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New Muslims Qur'an & Sunnah

The Definition of Sunnah

The Prophet's Mosque in Medina

Following the Prophet is a divine command.

Linguistically, Sunnah means a way or method that can have two states, either good or bad. It is derived from the word “Sanan”, which is Arabic for: a road or a path.

Sunnah in this sense is mentioned in the hadith of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) in which he said, “Whosoever does a good Sunnah will get the reward for it and the reward of others who followed him in doing the same thing until the Day of Judgment. And whosoever does a bad Sunnah will have the punishment of doing it and the punishment of others who followed him in practicing it.”(Muslim)

However, the definition of Sunnah differs depending on the area of Shari`ah. For example, a scholar in the area of Usul al-Fiqh (Arabic for: fundamental principles of Islamic jurisprudence) will define Sunnah as “whatever the Prophet was reported to have said, did, or permitted others to do.”

As an example of what he said are the hadiths that deal with the different rulings in different contexts, such as his saying, “The reward of deeds depends on intentions.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Examples of his actions include the acts of worship, such as the way to perform Prayer, pilgrimage, the etiquette of fasting, etc.

The third type of Sunnah was represented by the Prophet’s silence upon seeing the Companions doing or saying something; his silence in such case served as an approval. Such approval might also be expressed verbally.

An example of his permission is when the Companions had two different opinions during the battle of Bani Qurayzah regarding the Prophet’s command “Do not pray `Asr till you are at Bani Qurayzhah” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim). Some of the Companions understood that the Prophet meant that they should delay Prayer till they reach the place. However, some Companions understood that the Prophet only wanted to urge them to hurry, and so they did pray `Asr on time – before reaching their destination. In neither case did the Prophet say anyone of them was wrong and he did not reject what they did.

Another example of the Prophet’s permission of an action is when Khalid ibn Al-Waleed ate a lizard that he himself refused to eat. Some of the Companions wondered and asked him, “Is it prohibited to eat it, O Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet replied, “No, but it is not common where I live, and I don’t feel like eating it.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The term Sunnah is also used to refer to a religious ruling that is based on a legal evidence whether from the Qur’an, the Prophet’s sayings, or ijtihad (independent juristic reasoning) by the Companions, such as the collection of the Qur’an in one book and unifying the reading of the Qur’an on one reading narration.

Opposed to Sunnah, there is bid`ah (innovation in religion) about which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said clearly, “Follow my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the righteous Caliphs after me.” and did not say follow my bid`ah, which should not be taken as the same as Sunnah. This can be shown by the definition used in fiqh where we say this is a sunni divorce (done in accordance with Sunnah) and that is a bid`i divorce (not according to Sunnah).

These differences in looking at Sunnah are dependent on the faculty of scholars, just like any area of science where definitions vary. In general, we can define the Sunnah as whatever the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said or did to be way of life for us.

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This article has been taken with modifications from onislam.net.

 

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Tips for New Muslims on How to Read the Qur’an

It is very important for Muslims to read the Qur’an and get a better understanding of its message. This is how we can learn and practice the basic concepts of Islam as a balanced way of life.

someone teaching another how to read the qur'an

The first word of the Qur’an revealed to Prophet Muhammad was “Read”.

Reading the Qur’an also shows us the universe in a new light: we learn many amazing facts about ourselves and the different creatures of God, the environmental balance and our role in it, human behavior and relations, financial and economic concepts, and much, much more.

In other words, when we read the Qur’an we must free our minds and open up our souls to get a much deeper understanding of our world and ourselves. It is not just a book of worship and religious rules; it is a book of wisdom that will change our lives.

Here are some general guidelines on how to read the Qur’an:

1- Find a good translation in a language you understand well. For English speakers, I recommend Professor Mohamed Abdel Halim’s modern English translation (The Qur’an, a new translation- Oxford University Press).

Always bear in mind that reading the Qur’an in any other language than its original Arabic is only an approximation of the meaning and not the exact text, simply because it is impossible to reproduce the same literary experience in any other language.

Dr. Mostafa Mahmoud, a philosopher and scientist, describes the Qur’anic style:

“There is no end rhyme, nor is the Qur’an written in verse. The prose, however, is so unique that one can detect a law of verbal architecture that governs its internal music pattern. It remains impossible to imitate the structural and rhetorical brilliance of the Qur’an”.

2- Listen to a recitation of the Qur’an from an experienced reader, even if you don’t understand. It is important to get the feeling of the original text, and it is mesmerizing to hear its unusual music.

3- If this is your first encounter with the Qur’an, plan two consecutive readings: a first quick and general reading to get the big ideas, then a second more thorough reading to delve deeper and get a much closer look at the details.

4- Start your first reading with a neutral frame of mind. Approaching the Qur’an with a pre-conceived perception will only slow your progress and color your understanding of its true message, resulting in a confused impression.

Consult your own open heart and mind in the first reading, and not other people’s opinions, whether from classical books or from the mainstream media. The Qur’an reaches straight into your soul if you let it, so please allow yourself the experience.

Dr. Mohamed Enani writes:

“The Qur’an speaks the language of the human heart wherever humans are found and whatever the age they live in; it is a universal language rooted deep in a human’s natural constitution”.

5- Do not be afraid to challenge what you read. The Qur’an actually invites the reader to do just that, as long as you diligently and earnestly try to find the answers, because in the process, you end up re-discovering your true self.

This rewarding journey of mental and spiritual growth is described in the works of many prominent western Muslims such as American Professor of mathematics Jeffrey Lang, who was challenging the Qur’an as a fierce atheist, yet couldn’t help but surrender to it eventually (Struggling to Surrender, Amana Publications), he writes of his first reading:

“You cannot simply read the Qur’an, not if you take it seriously. You either have surrendered to it already or you fight it. It attacks tenaciously, directly, personally; it debates, criticizes, shames, and challenges. From the outset it draws the line of battle, and I was on the other side. I was at a severe disadvantage, for it became clear that the Author knew me better than I knew myself. The Qur’an was always way ahead of my thinking; it was erasing barriers I had built years ago and was addressing my queries”.

6- Allow yourself time to contemplate. Don’t read the Qur’an like you read the newspaper, rather, read it as a direct message from God Himself to you in particular! When you read verses where God talks to the reader, stop and let the message sink in, then allow yourself time to think of yourself and your life in relation to this divine communication, think of how you could put it to good use to adjust your convictions and behavior.

When you read stories about previous nations, find contemporary parallels and try to learn the lessons. When you read about God’s magnificent creations, think of educating yourself about nature and showing gratitude to Him through respecting life and natural resources. Think of the Qur’an as a dialogue or a conversation rather than a one-way communication of do’s and don’ts. Be brave enough to provide the honest answers to the questions your heart and mind will throw at you while you read.

7- Get additional insights from trusted sources about the Qur’an’s message from different perspectives: scientific, sociological, behavioral, regulatory…etc. in addition to reading about the historic context in which it was revealed, including the biography of the man who transmitted it to us: Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions.

I advise you to read original writings from fellow Muslims of your native culture, rather than translated works from Arabic, with the exception of a few outstanding works (for example, Dr. Mostafa Mahmoud’s book Understanding the Qur’an, a Contemporary Approach, translated by Dr. M Enani- Amana Publications).

Read also about the brilliant achievements of Muslim scientists across history, when they understood and applied the Qur’anic rules of acquiring and applying knowledge to serve humanity as God’s vicegerents on Earth.

A good source is “Lost History, the Enduring Legacy of Muslim Scientists, Thinkers, and Artists” by Michael Hamilton Morgan, National Geographic.

8- Plan to read the Qur’an in its original language one day by learning Arabic, and the science of the correct recitation of the Qur’an called ‘tajweed‘. There are lessons in all the mosques in the world, and there are transliterated Qur’ans especially for this purpose, to help you pronounce correctly, and many new Muslims have excelled at this and teach others, you can easily find their sites through a simple online search.

The experience is unparalleled if you allow yourself to absorb it in full. In his book “The Amazing Qur’an“, Dr. Garry Miller writes:

“Calling the Qur’an amazing is not something done only by Muslims, who have an appreciation for the book, and who are pleased with it; it has been labeled amazing by non-Muslims as well. In fact, even people who hate Islam very much have still called it amazing”.

Dr. Miller then explains his surprise as a scientist during his first reading:

“Within the last century the scientific community has demanded a test of falsification for any new scientific theory. This is exactly what the Qur’an has. Basically it states, “If this book is not what it claims to be, then all you have to do is this or this or this to prove that it is false.” Honestly, I was very surprised when I first discovered this challenge. In 4:82 the book openly invites the non-Muslim to find a mistake. In 1400 years no one has been able to do that, and thus it is considered true and authentic”.

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Taken from Onislam.net.

 

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Hadith: Its Meaning and Significance

sahih muslim

If one is to understand the meanings of Qur’an, they must consider what the Prophet said or did regarding it.

The Arabic word hadith basically means ‘an item of news, conversation, a tale, a story or a report,’ whether historical or legendary, true or false, relating to the present or the past. Its secondary meaning as an adjective is ‘new’ as opposed to qadeem, ‘old’.

However, like other Arabic words (e.g. salah, zakah), its meaning changed in Islam. From the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him), his stories and communications dominated all other forms of communication. Consequently, the term hadith began to be used almost exclusively for reports that spoke of his actions and sayings.

Usage of the Word Hadith

The term hadith has been used in both the Qur’an-where it is mentioned 23 times- and the prophetic traditions according to all of its linguistic meanings. The following three categories are the most notable usages. It has been used to mean:

a- The Qur’an itself:

Then leave Me alone with those who reject this communication. (Al-Qalam 68:44)

“Indeed, the best form of communication is the Book of Allah…” (Muslims and Ahmad)

b- A historical story:

Has the story of Moses reached you? (Taha 20:9)

“You may speak about the Children of Israel without …” (Al-Bukhari)

c- A general conversation:

When the Prophet confided in one of his wives… (At-Tahrim 66:3)

“Molten copper will be poured in the ear of whoever eavesdrops on the conversation of people who dislike him doing so or flee from him.” (Al-Bukhari)

Among the hadith scholars the term hadith means ‘whatever is transmitted from the Prophet of his actions, sayings, tacit approvals, or physical characteristics. Scholars of Islamic Law do not include the physical appearance of the Prophet in their definition.

Importance of Hadith

1- Revelation

The Prophet’s sayings and actions were primarily based on revelation from Allah and, as such, must be considered a fundamental source of guidance second only to the Qur’an. Allah in the Qur’an said concerning the Prophet:

(Muhammad) does not speak from his desires; indeed, what he says is revelation. (An-Najm 53:3-4)

Therefore, the hadith represents a personal source of divine guidance which Allah granted His Prophet which was similar in its nature to the Qur’an itself. The Prophet reiterated this point in one of his recorded statements, “Indeed, I was given the Qur’an and something similar to it along with it.” (Abu Dawud)

Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him

Allah also protected its essential meanings from change by entrusting the explanation of the meanings of Qur’an to the Prophet himself.

2- Tafseer

The preservation of the Qur’an was not restricted to protecting its wording from change. Were that the case, its meanings could be manipulated according to human desires, while maintaining its wording.

However, Allah also protected its essential meanings from change by entrusting the explanation of the meanings of Qur’an to the Prophet himself. Allah states the following in the Qur’an regarding its interpretation:

 And I revealed to you the Reminder (Qur’an) in order that you explain to the people what was revealed to them.” (An-Nahl 16:44)

Therefore, if one is to understand the meanings of Qur’an, he or she must consider what the Prophet said or did regarding it. E.g. in the Qur’an, Allah instructs the believers to offer salah (formal prayers) and pay zakah (obligatory charity) in Surat Al-Baqarah (2), verse 43.

And be steadfast in prayer; practice regular charity; and bow down your heads with those who bow down (in worship). (Al-Baqarah 2:43)

However, in order to obey these instructions correctly, one must study the methodology of the Prophet in this regard. Among his many clarifications concerning salah and zakah, he instructed his followers saying “Pray as you saw me pray,” (Al-Bukhari) and he specified that 2.5% of surplus wealth, unused for a year,9 should be given as zakah.

Also, there are a number of authentic hadiths in which the Prophet gave specific instructions concerning the items and quantities on which zakah was due, as well as the time it is due. Among them is the following narration from `Ali ibn Abi Talib:

`Ali ibn Abi Taalib quoted Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) as saying: “Whenever you possess 200 dirhams and a year passes on it, 5 dirhams is to be paid on it. You are not liable to pay anything until you possess 20 dinars and a year passes on it, in which case ½ a dinar is due. Whatever exceeds that will be counted likewise9. And no zakah is payable on wealth until a year passes on it.” (Abu Dawud)

3- Laws

One of the primary duties of the Prophet was to judge between people in their disputes. Since his judgments were all based on revelation, as stated earlier, they must be considered a primary source of principles by which judgments are carried out in an Islamic State. Allah also addressed this responsibility in the Qur’an saying:

O believers obey Allah, obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. If you dispute about anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger. (An-Nisaa’ 4:59)

Thus, hadiths are essential for the smooth running of the law courts in an Islamic State.

4- Moral Ideal

Since the Prophet was guided by revelation in his personal life, his character and social interactions became prime examples of moral conduct for Muslims until the Last Day. Attention was drawn to this fact in the following Qur’anic verse:

Surely there is for all of you a good example (of conduct) in the way of Allah’s Messenger. (Al-Ahzab 33:21)

Consequently, the daily life of the Prophet as recorded in hadith represents an ideal code of good conduct. In fact, when the Prophet’s wife, ‘A’ishah, was asked about his conduct, she replied, “His character was the Qur’an.” (Ahmad)

5- Preservation of Islam

The science of narration, collection and criticism of hadith was unknown to the world prior to the era of the Prophet .

In fact, it was due in part to the absence of such a reliable science that the messages of the former prophets became lost or distorted in the generations that followed them.

Therefore, it may be said that it is largely due to the science of hadith that the final message of Islam has been preserved in it is original purity for all times. This is alluded to in the Qur’anic verse:

 Indeed, I have revealed the Reminder, I will, indeed, protect it. (Al-Hijr 15:9)

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “Usool Al-Hadith”.

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Want to Study the Gracious Quran? Watch this!

An Evening with the Quran (Week 1)

This is the name of this new course which will be about studying the Gracious Quran. It’s a series of lectures that will be focusing on studying Surat Qaaf, Chapter 50 of the Quran. The lecturer in this video and the coming ones is Shaykh Ali Hammuda.

‘Uthman bin ‘Affan (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “The best one amongst you is the one who learns the Qur’an and teaches it.” (Al-Bukhari)
Surat Qaaf (chapter 50) is like none other. Some of the companions memorized it due to the sheer number of times they heard the prophet “peace be upon him” recite it publicly. Undoubtedly, therefore, Surah Qaaf offers life changing secrets, and we wish to uncover some of them.
Watch this video to find out why you should study the Gracious Quran and why especially Surat Qaaf.
I hope you can find this lecture beneficial!

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The Seven Under Allah’s Shade

By Jamaal Diwan

The hadith (saying of the Prophet) of the seven who are in Allah’s shade, subhanahu wa ta’ala (exalted is He), on the Day of Judgment gives us guidance as to important milestones and markers for our spiritual development. These are goals that should be sought in one’s development.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:

There are seven whom Allah will shade in His Shade on the Day when there is no shade except His Shade: a just ruler; a youth who grew up in the worship of Allah, the Mighty and Majestic; a man whose heart is attached to the mosques; two men who love each other for Allah’s sake, meeting for that and parting upon that; a man who is called by a woman of beauty and position [for illegal intercourse], but he says: ‘I fear Allah’, a man who gives in charity and hides it, such that his left hand does not know what his right hand gives in charity; and a man who remembered Allah in private and so his eyes shed tears. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The seven things mentioned all relate to serious developmental goals that should be sought throughout our own personal development and our efforts to help other people in their own growth.

So there are seven things mentioned in this hadith:

  • A just ruler.
  • A youth who grows up in the worship of Allah.
  • A man whose heart is attached to the mosques.
  • Two people who love one another for the sake of Allah.
  • Someone who resists a direct temptation from the opposite gender.
  • A person who is completely selfless in charity.
  • A person who remembers Allah in private and sheds tears in doing so.

The seven things mentioned all relate to serious developmental goals that should be sought throughout our own personal development and our efforts to help other people in their own growth.

1. A Just Ruler

The first is to develop a level of Allah-consciousness (taqwa) in the way that one deals with power. Being in a position of authority in Islam is a responsibility that one is held accountable for and it is very serious. Part of that is that our base selves often push us to take advantage of our positions of authority and abuse our power at the expense of others. This is a serious developmental flaw because it shows irresponsibility and a lack of taqwa. We all have varying situations throughout our lives wherein we are in a position of authority and when we have such power we have to look critically at ourselves and hope that Allah gives us good friends who help keep us in line. The developmental lesson here is in learning to act responsibly with power.

2. A youth who grows up in the worship of Allah

The second is a special kind of person that you meet every now and then. They are just good and always have been. These people are truly special because their consistency in worship draws them close to the fitrah, or natural state of being. You can feel their goodness in their interactions and see their genuineness in the details of their behavior. Most of us were not raised this way but that does not mean that we cannot renew our commitment to Allah (swt). That is something that we can do it any time by asking His forgiveness and starting fresh. This developmental point is about being consistent in our servitude to Allah (swt).

3. A man whose heart is attached to the mosques

The third is the one whose heart is attached to the houses of worship. These are the people you meet who organize their lives around prayer. They make every effort to be at the mosque for prayer as much as possible and find beauty and pleasure in doing so. They recognize the peace and tranquility that comes from spending time in the mosque, and they call others to do so as well. This developmental point is about learning to love worship.

4. Two people who love one another for the sake of Allah

The fourth is two people that love each other for the sake of Allah (swt). There are many reasons why we could care for someone in this life. Sometimes those reasons are selfish and sometimes they are selfless. The one who loves solely for Allah’s sake (swt) is selfless in their love. This is a kind of training of the heart that all seekers of the Divine must experience. They must learn to purify their relationships with others and focus them on the ultimate goal, the pleasure of Allah (swt). This developmental point is essentially learning how to love properly and for the right reasons.

5. Someone who resists a direct temptation from the opposite gender

The fifth is someone who is called to fulfill their sexual desires in an unlawful way and resists. This is mentioned as a major trial that can afflict a person and as such the reward for passing it is Paradise. The person who is able to resist such a temptation is someone who has a strong control over their self and a clear awareness of Allah (swt). The developmental lesson is in learning to resist immediate temptations in favor of a greater reward with Allah (swt).

6. A person who is completely selfless in charity

The sixth is someone who is so charitable that they lose track of their charity. The expression here is that their right hand spends so freely that their left hand does not even notice it. This habit is not about simply giving when it is convenient or only on certain things and not others. This is a habit that becomes so much a part of the person’s being that it reaches all causes of goodness. The developmental lesson is in making charity a way of life.

7. A person who remembers Allah in private and sheds tears in doing so.

The seventh, and final, is the one who remembers Allah (swt) in private and tears up. This last one is very intimate. Many people are able to maintain a stable Islamic personality in public, but when they are left alone by themselves they start to slip. Their identity and worship are public affairs but have not reached the inner depths of the self where true spirituality lies. The one who remembers Allah (swt) when alone and cries is the one who has cultivated a truly special and unique relationship with their Creator; an intimate relationship that cannot be explained by words and is only obtained through long periods of struggling for His sake. The developmental goal is to become intimate with Allah (swt) and move past the superficiality of common religious discourse.


Source: muslimsincalgary website with some modifications

About the author:

Jamaal Diwan was born and raised in Southern California and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Third World Studies and a minor in Psychology from the University of California, San Diego. He has served with the Muslim Student Association (MSA), MSA West, and Muslim American Society (MAS) in varying capacities. He remains an active MAS member and is a scholarship student with the Islamic American University. Jamaal is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree at the College of Shari`ah at al-Azhar University in Cairo, and Master’s degrees from the American University in Cairo in Arabic Studies with an emphasis in Islamic Studies.

 

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The Difference between the Qur’an, Hadith and Hadith Qudsi

By Ahmad von Denffer

The Qur’an

The Qur’an can be defined as follows:

The speech of Allah, sent down upon the last Prophet Muhammad, through the Angel Gabriel, in its precise meaning and precise wording, transmitted to us by numerous persons (tawatur), both verbally and in writing.

The Word Qur’an

The Quran is the speech of Allah, sent down upon the last Prophet Muhammad, through the Angel Gabriel, in its precise meaning and precise wording, transmitted to us by numerous persons (tawatur), both verbally and in writing.

The Arabic word ‘qur’an‘ is derived from the root qara’a, which has various meanings, such as to read, [Sura 17: 93.] to recite, [Sura 75:18:17: 46.] etc. Qur’an is a verbal noun and hence means the ‘reading‘ or ‘recitation‘. As used in the Qur’an itself, the word refers to the revelation from Allah in the broad sense [Sura 17: 82.] and is not always restricted to the written form in the shape of a book, as we have it before us today.

However, it means revelation to Muhammad only, while revelation to other prophets has been referred to by different names (e.g. taurat, Injil, kitab, etc.).

Other Names of the Qur’an

The revelation from Allah to the Prophet Muhammad is referred to in the Qur’an itself by the name qur’an (recitation) as well as by other names, such as e.g.

  • Furqaan (criterion, see 25: 1).
  • Tanzil (sent down, see 26: 192).
  • Dhikr (reminder, see 15: 9).
  • Kitab (scripture, see 21:10).

Other references to the Qur’an are by such words as Nur (light), Huda (guidance), Rahma (mercy), Majid (glorious), Mubarak (blessed), Bashir (announcer), Nadhir (warner), etc.

All these names reflect one of the various aspects of the revealed word of Allah.

The Meaning of Hadith

The word hadith means news, report or narration. It is in this general sense that the word is used in the Qur’an. [e.g. Sura 12:101.] Technically, the word hadith, (pl. ahadith) means in particular the reports (verbal and written) about the sunna of the Prophet Muhammad. Hadith reports about the Prophet Muhammad are of the following kinds:

  • What he said (qaul).
  • What he did (fi’l).
  • What he (silently) approved (taqrir) in others’ actions.

There are also reports about him, i.e. about what he was like (sifa).

The Difference between the Qur’an and Hadith

There is agreement among most Muslim scholars that the contents of the sunna are also from Allah. Hence they have described it as also being the result of some form of inspiration. The contents of the sunna are however expressed through the Prophet’s own words or actions, while in the case of the Qur’an the Angel Gabriel brought the exact wording and contents to the Prophet, who received this as revelation and then announced it, in the very same manner that he received it.

The difference between these two forms has been illustrated by Suyuti (following Juwaini) in the following manner:

‘The revealed speech of Allah is of two kinds: As to the first kind, Allah says to Gabriel: Tell the Prophet to whom I sent you that Allah tells him to do this and this, and He ordered him something. So Gabriel understood what His Lord had told him. Then he descended with this to the Prophet and told him what His Lord had told him, but the expression is not this (same) expression, just as a king says to someone upon whom he relies: Tell so-and-so: The king says to you: strive in his service and gather your army for fighting … and when the messenger (goes and) says: The king tells you: do not fail in my service, and do not let the army break up, and call for fighting, etc., then he has not lied nor shortened (the message) …

‘And as to the other kind, Allah says to Gabriel: Read to the Prophet this (piece of) writing, and Gabriel descended with it from Allah, without altering it the least, just as (if) the king writes a written (instruction) and hands it over to his trustworthy (servant) and says (to him): Read it to so-and-so. Suyuti said: The Qur’an belongs to the second kind, and the first kind is the Sunna, and from this derives the reporting of the Sunna according to the meaning unlike the Qur’an.” [Sabuni, tibyan, p.52]

It is generally accepted that the difference between Qur’an and sunna is as follows:

The ahadith from or about the Prophet Muhammad are:

  • The words or actions of a human being, and not the speech of God as the Qur’an is.
  • Not necessarily reported in their precise wording, as the Qur’an is.
  • Not necessarily transmitted by tawatur, except in some instances.

Hadith Qudsi

Qudsi means holy, or pure. There are some reports from the Prophet Muhammad where he relates to the people what God has said (says) or did (does), but this information is not part of the Qur’an. Such a report is called hadith qudsi, e.g.:

Abu Hurairah reported that Allah’s messenger said:

‘Allah, Mighty and Exalted is He, said: If My servant likes to meet me, I like to meet him, and if he dislikes to meet Me, I dislike to meet him.’ [Forty Hadith Qudsi, Beirut, Damascus, 1980, No. 30.]

While the common factor between hadith qudsi and the Qur’an is that both contain words from Allah which have been revealed to Muhammad, the main points of difference between Qur’an and hadith qudsi are as follows:

In the Qur’an the precise wording is from Allah, while in the hadith qudsi the wording is given by the Prophet Muhammad.

  • The Qur’an has been brought to Muhammad only by the Angel Gabriel, while hadith qudsi may also have been inspired otherwise, such as e.g. in a dream.
  • The Qur’an is inimitable and unique, but not so the hadith qudsi.
  • The Qur’an has been transmitted by numerous persons, (tawatur) but the hadith and hadith qudsi often only by a few or even one individual. There are hadith qudsi which are sahih, but also others hasan, or even da’if, while there is no doubt at all about any aya from the Qur’an.

Another point is that a hadith qudsi cannot be recited in prayer.

Distinctive Features of the Qur’an

The most important distinction between the Qur’an and all other words or writings therefore is that the Qur’an is the speech from Allah, revealed in its precise meaning and wording through the Angel Gabriel, transmitted by many, inimitable, unique and protected by Allah Himself against any corruption.


The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “Ulum al-Quran: An Introduction to the Sciences of the Quran” with some modifications.

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A Guide to Reading and Understanding the Quran

If you’re a new Muslim or a non-Muslim who has read, is reading, or thinking about reading the Qur’an, then that’s great. There is way too much misquotation, misrepresentation, and, simply, false accusations attributed to the Qur’an, and the best way to truly understand the book is, well, by reading it.

However, picking up the book and just reading it is not enough. There are many things you need to understand about the Qur’an before you begin reading. Here, I shed light on just two important points, which I believe are the most vital.

There are many things you need to understand about the Qur’an before you begin reading.

The Uniqueness of the Arabic Language

It’s not easy at all to translate Arabic into English or into any other European language for that matter. Arabic to English translations are not done word for word, like how, for example, German to English would be translated. This is because not every Arabic word has an exact English equivalent. So what translators have to do is find the closest matching word or combination of words to try and get the sentiment, tense, tone and emphasis found in the original Arabic across. Essentially, when you read an English Qu’ran, you can’t actually say you are reading a translation of the Qur’an. In fact, you are reading someone’s attempt to bring the apparent meaning of the Qur’an into English.

Even those scholars and academics who are native Arabs or well-versed in Arabic struggle to understand the Arabic of the Qur’an. This is why there are so many commentaries and interpretations written with scholars giving their opinions on the meanings, both apparent and hidden.

Therefore, you can appreciate the task at hand as a reader of an English Qu’ran.

A very good English version I would recommend is this one as it has important footnotes and explains when each chapter was revealed.

How the Qur’an Was Revealed

The Holy Qu’ran was not a complete book or scroll given to the Prophet Muhammad by God, via Archangel Gabriel. It was gradually revealed to the Prophet over twenty-three years.

Academics give various reasons as to why this was the case. For example, to give people a chance to slowly absorb the contents of their newfound faith and not to cause an information overload.

Whilst these and other reasons are likely to be true, what is definitively true is that often (not all the time) a portion of the Qur’an was revealed in response to either questions people asked to the Prophet, due to the actions of the people, community, or general occurrences of the time.

Almost no verse was revealed without context or reason.

A Common Misconception

Many people cite chapter 47, verse 4 to conclude Islam as an intolerant religion that wishes to kill anyone who stands in its way. People only use a portion of the verse too, as it reads:

“Therefore when you meet the disbelievers, smite their necks.” (Quran 47:4)

On face value this sounds like a very violent and intolerant act. You can start to understand the verse better if you know the context, which is as follows.

The non-Muslim Arabs were very unhappy about the rising popularity of Islam and wished to battle and kill the Muslims. The command in the aforementioned verse came from God permitting the Muslims to kill the disbelievers in battle, as a form of defence.

The verse was revealed in the context of a battlefield, with a grave threat to the lives of the Muslims at a time when people coming to Islam were being heavily persecuted, and God is saying you are allowed to defend yourself during this battle. It is therefore not a statement made in vacuum to indiscriminately go out and kill people who did not believe, but disbelievers who persecuted Muslims.

I bet if someone wanted to kill you, you would not wait for a go ahead to defend yourself, because it would be well within your rights and anybody would understand your natural defensive response.

Another Example That Shows the Importance of Context

Another verse that is heavily used to accuse Islam of being violent is chapter 2, verse 191, which reads:

“And kill them wherever you find them.” (Quran 2:191)

Context, guys! All one need to do is read the verses before and after this verse to understand what this really means. The verse before (190) says:

“Fight in the way of God those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. God does not like transgressors.” (Quran 2:190)

Here, God is saying to only fight those who fight you but do not transgress meaning do not use excessive or unnecessary force. And if someone continues to read the verse in contention (191), they will find that the rest of the verse says:

“…and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and fitnah [persecution] is worse than killing. And do not fight them at al-Masjid al-Haram until they fight you there. But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers.” (Quran 2:191)

Once again, the verse is instructing Muslims not to fight until the opposition fights them first. The verse after (192) says:

“And if they cease, then indeed Allah is Forgiving and Mericful.” (Quran 2:192)

And finally (193):

“Fight them until there is no [more] fitnah and [until] worship is [acknowledged to be] for Allah. But if they cease, then there is to be no aggression except against the oppressors.” (Quran 2:193)

So to summarise, these verses are saying:

  • Only fight them, if they fight you i.e. you are allowed to engage in self-defence
  • When fighting, don’t transgress and do anything unnecessary
  • If they stop fighting, then you stop your aggression too because aggression can only be towards oppressive people

Sounds fairly rational to me.

As you can see, I’ve had to go into lengthy detail to explain just a few verses from the Qur’an. Now I hope you can appreciate the toil scholars go through to explain the Qur’an, especially those who have written volumes of commentary on it.

And I also hope you can appreciate why it irks Muslims when someone picks up an English version of the Qur’an, picks a random verse and says ‘Hey, look, this is what Islam is about’.

Be active, not passive readers and if you have questions, ask experts and do not assume.


Source: sailanmuslim website with some modifications

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