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Revelation

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The Islamic World: Past and Present What is This? Accessible coverage of Islam from the seventh century to the twenty-first century

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    Revelation

    Islam teaches that God periodically reveals his will, providing precise information that human beings can use to guide their lives. Obedience to God's commands and prohibitions leads to rewards in the afterlife. The term wahy, from the Arabic verb meaning “to put in the mind,” is sometimes understood as “inspiration.” Revelation refers specifically to the divine inspiration God has given to select individuals, known as prophets, for the purpose of guidance. Beginning with the first human and prophet, Adam, this process of revelation continued over many generations until God's message reached its final and perfect form in his words to the Prophet Muhammad. This revelation, preserved in the Qur'an, is the foundation of Islam.

    In addition to the Qur'an, Muslims also accept the Torah, the Psalms, and the Gospels as books of revelation. They believe that these books all contain the same basic message but are tailored for their particular time and place. The ultimate principles of revelation, however, transcend time and place and have universal meaning.

    Throughout Islamic history, Muslims have debated the relative value of knowledge arrived at through independent reasoning and knowledge gained through revelation. Some philosophers claim that human reasoning may be sufficient to recognize the existence of God and to guide people's behavior. Human reasoning is, therefore, equal to revelation on occasion. However, it is not sufficient to determine what acts of worship God requires of human beings. In contrast, conservative Muslims oppose the idea that knowledge of God or correct behavior can be known by human reasoning alone. In their view, humanity requires revelation for clear information about the mysteries of existence.

    Islam teaches that no amount of logical analysis can reveal information about the inner dimension of divine-human exchange. Because such information is considered vital, humanity cannot arrive at ultimate truth except through divine revelation. Therefore, Muslims regard revelation as a unique and necessary area of knowledge. See also Prophets; Qur'an; Theology.

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