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Many prophets have brought messages from God to various peoples which were inscribed into sacred books. Four books well known to Muslims are the Torah revealed to Moses, the Psalms to David, the Gospel (Injil) to Jesus, and the Quran to Muhammad. Jews and Christians are considered "People of the Book" because of the original revelations to Moses and Jesus.
However, Muslims believe the Torah and the Gospel have been changed and corrupted over time. Consequently, the Quran was needed to correct the errors in the corrupted books. It finalizes the truth from God as transmitted from the archangel Gabriel, recited by the prophet Muhammad, and written down into the Arabic language.
Traditional Islam considers the Quran as identical with the "mother of the book" in heaven. The Quran contains the very words of God (Quran 85:21-22; 43:3-4; 13:39). God's revelation came not through a person but through a written record. Islam then is a book religion. It was revealed from Gabriel to Muhammad in the Arabic language. Arabic thus becomes intertwined with the revelation itself. Any translation into another language loses its original authenticity.
Traditional Islam views the Quran as a miracle. Therefore literary or historical criticism of the Quran is unacceptable. To question or defame the Quran is to do the same to God. Orthodox Islam has generally affirmed that the Quran is uncreated. It is God's word and a quality of God's nature. Some scholars teach that Muhammad's speech in delivering the Quran verbally iterates divine speech.
The Quaran is composed of 114 chapters or suras, and each chapter has verses or ayas. There are 6,616 verses and 77,934 words. Muslims are challenged to memorize all of it and to recite it in the mosques and in daily prayers. Eighty-six chapters were revealed in Mecca, and twenty-eight in Medina.
The chapters in the Quaran are not in chronological order. It is often suggested that it reads better chronologically from back to front. The Meccan chapters deal with patience and perseverance and idolatry, indicating the problems and challenges Muhammad faced at Mecca. The Medina chapters have information on politics, legislation, and the settlement of disputes which indicate the establisment of the early community in Medina.
From the night the angel Gabriel came to Muhammed and told him to recit until his death (610-632), the Prophet received revelations from God. After Muhammad's death Caliph Abu Bakr collected the revelations into one document from the memorizations of the Prophet's companions. Under Caliph Uthman in 652, the Quran was canonized. It has served as the authorized version.
Inspiration of the Quran has been interpreted variously by Muslim scholars. There was physical and psychological stress upon Muhammed as he encountered the angel Gabriel, who gave him the words to recite. The Quaran indicates that Muhammed even thought he might be possessed by a demon. Some observers have suggested hallucinations, epileptic seizures, and even demon possession.
However, over one billion Muslims believe it is the unquestioned perfect word of God. It contains guidance for all matters of life and the afterlife. Muslims memorize it, recite it, and even create artistic expressions from it. Many believe they receive double rewards by memorizing and reciting it which gains them a place in heaven.
Syed Hossein Nasr, an Islamic scholar, wrote, "The soul of a Muslim is like a mosaic made up of formulae of the Quaran in which her breathes and lives." [Seyed Hossein Nasr, Ideals and Realities of Islam (London: George, Allen & Unwin LTD, 1966), 61]
A Muslim who memorizes the Quran is called a Hafiz. A tradition reports that the Prophet Muhammad siad, "Such a person as recites the Quran and masters it by heart will be with the noble righteous scribes in heaven. And such a person as exerts himself to learn the Quran by heart and recites it with great difficulty will have a double reward." [Khan, Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith 6:431-432; 60.332.459]
- Source: George W. Braswell, Jr., The Perfect Quran: The Past Perfect Torah and Gospel, in What You Need To Know About Islam & Muslims. Broadman & Holman, Nashville, Tenn. 2000. Page 23-25
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