Thoughts and Truth from the Impossible Life

The Koran, Qur’an or Qora’an

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The Koran, Qur’an or Qora’an

General Information

هو إله طيبة {ah’ – lah ock – bar} God is good.

لا إله إلا الله ، وأن محمدا رسول الله. There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his Prophet.

The Koran, or Qur’an (Arabic for “recital”), is the Sacred Scripture of Islam. Muslims acknowledge it as the actual words of God revealed to the Prophet Muhammad between c.610 and his death (632). The text contains 114 chapters (suras), arranged–except for the opening sura–approximately according to length, beginning with the longer chapters.

The Koran, termed glorious and wonderful (50:1; 72:1), describes itself as a healing and mercy, as light and guidance from God (17:82; 27:77; 41:44; 42:52), as the absolute Truth (69:51), and as a perspicuous Book sent down from heaven in Arabic (12:1-2), part by part (17:106; 25:32), upon Muhammad. Presented as a blessed reminder and an admonition to people everywhere (21:50; 38:87; 80:11-15), it calls for grateful recognition of the many signs, around us and in us (51:20-21), of the goodness of him from whom all good comes (4:79) and urges a total commitment to him who alone is God (112:1-4). Announcing Judgment Day as the final fulfillment of God’s threat and his promise (21:97-104), it warns evildoers and those who are ungrateful (17:89; 25:50) but brings good tidings to those who accept the guidance to the straightest path (17:9) and who live in accord with its message and its commandments (regarding marriage and divorce, children and inheritance, lawful foods, spoils of war, and so on). The text asserts that its message is neither a human invention (as its inimitability proves, 17:88) nor an innovation, since it confirms and clarifies the Scripture that Jews and Christians had received earlier (3:3; 5:15, 48; 35:31).

It is generally believed that the standard text of the Koran, adopted during the reign (644-56) of the caliph Uthman, is based on the compilation of one of Muhammad’s secretaries, Zayd Ibn Thalbit. By calligraphic copying of its verses, and in many other ways as well, Muslims express their devotion to this Scripture over which, they trust, God himself watches (15:9).

Willem A. Bijlefeld

Ali, Abdullah Yusuf, The Holy Qur’an, 2 vols. (1937-38; repr. 1973); Arberry, A. J., The Koran Interpreted, 2 vols. (1955; repr. 1969); Bell, Richard, Introduction to the Qur’an, ed. by W. Montgomery Watt, 2d ed. (1970); Jeffery, Arthur, The Qur’an as Scripture (1952); Pickthall, Marmaduke, trans., The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (1930; repr. 1970).


The Koran or Qur’an

Editor’s Notes

The Prophet Muhammad was certainly important, and Muslims should definitely respect him. The following notes/comments are all carefully based on reliable Islamic scholars’ works, particularly the early scholars who personally knew the facts and the people. None of these comments are meant to damage Islam and all are intended to assist Muslims and others to more fully know the history and background of the Holy Qu’ran. It appears that the majority of Muslims are never taught about many of these issues, and they are presented here in the quest for honesty and knowledge.

As mentioned in the above article, the Koran is believed by Muslims to ACTUALLY be the words of God (Allah) as given to their Prophet Muhammad. It was originally written down (in Arabic) around 645 AD, around 10-15 years after Muhammad’s death.

By the year 325 AD, three hundred years before the Koran, Christians had established the concept of the Trinity, as being ONE God, Who seemed to exist as Three different Persons, the Father (YHWH or Jehovah), the Son (Jesus) and the Holy Ghost, and never varied from that. If the Koran is actually the words of God (Allah), and not altered in any way since they were given to Muhammad, it seems odd that the Koran presents the Christian Trinity as being God, Jesus, and Mary! (Sura 5:116) This seems to imply that God (Allah) made a mistake, or Muhammad made a mistake, or later copyists/commentators made a mistake (several times, as at Sura 5.77 and Sura 4.169). Scholars see such things as obvious problems, but virtually all Muslims overlook them, and consider anyone bringing up such things as blasphemous.

Over the past two hundred years, scholars have found hundreds of such apparent errors. Many are in sentences that have incorrect Arabic grammar. There have been listed either 107 (al-Suyuti) or 275 (Jeffery) words in the Koran which are not even Arabic. Several dozen problems are stories that had long been proven untrue, but which had been published in previous centuries by aberrant Christians and Jews who had written books that resembled Biblical Books, and which are now called “apocryphal”. Such stories which were already known wrong also appear in the Koran. If God said such things, or Muhammed announced them, it would seem that something is wrong somewhere.

There are many scholarly books which are in print that discuss those very many obvious errors. Islam seems very intent on ignoring and suppressing such analytical scholasticism of their Koran and their Faith. They regularly go so far as to issue Fatwas (death sentences) on authors like Salman Rushdie (by the Ayatollah Khomeini, in 1989) for publishing works that question anything in Islam. Actually, soon after that, hundreds of authors and journalists were executed and buried in mass graves because they had written books or articles critical of Islam.

We do not want to get into all those criticisms, many of which seem extremely persuasive, as the Trinity/Mary one seems to be. Rather, our intent here is to present aspects of the Koran (and therefore, of Islam) which are parallel to, and possibly taken directly from Christian and Jewish sources. For example, 502 verses in 36 Suras of the Koran are about Moses, directly from the Jewish Pentateuch. Two hundred forty-five verses in 25 Suras are about Abraham, from the same source, and 131 more verses in 28 Suras are about Noah, also from the Pentateuch.

There is actually a secondary complication that arises in this area. Modern scholarly research has discovered a number of flaws in the (modern) wording of the Jewish Pentateuch Books, which is generally believed to have occurred due to imprecise copying by Jewish Scribes over the many early centuries. But, as the Koran presents those (now know to be incorrect) stories, that seems to imply that God (Allah) either deceived Muhammad as to the Truth or He really didn’t directly provide it, except through the earlier sources.

Extending that thought, Muhammad’s claim that the Koran was “God’s Word” would still be indirectly true, as the majority of the Koran’s 80,000 words, actually came from much older Manuscripts from God, primarily the Pentateuch (Torah, or Taurat). It’s just that the accumulated errors of those earlier documents had become absorbed into the Koran as a result. Whether or not Muhammad actually conversed with God (Allah) in those caves, at least some of the Koran is certainly directly based on (flawed) earlier Manuscripts attributed to God / Allah.

Muslim Tradition asserts that one of Uthman’s generals had asked the Caliph to make a collection of the contents of the Koran, because serious disputes had broken out among his troops from different provinces in regard to the correct readings of the Koran. Uthman chose Zayd ibn Thabit to prepare the official text. That Tradition indicates that he carefully revised the Koran, by comparing portions held by Umar’s daughter with his own, with careful analysis regarding dialect.

A different Tradition still credits Zayd, but much earlier, during Abu Bakr’s very brief period as Caliph. In this case, the motivation was allegedly that so many people who had known the Koran by heart had died in battles, and the concern was to write it down before it might be irretrievably lost, and this was the version that was later held by Umar’s daughter, Hafsa.

Other Traditions indicate that it was collected during the Caliphates of Umar or Ali. So there is no actual agreement in Tradition as to exactly when it was collected. The Uthman Tradition is generally considered the most likely.

Muslims today generally insist that their Koran is precisely the wording of the original, and they therefore criticize the many “Versions” of the Christian Bible (even though all those Versions are actually translations of the exact same original Greek and Aramaic source Manuscripts). But such a claim is incorrect. There were at least 14 variant Arabic versions of the Koran in common use around 900 AD, and possibly several more. These arose due to the method of writing and copying that existed at that time. (Short) Vowels were not recorded, only the consonants. The short vowels could sometimes be represented by a comma-like or slanting-dash mark either above or below a letter. Also, differences between ‘b’ and ‘t’ and ‘th’, which are identical except for dots (points) that distinguish them, were unclear because the dots were not recorded in the consonantal text of the time. Other letter/sound pairs also have exactly identical symbols. Therefore, a reader or a copyist could sometimes read different actual words from the same set of symbols. No question regarding the ORIGINAL wording was involved, but rather the many variations arose due to writing and copying the texts.

As a result, a number of codices developed:

Very Early:

  • Uthmanic
  • Ibn Mas’ud
  • Ubay ibn Ka’b
  • Abu Musa al-Ash’ari
  • Ali
  • Zayd ibn Thaabit
  • Abu Dardaa’

Later, the Koranic scholar Abu Bakr Ibn Mujahid (early 900s AD) fixed on one system of consonants and some control on application of vowels, which resulted in the general acceptance of seven basic systems.

The Seven Qiraa’aat (i.e, Readings):
The ‘seven readings’ were standardized in the second/eighth century. Abu Bakr Ibn Mujahid (d. 936 AD), a ninth-century Muslim scholar from Iraq, wrote a book entitled The Seven Readings, in which he selected seven of the prevailing modes of recitation as the best transmitted and most reliable. Others were subsequently disfavoured and even opposed, among them the readings of Ibn Mas’ud and Ubay ibn Ka’b. However, this is not to say that one must restrict oneself to one of these seven readings, or to all of them. Below are listed the local origin of the seven readings and the names of readers and some later transmitters (in arabic ‘raawis’) connected with them:

  • Naafi’ of Medina (d. 169H/785AD)
  • Ibn Kathir of Mecca (d. 119H/737AD)
  • Ibn ‘Amir of Damascus (d. 118H/736AD)
  • Abu ‘Amr of Basra (d. 154H/771AD)
  • ‘Aasim of Kufa (d. 128H/746AD)
  • Hamza of Kufa (d. 156H/773AD)
  • Al-Kisaa’i of Kufa (d. 189H/805AD)

Each of these seven actually had two variants, due to different pathways (Transmitters):

  • Naafi’ of Medina by Warsh or Qaaluun
  • Ibn Kathir of Mecca by al-Bazzi or Qunbul
  • Ibn ‘Amir of Damascus by Hisham or Ibn Dhakwan
  • Abu ‘Amr of Basra by al-Duri or al-Susi
  • ‘Aasim of Kufa by Hafs or Abu Bakr
  • Hamza of Kufa by Khalaf or Khallad
  • Al-Kisaa’i of Kufa by al-Duri or Abul Harith

Fourteen accepted readings in all. Some scholars recognize even more, such as:

Place / Reader
Madinah / Abu Ja’far (130/747)
Basra / Ya’qub (205/820)
Kufa / Khalaf (229/843)
Basra / Hassan al Basri (110/728)
Makkah / Ibn Muhaisin (123/740)
Basra / Yahya al-Yazidi (202/817)
Kufa / al-A’mash (148/765)

The selected ‘Seven Readings’ of Mujahid (early 900s AD) were:
Place / Reader / Transmitter :

1. Madinah / Naafi’ (d. 169H/785AD) / Qaaluun or Warsh (d. 197H/812AD)
2. Makkah / Ibn Kathir (d. 119H/737AD)
3. Damascus / Ibn ‘Amir (d. 118H/736AD)
4. Basra / Abu ‘Amr (d. 154H/771AD) / Suusi or Duuri (d. 246H/860AD)
5. Kufa / ‘Aasim (d. 128H/746AD) / Hafs (d. 180H/796AD)
6. Kufa / Hamza (d. 156H/773AD)
7. Kufa / Al-Kisaa’i (d. 189H/805AD) / Duuri (d. 246H/860AD)

Readings No. 1 and 5 are of particular importance: the reading transmitted by Warsh is now widespread in Africa, except Egypt, while, as now in almost all other parts of the Muslim world, the reading transmitted by Hafs is observed.

Three of these prevailed into modern times, for uncertain reasons: Warsh (around 800 AD), Hafs (around 800 AD) and al-Duri Abu Amr (around 850 AD), with two others used in small regions. This represents five distinctly different versions of the Koran currently in use by Muslims in different parts of the world. Their separate justification for using their version is closely associated with their ‘chain’ or path of information from the Prophet Muhammad.

The five current versions of the Koran therefore are:

  1. The Transmitter Hafs, who is Hafs ibn Suleyman ibn Al-Mugheerah Al-Asadi Al-Kuufi (d. 180H):His Qiraa’ah named Hafs from ‘Aasim is the most popular reading of the Quran in the world today, except for some parts of Africa. Hafs was officially adopted by Egypt in 1924. His chain from ‘Aasim:He heard from ‘Aasim ibn Abu Najud Al-Kuufi (d. 128H) who was Taabi’i, i.e, among the generation following the Sahaabah, who heard from Abu Abdur-Rahman Abdullah ibn Habib As-Sulami, who heard from Uthman ibn Affan and Ali ibn Abi Talib and Zayd ibn Thaabit and Ubayy ibn Ka’b, who heard from the Prophet (PBUH). 
  2. The Transmitter Duuri, is Abu ‘Amr Hafs ibn Umar ibn Abdul-Aziz ibn Subhan Ad-Duuri Al-Baghdaadi (d. 246H):His Qiraa’ah named Duuri from Abu ‘Amr is popular in parts of Africa like Somalia, Sudanas well as in other parts. His chain of from Abu ‘Amr:He heard from Abu Muhammad Yahya ibn Mubarak ibn Mugheerah Yazidiyy (d. 202H), who heard from Abu ‘Amr Zuban ibn ‘Ala Maziniyy Al-Busriyy (d. 154H), who heard from the Qiraa’aat from Sahaabis Ali and Uthman and Abu Musa and Umar and Ubayy ibn Ka’b and Zayd ibn Thaabit, who heard from the Prophet (PBUH). 
  3. The Transmitter Warsh, who is Abu Saeed Uthman ibn Saeed Al-Misri, nicknamed Warsh, (d. 197H):HIs Qiraa’ah named Warsh from Naafi’ is popular in North Africa. His chain from Naafi’:He heard from Naafi’ ibn Abdur-Rahman ibn Abu Nu’aim Al-Madani (d. 169H), who heard from Abu Ja’far Yazid ibn Al-Qa’qaa’ and Abu Dawud Abdur-Rahman ibn Hurmuz Al-A’raj and Shaybah ibn Nisah Al-Qaadhi and Abu Abdullah Muslim ibn Jundub Al-Hudhali and Abu Rawh Yazid ibn Ruman, who heard from Abu Hurairah and Ibn Abbaas and Abdullah ibn ‘Ayyaash ibn Abi Rabii’ah, who heard from Ubayy ibn Ka’b, who heard from the Prophet (PBUH). 
  4. The Transmitter Suusi:His Qiraa’ah named Suusi from Abu ‘Amr is also found around the world in small parts.
  5. The Transmitter Qaaluun, who is Imaam Qaaluun:His Qiraa’ah named Qaaluun from Naafi’ is popular in places like Libyain Africa. His chain from Naafi’:He heard from Naafi’ ibn Abdur-Rahman ibn Abu Nu’aim Al-Madani (d. 169H), who heard from Abu Ja’far Yazid ibn Al-Qa’qaa’, who heard from Abdullah ibn Abbaas and Abu Hurairah, who heard from Ubayy ibn Ka’b and Zayd ibn Thaabit, who heard from the Prophet (PBUH). 

In case Muslim readers should be greatly concerned: The variances between these different versions of the Koran are generally quite small and minor, although there are a substantial number of them. Muhammad Fahd Khaaruun has published a version of the (Hafs) Koran which contains the variant readings from the 10 Accepted Readers in its margins. About 2/3 of the ayat (verses) have some sort of variant reading. The great majority are differences in the vowels inserted in certain words (remembering that the early written kufic texts of the Koran did not include vowels or diacritical marks). There appears to be only one difference that might represent a significant effect on belief, that in surah 2:184. There are many Islamic scholars’ discussions about these many differences. As an example of one, in Hafs, surah 2:140 reads taquluna, while in Warsh, that text is in surah 2:139 and reads yaquluna. Another example: Hafs surah 2:214 reads yaquula while Warsh surah 2;212 reads yaquulu. Muslim scholars agree that such variations do not seriously alter the meaning of statements made in the Koran.

The main point being made here is that the ORIGINAL texts associated with the Prophet Muhammad are not questioned, but that the absolute and precise accuracy claimed by Muslims regarding their modern Koran is not quite correct. The reality of the situation is very much like the Christian Bible, which had one Original source text but now exists in a multitude of language translations of that one Original text.

A brief mention should be made regarding the “Satanic Verses” that inspired author Rushdie to write the book that caused his death sentence. Unimpeachable Muslim sources (Waqidi and al-Tabari) indicate that, prior to the flight to Medina, Muhammad was sitting with some important Meccan leaders, next to the Kaaba, and he began to recite Sura 53, which describes the Angel Gabriel’s first and second visits to Muhammad.

The wording was: “What do you think of Lat and Uzza And Manat the third beside? These are exalted Females, Whose intercession verily is to be sought after.”

These references were to some of the many Gods the Meccans then worshipped, so the words seem to acknowledge the existence and even the importance of them, TOTALLY opposite of what Islam claims (of the One God, Allah). Islam says that Muhammad was later visited by Gabriel again, who reprimanded him and gave him the “true” ending for that verse, which eliminated the praise for the gods and turned it into denigration. They consider those initial verses as being put into his mouth by Satan, i.e. Satanic Verses.

These verses represent a serious problem for Muslims. Did that event actually happen? Did Muhammad actually praise those multiple gods only to be later corrected by Gabriel? That would explain why the text of the Koran might have been revised, but it still seems to leave the reality of the original event. Those (original) words seem to imply that Muhammad was carefully cultivating the Meccan leaders by saying things they “politically” wanted to hear. That idea would greatly damage his credibility as a Prophet. His sincerity would seem to be in question. On the other hand, if Satan was so easily able to put words in the mouth of the Prophet, how much Faith could anyone put in him? Might there be (many?) other passages where Satan affected the wording of the Koran, which never got corrected?

There is one other major matter that should be mentioned. After Muhammad had become well established as leader in Medina, he considered returning to Mecca to conquer it and to convert the population there to Islam. Very late, he realized that his people were not yet ready for a battle, and so he entered into negotiations with the Meccans regarding permission to make a Pilgrimage to Mecca the following year, in return for Muhammad’s promises of a few simple things (the Peace of Hudaibiya). Muhammad broke those promises, according to accepted Muslim sources (such as Ibn Ishaq). Since he had made those promises, as Prophet, and for a religious purpose, the fact that he soon broke them, is sometimes seen as behavior not appropriate to any ethical leader, and certainly not to a Prophet.

Finally, we list the most revered early Muslim commentators on the Koran:

  • Muhammad ibn-Jarir al-Tabari (around 900 AD)
  • Al-Baghawi (around 1100 AD)
  • Al-Zamakhshari (early 1100s AD)
  • Al-Baydawi (late 1200s AD)
  • Fakhr-al-Din al-Razi (around 1200 AD)
  • Jalal-al-Din al-Mahalli (early 1400s AD)
  • Jalal-al-Din al-Suyuti (late 1400s AD)

(The earliest accurate English translation of the Koran was by George Sale in 1734.


Old Testament (Bible) Characters also in the Koran

Old Testament Koran
Aaron Harun
Abel Habil
Abraham Ibrahim
Adam Adam
Cain Qabil
David Daud
Elias Ilyas
Elijah Alyasa
Enoch Idris
Ezra Uzair
Gabriel Jibril
Gog (Gen 10:2; Ezek 38) Yajuj
Goliath Jalut
Isaac Ishaq
Ishmael Ismail
Jacob Yacub
Job Aiyub
Jonah Yunus
Joshua Yusha’
Joseph Yusuf
Korah Qarun
Lot Lut
Magog (Gen 10:2; Ezek 38) Majuj
Michael Mikail
Moses Musa
Noah Nuh
Pharaoh Firaun
Saul Talut
Solomon Sulaiman
Terah Azar


The Koran or Qur’an

Beginning Excerpt

650 AD

Translated by E H Palmer

(Editor’s Note: This translation, apparently acceptable by most Muslims, refers to Allah as God, Jibril as Gabriel, and other names that are familiar from the Christian Bible. We include this excerpt in BELIEVE not as a religious guide, but to assist Western people in better understanding Muslim beliefs. We have also highlighted certain text for the same reason.

Muslims fully believe that the Koran is actually Allah’s (God’s) words. Because they are concerned that poor translations could corrupt the true meaning of those words, they ONLY consider as a valid Koran, one which has translated text on one page and the original Arabic on the opposite. They feel that in that way, corruption cannot occur. This excerpt obviously does not include the Arabic original, so strict Muslims would not approve of it.)


The Opening Chapter

I. Mecca

In the name of the merciful and compassionate God. Praise belongs to God, the Lord of the worlds, the merciful, the compassionate, the ruler of the day of judgment! Thee we serve and Thee we ask for aid. Guide us in the right path, the path of those Thou art gracious to; not of those Thou art wroth with; nor of those who err.

(Editor’s Note: This opening Chapter (or Sura), called Fatiha or Fatihah, is included as part of all religious Prayers by Muslims.)

The Chapter of the Heifer

II. Medina

IN the name of the merciful and compassionate God. Alif Lam Mim. That is the book! there is no doubt therein; a guide to the pious, who believe in the unseen, and are steadfast in prayer, and of what we have given them expend in alms; who believe in what is revealed to thee, and what was revealed before thee, and of the hereafter they are sure. These are in guidance from their Lord, and these are the prosperous. Verily, those who misbelieve, it is the same to them if ye warn them or if ye warn them not, they will not believe. God has set a seal upon their hearts and on their hearing; and on their eyes is dimness, and for them is grievous woe. And there are those among men who say, ‘We believe in God and in the last day;’ but they do not believe. They would deceive God and those who do believe; but they deceive only themselves and they do not perceive. In their hearts is a sickness, and God has made them still more sick, and for them is grievous woe because they lied. And when it is said to them, ‘Do not evil in the earth,’ they say, ‘We do but what is right.’

Are not they the evildoers? and yet they do not perceive. And when it is said to them, ‘Believe as other men believe,’ they say, ‘Shall we believe as fools believe?’ Are not they themselves the fools? and yet they do not know. And when they meet those who believe, they say, ‘We do believe;’ but when they go aside with their devils, they say, ‘We are with you; we were but mocking!’ God shall mock at them and let them go on in their rebellion, blindly wandering on. Those who buy error for guidance, their traffic profits not, and they are not guided. Their likeness is as the likeness of one who kindles a fire; and when it lights up all around, God goes off with their light, and leaves them in darkness that they cannot see.

Deafness, dumbness, blindness, and they shall not return! Or like a storm – cloud from the sky, wherein is darkness and thunder and lightning; they put their fingers in their ears at the thunder – clap, for fear of death, for God encompasses the misbelievers. The lightning well – nigh snatches off their sight, whenever it shines for them they walk therein; but when it is dark for them they halt; and if God willed He would go off with their hearing and their sight; verily, God is mighty over all.

O ye folk! serve your Lord who created you and those before you; haply ye may fear! who made the earth for you a bed and the heaven a dome; and sent down from heaven water, and brought forth therewith fruits as a sustenance for you; so make no peers for God, the while ye know!

And if ye are in doubt of what we have revealed unto our servant, then bring a chapter like it, and call your witnesses other than God if ye tell truth. But if ye do it not, and ye shall surely do it not, then fear the fire whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for misbelievers. But bear the glad tidings to those who believe and work righteousness, that for them are gardens beneath which rivers flow; whenever they are provided with fruit therefrom they say, ‘This is what we were provided with before,’ and they shall be provided with the like; and there are pure wives for them therein, and they shall dwell therein for aye.

Why, God is not ashamed to set forth a parable of a gnat, or anything beyond; and as for those who believe, they know that it is truth from the Lord; but as for those who disbelieve, they say, ‘What is it that God means by this as a parable? He leads astray many and He guides many;’ – but He leads astray only the evildoers; who break God’s covenant after the fixing thereof, and cut asunder what God has ordered to be joined, and do evil in the earth; – these it is who lose.

How can ye disbelieve in God, when ye were dead and He made you alive, and then He will kill you and then make you alive again, and then to Him will ye return? It is He who created for you all that is in the earth, then he made for the heavens and fashioned them seven heavens; and He knows all things.

And when thy Lord said unto the angels, ‘I am about to place a vicegerent in the earth,’ they said, ‘Wilt Thou place therein one who will do evil therein and shed blood? we celebrate Thy praise and hallow Thee.’ Said (the Lord), ‘I know what ye know not.’ And He taught Adam the names, all of them; then He propounded them to the angels and said, ‘Declare to me the names of these, if ye are truthful.’ They said, ‘Glory be to Thee! no knowledge is ours but what Thou thyself hast taught us, verily, Thou art the knowing, the wise.’ Said the Lord, ‘O Adam declare to them their names;’ and when he had declared to them their names He said, ‘Did I not say to you, I know the secrets of the heavens and of the earth, and I know what ye show and what ye were hiding?’ And when we said to the angels, ‘Adore Adam,’ they adored him save only Iblis, who refused and was too proud and became one of the misbelievers. And we said, ‘O Adam dwell, thou and thy wife, in Paradise, and eat therefrom amply as you wish; but do not draw near this tree or ye will be of the transgressors.

And Satan made them backslide therefrom and drove them out from what they were in, and we said, ‘Go down, one of you the enemy of the other, and in the earth there is an abode and a provision for a time.’ And Adam caught certain words from ‘his Lord, and He turned towards him, for He is the compassionate one easily turned. We said, ‘Go down therefrom altogether and haply there may come from me a guidance, and whoso follows my guidance, no fear is theirs, nor shall they grieve. But those who misbelieve, and call our signs lies, they are the fellows of the Fire, they shall dwell therein for aye.’

O ye children of Israel! remember my favours which I have favoured you with; fulfil my covenant and I will fulfil your covenant; me therefore dread. Believe in what I have revealed, verifying what ye have got, and be not the first to disbelieve in it, and do not barter my signs for a little price, and me do ye fear. Clothe not truth with vanity, nor hide the truth the while ye know. Be steadfast in prayer, give the alms, and bow down with those who bow. Will ye order men to do piety and forget yourselves? ye read the Book, do ye not then understand? Seek aid with patience and prayer, though it is a hard thing save for the humble, who think that they will meet their Lord, and that to Him will they return.

O ye children of Israel! remember my favours which I have favoured you with, and that I have preferred you above the worlds. Fear the day wherein no soul shall pay any recompense for another soul, nor shall intercession be accepted for it, nor shall compensation be taken from it, nor shall they be helped.

When we saved you from Pharaoh’s people who sought to wreak you evil and woe, slaughtering your sons and letting your women live; in that was a great trial for you from your Lord. When we divided for you the sea and saved you and drowned Pharaoh’s people while ye looked on.

When we treated with Moses forty nights, then ye took the calf after he had gone and ye did wrong. Yet then we forgave you after that; perhaps ye may be grateful. And when we gave Moses the Scriptures and the Discrimination; perhaps ye will be guided. When Moses said to his people, ‘O my people! Ye have wronged yourselves in taking this calf; repent unto your Creator and kill each other; that will be better for you in your Creator’s eyes; and He turned unto you, for He is the compassionate one easily turned.’ And when ye said to Moses, ‘O Moses! we will not believe in thee until we see God manifestly,’ and the thunderbolt caught you while ye yet looked on. Then we raised you up after your death; perhaps ye may be grateful. And we overshadowed you with the cloud, and sent down the manna and the quails; ‘Eat of the good things we have given you.’ They not wrong us, but it was themselves they were wronging. And when we said, ‘Enter this city and eat therefrom as plentifully as ye wish; and enter the gate worshipping and say ‘hittatun. So will we pardon you your sins and give increase unto those who do well.’

But those who did wrong changed it for another word than that which was said to them: and we sent down upon those who did wrong, wrath from heaven for that they had so sinned.

When Moses, too, asked drink for his people and we said, ‘Strike with thy staff the rock,’ and from it burst forth twelve springs; each man among them knew his drinking place. ‘Eat and drink of what God has provided, and transgress not on the earth as evildoers.’

And when they said, Moses, we cannot always bear one kind of food; pray then thy Lord to bring forth for us of what the earth grows, its green herbs, its cucumbers, its garlic, its lentils, and its onions.’ Said he, ‘Do ye ask what is meaner instead of what is best? Go down to Egypt, – there is what ye ask.’ Then were they smitten with abasement and poverty, and met with wrath from God. That was because they had misbelieved in God’s signs and killed the prophets undeservedly; that was for that they were rebellious and had transgressed.

Verily, whether it be of those who believe, or those who are Jews or Christians or Sabaeans, whosoever believe in God and the last day and act aright, they have their reward at their Lord’s hand, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.

And when we took a covenant with you and held the mountain over you; ‘Accept what we have brought you with strong will, and bear in mind what is therein, haply ye yet may fear.’

Then did ye turn aside after this, and were it not for God’s grace towards you and His mercy, ye would have been of those who lose. Ye know too of those among you who transgressed upon the Sabbath, and we said, ‘I Become ye apes, despised and spurned.’

Thus we made them an example unto those who stood before them, and those who should come after them, and a warning unto those who fear.

And when Moses said to his people, ‘God bids you slaughter a cow,’ they said, ‘Art thou making a jest of us?’ Said he, ‘I seek refuge with God from being one of the unwise.’ They said, ‘Then pray thy Lord for us to show us what she is to be.’ He answered, ‘He saith it is a cow, nor old, nor young, of middle age between the two; so do as ye are bid.’ They said, ‘Pray now thy Lord to show us what her colour is to be.’ He answered, ‘He saith it is a dun cow, intensely dun, her colour delighting those who look upon her.’

Again they said, ‘Pray thy Lord to show us what she is to be; for cows appear the same to us; then we, if God will, shall be guided.’ He answered, He saith, it is a cow, not broken in to plough the earth or irrigate the tilth, a sound one with no blemish on her.’ They said, ‘Now hast thou brought the truth.’ And they slaughtered her, though they came near leaving it undone.

When too ye slew a soul and disputed thereupon, and God brought forth that which ye had hidden, then we said, ‘Strike him with part of her.’ Thus God brings the dead to life and shows you His signs, that haply ye may understand.

Yet were your hearts hardened even after that, till they were as stones or harder still, for verily of stones are some from which streams burst forth, and of them there are some that burst asunder and the water issues out, and of them there are some that fall down for fear of God; but God is never careless of what ye do.

Do ye crave that they should believe you when already a sect of them have heard the word of God and then perverted it after they had understood it, though they knew?

And when they meet those who believe they say, ‘We believe,’ but when one goes aside with another they say, ‘Will ye talk to them of what God has opened up to you, that they may argue with you upon it before your Lord? Do ye not therefore understand?’ Do they not then know that God knoweth what they keep secret and what they make known abroad?

And some of them there are, illiterate folk, that know not the Book, but only idle tales; for they do but fancy. But woe to those who write out the Book with their hands and say ‘this is from’ God; to buy therewith a little price! and woe to them for what their hands have written, and woe to them for what they gain!

And then they say, ‘Hell fire shall not touch us save for a number of days.’ Say, ‘Have ye taken a covenant with God?’ but God breaks not His covenant. Or do ye say of God that which ye do not know?

Yea! whoso gains an evil gain, and is encompassed by his sins, those are the fellows of the Fire, and they shall dwell therein for aye! But such as act aright, those are the fellows of Paradise, and they shall dwell therein for aye!

And when we took from the children of Israel a covenant, saying, ‘Serve ye none but God, and to your two parents show kindness, and to your kindred and the orphans and the poor, and speak to men kindly, and be steadfast in prayer, and give alms;’ and then ye turned back, save a few of you, and swerved aside.

And when we took covenant from you, ‘shed ye not your kinsman’s blood, nor turn your kinsmen out of their homes:’ then did ye confirm it and were witnesses thereto. Yet ye were those who slay your kinsmen and turn a party out of their homes, and back each other up against them with sin and enmity. But if they come to you as captives ye ransom them! – and yet it is as unlawful for you to turn them out. Do ye then believe in part of the Book and disbelieve in part? But the reward of such among you as do that shall be nought else but disgrace in this worldly life, and on the day of the resurrection shall they be driven to the most grievous torment, for God is not unmindful of what ye do.

Those who have bought this worldly life with the Future, the torment shall not be lightened from them nor shall they be helped.

We gave Moses the Book and we followed him up with other apostles, and we gave Jesus the son of Mary manifest signs and aided him with the Holy Spirit. Do ye then, every time an apostle comes to you with what your souls love not, proudly scorn him, and charge a part with lying and slay a part?

They say, ‘Our hearts are uncircumcised;’ nay, God has cursed them in their unbelief, and few it is who do believe. And when a book came down from God confirming what they had with them, though they had before prayed for victory over those who misbelieve, yet when that came to them which they knew, then they disbelieved it, – God’s curse be on the misbelievers.

For a bad bargain have they sold their souls, not to believe in what God has revealed, grudging because God sends down of His grace on whomsoever of His servants He will; and they have brought on themselves wrath after wrath and for the misbelievers is there shameful woe.

And when they are told to believe in what God has revealed, they say, ‘We believe in what has been revealed to us;’ but they disbelieve in all beside, although it is the truth confirming what they have. Say, ‘Wherefore did ye kill God’s prophets of yore if ye were true believers?

Moses came to you with manifest signs, then ye took up with the calf when he had gone and did so wrong. And when we took a covenant with you and raised the mountain over you, ‘Take what we have given you with resolution and hear;’ they said, ‘We hear but disobey;’ and they were made to drink the calf down into their hearts for their unbelief. Say, ‘An evil thing is it which your belief bids you do, if ye be true believers.’ Say, ‘If the abode of the future with God is yours alone and not mankind’s: long for death then if ye speak the truth.’ But they will never long for it because of what their hands have sent on before; but God is knowing as to the wrong doers.

Why, thou wilt find them the greediest of men for life; and of those who associate others with God one would fain live for a thousand years, – but he will not be reprieved from punishment by being let live, for God seeth what they do.

Say, ‘Who is an enemy to Gabriel? for he hath revealed to thy heart, with God’s permission, confirmation of what had been before, and a guidance and glad tidings to believers. Who is an enemy to God and His angels and His apostles and Gabriel and Michael? – Verily, God is an enemy to the unbelievers. We have sent down to thee conspicuous signs, and none will disbelieve therein except the evildoers. Or every time they make a covenant, will a part of them repudiate it? Nay, most of them do not believe.

And when there comes to them an apostle confirming what they have, a part of those who have received the Book repudiate God’s book, casting it behind their backs as though they did not know. And they follow that which the devils recited against Solomon’s kingdom; – it was not Solomon who misbelieved, but the devils who misbelieved, teaching men sorcery, – and what has been revealed to the two angels at Babylon, Harut and Marut; yet these taught no one until they said, ‘We are but a temptation, so do not misbelieve.’ Men learn from them only that by which they may part man and wife; but they can harm no one therewith, unless with the permission of God, and they learn what hurts them and profits them not. And yet they knew that he who purchased it would have no portion in the future; but sad is the price

(continues . . . )


The Koran or Qur’an

Excerpt: Sura 19.16-21; 3.45-48

Regarding Jesus and Mary

Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! God gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him; his name will be Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the hereafter and of those nearest to God; he shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be of the righteous.” “How, O my Lord, shall I have a son, when no man has touched me?” asked Mary. He said, “Thus: God creates whatever He wants, when He decrees a thing He has only to say, ‘Be’ and it is. And God will teach him the Book and Wisdom, the Torah and the Gospel.”



Catholic Information

The sacred book of the Muslims, by whom it is regarded as the revelation of God. Supplemented by the so-called Hadith, or traditions, it is the foundation of Islam and the final authority in dogma and belief, in jurisprudence, worship, ethics, and in social, family, and individual conduct.

The name Koran, or better Qur’an, from the Arabic stem Qara’a, “to read”, “to recite”, means the “Reading”, the “Recitation”, i.e. the “Book”, par excellence. It is also called — to select a few of many titles — “Alkitab” (The Book), “Furquan” (“liberation”, “deliverance”, of the revelation), “Kitab-ul-lah” (Book of God), “Al-tanzil” (The Revelation). It consists of one hundred and fourteen suras or chapters, some being almost as long as the Book of Genesis, others consisting of but two or three sentences. It is smaller than the New Testament, and in its present form has no chronological order or logical sequence.


The Koran contains dogma, legends, history, fiction, religion and superstition, social and family laws prayers, threats, liturgy, fanciful descriptions of heaven, hell, the judgment day, resurrection, etc. — a combination of fact and fancy often devoid of force and originality. The most creditable portions are those in which Jewish and Christian influences are clearly discernible. The following analysis is based on Sir William Muir’s chronological arrangement (op. cit. infra).

First Period

Suras 103, 91, 106, 101, 95, 102,104, 82, 92, 105 – rhapsodies, which may have been composed before Mohammed conceived the idea of a Divine mission, or of a revelation direct from Heaven.

Second Period (the opening of Mohammed’s ministry)

Sura 96, the command to “recite in the name of the Lord”; sura 113, on the unity and eternity of the Deity; sura 74, the command to preach, the denunciation of one of the chiefs of Mecca who scoffed at the resurrection, unbelievers threatened with hell; sura 111, Abu Lahab (the Prophet’s uncle) and his wife are cursed.

Third Period (from the beginning of Mohammed’s public ministry to the Abyssinian emigration)

Suras 87, 97, 88, 80, 81, 84, 86, 90, 85, 83, 78, 77, 76, 75, 70, 109, 107, 55, 56, descriptions of the resurrection, paradise, and hell, with references to the growing opposition of the Koreish tribe.

Fourth Period (from the sixth to the tenth year of Mohammed’s ministry)

Suras 67, 53, 32, 39, 73, 79, 54, 34, 31, 69, 68, 41, 71, 52, 50, 45, 44, 37, 30, 26, 15, 51, narratives from the Jewish Scriptures and from rabbinical and Arab legends; the temporary compromise with idolatry is connected with sura 53.

Fifth Period (from the tenth year of Mohammed’s ministry to the Flight from Mecca)

Suras 46, 72, 35, 36, 19, 18, 27, 42, 40, 38, 25, 20, 43, 12, 11, 10, 14, 6, 64, 28, 22, 21, 17, 16, 13, 29, 7, 113, 114. The suras of this period contain some narratives from the Gospel, enjoin the rites of pilgrimage, refute the cavillings of the Koreish, and contain vivid descriptions of the resurrection, judgment, heaven, and hell, with proofs of God’s unity, power, and providence. Gradually the suras become longer, some of them filling many pages. In the later suras of the fifth period Medina passages are often interpolated.

Last Period (suras revealed at Medina)

This period includes the following suras:

Sura 98: on good and bad Jews and Christians.

Sura 2, the longest in the Koran, is called the “Sura of the Cow” from the red heifer described in verse 67 as having been sacrificed by the Israelites at the direction of Moses. It is a collection of passages on various subjects, delivered during the first two or three years after the Flight. The greater portion relates to the Jews, who are sometimes exhorted and sometimes reprobated. Biblical and rabbinical stories abound. This sura contains the order to change the Qibla (or direction at prayer) a denunciation of the disaffected citizens of Medina, injunctions to fight, permission to bear arms in the sacred months and much matter of a legislative character promulgated on first reaching Medina, with passages of a later date interpolated.

Sura 3 belongs partly to the time immediately after the Battle of Bedr. The Jews are referred to in terms of hostility. The interview with Christian deputation from Najran (verses 57-63) is of a later date. Passages pertaining to the farewell pilgrimage are introduced with other (probably) earlier texts on the rites of pilgrimage.

Sura 8 contains instructions on the division of spoil at Bedr. Some parts are in the old Meccan style and the Koreish are frequently referred to. In sura 47 war and slaughter are enjoined, and idolaters of Mecca threatened. In sura 62 the Jews are denounced for their ignorance; the Friday service is to take precedence of secular engagements. In sura 5 the Jews are reviled; the doctrines of the Christians are controverted; it contains also civil ordinances and miscellaneous instructions.

Sura 59, on the siege and expulsion of the Banu Nadhir.

Sura 4 entitled “women”, from the large portion devoted to the treatment of wives and relation of sexes. There are also ordinances on the law of inheritance and general precepts, social and political. Idolatrous Meccans are to be shunned, and there are animadversions against the Jews. The “disaffected” are blamed for taking the part of the Jews.

Sura 65: on divorce and kindred subjects, with some religious observations.

Sura 63: menances against ‘Abdallah ibn Obey for his treasonable language on the expedition against the Banu Mustaliq.

Sura 24: vindication of ‘Ayisha, with the law of evidence for conjugal unfaithfulness, and miscellaneous precepts.

Sura 33, composed of portions covering the year A.H. 5. The marriage of the Prophet with Zeinab, wife of his adopted son, is sanctioned. There are various passages on the conjugal relations of Mohammed, the siege of Medina, and the fall of the Banu Qoreitza.

Sura 57: injunctions to fight and contribute towards the expenses of war. The disaffected are warned. Christians are mentioned in kindly terms.

Sura 61: on war; speedy victory is promised. — The remaining suras belong exclusively to the last five years of the Prophet’s life.

Sura 48 refers to the truce of Hodeibia, and the prospect of victory and spoil to be obtained elsewhere.

Sura 60: on the treatment of the women who, after the truce, came over from Mecca; idolaters of Mecca to be shunned.

Sura 66: on the affair of Mohammed and the Coptic maid.

Sura 49: blaming the profession of the Bedouin Arabs as insincere, chiding the deputation which called out rudely at Mohammed’s door, and exhorting believers against distrust and uncharitableness among themselves.

Sura 9 treats of the campaign to Tebuk (A. H. 9). It opens with the “release” promulgated at the pilgrimage of the same year and declares the antagonism of Islam to all other religions. All but Muslims are excluded from Mecca and the rites of pilgrimage. Idolaters are threatened with slaughter and slavery. War is declared against Jews and Christians until they are humbled and pay tribute. This sura is called “the crusade chapter”, and in the early campaigns was often read on the field before battle.


The doctrine of the Koran will be fully discussed in the article on the religion of Islam. It is sufficient to note here that the doctrine may be classified under four categories:

faith, or what to believe;

practice or worship;

ethics, or what to do and what to avoid;

moral, historical, and legendary lessons taken from the canonical, but mostly apocryphal, Christian and Jewish Scriptures, and from contemporary and ancient Arabian heathenism.


Various efforts have been made by Muslim writers and European scholars to arrange the suras chronologically, but Noldeke’s arrangement is generally considered the most plausible. He divides the suras into Meccan and Medinian, namely those delivered at Mecca before the Flight or Hegira, and those delivered at Medina after the Flight. The Meccan suras are divided into three periods. To the first (from the first to the fifth year of Mohammed’s mission) belong the following suras – 96, 74, 111,106, 108, 104, 107, 102, 105, 92, 90, 94, 93, 97, 86, 91, 80, 68, 87, 95, 103, 85, ’73, 101, 99, 82, 81, 53, 84,100, 79, 77, 78, 88, 89, 75, 83, 69, 5l, 52, 56, 55, 112, 109, ll3, 114, and 1. To the second period (the fifth and sixth year of his mission) are assigned suras 54, 37, 7l, 76, 44, 50, 20, 26, 15, 19, 38, 36, 43, 72, 67, 23, 21, 25, 17, 27, and 18. To the third period (from the seventh year to the Flight) belong the following suras: 32, 41 45, 16, 30, 11, 14,12, 40, 28, 39, 29, 31, 42, 10, 34, 35, 7, 46, 6, and 13. The Medina suras are those which remain, in the following order: 2, 98, 64, 62, 8, 47, 3, 61, 57, 4, 65, 59, 33, 63, 24, 58, 22, 48, 66, 60, 110, 9, and 5.

The characteristic features of the various suras and of the periods in which they were delivered is described by Mr. Palmer as follows:

In the Meccan Suras Mohammed’s one and steady purpose is to bring his hearers to a belief in the one only God; this he does by powerful rhetorical displays rather than logical arguments, by appealing to their feelings rather than their reason; by setting forth the manifestation of God in His works; by calling nature to witness to His presence; and by proclaiming His vengeance against those who associate other gods with Him, or attribute offsprings to Him. The appeal was strengthened by glowing pictures of the happiness in store for those who should believe, and by frightful descriptions of the everlasting torments prepared for the unbelievers. In the earlier chapters, too, the prophetic inspiration, the earnest conviction of the truth of his mission, and the violent emotion which his sense of responsibility caused him are plainly shown. The style is curt, grand, and often almost sublime; the expressions are full of poetical feeling, and the thoughts are earnest and passionate, though sometimes dim and confused, indicating the mental excitement and doubt through which they struggled to light.

In the second period of the Meccan Suras, Mohammed appears to have conceived the idea of still further severing himself from the idolatry of his compatriots, and of giving to the supreme deity Allah another title, Ar-Rahman, “the merciful one”. The Meccans, however, seem to have taken these for the names of separate deities, and the name is abandoned in the later chapters.

In the Suras of the second Meccan period we first find the long stories of the prophets of olden times, especial stress being laid upon the punishment which fell upon their contemporaries for disbelief, the moral is always the same, namely, that Mohammed came under precisely similar circumstances, and that a denial of the truth of his mission would bring on his fellow-citizens the self-same retribution. They also show the transition stage between the intense and poetical enthusiasm of the early Meccan chapters and the calm teaching of the later Medinah ones. This change is gradual, and even in the later and most prosaic we find occasionally passages in which the old prophetic fire flashes out once more. The three periods are again marked by the oaths which occur throughout the Koran. In the first period they are all frequent and often long, the whole powers of nature being invoked to bear witness to the unity of God and the mission of His Apostle; in the second period they are shorter and of rarer occurrence; in the last period they are absent altogether.

To understand the Medinah Suras we must bear in mind Mohammed’s position with respect to the various parties in that city. In Mecca he had been a prophet with little honour in his own country, looked on by some as a madman, and by others as an impostor, both equally grievous to him, while his following consisted of the poorest and meanest of his fellow townsmen. His own clansmen, for the reason that they were his clansmen and for no other, resented the affronts against him. In Medinah he appears as a military leader and a prince, though as yet possessing far from absolute authority. Around in the city were, first, the true believers who had fled with him El Muhagerin; next, the inhabitants of Yathrib, who had joined him and who were called El Ansar, “the helpers”; and lastly, a large class who are spoken of by the uncomplimentary name of Munafiqun or “hypocrites”, consisting of those who went over to his side from fear or compulsion, and lastly those “in whose heart is sickness”, who, though believing in him, were prevented by tribal or family ties from going over to him openly. Abdallah ibn Ubai was a chief whose influence operated strongly against Mohammed, and the latter was obliged to treat him for a long time almost as an equal, even after he had lost his political power.

The other party at Medinah was composed of the Jewish tribes settled in and around the city of Yathrib. The Jews were at first looked to as the most natural and likely supporters of the new religion, which was to confirm their own. These various parties together with the pagan Arabs of Mecca and the Christians are the persons with whom the Medinah Suras chiefly deal. The style of the Medinah Suras resembles that of the third period of the Meccan revelations, the more matter-of-fact nature of the incidents related or the precepts given amounting in a great measure for the more prosaic language in which they are expressed.

The other party at Ivledinah was composed of the Jewish tribes settled in and around the city of Tathrib. The Jews were at first looked to as the most natural and likely supporters of the new religion, which was to confirm their own. These various parties together with the pagan Arabs of Mecca and the Christians are the persons with whom the Medinah Suras chiefly deal. The style of the Medinah Suras resembles that of the third period of the Meccan revelations, the more matter-of-fact nature of the incidents related or the precepts given accounting in a great measure for the more prosaic language in which they are expressed. In the Medinah Suras the prophet is no longer trying to convert his hearers by examples, promises, and warnings; he addresses them as their prince in general, praising them or blaming them for their conduct, and giving them laws and precepts as occasion required. (The Qur’an in “Sacred Books of the East”, I, Oxford, 1880, pp. LXI, LXII, and LXIII).


The sources of the Koran be reduced to six:

The Old Testament (canonical and apocryphal) and the hybrid Judaism of the late rabbinical schools. During Mohammed’s time the Jews were numerous in many parts of Arabia, especially around Medina. Familiarity with them is undoubtly responsible for many Old Testament stories alluded to in Koran. Later Judaism and Rabbinism are equally well represented (Geiger, “Was hat Mohammed aus dem Judenthum aufgenommen?”, Wiesbaden, 1833; tr. “Judaism and Islam”, Madras, 1898).

The New Testament (canonical and apocryphal) and various heretical doctrines. On his journeys between Syria, Hijaz, and Yemen, Mohammed had every opportunity to come in close touch with Yemenite, Abyssinian, Ghassanite, and Syrian Christians, especially heretic. Hence, while the influence of orthodox Christianity upon the Koran has been slight, apocryphal and heretical Christian legends, on the other hand, are one of the original sources of Koranic faith. (See Muir, op. cit. infra, 66-239; Tisdall, “The Original Sources of the Qur’an”, London, 1905, 55-211.)

Sabaism, a combination of Judaism, Manicheism, and old disfigured Babylonian heathenism.

Zoroastrianism. On account of Persia’s political influence in the north-eastern part of Arabia, it is natural to find Zoroastrian elements in the Koran.

Hanifism, the adherents of which, called Hanifs, must have been considerable in number and influence, as it is known from contemporary Arabian sources that twelve of Mohammed’s followers were members of this sect.

Native ancient and contemporary Arabian heathen beliefs and practices.

Wellhausen has collected in his “Reste des arabischen Heidentums” (Berlin, 1897) all that is known of pre-Islamic Arabian heathen belief, traditions, customs, and superstitions, many of which are either alluded to or accepted and incorporated in the Koran. From the various sects and creeds, and Abul-Fida, the well-known historian and geographer of the twelfth century, it is clear that religious beliefs and practices of the Arabs of Mohammed’s day form one of the many sources of Islam. From this heathen source Islam derived the practices of polygamy and slavery, which Mohammed sanctioned by adopting them.


It is generally admitted that the Koran is substantially the work of Mohammed. According to the traditionalists, it contains the pure revelation he could neither read nor write, but that immediately afterwards he could do both; others believe that even before the revelation he could read and write; while others, again, deny that he could ever do so. Thus it is uncertain whether any of the suras were written down by the Prophet himself or all delivered by him orally and afterwards writen down by others from memory.

The Koran is written in Arabic, in rhymed prose, the style differing considerably in the various suras, according to the various periods of the Prophet’s life. The language is universally acknowledged to be the most perfect form of Arab speech, and soon became the standard by which other Arabic literary compositions had to be judged – grammarians, lexirographers, and rhetoricians presuming that the Koran, being the word of God, could not be wrong or imperfect.

Mohammed’s hearers began by trusting their memories to retain the words of the revelation they had received from him. Later, those who could write traced them in ancient characters on palm leaves, tanned hides, or dry bones. After the Prophet’s death all these fragments were collected. Zaid ibn Thabit, Mohammed’s disciple, was charged by Abu Bekr, the caliph, to collect all that could be discovered of the sacred text in one volume. The chapters were then arranged according to their length and without regard to historical sequence. The revision made twenty years later affected details of language of the text. The best and most accessible edition of the Koran is that of Flugel, “Al-Qoran: Corani textus Arabicus” (Leipzig, 1834 and since). Maracci’s famous Latin translation of the Koran, with a refutation and commentary, is still unique and useful: “Alcorani textus universus” (Padua, 1698). The standard English versions are those of Sale (London, 1734) with a still useful introductory essay; Rodwel (London, 1861), arranged in chronological order; and Palmer in “Sacred Books of the East” (Oxford, l880).

Publication information Written by Gabriel Oussani. Transcribed by Joseph P. Thomas. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York


The Koran or Qur’an

Jewish Viewpoint Information

The sacred scriptures of Islam. According to Mohammedan belief, based upon the testimony of the book itself, the Koran consists of separate revelations vouchsafed by God to Mohammed through the angel Gabriel (sura ii. 91, xxv. 34). These were delivered in Arabic (xxvi. 195) and were thus first of all for the Arabs, who had previously received no manifestation of the will of God (xxxiv. 43). They were designed, also, to confirm the older books of the Torah and the Gospels, and to lead mankind in the right way (iii. 2, et al.). Mohammed is, therefore, the messenger of God (xcviii. 2, etc.) and the seal of the Prophets (xxxiii. 40). In the prime of life this remarkable man, whose developmentis traced in no authentic records, voluntarily retired to solitude. There, through vigils and fasting, he fell into religious trances, in which he felt himself inspired to warn his fellows of an impending judgment.

Form of Revelation.

The oldest portions of the Koran represent the material result of this inspiration. They reflect an extraordinary degree of excitement in their language-in their short, abrupt sentences and in their sudden transitions, but none the less they carefully maintain the rimed form, like the oracles and magic formulas of the pagan Arab priests (Al-A’sha, in Ibn Hisham). This form is preserved in the later sections also, in some of which the movement is calm and the style expository. The book, which is about equal to the New Testament in size, was put together long after the prophet’s death; and its 114 sections were arranged without any regard for chronological sequence.

Quotations from the Koran are found as early as the period of Mohammed’s activity in Mecca (Ibn Hisham, ib. p. 226). The oldest fragments may have been recited by the prophet himself before a band of followers, though probably a small one, who could more easily preserve them, either orally or in writing. The following extracts, referring to the most important articles of faith taught in the Koran, will give an approximate idea of its language and mode of thought:

Allah and Creation.

“Allah is the Creator of the heavens and the earth; when He says ‘Be,’ it is” (ii. 111; iii. 42, 52). “With Him are the keys of the unseen. None knows it save Him; His is the understanding of all that is in the land and in the sea; and no leaf falls without His knowledge” (vi. 59). “Should God touch thee with harm, there is none to remove it save Him; and if He wish thee well, there is none to restrain His bounty” (x. 107). “Do not the unbelieving see that the heavens and the earth were one until We clove them asunder and made every living thing from water” (xxi. 31). “He it is who appointed the sun for brightness; He established the moon for light and ordained her stations, that ye may know the number of the years and the reckoning of them” (x. 5). “The cattle, likewise, have We created for you; in them are warmth and much profit, and of them ye eat. In them is there beauty for you when ye fetch them from their pastures, and when ye drive them forth to graze. They bear your heavy burdens to towns which ye could not otherwise reach, save with great wretchedness of soul: verily, your Lord is gracious and merciful!” “Horses, too, has He created, and mules, and asses, for you to ride upon and for an ornament” (xvi. 5-8). “He it is that sends rain from heaven, whereof ye drink; from which grow the trees whereby ye feed your flocks.” “He makes the corn to grow, and the olives, and the palms, and the grapes, and all manner of fruit: verily, herein is a sign unto them that reflect” (xvi. 10, 11). “He it is that subjected the sea unto you, that ye may eat fresh meat therefrom and bring forth from it the ornaments which ye wear; and thou mayest see the ships that sail upon it” (xvi. 14). “He it is that created you of dust, then of a drop, then of clotted blood, and then brought you forth as children; then ye attain your full strength; then ye become old men-though some of you are taken sooner-and then ye reach the time appointed for you” (xl. 69).

Last Judgment; Resurrection.

“O ye men! fear your Lord! Verily the earthquake of the Hour is a mighty thing!” “On the day ye shall see it, every suckling woman shall forget her sucking babe; and every woman with child shall cast forth her burden; and thou shalt see men drunken, though they have drunk naught” (xxii. 1, 2). “And the day when We shall move the mountains, and thou shalt see the earth a level plain; and We shall gather all men together, and leave no one of them behind: then shall they be brought before thy Lord in ranks. Now are ye come to Us as we created you at first! Nay, but ye thought that we would never make Our promise good! And each shall receive his book, and thou shalt see the sinners in alarm at that which is therein; and they shall say, ‘Alas for us! what a book is this, leaving neither small nor great unnumbered!’ And they shall find therein what they have done; and thy Lord shall deal unjustly with none” (xviii. 45-47). “We shall set just balances for the Day of Resurrection, and no soul shall be wrong; even though it be the weight of a grain of mustard-seed, We shall bring it” (xxi.48). “Verily, those that believe, and those that are Jews, and the Sabeans, and the Christians, and the Magians, and those that join other gods with God-verily, God will decide between them on the Day of Resurrection” (xxii. 17).

Hell and Paradise.

“Verily, We have prepared for the evil-doers a fire, the smoke whereof shall encompass them; and if they cry for help they shall be helped with water like molten brass, which shall scald their faces” (xviii. 28). “But for those that misbelieve, for them are cut out garments of fire; there shall be poured over their heads boiling water; what is in their bellies, and their skins, shall be dissolved; and for them are maces of iron. Whenever in their pain they shall come forth, they shall be thrust back into it” (xxii. 20-22). “Nay, when the earth shall be crushed with crushing on crushing, and thy Lord shall come, and the angels, rank on rank, and hell on that day shall be brought nigh-on that day man shall be reminded! But how shall he have a reminder? He will say, ‘Would that I had prepared in my life for this!’ But on that day none shall be punished with a punishment like his, and none shall be bound with chains like his!” (lxxxix. 22-27).

“On that day shall there be joyous faces, well pleased with their past deeds, in a lofty garden where they shall hear no vain discourse; wherein is a flowing fountain; wherein are high couches and goblets set, and cushions laid in order, and carpets spread!” (lxxxviii. 8-16). “Verily, the righteous shall dwell among delights; seated on couches they shall gaze about them; thou mayest recognize in their faces the brightness of delight; they shall be given to drink wine that is sealed, whose seal is musk; for that let the aspirants aspire! And it shall be tempered with Tasnim, a spring from which thosethat draw nigh to God shall drink” (lxxxiii. 22-28). “O thou soul that art at rest! return unto thy Lord, well pleased and pleasing him! And enter among my servants, and enter my paradise” (lxxxix. 27-30).

Old and New Testament Stories.

Although the passages here quoted contain many original phrases and figures, they are frequently reminiscent of similar passages in the Old and New Testaments. These points of contact are the more numerous because Mohammed repeats many Biblical narratives. These are found especially in the later suras, which have all the characteristics of sermons. The chief subjects taken from the Old Testament are: the Creation; Cain and Abel; Noah; Abraham and his sons; Jacob and his sons; Moses and Aaron; Saul; David and Solomon; Job and Jonah; but from the New Testament, besides Jesus and Mary, only John is mentioned. In the Old Testament narratives the Koran frequently follows the legends of the Jewish Haggadah rather than the Biblical accounts, as Geiger pointed out in his “Was Hat Muhammad aus dem Judenthume Aufgenommen?” (Bonn, 1834; 2d. ed. Berlin, 1902). Thus, the story of Abraham’s destruction of the idols in his father’s house, and his answer to those that asked who had done it (xxi. 58-64), agree with Gen. R. xvii.; the sign that restrained Joseph from sin (xii. 24) corresponds to Soṭah 36b; the refusal of Moses to accept food from the Egyptian women (xxviii. 11) parallels Soṭah 12b; and the account of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (xxvii.) harmonizes with the commentary of Targum Sheni to Esther i. 13.

For many of these borrowed narratives the sources are unknown. Thus, for instance, the story in the “Sefer ha-Yashar” of the Egyptian women that cut their fingers in bewilderment at Joseph’s beauty (xii. 31) is based on the Mohammedan narrative, and no older Jewish source thereof is known. For the legend of Samiri, comp. “Z. D. M. G.” lvi. 73.

In its version of the story of Jesus the Koran shows more dependence on the apocryphal than on the canonical Gospels. Thus the story of the giving of life to the bird of clay (iii. 43, v. 110) is found in the Gospel of Thomas (ed. Tischendorf, ii. 2). The account of Mary’s marvelous food (iii. 32) is given in the Protevangelium Jacob, viii., as well as the casting of lots for the care of her (ch. ix.), found in iii. 39.

Furthermore, there are many variations, especially in the case of proper names, which are due to confusion on the part of Mohammed himself. Thus, Pharaoh desires to build a tower (xxviii. 38), the story being based on the account of Nimrod (Josephus, “Ant.” i. 4, §§ 2-3); by a confusion with Miriam, Mary is called the sister of Aaron (xix. 29); Haman is the servant of Pharaoh (xxviii. 38); and Azar becomes the father of Abraham (vi. 74)-a reminiscence in Mohammed’s mind of the name of Eliezer (comp. also, for the account of Idris [xix. 57], Nöldeke in “Zeit. für Assyr.” xvii. 83).

Application of Quotations and References.

There are frequent anachronisms in the teachings of Mohammed. Thus, the regulation concerning prayer and almsgiving is mentioned in connection with God’s compact with Israel (v. 15); God commanded Moses and Aaron to provide places of prayer in Egypt (x. 87); and the destruction of Lot’s wife was foreordained by God (xv. 60). Other additions were made to suit Arabic conditions, such as the description of Moses’ staff (xx. 19); the reason assigned for his approach to the burning bush (“I will bring you a blazing brand from it”; xxvii. 7); crucifixion on palm-trees as a punishment (xx. 74); and Joseph as guardian of his brothers’ baggage (xii. 17; comp. Wellhausen, “Skizzen,” iv. 157; for the description of Solomon’s glory, “dishes as large as cisterns”; comp. Al-A’sha, in Al-Mubarrad, 4, 14).

A fundamental alteration, which has a direct bearing on the Arabs and on Mecca, is found in the story of Abraham and his sons, the Koran representing the Biblical patriarch as the founder of the sanctuary at Mecca. Ishmael is not mentioned with him until the later suras, whereas, according to the earlier ones, Isaac and Jacob are the sons of Abraham: probably a confusion in Mohammed’s own mind (comp. Snouck Hurgronje, “Het Mekkaansche Feest,” p. 32). In all the Biblical narratives which are found in the Koran the words placed in the mouths of the speakers are intended to convey Mohammed’s opinions and beliefs. The relation of Mohammed to the Meccans is but thinly disguised under the warnings of individual prophets to a sinful people, and in the answers of the latter. Noteworthy in this connection are the words of Adam and Eve (vii. 22); of Abel (v. 32); of Noah (vii. 57, 59; xi. 27); of the unbelievers in Noah’s time (vii. 58; xi. 34, 45, 48); of Jacob (xii. 99); of Joseph (xii. 33, 37); of Moses (vii. 103, xxviii. 15); of the Egyptian magicians (xx. 75); and of Jesus (xix. 31).

A few legends, in addition to the Biblical narratives, have been taken into the Koran, such as the legend of Alexander the Great, with “the two horns” (xviii. 82 et seq.), which is derived from a Syriac source (Nöldeke, “Beiträge zur Gesch. des Alexanderromans,” p. 32); the legend of the Seven Sleepers (xviii. 8 et seq.; comp. Koch, “Die Siebenschläfer Legende,” Leipsic, 1883; Guidi, “Testi Orientali Inediti Sopra i Sette Dormienti di Efeso,” Rome, 1885); the legend of Moses and the servant of God (xviii. 64 et seq.); and the story of the one hundred years’ sleep (ii. 261; comp. the story of Ḥoni ha-Me’aggel, Yer. Ta’an. iii. 66d; Guidi, “Sette Dormienti,” p. 103).

The Koran contains also native Arabic legends, apparently somewhat altered in form, which are included for the moral they convey. To this class belong the stories of the destruction of the Thamud (the Θαμουδῆνοι of Diodorus Siculus, iii. 44; Ptolemy, vi. 7, 21; “Notitia Dignitatum,” ed. Seeck, pp. 58, 59, 73), on account of their disobedience to their prophet (vii. 71, et al.); of the Madyan (vii. 83, et al.; the of the Bible and the Mαδιάμα of Ptolemy, vi. 7, 27); and of the ‘Ad (xi. 62, et al.), a general term for a mythological, prehistoric people (comp. Nöldeke, “Fünf Mu’allakat,” iii. 31, in “Sitzungsberichte der Wiener Akademie,” 1903). Here, also, belong the story of the breaking of the dam in Yemen (xxxiii. 14) and the speeches placed in the mouth of Luḳman (xxxi. 12 et seq.), who is mentionedlikewise in old Arabic poems. The Koran, in addition, includes many passages of a legislative character and of later date. These contain regulations concerning the pilgrimage (ii. 185); fasting (ii. 181); almsgiving (ii. 273 et seq., lxiv. 17 et seq.); the spoils of war (viii.); marriage (iv. 23, et al.); inheritance (iv. 2, et al.); and the like. In these portions, also, the typical expressions of the earlier passages relating to articles of faith recur as interpolations in the text itself. The language of the Koran is held by the Mohammedans to be a peerless model of perfection. An impartial observer, however, finds many peculiarities in it. Especially noteworthy is the fact that a sentence in which something is said concerning Allah is sometimes followed immediately by another in which Allah is the speaker; examples of this are suras xvi. 81, xxvii. 61, xxxi. 9, and xliii. 10 (comp. also xvi. 70). Many peculiarities in the positions of words are due to the necessities of rime (lxix. 31, lxxiv. 3), while the use of many rare words and new forms may be traced to the same cause (comp. especially xix. 8, 9, 11, 16). See also Islam; Mohammed.

Flügel, Corani Textus Arabicus, Leipsic, 1869; Concordantiœ Corani Arabicœ, ib. 1842; H. O. Fleischer, Beidhawii Commentarius in Coranum, i., ii., ib. 1846-48; Wherry, A Comprehensive Commentary on the Quran, with additional notes and emendations, 4 vols., London, 1883-86; Ullmann, Der Koran aus dem Arabischen Uebersetzt, 6th ed., Bielefeld, 1862; Kasimirski, Le Koran, Traduction Nouvelle, Paris, 1864; E. H. Palmer, Translation of the Quran, in S. B. E. vols. vi. and ix., Oxford, 1880; Th. Nöldeke, Geschichte des Qorans, Göttingen, 1860.G. S. Fr.

The dependence of Mohammed upon his Jewish teachers or upon what he heard of the Jewish Haggadah and Jewish practises is now generally conceded. The subject was first treated from a general point of view by David Mill, in his “Oratio Inauguralis de Mohammedanismo e Veterum Hebræorum Scriptis Magna ex Parte Composita” (Utrecht, 1718); and by H. Lyth in his “Quo Successu Davidicos Hymnos Imitatus Sit Muhammed” (Upsala, 1806-1807). Geiger’s epoch-making work laid the foundation for the study of the Koran in its relation to Jewish writings. J. Gastfreund, in his “Mohamed nach Talmud und Midrasch” (i., Berlin, 1875; ii., Vienna, 1877; iii., Leipsic, 1880), has attempted to show the parallels, also, in later Mohammedan literature; though not always with success, as Sprenger has pointed out (“Z. D. M. G.” xxix. 654). Further parallels are given by Grünbaum (ib. xliii. 4 et seq.). The subject has received an exhaustive treatment at the hands of Hartwig Hirschfeld, in his “Jüdische Elemente im Ḳoran” (1878), in his “Beiträge zur Erklärung des Ḳoran” (Leipsic, 1886), and more especially in his “New Researches into the Composition and Exegesis of the Qoran” (London, 1902; comp. the remarks of August Müller in “Theologische Literaturzeitung,” 1887, No. 12, cols. 278 et seq.).

Hebrew Translations.

Hebrew translations of the Koran were not unknown, and fragments of these may lie buried in Oriental genizahs. Before such translations were made a simple transliteration into Hebrew characters sufficed. Portions of such a transliteration are to be found in Bodleian Manuscript No. 1221 (= Hunt No. 529), the first parts of which are even punctuated; on the margin are Hebrew translations of some passages and references to the Bible and the haggadic literature; the manuscript is in a modern Spanish rabbinical script. Additional fragments of such manuscripts are in the libraries of the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft (from the Crimea; see Rödiger in “Z. D. M. G.” xiv. 485), the Vatican (Cod. 357, 2), and the Vienna bet ha-midrash (Pinsker, No. 17). In a bookseller’s list cited in “J. Q. R.” xv. 77 is mentioned a volume containing the Torah, the Targum, and the Koran bound together (). A translation into Hebrew from the Latin was made in the seventeenth century by Jacob b. Israel ha-Levi, rabbi of Zante (d. 1634; see Neubauer, “Cat. Bodl. Hebr. MSS.” No. 2207); and, in modern times, by Herrman Reckendorf (, Leipsic, 1857). A translation into Spanish of sura 70 (“Al-Mi’raj”) was made in the thirteenth century, at the behest of Alfonso X., by the physician of Toledo, Don Abraham; a French rendering of this was afterward made by Bonaventura de Seve. Koran citations, either for polemical purposes or in translations from the Arabic, are occasionally found in Hebrew writings (e.g., in those of Saadia and Hai Gaon). Simon Duran (1423), in his critique of the Koran (see “Ḳeshet u-Magen,” ed. Steinschneider, in “Oẓar Ṭob,” 1881), quotes the Koran; but he mixes such quotations with others from the Sunnah, and probably takes them from translations of Averroes’ works. In some translations from the Arabic, the citations from the Koran were occasionally replaced by quotations from the Bible (e.g., in Al-Bataljusi, and in Judah Nathan’s translations of Ghazali’s “Maḳaṣid al-Falasifah”).

Richard Gottheil, Siegmund Fr�nkel
Jewish Encyclopedia, published between 1901-1906.

Steinschneider, Hebr. Bibl. pp. 309, 339, 591, 854; Z. D. M. G. xv. 381, xlviii. 354; J. Q. R. xii. 499; Polemische Literatur, pp. 313-316.G.


The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.

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This subject presentation was last updated on 09/06/2010 16:40:22

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November 15, 2010 - Posted by | Understanding Islam | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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