(Dissecting Islam’s Sacred Book)
The Quran is the primary foundation of Islam and a fundamental source of the Islamic law (sharia). It is the main reference for Islamic principles and values. It is supplemented by the hadith (or the written record of Muhammad’s life) to aid in its interpretation.
The Muslims believe that the Quran is the actual (verbatim) message from God to the people, transmitted by the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad. They believe that messages were revealed to the prophet in the course of 23 years (609 CE to 632 CE). Muhammad’s companions wrote down the messages from memory and compiled them after he died.
Considering that Muhammad was illiterate, Muslims regard the Quran as his most important miracle, a proof of his prophethood, and the truth of the religion. It is believed to be the final word of God, who started revealing messages to Adam then lastly to Muhammad.
The original language of the Quran was Arabic but has since been translated to many different languages as the religion spreads throughout the world. Despite the passage of time, today’s Quran is the same as the Quran 1400 years ago. It was Caliph Uthman who was responsible for establishing a standard version of the Quran to preserve its sanctity. The Quran is composed of 114 chapters (sura) with topics ranging from ethics, spirituality, moral, and social issues.
Role in Islam Worship
The first sura of the Quran is the one that Muslims most often use in their daily prayers. Entitled “The Opening” (Al-Fatiha), this sura is composed of 7 verses (ayat):
Praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds.
The All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful.
The Master of the Day of Requital.
You alone do we worship, and from You alone do we seek help.
Take us on the straight path.
The path of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace,
Not of those who have incurred Your wrath, nor of those who have gone astray.
Respect for the Quran is an important aspect of the Muslim faith, and the Quran is treated with reverence.
It is sad to note though that in light of terrorist attacks, some people have resorted to burning the Quran as a sign of protest. Muslims consider these as a sacrilege and they have reacted emotionally to said incidents. For them, the Quran is holy and the act of burning the Quran or insulting the religion and the Prophet Muhammad is considered blasphemous.
In March 2011, American pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, led the burning of the Quran. As a result, this spurred 2 days of deadly protests in Afghanistan.
Divine Authorship and Comparison to Other Books
The Quran asserts in its text that it is divinely ordained. Muslims believe that it is not possible for a human to produce a book like the Quran, as the Quran itself maintains.
The Quran acknowledges the books that went before it (the Torah and the Gospels) and attributes their similarities to their divine origin saying all of them have been revealed by the one God.
“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 Torah (Of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus).”
The Quran recounts stories of many of the people and events narrated in Jewish and Christian books although it differs in many details. Moses and Jesus are mentioned in the Quran as prophets of God. In fact, Moses is mentioned more in the Quran than any other individual. Jesus is mentioned more often in the Quran than Muhammad, while Mary is mentioned in the Quran more than the New Testament.
Just like the Bible, the Quran embodies the spirit of Islam which is about being compassionate and just. They both have verses that talk about forgiveness, kindness (especially for the poor), and peace.
Truly, the Quran advocates acceptance, embracing both differences and similarities, and acknowledging the one God who is the source of all.
Influence on Art and Literature
The Quran and the religion of Islam also paved the way for the Arabic alphabet and language to mature. The Quran inspired Islamic arts, specifically the so-called Quranic arts of calligraphy and illumination (or elucidation). The Quran is, in fact, regarded as the finest literary work in the Arabic language.
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