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What is the Qur'an?

Overview and Significance of Islam's Holy Book and Sacred Text

© Christine Benlafquih


Nov 25, 2008


 The Qur'an is Islam's Holy Book and scripture. Muslims believe that this sacred text is the Word of God, as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel.


The Holy Qur’an follows God’s earlier revealed scriptures of the Torah, the Psalms, and the Gospel. These holy books are mentioned in the Qur’an, including:


"And in their (the earlier prophets’) footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Torah that had come before him, and We gave him the Gospel, in which there was guidance and light and confirmation of the Torah that had come before it, a guidance and an admonition for those who fear God." (Quran 5:46)


History of the Qur'an

The Holy Qur'an contains God's message to mankind, as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad through the angel Gabriel (Jibreel) more than 1400 years ago. The revelations continued over a period of about 23 years.


Initially, the revelations were not compiled into a single manuscript. As Muhammad received the revelations, the verses were both memorized by early Muslims and recorded by scribes. After the final revelation, the Angel Gabriel guided Muhammad in ordering the verses and chapters (surahs), and the Qur’an was then memorized in that order.


The first complete written copy of the Qur’an was compiled soon after Muhammad’s death by the first caliph, Abu Bakr, who recognized the importance of recording and preserving the Qur’an in writing for future generations.


Themes and Messages of the Qur’an

The main purpose of the Qur’an is to provide guidance to mankind, who continues to go astray despite earlier revelations and prophets. Although many lessons and messages are repeated throughout the Qur’an, the following themes are most prevalent:


Oneness and Sovereignty (Tawheed) of God (Allah)

Submission to God through Islam

Accounts of other prophets and previous nations

Social and religious codes of behavior

The miraculous creation as evidence of God’s existence

The purpose of man’s earthly life and the existence of an afterlife

Miracles and Preservation of the Qur’an

The Qur’an is regarded as miraculous due to the accuracy of scientific information presented 1400 years ago and only recently proven or discovered, as well as for its unprecedented and unsurpassed Arabic poetic literary style.


But the Qur’an’s greatest miracle is that not a single letter of its text has changed since it was revealed to Muhammad. Over the centuries, Muslims have meticulously preserved the Qur’an in writing without additions, deletions or alterations. This fulfills a promise made by God:


“Behold, it is We Who have bestowed from on high, step by step, this reminder: and, behold, it is We Who shall truly guard it [from all corruption].” (Qur’an 15:9).


In addition to the uncorrupted written text, the 1400 year-old oral tradition of memorizing the entire Qur’an in Arabic continues to this day. Muslims worldwide who study Qur’an recite the same exact verses in the same exact order as the early Muslims who lived in the Prophetic era.


Translations of the Qur’an

Although the written text of the Qur’an has been translated to many different languages, the original Arabic verses usually appear side-by-side with their translations. This helps ensure that although different translations of the Holy Qur’an may be available in a single language, the original unaltered Arabic text is preserved for accuracy and clarification of meaning.


Respectful Handling of the Qur’an

Because the Qur'an contains the Word of God, Muslims handle copies of the Qur'an with great care and respect. The book is not set directly on the floor or in a dirty place such as a bathroom, and no other objects should be placed or stacked upon it. Most Muslims also believe that they should be in a ritual state of purity when handling the Qur'an; ritual purity is a simple washing and ablution typically made before Muslims observe their formal prayers.


Sources and Additional Reading


"The Message of Qur'an" by Athar Husain


"Preservation of the Qur'an" by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan




The copyright of the article What is the Qur'an? in Quran & Hadith Studies is owned by Christine Benlafquih. Permission to republish What is the Qur'an? in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.

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