The Qur'anA copy of the Qur'an ©
The Qur'an is the holy book for Muslims, revealed in stages to the Prophet Muhammad over 23 years.
Qur'anic revelations are regarded by Muslims as the sacred word of God, intended to correct any errors in previous holy books such as the Old and New Testaments.
The Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by God in Arabic.
Some Qur'anic fragments have been dated as far back as the eighth, and possibly even the seventh, century. The oldest existing copy of the full text is from the ninth century.
Although early variants of the Qur'an are known to have existed, Muslims believe that the text we have today was established shortly after the death of the Prophet by the Caliph Uthman.
There are 114 chapters in the Qur'an, which is written in the old Arabic dialect.
All the chapters except one begin with the sentence Bismillahir rahmanir raheem, 'In the name of Allah the most merciful and the most kind'. This is the thought with which Muslims should start every action.
The longest chapter of the Qur'an is Surah Baqarah (The Cow) with 286 verses and the shortest is Surah Al-Kawther (abundance) which has 3 verses.
The arrangement of surahs does not correspond to the chronological order in which they were revealed.
The Qur'an is sometimes divided into 30 roughly equal parts, known as juz'. These divisions make it easier for Muslims to read the Qur'an during the course of a month and many will read one juz' each day, particularly during the month of Ramadan.
Translations of the Qur'an exist in over 40 languages but Muslims are still taught to learn and recite it in Arabic, even if this is not their native language and they cannot converse in it.
Translations are regarded by Muslims as new versions of the holy book, rather than as translations in the conventional sense.Qur'an page ©
Memorising the Qur'an
At the time of the revelation of the Qur'an, books were not readily available and so it was common for people to learn it by heart.
Committing the Qur'an to memory acted as a great aid for its preservation and any person who is able to accomplish this is known as a hafiz.
The Qur'an is treated with immense respect by Muslims because it is the sacred word of God.
While the Qur'an is recited aloud, Muslims should behave with reverence and refrain from speaking, eating or drinking, or making distracting noise.
Sunnah and Hadith
In addition to the Qur'an, the other sacred sources are the Sunnah, the practise and examples of the Prophet Muhammad's life, and the Hadith, reports of what the prophet Muhammad said or approved.
Both the Hadith and Sunnah must adhere to a strict chain of narration that ensures its authenticity, taking into account factors such as the character of people in the chain and continuity in narration. Reports that fail to meet such criteria will be disregarded.
One famous example is that of the scholar of Hadith literature, Imam Bukhari, who travelled several hundred miles on horseback to acquire a Hadith. When he arrived, he saw the man that knew the Hadith deceiving his donkey into thinking there was grain in a sack in order to induce him to move forward. Imam Bukhari promptly left without approaching the man because he was not willing to allow any individual with a questionable personality to join a chain of narration or contribute knowledge that would define the practice of the religion.
Imam Misbahi reads passages from the Holy Qur'an.
English translation: This is the Book. In it is guidance sure, without doubt to those who fear Allah, who believe in the unseen, are steadfast in prayer and spend out of what we have provided for them, and who believe in the revelation sent to you, and sent before your time and in their hearts have the assurance of the hereafter. They are on true guidance from the Lord, and it is these who will prosper.
English translation: Say: "We believe in Allah, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Ibrahim, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in the books given to Musa, Isa, and the prophets, from their Lord: We make no distinction between one and another among them, and to Allah do we bow our will in Islam. " If anyone desires a religion other than Islam, never will it be accepted of him; and in the hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost all spiritual good.
English translation: And when they listen to the revelation received by the messenger, you will see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognise the truth. They pray: "Our Lord! We believe; write us down among the witnesses."
English translation: It is he who created you from a single person, and made his mate of like nature, in order that he might dwell with her in love. When they are united, she bears a light burden and carries it about unnoticed. When she grows heavy, they both pray to Allah their Lord, saying: "If you give us a goodly child, we vow we shall ever be grateful."
English translation: Relate in the book the story of Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the East.
She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them; then we sent to her our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects.
English translation: These are verses of the Wise Book, a guide and a mercy to the doers of good, those who establish regular prayer, and give regular charity, and have in their hearts the assurance of the hereafter.
These are on true guidance from their Lord: and these are the ones who will prosper.
English translation: So also was Jonah among those sent by Us. When he ran away like a slave from captivity to the ship fully laden, he agreed to cast lots, and he was condemned: Then the big fish did swallow him, and he had done acts worthy of blame.
English translation: The revelation of this book is from Allah, exalted in power, full of knowledge, who forgives sin, accepts repentance, is strict in punishment, and has a long reach in all things. There is no God but he: to him is the final goal.
English translation: And before this, was the Book of Musa as a guide and a mercy: And this Book confirms it in the Arabic tongue; to admonish the unjust, and as glad tidings to those who do right.
English translation: So establish weight with justice and fall not short in the balance. It is he who has spread out the earth for his creatures: Therein is fruit and date-palms, producing spathes (enclosing dates); also corn, with its leaves and stalk for fodder, and sweet-smelling plants. Then which of the favours of your Lord will you deny?
If all the trees of the earth were pens, and the seas, replenished by seven more seas, were ink, the words of God could not be finished still. Quran, 31:27
Muslims believe that Islam’s principal holy book, the Quran (“Recitation,” sometimes spelled Koran in English) is an Arabic transcription of a heavenly form or archetype. Referring to it as the “eternal book,” “imperishable tablet,” or “Mother of the Book,” they believe that God unveiled this great book through the Angel Gabriel to various prophets on earth whenever needed to guide humanity. The books sent earlier are considered to be superseded by the Quran, whose purpose is to correct the human imperfections that crept into previous books, such as the Hebrew Bible and Christian New Testament. Muslims respect those other revealed books as legitimate, but believe that the Quran is the final, perfect transmission of the one heavenly book.
Unlike Jewish and Christian Scriptures, which are largely narrative or doctrinal with only occasional quotations from Yahweh or Jesus, the Quran presents itself entirely as the direct words of God, sometimes speaking in the first person (both singular and plural), sometimes in the third, occasionally changing from one to the other in sequential phrases or sentences.
Relatively short (around 400 pages in English translation, a little less than the New Testament), the Quran consists of 114 suras, or chapters, arranged in order of their length rather than in chronological order of transmission. Following the short introductory prayer called al-Fatihah (“the Opening”) comes the longest sura, with 285 verses; the shortest suras, with three to six verses, come at the end. Suras are composed of verses called ayats. The Quran contains two of the key prayers of Islam, the al-Fatihah and the Surat al-Ikhlas (“Chapter of Sincerity”), the short 113th sura: “Say: God is One, the Eternal God. He begets none, nor is begotten, and none is like Him.” Many of the accounts contained in this scripture should be familiar to anyone conversant with the Bible, e.g., the annunciation of the angel to Mary, informing her that she will bear a child without “knowing” a man (19:16-21). The Arabic Quran also contains the 99 principal names of Allah, most of them describing compassionate qualities, such as the Patient (Sabur), the Loving (Wadud), the Wise (Hakim), the Truth (Haqq), the Light (Nur), the Forgiver (Ghaffar), and most frequently, the Compassionate (Rahman) and the Merciful (Rahim).
Over a period of about 22 years, beginning around 610, the Quran was revealed to Muhammad. The earlier revelations were received in trance states that caused the Prophet to groan, cry out, and shiver so intensely that he often covered himself with a cloak, and they were frequently accompanied by headaches and severe muscular tension. Later he became more accustomed to these states of deep absorption. His companions committed all of the revelations to memory, and they were eventually written down on whatever was available, including leaves, shards of pottery, and, according to tradition, the shoulder-blades of camels. By the time the Prophet had moved from Mecca to Medina, he was dictating to secretaries, the most prominent of whom was Zayd ibn Tabit.
After Muhammad’s death, Abu Bakr put Zayd in charge of collating the written suras with versions that had been memorized by several of his followers, but his compilation often ignored the order in which they were received. The Caliph Uthman (644-55), a direct companion of the Prophet and his third successor, had a definitive text compiled from copies left with one of Muhammad’s widows, Hafsah, and destroyed all the rest. The span of decades and centuries between the revelations of many previous religious founders and their committal to writing was thereby largely avoided in Islam, although some scholars think that certain suras were deleted or altered to serve the purposes of the early caliphs. For example, the Quran’s most critical attacks on the Umayyad clans may have been expunged on orders from Uthman, himself an Umayyad. By ordering the destruction of all variant copies of the text, Uthman insured that only his version remains today, although we have no reason to believe that anything essenti l was left out.
The other major source of Islamic teaching, hadith (“narrative” or “report”), consists of the sayings of Muhammad and his Companions passed down and collected in the centuries immediately following his death. It began as an oral tradition that the Prophet during his lifetime was careful to distinguish from the revealed teachings of the Quran. (A parallel exists in Hinduism between shruti, “that which is revealed,” and smriti, “that which is heard.”) Six major collections of hadith were eventually compiled by a number of hands during the first 300 years after Muhammad’s death, and not all of the sayings are considered to be of equal authenticity. Since so much time elapsed before they were written down, there was room for invention and distortion, a problem recognized by early Muslim scholars. And so no absolutely canonical edition exists, although there is significant agreement about the major collections of hadith. The most important is by Muhammad ibn Ismail al-Bukhari (810-70), which is divided by topic into 97 volumes containing 7,300 individual items. Later collections also exist, especially those created by Shi’ite Muslims tracing hadith derived from the Prophet’s son-in-law and third caliph, Ali, and his supporters.
The hadith are based on isnads, or chains of authorities; each hadith generally begins with an attestation such as, “Abdallah ibn Jafar records that he heard Ali ibn Abu Talib say that he heard the Prophet remark, ‘The best of women [in the world] was Mary. The best of women [of this people] was Khadija.'” Some isnads are considerably longer, linking eight or ten names. Hadiths not only fill in many details of the Prophet’s life, but further interpretations were also made of the law stated in the Quran. Their application to the problems of everyday life gives hadith the same practical orientation that the Talmud bears in relation to the Hebrew Bible. For instance, one hadith has Muhammad telling the story of a woman who was cruel to a cat, shutting it in so that it died of hunger, and who was subsequently sent to hell. In another, he tells of a man who saw a dog panting with thirst near a well from which he himself had just drunk. The man climbed down the well and filled his shoe with water, “and taking it in his teeth, he climbed out of the well and gave the water to the dog. God was pleased with this act and granted him pardon (for his sins).” These hadiths are used to support kindness to animals, although there are no specific revelations in the Quran concerning it.
Hadith is not necessarily binding; despite the fact that one hadith has the Prophet saying, “the virgin cannot be given in marriage until her consent has been asked,” the right of jabr, or the arranged marriage of minors without their consent, has long been practiced among certain Muslims. Taken as a group, however, hadith along with the Quran form the basis of the sunna — the way of life of the Prophet which Muslims take as their model or code of Muslim orthodoxy.
The third source of spiritual guidance for Muslims is sira, biography of Muhammad in chronological form. Siras are only somewhat reliable because of a large gap between the death of Muhammad and their composition. The earliest extant and the best is the Sirat-ar-Rasul (“Life of the Prophet”) by Ibn Hisham (d. 834), which summarizes an earlier lost work by Ibn Ishaq.
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