holy quran sacred text
Picture of an open Quran with tasbih -praying beads / Art courtesy of Hajra Rahim*

Sacred Texts: The Holy Quran

Sacred Texts: The Holy Quran

Editor’s Note: FāVS has launched a new series on Sacred Texts. In most religious traditions they are considered sacred because it is believed they were divinely revealed or inspired, and they form part of an authoritative canon. In this series we ask how scripture is used in particular traditions and if it’s necessary or dispensable. Is it subject to interpretation? What is its purpose? How have scriptures been used to promote or justify certain types of behavior? And, do ancient scriptures have any relevance today?

Commentary by Maimoona Harrington

sacred texts

Islam has six major beliefs, and one of them is the belief in the divine books revealed by God to His Messengers. Islam’s divinely revealed book is called, The Holy Quran. It was orally revealed to Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, over the period of 23 years through angel Gabriel. Muslims believe that the Quran is the last holy book revealed to the last of the Prophets, and, after this, no sacred text or messenger will come. It is a continuation of and an end to the previously revealed divine holy books.

“Nor could this Quran have been devised by anyone other than God. It is a confirmation of what was revealed before it and an explanation of the Scripture. Let there be no doubt about it, it is from the Lord of the Worlds.”

Quran 10:37

The previous holy books that the Muslims believe in are the Torah to Moses, the Psalms to David, the Gospel to Jesus and the Scrolls to Abraham, peace be upon them all.

“We have sent revelation to you [Muhammad] as We did to Noah and the prophets after him […] to David We gave the book [of Psalms] […] They were messengers bearing good news and warning, so that mankind would have no excuse before God, after receiving the messengers.”

Quran 4:163-165

Quran’s Significance and Place in Islamic Tradition

Quran is not just a holy book or a sacred text. It has the utmost respect and highest significance in a Muslim’s life. It’s a manual on how to live our lives, for example on how to marry, divorce, inherit, share and be just or grateful. It is a platform where one can seek the divine gift of guidance from everyday actions to spiritual findings of our souls. The only condition is that one must be a genuine seeker. If looked with genuine interest to find something, then it shows to each what they are looking for.  

To me one of the unique features of the Quran is that at any stage in my life, no matter which one of its verses I read, it depicts the perspective I am seeking, be it gratitude, guidance or solace.

Quran presents everything in parallels. If there is bad, there is good, if there is sin, there is forgiveness, if there is war, there is peace, if there is sorrow, then there is happiness. It becomes our companion in times of our need and solace to our broken hearts. It has a special place for everyone, and everyone can relate to it in their own ways. As our source of guidance, it also reminds us that life is mortal.

The Indispensable One

Quran is indispensable as it is a constant source of guidance, information and link with our Creator. It is a word of the Almighty God, a continuation of the previous holy books and an end message. It guides us on how to attain and then retain a meaningful and accomplished life.

Interpretation of the Quran

The Quran is revealed in ‘fusha’ – the classical Arabic language that is one of the richest languages in its eloquence and in its depth. It has been translated into many languages including English. However, translation work is the work of human beings so translations encounter challenges at the lexical, structural, stylistic and rhetorical levels.

After Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him death, it was imperative to set an authority or basis to interpret and determine the meaning of the Quran. Therefore, it can be interpreted in three different ways. One is to interpret as we read it, second is through its Tafsir – exegesis – and third is through the life of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, Sunnah – traditions.

Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, conversations and actions in relation to Quranic verses were also recorded in the form of the Hadith. Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, is the living embodiment of the Quran. Thus, Hadith also provides us with another way to interpret the Quran.

Furthermore, as per my understanding of faith, every Muslim has the right to his or her interpretation of the scripture and revelations; however, it must be within the principles rooted in the Quran, Sunnah and the Hadith. And for additional guidance, there are knowledgeable scholars who can answer our questions and further clarify any ambiguities we might have.

Ethical Norms and Moral Values

Quran provides us with social and ethical norms. It repeatedly reminds us on how to live and act with higher moral values and build stronger and righteous communities in societies. It focuses on topics of social reform through human development. It is a rational and a socially progressive text. It gives the message of peace and co-existence.

“But if they incline towards peace, you [Prophet] must also incline towards it, and put your trust in God; He is the All Hearing, the All Knowing.”

Quran 8:61

Divine Word of God

Quran contains historical evolution and incorporation of prior messages and then bringing them into Islam to show that it’s not a new religion but a continuation of previous monotheistic religions. Quran calls Islam the religion of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Jesus and all other prophets.

It addresses the believers, the disbelievers, the people of Makkah, the Jews and the Christians and gives references to historic events and accounts of biblical prophets  including Jonah, Job, Elijah and Elisha.

“This is the Scripture in which there is no doubt, containing guidance for those who are mindful of God, who believe in the unseen.”

Quran 2:2

Since Quran is the divine word of God, Muslims believe that it is literally true. It transmits many historical stories that have deeper meanings and messages for human guidance. Some of those stories are the story of Prophet Joseph and his son Jacob, peace be upon them both, or the story of the People of the Cave or the Seven Sleepers also known as the Sleepers of Ephesus and Companions of the Cave. The story of Jesus and his mother, the virgin Mary, peace be upon them, both are beautifully narrated in the 19th chapter of the Quran called “Mary.”

A Message of Mercy and Forgiveness

Quran repeatedly narrate and reiterate three things. It tells us that our faith and good deeds reward us and eventually get us the eternal life in the heaven. And if we follow the path of evil and do bad deeds then there is punishment in the form of eternal hell. While showing these two extremes of good and evil, it also reiterates the importance of repentance and repeatedly reminds us of two of the most significant attributes of the God that He is “The Merciful and The Forgiving.”

Relevance of the Quran

As I mentioned before the Quran is a continuation of previously revealed holy books and is the last of the sacred texts and after this no sacred text or scripture will come. The Quran’s ideology has not changed and is still applicable as a core-foundation of Islam. So it is still relevant today both in its ideological and practical form guiding us on all minor and major matters of our lives.

*Special thanks to Hajra Rahim for sharing her painting for this article. Hajra is 16 years old 11th grade student. She is a State champion from National Beta State convention held at Grapevine, Texas, and ranked 7th as a painter in the nation at the National convention held at Nashville, Tennessee.

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