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Quran

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The Oxford Dictionary of Islam What is This? Covers the religious, political, and social spheres of global Islam in the modern world

    Quran

    The book of Islamic revelation; scripture. The term means “recitation.” The Quran is believed to be the word of God transmitted through the Prophet Muhammad . The Quran proclaims God's existence and will and is the ultimate source of religious knowledge for Muslims. The Quran serves as both record and guide for the Muslim community, transcending time and space. Muslims have dedicated their best minds and talents to the exegesis and recitation of the Quran. Because the Quran is the criterion by which everything else is to be judged, all movements, whether of radical reform or of moderate change, whether originating at the center or at the periphery of the Islamic world, have grounded their programs in the Quran and used it as a support.

    Revelation of the Quran to Muhammad began in 610 with the first five verses of surah 96 . No further revelations followed for a period of up to two years, at which point Muhammad received reassurance that the revelation was from God, not the devil. Thereafter, revelation continued without interruption until his death in 632 , at which time the Quran was considered complete. Partial collections of the Quran were made during Muhammad's lifetime by his wives, companions, and scribes. The final, authoritative version was completed and fixed under the direction of the third caliph, Uthman , within twenty years after Muhammad's death. The Quran consists of 114 surahs (chapters), varying in length from 3 to 286 ayat (verses). Surahs are arranged by length, with the latest and longest surahs at the beginning and the earliest and shortest surahs at the end. Very early commentators classified these chapters into Meccan surahs (received while Muhammad lived in Mecca) and Medinan surahs (received after the hijrah, when Muhammad and his followers moved to Medina).

    The fundamental message of the Quran may be summarized in the term tawhid, the oneness of God. Both men and women are held to be rational and ethically responsible creatures whose duty is to submit to the divine truth expressed in revelation. This act separates islam, surrender and submission to the one God, from kufr, disbelief. Men and women who trust in God and live moral lives in thought, word, and deed become God's stewards, responsible for caring for the rest of God's creatures on earth. The society composed of such witnesses to the truth appears in history as the community created by Muhammad and his Companions in Medina in 622 – 32 .

    The revelation of the Quran as a book to be read emphasized the importance of literacy and the recording of scriptural text, leading to the development of the Islamic sciences. Hadith reports recording the words of Muhammad not contained in the Quran came to be regarded as authoritative for explication of the Quran. The sciences of the Arabic language, from lexicography to grammar and rhetoric, were developed in order to gain a precise and accurate understanding of the Quranic text. The need to understand the legislative content of the Quran gave rise to Islamic law and legal theory. Historiography originated with the aim of elaborating the Quranic view of religious history, according to which Adam was the first bearer of the divine message and Muhammad the last.

    The Quran is considered to be the ultimate authority in all matters pertaining to religion. It furnishes the basic tenets of the faith, the principles of ethical behavior, and guidance for social, political, and economic activities. It is used in the five obligatory daily prayers and for special prayers during Ramadan, when it is recited in its entirety. It is a basic vehicle of education, since most Muslim children learn the Arabic alphabet in order to be able to read the Quran. The Quran is used to invoke God's blessing, and verses from it are often recited at the death of a loved one, at the beginning of public political and social meetings, at conferences, and sometimes at government or official functions. The Quran is the focus of rhythmic chanting and the art of calligraphy—the most highly developed artistic skills in Islamic culture.

    Modern Quranic exegesis emphasizes the use of classical analytical tools such as ijtihad to reform both religious practice and society as a whole and to achieve social and intellectual development. Modern exegetes use the Quran to interpret and explain itself, rather than relying on external sources. Although the Quran is considered authentic only in Arabic, scholars in the twentieth century have produced translations of the Quran into local and regional vernaculars in order to make the text available to non-Arabic-speaking audiences. These translations also provide commentary, so as to clarify the meaning of the text. Important contemporary translations of the Quran include those by the Indian modernist Abdullah Yusuf Ali in English, the Pakistani reformer Sayyid Abu al-Ala Mawdudi in Urdu, and the Indonesian scholar, poet, and independence activist Hamka in Bahasa Indonesia.

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