The Quran (al-Quran) literally meaning "the recitation is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims believe to be a revelation from Allah the one true God. It is widely regarded as the finest work in classical Arabic literature. The Quran is divided into chapters (Surah), which are subdivided into verses (ayah).
Muslims believe that the Quran was orally revealed by Allah to the final Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, through the archangel Gabriel (Jibril عليه السلام), incrementally over a period of some 23 years, beginning on 22 December 609 CE, when Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was 40, and concluding in 632, the year of his death. Muslims regard the Quran as Prophet Muhammad's ﷺ most important miracle, a proof of his Prophethood and the culmination of a series of divine messages starting with those revealed to Adam عليه السلام and ending with Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. The word "Quran" occurs some 70 times in the Quran's text, and other names and words are also said to refer to the Quran.
According to tradition, several of Prophet Muhammad's ﷺ companions served as scribes and recorded the revelations. Shortly after his death, the Quran was compiled by the companions, who had written down or memorized parts of it. The codices showed differences that motivated Caliph Hazrat Uthman رضي الله عنه to establish a standard version, now known as Hazrat Uthman’s رضي الله عنه codex, which is generally considered the archetype of the Quran known today. There are, however, variant readings, with mostly minor differences in meaning.
The Quran assumes familiarity with major narratives recounted in the Biblical scriptures. It summarizes some, dwells at length on others and, in some cases, presents alternative accounts and interpretations of events. The Quran describes itself as a book of guidance for mankind 2:185. It sometimes offers detailed accounts of specific historical events, and it often emphasizes the moral significance of an event over its narrative sequence. Hadith are additional oral and written traditions supplementing the Quran; from careful authentication they are believed to describe words and actions of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, and in some traditions also those closest to him. In most denominations of Islam, the Quran is used together with hadith to interpret sharia (Islamic Law) in a small number of denominations, only the Quran is used as a source, an approach called Quranism. During prayers, the Quran is recited only in Arabic.
Someone who has memorized the entire Quran is called a hafiz. Quranic verse (ayah) is sometimes recited with a special kind of elocution reserved for this purpose, called Tajwid. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims typically complete the recitation of the whole Quran during Tarawih prayers. In order to extrapolate the meaning of a particular Quranic verse, most Muslims rely on exegesis, or Tafsir.
Etymology and meaning:
The word Quran appears about 70 times in the Quran itself, assuming various meanings. It is a verbal noun (maṣdar) of the Arabic verb qaraʼa, meaning "he read" or "he recited". While some Western scholars consider the word to be derived from the Syriac, the majority of Muslim authorities hold the origin of the word is qaraʼa itself. Regardless, it had become an Arabic term by Prophet Muhammad's ﷺ lifetime. An important meaning of the word is the "act of reciting", as reflected in an early Quranic passage: "It is for Us to collect it and to recite it (qurʼānahu)."
In other verses, the word refers to "an individual passage recited [by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ]". Its liturgical context is seen in a number of passages, for example: "So when al-Quran is recited, listen to it and keep silent." The word may also assume the meaning of a codified scripture when mentioned with other scriptures such as the Torah and Gospel.
The term also has closely related synonyms that are employed throughout the Quran. Each synonym possesses its own distinct meaning, but its use may converge with that of Qurān in certain contexts. Such terms include kitāb (book); āyah (sign); and sūrah (scripture). The latter two terms also denote units of revelation. In the large majority of contexts, usually with a definite article (al-), the word is referred to as the "revelation" (waḥy), that which has been "sent down" (tanzīl) at intervals. Other related words are: dhikr (remembrance), used to refer to the Quran in the sense of a reminder and warning, and ḥikmah (wisdom), sometimes referring to the revelation or part of it.
The Quran describes itself as "the discernment" (al-furqān), "the mother book" (umm al-kitāb), "the guide" (huda), "the wisdom" (hikmah), "the remembrance" (dhikr) and "the revelation" (tanzīl; something sent down, signifying the descent of an object from a higher place to lower place). Another term is al-kitāb (The Book), though it is also used in the Arabic language for other scriptures, such as the Torah and the Gospels. The term mus'haf ('written work') is often used to refer to particular Quranic manuscripts but is also used in the Quran to identify earlier revealed books.
Islamic tradition relates that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ received his first revelation in the Cave of Hira during one of his isolated retreats to the mountains. Thereafter, he received revelations over a period of 23 years. According to hadith and Muslim history, after Prophet Muhammad ﷺ immigrated to Madinah and formed an independent Muslim community, he ordered many of his companions to recite the Quran and to learn and teach the laws, which were revealed daily. It is related that some of the Quraysh who were taken prisoners at the Battle of Badr regained their freedom after they had taught some of the Muslims the simple writing of the time. Thus a group of Muslims gradually became literate. As it was initially spoken, the Quran was recorded on tablets, bones, and the wide, flat ends of date palm fronds (find eg). Most Suras were in use amongst early Muslims since they are mentioned in numerous sayings by both Sunni and Shia sources, relating Prophet Muhammad's ﷺ use of the Quran as a call to Islam, the making of prayer and the manner of recitation. However, the Quran did not exist in book form at the time of Prophet Muhammad's ﷺ death in 632. There is agreement among scholars that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ himself did not write down the revelation.
Sahih al-Bukhari narrates Prophet Muhammad ﷺ describing the revelations as, "Sometimes it is (revealed) like the ringing of a bell" and Hazrat Aisha رضی اللہ عنہ reported, "I saw the Prophet ﷺ being inspired divinely on a very cold day and noticed the sweat dropping from his forehead (as the Inspiration was over)." Prophet Muhammad's ﷺ first revelation, according to the Quran, was accompanied with a vision. The agent of revelation is mentioned as the "one mighty in power", the one who "grew clear to view when he was on the uppermost horizon. Then he drew nigh and came down till he was (distant) two bows' length or even nearer." The Islamic studies scholar Welch states in the Encyclopaedia of Islam that he believes the graphic descriptions of
The Quran describes Prophet Muhammad ﷺ as "ummi", which is traditionally interpreted as "illiterate," but the meaning is rather more complex. Medieval commentators such as Al-Tabari maintained that the term induced two meanings: first, the inability to read or write in general; second, the inexperience or ignorance of the previous books or scriptures (but they gave priority to the first meaning). Prophet Muhammad's ﷺ illiteracy was taken as a sign of the genuineness of his prophethood. For example, according to Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, if Prophet Muhammad ﷺ had mastered writing and reading he possibly would have been suspected of having studied the books of the ancestors. Some scholars such as Watt prefer the second meaning of "ummi"—they take it to indicate unfamiliarity with earlier sacred texts.
The final verse of the Quran was revealed on the 18th of the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah in the year 10 A.H., a date that roughly corresponds to February or March 632. The verse was revealed after the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ finished delivering his sermon at Ghadir Khumm.
Following Prophet Muhammad's ﷺ death in 632, a number of his companions who knew the Quran by heart were killed in the Battle of Yamama by Musaylimah. The first caliph, Hazrat Abu Bakr رضي الله عنه (d. 634), subsequently decided to collect the book in one volume so that it could be preserved. Hazrat Zayd ibn Thabit رضي الله عنه (d. 655) was the person to collect the Quran since "he used to write the Divine Inspiration for Allah's Apostle". Thus, a group of scribes, most importantly Hazrat Zayd رضي الله عنه, collected the verses and produced a hand-written manuscript of the complete book. The manuscript according to Hazrat Zayd رضي الله عنه remained with Hazrat Abu Bakr رضي الله عنه until he died. Zayd's رضي الله عنه reaction to the task and the difficulties in collecting the Quranic material from parchments, palm-leaf stalks, thin stones (collectively known as suhuf) and from men who knew it by heart is recorded in earlier narratives. After Hazrat Abu Bakr رضي الله عنه, Hazrat Hafsa bint Umar رضی اللہ عنہ, Prophet Muhammad's ﷺ widow, was entrusted with the manuscript. In about 650, the third Caliph Hazrat Uthman ibn Affan رضي الله عنه (d. 656) began noticing slight differences in pronunciation of the Quran as Islam expanded beyond the Arabian Peninsula into Persia, the Levant, and North Africa. In order to preserve the sanctity of the text, he ordered a committee headed by Hazrat Zayd رضي الله عنه to use Hazrat Abu Bakr's رضي الله عنه copy and prepare a standard copy of the Quran. Thus, within 20 years of Prophet Muhammad's ﷺ death, the Quran was committed to written form. That text became the model from which copies were made and promulgated throughout the urban centers of the Muslim world, and other versions are believed to have been destroyed. The present form of the Quran text is accepted by Muslim scholars to be the original version compiled by Hazrat Abu Bakr رضي الله عنه.
According to Shia, Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talib رضي الله عنه (d. 661) compiled a complete version of the Quran shortly after Prophet Muhammad's ﷺ death. The order of this text differed from that gathered later during Hazrat Uthman's رضي الله عنه era in that this version had been collected in chronological order. Despite this, he made no objection against the standardized Quran and accepted the Quran in circulation. Other personal copies of the Quran might have existed including Hazrat Ibn Mas'ud's رضي الله عنه and Hazrat Ubay ibn Ka'b's رضي الله عنه codex, none of which exist today.
The Quran most likely existed in scattered written form during Prophet Muhammad's ﷺ lifetime. Several sources indicate that during Prophet Muhammad's ﷺ lifetime a large number of his companions had memorized the revelations. Early commentaries and Islamic historical sources support the above-mentioned understanding of the Quran's early development. The Quran in its present form is generally considered by academic scholars to record the words spoken by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ because the search for variants has not yielded any differences of great significance. University of Chicago professor Fred Donner states that "...there was a very early attempt to establish a uniform consonantal text of the Quran from what was probably a wider and more varied group of related texts in early transmission. [...] After the creation of this standardized canonical text, earlier authoritative texts were suppressed, and all extant manuscripts—despite their numerous variants—seem to date to a time after this standard consonantal text was established." Although most variant readings of the text of the Quran have ceased to be transmitted, some still are. There has been no critical text produced on which a scholarly reconstruction of the Quranic text could be based. Historically, controversy over the Quran's content has rarely become an issue, although debates continue on the subject.
In 1972, in a mosque in the city of Sana'a, Yemen, manuscripts were discovered that were later proved to be the most ancient Quranic text known to exist at the time. The Sana'a manuscripts contain palimpsests, a manuscript page from which the text has been washed off to make the parchment reusable again—a practice which was common in ancient times due to scarcity of writing material. However, the faint washed-off underlying text (scriptio inferior) is still barely visible and believed to be "pre-Uthmanic" Quranic content, while the text written on top (scriptio superior) is believed to belong to Uthmanic time. Studies using radiocarbon dating indicate that the parchments are dated to the period before 671 CE with a 99 percent probability.
In 2015, fragments of a very early Quran, dating back to 1370 years ago, were discovered in the library of the University of Birmingham, England. According to the tests carried out by Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, "with a probability of more than 95%, the parchment was from between 568 and 645". The manuscript is written in Hijazi script, an early form of written Arabic. This is possibly the earliest extant exemplar of the Quran, but as the tests allow a range of possible dates, it cannot be said with certainty which of the existing versions is the oldest. Saudi scholar Saud al-Sarhan has expressed doubt over the age of the fragments as they contain dots and chapter separators that are believed to have originated later.
Significance in Islam:
Muslims believe the Quran to be the book of divine guidance revealed from God to Prophet Muhammad ﷺ through the angel Jibrail عليه السلام over a period of 23 years and view the Quran as God's final revelation to humanity.
Revelation in Islamic and Quranic contexts means the act of Allah 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 Allah is tanzil (to send down) or nuzūl (to come down). As the Quran says, "With the truth we (God) have sent it down and with the truth it has come down."
The Quran frequently asserts in its text that it is divinely ordained. Some verses in the Quran seem to imply that even those who do not speak Arabic would understand the Quran if it were recited to them. The Quran refers to a written pre-text, "the preserved tablet” that records God's speech even before it was sent down.
Muslims believe that the present wording of the Quran corresponds to that revealed to Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, and according to their interpretation of Quran 15:9, it is protected from corruption ("Indeed, it is We who sent down the Quran and indeed, We will be its guardian."). Muslims consider the Quran to be a guide, a sign of the prophethood of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and the truth of the religion.
Inimitability of the Quran (or "I'jaz") is the belief that no human speech can match the Quran in its content and form. The Quran is considered an inimitable miracle by Muslims, effective until the Day of Resurrection—and, thereby, the central proof granted to Prophet Muhammad ﷺ in authentication of his prophetic status. The concept of inimitability originates in the Quran where in five different verses opponents are challenged to produce something like the Quran: "If men and sprites banded together to produce the like of this Quran they would never produce its like not though they backed one another." So the suggestion is that if there are doubts concerning the divine authorship of the Quran, come forward and create something like it. From the ninth century, numerous works appeared which studied the Quran and examined its style and content. Medieval Muslim scholars including al-Jurjani (d. 1078) and al-Baqillani (d. 1013) have written treatises on the subject, discussed its various aspects, and used linguistic approaches to study the Quran. Others argue that the Quran contains noble ideas, has inner meanings, maintained its freshness through the ages and has caused great transformations at the individual level and in history. Some scholars state that the Quran contains scientific information that agrees with modern science. The doctrine of the miraculousness of the Quran is further emphasized by Prophet Muhammad's ﷺ illiteracy since the unlettered prophet could not have been suspected of composing the Quran.
The first sura of the Quran is repeated in daily prayers and in other occasions. This sura, which consists of seven verses, is the most often recited sura of the Quran:
Praised be God, Lord of the Universe, the Beneficent, the Merciful and Master of the Day of Judgment, You alone We do worship and from You alone we do seek assistance, guide us to the right path, the path of those to whom You have granted blessings, those who are neither subject to Your anger nor have gone astray."
Other sections of the Quran of choice are also read in daily prayers.
Respect for the written text of the Quran is an important element of religious faith by many Muslims, and the Quran is treated with reverence. Based on tradition and a literal interpretation of Quran 56:79 ("none shall touch but those who are clean"), some Muslims believe that they must perform a ritual cleansing with water before touching a copy of the Quran, although this view is not universal. Worn-out copies of the Quran are wrapped in a cloth and stored indefinitely in a safe place, buried in a mosque or a Muslim cemetery, or burned and the ashes buried or scattered over water.
In Islam, most intellectual disciplines, including Islamic theology, philosophy, mysticism and jurisprudence, have been concerned with the Quran or have their foundation in its teachings. Muslims believe that the preaching or reading of the Quran is rewarded with divine rewards variously called ajr, thawab or hasanat.
In Islamic art:
The Quran also inspired Islamic arts and specifically the so-called Quranic arts of calligraphy and illumination. The Quran is never decorated with figurative images, but many Qurans have been highly decorated with decorative patterns in the margins of the page, or between the lines or at the start of suras. Islamic verses appear in many other media, on buildings and on objects of all sizes, such as mosque lamps, metal work, pottery and single pages of calligraphy for muraqqas or albums.