Part I: The Qur'an: Introduction

It is often said that the Qur'an is like the Bible: one is the holy book for Muslims, and the other is for the Christians. This is not a very accurate way of looking at the situation though because the two books are very different. The Bible is really a collection of many kinds of writings (prophecy, poetry, genealogy, history, personal letters, and so on) written by a large number of people across over a thousand years. The Bible was written in three languages across three continents (Europe, Asia, Africa).

The Qur'an is wholly different. According to Islam, it was not written by anyone, it was revealed, word for word, from God, by the angel Gabriel (Jabriil in Arabic) to Muhammad throughout his life. The Qur'an consists of 114 chapters, called surahs in Arabic. These surahs are organized like Paul's letters to the churches: from longest to shortest. The second is "The Cow" which is 31 pages long (in the translation I use), and the last one is "The Men" which follows:

SAY: 'I seek refuge in the Lord of men, the King of men, the God of men, from the mischief of the slinking prompter who whispers in the hearts of men; from jinn and men.'

That is the entire surah.

The word "qur'an" is possibly derived from the Arabic word qara' which means "he read." The word itself means something like recitation.

The content of the book is much more uniform than that of the Bible, as could be expected from a book produced by one person over a much shorter period of time. There are dietary laws, there are rules about how the believers should interact with Jews and Christians and idolators. There are regulations about the use of the spoils of war (there is a surah called "The Spoils"). Every aspect of life is touched upon, much like the Torah for Orthodox Jews.

There is a great deal of equivocation about the Jews and the Christians in the Qur'an. There are some positive remarks, like, "Believers, Jews, Sabeans, and Christians--whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does what is right shall have nothing to fear or to regret." But then two paragraphs later we find this: "Unbelievers are those that say: 'God is one of three.' There is but one God. If they do not desist from so saying, those of them that disbelieve shall be sternly punished." (5:69 ff.) There are many examples of this throughout the entire book, so it is not surprising that among Muslims there are so many points of view. (Also you will notice that the author obviously does not grasp the theology of the Trinity. This is not the kind of thing a Muslim can say though since each and every word is from God.)

The same can be said in terms of the use of violence, though the verses limiting violence seem to be fewer in number than those extolling it as long as it is carried out correctly. One that is frequently quoted in the Western press is this: "whoever killed a human being [...] shall be regarded as having killed all mankind" (5:32ff). These seem like the words of a religion of peace indeed. But the entire verse needs to be examined to understand how it has functioned throughout history:

"That is why We laid it down for the Israelites that whoever killed a human being, except as a punishment for murder or other villainy in the land, shall be regarded as having killed all humankind; and that whoever saved a human life shall be regarded as having saved all mankind."

So if there is "other villainy" then capital punishment is called for. Such crimes include insulting the Prophet and renouncing Islam. And lest we be impressed by this graciousness, we find this admonition a few verses later, "As for the man or woman who is guilty of theft, cut off their hands to punish them for their crimes. That is the punishment enjoined by God. God is mighty and wise." Fortunately most Islamic countries do not do actually do what "God enjoins." But you can clearly see that there is no question of this being a rule for a specific people at one time in history. It is more like a command for every believer in the world throughout all of time.

Let me know what questions you have. I have quoted mostly from "The Table" in this e-mail, if you would like to read the entire surah.

Peace be with you all.


muhairi8 said…
"The first is "The Cow" which is 31 pages long (in the translation I use)"

I just want to correct something the first surah is The opening, the Cow is the second one.

Abu Daoud said…
Good grief, what a silly mistake on my part. You are, of course, right. Ana muta'assif ya muhairi3.
JohnG. said…
"There are some positive remarks, like, "Believers, Jews, Sabeans, and Christians--whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does what is right shall have nothing to fear or to regret." But then two paragraphs later we find this: "Unbelievers are those that say: 'God is one of three.' There is but one God. If they do not desist from so saying, those of them that disbelieve shall be sternly punished." (5:69 ff.)"

I read recently a book from Edouard Marie-Gallez, french monk, whose scholar thesis is "The messiah and his prophet" (le Messie et son proph├Ęte), dealing with the origin of Islam. Very interesting.

For him we have three main groups of believers aroud Muhammad :
1°) The jews (I don't developp : no problem)
2°) The judeo-nazareens, who are called christians in the Qur'an. They recognise Jesus as Messiah, but not as God. They would have had a great influence in muhammad's doctrine. And because they don't believe in Christ as God, they are true monotheist, in islamic understanding.
3°) The Christian, who are called associator's in the Qur'an, and condemned.

The judeo-nazareens having quickly disepeared after Muhammad's life, islamic tradition have misunderstood and mixed the second and third group.

It seems to make sens for me.
Ph.L A M 3 R said…
SAY: 'I seek refuge in the Lord of men, the King of men, the God of men, from the mischief of the slinking prompter who whispers in the hearts of men; from jinn and men.'

It's not the Surah of men it's "An'Nas", and that it is
(...)Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of mankind, (1) The King of mankind, (2) The God of mankind, (3) From the evil of the sneaking whisperer, (4) Who whispereth in the hearts of mankind, (5) Of the jinn and of mankind. (6)(...)
not Man, it's mankind
Jason Nota said…
Abu, I have heard Islam has an interesting belief about Paradise, were you will be given virgins and drink wine? Is this true? If it is why can't Muslims drink alcohol in this life? What is the significance of being given virgins. What are you going to with virgins in heaven?
John Stringer said…
Hello! One little comment. You suggest that the word Qur'an comes from qara'a - reading. But how in the world is this grammatically possible? Where does the N (nun) come from?

I think it is more likely that Qur'an is an arabic 'translitteration' of the Aramaic QERYANA. (Mind the Q-R-N) That word was used in the time of the prophet in the churches of Arabia in the liturgy for the LECTIONARY.
akhter said…
hat was Ayesha’s (ra) Age at the Time of Her Marriage?

What was Ayesha’s (ra) age at the time of her marriage?

It is normally believed that she was nine years old at the time of her marriage with Mohammad (sws) was consummated. I do think it was according to the traditions of the Arab culture, as otherwise people would have objected to this marriage. But unfortunately, the modern day man is not satisfied with an answer as simple as that.


To begin with, I think it is the responsibility of all those who believe that marrying a girl as young as nine years old was an accepted norm of the Arab culture, to provide at least a few examples to substantiate their point of view. I have not yet been able to find a single dependable instance in the books of Arab history where a girl as young as nine years old was given away in marriage. Unless such examples are given, we do not have any reasonable grounds to believe that it really was an accepted norm.

In my opinion, the age of Ayesha (ra) has been grossly mis-reported in the ahadith. Not only that, I think that the narratives reporting this event are not only highly unreliable but also that on the basis of other historical data, the event reported, is quite an unlikely happening. Let us look at the issue from an objective stand point. My reservations in accepting the narratives, on the basis of which, Ayeshas (ra) age at the time of her marriage with the Prophet (pbuh) is held to be nine years are:

* Most of these narratives are reported only by Hisham ibn `urwah reporting on the authority of his father. An event as well known as the one being reported, should logically have been reported by more people than just one, two or three.

* It is quite strange that no one from Medinah, where Hisham ibn `urwah lived the first seventy one years of his life has narrated the event, even though in Medinah his pupils included people as well known as Malik ibn Anas. All the narratives of this event have been reported by narrators from Iraq, where Hisham is reported to have had shifted after living in Medinah for seventy one years.

* Tehzibu'l-tehzib, one of the most well known books on the life and reliability of the narrators of the traditions of the Prophet (pbuh) reports that according to Yaqub ibn Shaibah: "narratives reported by Hisham are reliable except those that are reported through the people of Iraq". It further states that Malik ibn Anas objected on those narratives of Hisham which were reported through people of Iraq. (vol 11, pg 48 - 51)

* Mizanu'l-ai`tidal, another book on the narrators of the traditions of the Prophet (pbuh) reports that when he was old, Hisham's memory suffered quite badly. (vol 4, pg 301 - 302)

* According to the generally accepted tradition, Ayesha (ra) was born about eight years before Hijrah. But according to another narrative in Bukhari (kitabu'l-tafseer) Ayesha (ra) is reported to have said that at the time Surah Al-Qamar, the 54th chapter of the Qur'an, was revealed, "I was a young girl". The 54th surah of the Qur'an was revealed nine years before Hijrah. According to this tradition, Ayesha (ra) had not only been born before the revelation of the referred surah, but was actually a young girl (jariyah), not an infant (sibyah) at that time. Obviously, if this narrative is held to be true, it is in clear contradiction with the narratives reported by Hisham ibn `urwah. I see absolutely no reason that after the comments of the experts on the narratives of Hisham ibn `urwah, why we should not accept this narrative to be more accurate.

* According to a number of narratives, Ayesha (ra) accompanied the Muslims in the battle of Badr and Uhud. Furthermore, it is also reported in books of hadith and history that no one under the age of 15 years was allowed to take part in the battle of Uhud. All the boys below 15 years of age were sent back. Ayesha's (ra) participation in the battle of Badr and Uhud clearly indicate that she was not nine or ten years old at that time. After all, women used to accompany men to the battle fields to help them, not to be a burden on them.

* According to almost all the historians Asma (ra), the elder sister of Ayesha (ra) was ten years older than Ayesha (ra). It is reported in Taqri'bu'l-tehzi'b as well as Al-bidayah wa'l-nihayah that Asma (ra) died in 73 hijrah when she was 100 years old. Now, obviously if Asma (ra) was 100 years old in 73 hijrah she should have been 27 or 28 years old at the time of hijrah. If Asma (ra) was 27 or 28 years old at the time of hijrah, Ayesha (ra) should have been 17 or 18 years old at that time. Thus, Ayesha (ra), if she got married in 1 AH (after hijrah) or 2 AH, was between 18 to 20 years old at the time of her marriage.

* Tabari in his treatise on Islamic history, while mentioning Abu Bakr (ra) reports that Abu Bakr had four children and all four were born during the Jahiliyyah -- the pre Islamic period. Obviously, if Ayesha (ra) was born in the period of jahiliyyah, she could not have been less than 14 years in 1 AH -- the time she most likely got married.

* According to Ibn Hisham, the historian, Ayesha (ra) accepted Islam quite some time before Umar ibn Khattab (ra). This shows that Ayesha (ra) accepted Islam during the first year of Islam. While, if the narrative of Ayesha's (ra) marriage at seven years of age is held to be true, Ayesha (ra) should not have been born during the first year of Islam.

* Tabari has also reported that at the time Abu Bakr planned on migrating to Habshah (8 years before Hijrah), he went to Mut`am -- with whose son Ayesha (ra) was engaged -- and asked him to take Ayesha (ra) in his house as his son's wife. Mut`am refused, because Abu Bakr had embraced Islam, and subsequently his son divorced Ayesha (ra). Now, if Ayesha (ra) was only seven years old at the time of her marriage, she could not have been born at the time Abu Bakr decided on migrating to Habshah. On the basis of this report it seems only reasonable to assume that Ayesha (ra) had not only been born 8 years before hijrah, but was also a young lady, quite prepared for marriage.

* According to a narrative reported by Ahmad ibn Hanbal, after the death of Khadijah (ra), when Khaulah (ra) came to the Prophet (pbuh) advising him to marry again, the Prophet (pbuh) asked her regarding the choices she had in her mind. Khaulah said: "You can marry a virgin (bikr) or a woman who has already been married (thayyib)". When the Prophet (pbuh) asked about who the virgin was, Khaulah proposed Ayesha's (ra) name. All those who know the Arabic language, are aware that the word "bikr" in the Arabic language is not used for an immature nine year old girl. The correct word for a young playful girl, as stated earlier is "Jariyah". "Bikr" on the other hand, is used for an unmarried lady, and obviously a nine year old is not a "lady".

* According to Ibn Hajar, Fatimah (ra) was five years older than Ayesha (ra). Fatimah (ra) is reported to have been born when the Prophet (pbuh) was 35 years old. Thus, even if this information is taken to be correct, Ayesha (ra) could by no means be less than 14 years old at the time of hijrah, and 15 or 16 years old at the time of her marriage.

These are some of the major points that go against accepting the commonly known narrative regarding Ayesha's (ra) age at the time of her marriage.

In my opinion, neither was it an Arab tradition to give away girls in marriage at an age as young as nine or ten years, nor did the Prophet (pbuh) marry Ayesha (ra) at such a young age. The people of Arabia did not object to this marriage, because it never happened in the manner it has been narrated.
Anonymous said…

I am american muslim. I do not follow Islamic traditions. I have only Quran. And there are some different opinions about Quran (without hadith interpretation) and cutting hans and feet for punishmenst.
maryooch said…
As a Catholic Christain I believe God is the author of the the Sacred Scripture. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part I, Section One, Chapter 2, Article 3, Sacred Scripture, paragraph 105: "For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself."70
Vince said…
I think it would be important to also explain in Introduction to the Qur'an the concept of 'abrogation'. Defenders of Islam who advance it as a Religion of Peace often quote earlier quotes in the Qur'an and fail to mention that later quotes supercede earlier quotes and for the most part the Qur'an became more violent toward and restrictive of any other religion as history moved forward.

Abu Daoud said…
John G:

This seems like a fair analysis, though I am not familiar with the author in question.

L A M:

Well, you are beating around the bush I think. Traditionally in English we can use the word 'men' to refer to all humanity. Indeed, that is the tradition, and to use humanity as the inclusive noun is bida' (innovation). I think this is the more Islamic path ;-)
Abu Daoud said…
Jason: Yes, this is indeed part of the Qur'an. What will the men do with the women? Presumably enjoy celestial sex. And there are rivers of wine, though there is difference of opinion regarding the nature of this wine. Some scholar, I think, say it is celestial wine that does not drunken the man (that is, Baptist wine!), and others say that the prohibition against alcohol will be lifted in Paradise.
Abu Daoud said…
John Stringer: Thanks for your comment!

I think you are correct in fact. But that doesn't mean that the Aramaic and the Arabic do not have a similar common root: q r '. In Arabic, that root forms the word 'he read' as you well know. It is easy to understand how this root in Aramaic could mean 'prayer book' or 'recitation' or 'readings'. But yes, there is no Arabic grammatical form resulting in the word 'reading', though etymologically it is, I still hold, closely related.
Abu Daoud said…

I am so glad that you are willing to quote Islamic sources to refute the report that Muhammad, at the age of 50 or so, married a six-year old girl and had sex with her at the of nine. This is a clearly immoral deed.

If indeed Muhammad did such a thing then he is clearly no prophet. If the facts are wrong then the entire history of Islamic ahadiith is called into question.

Thank you for your helpful comments.

Abu Daoud said…
Maryooch and Vince: thanks to both of you fro dropping by the blog. I think that both of you raise topics that are worthy of entire posts on their own:

Islam and the Catholic Church


Islam, the Bible, and Abrogation

Please keep up to date on the blog, eventually I will address the interesting topics you raise. I am quite familiar with both matters.
rebelsprite said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
rebelsprite said…
I wanted to say how much I appreciate that you are posting this series. I will be back to read through these as I want to increase my understanding of Islam.
Abu Daoud said…
Hello Rebelsprite, and thanks for dropping by the blog. I hope you will find much here to help you as you assist our Orthodox brethren in reaching out to Muslims. There are a lot of evangelical blogs out there on Islam, but I am proud that this blog has readers from all the Christian Churches, Eastern and Western.

Please do read the rest of the sections in this series and if you have any questions just post your question on the blog or you can always email me at abu_daoud [at] afm-us [dot] org.

May St Abu of Tblisi, an Orthodox martyr and an ex-Muslim Christian, intercede for you!


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