allah be pleased with them, to issue an official copy of the Qur’an lest it should be disagreement among the Muslims regarding its recitation. Thus, Uthmãn ordered that an official copy the Quran be written. He delegated Zayd b. Thãbt and three other individuals from Quraysh, Abudul Allah b. az-Zubayr b. al-Awãm, Abdur-Hmãn b. al-Hãrith b. Hishãm, and Sa’îd b. al-Ãsî b. Umayya, to carry out this task. He instructed them that if they differed on how to write anything, they should write it according to the dialect of Quraysh. They used the mushaf preserved with Hafash as their guide in writing down this last compilation of the Quran. Uthmãn used to observe them throughout carrying out this task as well as he participated with them. When the compilation of the mushaf was completed, Uthmãn sent copies of it to a number of provinces, and ordered that the other copies of the Quran be cut to small pieces or burned.
The arrangement of the sûras in the present Quran is according to the compilation carried out by Zayd b. Thãbt and his assistants, under the supervision of Uthmãn. It was also said that the arrangement was done by the Prophet r, which is a weak opinion, and unacceptable according to the narrations reported regarding this issue.
Adding Diacritical Marks to the Qur’an
Al-Hajjãj b. Yusuf ath-Taqafî was the first person to introduce diacritical marks to the mushaf, carrying out the command of the Umayyd caliph Abdul Malik b. Marwãn, as well as he divided the mushaf to ahzãb, i.e. dividing the mushaf into sixty parts.
It was also said that the first person to introduce dots to the mushaf was Yahya b. Ya’mur, and it was also said that it was introduced by abu’l Aswad ad-Dû’alî.
As for dividing the Quran into a’shãr, i.e. division into ten parts, it was said that the first person to introduce it was al-Hajjãj, and it was also said that the Abasid caliph al-Ma’mûn ordered it.
Names of the Quran
The names of the Quran are four: the Quran, al-Furqãn, al-Kitãb, and adh-Dhikir. All other names attributed to the Quran are adjectives and not names, such as describing the Quran as being great, noble, powerful, honorable, and glorious.
As for the name ‘Quran’, it is derived from the verb ‘qara’a’ which means to read, and then the Quran was called by it.
As for the name ‘al-Furqãn’, it is derived from verb ‘farraqa’’ which means to distinguish between truth and falsehood.
As for the name ‘al-Kitãb’ it is derived from the verb ‘katab’ which means to write, and then the written form of the Quran was named after it.
As for the name ‘ad-Dhikir’, the Quran was named so because it contains remembrance of Allah, admonitions and exhortations.
Moreover, the word ‘sûra’ can be pronounced with hamza, and it can also be pronounced without hamaza which is the dialect of Quraysh.
Finally, as for the meaning of ‘aya’, it originally means ‘a sign’, and then a statement from the Quran was named after it because it is a sign denoting truthfulness of the Prophetr.
Source: Al-Kalbî, Muhammad bin Ahmad bin Juzyy, at-Tashîl li-‘Ulûm at-Tanzîl