What is the Quran?
What is the Quran?
The Qur'an is the sacred book of Islam. It has also been called, in English, "the Koran". Qur'an is the currently preferred English transliteration of the Arabic original (قرآن); it means “recitation”. Although the Qur'an is referred to as a "book", when a Muslim refers to the Qur'an, they are referring to the actual text, the words, rather than the printed work itself.
Muslims believe the Qur'an to be the literal word of God as revealed to Muhammad, over a period of twenty-three years by the angel Gabriel and regard it as God's final revelation to mankind and the only revelation of God that has been preserved from textual distortion.
The Qur'an consists of 114 surah (chapters) with a total of 6236 ayat (verses).The surahs, or chapters, are generally known by an Arabic name derived from the sura. The surahs are not arranged in chronological order (in the order in which Islamic scholars believe they were revealed) but in a different order, roughly descending by size.
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'). The Qur'an often, although by no means always, uses loose rhyme between successive verses.
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 forbidden 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.
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; they have no weight in serious religious discussion. Translation is an extremely difficult endeavor, because each translator must consult his/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. Every reputable Islamic scholar is able, at the least, to read and understand the Qur'an in its original form, while most have it completely memorized.
The earliest recorded translation into English was made in 1649 by Robert Ketton; he worked from a French translation of the Arabic original. George Sale produced a better English version in 1734; 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, 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 "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.
It is an obligation - and blessing - for all who hear of the Qur'an and Islam to investigate it and evaluate it for themselves. Allah has guaranteed that He will protect the Qur'an from human tampering, and today's readers can find exact copies of it all over the world.
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