What is the Qur’an?
Bismillahirrahmanirrahim. What is the Qur’an? It’s a very difficult question and it’s not possible to answer in just a few minutes. We can just point some important aspects of this discussion. The Qur’an is the verbatim word of God. And what does this mean? The Qur’an is the word, the word of God. And this word is eternal, is uncreated. And that word is expressed in a created language.
So according to Muslim theologians, according to Muslim philosophers, and virtue-masters, Qur’an is this divine word, eternal, infinite word. And that was expressed in a created language. So when you are holding the Qur’an, yes you are holding a created material, its papers. You are looking a created language. You know this linguistic structure, its letters, its grammar, semantics. You’re looking at a created thing. But the content one must know is uncreated. So when you are looking, when you are holding the Qur’an, you’re actually holding something which brings the infinite and finite together.
Why is this important? Because if you approach the Qur’an with this in mind, it’s crucial important. Because it allows you to appreciate the real value of the Qur’an. Seeing that word, the divine word and seeing it as the verbatim word of God, allows you to go back to Qur’an in every situation to unearth, to unpack its infinite treasures. One has to go with this in mind, with this principle that the Qur’an brings the infinite content to us in a finite language.
That’s why you know the Qur’anic language is not like any other thing. It’s different. It is discontinuous. It is sometimes asymmetrical, sometimes continuous, sometimes linear, sometimes poetic, sometimes not. You know language behaves really differently in the Quran. Because that language carries an infinite burden, as if other the overwhelming pressure of the Divine content. Language smashes and behaves differently.
And that’s beautiful, but actually is also since it was expressed by God, it is used, it is kind of capable of carrying that overwhelming burden. That’s why you know the Qur’an is not like any other text. And that’s the first thing that one must keep always in mind when one is reading the Qur’an. Qur’an is the verbatim word of God.
And secondly, the Qur’an is a revelation but there’s another revelation which is created and also is being created all the time, that is the universe. Now Qur’an is also an interpreter of this book of universe in which we find ourselves. It is interpreter in the sense that it teaches us how to read the divine science which is presented to us. You’re looking at the moon, you’re looking at the sun, and how to extract that divine content from this divine science, divine ayah as the Qur’an says it. And the The Qur’an is also an interpreter in terms of teaching us to read the universe
So without the Qur’an, it is not possible to truly understand what the universe is about. Also reading the universe helps us to discover and re-discover the Qur’an, the infinite treasures of the Qur’an. So one must put the book of universe and this book, the revealed book, the Qur’an next to each other and read them together, read them with a mindset, in an attempt to integrate their teachings. The Qur’an is interpreter of the book of universe. That’s the second thing that I wanna say about the Qur’an.
From another perspective, the Qur’an, this is the third thing that I wanna say, the Qur’an is the culmination of the sacred history. This is now what I mean by this. We know that this is not the first revelation that God has given to mankind. There’s a revelationary process. It starts with Adam, then it continuous in other Prophets. Yes the message is the same. The central message, according to our belief is the message of tawheed, “la ilahe illallah”, there is no God but God and worship Him only.
And this is the central message given to all Prophets and in this sense, Islam is not only a religion which is given to Muslims today. But it is this primordial religion which was gradually unfolded and in the Qur’an we see the culmination of this message. That message now is being given to man in all details and in a magnificent manner, in a mesmerizing beautiful way. And the Qur’an in this sense is the culmination of historic and this process of communication between man and God.
By the way, this is why in the Qur’an we see names of other Prophets. Abraham, Moses, Jesus. That’s why these figures are venerable figures and that’s why Muslims name their kids after these Prophets. This is all because of this and the basic message here the Qur’an is presenting the most perfect, most detailed form and version of that message. “La ilaha illallah” is being expressed to mankind with all of its conclusions, with all of its requirements in the Qur’an.
And fourthly, I also wanna say a few words about Qur’an’s gigantic impact on mankind, on its first audience in the first place. The Qur’an completely transforms its first audience and continuously transforms all coming generations and the following generations. How? Look at the society in which the Qur’an was revealed. That was a polytheist society, some says henotheist. Polytheists, they were praying more than 360 gods. In Ka’bah there were more than 360 gods. There were idols. They were knocked down after conquest of Makkah.
But they were polytheists. And now in a very very short amount of time, in just a few decades, the Quran completely transforms the society and makes them hardened monotheists. Now they are in love with the expression “La ilahe illallah”. And in the sense that they feel infinite presence and infinite transcendence of God in their lives. They reject all intermediation between God and man. This egalitarian and this liberating look, very rational, also very transcending belief.
And that’s what Qur’an brings to these people and transforms them, from another perspective, ethically transforms them. This was a society in which tribal codes was dominant. Tribalism was shaping their ethics. As if an individual dissolved in his or her own tribe. And there’s you know, between tribes there were no actually ethical codes. There were kind of moruva and machoism, hospitality but nothing like as this presented in the Qur’an. This detailed, this tense against ego, isaar, altruism, and all other things that shaping relationship between man and man and man and God.
They were lacking..And the Quran is presenting all these and again transforming them ethically, making them complete human beings. This is another aspect. Political also, Arabs were at each others’ throat and now the Quran comes and brings a unity. Because the Quran is going beyond the tribal boundaries. Now individual is not dissolved in his own tribe but individual now is responsible toward God only and standing alone before God.
Politically also we can talk about a transformation. Linguistically we can talk about a transformation. Qur’an changes Arab language, you know the imagery of pre Arabic, pre Islamic, Arabic poetry. The imagery changes. They were seeing the world, the nature as a hostile domain. In pre Islamic Arabic poetry, how hostile nature is. But the Qur’an comes and brings in a different message in which now nature is amiable, it’s a collection of signifiers. It is lovable, it is there to embrace us. There is this intimate and loving relationship is constructed between man and nature in the Qur’an.
Again, changing their worldview completely. From another perspective you know in terms of gender relationships, woman, that was a highly strict patriarchal society but now the Qur’an comes and presents a different way of looking at things in which men and women are equal. They complete each other, not identical but equal. We also see a fundamental progress in women rights and things like that. It was for some actually, quite feminist movement there is just presented to people.
If you look at this, how it transforms, this transformative magic, this gigantic influence of the Qur’an. This all transformation happens so quickly and the Qur’an is still vibrating in our lives and it is still continuing to transform our minds and hearts. Thank you.