The Qur’an was revealed at a time when the principle of universalism in human civilisation and religious culture had become normative for religious thought and worship. It must be viewed both as a timeless divine revelation as well as an important historic event in human civilisation. While no committed Muslim would deny my first assertion, many have insisted on the transcendent character of the Qur’an, thus limiting or altogether denying the fact that the Qur’an is inextricably bound to human history. The Qur’an spoke directly to both the spiritual and social situation of humankind at large and to the situation of the Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula. Speaking of the mission of the Prophet Muhammad, God says, ‘‘We have not sent you except as a mercy for all beings’’ (21:107), and He commands Muhammad thus: ‘‘Say: ‘O humankind, I am the messenger of God to you all’ ’’ (7:158). The Qur’an, it may thus be concluded, came to speak to all of humanity.

However, it came to speak not in a vacuum, but within a historical context. Hence, its immediate objective was the moral and religious situation of the Arabs of the Prophet’s time. It must therefore be further concluded that although we can always hear the Qur’an speaking anew to our own particular situation, its own historical context must not be obscured behind its universal and timeless dimension.