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What is the Quran?

Overview

Unique Among the World’s Sacred Texts

The Quran is one of the few books that literally changed the course of human history. Believers in this Book currently make up about a fifth of the human race. It is therefore not an understatement to say that the Quran occupies a unique place among the scriptures of the world.

The Quran is the only scripture that makes the following claims:

  • It is the direct, verbatim Word of God (6:104; 25:6; etc.)
  • It is protected by God from any tampering or interpolation (15:9; 41:42);
  • If anyone doubts the Quran is from God, they should produce a work comparable to it (2:23; 11:13; 17:88)

The Quran was revealed by God to the Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and grant him peace) from 610 to 632 CE. The first people to whom the Prophet conveyed the message of the Quran were masters of the Arabic language. The Quran challenged its detractors to produce a book like it if they thought the Quran was not from God Almighty (17:88). Later, the challenge was reduced to only 10 chapters (11:13). Finally the Quran’s challenge was to compose a single chapter of equal merit (2:23). The challenge was never met and continues to this day!

And it was not [possible] for this Quran to be produced by other than God, but [it is] a confirmation of what was [revealed] before it and a detailed explanation of the Scripture … (10:37)

The eloquence and beauty of the Quran, the clarity of its discourse, the power of its message were unsurpassed. In fact, the Quran was the first book in the Arabic language and remains to this day the foundational source of its grammar and morphology.

What may surprise many people is that the message of the Quran is not a new one. The Quran reminds us that God conveyed the same essential teachings to human beings throughout history.

And certainly We sent to every nation a messenger, (proclaiming): Worship God and shun false deities. (16.36)

What distinguishes the Quran for Muslims is that it is the last of a series of divinely revealed scriptures. Similarly, the Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and grant him peace) is believed to be the last in a long line of divinely chosen guides and teachers.

Indeed We inspired you (O Prophet) as We inspired Noah and the prophets after him, as We inspired Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and Jesus and Job and Jonah and Aaron and Solomon, and as We imparted unto David the Psalms; And messengers We have mentioned to you before and messengers We have not mentioned to you; and God spoke directly to Moses … (4:163-4)

The spiritual kinship of the Prophets (may God bless them and grant them peace) is reflected in the unity of the human family. One human family; one message; One God.

O mankind! We have created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you might come to know one another. Indeed the most noble of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Surely God is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (49:13)

Further Reading

The Quran’s Influence on Everyday Life

The Quran is the heart and soul of Islam. For believers it is an unending source of timeless wisdom. The Quran brings serenity to the distraught, strength to the weary, purpose to those who wander aimlessly and an unshakeable certainty in a Single Supreme Being who is absolutely Unique and always Near. The reader’s mind is opened up to the wonders of the universe … from a majestic constellation of stars to the tiniest organism on earth, the Quran paints awe-inspiring images that consistently summon our attention to the power and majesty of the Creative Force that fashioned the cosmos.

Do they not then contemplate on the Quran? If it had come from some other source than God, they would have found a great deal of contradiction in it. (4:82)

The Quran is regarded by Muslims as the very Speech of God. Each word is believed to be revealed by the Creator to Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and grant him peace). Many people who read the Quran often feel that they are in the presence of the Divine. To paraphrase a contemporary author, after reading the Quran for a time you get the feeling that the Book is reading you – asking you essential questions about what you truly believe, what your purpose is in life and whether you will sincerely follow the path God has laid out for you.

The Quran is a book of guidance that was revealed by God as a mercy to humankind. It advocates a life that is based on God consciousness, piety, moderation and compassion. The Quran does not ignore the worldly lives of human beings nor does it neglect our spiritual dimension. It recognizes worldly blessings such as family, wealth, and achievement as part of God’s mercy and grace and it also stresses that the greatest success is to receive God’s good pleasure and acceptance in the Hereafter.

But you prefer the life of this world. While the Hereafter is better and more enduring. (87:16-17)

Indeed those who say: Our Lord is God, and afterward are upright, the angels descend upon them, saying: Fear not nor grieve, but receive glad tidings of paradise which you are promised. We are your protecting friends in the life of the world and in the Hereafter. There you will have (all) that your souls desire, and there you will have (all) for which you pray. A gift of welcome from (God) the Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (41:30-32)

The Quran is a living book that continues to guide people from virtually every race in worldly and spiritual matters. The impact of the Quran extends to all aspects of a believer’s life – from religious tenets, to worship, social etiquette, business transactions, charity, personal relationships, dietary needs and more. Muslims express their love and reverence for the Sacred Text in various forms: through its melodic recitation; in splendid works of calligraphy and in decorative art found in Islamic architecture, metalwork, pottery, stone, glass, wood, and textiles. Memorizing as much of the Quran as possible is considered a great act of virtue and there are literally millions of people living today who have committed the entire Book to memory. One of the best known English translators of the Quran, Marmaduke Pickthall, was also an esteemed English novelist;  in the foreword to his translation Pickthall describes the Quran as “that inimitable symphony, the very sounds of which move men to tears of joy and ecstasy.”

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