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Qur'an

Qur'an

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Qur'an

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The Qur'ān <ref>Arabic pronunciation </ref> (Arabic: القرآن al-qurʼān, literally "the recitation"; also called al-qurʼān al-karīm "The Noble Qur'an"; also transliterated as Quran, Koran, and Al-Quran), is the central religious text of Islam. Muslims believe the Qur'an, in its original Arabic, to be the literal word of God that was revealed to Muhammad over a period of twenty-three years until his death. Muslims regard it as God's final revelation to humankind and view it as the closest thing to a part of God in the world.<ref>Watton, Victor, (1993), A student's approach to world religions:Islam, Hodder & Stoughton, pg 1. ISBN 0-340-58795-4</ref> Muslims also call the Qur'an the "Final Testament", "The Book", "Book of God" or "The Revelation."

The Qur'anic revelations were originally memorised by Muhammad's companions as Muhammad spoke them, with some being written down by one or more companions on whatever was at hand, from stones to pieces of bark. Compilations of the Qur'an began under the Caliph Umar, but it was Uthman who decided upon a definitive copy and destroyed all other versions. All Muslims use the same Qur'an with no differences among the sects. The Qu'ran has never changed in substance. Muslims generally consider it to be the most beautiful book in Arabic.

Contents

[edit] Etymology

Within Arabic grammar, the word "qur'an" constitutes a masdar (verbal noun) and is derived from the Arabic verb قرأ qara'a ("to read" or "to recite") which is the root.<ref>BYU Studies, vol. 40, number 4, 2001. Page 52</ref><ref>Lisan al-Arab[1]</ref> The metre (الوزن) of this word is "فُعلان" which is a metre that indicates excessiveness, diligence or devotion in doing the act. For example, the verb غفر (ghafara), which means “to forgive” has a masdar of غفران (ghufran) which means an excessive or diligent act of forgiveness. Similarly, the word Qur’an conveys the meaning of diligent reading. The word qur'an has been used within the Qur'an in its generic sense of "reading", "recital", as in 75:18 (with -a accusative suffix + -hu 3rd person masculine singular possessive suffix):

And when We read [qara'-] it, follow thou the reading [qur'ān-ahu] (Pickthall)
But when We have promulgated [qara'-] it, follow thou its recital [qur'ān-ahu] (as promulgated) (Yusuf Ali)

The word is used in the Qur'an itself as a term for the Qur'an, e.g. 12:2:

Lo! We have revealed it, a Lecture [qur'ān] in Arabic, that ye may understand. (Pickthall's translation)
We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur'an, in order that ye may learn wisdom. (Yusuf Ali's translation)

However, there is some question as to whether this word was formed within Arabic from this root or borrowed separately from Syriac. The latter hypothesis was first proposed by the German Semitic scholar Theodore Nöldeke who argued in his 1860 Geschichte des Qorâns (History of the Qur'an)[2] that the word qur'ān might be a borrowing from the Syriac noun ܩܪܝܢܐ qeryānâ (whose meanings include "reading" and "lection, lesson"), itself derived from the verb ܩܪܐ qrâ ("to read, recite; to study"<ref>Payne Smith, Jessie (Ed.) (1903). A compendious Syriac dictionary founded upon the Thesaurus Syriacus of R. Payne Smith. Oxford University Press, reprinted in 1998 by Eisenbraums. ISBN 1-57506-032-9. Page 516, 519</ref>):

"Since a cultural word like "to read" can not be proto-Semitic, we may assume that it has entered Arabia, and probably from the North ... Since Syriac has, next to the verb קּרא, also the noun qeryānā, meaning both ἀνάγνωσις ("reading, reading out") and ἀνάγνωσμα ("lection, lecture"), and because of the above mentioned, the assumption of probability increases, that the term Qur'an is not an internal Arabic development from the infinitive with the same meaning, but a borrowing from the Syriac word that has been adapted according to the type fulʻān."<ref>Da nun ein Kulturwort wie "lesen" nicht ursemitisch sein kann, so dürfen wir annehmen, daß es in Arabien eingewandert ist, und zwar wahrscheinlich aus dem Norden...Da nun das Syrische neben dem Verbum קּרא das Nomen qeryānā hat, und zwar in der doppelten Bedeutung ἀνάγνωσις (das Lesen, Vorlesen) und ἀνάγνωσμα (Lesung, Lektüre), so gewinnt, im Zusammenhange mit dem eben Erörteten, die Vermutung an Wahrscheinlichkkeit, daß der Terminus Qorän nicht eine innerarabische Entwicklung aus dem gleichbedeutenden Infinitive ist, sondern eine Entlehnung aus jenem syrischen Worte unter gleichzeitiger Angleichung an Typus fulʻān." Nöldeke, Theodor (1860) Geschichte des Qorâns. Göttingen. Part I, page 33.</ref>

More recent proponents of this view include Christoph Luxenberg<ref>Luxenberg, Christoph (2004) -- Die Syro-Aramäische Lesart des Koran: Ein Beitrag zur Entschlüsselung der Koransprache. Berlin: Verlag Hans Schiler. 20054 ISBN 3-89930-028-9. Page 81-84.</ref> (who takes it as evidence that the Qur'an was itself originally a Syriac lectionary).

[edit] Format of the Qur'an

Image:Opened Qur'an.jpg
A copy of the Qur'an opened for reading.
Main article: Sura

The Qur'an consists of 114 chapters (surahs) with a total of 6236 verses (ayat).

Each chapter, or surah, is generally known by a name derived from that chapter (see List of chapter names). The chapters are not arranged in chronological order (i.e. in the order in which Islamic scholars believe they were revealed) but in a different order, roughly descending by size, but aiding oral memory (surah2 Aya97).

[edit] Literary structure of the Qur'an

Issa Boullata, professor of Arabic literature and Islamic studies at McGill university, gives the following evaluation of the literary structure of the Qur'an: <ref> Issa Boullata, Literary Structure of Qur'an, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an, vol.3 p.192, 204 </ref>

The message of the Qur'an is couched in various literary structures, which are widely considered to be the most perfect example of the Arabic Language. Arabic grammars were written based upon the qur'anic language, and, by general consensus of Muslim rhetoricians, the qur'anic idiom is considered to be sublime... In conclusion, it can be said that the Qur'an utilizes a wide variety of literary devices to convey its message. In its original Arabic idiom, the individual components of the text — suras and ayat — employ phonetic and thematic structures that assist the audience’s efforts to recall the message of the text. Whereas the scholars of Arabic are largely agreed that the Qur'an represents the standards by which other literary productions in Arabic are measured, believing Muslims maintain that the Qur'an is inimitable with respect to both content and style.

[edit] Influence of the Qur'an on the Arabic literature

Wadad Kadi, Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Chicago university and Mustansir Mir, Professor of Islamic studies at Youngstown State University state that: <ref> Wadad Kadi and Mustansir Mir, Literature and the Qur'an, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an, vol. 3, pp. 213, 216 </ref>

Although Arabic, as a language and a literary tradition, was quite well developed by the time of Muhammad's prophetic activity, it was only after the emergence of Islam, with its founding scripture in Arabic, that the language reached its utmost capacity of expression, and the literature its highest point of complexity and sophistication. Indeed, it probably is no exaggeration to say that the Qur'an was one of the most conspicuous forces in the making of classical and post-classical Arabic literature.
The main areas in which the Qur'an exerted noticeable influence on Arabic literature are diction and themes; other areas are related to the literary aspects of the Qur'an particularly oaths (q.v.), metaphors, motifs, and symbols. As far as diction is concerned, one could say that qur'anic words, idioms, and expressions, especially "loaded" and formulatic phrases, appear in practically all genres of literature and in such abundance that it is simply impossible to compile a full record of them. For not only did the Qur'an create an entirely new linguistic corpus to express its message, it also endowed old, pre-Islamic words with new meanings and it is these meanings that took root in the language and subsequently in the literature...

[edit] Stylistic attributes

The Qur'an mixes narrative, exhortation, and legal prescription. The suras frequently combine all these modes, not always in ways that seem obvious to the reader. Muslims often argue that the uniqueness of the Qur'anic style supports belief in its divine origin.

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 explaining 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').

Image:Qur'an folio 11th century kufic.jpg
11th century Persian Qur'an folio page in kufic script

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

Wal-fajr(i),
Wa layâlin `ashr(in),
Wash-shaf`i wal-watr(i)
Wal-layli 'idhâ yasr(î),
Hal fî dhâlika qasamun li-dhî ḥijr(in).

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

`A-lam tara kayfa fa`ala rabbuka bi-`aṣḥâbi l-fîl(i),
`A-lam yaj`al kaydahum fî taḍlîl(in)
Wa-`arsala `alayhim ṭayran `abâbîl(a)
Tarmîhim bi-ḥijâratin min sijjîl(in)
Fa-ja`alahum ka-`aṣfin ma'kûl(in).

(Note that verse-final vowels are unpronounced when the verses are enunciated separately, a regular pausal phenomenon in classical Arabic. In these cases, î and û often rhyme, and there is some scope for variation in syllable-final consonants.) It should also be noted that many words rhyme in Arabic with or without the addition of a case ending suffix due to the repetition of common vowel sounds. Arabic poetry frequently makes use of this type of rhyme, often referred to as monorhyme.

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!").

Image:NaskhQ.JPG
18th century AD 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, which deal with legal matters, and are quite long. Contrast the Makkan verses above with a verse from al-Baqara such as 2:229:

"A divorce is only permissible twice: after that, the parties should either hold Together on equitable terms, or separate with kindness. It is not lawful for you, (Men), to take back any of your gifts (from your wives), except when both parties fear that they would be unable to keep the limits ordained by God. If ye (judges) do indeed fear that they would be unable to keep the limits ordained by God, there is no blame on either of them if she give something for her freedom. These are the limits ordained by God. so do not transgress them if any do transgress the limits ordained by God, such persons wrong (Themselves as well as others)." (Yusuf Ali)

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

[edit] The beginnings of the suras

Every sura but the ninth is preceded by the words Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim (Arabic: بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم ). This is most frequently translated "In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful." Interestingly, the Arabic words translated as "most gracious" (رحمان)(Rahman) and "most merciful" (رحيم)(Rahim) derive from the same triliteral (RHM; ر ح م), or "mercy." Grammatically, the form of the first word conveys magnitude, while that of the second conveys permanence. Therefore, the chapter openings may better be translated as "In the name of God, the most merciful, the ever merciful." This double declaration at the start of most chapters suggests the importance of mercy in the Muslim conception of God.

Twenty-nine suras begin with letters taken from a restricted subset of the Arabic alphabet. Thus, for instance, surat Maryam (Arabic for Mary, mother of Jesus) begins

19:1 Kaf Ha Ya 'Ain Sad

19:2 (This is) a recital of the Mercy of thy Lord to His servant Zakariya."'

While there has been some speculation on the meaning of these letters, many Muslim scholars believe that their full meaning may never be grasped. 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 who had originally transcribed the sura. See Qur'anic initial letters for a fuller discussion.

[edit] The temporal order of Qur'anic verses

Belief in the Qur'an's direct, uncorrupted divine origin is considered fundamental to Islam by most Muslims.

"This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear God" 2:2

[edit] Origin and development of the Qur'an

Modern Western historians have concluded that Muhammad was sincere in his claim of receiving revelation, "for this alone makes credible the development of a great religion." <ref> The Cambridge History of Islam (1970), Cambrdige University Press, p.30 </ref> Modern historians generally decline to address the further question of whether the messages Muhammad reported being revealed to him were from "his unconscious, the collective unconscious functioning in him, or from some divine source", but they acknowledge that the material came from "beyond his conscious mind" <ref> The Cambridge History of Islam (1970), Cambrdige University Press, p.30 </ref>

According to the Qur'an:
"This Qur'an is not such as can be produced by other than Allah; on the contrary it is a confirmation of (revelations) that went before it, and a fuller explanation of the Book - wherein there is no doubt - from the Lord of the worlds. Or do they say, "He forged it"? say: "Bring then a Sura like unto it, and call (to your aid) anyone you can besides Allah, if it be ye speak the truth!"10:37&38 "
Some non-Muslims say that the Qur'an originated and derived from the Bible. Although the Qur'an itself confirms the similarity between it and the former books (the Torah and the Gospel)3:3, but tells
"We know indeed that they say, "It is a man that teaches him." The tongue of him they wickedly point to is notably foreign, while this is Arabic, pure and clear. 16:103"
The Qur'an attributes this similarity to their unique origin and says all of them have been revealed by the God.2:285 Based on Islamic traditions and legends, it is generally believed that Muhammad could neither read nor write, but would simply recite what was revealed to him for his companions to write down and memorize. According to the Qur'an
"And thou wast not (able) to recite a Book before this (Book came), nor art thou (able) to transcribe it with thy right hand: In that case, indeed, would the talkers of vanities have doubted.29:48 " "Say: "If Allah had so willed, I should not have rehearsed it to you, nor would He have made it known to you. A whole life-time before this have I tarried amongst you: will ye not then understand?"10:16 "

However some scholars - (Christoph Luxenberg, Maxime Rodinson, William Montgomery Watt, etc.) - have argued that this claim is based on weak traditions and that, in regard of many aspects concerning Muhammad's biography and teachings, it is not convincing:

"The Meccans were in general familiar with reading and writing. A certain amount of writing would be necessary for commercial purposes ... In view of this familiarity with writing among the Meccans particularly, both for records and for religious scriptures, there is a presumption that Muhammad knew at least enough to keep commercial records ... The probability is that Muhammad was able to read and write sufficiently for business purposes, but it seems certain that he had not read any [religious] scriptures." - W. Montgomery Watt in "Muhammad's Mecca"<ref>William Montgomery Watt, "Muhammad's Mecca", Chapter 3: "Religion In Pre-Islamic Arabia", p. 26-52</ref>

"Whatever Arabic tradition may have assumed from a wrong interpretation of a word in the Koran, it seems certain that Muhammad learned to read and write. But except for a few vague and unreliable pointers in his life and work we have no way of knowing the extent of his learning." - M. Rodinson in "Mohammed"<ref>Maxime Rodinson, "Mohammed", translated by Anne Carter, p. 38-49, 1971</ref>

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 the angel Gabriel. The Qur'an is not only considered by Muslims to be a guide but also as a sign of the prophethood of Muhammad and the truth of the religion. Muslims argue that it is not possible for a human to produce a book like the Qur'an. According to the Qur'an
"And if ye are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant, then produce a Sura like thereunto; and call your witnesses or helpers (If there are any) besides Allah, if your (doubts) are true. But if ye cannot- and of a surety ye cannot- then fear the Fire whose fuel is men and stones,- which is prepared for those who reject Faith. "2:23&24

Some non-muslim scholars accept a similar account, but without accepting any supernatural claims: they say 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 first Abu Bakr ordered its compilation and then Uthman ordered the collection and ordering of this mass of material circa 650-656. These scholars point to many attributes of the Qur'an as indicative of a human collection process that was extremely respectful of a miscellaneous collection of original texts.

Other scholars have proposed that some development of the text of the Qur'an took place after the death of Muhammad and before the currently accepted version of the Qur'an stabilized. Western academic scholars associated with such theories include John Wansbrough, Patricia Crone, Michael Cook, Christoph Luxenberg, and Gerd R. Puin.

Another scholar, James A. Bellamy, has proposed some emendations to the text of the Qur'an.

[edit] The language of the Qur'an

The Qur'an was one of the first texts written in Arabic. It is written in the classical Arabic which is also the Arabic of pre-islamic poetry including the Mu'allaqat, or Suspended Odes.

Soon after Muhammad's death in 632 CE, armies led by his followers burst out of Arabia and conquered the Near East, Northern Africa, Central Asia, and parts of Europe. Arab rulers had millions of foreign subjects, with whom they had to communicate. Thus, 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 sought out Bedouin speech as well as pre-Islamic poetry to explain difficult words or elucidate points of grammar. Partly in response to the religious need to explain the Qur'an to Muslims who were not familiar with Qur'anic Arabic, Arabic grammar and lexicography soon became important sciences. The model for the Arabic literary language remains to this day the speech used in Qur'anic times, rather than the current spoken dialects.[citations needed]

[edit] The Qur'an for reading and recitation

In addition to and largely independent of the division into surahs, there are various ways of dividing the Qur'an into parts of approximately equal length for convenience in reading, recitation and memorization. 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 (sing. Raka'ah), semantical units resembling paragraphs and comprising roughly ten ayat each.

A hafiz is one who has memorized the entire text of the Qur'an, and is able to recite it properly (Tajweed). All Muslims must memorize at least some parts of the Qu'ran, in order to perform their daily prayers.

[edit] 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). Until one has learned al-Fatiha, a Muslim can only say phrases like "praise be to God" during the salat.

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

[edit] Schools of recitation

Image:Quran fragment 33,73-74.jpg
A fragment from the Qu'ran, Sura 33: 73–74

There are several schools of Qur'anic recitation, all of which are permissible pronunciations of the Uthmanic rasm. Today, ten canonical and at least four uncanonical recitations of the Qur'an 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 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'an" is pronounced without the glottal stop (as "Qurān") in one recitation, and prophet Abraham'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 according to 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." This is considered to be a great accomplishment among the followers of Islam.

[edit] Writing and printing the Qur'an

Image:Large Koran.jpg
Page from a Qur'an
'Umar-i Aqta'
Iran, present-day Afghanistan,
Timurid dynasty, circa 1400
Opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper Muqaqqaq script
170 x 109cm (66 15/16 x 42 15/16in.)
Historical Region: Uzbekistan
Image:Uthman moshaf.jpg
Quran collected in Uthman era.

Most Muslims today use printed editions of the Qur'an. There are many editions, large and small, elaborate or plain, expensive or inexpensive [3]. Bilingual forms with the Arabic on one side and a gloss into a more familiar language on the other are very popular.

Qur'ans are produced in many different sizes, from extremely large Qur'ans [4] [5] for display purposes, to extremely small Qur'ans [6].

Qur'ans were first printed from carved wooden blocks, one block per page. There are existing specimen of pages and blocks dating from the 10th century CE. Mass-produced less expensive versions of the Qur'an were later produced by lithography, a technique for printing illustrations. Qur'ans so printed could reproduce the fine calligraphy of hand-made versions.

The oldest surviving Qur'an for which movable type was used was printed in Venice in 1537/1538. It seems to have been prepared for sale in the Ottoman empire. Catherine the Great of Russia sponsored a printing of the Qur'an in 1787. This was followed by editions from Kazan (1828), Persia (1833) and Istanbul (1877) [7].

It is extremely difficult to render the full Qur'an, with all the points, in computer code, such as Unicode. The Internet Sacred Text Archive makes computer files of the Qur'an freely available both as images [8] and in a temporary Unicode version [9]. Various designers and software firms have attempted to develop computer fonts that can adequately render the Qur'an. See [10] for one such commercial font.

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 considered wrong 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 antique Qur'ans are displayed throughout this article.

Some Muslims believe that it is not only acceptable, but commendable to decorate everyday objects with Qur'anic verses, as daily reminders. Other Muslims feel that this is a misuse of Qur'anic verses; those who handle these objects will not have cleansed themselves properly and may use them without respect.

[edit] Translations of the Qur'an

The Qur'an has been translated into many languages; there are several translations for many languages, including English. These translations are considered to be glosses for personal use only, and have no weight in serious religious discussion. Translation is an extremely difficult endeavor, because each translator must consult his or her own opinions and aesthetic sense in trying to replicate shades of meaning in another language; this inevitably changes the original text. Thus a translation is often referred to as an "interpretation," and is not considered a real Qur'an. Just as Jewish and Christian scholars turn to the earliest texts, in Hebrew or Greek, when it is a question of exactly what is meant by a certain passage, so Muslim scholars turn to the Qur'an in Arabic.

The first translator of the Qur'an is Salman the Persian. He was one of Mohammed's nearest companions and translated the Qur'an during the 7th century - some of the people of Persia asked Salman al-Farisi to write to them something of the Qur'an, and he wrote to them the Fatihah in Persian.<ref>An-Nawawi, Al-Majmu', (Cairo, Matbacat at-'Tadamun n.d.), 380. </ref>

Robert of Ketton was the first person to translate the Qur'an into a Western language, Latin, in 1143.<ref> (2002) Islam: A Thousand Years of Faith and Power. New Haven: Yale University Press, p. 42.</ref> Alexander Ross offered the first English version in 1649. In 1734, George Sale produced the first scholarly translation of the Qur'an into English; another was produced by Richard Bell in 1937, and yet another by Arthur John Arberry in 1955. All these translators were non-Muslims. There have been numerous translation by Muslims; the most popular of these are the translations by Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan, Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din al Hilali, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, M. H. Shakir, Muhammad Asad, and Marmaduke Pickthall.

The English translators have sometimes favored archaic English words and constructions over their more modern or conventional equivalents; thus, for example, two widely-read translators, A. Yusuf Ali and M. Marmaduke Pickthall, use the plural and singular "ye" and "thou" instead of the more common "you." Another common stylistic decision has been to refrain from translating "Allah" — in Arabic, literally, "The God" — into the common English word "God." These choices may differ in more recent translations.

[edit] Interpretation of the Qur'an

Main article: Tafsir

The Qur'an has sparked a huge body of commentary and explication. According to Allameh Tabatabaei, interpretation of the Qur'an (Tafsir) means "explaining the meanings of the Qur'anic verse, clarifying its import and finding out its significance."<ref>Preface of Al'-Mizan</ref>

Tafsir is one of the earliest academic activities in Islam. The prophet was the first person who described the Ayats for Muslims, as is clear from the words of Allah:" A similar (favour have ye already received) in that We have sent among you a Messenger of your own, rehearsing to you Our Signs, and sanctifying you, and instructing you in Scripture[Qurán] and Wisdom, and in new knowledge2:151."

The first exegetes were a few Companions of the Prophet, like Abdullah ibn Abbas, Abdullah ibn Umar and Ubayy ibn Kab . Exegesis in those days was confined to the explanation of literary aspects of the verse, the background of its revelation and, occasionally, interpretation of one verse with the help of the other. If the verse was about a historical event or contained the realities of genesis or resurrection, etc., then sometimes a few traditions of the Prophet were narrated to make its meaning clear. <ref>[11]</ref>

Because Quran is spoken in the classical form of Arabic, many of the later converts to Islam, who happened to be mostly non-Arabs, did not always understand the Qur'an's Arabic, they did not catch allusions that were clear to early Arab Muslims and they were extremely concerned to reconcile apparent contradictions and conflicts in the Qur'an. Commentators erudite in Arabic explained the allusions, and perhaps most importantly, explained 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" (nāsikh) the earlier text. Memories of the occasions of revelation (asbāb al-nuzūl), the circumstances under which Muhammad had spoken as he did, were also collected, as they were believed to explain some apparent obscurities. It should be noted that not all Muslims believe that there are abrogations in the text of the Qur'an and some insist that there are no contradictions or unclear passages to explain.

[edit] Similarities between the Qur'an and the Bible

The Qur'an retells 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, Heber, Shelah, Abraham, Lot, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Jethro, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Jonah, Aaron, Moses, Zechariah, Jesus, and John the Baptist are mentioned in the Qur'an as prophets of God (see Prophets of Islam). Muslims believe the common elements or resemblances between the Bible and other Jewish and Christian writings and Islamic dispensations is due to the common divine source, and that the Christian or Jewish texts were authentic divine revelations given to prophets. According to the Qur'an
"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).3:3 "

Muslims claim that those texts were neglected or corrupted (tahrif) by the Jews and Christians and have been replaced by God's final and perfect revelation, which is the Qur'an.<ref> Bernard Lewis, The Jews of Islam (1984). Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-00807-8. p.69 </ref> However, many Jews and Christians believe that the historical biblical archaeological record refutes this assertion, because the Dead Sea Scrolls (the Tanakh and other Jewish writings which predate the origin of the Qur'an) have been fully translated,<ref> The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: The Oldest Known Bible Translated for the First Time into English (2002) HarperSanFrancisco. ISBN 0-06-060064-0 </ref> validating the authenticity of the Greek Septuagint.<ref> http://www.septuagint.net </ref>

[edit] The Qur'an and Islamic culture

Based on tradition and a literal interpretation of sura 56:77-79: "That this is indeed a Qur'an Most Honourable, In a Book well-guarded, Which none shall touch but those who are clean.", many scholars opine that a Muslim perform wudu (ablution or a ritual cleansing with water) before touching a copy of the Qur'an, or mushaf. This view has been contended by other scholars on the fact that, according to Arabic linguistic rules, this verse eludes to a fact and does not comprise of an order. This is so because the verb equivalent of English 'touch' is used in past perfect and not imperative. The literal translation thus reads as "That (this) is indeed a noble Qur'an, In a Book kept hidden, Which none toucheth save the purified," (translated by Mohamed Marmaduke Pickthall). It is suggested based on this translation that performing ablution is not required.

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. 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-majority countries, blasphemy is punishable by lengthy imprisonment or even the death penalty.

[edit] Criticism of the Qur'an

  • Claim to divine origin: Muslims believe the Qur'an is the miracle and the sign of Muhammad's prophecy. The Qur'an calls itself "the best word" in Arabic and has invited others to compete and say something better or at least equal. Critics reject the idea that the Qur'an is miraculously perfect and impossible to imitate.<ref></ref><ref> [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08692a.htm</ref>
  • Satanic Verses: The Qur'an says that nor did Muhammad say anything from himself and neither did Satin's interfere. But some early Islamic histories recount how Satan fooled Muhammad into adding two lines to Sura 53 of the Qur'an, lines that implore followers to hope for intercession by three pagan goddesses. These histories then say that these 'Satanic Verses' were shortly afterward repudiated by Muhammad at the behest of the angel Gabriel. The authenticity of this narration is disputed. Fischer and Abedi state that the story is rejected by almost all Muslim exegete's. Ibn Kathir in his commentary points out the weakness of the various Isnad by which the story was transmitted, almost all of them mursal—i.e., without a companion of Muhammad in their chain. Some non-Muslim scholars, such as William Montgomery Watt, suppose it's true, while others (such as J. Burton) believe the story is a forgery.<ref>"The Life of Muhammad", Ibn Ishaq, A. Guillaume (translator), 2002, p.166 ISBN 0-19-636033-1</ref><ref name="Watt">Watt, W. Montgomery (1961). Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman. Oxford University Press, 61. ISBN 0-19-881078-4. </ref>

[edit] See also

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[edit] References

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[edit] Translations

[edit] Older commentary

  • al-Tabari, Muhammad ibn Jarir -- 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 0-19-920142-0

[edit] Older scholarship

[edit] Recent scholarship

  • Al-Azami, M. M. -- The History of the Qur'anic Text from Revelation to Compilation, UK Islamic Academy: Leicester 2003.
  • Bellamy, James A. -- "Some Proposed Emendations to the Text of the Koran", Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 113, 1993
  • Bellamy, James A. -- "More Proposed Emendations to the Text of the Koran", Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 116, 1996
  • Bellamy, James A. -- "Textual Criticism of the Koran", Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 121, 2001
  • Crone, Patricia, and Michael Cook -- Hagarism, Cambridge University Press, 1977
  • Gatje, Helmut, and Alford T. Welch -- The Qur'an and Its Exegesis, Oneworld Publications; New Ed edition (November 1, 1996). ISBN 1-85168-118-3
  • Ibn Warraq (ed.), The Origins of the Koran, Prometheus Books, 1998. ISBN 1-57392-198-X
  • Kassis, Hanna E. -- A Concordance of the Qur'an, University of California Press (March 1, 1984), ISBN 0-520-04327-8
  • Luxenberg, Christoph (2004) -- Die Syro-Aramäische Lesart des Koran: Ein Beitrag zur Entschlüsselung der Koransprache, Berlin, Verlag Hans Schiler, 2005, ISBN 3-89930-028-9
  • McAuliffe, Jane Damen -- Quranic Christians : An Analysis of Classical and Modern Exegesis, Cambridge University Press, 1991. ISBN 0-521-36470-1
  • McAuliffe, Jane Damen (ed.) -- Encyclopaedia of the Qur'an, Brill, 2002-2004.
  • Puin, Gerd R. -- "Observations on Early Qur'an Manuscripts in Sana'a," in The Qur'an as Text, ed. Stefan Wild, , E.J. Brill 1996, pp. 107-111 (as reprinted in What the Koran Really Says, ed. Ibn Warraq, Prometheus Books, 2002)
  • Rahman, Fazlur -- Major Themes in the Qur'an, Bibliotheca Islamica, 1989. ISBN 0-88297-046-1
  • Robinson, Neal, Discovering the Qur'an, Georgetown University Press, 2002. ISBN 1-58901-024-8
  • Sells, Michael, -- Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations, White Cloud Press, Book & CD edition (November 15, 1999). ISBN 1-883991-26-9
  • Stowasser, Barbara Freyer -- Women in the Qur'an, Traditions, and Interpretation, Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (June 1, 1996), ISBN 0-19-511148-6
  • Wansbrough, John -- Quranic Studies, Oxford University Press, 1977
  • Watt, W. M., and R. Bell, Introduction to the Qur'an, Edinburgh University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-7486-0597-5

[edit] Directory of external links relating to the Qur'an

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[edit] Themes in the Qur'an

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