Friday, May 05, 2017 - Updated: 11:20 AM
QUESTION: In the news, I often hear of the Quran. I don’t really know much about it. When did it come about and who wrote it?
ANSWER: The Quran is the “holy book” of Islam. Muslims believe that it contains revelations that were given by God to the prophet Muhammad.
Muhammad was born in Mecca around 570 A.D. and died in Medina in 632 A.D. He was raised in an atmosphere where Christianity and Judaism were known, but the dominant religious practice was one described as “tribal beliefs.” Around age 40, Muhammad received a revelation from God through the archangel Gabriel, and for the next 20 years of his life these revelations continued.
The Quran is divided into 114 sections or chapters. The chapters are of different length, with some as short as two lines and others as long as 700. The current arrangement places the longer chapters first, with the remainder following in decreasing order.
The formation of the Quran from these revelations is a somewhat complex process. The prophet spoke the revelations during his lifetime, and many in his audience memorized his words. While today we might be skeptical of an ability to memorize passages of great length, men and women of former ages transmitted great works by memory often assisted by such things as acronyms and imagery.
Others wrote down the words of the prophet on whatever was available. The commentators say this included scraps of leather, leaves and even fragments of stone or animal bone. Not long after the prophet’s death, various Muslim leaders set about assembling the sayings of the prophet in a complete written form.
While there were variant editions of this compilation lasting even until the 10th century, one standard text quickly gained widespread acceptance. The arrangement of the chapters, however, was somewhat arbitrary and followed the principle of longer chapters first, then shorter ones. The flow of the material has less of a chronological foundation (i.e. earliest to latest sayings) and has more to do with editorial style (longest then shortest).
The Quran clearly distinguishes the words of God from those of the prophet. One of the central themes of the Quran is that with great care God reveals a plan to emissaries (prophets) who share it with others. The response that is demanded is one of worship and a life lived according to a morality rooted in God’s law of justice.
According to the Quran, the revelation to Muhammad continued a long tradition of biblical figures such as Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Although Muhammad is the “seal of the prophets,” Abraham (whom the Quran calls the father of faith and the friend of God) is held up as the model for all believers.
The Quran calls Jesus the Messiah and says that he was cast into Mary, who was purified and chosen above all women. Although the Quran gives Jesus a place of great honor among the prophets, it denies that he is God or even “son of God.” He is an emissary, servant or prophet, as was Noah, Abraham, Moses and Muhammad.
Father Bober is pastor of St. Kilian Parish in Adams and Cranberry townships.