Andrew Rippin

in Islamic Studies

ISBN: 9780195390155
Published online December 2009 | | DOI:


For Muslims, the Qurʾan is the revelatory word of God, dictated by the angel Gabriel to the prophet Muhammad in segments between the years 612 and 632. The revelations were memorized and recorded word-for-word in Arabic and are today found in the Arabic text of the Qurʾan in precisely the manner God intended. Consisting of 114 chapters, called suras, the text is arranged approximately in order of length from the longest chapter through the shortest, with a short prayer chapter as the “opening” in sura 1. Rhyme dominates the segments of the text called ayas (commonly translated as “verses”) and adds to the particular literary qualities of the scripture, deemed to be unlike any human production and captured in the assertion of its “inimitability.” The Qurʾan is the defining symbol of Islam, being the focus of education, law, theology and ritual for every Muslim. Valued particularly as an oral production, recitation has been a central mode of its transmission, although the manuscript tradition—in both functional and decorative manifestations—is very strong. The Qurʾan affirms the oneness of God as its most important theme, placed within the context of the biblical tradition and worldview, with the all-powerful God creating the world and the first human Adam, sending a series of prophets with the message of his desired way of life for all of creation (summarized in the meaning of the word islam, “submission to the will of God”). This worldview also includes a belief in the final judgment day and the promise of eternal bliss for those who believe and act accordingly, as well as the threat of eternal punishment for those who reject the message. These beliefs, held in common with the Judeo-Christian tradition, emerge in a context of the polytheistic Near Eastern society of Muhammad and incorporate elements of that setting with ideas such as that of the existence of the jinn (genies) and ethico-religious assumptions appropriate to that time and place.

Article.  11482 words. 

Subjects: Islam

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