The Holy Qur’an
in English Translation
Based on the translation of F. Malik.
The Qur’an, (Koran) meaning recitation, is the sacred book of Islam. According to Muslim tradition, it was revealed by God to the Prophet Muhammad in separate revelations over the major portion of his life at Mecca and at Medina. The Qur’an was probably compiled as a single volume under the third caliph, Uthman, who appointed a committee (651-52). The internal organization of the Qur’an is somewhat ad hoc.
Revelations consisted of verses (ayat) grouped into 114 chapters (surah, plural -suwar). The arrangement of the chapters is mechanical: the first, al-Fateha or “the Opening, is a short prayer exalting God that has become an essential part of all Islamic liturgy and prayer. The rest are graded generally by length, from longest to shortest. It is impossible to know chronological order of the chapters from their order in the Quran. Some of the suwar begin with letters of the Arabic alphabet, as though meant to be numbered, others do not. Some suwar of the Qur’an refer or allude to religious and historical events but seldom provide comprehensive accounts. God in
the Qur’an speaks in the first person. Being the verbatim Word of God, the text of the Qur’an is valid for religious purposes only in its original Arabic, cannot be modified, and is not translatable, although the necessity for non-Arabic interpretations is recognized.
The reader should be aware that the Quran, like the holy books of the Jews and Christians, is interpreted differently by different persons. Some insist on a strict literal interpretation, while others try to adapt the intention of the Quran to modern society.
One source of difference is the method of “abrogation” used to resolve conflicts in the text. Though some scholars deny it, most Muslims recognize that the Quran includes many apparently contradictory verses, created at different times. These are harmonized by a method of precedence or “abrogation.” The traditional view is that later verses abrogated earlier ones. This is the almost unanimously accepted view.
Others argue that earlier verses take precedence over later ones.
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