Description of The Holy Quran
Quran (English pronunciation: /koran/ kor-ahn; Arabic: al-quran, IPA: [quran],[variations] literally meaning “a recitation”), also transliterated Qur’an, Koran, Qur’an, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’an, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of Allah (God)and the Final Testament, following the Old and New Testaments. It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language.
The Quran is divided into 114 suras of unequal length which are classified either as Meccann or Medinan depending upon their place and time of revelation.Muslims believe that the Quran was verbally revealed through the angel Jibrl (Gabriel) from Allah (God) to Muhammad gradually over a period of approximately twenty-three years beginning in 610 CE, when Muhammad was forty, and concluding in 632 CE, the year of his death.
The first four verses of al-Alaq
the 96th chapter (surah) of the Quran
Muslims believe that the Qur’an was precisely memorized, recited and exactly written down by Muhammad’s companions, called Sahabas, after each revelation was dictated by Muhammad.
Shortly after Muhammad’s death the Quran was compiled into a single book by order of the first Caliph Abu Bakr and at the suggestion of his future successor Umar. Hafsa, who was Muhammad’s widow and Umar’s daughter, was entrusted with that Quran text after the second Caliph Umar died. When Uthman, the third Caliph, began to notice slight differences in Arabic dialect he asked Hafsa to allow him to use the text in her possession to be set as the standard dialect, the Quraish dialect now known as Fus’ha (Modern Standard Arabic). Before returning the text to Hafsa Uthman made several thousand copies of Abu Bakr’s redaction and, to standardize the text, invalidated all other versions of the Quran. This process of formalization is known as the “Uthmanic recension”. The present form of the Quran text is accepted by most scholars as the original version compiled by Abu Bakr.
Muslims regard the Quran as the main miracle of Muhammad, the proof of his prophet hood and the culmination of a series of divine messages that started, according to Islamic belief, with the messages revealed to Adam, regarded in Islam as the first prophet, and continued with the Suhuf Ibrahim (Scrolls of Abraham), the Tawrat (Torah or Pentateuch) of Moses, the Zabur (Tehillim or Book of Psalms) of David, and the Injil (Gospel) of Jesus. The Quran assumes familiarity with major narratives recounted in Jewish and Christian scriptures, summarizing some, dwelling at length on others and in some cases presenting alternative accounts and interpretations of events. The Quran describes itself as a book of guidance, sometimes offering detailed accounts of specific historical events, and often emphasizing the moral significance of an event over its narrative sequence.
Sura and Ayah
The text of the Quran consists of 114 chapters of varying lengths, each known as a s?rah. Chapters are classed as Meccan or Medinan, depending on when (before or after Hijra) the verses were revealed. Chapter titles are derived from a name or quality discussed in the text, or from the first letters or words of the sura. Muslims believe that Muhammad, on Allah (God)’s command, gave the chapters their names. Generally, longer chapters appear earlier in the Quran, while the shorter ones appear later. The chapter arrangement is thus not connected to the sequence of revelation. Each sura except the ninth starts with the Bismillah, an Arabic phrase meaning (“In the name of Allah (God), Most Gracious, Most Merciful”). There are, however, still 114 occurrences of the Bismillah in the Quran, due to its presence in verse 27:30 as the opening of Solomon’s letter to the Queen of Sheba.
Each sura is formed from several ayat (verses), which originally means a sign or portent sent by Allah (God). The number of verses differs from chapter to chapter. An individual verse may be just a few letters or several lines. The verses are unlike the highly refined poetry of the pre-Islamic Arabs in their content and distinctive rhymes and rhythms, being more akin to the prophetic utterances marked by inspired discontinuities found in the sacred scriptures of Judaism and Christianity. The actual number of ayat has been a controversial issue among Muslim scholars since Islam’s inception, some recognizing 6,000, some 6,204, some 6,219, and some 6,236, although the words in all cases are the same. The most popular edition of the Quran, which is based on the Kufa school tradition, contains 6,236 ayat.
There is a crosscutting division into 30 parts of roughly equal division, ?a?z??, each containing two units called ?a?z?b, each of which is divided into four parts (rub ‘al-ahzab). The Quran is also divided into seven approximately equal parts, man?zil, for it to be recited in a week.
The Quranic text seems to have no beginning, middle, or end, its nonlinear structure being akin to a web or net. The textual arrangement is sometimes considered to have lack of continuity, absence of any chronological or thematic order, and presence of repetition.
Fourteen different Arabic letters form 14 different sets of “Quranic Initials” (the “Muqatta’at”, such as A.L.M. of 2:1) and prefix 29 suras in the Quran. The meaning and interpretation of these initials is considered unknown to most Muslims.
Levels of meaning
Unlike the Salafis and Zahiri, Shias and Sufis as well as some Muslim philosophers believe the meaning of the Quran is not restricted to the literal aspect. For them, it is an essential idea that the Quran also has inward aspects. Henry Corbin narrates a hadith that goes back to Muhammad:
“The Qur’an possesses an external appearance and a hidden depth, an exoteric meaning and an esoteric meaning. This esoteric meaning in turn conceals an esoteric meaning (this depth possesses a depth, after the image of the celestial Spheres, which are enclosed within each other). So it goes on for seven esoteric meanings (seven depths of hidden depth).”
According to this view, it has also become evident that the inner meaning of the Quran does not eradicate or invalidate its outward meaning. Rather, it is like the soul, which gives life to the body. Corbin considers the Quran to play a part in Islamic philosophy, because gnosiology itself goes hand in hand with prophetology.
Commentaries dealing with the zahir (outward aspects) of the text are called tafsir, and hermeneutic and esoteric commentaries dealing with the batin are called ta’wil (“interpretation” or “explanation”), which involves taking the text back to its beginning. Commentators with an esoteric slant believe that the ultimate meaning of the Quran is known only to Allah (God). In contrast, Quranic literalism, followed by Salafis and Zahiris, is the belief that the Quran should only be taken at its apparent meaning
Relationship with other literature (Torah, Hebrew Bible and New Testament)
“ It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong). ” —Qur’an 3:3 (Yusuf Ali)
The Quran speaks well of the relationship it has with former books (the Torah and the Gospel) and attributes their similarities to their unique origin and saying all of them have been revealed by the one Allah (God).
According to Sahih Bukhari, the Quran was recited among Levantines and Iraqis, and discussed by Christians and Jews before it was standardized. Its language was similar to the Syrian language. The Quran recounts stories of many of the people and events recounted in Jewish and Christian sacred books (Tanakh, Bible) and devotional literature (Apocrypha, Midrash), although it differs in many details. Adam, Enoch, Noah, Eber, Shelah, Abraham, Lot, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Jethro, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Jonah, Aaron, Moses, Zechariah, John the Baptist, and Jesus are mentioned in the Quran as prophets of Allah (God). In fact, Jesus is mentioned more often in the Quran than Muhammad. At the same time, Mary is also mentioned in the Quran more than the New Testament. Muslims believe the common elements or resemblances between the Bible and other Jewish and Christian writings and Islamic dispensations is due to their common divine source, and that the original Christian or Jewish texts were authentic divine revelations given to prophets.