The Quaran: The Holy Book of Islam

Muslims and the Holy Book of Islam

The Holy Book of the Islamic world known as the Quran was collected over a 23-year period in the 7th century CE, said to be revelations from Allah to the prophet Muhammad through the angel Gabriel. Those revelations were written down by scribes as Muhammad pronounced them during his ministry and his followers continued to recite them after his death in 632 CE. At the behest of the Caliph Abu Bakr, the chapters and verses were collected into a book in 632 CE; and that version of the book, written in Arabic, has been the Holy Book of Islam for over 13 centuries. 

Islam is an Abrahamic religion, meaning that like Christianity and Judaism, it reveres the biblical patriarch Abraham and his descendants and followers.

The Quran

  • The Quran is the holy book of Islam, written in the 7th century CE. 
  • Its content is the wisdom of Allah as received and preached by Muhammad.
  • The Quran is divided into chapters (called surah) and verses (ayat) of differing length and topics.  
  • It is also divided into sections (juz) as a 30-day reading schedule for Ramadan. 
  • Islam is an Abrahamic religion, and it reveres Jesus ('Isa) as a holy prophet and his mother Mary (Mariam) as a holy woman.

Organization

Islam The Holy Koran
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The main divisions of the Quran are, like the Bible, broken into chapters of different topics and lengths (known as surah), and each line within the chapters are called verses (ayat). The Quran is also broken into 30 equal sections, or juz', which frequently cross sections so that the reader can study the Quran on a pace over a month. During the month of Ramadan, each Muslim is recommended to complete at least one full reading of the Quran from cover to cover, and the ajiza (plural of juz') provide a guide to that. 

There are 114 surahs of the Quran, each is divided into verses. The shortest surah is Al-Kawthar, with only three verses; the longest is Al-Baqara, with 286 verses. The chapters are classified as Meccan or Medinan, based on whether they were written before Muhammad's pilgrimage to Mecca (Medinan), or afterward (Meccan). The 28 Medinan chapters are mainly concerned with the social life and growth of the Muslim community; the 86 Meccan deal with faith and the afterlife, heaven. 

The themes of the Quran are interwoven among the chapters, not in chronological or theme order. Concordances have been created including one by the Muslim scholar Harun Yahya. A concordance is a topic index, which groups the verses into specific topics.

The Quran, Science, and the Old Testament

The Islamic culture is steeped in science, having led the world in scientific discoveries before the European flourishing, and the finds no conflict between religious belief and modern scientific knowledge. Furthermore, many of the verses are fairly accurate descriptions of the modern understanding of the world today. 

"You see the mountains and think they are firmly fixed. But they pass away just as the clouds pass away. Such is the artistry of Allah, Who disposes of all things in perfect order" (27:88).

Creation According to the Quran

The story of the creation in the Quran does say "Allah created the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, in six days," the Arabic term "yawm" ("day") might be better translated as "period," and that period is defined at different lengths in different times. The original couple, Adam and Hawa, are looked upon as the parents of the human race: Adam is a prophet of Islam; his wife Hawa or Hawwa (Arabic for Eve) is the mother of the human race. 

Women in the Quran

Like the other Abrahamic religions, there are many women in the Quran, but only one is explicitly named: Mariam, the mother of Jesus, who himself is a prophet in the Muslim faith. Others referred (but not named) to include the wives of Abraham (Sara, Hajar) and Asiya (Bithiah in the Hadith), the wife of the Pharaoh, foster mother to Moses. 

The Quran and the New Testament

The Quran doesn't reject Christianity or Judaism, but rather refers to Christians as "people of the book," meaning people who received and believe in the revelations from God's prophets. Verses highlight commonalities between Christians and Muslims but consider Jesus a prophet, not a god, and warns Christians that worshiping Christ as a god is sliding into polytheism: Muslims see Allah as the only one true God. 

"Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians—whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord. And there will be no fear for them, nor shall they grieve" (2:62, 5:69, and many other verses).

Mary and Jesus

Mariam, as the mother of Jesus Christ is called in the Quran, is a righteous woman in her own right: the 19th chapter of the Quran is entitled The Chapter of Mary, and describes the Muslim version of the immaculate conception of Christ. 

Jesus is called 'Isa in the Quran, and many stories found in the New Testament are in the Quran as well, including those stories of his miraculous birth, his teachings, and the miracles he performed. The main difference is that in the Quran, Jesus is a prophet sent by God, not his son. 

Getting Along in the World: Interfaith Dialogue

Juz' 7 of the Quran is dedicated, among other things, to an interfaith dialogue. While Abraham and the other prophets call upon the people to have faith and leave false idols, the Quran asks believers to bear the rejection of Islam by nonbelievers with patience and not to take it personally. 

"But if Allah had willed, they would not have associated. And We have not appointed you over them as a guardian, nor are you a manager over them." (6:107)

Violence

Although modern critics of Islam say the Quran promotes terrorism, the Quran promotes justice, peace, and restraint: but it was written during a time of commonplace inter-tribal violence and vengeance.

The Quran also repeatedly admonishes believers to refrain from falling into sectarian violence: violence against one's brothers.

  • "As for those who divide their religion and break up into sects, you have no part of them in the least. Their affair is with Allah; He will, in the end, tell them the truth of all that they did." (6:159)

The Arabic Language of the Quran

The Arabic text of the original Arabic Quran is identical and unchanged since its revelation in the 7th century CE. About 90 percent of the Muslims in the world do not speak Arabic as a native tongue, and there are many translations of the Quran available in English and other languages. However, for reciting prayers and reading chapters and verses in the Quran, Muslims do use Arabic, to participate as part of their shared faith.

Reading and Recitation

The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, instructed his followers to “beautify the Quran with your voices” (Abu Dawud). Recitation of the Quran in a group is a precise and melodious undertaking and those who do it well preserve and share the beauty of the Quran with the world.

As an accompaniment to the Quran, it is helpful to have the Tafseer, an exegesis or commentary to refer to as you read along. While many English translations contain footnotes, certain passages may need extra explanation, or need to be placed in a more complete context.