The Qur’an [pronounced qurˈʔaːn
" ("scripture"). The latter two terms also denote units of revelation. Other related words are: ", transliterated as: "ArabDIN|bismi-llāhi ar-raḥmāni ar-raḥīmi".
] an Arabic phrase meaning ("In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful"), with the exception of the ninth chapter. There are, however, still 114 occurrences of the basmala in the Qur’an, due to its presence in verse 27:30 as the opening of Solomon's letter to the Queen of Sheba. [See:
*"Kur`an, al-", "Encyclopaedia of Islam Online"
*Allen (2000) p. 53

Each "sura" is formed from several "ayat" (verses), which originally means a sign or portent sent by God. The number of "ayat" differ from "sura" to "sura". An individual "ayah" may be just a few letters or several lines. The "ayat" 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 Qur’an, which is based on the Kufa school tradition, contains 6,236 "ayat".

There is a crosscutting division into 30 parts, "ajza", each containing two units called "ahzab", each of which is divided into four parts ("rub 'al-ahzab"). The Qur’an is also divided into seven stations ("manazil").

The Qur’anic text seems to have no beginning, middle, or end, its nonlinear structure being akin to a web or net. Critics have commented on the textual arrangement pointing out lack of continuity, absence of any chronological or thematic order, and presence of repetition. [Samuel Pepys: "One feels it difficult to see how any mortal ever could consider this Koran as a Book written in Heaven, too good for the Earth; as a well-written book, or indeed as a book at all; and not a bewildered rhapsody; written, so far as writing goes, as badly as almost any book ever was!" http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/display.php?table=review&id=21] ["The final process of collection and codification of the Qur’an text was guided by one over-arching principle: God's words must not in any way be distorted or sullied by human intervention. For this reason, no serious attempt, apparently, was made to edit the numerous revelations, organize them into thematic units, or present them in chronological order.... This has given rise in the past to a great deal of criticism by European and American scholars of Islam, who find the Qur’an disorganized, repetitive, and very difficult to read." "Approaches to the Asian Classics," Irene Blomm, William Theodore De Bary, Columbia University Press,1990, p. 65]

Literary structure

The Qur’an's message is conveyed through the use of various literary structures and devices. In the original Arabic, the chapters and verses employ phonetic and thematic structures that assist the audience's efforts to recall the message of the text. There is consensus among Arab scholars to use the Qur’an as a standard by which other Arabic literature should be measured. Muslims assert (in accordance with the Qur’an itself) that the Qur’anic content and style is inimitable.Issa Boullata, "Literary Structure of Qur’an," "Encyclopedia of the Qur’an, vol.3 p.192, 204]

Richard Gottheil and Siegmund Fränkel in the "Jewish Encyclopedia" write that the oldest portions of the Qur’an reflect significant excitement in their language, through short and abrupt sentences and sudden transitions. The Qur’an nonetheless carefully maintains the rhymed form, like the oracles. Some later portions also preserve this form but also in a style where the movement is calm and the style expository. [ [http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=369&letter=K&search=Quran JewishEncyclopedia.com - KÖRNER, MOSES B. ELIEZER: ] ] Quote box2
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quote = "The values presented in the very early Meccan revelations are repeated throughout the hymnic Suras. There is a sense of directness, of intimacy, as if the hearer were being asked repeatedly a simple question: what will be of value at the end of a human life?"
source = - Sells

Michael Sells, citing the work of the critic Norman O. Brown, acknowledges Brown's observation that the seeming "disorganization" of Qur’anic literary expression — its "scattered or fragmented mode of composition," in Sells's phrase — is in fact a literary device capable of delivering "profound effects — as if the intensity of the prophetic message were shattering the vehicle of human language in which it was being communicated."Michael Sells, "Approaching the Qur’an" (White Cloud Press, 1999)] [Norman O. Brown, "The Apocalypse of Islam." "Social Text" 3:8 (1983-1984)] Sells also addresses the much-discussed "repetitiveness" of the Qur’an, seeing this, too, as a literary device.

Qur’an as a religious text

Muslims believe the Qur’an to be the book of divine guidance and direction for mankind and consider the text in its original Arabic to be the literal word of God, [Quran-usc|2|23|e=4|style=nosup] revealed to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel over a period of twenty-three years and view the Qur’an as God's final revelation to humanity. [Watton, Victor, (1993), "A student's approach to world religions:Islam", Hodder & Stoughton, pg 1. ISBN 0-340-58795-4]

The Christian concept of revelation which means God incarnating and unveiling himself and become visible and audible for mankind is foreign to Islam. Wahy in Islamic and Qur’anic concept means the act of God addressing an individual, conveying a message for a greater number of recipients. The process by which the divine message comes to the heart of a messenger of God is "tanzil" (to send down) or "nuzul" (to come down). As the Qur'an says, "With the truth we (God) have sent it down and with the truth it has come down." It designates positive religion, the letter of the revelation dictated by the angel to the prophet. It means to cause this revelation to descend from the higher world. According to hadith, the verses were sent down in special circumstances known as "asbab al-nuzul". However, in this view God himself is never the subject of coming down. [See:
*Corbin (1993), p.12
*Wild (1996), pp. 137, 138, 141 and 147

The Qur'an frequently asserts in its text that it is divinely ordained, an assertion that Muslims believe. The Qur'an — often referring to its own textual nature and reflecting constantly on its divine origin — is the most meta-textual, self-referential religious text amongst all religious texts. The Qur'an refers to a written pre-text which records God's speech even before it was sent down. [Wild (1996), pp. 140] [Quran-usc|43|3|style=nosup]

The issue of whether the Qur'an is eternal or created was one of the crucial controversies among early Muslim theologians. Mu'tazilis believe it is created while the most widespread varieties of Muslim theologians consider the Qur'an to be eternal and uncreated. Sufi philosophers view the question as artificial or wrongly framed. [Corbin (1993), p.10]

Muslims maintain the present wording of the Qur'anic text corresponds exactly to that revealed to Muhammad himself: as the words of God, said to be delivered to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel. Muslims consider the Qur'an to be a guide, a sign of the prophethood of Muhammad and the truth of the religion. They argue it is not possible for a human to produce a book like the Qur'an, as the Qur'an itself maintains.

Therefore an Islamic philosopher introduces a prophetology to explain how the divine word passes into human expression. This leads to a kind of esoteric hermeneutics which seeks to comprehend the position of the prophet by mediating on the modality of his relationship not with his own time, but with the eternal source from which his message emanates. This view contrasts with historical critique of western scholars who attempt to understand the prophet through his circumstances, education and type of genius. [Corbin (1993), pp .10 and 11]

History of Qur’an

The Prophet era

According to hadith and Muslim history, after Muhammad emigrated to Medina and formed an independent Muslim community, he ordered a considerable number of the companions ("sahaba") to recite the Qur’an and to learn and teach the laws which were being revealed daily. Companions who engaged in the recitation of the Qur’an were called "qurra'". Since most "sahaba" were unable to read or write, they were ordered to learn from the prisoners-of-war the simple writing of the time. Thus a group of "sahaba" gradually became literate. As it was initially spoken, the Qur’an was recorded on tablets, bones and the wide, flat ends of date palm fronds. Most chapters were in use amongst early Muslims since they are mentioned in numerous sayings by both Sunni and Shia sources, relating Muhammad's use of the Qur'an as a call to Islam, the making of prayer and the manner of recitation. However, the Qur’an did not exist in book form at the time of Muhammad's death in 632.*Tabatabaee, 1988, chapter 5] [See:
*William Montgomery Watt in "The Cambridge History of Islam", p.32
*Richard Bell, William Montgomery Watt, "Introduction to the Qur'an", p.51

Welch, a scholar of Islamic studies, states in the "Encyclopaedia of Islam" that he believes the graphic descriptions of Muhammad's condition at these moments may be regarded as genuine, seeing as he was severely disturbed after these revelations. According to Welch, these seizures would have been seen as convincing evidence for the superhuman origin of Muhammad's inspirations by the people around him. Muhammad's critics, however, accused him of being a possessed man, a soothsayer or a magician since his experiences were similar to those claimed by such figures well-known in ancient Arabia. Additionally, Welch states that it remains uncertain whether these experiences occurred before or after Muhammad began to see himself as a prophet. [Encyclopedia of Islam online, Muhammad article]

The Qur’an states that Muhammad was "ummi",Fact|date=March 2008 interpreted as illiterate in Muslim tradition. According to Watt, the meaning of the Qur’anic term "ummi" is unscriptured rather than illiterate. Watt argues that a certain amount of writing was necessary for Muhammad to perform his commercial duties though it seems certain that he had not read any scriptures.

Making Mus'haf

According to Shia and some Sunni scholars, Ali compiled a complete version of the Qur’an "mus'haf" immediately after death of Muhammad. The order of this "mus'haf" differed from that gathered later during Uthman's era. Despite this, Ali made no objection or resistance against standardized "mus'haf", but kept his own book. [See:
*Observations on Early Qur'an Manuscripts in San'a
*The Qur'an as Text", ed. Wild, Brill, 1996 ISBN 90-04-10344-9

After seventy reciters were killed in the Battle of Yamama, the caliph Abu Bakr decided to collect the different chapters and verses into one volume. Thus, a group of reciters, including Zayd ibn Thabit, collected the chapters and verses and produced several hand-written copies of the complete book. [Bukhari-usc|6|60|201|s=s|b=b]

In about 650, as Islam expanded beyond the Arabian peninsula into Persia, the Levant and North Africa, the third caliph Uthman ibn Affan ordered the preparation of an official, standardized version, in order to preserve the sanctity of the text (and perhaps to keep the Rashidun Empire united, see Uthman Qur'an). Five of the reciters from amongst the companions produced a unique text from the first volume which had been prepared on the orders of Abu Bakr and which was kept with Hafsa bint Umar. The other copies already in the hands of Muslims in other areas were collected and sent to Medina where, on orders of the Caliph, they were destroyed by burning or boiling. This remains the authoritative text of the Qur’an to this day. [Mohamad K. Yusuff, [http://www.irfi.org/articles/articles_251_300/zayd_ibn_thabit_and_the_glorious.htm Zayd ibn Thabit and the Glorious Qur’an] ] [The Koran; A Very Short Introduction, Michael Cook. Oxford University Press, P.117 - P.124]

The Qur’an in its present form is generally considered by academic scholars to record the words spoken by Muhammad because the search for variants in Western academia has not yielded any differences of great significance and because, historically, controversy over the content of the Qur’an has never become a main point. [*F. E. Peters (1991), pp.3–5: "Few have failed to be convinced that the Qur’an is the words of Muhammad, perhaps even dictated by him after their recitation."]

Literary usage

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, recitation and memorization. The thirty "ajza" can be used to read through the entire Qur’an in a week or a month. Some of these parts are known by names and these names are the first few words by which the " juz' " starts. A " juz' " is sometimes further divided into two "ahzab", and each "hizb" subdivided into four "rub 'al-ahzab". A different structure is provided by the "ruku'at", semantical units resembling paragraphs and comprising roughly ten "ayat" each. Some also divide the Qur’an into seven "manazil" to facilitate complete recitation in a week.


One meaning of "Qur’an" is "recitation", the Qur’an itself outlining the general method of how it is to be recited: slowly and in rhythmic tones. "Tajwid" is the term for techniques of recitation, and assessed in terms of how accessible the recitation is to those intent on concentrating on the words.Citation|last=Sonn | first=Tamara | contribution=Art and the Qur’an | year=2006 | title=The Qur’an: an encyclopedia | editor-last=Leaman | editor-first=Oliver | pages=71–81 | place=Great Britain | publisher=Routeledge|id= ]

To perform salat (prayer), a mandatory obligation in Islam, a Muslim is required to learn at least some "suar" of the Qur’an (typically starting with the first one, 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'", whereas a memoriser of the Qur’an is called a "hafiz" ("fem." "Hafaz") (which translate as "reciter" or "protector," respectively). Muhammad is regarded as the first "qari"' since he was the first to recite it. Recitation ("tilawa" تلاوة) of the Qur’an is a fine art in the Muslim world.

chools of recitation

There are several schools of Qur’anic recitation, all of which teach possible pronunciations of the Uthmanic "rasm": Seven reliable, three permissible and (at least) four uncanonical – in 8 sub-traditions each – making for 80 recitation variants altogether. [Navid Kermani, Das ästhetische Erleben des Koran. Munich (1999)] A canonical recitation must satisfy three conditions:

# It must match the rasm, letter for letter.
# It must conform with the syntactic rules of the Arabic language.
# 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.

These recitations differ in the vocalization ("tashkil") 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 "Qur’an") in one recitation, and prophet Abraham's name is pronounced Ibrāhām in another.Fact|date=May 2007 The more widely used narrations are those of Hafss (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 Muhammad 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 a great accomplishment amongst Muslims.Fact|date=May 2007

The presence of these different recitations is attributed to many hadith. Malik Ibn Anas has reported: [Malik Ibn Anas, Muwatta, vol. 1 (Egypt: Dar Ahya al-Turath, n.d.), 201, (no. 473).] :"Abd al-Rahman Ibn Abd al-Qari" narrated: "Umar Ibn Khattab said before me: I heard "Hisham Ibn Hakim Ibn Hizam" reading Surah Furqan in a different way from the one I used to read it, and the Prophet (sws) himself had read out this surah to me. Consequently, as soon as I heard him, I wanted to get hold of him. However, I gave him respite until he had finished the prayer. Then I got hold of his cloak and dragged him to the Prophet (sws). I said to him: "I have heard this person [Hisham Ibn Hakim Ibn Hizam] reading Surah Furqan in a different way from the one you had read it out to me." The Prophet (sws) said: "Leave him alone [O 'Umar] ." Then he said to Hisham: "Read [it] ." [Umar said:] "He read it out in the same way as he had done before me." [At this,] the Prophet (sws) said: "It was revealed thus." Then the Prophet (sws) asked me to read it out. So I read it out. [At this] , he said: "It was revealed thus; this Qur’an has been revealed in Seven "Ahruf". You can read it in any of them you find easy from among them.

Suyuti, a famous 15th century Islamic theologian, writes after interpreting above hadith in 40 different ways: [Suyuti, Tanwir al-Hawalik, 2nd ed. (Beirut: Dar al-Jayl, 1993), 199.]

Many reports contradict the presence of variant readings:Javed Ahmad Ghamidi. Mizan, " [http://renaissance.com.pk/JanQur2y7.htm Principles of Understanding the Qur’an] ", Al-Mawrid]
*"Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami" reports, "the reading of Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Zayd ibn Thabit and that of all the Muhajirun and the Ansar was the same. They would read the Qur’an according to the "Qira'at al-'ammah". This is the same reading which was read out twice by the Prophet (sws) to Gabriel in the year of his death. Zayd ibn Thabit was also present in this reading [called] the "'Ardah-i akhirah". It was this very reading that he taught the Qur’an to people till his death". [Zarkashi, al-Burhan fi Ulum al-Qur’an, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1980), 237.]
*Ibn Sirin writes, "the reading on which the Qur’an was read out to the prophet in the year of his death is the same according to which people are reading the Qur’an today". [Suyuti, al-Itqan fi Ulum al-Qur’an, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Baydar: Manshurat al-Radi, 1343 AH), 177.]

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi also purports that there is only one recitation of Qur’an, which is called "Qira'at of Hafss" or in classical scholarship, it is called "Qira'at al-'ammah". The Qur'an has also specified that it was revealed in the language of the prophet's tribe: the Quraysh.quran-usc|19|97quran-usc|44|58)

However, the identification of the recitation of Hafss as the "Qira'at al-'ammah" is somewhat problematic when that was the recitation of the people of Kufa in Iraq, and there is better reason to identify the recitation of the reciters of Madinah as the dominant recitation. The reciter of Madinah was Nafi' and Imam Malik remarked "The recitation of Nafi' is Sunnah." Moreover, the dialect of Arabic spoken by Quraysh and the Arabs of the Hijaz was known to have less use of the letter hamzah, as is the case in the recitation of Nafi', whereas in the Hafs recitation the hamzah is one of the very dominant features.Fact|date=May 2007

AZ [however] says that the people of El-Hijaz and Hudhayl, and the people of Makkah and Al-Madinah, to not pronounce hamzah [at all] : and 'Isa Ibn-'Omar says, Tamim pronounce hamzah, and the people of Al-Hijaz, in cases of necessity, [in poetry,] do so. [E. W. Lane, "Arabic-English Lexicon"]

So the hamzah is of the dialect of the Najd whose people came to comprise the dominant Arabic element in Kufa giving some features of their dialect to their recitation, whereas the recitation of Nafi' and the people of Madinah maintained some features of the dialect of Hijaz and the Quraysh.Fact|date=May 2007

However, the discussion of the priority of one or the other recitation is unnecessary since it is a consensus of knowledgable people that all of the seven recitations of the Qur’an are acceptable and valid for recitation in the prayer.Fact|date=May 2007

Moreover, the so-called "un-canonical" recitations such as are narrated from some of the Companions and which do not conform to the Uthmani copy of the Qur’an are not legitimate for recitation in the prayer, but knowledge of them can legitimately be used in the tafsir of the Qur’an, not as a proof but as a valid argument for an explanation of an ayah.Fact|date=May 2007

Writing and printing

Most Muslims today use printed editions of the Qur’an. There are many editions, large and small, elaborate or plain, expensive or inexpensive. 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. Most are of a reasonable book size, but there exist extremely large Qur’ans (usually for display purposes)Fact|date=December 2007 and very small Qur’ans (sometimes given as gifts).Fact|date=December 2007

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 AD. 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.Facts|date=December 2007

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). [cite web|last=The Qur’an in Manuscript and Print|url=http://www.islamworld.net/UUQ/3.txt|title=THE QUR’ANIC SCRIPT|accessdate=2007-06-05]

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 [cite web|last=Article by A. Yusuf Ali|url=http://www.sacred-texts.com/isl/quran/index.htm|title=The Holy Qur’an|accessdate=2007-06-05] and in a temporary Unicode version. [cite web|last=Unicode Qur’an|url=http://www.sacred-texts.com/isl/uq/|title=Sacred-texts|accessdate=2007-06-05] Various designers and software firms have attempted to develop computer fonts that can adequately render the Qur’an. [cite web|last=Mishafi Font|url=http://www.diwan.com/mishafi/main.htm|title=Award-winning calligraphic typeface|accessdate=2007-06-05]

Before printing was widely adopted, the Qur’an was transmitted by copyists and calligraphers.Verify source|date=December 2007 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.


Translation of the Qur’an has always been a problematic and difficult issue. Since Muslims revere the Qur’an as miraculous and inimitable ("i'jaz al-Qur’an"),Fact|date=December 2007 they argue that the Qur’anic text can not be reproduced in another language or form. Furthermore, an Arabic word may have a range of meanings depending on the context, making an accurate translation even more difficult.Citation|last=Fatani | first=Afnan | contribution=Translation and the Qur’an | year=2006 | title=The Qur’an: an encyclopedia | editor-last=Leaman | editor-first=Oliver | pages=657–669 | place=Great Britain | publisher=Routeledge|id= ]

Nevertheless, the Qur’an has been translated into most African, Asian and European languages. The first translator of the Qur’an was Salman the Persian, who translated Fatihah into Persian during the 7th century. [An-Nawawi, Al-Majmu', (Cairo, Matbacat at-'Tadamun n.d.), 380.] The first complete translation of Quran was into Persian during the reign of Samanids in the 9th century. Islamic tradition holds that translations were made for Emperor Negus of Abyssinia and Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, as both received letters by Muhammad containing verses from the Qur’an. In early centuries, the permissibility of translations was not an issue, but whether one could use translations in prayer.

In 1936, translations in 102 languages were known.

Robert of Ketton was the first person to translate the Qur’an into a Western language, Latin, in 1143. [cite book |coauthors= Bloom, Jonathan and Blair, Sheila | year=2002 | title=Islam: A Thousand Years of Faith and Power | publisher=Yale University Press | location=New Haven | pages=p. 42]
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 translations by Muslims; the most popular of these are by Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan and Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din al Hilali, Maulana Muhammad Ali, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, M. H. Shakir, Muhammad Asad and Marmaduke Pickthall.Fact|date=April 2007

The English translators have sometimes favored archaic English words and constructions over their more modern or conventional equivalents; 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.Fact|date=April 2007

Levels of Meaning / Inward Aspects of the Qur’an

Shias and Sufis as well as some Muslim philosophers believe the meaning of the Qur’an is not restricted to the literal aspect. [Corbin (1993), p.7] For them, it is an essential idea that the Qur’an also has inward aspects. Henry Corbin narrates a hadith that goes back to Muhammad:

"The Qur'an possessesan external appearance and a hidden depth, an exoteric meaning andan esoteric meaning. This esoteric meaning in turn conceals an esotericmeaning (this depth possesses a depth, after the image of the celestialSpheres which are enclosed within each other). So it goes on for sevenesoteric meanings (seven depths of hidden depth)." [Corbin (1993), p.7]

According to this view, it has also become evident that the inner meaning of the Qur’an does not eradicate or invalidate its outward meaning. Rather, it is like the soul, which gives life to the body. [ [http://www.almizan.org/new/special/Aspects.asp Tabatabaee, Tafsir Al-Mizan] ]

On the base of this viewpoint, Henry Corbin considers the Qur’an to have a part to play in Islamic philosophy, because gnosiology itself goes hand in hand with prophetology. [Corbin (1993), p.13] However, it is clear that those who don't believe in the divine origin of the Qur’an or any kind of sacred or spiritual existence completely oppose any inward aspect of the Qur’an.

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. Esoteric commentators believe that the ultimate meaning of the Qur’an is known only to God.

In contrast, Qur'anic literalism, which is followed by Salafis and Zahiris, is the belief that the Qur'an should be taken at its apparent meaning, rather than employing any sort of interpretation. This includes, for example, the belief that Allah has appendages such as hands as stated in the Qur’an; this is generally explained by the concept of "bi-la kaifa", the claim that the literal meanings should be accepted without asking how or why.


The Qur'an has sparked a huge body of commentary and explication, known as "tafsir". This commentary is aimed at explaining the "meanings of the Qur’anic verses, clarifying their import and finding out their significance." [ [http://www.almizan.org/new/introduction.asp?TitleText=Introduction Preface of Al'-Mizan] , reference is to Allameh Tabatabaei] and best tafseer is done by Allah himself. [Quran-usc|25|33|style=nosup]

Tafsir is one of the earliest academic activities of Muslims. According to the Qur’an, Muhammad was the first person who described the meanings of verses for early Muslims. [Quran-usc|2|151|style=nosup] Other early exegetes included a few Companions of Muhammad, like Ali ibn Abi Talib, 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, then sometimes a few traditions (hadith) of Muhammad were narrated to make its meaning clear. [ [http://www.almizan.org/new/introduction.asp?TitleText=Introduction Tafseer Al-Mizan ] ]

Because the Qur’an is spoken in classical Arabic, many of the later converts to Islam (mostly non-Arabs) did not always understand the Qur’anic Arabic, they did not catch allusions that were clear to early Muslims fluent in Arabic and they were concerned with reconciling apparent conflict of themes in the Qur’an. Commentators erudite in Arabic explained the allusions, and perhaps most importantly, explained which Qur’anic 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 ("mansukh"). [ [http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=7&ID=2656&CATE=1 How can there be abrogation in the Quran? ] ] [ [http://www.mostmerciful.com/abrogation-and-substitution.htm Are the verses of the Qur'an Abrogated and/or Subtituted? ] ] [ [http://www.islamreview.com/articles/quransdoctrine.shtml Islam Review - Presented by The Pen vs. the Sword Featured Articles . . . Islam: the Facade, the Facts The rosy picture some Muslims are painting about their religion, and the truth they try to hide ] ] 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.Fact|date=April 2007


Ja'far Kashfi defines "ta'wil" as 'to lead back or to bring something back to its origin or archetype'. It is a science whose pivot is a spiritual direction and a divine inspiration, while the "tafsir" is the literal exegesis of the letter; its pivot is the canonical Islamic sciences. [Corbin (1993), p.9] Allameh Tabataba'I says that according to the popular explanation among the later exegetes, "ta'wil" indicates the particular meaning towards which a verse is directed. The meaning of revelation ("tanzil"), as opposed to "ta'wil", is clear in its accordance to the obvious meaning of the words as they were revealed. But this explanation has become so widespread that, at present, it has become the primary meaning of "ta'wil", which originally meant "to return" or "the returning place". In Tabataba'I's view, what has been rightly called "ta'wil", or hermeneutic interpretation of the Qur’an, is not concerned simply with the denotation of words. Rather, it is concerned with certain truths and realities that transcend the comprehension of the common run of men; yet it is from these truths and realities that the principles of doctrine and the practical injunctions of the Qur’an issue forth. Interpretation is not the meaning of the verse; rather it transpires through that meaning - a special sort of transpiration. There is a spiritual reality which is the main objective of ordaining a law, or the basic aim of describing a divine attribute; there is an actual significance to which a Qur’anic story refers. [http://almizan.org/new/special/principles.asp Tabataba'I, Tafsir Al-Mizan, The Principles of Interpretation of the Qur’an] ] [http://almizan.org/Discourses/QD21.asp Tabataba'I, Tafsir Al-Mizan, Topic: Decisive and Ambiguous verses and "ta'wil"] ]

However Shia and Sufism (on the one hand) and Sunni (on the other) have completely different positions on the legitimacy of "ta'wil". A verse in the Qur’an [Quran-usc|3|7|style=nosup] addresses this issue, but Shia and Sunni disagree on how it should be read. According to Shia, those who are firmly rooted in knowledge like the Prophet and the imams know the secrets of the Qur’an, while Sunnis believe that only God knows. According to Allameh Tabataba'I, the statement "none knows its interpretation except Allah" remains valid, without any opposing or qualifying clause. Therefore, so far as this verse is concerned, the knowledge of the Qur’an's interpretation is reserved for Allah. But Tabataba'I uses other verses and concludes that those who are purified by God know the interpretation of the Qur’an to a certain extent.

The most ancient spiritual commentary on the Qur'an consists of the teachings which the Shia Imams propounded in the course of their conversations with their disciples.It was the principles of their spiritual hermeneutics that were subsequently brought together by the Sufis. These texts are narrated by Imam Ali and Ja'far al-Sadiq, Shia and Sunni Sufis. [Corbin (1993), pp.7 and 8]

As Corbin narrates from Shia sources, Ali himself gives this testimony:

Not a single verse of the Qur’an descended upon (was revealed to) the Messenger of God which he did not proceed to dictate to me and make me recite. I would write it with my own hand, and he would instruct me as to its "tafsir" (the literal explanation) and the "ta'wil" (the spiritual exegesis), the "nasikh" (the verse which abrogates) and the "mansukh" (the abrogated verse), the "muhkam" (without ambiguity) and the "mutashabih" (ambiguous), the particular and the general... [Corbin (1993), p.46
* ما نَزلت على رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم آية من القرآن إلاّ أقرأنيها وأملاها عليَّ فكتبتها بخطي ، وعلمني تأويلها وتفسيرها، وناسخها ومنسوخها ، ومحكمها ومتشابهها ، وخاصّها وعامّها ، ودعا الله لي أن يعطيني فهمها وحفظها فما نسيتُ آية من كتاب الله تعالى ولا علماً أملاه عليَّ وكتبته منذ دعا الله لي بما دعا ، وما ترك رسول الله علماً علّمه الله من حلال ولا حرام ، ولا أمرٍ ولا نهي كان أو يكون.. إلاّ علّمنيه وحفظته، ولم أنسَ حرفاً واحداً منه

According to Allameh Tabataba'I, there are acceptable and unacceptable esoteric interpretations. Acceptable "ta'wil" refers to the meaning of a verse beyond its literal meaning; rather the implicit meaning, which ultimately is known only to God and can't be comprehended directly through human thought alone. The verses in question here are those which refer to the human qualities of coming, going, sitting, satisfaction, anger, and sorrow, which are apparently attributed to God. Unacceptable "ta'wil" is where one "transfers" the apparent meaning of a verse to a different meaning by means of a proof; this method is not without obvious inconsistencies. Although this unacceptable "ta'wil" has gained considerable acceptance, it is incorrect and cannot be applied to the Qur’anic verses. The correct interpretation is that reality to which a verse refers. It is found in all verses, the decisive and the ambiguous alike; it is not a sort of a meaning of the word; it is a real fact that is too sublime for words. Allah has dressed them with words so as to bring them a bit nearer to our minds; in this respect they are like proverbs that are used to create a picture in the mind, and thus help the hearer to clearly grasp the intended idea. [http://www.maaref-foundation.com/english/beliefs/quran/05.htm Tabatabaee (1988), pp. 37-45] ]

Therefore Sufi spiritual interpretations are usually accepted by Islamic scholars as authentic interpretations, as long as certain conditions are met. [ [http://www.arches.uga.edu/~godlas/suftaf/suftaftawil.html Sufi Tafsir and Isma'ili Ta'wil] ] In Sufi history, these interpretations were sometimes considered religious innovations ("bid'ah"), as Salafis believe today. However, "ta'wil" is extremely controversial even amongst Shia. For example, when Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini, the leader of Islamic revolution, gave some lectures about Surat al-Fatiha in December 1979 and January 1980, protests forced him to suspend them before he could proceed beyond the first two verses of the surah. [ [http://www.al-islam.org/al-tawhid/fusion.htm Algar, Hamid (June 2003), The Fusion of the Gnostic and the Political in the Personality and Life of Imam Khomeini (R.A.)] ]

Relationship with other literature

The Torah and the Bible

The Qur'an 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 God. [Quran-usc|2|285|style=nosup]

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, Ezra, 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 their common divine source, and that the original Christian or Jewish texts were authentic divine revelations given to prophets.

Muslims believe that those texts were neglected, corrupted ("tahrif") or altered in time by the Jews and Christians and have been replaced by God's final and perfect revelation, which is the Qur'an. [Bernard Lewis, "The Jews of Islam" (1984). Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-00807-8. p.69] However, many Jews and ChristiansWho|date=March 2008 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, [The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: The Oldest Known Bible Translated for the First Time into English (2002) HarperSanFrancisco. ISBN 0-06-060064-0] validating the authenticity of the Greek Septuagint. [ [http://www.septuagint.net Septuagint ] ]

Influence of Christian apocrypha‎

The Diatessaron, Protoevangelium of James, Infancy Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew and the Arabic Infancy Gospel are all alleged to have been sources that the author/authors drew on when creating the Qur'an. [New Catholic Encyclopaedia, 1967, The Catholic University of America, Washington D C, Vol. VII, p.677] The Diatessaron especially may have led to the misconception in the Qur'an that the Christian Gospel is one text. [On pre-Islamic Christian strophic poetical texts in the Koran, Ibn Rawandi, ISBN 1-57392-945-X] However this is strongly rejected by Muslim scholars, who maintain that the Qur’an is the divine word of God without any interpolation, and the similarities exist only due to the one source.Fact|date=September 2008

Arab writing

After the Qur’an, and the general rise of Islam, the Arabic alphabet developed rapidly into a beautiful and complex form of art.Citation|last=Leaman | first=Oliver | contribution=Cyberspace and the Qur’an | year=2006 | title=The Qur’an: an encyclopedia | editor-last=Leaman | editor-first=Oliver | pages=130–135 | place=Great Britain | publisher=Routeledge|id= ]

Wadad Kadi, Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at University of Chicago and Mustansir Mir, Professor of Islamic studies at Youngstown State University state that: [ Wadad Kadi and Mustansir Mir, "Literature and the Qur’an", Encyclopaedia of the Qur'an, vol. 3, pp. 213, 216 ]

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 formulaic 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...

Qur'an miracles

Islamic scholars believe that the Qur’an is miraculous by its very nature in being a revealed text and that similar texts cannot be written by human endeavor. Its miraculous nature is claimed to be evidenced by its literary style, suggested similarities between Qur’anic verses and scientific facts discovered much later, and various prophecies.The Qur’an itself challenges those who deny its claimed divine origin to produce a text like it.quran-usc|17|88quran-usc|2|23quran-usc|10|38. [Encyclopaedia of the Qur'an - Miracles] [Ahmad Dallal, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an, "Qur'an and science"] [Encyclopaedia of the Qur'an - Byzantines] These claims originate directly from Islamic belief in its revealed nature, and are widely disputed by non-muslim scholars of Islamic history. [cite book | last = Harris | first = Sam | title = The End of Faith | publisher = The Free Press | date = 2005 | isbn = 978-0-7432-6809-7]

Qur'anic Initials

14 different Arabic letters form 14 different sets of “Qur’anic Initials” (the "Muqatta'at", such as A.L.M. of 2:1) and prefix 29 suras in the Qur’an. The meaning and interpretation of these initials is considered unknown to most Muslims. In 1974, Egyptian biochemist Rashad Khalifa claimed to have discovered a mathematical code based on the number 19 [Rashad Khalifa, "Qur’an: Visual Presentation of the Miracle", Islamic Productions International, 1982. ISBN 0-934894-30-2] , which is mentioned in Sura 74:30 [Quran-usc|74|30|style=nosup Prophecies Made in the Qur’an that Have Already Come True] ] of the Qur’an.

In culture

Most Muslims treat paper copies of the Qur’an with veneration, ritually washing before reading the Qur’an. [Mahfouz (2006), p.35] Worn out, torn, or errant (for example, pages out of order) Qur’ans are not discarded as wastepaper, but rather are left free to flow in a river, kept somewhere safe, burnt, or buried in a remote location. Many Muslims memorize at least some portion of the Qur’an in the original Arabic, usually at least the verses needed to perform the prayers. Those who have memorized the entire Qur’an earn the right to the title of "Hafiz". [Kugle (2006), p.47; Esposito (2000a), p.275]

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 "mus'haf". This view has been contended by other scholars on the fact that, according to Arabic linguistic rules, this verse alludes to a fact and does not comprise an order. The literal translation thus reads as "That (this) is indeed a noble Qur'ān, 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.

See also

* Ayat
* Esoteric interpretation of the Qur'an
* Hafiz
* Legends and the Qur'an
* Online Quran Project (OQP)
* Origin and development of the Qur'an
* Persons related to Qur'anic verses
* Qur'an alone
* Qur'an and Sunnah
* Qur'an and miracles
* Qur'anic literalism
* Qur'an reading
* Sana'a Qur'an find
* Sura
* Tafsir
* Women in Qur'an
* There are also articles on each of the suras, or chapters, of the Qur'an. Click on a chapter number to view the article.



*cite book | last=Allen | first=Roger | title=An Introduction to Arabic literature | year=2000 | publisher=Cambridge University Press | id=ISBN 0521776570
*cite book|last = Corbin|first = Henry|authorlink = Henry Corbin|coauthors = |title = History of Islamic Philosophy, Translated by Liadain Sherrard, Philip Sherrard|publisher = London; Kegan Paul International in association with Islamic Publications for The Institute of Ismaili Studies |year = 1993 (original French 1964)|isbn = 0710304161
*cite book | last=Esposito | first=John | authorlink=John Esposito | coauthors=Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad | title=Muslims on the Americanization Path? | year=2000 | publisher=Oxford University Press | id=ISBN 0-19-513526-1
*cite book | last=Esposito | first=John | authorlink= | year=2002 | title=What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam | publisher=Oxford University Press | id=ISBN 0-19-515713-3
*cite book | last=Kugle | first=Scott Alan | title=Rebel Between Spirit And Law: Ahmad Zarruq, Sainthood, And Authority in Islam | publisher=Indiana University Press| year=2006 | id=ISBN 0253347114
*cite book | last=Mahfouz | first=Tarek | title=Speak Arabic Instantly | publisher= Lulu Press, Inc. | year=2006 | id=ISBN 1847289002
*cite book | last=Molloy | first=Michael | title=Experiencing the World's Religions | publisher=McGraw-Hill | edition=4th | year=2006 | id=ISBN 978-0073535647
*cite book |last=Nasr |first=Seyyed Hossein | authorlink=Seyyed Hossein Nasr | title=The Need for a Sacred Science | publisher=SUNY Press | edition= | year=1993a | id=ISBN 0791415171
*cite book |last=Nasr |first=Seyyed Hossein | authorlink= | title=An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines: Conceptions of Nature | publisher=SUNY Press | edition= | year=1993b | id=ISBN 0791415155
*cite book |last=Nasr |first=Seyyed Hossein | authorlink= | title=Islam: Religion, History, and Civilization | publisher=HarperSanFrancisco | edition= | year=2003 | id=ISBN 0060507144
*cite encyclopedia|last=Nasr |first=Seyyed Hossein | authorlink= | title=Qur’an|year=2007| encyclopedia=Encyclopedia Britannica Online | location=|publisher=|url=http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-68890/Quran
*cite book |last=Peters |first=Francis E. | authorlink= | title=The Monotheists: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Conflict and Competition | publisher=Princeton University Press | edition= | year=2003 | id=ISBN 069112373X

Further reading

;Older commentary
* al-Tabari, Muhammad ibn Jarir -- "Jami' al-bayān `an ta'wil al-Qur'ān", Cairo 1955-69, transl. J. Cooper (ed.), "The Commentary on the Qur’an", Oxford University Press, 1987. ISBN 0-19-920142-0
* Tafsir Ibn-Kathir, Hafiz Imad al-din Abu al-Fida Ismail ibn Kathir al-Damishqi al-Shafi'i - (died 774 Hijrah (Islamic Calendar))
* Tafsir Al-Qurtubi (Al-Jami'li-Ahkam), Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ahmad Abi Bakr ibn Farah al-Qurtubi - (died 671 Hijrah (Islamic Calendar))

;Older scholarship
* Nöldeke, Theodor -- "Geschichte des Qorâns", Göttingen, 1860.

;Recent scholarship
* Al-Azami, M. M. -- "The History of the Qur’anic Text from Revelation to Compilation", UK Islamic Academy: Leicester 2003.
* Gunter Luling A challenge to Islam for reformation: the rediscovery and reliable reconstruction of a comprehensive pre-Islamic Christian hymnal hidden in the Koran under earliest Islamic reinterpretations. New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers 2003. (580 Seiten, lieferbar per Seepost). ISBN 81-2081952-7
* Luxenberg, Christoph (2004) -- "", Berlin, Verlag Hans Schiler, 1 May 2007 ISBN 3-89930-088-2
* McAuliffe, Jane Dammen -- "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
*Louay M. Safi -- [http://qthemes.wordpress.com/ Quranic Themes]
* 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

External links

* [http://deenbase.net/index.php?quran Qur'an audio (recordings of many Qur'an recitals - online easy flash stream, >> just press play button next to file/surah <<) + Audio trenslations of Qur'an in 12 different languages]
* [http://quran-online.net Online Quran Project (OQP) - An online, multilingual searchable Qur’an text with worldwide translations (70+ translation in over 20 languages)]
* [http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/ Three translations of the Quran from the University of Southern California]
* [http://www.searchquran.org searchquran.org] - very quick Qur'an search engine with over 10 translations.
* [http://www.usna.edu/Users/humss/bwheeler/quran/quran_index.html Quran Manuscripts]
* [http://calligraphyislamic.com/ Calligraphy Islamic]

;Encyclopedic articles
* [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9105854 Qur'an] an article by Seyyed Hossein Nasr on Encyclopedia Britannica Online

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