(part 1 of 2): structure and meanings
The Quran is the Muslim script, the script of the followers of Islam. Islam is the religion that was established among the Arabs – a people that until then had been limited to the Arabian Peninsula – by the Prophet Muhammad in the early seventh century. The Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by God through the angel Gabriel; this happened partly in Mecca, his hometown, and partly in Medina, where he managed to build a state in the otherwise stateless tribal society. The message was revealed in Arabic, the language of the people to which it was initially addressed, although the message was intended for all of humanity. The Quran particularly emphasizes that Muhammad is the Messenger for all humanity and that he will be the last Messenger. Hence the Qur’an is the last message, which replaces and repeats the basic religion that God intended for the Jews and Christians, it is for them as well as for the Muslims. Today, the absolute number of Muslims in the world is over a billion, which is almost a fifth of the world’s population. For all Muslim societies, no matter what language they speak and where they live, the Quran is their script.
The first thing to understand about the Quran is its form. The Arabic word ´Quran´ literally means ´Recitation´ or ´Read´. Accordingly, the Quran was read both orally and written down in book form. The real power of the Qur’an lies in the oral recitation, which means that it is read aloud and melodically, but the verses have always been written down on all sorts of materials as an aid to memorization and preservation, and these have been collected and in book form ordered, formerly by private, later institutional. The Quran was not intended to be a chronological story, so one cannot expect an ongoing narrative as in Genesis 1 (story of creation in the Old Testament). The Arabic book that bears the name Quran is about as long as the New Testament.
In contrast to the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, the Quran comes from the mouth of a single person who recited what she had heard from the angel Gabriel. On the other hand, the Jewish and Christian scriptures have become collections of many books that have been written by a large number of people and opinions about their status as revelations differ.
How is the Quran organized?
The Quran consists of 114 chapters of unequal length. Each chapter is called Surah in Arabic and every sentence Ajat, literally ´a sign´. Like the Bible, the Quran is divided into individual units, which corresponds to verses in German. These verses have no standard length or dimension, and where everyone begins or ends was not decided by humans, but dictated by God. Each one is a separate expression for itself, a closed meaning, or a ‚character‘, as the word Ajat in Arabic indicates. The shortest surah consists of ten words, and the longest surah, which comes second in the text, consists of 6,100 words. The first surah, the fatiha (‚the opening one‘) is relatively short (25 words). From the second Surah, the length of the Surahs gradually decreases, however, this is not a fixed and even rule. The last sixty Surahs occupy the same space as the second. Some of the longer ayat are much longer than the shortest surahs. All Surahs, except one, begin with: Bimillah hir-Rahman nir-Rahim, ‚In the Name of God, Most Merciful, Most Merciful.‘ Each Surah has a name that usually mentions a keyword in it. For example, the longest Surah, Surah al-Baqara, or ‚The Cow‘ was named after the story of Moses, who ordered the Jews to sacrifice a cow that begins with God’s testimony: of the Merciful.´ Each Surah has a name that usually mentions a key word in it. For example, the longest Surah, Surah al-Baqara, or ‚The Cow‘ was named after the story of Moses, who ordered the Jews to sacrifice a cow that begins with God’s testimony: of the Merciful.´ Each Surah has a name that usually mentions a key word in it. For example, the longest Surah, Surah al-Baqara, or ‚The Cow‘ was named after the story of Moses, who ordered the Jews to sacrifice a cow that begins with God’s testimony:
“And when Moses said to his people, ‚Verily, God commands you to slaughter a cow …’” (Quran 2:67)
Since the different chapters are of different lengths, the scholars of the first century divided after the Prophet’s death the Quran in thirty roughly equal parts, each of which is called Juz´ in Arabic. This division has been made so that people who memorize or read the Quran can make it more orderly, and it has no effect on the original structure, because it is just markings on the pages that indicate the part. In the Muslim month of fasting, Ramadhan, a juz ‚is usually recited every night and the entire Quran is completed within the thirty days of the month.
Translations of the Quran
A beginner should know a few points about Quran translations.
First, a distinction is made between the Quran and its translation. From a Christian perspective, the Bible is the Bible, no matter what language. But a translation of the Quran is not the Word of God, because the Quran consists of exact Arabic words that God spoke and that were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel. The Word of God is only the Arabic Quran, as God says:
„We revealed it as the Quran in Arabic.“ (Quran 12: 2)
A translation is just an explanation of the meanings of the Quran. For this reason, a modern German translation of the Quran is entitled: ‚Al-Quran al-Karim and its approximate meaning in German‘; an effort is made to convey the meaning, but it cannot be an exact reproduction of the Holy Book, it cannot do a translation. The translated text loses the inimitability of the original, so you have to be aware of the degree to which the translated text reflects the original message at every level of meaning, and it will most likely not hit it exactly. For this reason, everything that is considered a recitation of the Quran must be done in Arabic, like the Quran recitation in the five daily prayers of Muslims.
Second, there is no perfect translation of the Quran and because they are all human-made, each one has some mistakes. Some translations are better in their linguistic quality, while others are more accurate and exact. Many inaccurate and sometimes misleading translations, which are generally not accepted by the mainstream of Muslims as credible translations of the Quran, are sold on the market.
Third, an overview of all German translations would go beyond the scope of this article, but some translations are preferable to others. Generally speaking, it is of course more advisable to choose a Muslim translation rather than any ‚Islam expert‘. The translation of the Islamic Library by Muhammad Rassoul is linguistically beautiful. The German Muslim Ahmad von Denffer tried to get a very precise translation, while the translation by Abdullah as-Samit Frank Bubenheim and Dr. Nadeem Elyas is inaccurate in places.
Exegese (Tafseer in Arabic)
Although the meanings of the Quran are simple and clear to understand, one has to be careful about making statements about religion without referring to credible comments. The Prophet Muhammad not only brought us the Quran, but also explained it to his companions, and these statements were collected and kept to this day. God says:
“And to you (o Muhammad) we have sent the admonition to explain to men what has been sent to them …” (Quran 16:44)
To understand some of the deeper meanings of the Quran, one should consult the comments that cite these statements of the Prophet and his companions and do not reflect what they understand by them, because their understanding is limited to their prior knowledge.
There is a special method for exegesis of the Quran to filter out the correct meaning. The Qur’anic sciences, as they are called, are a particularly specialized area of Islamic teachings that require a master’s degree in various areas, such as exegesis, recitations, writing, inimitability, circumstances behind the revelations, annulment, grammar of the Quran, unusual expressions, religious rules and Arabic language and literature. According to the scholars of Quranic exegesis, the correct method of explaining the Quranic verses is:
(i) Tafsier of the Quran through the Quran.
(ii) Tafsier of the Quran through the Sunnah of the Prophet.
(iii) Tafsier of the Quran by the companions.
(iv) Tafsier of the Quran through the Arabic language.
(v) Tafsier of the Quran through ´mindings´, if nothing contradicts this from the four sources mentioned above.
(part 2 of 2): His inimitability and language
Muslims are absolutely convinced of the magnificence and importance of the Quran, which is usually called with the additions ’noble‘, ‚magnificent‘ and ‚pure‘. What is it that moves Muslims so deeply when they recite the Quran, when they see its verses, or when they just touch it?
The style of the Quran is inimitable and of divine beauty and strength. As often as he tries, no one can write a sentence that would be comparable to a verse in this book. On the one hand, this is due to the literary virtue of the text and the effectiveness of the words – their changeability and their redemptive power – this is inimitable. He brings tears to an uneducated shepherd when he is read to him, and he has shaped the way of life of millions of ordinary people over the course of nearly fourteen centuries; he has nurtured some of the most powerful intellect people have reported; he stopped sophists on their way and turned them into pious believers; and he was the source of the most ingenious philosophy and an art that depicts its deepest meanings through visual means;
Reciting the Quran is the noblest and most edifying occupation of a Muslim, even if he or she does not understand his words intellectually, as is the case with most non-Arab believers. The Muslim’s desire to recite the Quran as beautifully as possible and the art of tilawat, the right reading, has developed into a science. Even if the book is recited without decoration, you have to follow certain rules of recitation. The hafiz who ‚preserves‘ the Quran, that is, who knows it by heart, is highly respected, and boys and girls are sent to the mosque very early so that they can memorize the ‚book‘.
In order not to pollute the holy character of the Quran, one should exercise caution not to leave it in a place where one occasionally stands, sits, or otherwise disrespects it; it is quite unpopular to use any book, let alone the Quran, as a support to secure or elevate something. If there is no reading in it, the Muslim will put it back on a shelf or bookcase or on a reading desk. Some people gently wrap it around cloth to protect it and to be able to handle it if they are not in the required state of purity. They also like to make sure that it is placed above the other books and avoid simply leaving the Quran lying around somewhere. It is absolutely forbidden to take him to a place where you urinate or which is somehow dirty (toilets, dung heap, sheep pens, urban sewers, etc.). Even recitation is not desirable in such places.
Language of the Quran
The Quranic worldview is closely linked to the Arabic language, which, like Hebrew and Aramaic (the language of Jesus), belongs to the Semitic language family. The Quran describes itself as an ´Arabic script´ and the message is adapted to the complex structure of the selected language, a structure that is fundamentally different from any European language. The internal logic of Semitic languages is very different from that of the Indo-European languages, such as German, English, Latin and Persian. Each Arabic word can be traced back to its root, which consists of three, four or five consonants, from which up to twelve different verbal modes can be derived, together with a number of nouns and adjectives. This is meant with triliteral root and certain words are made from it by inserting long or short vowels and adding prefixes or suffixes. The root itself is ‚dead‘ – unspeakable – until it is brought to life, that is, vocalized with the vowels, and by placing them the basic meaning is developed in numerous different directions. The root has also sometimes been referred to as the ‚body‘ and the vocalization to the ’soul‘; or a large tree grows from the root. Without understanding the meanings and related concepts of the Arabic words, it is impossible to appreciate the richness of the related meanings, the difficulty in translating the words into German, and to find out the relationships among the Arabic words that are evident in the original.
The use of the Muslim by the sublime language of the Quran grew with the study of grammar and rhetoric, especially when non-Arabs entered Islam in large numbers and had to be taught peculiarities of the language of revelation. The belief that the book could not be translated forced those who accepted Islam to learn Arabic, or at least to become familiar with the Arabic alphabet. In many cases, this led entire nations to adopt Arabic as their vernacular, as was the case with all Arab states outside the Arabian Peninsula. This also had a major impact on other languages such as Persian, Turkish, Malay and many others that adopted the Arabic script.