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Names of the Qurʾān

(5,782 words)

Author(s): Mir, Mustansir
The Qurʾān calls itself by a variety of names, which throw light on the various aspects under which it presents itself. A study of the names of the Qurʾān thus becomes part of the exercise in understanding the qurʾānic phenomenon. Scholars number differently the names the Qurʾān uses for itself. According to al-Ṭabarī (d. 310/923), the divine revelation ( tanzīl, see revelation and inspiration ) has four names: qurʾān, furqān, kitāb, and dhikr. Al-Ṭabarī hastens to add that, in the Arabic language (q.v.), each of these four names has “a meaning and an aspect” quite distinct…

Dialogues

(2,280 words)

Author(s): Mir, Mustansir
Conversations between two or more persons. Dialogue is an important and frequently occurring feature of qurʾānic style. Direct speech, in fact, predominates in many sūras while narration (see narratives ) occupies relatively little space. Of the four periods into which the qurʾānic sūras are usually divided (three Meccan and one Medinan; see chronology and the qurʾān ), the second and third Meccan periods are especially rich in dialogue. The lack of dialogue in the sūras from the early period may be explained by the fact that, throughout the first Meccan period, the Quraysh (q.v.) igno…

Bread

(652 words)

Author(s): Mir, Mustansir
An article of food made from flour or meal by moistening, kneading and baking. The word “bread” ( khubz) occurs only once in the Qurʾān, in the story of the prophet Joseph (q.v.) in the twelfth sūra. The wife of Potiphar (in the Qurʾān Potiphar is called ʿazīz, “powerful,” that is, one holding a powerful position [cf. q 12:30, 51, 78, 88]), on failing to persuade Joseph to sleep with her, carries out her threat to him and he is thrown into prison. Two young fellow-prisoners ask Joseph to interpret their dreams. One of them (whom the commentators on the Qurʾān, accepting the Biblical account in Gen 4…

Polytheism and Atheism

(2,537 words)

Author(s): Mir, Mustansir
The worship of many gods; the belief in no god. Although the concept of atheism was unknown to the qurʾānic audience, the human tendency to ascribe divine tendencies to something other than the one, true God was not. The qurʾānic allusions to “polytheism” have been variously understood: idolatry on the part of pre-Islamic ¶ Arabian tribes; the pre-Islamic Arabs' ascription of divine attributes to lesser beings, perhaps even within a monotheistic framework; or, alternatively, a polemical accusation that Jews and Christians had distorted aspects of their earlier revelations. …

Unity of the Text of the Qurʾān

(695 words)

Author(s): Mir, Mustansir
As a subject of study, the unity of the qurʾānic text assumes special importance because the Qurʾān does not always seem to deal with its themes in what most readers would call a systematic manner (see form and structure of the qurʾān ). Western scholars of Islam have often spoken of the “disconnectedness” of the Qurʾān (see pre-1800 preoccupations of qurʾānic studies; post-enlightenment ¶ academic study of the qurʾān ). Historically, most Muslim exegetes have not raised the issue at all (see exegesis of the qurʾān: classical and medieval ). Of those who have, some have offered the …

Theophany

(733 words)

Author(s): Mir, Mustansir
Visible appearance of God. In the Qurʾān, the closest one comes to a visible appearance of God is in q 7:143. Moses (q.v.) expresses his wish to see God, who replies: “You shall not see me. Look at the mountain, though; if it stays in its place, then will you see me.” The verse continues: “So, when his lord (q.v.) manifested himself ( tajallā) to the mountain, he flattened it, and Moses, thunderstruck, collapsed. When he came to, he said, ‘Glory to you! I turn toward you in repentance, and I am the first of the believers’” (see repentance and penance; glorification of god). The hairsplitting disc…

Grace

(597 words)

Author(s): Mir, Mustansir
Undeserved favor or unmerited salvation. Grace has no linguistic or conceptual equivalent in the Qurʾān, although faḍl in certain contexts suggests shades of that meaning. q 2:64, criticizing the Israelites (see children of israel ) for breaking a covenant (q.v.) with God, says “Were it not for God's faḍl upon you and his mercy (q.v.), you would have been among the losers.” This implies that while, strictly-speaking, the breach called for punishment (see chastisement and punishment ), God's faḍl gave the Israelites respite and another chance. It was David's (q.v.) special gift that…

Glorification of God

(651 words)

Author(s): Mir, Mustansir
The adoration and exaltation of God, the Arabic terms for which (derived from the root letters s-b-ḥ) cover a range of meanings: worship (q.v.) or prayer (i.e. q 3:41); wonder at his ability to perform miraculaous deeds (i.e. q 17:1); constant remembrance (q.v.) of God ( dhikr, exemplified in q 13:13); contrition ( tawba, exemplified in q 24:16; see repentance and penance ); as well as a negative assertion of what God is not (see Dāmaghānī, Wujūḥ, i, 446-7 for an elaboration of these themes). Tasbīḥ, the qurʾānic word most often translated as glorification of God, is essentially…

Glory

(700 words)

Author(s): Mir, Mustansir
Height of splendor and renown. The word jalāl (“majesty”) comes closest to being the qurʾānic term for glory. The only two occurrences of the word are in sūra 55, and in both instances it is constructed with dhū, “possessor, owner” (see Gimaret, Noms divins, 75-6; Rāzī, Lawāmiʿ al-bayyināt fī l-asmāʾ wa-l-ṣifāt, 270): “Your lord's countenance, possessor of majesty and honor, [alone] will survive” ( q 55:27) and “Blessed is the name of your lord, possessor of majesty and honor” ( q 55:78). The word majd has a similar denotation and the participle majīd is used in the Qurʾān for God ( q 11:73), f…

Ashes

(626 words)

Author(s): Mir, Mustansir
The solid residue left when a material is burnt. The word “ashes” (ramād) occurs only once in the Qurʾān, in 14:18: “A similitude of those who have disbelieved in their Lord: Their actions will be like ashes swept away by a severe wind on a stormy day. They have no power over what they earned; it is this that is extreme misguidance.” As the phrase “swept away by a severe wind on a stormy day” qualifies the ashes, it will be discussed here as well (see also air and wind ). The point of the simile is that on the day of resurrection the disbelievers who had hoped to be saved on the stre…

Literature and the Qurʾān

(14,013 words)

Author(s): Kadi (al-Qāḍī), Wadad | Mir, Mustansir
This article deals with two main topics: the Qurʾān as literature, which focuses on the literary aspects of the Qurʾān, and the Qurʾān in literature, which focuses on the use of the Qurʾān in various Islamic literatures: Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Punjabi, and Malay. For further and more comprehensive discussion of the utilization of the Qurʾān in various non-Arabic Islamic literatures, see the articles south asian literature and the qurʾān; southeast asian literature and the qurʾān; turkish literature and the qurʾān; persian literature and the qurʾān; african literature. Qurʾān as li…