The Scope, Style and Effect of the Holy Quran

From the introduction section of the English translation of the holy Quran by Muhammad Abdel Haleem:

THE QUR’AN is the supreme authority in Islam. It is the fundamental and paramount source of the creed, rituals, ethics, and laws of the Islamic religion. It is the book that ‘differentiates’ between right and wrong, so that nowadays, when the Muslim world is dealing with such universal issues as globalization, the environment, combating terrorism and drugs, issues of medical ethics, and feminism, evidence to support the various arguments is sought in the Qur’an. This supreme status stems from the belief that the Qur’an is the word of God, revealed to the Prophet Muhammad via the archangel Gabriel, and intended for all times and all places.  The Qur’an was the starting point for all the Islamic sciences: Arabic grammar was developed to serve the Qur’an, the study of Arabic phonetics was pursued in order to determine the exact pronunciation of Qur’anic words, the science of Arabic rhetoric was developed in order to describe the features of the inimitable style of the Qur’an, the art of Arabic calligraphy was cultivated through writing down the Qur’an, the Qur’an is the basis of Islamic law and theology; indeed, as the celebrated fifteenth—century scholar and author Suyuti said, ‘Everything is based on the Qur’an’. The entire religious life of the Muslim world is built around the text of the Qur’an. As a consequence of the Qur’an, the Arabic language moved far beyond the Arabian peninsula, deeply penetrating many other languages within the Muslim lands—Persian, Turkish, Urdu, Indonesian, and others. The first sum (or section) of the Qur’an, al-Fatiha, which is an essential part of the ritual prayers, is learned and read in Arabic by Muslims in all parts of the world, and many other verses and phrases in Arabic are also incorporated into the lives of non-Arabic-speaking Muslims.

Our confidence that the holy Quran can indeed transform our readers is grounded in history, in the miracle that the Quran has wrought in the last 14 centuries in large swaths of lands and in the lives of millions if not billions of people.

From the introduction to the recent commentary of the Quran by Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues, on the effect the dramatic effects the Quran has had on the Muslim society over the centuries:

The Quran is recited on occasions of both joy and sorrow, at weddings and at funerals, in individual circumstances as well as in communal events. It is recited often by individuals during private moments when they are alone with their Creator as well as at the opening of conferences or parliaments, the investiture of political authorities, or even sports events.

It can be said that the substance of the soul of a Muslim, whether male or female, is like a mosaic made up of the imprint of verses of the Quran upon that human substance. Not only are the laws by which Muslims live, the ethical norms that are to be followed in life, the root of all authentic knowledge, and the principle and spirit of all forms of art that can be called truly Islamic based on the Quran, but the Quran is present in the soul and mind of believers during every moment of life, whether one is engaged in lovemaking, fighting a battle in the middle of war, or busy in economic activity. No matter how much one writes about the role of the Quran in Muslim life, it is impossible to exhaust the subject, for the Quran affects every aspect of a Muslim’s existence, from the body, to the psyche and the inner faculties, to the mind, the intellect, and spirit.

The Quran, complemented by the Prophetic wont (Sunnah), even affects in a subtle manner all aspects of comportment (adab), which includes not only thoughts, speech, and actions, but also bodily postures and physical faculties—how traditional Muslims carry themselves while walking or talking, entering the mosque, sitting in an assembly, or greeting others. The Quran also transforms the inner faculties, especially the memory, and affects even the dreams of believers.

As far as memory is concerned, there is no practicing Muslim who does not know some of the Quran by heart. The Quran itself strengthens the memory, and traditional Islamic pedagogy places a great deal of emphasis upon memorization. The traditional education system begins with Quranic schools for the very young, where their memory becomes imprinted with Quranic verses that will serve them the whole of their lives.

Needless to say, this is also true for all those Muslims who have gone on to produce intellectual or artistic works on the highest level. When Ibn Sina (d. 4.28/1037), the greatest Muslim philosopher—scientist, was writing his a1—Qanun fi’l-tibb (The Canon of Medicine), which is the single most influential medical work in the history of medicine, his memory was as much filled with Quranic verses, which affected his whole attitude toward knowledge and science, as when he was writing his own Quranic commentaries.

The most outstanding Muslim spiritual poets, such as Hallaj, Ibn al-Farid, Ibn ‘Arabi, ‘Attar, Rumi, and Hafiz, did not compose their great poetic masterpieces by forcing themselves to focus on the verses of the Quran. The Quran was already present in their memory and had transformed their souls, so that during the artistic process of creating their beautiful poetry the Quran was already functioning as the central reality of their creative power. Those familiar with the history of German literature know that Goethe and Ruckert were influenced by the Quran. They can surmise how much greater this influence must have been in the literatures of the Islamic peoples themselves.  The same can be said for the Islamic arts and sciences in general. In the field of the arts that affect directly everyday life, the Quran both provided the spirit, the principles, and in many ways the forms of these arts and determined the direction that these arts would take. It is the Quran that made calligraphy, architecture, and Quranic psalmody the central sacred arts of Islam, and it is also the teachings of the Quran that prevented the development in Islam of iconic sacred art, which is so central to Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism. It is the Quran that led to the development of the aniconic sacred art of Islam.

From Muhammad Ali’s introduction to the short commentary of the holy Quran:

Al-Qur’an.  The name Al-Qur’an, the proper name of the Sacred Book of the Muslims, occurs several times in the Book itself (2:185, etc.). The word Qur’an is an infinitive noun from the root qara’a meaning, primarily, he collected things together, and also, he read or recited; and the Book is so called both because it is a collection of the best religious teachings and because it is a Book that is or should be read; as a matter of fact, it is the most widely read book in the whole world. It is plainly stated to be a revelation from the Lord of the worlds (26:192), or a revelation from Allah, the Mighty, the Wise (39:1, etc.), and so on. It was sent down to the Prophet Muhammad (4.7:2), having been revealed to his heart through the Holy Spirit (26:193, 194), in the Arabic language (26:195; 43:3). The first revelation came to the Holy Prophet in the month of Ramadan (22185), on the 25th or 27th night, which is known as Lailat al-Qadr  (97:1).

Other names and Epithets. 

The Holy Book speaks of itself by the following additional names: al-Kitab (2:2), a writing which is complete in itself; al-Furqan (25:1), that which distinguishes between truth and falsehood, between right and wrong; al-Dhikr (15:9), the Reminder or a source of eminence and glory to mankind; al-Mau’izah (10:57), the Admonition; al-Hukm (13:37), the Judgment; al-Hikmat (17:39), the Wisdom; al-Shifa’ (10:57), that which heals; al-Huda (72:13), that which guides or makes one attain the goal; al-Tanzil (26:192), the Revelation; al-Rahmat (2:1o5), the Mercy; al-Ruh (42:52), the Spirit or that which gives life; al-Khair (3:104), the Goodness; al-Bayan (3:138), that which explains all things or clear statement; al-Ni‘mat (93:11), the Favour; al-Burhan (4.:174.), the clear Argument or manifest proof; al-Qayyum (18:2), the Maintainer or Rightly-directing; al-Muhaimin (5:48), the Guardian (of previous revelation); al-Nur, the Light; at-Haqq (17:81), the Truth; Habl-Allah (3:103), the Covenant of Allah. In addition to these, many qualifying epithets are applied to the Holy Book, such as al-Mubin (12:1), one that makes manifest; al- Karim (56:77), the Bounteous; al-Majid (50:1), the Glorious; al-Hakim (36:2), full of Wisdom; al-‘Aziz (41:41), the Mighty or Invincible; al-Mukarramah (80:13), the Honoured; al-Marfu’ah (80:14), the Exalted; al-Mutahharah (80:14), the Purified; al-‘Ajab (72:1), the Wonderful; Mubarak (6:92), Blessed; and Musaddiq (6:92), confirming the truth of previous revelation.

If the holy Quran is indeed all these things, we need a commentary that brings these out and we will make our humble effort to do that.

From the introduction by Seyyed Hossein Nasr on good and bad use of Quran:

Muslims also turn to the Quran for its therapeutic effect upon illnesses of both body and soul. There is a whole traditional science dealing with the therapeutic power of certain Quranic verses, and countless anecdotal accounts in all Islamic societies maintain the miraculous efficacy of these verses. This aspect of the Quran is also the source of such practices in folk medicine as immersing particular verses of the Quran in water and then drinking it.

Let us quote here Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, from his book Islam and Human Rights, in the chapter Man and the Universe. He was the President of United Nations General Assembly from. Please note that his number of Quranic verses counts Bismillah as the first verse, so his numbering may be one higher than commonly known numbering:

It is this comprehensiveness of the Quran, the need to make provision for guidance in every respect for all peoples for all time, that made it necessary that the guidance should be conveyed in verbal revelation. The Quran is literally the Word of God, and possesses the quality of being alive, as the universe is alive. It is not possible to set forth at any time the whole meaning and interpretation of the Quran or, indeed, of any portion of it with finality. It yields new truths and fresh guidance in every age and at every level. It is a standing and perpetual miracle (18:110).

The world is dynamic and so is the Quran. Indeed, so dynamic is the Quran that it has always been found to keep ahead of the world and never to lag behind it. However fast the pace at which the pattern of human life may change, the Quran always yields, and will go on yielding, the needed guidance in advance. This has now been demonstrated through more than thirteen centuries, and that is a guarantee that it will continue to be demonstrated through the ages.

The Quran has proclaimed that falsehood will never overtake it. All research into the past and every discovery and invention of the future will affirm its truth (41:43). The Quran speaks at every level; it seeks  to reach every type of understanding, through parables, similitudes, arguments, reasoning, the observation and study of the phenomena of nature, and the natural, moral and spiritual laws (18:55; 39:28; 59:22).

It reasons from the physical and tangible to the spiritual and intangible. For instance: “Among His Signs is this; that thou seest the earth lying withered, but when
We send down water on it, it stirs and quickens with verdure. Surely He Who quickens the earth can quicken the dead. Verily, He has power over all things” (41:40). Here by quickening of the dead is meant the revival and rebirth of a people. As the dead earth is quickened by life-giving rain from heaven, a people that appears to be dead in all respects is revived and regenerated through spiritual water from the heavens, that is to say, through Divine revelation. This idea is expressed in the Quran in several places. Both resurrection and renaissance are explained with reference to the phenomenon of the dead earth being revived through life-giving rain (22:6-8).

Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan’s book Islam and Human Rights is available online: Islam-and Human Rights.

Another of his book also has the above excerpt in the chapter Quran and is also available online here: Islam – its meaning for modern man.


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