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Template:Islam The Qur'an (Template:Lang-ar al-qur'ān; its literal meaning is "the recitation" and is often called "Al Qur'ān Al Karīm": "The Noble Qur'an" or "The Glorious Qur'ān," also transliterated as Quran, Koran, and less commonly Alcoran) is the holy book of Islam. Muslims believe that the Qur'an is the literal word of God and the culmination of God's revelation to mankind, revealed to the Prophet Muhammad over a period of 23 years by the Angel Jibreel (Gabriel).


Format of the Qur'an

The Qur'an consists of 114 suras (chapters) with a total of 6,236 ayat (verses; the exact number of ayat is disputed, not due to content dispute but due to different methods of counting; the sect founded by Rashad Khalifa claims the exact number is 6,346). Muslims usually refer to the suras not by their numbers, but by an Arabic name derived in some way from the sura. (See List of sura names.) The suras are not arranged in chronological order (in the order in which Islamic scholars believe they were revealed) but in a different order, roughly by size, also believed by Muslims to be divinely inspired. After a short opening, the Qur'an proceeds to the longest sura, and closes with some of the shortest ones.

The Qur'an as divided for reading and recitation

In addition to and largely independent of the division into suras, there are various ways of dividing the Qur'an into parts of approximately equal length for convenience in reading, reciting and memorizing. The seven manazil (stations) and the thirty ajza' (parts) can be used to work through the entire Qur’an in a week or a month, one manzil or one juz' a day, respectively. A juz' is sometimes further divided into two ahzab (groups), and each hizb is in turn subdivided into four quarters. A different structure is provided by the ruku'at, semantical units resembling paragraphs and comprising roughly ten ayat each.

The language of the Qur'an

The Qur'an is one of the first written works in Arabic. It is written in an early form of classical Arabic termed in English “Quranic” Arabic. There are few other examples of Arabic from that time. (The Mu'allaqat, or Suspended Odes, are believed by some to be examples of pre-Islamic Arabic; others say that they were created after Muhammad. Only five pre-Islamic Arabic inscriptions survive.)

Soon after Muhammad's death in 632 CE, Islam burst out of Arabia and conquered much of what was then the “civilized” world. Arab rulers had millions of foreign subjects, with whom they had to communicate. The language rapidly changed in response to this new situation, losing complexities of case and obscure vocabulary. Several generations after the prophet's death, many words used in the Qur'an had become opaque to ordinary sedentary Arabic-speakers, as Arabic had changed so much, so rapidly. The Bedouin speech changed at a considerably slower rate, however, and early Arabic lexicographers came to seek out Bedouin to explain difficult words or elucidate points of grammar. Partly in response to the religious need to explain the Qur'an to poorer speakers, Arabic grammar and lexicography soon became important sciences, and the model for the literary language remains to this day the speech used in Qur'anic times, rather than the current spoken dialects.

Muslims contend that the Qur'an is remarkable for its poetry and grace, and that its very literary perfection is proof of its divine origin. Since this perfection is apparent only to those who speak Arabic, only the original Arabic text is considered the real Qur’an. Translations are considered mere glosses. The traditions governing the translation and publication of the Qur'an state that when the book is published, it must never simply be entitled "The Qur'an." The title must always include a defining adjective (avoiding conceivable confusion with other "recitations", in the Arabic sense), which is why all available editions of the Qur'an are titled The Glorious Qur'an, The Noble Qur'an, and other similar titles.

Every reputable Islamic scholar should be able to read and understand the Qur'an in its original form. Many Muslims who do not otherwise understand Arabic memorize the whole text in Arabic, considering that they are closer to God in doing so.

Stylistic attributes

The Qur'an mixes narrative, exhortation, and legal prescription. The suras frequently combine all these modes, not always in ways that seem sensible or obvious to the non-Muslim reader.

There are many repeated epithets (e.g. "Lord of the heavens and the earth"), sentences ("And when We said unto the angels: Prostrate yourselves before Adam, they fell prostrate, all save Iblis"), and even stories (such as the story of Adam) in the Qur'an. Muslim scholars explain these repetitions as emphasizing and pointing up different aspects of important themes.

The Qur'an is partly rhymed, partly prose. Traditionally, the Arabic grammarians consider the Qur'an to be a genre unique unto itself, neither poetry (defined as speech with metre and rhyme) nor prose (defined as normal speech or rhymed but non-metrical speech, saj'.)

The Qur'an often, although by no means always, uses loose rhyme between successive verses; for instance, at the beginning of surat al-Fajr:

Wa lay⬩n `ashr(in),
Wash-shaf`i wal-watr(i)
Wal-layli 'idh⠹asr(
Hal fh⬩ka qasamun li-dhamp;#7717;ijr(in).

or, to give a less loose example, the whole of surat al-Fil:

'A-lam tara kayfa fa`ala rabbuka bi-'aṣḥ⢩ l-fi),
'A-lam yaj`al kaydahum faḍlin)
Wa-'arsala `alayhim ṭayran 'ab⢮l(a)
Tarmm bi-ḥijⲡtin min sijjin)
Fa-ja`alahum ka-`aṣfin ma'k?).

Note that verse-final vowels are unpronounced when the verses are enunciated separately, a regular pausal phenomenon in classical Arabic. In these cases,  and ?ften rhyme, and there is some scope for variation in syllable-final consonants. Some suras also include a refrain repeated every few verses, for instance ar-Rahman ("Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?") and al-Mursalat ("Woe unto the repudiators on that day!")

Missing image
18th century CE Qur'an

Islamic scholars divide the verses of the Qur'an into those revealed at Mecca (Makka), and those revealed at Medina (Madina) after the Hijra. In general, the earlier Makkan suras tend to have shorter verses than the later Madinan suras, with legal verses being particularly long. Contrast the Makkan verses above with a verse such as al-Baqara 229:

Divorce must be pronounced twice and then (a woman) must be retained in honour or released in kindness. And it is not lawful for you that ye take from women aught of that which ye have given them; except (in the case) when both fear that they may not be able to keep within the limits (imposed by) Allah. And if ye fear that they may not be able to keep the limits of Allah, in that case it is no sin for either of them if the woman ransom herself. These are the limits (imposed by) Allah. Transgress them not. For whoso transgresseth Allah's limits: such are wrong-doers.

Similarly, the Madinan suras tend to be longer, including the longest sura of the Qur'an, al-Baqara.

The beginnings of the suras

Every chapter but one is preceded by the words Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim, "In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate". 29 suras begin with letters taken from a restricted subset of the Arabic alphabet; thus, for instance, surat Maryam begins "Kaf. Ha. Ya. 'Ain. Sad. A mention of the mercy of thy Lord unto His servant Zachariah." While there has been some speculation on the meaning of these letters, the consensus of Muslim scholars is that these letters' full meaning is beyond our understanding. However, they have observed that in all but 4 of the 29 cases, these letters are almost immediately followed by mention of the Qur'anic revelation itself. Western scholars' efforts have been tentative; one proposal, for instance, was that they were initials or monograms of the scribes that had originally written the sura down. See Qur'anic initial letters for a fuller discussion.

The temporal order of Quranic verses

Belief in the Qur'an's direct, uncorrupted divine origin is considered fundamental to Islam by most Muslims. This of course entails believing that the Qur'an has neither errors nor inconsistencies.

"This is the book in which there is no doubt, a guide to the believers": Surat al-Baqarah, verse 2.)

However, there are instances where some verses presuppose that a given practice is allowed, while others forbid it. These are interpreted by Muslims in the light of the relative chronology of the verses: since the Qur'an was revealed over a course of 23 years, many verses were clarified or abrogated by later verses. Muslim commentators explain that this is because Muhammad was directed to gradually lead his small band of believers towards the straight path, rather than reveal the full rigor of the law at once. For example, the prohibition of alcohol was accomplished gradually rather than immediately. The earliest verse tells the believers to "Approach not prayers with a mind befogged, until ye can understand all that ye say, ..." (4:43), a prohibition of drunkenness but not alcohol. Later verses expanded prohibition to all alcohol consumption: "They ask thee concerning wine and gambling, say: "In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit..."(2:219).

In addition, there are cases where most Muslim scholars accept the doctrine of abrogation (naskh), whereby verses revealed later sometimes supersede verses received earlier. Which verses abrogate which others, if any, is, however, a controversial matter.

Quranic material found in other sacred texts

The Qur'an retells stories of many of the people and events recounted in Jewish and Christian sacred books (Torah, Bible) and devotional literature (Apocrypha, Midrash), although it differs in many details. Well-known Biblical characters such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and John the Baptist are mentioned in the Qur'an as Prophets of Islam. (For a complete list, see Similarities between the Bible and the Qur'an). Muslims account for differences between Quranic versions and Christian or Jewish texts by saying that the Christian and Jewish texts have been corrupted, and that only the Qur'an preserves the correct version.

Origin and development of the Qur'an

This is a topic of some delicacy, since Islamic scholars proceed with the assumption that the Qur'an is a divine and uncorrupted text, while scholars in the Western secular tradition start with the notion that the Qur'an is a human production to be explained without reference to the supernatural.

According to Islamic scholars

Muhammad, according to tradition, could neither read nor write, but would simply recite what was revealed to him for his companions to write down and memorize. Adherents to Islam hold that the wording of the Qur'anic text available today corresponds exactly to that revealed to Muhammad himself: words of God delivered to Muhammad through Jibreel (Gabriel).

According to some Muslim traditions, the companions of Muhammad began recording suras in writing before Muhammad died in 632; written copies of various suras during his lifetime are frequently alluded to in the traditions. For instance, in the story of the conversion of Umar ibn al-Khattab (when Muhammad was still at Mecca), his sister is said to have been reading a text of sura Ta-Ha. At Medina, about sixty-five companions are said to have acted as scribes for him at one time or another; the prophet would regularly call upon them to write down revelations immediately after they came.

One tradition has it that the first complete compilation of the Qur'an was made during the rule of the first caliph, Abu Bakr. Zayd ibn Thabit, who had been one of Muhammad's secretaries, "gathered the Qur'an from various parchments and pieces of bone, and from the chests (i.e. the memories) of men." This compilation was kept by Hafsa bint Umar, one of Muhammad's widows, as well as the daughter of Umar, the second caliph.

During the caliphate of Uthman ibn Affan, there were disputes about the recitation of the Qur'an. In response, Uthman decided to codify, standardize, and write down the text. Uthman is said to have commissioned a committee (including Zayd and several prominent members of Quraysh) to produce a standard copy of the text.

Some accounts say that this compilation was based on the text kept by Hafsa. Other stories say that Uthman made his compilation independently, Hafsa's text was brought forward, and the two texts were found to coincide perfectly. Still other accounts omit any reference to Hafsa.

Some Muslim scholars say that if the Qur'an had been collected by the order of a caliph, it would never have been relegated to the status of a keepsake for one of the prophet's widows. Possibly the story was invented to move the time of collection closer to Muhammad's death.

Missing image

When the compilation was finished, sometime between 650 and 656 CE, Uthman sent out copies of it to the various corners of the Islamic empire. He ordered the destruction of all copies that differed from it.

Several manuscripts, including the Samarkand manuscript, are claimed to the original copies sent out by Uthman [1] (http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/Text/Mss/); however, many scholars, Western and Islamic, doubt that any of the Uthmanic originals remain.

What were the different copies that were destroyed? Islamic traditions say that Abdallah Ibn Masud, Ubay Ibn Ka'b, and Ali, Muhammad's son-in-law, had preserved versions that differed in some ways from the Uthmanic text that is now accepted by all Muslims. Muslim scholars record certain of the differences between the versions; those recorded consist almost entirely of orthographical and lexical variants, or different verse counts. All three (Ibn Masud, Ubay Ibn Ka'b, and Ali) are recorded as having accepted the Uthmanic text as authoritative.

Uthman's version was written in an older Arabic script that left out most vowel markings; thus the script could be interpreted and read in various ways. This basic Uthmanic script is called the rasm; it is the basis of several traditions of oral recitation, differing in minor points. In order to fix these oral recitations and prevent any mistakes, scribes and scholars began annotating the Uthmanic rasm with various diacritical marks -- dots and the like -- indicating how the word was to be pronounced. It is believed that this process of annotation began around 700 CE, soon after Uthman's compilation, and finished by approximately 900 CE. The Quran text most widely used today is based on the Hafs tradition of recitation, as approved by the eminent Al-Azhar University in Cairo in 1922. (For more information regarding traditions of recitations, see Quranic recitation, below.)

According to secular scholars

There is no one theory of Quranic origins that is accepted by all Western-style or secular scholars.

Many scholars have accepted something like the traditional Muslim version. They believe that Muhammad put forth verses and laws that he claimed to be of divine origin; that his followers memorized or wrote down his revelations; that numerous versions of these revelations circulated after his death in 632 CE, and that Uthman ordered the collection and ordering of this mass of material in the time period (650-656) described by the Islamic scholars. These Western scholars point to many characteristics of the Qur'an -- the repetitions, the arbitrary ordering, the mixture of styles and genres -- as indicative of a human collection process that was extremely respectful of the original sources. There has been no evident organizing and harmonizing of the text.

These scholars account for the many similarities between the Qur'an and the Jewish and Hebrew scriptures by saying that Muhammad was teaching what he believed a universal history, as he had heard it from the Jews and Christians he had encountered in Arabia and on his travels. Differences between the Qur'an and the Judeo-Christian scriptures can usually be explained by Muhammad's reliance on folk traditions rather than the actual text of the scriptures. There have been many studies of Muhammad's sources in the Jewish Mishnah, Gemara, and Midrash, and the Christian Apocrypha. This, of course, directly contradicts the Islamic teaching that it is the Judeo-Christian texts that are corrupt.

Western scholars also dispute the Islamic belief that the whole of the Qur'an is addressed by God to humankind. They note that there are numerous passages where God is directly addressed, or mentioned in the third person, or where the narrator swears by various entities, including God.

"Some asked what need there was for God to take oaths like any mortal being, as when he swears by the fig and olive, and by Mount Sinai (95:1); by the declining day (103:1); and by the stars, the night and the dawn (81:15-18). Above all, they asked why the Almighty had to swear on himself ..." (Walker, cited in Foundations of Islam, Peter Owen, 1998 p. 156)

Western scholars have also been bold enough to point out obscurities in the text, claiming that Muslim commentators have invented explanations rather than admit that they don't know what a word means. Some Western scholars have been actively trying to interpret these obscure words by reference to languages that Muhammad might have encountered, such as Aramaic and Syriac, and from which he might have adopted words not then found in Arabic. Some scholars have tried to resolve obscurities by positing textual corruption, and advancing plausible replacements -- which is, of course, anathema in Muslim eyes. Muslims believe that the Qur'an is complete, perfect, and uncorrupted.

Some Western scholars are less willing to attribute the entire Qur'an to Muhammad. They argue that there is no real proof that the text of the Qur'an was collected under Uthman, since the earliest surviving copies of the complete Qur'an are centuries later than Uthman. (The oldest existing copy of the full text is from the ninth century [2] (http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/features/quran/index.shtml).) They see Islam as being formed slowly, over the centuries after the Muslim conquests, as the Islamic conquerors elaborated their beliefs in response to Jewish and Christian challenges.

One influential proponent of this point of view was Dr. John Wansbrough, an English academic. Wansbrough wrote in a dense, complex, almost hermetic style, and he has had much more influence on Islamic studies through his students, Michael Cook and Patricia Crone than he has through his own writings. In 1977 Crone and Cook published a book called Hagarism, which argued that,

The Qur'an is strikingly lacking in overall structure, frequently obscure and inconsequential in both language and content, perfunctory in its linking of disparate materials, and given to the repetition of whole passages in variant versions. On this basis it can plausibly be argued that the book is the product of belated and imperfect editing of materials from a plurality of traditions. (Patricia Crone and Michael Cook, Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World, Cambridge, 1977, p. 18.)

Hagarism was extremely controversial at the time, as it challenged not only Muslim orthodoxy, but the prevailing attitudes among secular Islamicists. Crone and Cook have since retreated from their extreme claims that the Qur'an evolved over several centuries, but they still believe that the Sunni scholarly tradition is extremely unreliable, as it projects current Sunni orthodoxy onto the past -- much as if New Testament scholars were dedicated to proving that Jesus was a Presbyterian or a Methodist.

Fred Donner has argued against Crone and Cook, and for an early date for the collection of the Qur'an, based on his reading of the text itself. He points out that if the Qur'an had been collected over the tumultuous early centuries of Islam, with their vast conquests and bloody squabbles between rivals for the caliphate, there would have been some evidence of this history in the text. However, there is nothing in the Qur'an that does not reflect what is known of the earliest Muslim community. (Narratives of Islamic Origins: The Beginnings of Islamic Historical Writing, Donner, Darwin Press, 1998, p. 60.)

Recent archaeological finds have also shed some light on the origins of the Qur'an. In 1972, during the restoration of the Great Mosque of San'a, in Yemen, laborers stumbled upon a "paper grave" containing tens of thousands of fragments of parchment on which verses of the Qur'an were written. (Qur'ans were and still are disposed thus, so as to avoid the impiety of treating the sacred text like ordinary garbage.) Some of these fragments were the oldest Quranic texts yet found [3] (http://www.derafsh-kaviyani.com/english/quran1.html). The European scholar Gerd-R. Puin has studied these fragments and published not only a corpus of texts, but some preliminary findings. Interestingly enough, the variations from the received text that he did find seemed to match variations reported by Islamic scholars, in their descriptions of the variant Qur'ans once held by Abdallah Ibn Masud, Ubay Ibn Ka'b, and Ali, and suppressed by Uthman's order. ("Observations on Early Qur'an Manuscripts in San'a", Puin, in The Qur'an as Text, ed. Wild, Brill, 1996)

Interpretation of the Qur'an

Even the clearest sacred scripture seems to attract learned commentary. The Qur'an has sparked a huge body of commentary and explication. As discussed earlier, later Muslims did not always understand the Qur'an's Arabic, they did not catch allusions that were clear to early Muslims, and they were extremely concerned to reconcile apparent contradictions and conflicts in the Qur'an. Commentators glossed the Arabic, explained the allusions, and perhaps most importantly, decided which Quranic verses had been revealed early in Muhammad's prophetic career, as being appropriate to the very earliest Muslim community, and which had been revealed later, canceling out or abrogating the earlier text. Memories of the occasion of revelation, the circumstances under which Muhammad had spoken as he did, were also collected, as they were believed to explain some apparent obscurities.

For all these reasons, it was extremely important for commentators to explain how the Qur'an was revealed -- when and under what circumstances. Much commentary, or tafsir, was dedicated to history. The early tafsir are some of the best sources for Islamic history. Famous commentators include at-Tabari, az-Zamakhshari, at-Tirmidhi, and Ibn Kathir.

(These classic commentaries usually include all common and accepted interpretations; modern fundamentalist commentaries like that written by Sayyed Qutb tend to advance only one of the possible interpretations.)

Commentators feel fairly sure of the exact circumstances prompting some verses, such as surat Iqra, or many parts, including ayat 190-194, of surat al-Baqarah). In other cases (eg surat al-Asr), the most that can be said is which city the Prophet was living in at the time (dividing between Makkan and Madinan suras.) In some cases, such as surat al-Kawthar, the details of the circumstances are disputed, with different traditions giving different accounts.

The most important external aid used in interpreting the meanings of the Qur'an is the hadith — the collection of traditions upon which Muslim scholars (the ulema) based Islamic history and law. Scholars sifted the many thousands of hadith, trying to discover which were true and which were fabrications. One method, extensively used, was a study of the chain of narrators, the isnad, by which the tradition had been passed.

Note that, while certain hadith — the hadith qudsi — are claimed to record noncanonical words spoken by God to Muhammad, or the gist of them, Muslims do not consider these to form any part of the Qur'an.

'Created' vs. 'uncreated' Qur'an

The most widespread varieties of Muslim theology consider the Qur'an to be eternal and 'uncreated'. Such an approach echoes Greek philosophy, especially Plato's theories that all ultimate realities and truths had to be eternal and unchanging. Given that Muslims believe that Biblical figures such as Moses and Jesus all preached Islam, the doctrine of an unchanging, uncreated revelation implies that contradictions between their statements according to the Qur'an and the Bible must be the result of human corruption of the earlier divine revelations.

However, some, notably including the Mu'tazili and Ismaili sects, dispute this doctrine of the uncreated Qur'an. Various liberal movements within Islam implicitly or explicitly question the doctrine of the uncreated Qur'an when they address questions related to the application of Islamic law; some contemporary Muslim thinkers, such as Reza Aslan, have argued that such laws were created by God to meet the particular needs and circumstances of Muhammad's community.

Among the many reasons the dissenting voices have offered for their critique of the doctrine of an eternal Qur'an has been its implications to the doctrine of tawhid, or unity of God. Holding that the Qur'an is the eternal uncreated speech of Allah, speech that has always existed alongside Him, seemed to some thinkers to be a step in the direction of a more plural concept of God's nature (which could lead to what Muslims consider the sin of shirk, the association of something with God). Concerned that this interpretation appeared to echo the Christian conception of God's eternal Word or logos, some Muslim philosophers and theologians rejected the notion of the Qur'an's eternality.

Qur'an recitation

The very word Qur'an is usually translated as "recital," indicating that it cannot exist as a mere text. It has always been transmitted orally as well as textually.

To even be able to perform salat (prayer), a mandatory obligation in Islam, a Muslim is required to learn at least some suras of the Qur'an (typically starting with the first sura, al-Fatiha, known as the "seven oft-repeated verses," and then moving on to the shorter ones at the end).

A person whose recital repertoire encompasses the whole Qur'an is called a qari' (قَارٍئ) or hafiz (which translate as "reciter" or "memorizer," respectively). Muhammad is regarded as the first hafiz. Cantillation (tilawa تلاوة) of the Qur'an is a fine art in the Muslim world.

Schools of recitation

There are several schools of Quranic recitation, all of which are permissible pronunciations of the Uthmanic rasm. Today ten canonical recitations of the Qur'an and four uncanonical exist. For a recitation to be canonical it must conform to three conditions:

  1. It must match the rasm, letter for letter.
  2. It must conform with the syntactic rules of the Arabic language.
  3. It must have a continuous isnad to Prophet Muhammad through tawatur, meaning that it has to be related by a large group of people to another down the isnad chain.

Ibn Mujahid documented seven such recitations and Ibn Al-Jazri added three. They are:

  1. Nafi` of Madina (169/785), transmitted by Warsh and Qaloon
  2. Ibn Kathir of Makka (120/737), transmitted by Al-Bazzi and Qonbul
  3. Ibn `Amer of Damascus (118/736), transmitted by Hisham and Ibn Zakwan
  4. Abu `Amr of Basra (148/770), transmitted by Al-Duri and Al-Soosi
  5. `Asim of Kufa (127/744), transmitted by Sho`bah and Hafs
  6. Hamza of Kufa (156/772), transmitted by Khalaf and Khallad
  7. Al-Kisa'i of Kufa (189/804), transmitted by Abul-Harith and Al-Duri
  8. Abu-Ja`far of Madina, transmitted by Ibn Wardan and Ibn Jammaz
  9. Ya`qoob of Yemen, transmitted by Ruways and Rawh
  10. Khalaf of Kufa, transmitted by Ishaaq and Idris

These recitations differ in the vocalization (tashkil تشكيل) of a few words, which in turn gives a complementary meaning to the word in question according to the rules of Arabic grammar. For example, the vocalization of a verb can change its active and passive voice. It can also change its stem formation, implying intensity for example. Vowels may be elongated or shortened, and glottal stops (hamzas) may be added or dropped, according to the respective rules of the particular recitation. For example, the name of archangel Gabriel is pronounced differently in different recitations: Jibrīl, Jabrīl, Jibra'īl, and Jibra'il. The name "Qur'ān" is pronounced without the glottal stop (as "Qurān") in one recitation, and prophet Ibrāhīm's name is pronounced Ibrāhām in another.

The more widely used narrations are those of Hafs (حفص عن عاصم), Warsh (ورش عن نافع), Qaloon (قالون عن نافع) and Al-Duri through Abu `Amr (الدوري عن أبي عمرو). Muslims firmly believe that all canonical recitations were recited by the Prophet himself, citing the respective isnad chain of narration, and accept them as valid for worshipping and as a reference for rules of Sharia. The uncanonical recitations are called "explanatory" for their role in giving a different perspective for a given verse or ayah. Today several dozen persons hold the title "Memorizer of the Ten Recitations," considered to be the ultimate honour in the sciences of Qur'an.

The Qur'an and Islamic culture

Before touching a copy of the Qur'an, or mushaf, a Muslim performs wudu (ablution or a ritual cleansing with water) This is based on tradition and a literal interpretation of sura 56:77-79: "Most surely it is an honored Qur'an, in a book that is protected; none shall touch it save the purified ones."

Qur'an desecration means insulting the Qur'an by defiling or dismembering it. Muslims must always treat the book with reverence, and are forbidden, for instance, to pulp, recycle, or simply discard worn-out copies of the text. (Such books must be respectfully burned or buried.) [4] (http://www.ourdialogue.com/q4.htm)

Respect for the written text of the Qur'an is an important element of religious faith by many Muslims. They believe that intentionally insulting the Qur'an is a form of blasphemy. According to the laws of some Muslim countries, blasphemy is punishable by lengthy imprisonment or even the death penalty.

Writing and printing the Qur'an

Most Muslims today use printed versions of the Qur'an. There are Qur'ans for all tastes and pocketbooks, many in bi-lingual forms with the Arabic on one side and a gloss into a more familiar language on the other.

Before printing was widely adopted, the Qur'an was transmitted by copyists and calligraphers. Since Muslim tradition felt that directly portraying sacred figures and events might lead to idolatry, it was forbidden to decorate the Qur'an with pictures (as was often done for Christian texts, for example). Muslims instead lavished love and care upon the sacred text itself. Arabic is written in many scripts, some of which are both complex and beautiful. Arabic calligraphy is a highly honored art, much like Chinese calligraphy. Muslims also decorated their Qur'ans with abstract figures (arabesques), colored inks, and gold leaf. Pages from some of these beautiful antique Qur'ans are displayed throughout this article.

Translation of the Qur'an

The Qur'an has been translated into many languages, but translations of the Qur'an from Arabic to other languages are not considered by Muslims to be actual copies of the Qur'an, but rather are considered to be interpretive translations of the Qur'an; they are thus not given much weight in debates upon the Qur'an's meaning. In addition, as mere interpretive translations of the Qur'an, they are treated as ordinary books instead of being accorded the privileged status of Holy Books requiring special care.

Robert of Ketton was the first to translate the Qur'an into Latin, in 1143.

See also


  • A. J. Arberry, The Koran Interpreted, Touchstone Books, 1996. ISBN 0684825074
  • M. M. Al-Azami, The History of the Qur'anic Text from Revelation to Compilation, UK Islamic Academy: Leicester 2003.
  • Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Jami al-bayan `an ta'wil al-Qur'an, Cairo 1955-69, transl. J. Cooper (ed.), The Commentary on the Qur'an, Oxford University Press, 1987. ISBN 0199201420
  • Ibn Warraq (ed.), The Origins of the Koran, Prometheus Books, 1998. ISBN 157392198X
  • J. D. McAuliffe (ed.), Encyclopaedia of the Qur'an, Brill, 2002-2004.
  • Fazlur Rahman, Major Themes in the Qur'an, Bibliotheca Islamica, 1989. ISBN 0882970461
  • Robinson, Neal, Discovering the Qur'an, Georgetown University Press, 2002. ISBN 1589010248
  • W. M. Watt and R. Bell, Introduction to the Qur'an, Edinburgh University Press, 2001. ISBN 0748605975
  • Jane Dammen McAuliffe, Quranic Christians : An Analysis of Classical and Modern Exegesis, Cambridge University Press, 1991. ISBN 0521364701
  • Barbara Freyer Stowasser, Women in the Qur'an, Traditions, and Interpretation, Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (June 1, 1996), ISBN 0195111486
  • Helmut Gatje, Alford T. Welch, The Qur'an and Its Exegesis, Oneworld Publications; New Ed edition (November 1, 1996). ISBN 1851681183
  • Hanna E. Kassis, A Concordance of the Qur'an, University of California Press (March 1, 1984), ISBN 0520043278

External links



  • The Noble Qur'an (http://www.thenoblequran.com) — Translated by Dr.Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al Hilali, and Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan. A well-known English translation endorsed by the Saudi government. Includes Arabic commentary by Ibn Katheer, Tabari, and Qurtubi.



Tafsir (Commentary)

Ulm (Qur'anic studies)


Supporting views regarding Islamic traditions and the Qur'an

Skeptical views of Islamic traditions and the Qur'an

Western academic discussion of the origins of the Qur'an

Qur'anic manuscripts and calligraphy


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