Selections from the Qur'an, Islam's Holy Scripture
Compiled, along with prefatory remarks and citations, by Timothy Conway, PhD, June 2012
Part One: Preface
--What do scholars say about the Qur’ān?
--Major resources for approaching the Qur’ān
--Some recommended English translations of the Qur’ān (of the more than 50 that now exist)
--Making sense of the Qur’ān’s strongly apocalyptic style and tone
--A word about the Qur’ān’s structure:
Part Two: Selections of favorite quotes from the Qur’ān
(Scroll down about halfway or 50% of the webpage to find the beginning of this quote-section, cast in a dark green font.)
Part One: Preface:
The Qur’ān is said by Muslims and the text itself to be a direct revelation from God to the Arab people and humanity at large. The oft-occurring majestic diction and style of Arabic language impressed multitudes of early listeners in Arabia that this was so. According to Muslim sources, the Qur’ān was revealed by Angel Gabriel/Jibrīl piecemeal to Prophet Muḥammad (570/571 - 632 CE) in trance states over a period of 23 years. It began on “the Night of Power/Majesty” (Lailat al-Qadr) in year 610 when the Prophet (“peace and blessings be upon him,” p.b.u.h. [Arabic: s.a.w.s.], as devout Muslims always add) was 40 years old during one of his frequent meditations in the Hira cave about 600 paces up mount Jabal-al-Nur (Mountain of Light), located 10 miles from the ancient Ka’aba shrine in Mecca, western Arabia. At this time in his life, Muḥammad was diligently working as the esteemed overseer of the merchant caravans owned by his wealthy wife Khadījah, and he was taken aback by the initial revelation from Angel Gabriel, humbly fearing that he might be going crazy or descending into the disturbed state of the dime-a-dozen soothsayers and trance-channels. After a pause of six months (some say a few years), the Qur’ān revelations resumed. From 622 to 630 the revelations occurred while the Prophet was leading the Muslim community or umma 200 miles north up in Yathrib (later re-named Medina al-Nabi, City of the Prophet). Here the Muslims had fled to escape the brutal persecution in Mecca by the Quraish (Quraysh) clan of powerful merchants and their armies, who felt threatened by the egalitarian message of social welfare and Divine justice powerfully expressed by the Qur’ān. After some visits to Mecca and campaigns in different parts of Arabia, it was in Medina on June 8, 632 that the Prophet left the earth-realm, the Qur’ānic revelations evidently continuing right up until several days before his passing.
N.J. Dawood, a mid-20th century translator of the Qur’ān, himself an Iraqi Jew, wrote: “The Koran [Qur’ān] is the earliest and by far the finest work of Classical Arabic prose. For Muslims it is the infallible word of God, a transcript of a tablet preserved in heaven, revealed to the Prophet Mohammed by the Angel Gabriel. Except in the opening verses and some few passages in which the Prophet or the Angel speaks in the first person, the speaker throughout is God…. It is my belief that the Koran is not only one of the greatest books of prophetic literature but also a literary masterpiece of surpassing excellence.” (Dawood, Tr., The Koran, 4th rev. ed., NY: Penguin Books, 1976, Introduction, pp. 9, 11)
Because of its prominence for Islām, the holy Qur’ān has come to enjoy various epithets, including designations found in the scripture itself: al-hudah (“the guide”), dhikrallāh (“the remembrance of God”), al-ḥikmah (“the wisdom”), kalāmallāh (“the word of God”), and al-kitāb (“the book,” a term which is also used to refer to the Jewish Bible and Christian New Testament, which Islām respectfully regards as part of the Abrahamic monotheistic faith tradition). The Qur’ān has been termed “the most meta-textual” of all world religious scriptures, because of its many explicit references to itself and designations of itself as a Divine revelation for humanity. Some historians have also termed the Qur’ān “the world’s most ideologically influential text.”
What do scholars say about the Qur’ān?
Scholar Patricia Crone, professor of Islamic history at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and formerly much more of a skeptic about traditional accounts of early Islām’s formation, in a more recent article from 2006, “What Do We Actually Know about Mohammed?” more moderately asserts the following about the Prophet and about the Qur’ān. It is worth quoting Crone at length to get a good sense of where some of the most careful and “nitpicking” scholars have come in their approach to the historicity of both Prophet Muḥammad and the Qur’ān:
“In the case of Mohammed, Muslim literary sources for his life [the sīra or Prophetic biographies] only begin around 750-800 CE (Common Era), some four to five generations after his death, and few Islamicists (specialists in the history and study of Islam) these days assume them to be straightforward historical accounts. For all that, we probably know more about Mohammed [from external, non-Muslim sources] than we do about Jesus (let alone Moses or the Buddha), and we certainly have the potential to know a great deal more. There is no doubt that Mohammed existed, occasional attempts to deny it notwithstanding. His neighbours in Byzantine Syria got to hear of him within two years of his death at the latest; a Greek [Christian] text written during the Arab invasion of Syria between 632 and 634 [see Wikipedia entry on “Teaching of Jacob”] mentions that "a false prophet has appeared among the Saracens" […] Moreover, an Armenian document [by Armenian bishop and historian Sebeos] probably written shortly after 661 identifies him [Muḥammad] by name and gives a recognisable account of his monotheist preaching. On the Islamic side, sources dating from the mid-8th century onwards preserve a document drawn up between Mohammed and the inhabitants of Yathrib, which there are good reasons to accept as broadly authentic; Mohammed is also mentioned by name, and identified as a messenger of God, four times in the Qur’ān (on which more below). True, on Arabic coins and inscriptions, and in papyri and other documentary evidence in the language, Mohammed only appears in the 680s, some fifty years after his death. […] The evidence that a prophet was active among the Arabs in the early decades of the 7th century, on the eve of the Arab conquest of the middle east, must be said to be exceptionally good. Everything else about Mohammed is more uncertain, but we can still say a fair amount with reasonable assurance. Most importantly, we can be reasonably sure that the Qur’ān is a collection of utterances that he made in the belief that they had been revealed to him by God. The book may not preserve all the messages he claimed to have received, and he is not responsible for the arrangement in which we have them. They were collected after his death—how long after is controversial. But that he uttered all or most of them is difficult to doubt. Those who deny the existence of an Arabian prophet dispute it, of course, but it causes too many problems with later evidence, and indeed with the Qur’ān itself, for the attempt to be persuasive. For all that, the book is difficult to use as a historical source. The roots of this difficulty include unresolved questions about how it reached its classical form, and the fact that it still is not available in a scholarly edition. But they are also internal to the text. The earliest versions of the Qur’ān offer only the consonantal skeleton of the text. No vowels are marked, and worse, there are no diacritical marks, so that many consonants can also be read in a number of ways. Modern scholars usually assure themselves that since the Qur’ān was recited from the start, we can rely on the oral tradition to supply us with the correct reading. But there is often considerable disagreement in the tradition—usually to do with vowelling, but sometimes involving consonants as well—over the correct way in which a word should be read. This rarely affects the overall meaning of the text, but it does affect the details which are so important for historical reconstruction.
“In any case, with or without uncertainty over the reading, the Qur’ān is often highly obscure. Sometimes it uses expressions that were unknown even to the earliest exegetes, or words that do not seem to fit entirely, though they can be made to fit more or less; sometimes it seems to give us fragments detached from a long-lost context; and the style is highly allusive. One explanation for these features would be that the prophet formulated his message in the liturgical language current in the religious community in which he grew up, adapting and/or imitating ancient texts such as hymns, recitations, and prayers, which had been translated or adapted from another Semitic language in their turn. This idea has been explored in two German works, by Günter Lüling and Christoph Luxenberg, and there is much to be said for it [e.g., Luxenberg posits Syro-Aramaic as the linguistic ground for the emerging Arabic of the Qur’ān]. At the same time, however, both books are open to so many scholarly objections (notably amateurism in Luxenberg's case) that they cannot be said to have done the field much good. The attempt to relate the linguistic and stylistic features of the Qur’ān to those of earlier religious texts calls for a mastery of Semitic languages and literature that few today possess, and those who do so tend to work on other things. This is sensible, perhaps, given that the field has become highly charged politically. […]
“The Qur’ān does not give us an account of the prophet's life. On the contrary: it does not show us the prophet from the outside at all, but rather takes us inside his head, where God is speaking to him, telling him what to preach, how to react to people who poke fun at him, what to say to his supporters, and so on. We see the world through his eyes, and the allusive style makes it difficult to follow what is going on. Events are referred to, but not narrated; disagreements are debated without being explained; people and places are mentioned, but rarely named. Supporters are simply referred to as believers; opponents are condemned as unbelievers, polytheists, wrongdoers, hypocrites and the like, with only the barest information on who they were or what they said or did in concrete terms [….] One thing seems clear, however: all the parties in the Qur’ān are monotheists worshipping the God of the Biblical tradition, and all are familiar—if rarely directly from the Bible itself—with Biblical concepts and stories. This is true even of the so-called polytheists, traditionally identified with Mohammed's tribe in Mecca. The Islamic tradition says that the members of this tribe, known as Quraysh, were believers in the God of Abraham whose monotheism had been corrupted by pagan elements; modern historians would be inclined to reverse the relationship and cast the pagan elements as older than the monotheism; but some kind of combination of Biblical-type monotheism and Arabian paganism is indeed what one encounters in the Qur’ān.” (Patricia Crone, “What Do We Actually Know about Mohammed?” published to the web on Aug. 31, 2006 at www.opendemocracy.net/faith-europe_islam/mohammed_3866.jsp)
Journalist Toby Lester, in a landmark survey article for The Atlantic Monthly, “What is the Koran?” (Jan. 1999, pp. 43-56, online at www.theatlantic.com/issues/99jan/koran.htm), gives us another excellent overview of the Qur’ān:
“Roughly equivalent in length to the New Testament,… what generally surprises newcomers to the Koran is the degree to which it draws on the same beliefs and stories that appear in the Bible. God (Allāh in Arabic) rules supreme: he is the all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-merciful Being who has created the world and its creatures; he sends messages and laws through prophets to help guide human existence; and, at a time in the future known only to him, he will bring about the end of the world and the Day of Judgment. Adam, the first man, is expelled from Paradise for eating from the forbidden tree. Noah builds an ark to save a select few from a flood brought on by the wrath of God. Abraham prepares himself to sacrifice his son at God's bidding. Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt and receives a revelation on Mount Sinai. Jesus—born of the Virgin Mary and referred to as the Messiah—works miracles, has disciples, and rises to heaven. The Koran takes great care to stress this common monotheistic heritage, but it works equally hard to distinguish Islam from Judaism and Christianity. For example, it mentions prophets—Hud, Salih, Shu'ayb, Luqman, and others—whose origins seem exclusively Arabian, and it reminds readers that it is ‘A Koran in Arabic, / For people who understand.’ Despite its repeated assertions to the contrary, however, the Koran is often extremely difficult for contemporary readers—even highly educated speakers of Arabic—to understand. It sometimes makes dramatic shifts in style, voice, and subject matter from verse to verse, and it assumes a familiarity with language, stories, and events that seem to have been lost even to the earliest of Muslim exegetes (typical of a text that initially evolved in an oral tradition). Its apparent inconsistencies are easy to find: God may be referred to in the first and third person in the same sentence; divergent versions of the same story are repeated at different points in the text; divine rulings occasionally contradict one another. In this last case the Koran anticipates criticism and defends itself by asserting the right to abrogate its own message (‘God doth blot out / Or confirm what He pleaseth’).”
Scholars Norman O. Brown and Michael Sells have observed that the seeming "disorganization" of Quranic literary expression, its "scattered or fragmented mode of composition" (Sells' phrase), is in fact a literary device capable of delivering "profound effects—as if the intensity of the prophetic message were shattering the vehicle of human language in which it was being communicated." (See Michael Sells, Approaching the Qur'ān: The Early Revelations, White Cloud Press, 1999) The Qur’ān’s repetitiveness of certain identical or similar verses throughout the revelations is likewise felt to have the same effect. In the preface to his widely-acclaimed Qur’ān translation, Arthur J. Arberry speaks of the disorganization and repetition, which bored even some Western readers sympathetic with or devoted to Islām: “There is a repertory of familiar themes running through the whole Koran; each Sūra [chapter] elaborates or adumbrates one or more—often many—of these. Using the language of music, each Sūra is a rhapsody composed of whole or fragmentary leitmotivs; the analogy is reinforced by the subtly varied rhythmical flow of the discourse. If this diagnosis of the literary structure of the Koran may be accepted as true—and it accords with what we know of the poetical instinct, indeed the whole aesthetic impulse, of the Arabs—it follows that those notorious incongruities and irrelevancies, even those 'wearisome repetitions', which have proved such stumbling-blocks in the way of our Western appreciation will vanish in the light of a clearer understanding of the nature of the Muslim scriptures.” (Arthur J. Arberry (Tr.), The Koran Interpreted: A Translation, NY: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1955)
We hear from later accounts preserved by his followers that Prophet Muḥammad uttered the Qur’ān verses (āyas) while in what we might call “full-body trance states of Divine possession.” It is said that during or after the revelations the verses would be written down in the form of inscriptions on tablets, bones and the wide, flat ends of date palm fronds. Chapters were in wide use amongst early Muslims, memorized and frequently recited by the sahabah (companions) appointed by the Prophet. Shortly after Muḥammad's passing in 632, his close friend and first Caliph/successor Abū Bakr (573-634) directed that the Qur’ān be compiled into a single book. Our Muslim sources generally credit Zayd ibn Thābit, a companion of Muhammad, with drawing together such a scriptural collection. When Abū Bakr’s successor, ‘Umar, was nearing his own death in 644, he entrusted that text to his daughter Ḥafṣa, one of Muḥammad's surviving widows. The third Caliph, ‘Uthmān (579-656), around 650 allegedly commissioned a group of scribes to produce a standard copy of the Qur’ān from Ḥafṣa’s text, with diacritical marks to ensure correct pronunciation, and this became the standard dialect, the Quraish dialect, now known as Fus’ha (Modern Standard Arabic). We are told that five of these original Qur’āns were sent to the major Muslim cities of that era, with ‘Uthmān keeping one for his own use in Medina. Any other texts in existence that deviated from the standard edition were ordered to be destroyed, and all other editions of the Qur’ān subsequently copied by scribes were from this codex. This process of formalization is known as the "‘Uthmānic recension."
The present form of the Qur’ān text was until recent decades supposed by most scholars to have come down from that original ‘Uthmān codex. However, in 1972 at Yemen’s Great Mosque of Sana’ā, a stunning archaeological discovery of many fragments from thousands of 7th to 8th century Qur’āns arose to complicate this traditional view of the Qur’ān’s formation. Why? The fragments clearly show some divergence from the standard Qur’ān codex, according to the German scholars Gerd-Rudiger Puin (lead investigator of the fragments from 1981-5) and his colleague Hans-Caspar Graf von Bothmer (head of the project from 1985 on), who has amassed more than 15,000 microfilmed sheets from these Qur’āns.
Thus a major glitch has arisen in our understanding of the Qur’ān, because a zealous historical revisionism led by Western scholars including Puin and John Wansbrough (1928-2002), would challenge our traditional views of the formation of the Qur’ān and early Muslim religion. On the basis of various types of evidence, now including Puin and von Bothmer’s fragments from the “aberrant” Sana’ā/Yemeni Qur’āns, these dissidents are trying to bring the same candid inquiry and deconstructive approach to the early historical formation of the Qur’ān as Biblical scholars have done when analyzing the origins and reliability of certain texts in both the Jewish and Christian biblical texts.
But just as the past 150 years have seen many conservative Jews and Christians strongly protesting this critical intellectual approach, so also this recent academic enterprise concerning the Qur’ān and early Muslim documents stirs up great outcry in the traditionalist Muslim world, and even death threats against sincere Muslim scholars involved in this enterprise, like Abu Zaid of Egypt. In traditional Islām, the Qur’ān is considered to be a “pure” text that emerged during Prophet Muḥammad’s life entirely complete and self-consistent. And yet even within the single canonical Qur’ān text we do hear what sound like changes in tone and even content from earlier revelations to those of later years regarding things like fighting and the status of women in the community. On the topic of fighting, scholars trace a clear-cut evolution from pacifism in the face of opposition at Mecca in the earlier years to a strictly-regulated but zealous fighting against opponents in the later years up at Medina. On the status of women, we hear some subtle changes in the Qur’ān's edicts, likely occasioned by the squabbling among in-laws when Muḥammad, from age 54 onward (five years after the death of his beloved wife Khadījah back in 619), was compelled by humanitarian reasons to marry eight widows of both slain followers and also enemies, and to wed other females in customary marital “alliances” for political reasons.
Gerd Rudiger Puin, on the basis of those ancient Yemeni Qur’ān fragments, the oldest in existence, thinks Muslim and Western scholars shouldn’t so readily accept the conventional understanding of the Qur’ān. Says Puin: “The Koran claims for itself that it is ‘mubeen,’ or ‘clear’…. But if you look at it, you will notice that every fifth sentence or so simply doesn't make sense. Many Muslims—and Orientalists [sympathetic western scholars]—will tell you otherwise, of course, but the fact is that a fifth of the Koranic text is just incomprehensible. This is what has caused the traditional anxiety regarding translation. If the Koran is not comprehensible—if it can't even be understood in Arabic—then it's not translatable. People fear that. And since the Koran claims repeatedly to be clear but obviously is not—as even speakers of Arabic will tell you—there is a contradiction. Something else must be going on.” (Quoted in Toby Lester, "What is the Koran?" The Atlantic Monthly, Jan 1999—see earlier web-link).
The scholar writing under the pseudonym “Christoph Luxenberg” (because of potential violence from offended Muslims) has proposed that Syro-Aramaic was the widespread language of Arabia in the several centuries up to and including the time of Prophet Muḥammad, and Luxenberg hypothesizes that this Syro-Aramaic deeply conditioned many of the utterances of the Qur’ān. Perhaps the best scholarly assessment of Luxenberg’s work is the long book review by Robert Phenix and Cornelia Horn, for The Journal of Syriac Studies, online at http://syrcom.cua.edu/Hugoye/Vol6No1/HV6N1PRPhenixHorn.html. An opposing view comes from Francois de Blois, who calls Luxernberg a “dilettante.” See “Review of ‘Christoph Luxenberg’ for Journal of Qur’anic Studies, Vol. V, Issue 1, 2003, pp. 92-97, online at www.bismikaallahuma.org/archives/2005/review-of-christoph-luxenberg-die-syro-aramaische-lesart-des-koran-ein-beitrag-zur-entschlusselung-der-koransprache/
The aforementioned article by Toby Lester, a provocative survey of the scholarly revisionism up to the year 1999, points the way for interested readers to begin an acquaintance with some of these scholars, their methods, their doubts, and their tentative conclusions (some of which conclusions are debatable, since certain scholars have sometimes made use of unreliable and/or hostile sources to argue their point). Khaleel Mohammed, in a survey of Qur’ān translations from a 2005 Middle East Quarterly article, states it simply: “The revisionist works of scholars such as John Wansbrough, Michael Cook, Patricia Crone, Christoph Luxenberg, Gerd-Rudiger Puin, and Andrew Rippin [we could add the names of Frederik Leemhuis, François Déroche, and others], while opposed by many, indicate that there is much that is unclear about the early history and interpretation of the Qur’ān . Their theories about such key elements as the influence of contemporary politics should be addressed in any work seeking to elucidate Islam's main document.”
Another good entry into these topics is an informative Wikipedia entry, with many, many sub-links, examining traditional and revisionist accounts: “Historiography of Early Islam,” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historiography_of_early_Islam.
A long article by a group of Muslim authors (Saifullah, Ghoniem & Zaman) has this to say about several of the revisionist positions that have emerged (I give only a brief excerpt):
“In the last thirty years or so, many revisionistic theories have been proposed as to how the Qur’ān/Islām came about. According to these various revisionistic schools of thought, Islām was originally a Jewish sect (pace Hagarism [title of a 1977 book by Patricia Crone and Michael Cook—Crone has notably moved beyond some of the positions articulated therein]); the Qur'an was contemporaneous with the sira [i.e., composed at a later time, the time of the writing of the Prophetic biographies] (pace John Wansbrough); Islām arose in the Negev desert somehow allegedly validating Wansbrough's hypothesis (pace Yehuda Nevo) [but almost no scholars take Nevo seriously]; the Qur'an came after the sira and hadith (pace Uri Rubin); the Qur'an was an Iraqi product and predates the sira (pace Gerald Hawting) and, recently, the Qur'an is a product of Syriac Christianity (pace Christoph Luxenberg [a pseudonym]). It seems that these revisionistic schools often follow methodologies that do not agree with each other (whether in whole or in part) and none of them seem to agree on any one particular scenario, be it historical, social, cultural, political, economic or religious. Something that appears to be more fundamental in their analysis is that the revisionists are willing to formulate any theory to lend verisimilitude to their opinions concerning the Qur'an/Islām, no matter how much it contradicts all of the available well-established evidence, documentary or otherwise.” (M.S.M. Saifullah, Mohammad Ghoniem & Shibli Zaman, “From Alphonse Mingana to Christoph Luxenberg: Arabic Script & the Alleged Syriac Origins of the Qur'an,” 2004/2007, http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/Text/Mss/vowel.html)
Walid Saleh is a Muslim author critical of imbalanced approaches to the Qur’ān but very appreciative of sounder attempts to penetrate the mysteries of the Qur’ān. Toward the end of an erudite article he wrote in 2003, “In Search of a Comprehensible Qur’an: A Survey of Some Recent Scholarly Works” (Bulletin of the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies / BRIIFS), vol. 5 no. 2, Autumn/Winter 2003, online at www.riifs.org/review_articles/review_v5no2_walidsaleh.htm), Saleh declares: “The field of Qur’anic studies is at an impasse: the history of the Qur’an’s codification has now moved inexorably to centre stage. What we need now is clear palaeographic resolution of the issue of the dating of the Qur’an. We cannot afford more studies on the Qur’an while this major point remains in dispute. Thus, François Déroche’s investigations into the history of early manuscripts of the Qur’an is presently the most important work being done in the field of Qur’anic studies. At the very least, we need a terminus a quo to tell us, with some degree of certainty, when the Qur’an’s codification was completed.”
As a follow-on to that important remark by Saleh, it is crucial to note the conclusion by François Déroche, as described by Qur’ān scholar Gordon Nickel at his blogsite:
“François Déroche is one of the few who could be properly described as an expert in manuscripts of the Qur'an. His article with the same title [“Manuscripts of the Qur’ān”] was published in the Encyclopaedia of the Qur'an in 2003. More recently Déroche published the article “Written Transmission” [abbreviated below as “WT”] in a collection edited by Andrew Rippin [The Blackwell Companion to the Qur'ān, Oxford: Blackwell, 2006, pp. 172-186]. Muslim tradition ascribes the collection of the Qur'an to the third caliph, 'Uthman. Déroche writes that though there are claims of "'Uthmanic Qur'ans" in existence—six in Istanbul alone—historians are not convinced that any of these are authentic. Rather, the earliest Qur'ans which can be dated or have been dated using reliable evidence "are known to originate from the second quarter of the third [Muslim century] / ninth century [Common Era]." (WT, 172) Déroche helpfully explains the ways in which scholars date Qur'an manuscripts: through codicology, palaeography and philology. He writes that the Arabic script lacked standardization in the 1st/7th century. Certain long vowels were not part of the "consonantal skeleton"; there was no system in place for recording short vowels; and the dots which identify consonants were used with varying frequency by early copyists, sometimes not at all. "The various deficiencies noted in the hijazi-style manuscripts mean that it was not, in fact, possible to adequately preserve the integrity of the Qur'an through writing" at the time when 'Uthman is reported to have definitively established the text in Muslim tradition." (WT, 173-4) Déroche gives the details of the changes in the Qur'anic codex during the early centuries. The earlier defective script was slowly replaced by a full script, with such marks as vocalization, hamza, sukun and shadda gradually added. "The system as we know it today seems to have been introduced towards the end of the third/ninth century" [late 800s CE]. (WT, 175) One other point which Déroche includes—perhaps more widely known—is that most Qur'ans today go back to a decision of al-Azhar scholars in 1924 to favour one of the many possible variant readings, that of Hafs 'an 'Asim. Early manuscripts of the Qur'an were not taken into account in the preparation of this now-standard Cairo version, and it received no official sanction except by the shaykhs of al-Azhar. (WT, 184)” (From Gordon Nickel’s post “Manuscripts of the Qur’an,” at his blogsite, www.quranandinjil.org/weblog6, Nov. 21, 2009.)
Frederik Leemhuis, in his two authoritative articles for the Encyclopaedia of the Qur'ān: "Codices of the Qur'ān" (Vol. I, 2001), and "Readings of the Qur'ān" (Vol. IV, 2004), shows that the oldest extant codices of the Qur’ān only show the consonantal skeleton (rasm), without diacritical marks to distinguish consonants of the same shape, and also without vowel signs. During the second Islamic century, i.e., late 700s to early 800s of the Common Era, Muslims evidently began to form a “received text,” but simultaneously a "non-'Uthmanic rasm" was also considered by the era’s Muslim scholars to be a matter of fact. Leemhuis concludes: "Although the concept of the 'Uthmanic rasm suggests a uniform and invariable text, such uniformity is not presented by most of the oldest extant codices." (“Codices of the Qur’ān,” Vol. 1, p. 350)
In other words, the formation of a standard, single text of the Qur'ān seems to be much more complicated than the traditional Muslim account which maintains that the text was fixed during the Caliphate of 'Uthmān.
A sound voice of reason, clarity, and balance cutting a middle path between the excesses of modern deconstructivist literary criticism on the one hand and regressively traditionalist “Islamicist” approaches to the Qur’ān on the other hand is surely that of Fazlur Rahman (1911-88). A courageous Muslim intellectual, historian and ethicist, he was longtime professor of Islamic Studies at University of Chicago and arguably the 20th century’s leading Muslim academic focused on the encounter between Islām and the West. His Major Themes of the Qur'an (Minneapolis: Bibliotheca Islamica, 1994; orig. publ. in 1980), is essential reading for anyone interested in the Qur’ān. Not to mention his other works such as Islam and Modernity (1982) and many articles and academic papers warning Muslims worldwide not to surrender a hallowed old tradition of “living Sunna” keeping Islām alive and growing, in exchange for a dead, rigid “Islamist” legalism which slavishly adheres to the views of certain inflexible medieval Muslim thinkers. The latter is a pseudo-fundamentalist Islām, operating against Prophet Muḥammad’s own frequent example of adaptability and progressive views, and tries to regulate all the minutiae of life in a heavy-handed authoritarian manner which too often winds up being oppressive, not inspirational, in bringing people to a deeper practice of Islām, or “peaceful submission unto God.”
And on that note suggesting the true meaning and purpose of Islām, we do well to hear that, as some scholars have noted, the terms “Islām” and “Muslim” in the Qur’ān refer not to the reified constructs of later, institutionalized Islām but refer instead to natural devotion to God the Creator of all, the One behind the many, and that therefore the pre-Muslim ancient prophets and even little children having faith in a heavenly Creator and Lord, without any other religious conditioning, are to be described as Muslim, according to the Qur’ān.
Major Resources for approaching the Qur’ān:
1.) At the remarkable www.Tanzil.net website, by clicking on the “Translation” tab near the top center area, one can then click a lower left tab to choose from any of 15 different English translations of the Qur’ān (or translations in many other languages; the English translations include Arberry, M. Asad, M. Pickthall, Yusuf Ali, Ahmed Ali, and others). Then one can proceed sūra by sūra (chapter by chapter), with option to select different chapters out of order as one wishes. One may also choose to view the text in “Transliteration” mode from the original Arabic script into Roman/English script (or into other scripts, like Slavic, Chinese, Malayalam, etc.). This option is extremely useful in combination with the further option to choose from audio recordings of fully 25 different expert Qur’ān reciters in Arabic (and a few in Persian), their recitations synchronized to match each particular Qur’ān verse being highlighted onscreen by the automatic digital reader. A further option is repeating each line’s audio recitation from 1 to 10 times if one is trying to learn the pronunciation. A worthwhile endeavor is to learn sūras 1 and 112, the most frequently recited prayers in Islām.
When listening to recitations, here is an explanation (based on an entry at Wikipedia) of the more interesting of the two main Qur’ān recitation styles: Mujawwad is a melodic style of recitation known throughout the Muslim world. As opposed to the Murattal style, multiple types of sectioning are used in regards to its phrase lengths. The vocal quality of Mujawwad can be relaxed, tense, or alternate between the two, to create a dramatic effect. The melodic structure tends to be step-wise, but interval leaps of a fourth or more are also used; range can extend over an octave. The Mujawwad style frequently uses melismatic passages, i.e., singing a single syllable of text while moving between several different notes in succession; whereas Murattal mostly uses a syllabic style, matching a single note to each syllable.
2.) For scholarly reference including much of the controversial “revisionist” viewpoint, see the entries/articles, arranged alphabetically, in the Encyclopaedia of Qur'an, edited by Jane Dammen McAuliffe, et al., in 5 volumes plus Index volume (Leiden, Germany: Brill Publishers, 2001-2006). Among the nearly 700 entries, the bulk of which are written by non-Muslims, one finds discussion of the differing viewpoints of traditionalists and revisionists when it comes, for instance, to the controversial question of whether all of the Qur’ān’s contents come straight from the prophetic mode of Muḥammad, or whether some of the material post-dates him or even precedes him, dating to some older currents of thought in Arabia.
Four single-volume worthwhile reference works with the same overall academic slant are Andrew Rippin (Ed.), The Blackwell Companion to the Qur'ān (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 2006) (the weightiest of the four, at nearly 600 pages of essays from 30 contributors); Jane Dammen McAuliffe (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Qurʼān (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 2006) (half the length and less than half the price of the Blackwell volume); Khaleel Mohammed & Andrew Rippin (Eds.), Coming to Terms with the Qur’an: A Volume in Honor of Professor Issa Boullata, McGill University (North Haledon, NJ: Islamic Publications International, 2008); and Issa Boullata, Ed., Literary Structures of Religious Meaning in the Qur’an, Curzon Studies on the Qur’an (Richmond: Curzon Press, 2000).
One of the better criticisms of the excesses in the western academic approach as displayed in some entries of the Encyclopaedia of Qur’ān, charging certain scholars with a biased, condescending form of “Orientalism” (Edward Said’s famous phrase), can be found in a long article by Muzaffar Iqbal (founder-president of the Center for Islam & Science, Canada), “The Qurʼān, Orientalism, and the Encyclopaedia of the Qurʼān,” in Journal of Qurʼanic Research and Studies, Volume 3, Issue 5 (2008), online at www.cis-ca.org/muzaffar/EQ-Rev.pdf
Some recommended English translations of the Qur’ān (of the more than 50 that now exist):
Strictly speaking, say devout Muslims, the authentic Qur’ān exists in only one language: Arabic, the language of the original revelation from God via Gabriel through the entranced Prophet Muḥammad. Accordingly, many Muslims outside the Middle East try to learn some Arabic so as to be able to read the Qur’ān in the inimitable scriptural language, the only proper liturgical language for formal recitation of the Qur’ān. But a Persian translation had to be made (the first fully attested one was complete by 884 CE) when subjects of the former Persian empire came to live and practice Islām under Muslim hegemony. A Greek translation of the Qur’ān was made between 855-870; then a terribly slanted, distorted one was performed in Latin in 1143, the first rendering to be made in a western language. French and English editions appeared in 1647 and 1649 (the latter, by Alexander Ross, based on the former). An uneven English translation by George Sale in 1734 influenced far too many people for the next 200 years. Far more unbiased English translations only began to appear in the late 1800s (e.g., E.H. Palmer’s 1880 work for Prof. Max Mueller’s Sacred Books of the East series). At last count in 2010, the Qur’ān had been translated into 112 languages, and the English translations alone numbered over 50 versions.
A small minority, just around 20%, of Muslims worldwide can speak or read Arabic—recall that most Muslims live outside ethnic Arab lands, in Africa, Turkey, the Balkans, the Indian subcontinent, Central Asia, Malaysia, Indonesia (where the largest Muslim population lives), and, in more recent generations, millions of Muslims are to be found in Europe and North America. Obviously, then, the Qur’ān has needed to be translated into many, many languages, especially English, so widespread throughout the world as the primary language of science, commerce and academia. Therefore, we focus here in this section on recommended English translations or “renderings” from the Arabic. The reader of this webpage is also well-served by Khaleel Mohammed, in his Spring 2005 Middle East Quarterly article (Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 58-71), “Assessing English Translations of the Qur'an,” looking at a dozen 20th-century translations, online at www.meforum.org/717/assessing-english-translations-of-the-quran.
— A. J. Arberry (Tr.), The Koran Interpreted: A Translation (NY: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1955; originally published in two volumes, subsequently published in a single volume). This is a scholarly favorite for its elegance and clarity of language, and its attempt to reproduce something of the rhetorical and rhythmic impact and grandeur of the Arabic original. The full 2-volume 1955 edition is available online for free at the www.tanzil.net site and at web.archive.org/web/20071219022352/http://arthursclassicnovels.com/arthurs/koran/koran-arberry10.html. Of this version, Khaleel Mohammed says: “The 1955 translation of Arthur Arberry (1905-69) was the first English translation by a bona fide scholar of Arabic and Islam [and Sufism]. A Cambridge University graduate, he spent several years in the Middle East perfecting his Arabic and Persian language skills. For a short while, he served as professor of classics at Cairo University; in 1946, he was professor of Persian at University of London, and the next year transferred to Cambridge to become professor of Arabic, serving there until his death in 1969. His title, The Koran Interpreted, acknowledged the orthodox Muslim view that the Qur’ān cannot be translated, but only interpreted. He rendered the Qur’ān into understandable English and separated text from tradition [unlike what too many modern-era translations by Muslims have done, says Khaleel Mohammed, allowing medieval tradition to contaminate the understanding of the text, such as with religious-political biases against Jews and Christians]. The translation is without prejudice and is probably the best around. The Arberry version has earned the admiration of intellectuals worldwide, and having been reprinted several times, remains the reference of choice for most academics. It seems destined to maintain that position for the foreseeable future.”
—Maulana Muḥammad ‘Ali (Tr.), The Holy Qur’ān: Arabic Text, English Translation & Commentary (Lahore, Pakistan: Ahmadiyyah Anjuman Isha’at Islam, 7th ed., 1991; originally published in 1917, with a 4th rev. ed. in 1951 by the translator before his passing). M.M. ‘Ali (1874-1951) was a leader of the Lahore branch of the quasi-Muslim Ahmadiya sect founded in 1889 by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908)—a sect which strict Sunni Muslims consider to be heretical. The Ahmadis eschew talk of miracles, and consider prophethood open beyond the time of Prophet Muḥammad (whom most Muslims regard as the last of the Prophets). So ‘Ali predictably slanted a few verses in the Qur’ān, like those telling of Moses’ miracle of spring-water from the rock and Jesus’ virgin birth. Otherwise, Ali’s was an excellent translation, written in elegant, accessible English, with copious explanatory notes on the text, introductions to each chapter, and a very useful general introduction and preface running nearly 70 pages. In that Introduction, among other things, he opines progressively on the Qur’ān's frequent statements about paradise and hell that "Paradise is meant for further advancement ("Our Lord, make perfect for us our light"--66:8)," "Hell is meant for purification" ("mercy is the ultimate end in the Divine scheme," Introd., p. xx), and, as a corollary, "Punishment of hell is not everlasting" (this last conclusion ‘Ali bases on certain Qur’ān verses and also several attested Hadith sayings from Prophet Muḥammad—see my discussion further below). M.M. ‘Ali’s version was very influential for several later translations (from M.M. Pickthall onward, including M.S. Shakir’s utterly plagiarized “translation”), even though those later translators usually don’t acknowledge ‘Ali’s influence because of his sectarian Ahmadi identity. (In 1974 Sunni and Shi’a Muslim authorities finally declared the Ahmadiya or Qadiyani movement to be outside the fold of Islām.) ‘Ali’s full Qur’an translation with most of his chapter introductions and notes is available online at www.aaiil.org/text/hq/englishholyqurantranslation/englishholyqurantranslationmaulanaMuḥammadali.shtml.
—Muḥammad Marmaduke Pickthall (Tr.), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (Hyderabad: Hyderabad Government Press, 1930, later printed in widely-available editions in the West). The Britisher Pickthall (1875-1936), son of an Anglican clergyman, converted to Islām in 1917, and later lived in India for some years working as a journalist for Muslim newspapers and heading a Muslim boys school. Fluent in Arabic, Turkish and Urdu, his translation, strongly influenced by M.Muḥammad ‘Ali’s version (and likewise eschewing the miraculous), is a bit harder to read than ‘Ali’s due to all the Biblical-style “-eth” endings he usually affixes to his verbs (“doeth,” “maketh,” “speaketh,” etc.) to lend a solemn gravitas to the text. The Pickthall translation is available, along with the Arberry and other translations, at the aforementioned www.Tanzil.net website, and also at http://al-quran.info/qurantexts/en-marmaduke_pickthall.txt
—Ahmed ‘Ali (Tr.), Al-Qur'an: A Contemporary Translation (NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, bilingual Arabic/English edition, 2001; originally published in Karachi in 1984, reprinted by Oxford Univ. Press, Delhi, 1987 and then Princeton Univ. Press, 1988). Ahmed ‘Ali (1910-94), a noted Pakistani poet and diplomat, utilizes elegant contemporary English, and, like some of the other translations here, bucks the Saudi orthodox Sunna line by bringing a more contemporary interpretation to some elements of the stories of the pre-Muslim Prophets told by the Qur’ān. As Fazlur Rahman has appreciatively stated, “It brings out the original rhythms of the Qur'anic language and the cadences. It also departs from traditional translations in that it gives more refined and differentiated shades of important concepts." Ahmed ‘Ali’s translation, which has gained fairly wide circulation in the East and West because of its reprinting by major academic publishers, is available for free reading at the www.Tanzil.net site.
— Muḥammad Asad (Tr.), The Message of the Qur'an (Gibraltar: Andalus Press, 1980). Asad, formerly Leopold Weiss (1900-92), an Austrian journalist with sophisticated knowledge of Jewish-Christian scriptures as evidenced in his notes to the text, was a Jewish convert to Islām. Khaleel Mohammed regards this Qur’ān translation as “simple and straightforward… it remains one of the best translations available, both in terms of its comprehensible English and generally knowledgeable annotations…. Indicative of the desire and drive of Saudi Arabia to impose a Salafi [strict legalist] interpretation upon the Muslim world, the [Saudi] kingdom has banned Muḥammad's work over some creedal issues.” Available for free reading at the www.Tanzil.net site.
— Abdalhaqq Bewley & Aisha Bewley (Tr.), The Noble Qur'an: A New Rendering of Its Meaning in English (Ta-Ha Publishers, 3rd ed., 2011, first published in 1999 by Bookwork in Norwich, England). Of this translation effort by a wife-husband team (the Bewleys are practicing Muslim Sūfīs and Aisha is a prolific Arabic-to-English translator of several important Muslim works), Khaleel Mohammed observes, “excellent, readable English [British English], rendered in a manner that is neither flowery nor prosaic. The translators seem to have fulfilled their ‘main objective in presenting this new rendering: to allow the meaning of the original, as far as possible, to come straight through.’ The lack of footnotes allows the reader to see the text as it is, and … there is little evidence of sectarian bias in the actual translation. Because of their Sufi leanings, the translators are not likely to be endorsed by the mainstream Islāmic religious trusts and most definitely not by the Saudi religious foundations. The result is that an excellent work will most probably remain expensive and unavailable at most libraries and mosques.”
— M.A.S. Abdel-Haleem (Tr.), The Qur'an, A New Translation (NY: Oxford Univ. Press / Oxford World Classics, 2004). Because of the academic prestige of its publisher, this rendering by Abdel-Haleem (a Univ. of London professor of Islāmic Studies and a Qur’ān memorizer from his extensive time of scholarly training in Egypt) has become rather well-known among faculty, students and laypersons in the West for its precise English and fine introduction, despite its lack of technical notes or verse-commentary. Khaleel Mohammed muses in his survey article: “Throughout, the translator renders the Arabic Allāh as God, an astute choice, since the question of why many Muslims refuse to use the word God as a functional translation has created the misconception for many that Muslims worship a different deity than the Judeo-Christian creator. Abdel-Haleem has done a good job. If any Qur'anic English-language translation might stand to compete with the Saudi-financed translations, this Oxford University Press version is it.”
—Ali Ünal (Tr.), The Qur'an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English (2006). This is a very readable modern English translation by Ünal (b. 1955, Turkey), an author of many books on Islām in Turkish and English, a columnist for Zaman, a major Turkish daily newspaper, and a translator into English of the works of Sūfī teacher Fethullah Gülen, founder of the modernist Islāmic Sūfī movement. His translation is available online in full at http://www.mquran.org/index.php/content/section/2/4/
—Abul A’la Maududi, Towards Understanding the Qur’an (The Islamic Foundation, 2006; an abridged translation by Prof. Zafar Ishaq Ansari of Maududi’s six-volume Qur’ān translation and commentary in Urdu language, Tafhim al-Quran, a 30-year project completed in 1972). The influential Abul A’la Maududi (1903-79) was a Pakistani journalist, Sunni Muslim theologian, political philosopher-activist and founder of the puritannical Islāmic revivalist party, Jamāt-e-Islāmi, which argued for a worldwide Islamic state, wherein non-Muslims and women lose certain modern civil rights under Muslim law (sharī‘a). Despite being judged a “heretic” by fellow Muslim theologians of the Indian subcontinent, his Qur’ān translation and voluminous commentary are, in the main, quite good. The first English translation of his magnum opus was done in 1967 by M. Akbar; but the rendering by Prof. Ansari of Maududi’s work is far superior and yields one of the better Qur’ān translations and commentaries for the English-speaking world, despite Maududi’s narrow Islamist views (Ansari appears to have left out anything controversial for English speakers in the West). This Ansari abridged translation of Maududi’s commentary fully renders Maududi’s Qur’ān translation; both are available for free reading at www.quranenglish.com/tafheem_quran/.
—CAUTIONARY NOTE on the Hilali & Muhsin Khan Qur’ān translation: Several translations of the Qur’ān show the occasional sectarian bias, such as the Sunni, Shi’a, or Sūfī Muslim denominations or the quasi-Muslim Ahmadi sect. I would issue a cautionary note about one of the most widely read Qur’ān translations because of its very narrow Wahabist Sunni bias which comes out in numerous interpolated parenthetical notes: The Noble Qur'an in the English Language (Riyadh: Darussalam Publishers, 1996), translated by Muḥammad Taqi al-Din al-Hilali and Muḥammad Muhsin Khan. I actually like most of this translation and the occasional transliterated Arabic phrase and parenthetical notes can often be quite helpful, though the notes make reading the Qur’ān verses themselves more laborious (this is where the brevity of Arberry’s, Asad’s and other translators’ work shines). A substantial quote from Khaleel Mohammed’s 2005 Middle East Quarterly survey will suffice to critique the problematic aspects of this Hilali & Muhsin Khan version: “Now the most widely disseminated Qur’ān in most Islamic bookstores and Sunni mosques throughout the English-speaking world, this new translation is meant to replace the Yusuf 'Ali edition [1934-7] and comes with a seal of approval from both the University of Medina and the Saudi Dar al-Ifta. Whereas most other translators have tried to render the Qur’ān applicable to a modern readership, this Saudi-financed venture tries to impose the commentaries of Tabari (d. 923 C.E.), Qurtubi (d. 1273 C.E.), and Ibn Kathir (d. 1372 C.E.), medievalists who knew nothing of modern concepts of [the value of religious] pluralism [and inter-religious understanding]. The numerous interpolations make this translation particularly problematic, especially for American Muslims who, in the aftermath of 9-11, are struggling to show that Islam is a religion of tolerance. From the beginning, the Hilali and Muhsin Khan translation reads more like a supremacist Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian polemic than a rendition of the Islamic scripture. […] Contemporary political disputes also pollute the translation, marring what should be a reflection of timeless religion. […] Although this Saudi-sponsored effort, undertaken before 9-11, is a serious liability for American Muslims in particular, it still remains present in Sunni mosques, probably because of its free distribution by the Saudi government.”
Making sense of the Qur’ān’s strongly apocalyptic style and tone:
Much—certainly not all—of the style of the Qur’ān will strike many readers familiar with the world’s spiritual literature as heavily “apocalyptic,” strongly warning of the “Day of Judgment/Reckoning” (Yawm ad-Din) in an eschaton or Last Day or End Times scenario. This is a major theme of much religious literature in the Middle East, going back to Zoroastrian religion, the Hebrew Torah and Prophets, and numerous works and passages in the Christian New Testament, from the Book of the Apocalypse/Revelation to long diatribes warning about the end times put into the mouth of Jesus by the Gospel compilers, especially parts of the Matthew Gospel (e.g., ch. 24) and Mark (ch. 13). (As I have shown at my long webpage on the Teachings of Jesus, this Christian apocalypse-thinking strongly contrasts with Jesus’ own mystical “here-now” message of the authentic, early Gospel of Thomas: e.g., “The disciples said to Jesus, ‘Tell us how our end will be.’ Jesus said, ‘Have you discovered, then, the beginning, that you look for the end? For where the beginning is, there will the end be. Blessed is he who will stand at the beginning; he will know the end and will not experience death. Blessed is he who was before he came into being.” (18-19) And see also logoi 51 and 113, which counter apocalypticism with a distinctly “here-now” message about God’s domain.)
As part of the Qur’ān’s decided apocalyptic orientation, like the other aforementioned apocalyptic religions and texts of the Middle East, it is strongly authoritarian, with all the dualistic dichotomies this authoritarianism entails: markedly “black and white” divisions (no shades of gray) between “believers” and “unbelievers,” between the True God (the author of the Qur’ān) and false gods, between the straight path and crooked path of religion, and between the heavenly and hellish destinies ordained for each camp by God, Who, as the Qur’ān so often declares, knows, sees and hears everyone’s actions and thoughts. Most of the Qur’ān’s 114 sūras/chapters, except for several of the very short ones, contains stern warnings to the unbelievers of the inevitable, imminent punishment in hell that awaits them, and, in contrast, numerous Quranic chapters contain brief but enticing descriptions of the heavenly pleasures awaiting the just, the believers in God who do charitable good works (the highest of these pleasures will, of course, be God’s Presence).
Many of us have heard Jesus’ empathetic teaching to “love thy enemy” and seen the enactment of that message in the compassionate ministries of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, et al. Furthermore, we have been inspired by the teaching of universal redemption, the idea in a few ancient religions, especially Hindu Vedanta, Buddhism, and early Christianity (see the Christian idea of apocatastasis) that all beings will eventually be saved, liberated and brought to or even merged into the All-powerful, All-gracious Divine Reality of Love and Light. For anyone who has thus been inspired by this recurring message of universal salvation/liberation, the Qur’ān’s repeated Divine warnings and threats of horrific punishment (often sounding like angry vengeance) can grow very tiresome to the ear.
How, then, to make sense of this? For starters, we recall again the reassurance in Maulana Muḥammad ‘Ali’s Introduction and notes to his Qur’ān translation that "Hell is meant for purification," "mercy is the ultimate end in the Divine scheme" (Introd., p. xx), and therefore "Punishment of hell is not everlasting" (p. xxi). This conclusion ‘Ali establishes on certain Qur’ān verses, such as 78:23, “Surely hell lies in wait, a resort for the inordinate, living therein for long years (ahqāb),” wherein the term ahqāb clearly does not indicate “eternity” but rather “denotes eighty or seventy years or a year or years or a long time” (p. 1136, note 2645), and ‘Ali also notes that abad, a word often translated “forever” in the context of hell, likewise merely means a long time. “It is stated by all lexicologists that abad signifies a long time…. It has a plural form ābād, which it could not have if eternity were its only significance.” (p. 458, note 1201). He further cites two Qur’ānic occurrences of “except as the Lord pleases” when talking about the “fire” for unbelievers in 6:129 and 11:107. ‘Ali tells how Bukhari, the most respected, reliable collector of various hadith sayings of the Prophet, “records a [well-attested] saying to the effect that, when the sinners are taken out from hell, they shall be thrown into ‘the river of life, and they will grow as grows a seed by the side of a river’ (B. 2:15), which clearly indicates that they shall be made fit for a higher life.” (Introd., p. xxi) ‘Ali also quotes from the Kanz al-‘Ummal: “Surely a day will come over hell, when there shall not be a single human being in it.” (vol. vii, p. 245) He provides a saying of Caliph Umar from the Fath al-Bayan: “even if the dwellers in hell may be numberless as the sands of the desert, a day will come when they will be taken out of it.” ‘Ali concludes: “Man is ultimately to be brought to perfection, but this cannot be, unless those in hell are taken out of it and set on the road to spiritual progress, thrown into the river of Life….” (p. 458, note 1201)
I don’t think it is far-fetched to interpret the “Day of Reckoning/Judgment” (or “Moment of Truth,” as Michael Sells translates it) as being the inner revelation and reaping of what occurs to the personal consciousness or soul when released from the mortal coil. One fairly early Qur’ān revelation which came through the Prophet at Mecca declares: “On that Day men will come forth in sundry bodies that they may be shown their works. So he who does an atom’s weight of good will see it; and he who does an atom’s weight of evil will see it.” (al-Zilzal 99: 6-7) This and so many dozens of similar passages in the Qur’ān about the Day of Reckoning or Judgment point to a salient element that so many modern accounts of Near-Death Experiences contain—the revelatory “Past Life Review.” Herein everything one ever did in the particular lifetime to help or harm fellow beings is experienced empathetically and inter-dimensionally beyond the speed of normal thought, and one feels directly with great force either a great heavenly joy or a terrible hellish misery over having helped or harmed others. (E.g., see the NDE literature, from Dr. Raymond Moody and Dr. Melvin Morse to well-known experiencers such as Dannion Brinkley, who actually underwent two NDEs and two very profound yet quite typical “Life Review” episodes.)
What begins to emerge in a deeper understanding of the Qur’ān is that God is Reality, the Absolute Source, Substance, Host and Witness for everyone and everything, the Divine Awareness in Whom and through Whom all personal consciousnesses arise. This Life of all lives is living each being, ordaining all individual actions and consequential destinies. Within the worlds manifest by this Unmanifest One, there is paradoxically a sense instilled in humans and jinn (“genie”) spirits of free-will agency or choice. When one aligns with and chooses Reality, i.e., God, goodness, love, altruism, charity, forgiveness, compassion, and other moral virtues, then this automatically insures that one grows more and more Real, more godly, more established in the true Paradise of Peace-full ease and enjoyment (one meaning of “Islām” is “Peace”). In choosing otherwise, one becomes less Real, more complicated and confused with nonsense, more “dis-eased” and agitated in non-peaceful turmoil. That is hell and engenders deeper hell-states.
The Qur’ān, therefore, is the Voice of Reality, calling for every being to come back to natural peace, ease, freedom and bliss in the Divine Reality, the Truth of God. When God/Allāh in the Qur’ān makes apparently unloving statements like the oft-heard “God will not/does not guide the unjust, the evil doers,” and threatens punishment, this is simply a “tough love” way of saying to a primitive people who were cheating, dominating, enslaving and killing each other (even their own female infants) that a person is incapable of being intelligently, morally guided when he/she is out of touch with Reality, insanely selfish, proud, greedy, hateful, fearful, lustful, jealous, envious, or superstitious.
The Muslim mystics, the Sūfīs, who surely include (long before the word “Sūfī” existed) Prophet Muḥammad himself and his “companions of the ledge,” all endeavored to be as immersed in God’s Reality as fully as possible for a human being. The Sūfīs have always found a way to hear the Qur’ān in a mystical manner. So, for instance, when the Qur’ān very frequently states “to Him/Us (God) shall all return,” the conventional non-mystical understanding, occasionally made explicit by the Qur’ān itself, is that every human will return to face God on the Day of Reckoning for requital of their merits and sins. But Sūfīs interpret the line to really say, for those listeners who have developed a higher, spiritual sensibility, that all beings will return to and be merged in God because THERE IS ONLY GOD. One of the most salient themes in Sūfī writing from the time of Bayazīd Bistāmī (9th century) is the ideal of fanā’ or “extinction-annihilation-merging” in God, upon which there is only baqā’, “the remaining” in/as God, for there is originally, finally and fundamentally ONLY GOD. It is this same nondual Sūfī wisdom-intuition which leads them to hear the first half of the basic Muslim profession of faith, “La ilāha illa Llāh,” as meaning, not just “(there is) no god but God,” but more to the point: “(there is) no one or nothing but God,” “there’s only God,” there’s nothing real but the Divine Reality. As, for instance, orthodox Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas would argue, “beings” only have their “beingness” because of God, Who is Absolute Being, a Christian argument that can be traced back to 9th-century theologian John Scottus Eriugena. Another parallel here is mystical Judaism, wherein the ancient Jewish prayer, Sh’ma Israel, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai Echod, conventionally meaning “Hear O Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord is One,” would mean for the Kabbalist or Hasidic Jewish mystic, “… the Lord is ONENESS, the Only One, the Alone/All-One.” It is for this same reason that Sūfīs, when practicing their communal dhikr (zikr) “remembrance” ceremonies of chanting the Name or Names of God, customarily prioritize the shahada line “La ilāha illa Llāh,” but then often wind up simply chanting illa Llāh, illa Llāh, illa Llāh… “only God, only God, only God.”
In this light, the apparent heavy authoritarianism of the Qur’ān is just a “compassionate skillful means” (“upāya,” as the Mahāyāna Buddhists would say) designed to awake a slumbering desert people with little religious sophistication or ethical refinement, a people already living an insidiously dualistic existence fractured into the alienation of “me versus you” and “us versus them.” The Qur’ān “scares the hellishness out of them” and awakens them to a much more profound Life, a Reality or Truth of Absolute Being-Awareness-Peace-Love. So when the Qur’ān tells one, at the beginning of any intention or endeavor, to always say Insha’llāh, “God willing,” this is not because God is some actually separate, bigger, more powerful “being” “lording it over” us lesser beings. No, “Insha’llāh” is to remind us that we really have no power of our own to even think a thought, launch an intention, lift a finger or walk one step without the Vital Power or Life Force of the Divine, who is, as the Qur’ān so often says, the Lord of heaven and earth. That’s why the Qur’ān so often reminds its listeners/readers of the astonishing forces and processes at work in Nature, from the celestial bodies to the rains to the wonders of plants to the stupendously complex anatomical structures and cellular growth of animal and human life—all of which are a Sign, a reminder of the energizing, animating, guiding/governing Power of this Reality.
In sum: the Qur’ān can be read at the level of “shock and awe” for a profound moral and religious awakening out of the somnambulant slumber in which most human lives are spent, as if a tender loving parent was needing to vigorously, uncompromisingly rouse one from a deep sleep during a time of danger. One can also mystically hear the Qur’ān as the voice of spiritual Reality saying: “There is only this Divine Reality, wake up to and surrender/submit to only allowing this Reality.”
A word about the Qur’ān’s structure:
In presenting the following Qur’ān excerpts, outside of the first several, which have traditional priority for Muslims themselves, I have followed no particular order except to occasionally cluster certain passages speaking along a similar theme. The Qur’ān itself reveals no order to its 114 sūras or chapters other than generally unfolding them by length, from longer to shorter chapters, with each chapter having a name and a number. Thus, beyond the hallowed 7-verse “al-Fātiḥah” opening sūra and Islām’s most frequently-recited prayer, the next one, chapter 2 (the sūra named al-Baqarah, “the cow”), is the longest at 286 verses, followed by increasingly shorter chapters all the way down to the last 20 sūras, most of which have just 3-8 verses, with these verses usually being quite short, in contrast to the longer verses of earlier sūras. One of our best early modern authorities on the Qur’ān and an influential early translator of it into English, Pakistani scholar Maulana Muḥammad ‘Ali, on the basis of traditional accounts and other lines of evidence, tells us that “the first five verses of the 96th chapter (al-‘Alaq [beginning with the command to Muḥammad to “Recite”]) were undoubtedly the first revelation, and these were equally certainly followed by the first part of the 74th chapter (al-Muddaththir), which again was, in all probability, followed by the first chapter (al- Fātiḥah), after which came the first part of the 73rd chapter (al-Muzzammil). Beyond this, it is impossible to give a tolerably certain order.” (The Holy Qur’ān: Arabic Text, English Translation and Commentary, Lahore, Pakistan: 7th ed., 1991, p. iii; originally published in 1917).
Of the Qur’ān’s 114 chapters, a total of 93 were revealed through Muḥammad at Mecca before his Medina period, while 21 sūras came sounding through the entranced Prophet while he was at Medina. The Medina chapters tend to be among the longest (like sūra 2, al-Baqarah), so these comprise about 1/3rd of the Qur’ān’s 6247 verses—6360 verses in total if we include each chapter’s (save ch. 9) traditional opening invocation, Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim, “In the Name of God most Compassionate, most Merciful.” The earliest sūras, the Meccan ones, are more often of a noticeably theological and eschatological character, while the Medina sūras, when not focusing on the prophets and people of the past and the coming Reckoning Day, are more juridical/legalistic, dictating the lawful behavior of the community along numerous lines such as manners, marriage, divorce, property, fighting the opponents of Islām who repeatedly broke their agreements, treatment of prisoners, treatment of other religionists (pagans, Jews and Christians), and other such topics.
Part Two: Selections of FAVORITE QUOTES from the Qur’ān:
[Here follows the al-Fātiḥah or prayer of “Opening,” traditionally placed at the start of the Qur’ān:]
Bismillāh ir-Raḥmān ir-Raḥīm
Al ḥamdu lillāhi rabbil-‘ālamīn
Māliki yawm id-dīn
Iyyāka na'budu wa iyyāka nasta'īn
Ihdinā ṣ-ṣirāṭ al-mustaqīm
Ṣirāṭ al-laḏīna an'amta 'alayhim ghayril maghḍūbi 'alayhim walāḍ ḍāllīn
(Sūra al-Fātiḥah 1: 1-7)
(These seven Arabic verses are the most recited of all verses in the Qur’ān, and the primary prayer recited at least 17 times every 24 hours by Muslims who pray five times daily according to traditional guidelines on the ṣalāt or prayer-ritual; Prophet Muḥammad declared this to be the best of chapters in the Qur’ān. Several different representative translations follow:)
In the name of Allāh, the Beneficent, the Merciful. Praise be to God, the Lord of the worlds, the Beneficent, the Merciful, Master of the day of Requital. Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help. Guide us on the right path, the path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favours, not those upon whom wrath is brought down, nor those who go astray. (Maulana Muḥammad ‘Ali transl.)
In the name of Allāh, the Beneficent, the Merciful. Praise be to Allāh, Lord of the Worlds, the Beneficent, the Merciful. Master of the Day of Judgment, Thee (alone) we worship; Thee (alone) we ask for help. Show us the straight path, the path of those whom Thou hast favoured; not the (path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray. (Muḥammad Marmaduke Pickthall transl.)
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Praise belongs to God, the Lord of all Being, the All-merciful, the All-compassionate, the Master of the Day of Doom. Thee only we serve; to Thee alone we pray for succour. Guide us in the straight path, the path of those whom Thou hast blessed, not of those against whom Thou art wrathful, nor of those who are astray. (A.J. Arberry transl.)
In the name of God, The Most Gracious, The Dispenser of Grace: All praise is due to God alone, the Sustainer of all the worlds, The Most Gracious, the Dispenser of Grace, Lord of the Day of Judgment! Thee alone do we worship; and unto Thee alone do we turn for aid. Guide us the straight way. The way of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed Thy blessings, not of those who have been condemned [by Thee], nor of those who go astray! (Muḥammad Asad transl.)
In the name of Allāh, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Praise be to Allāh, the Lord of the entire universe. The Merciful, the Compassionate, the Master of the Day of Recompense. You alone do we worship, and You alone do we turn for help. Direct us on to the Straight Way, the way of those whom You have favoured, who did not incur Your wrath, who are not astray. (Maududi/Ansari transl.)
[Here follows the crucially important Tawḥīd or Unity prayer, from the short 112th sūra “al-Ikhlās” near the very end of the Qur’ān:]
Bismillāh ir-Raḥmān ir-Raḥīm
Qul Huwa, Allāhu Aḥad
Lam Yalid Walam Yūlad
Walam Yakun Ilahū Kufuwan Aḥad
(Sūra al-Ikhlās 112: 1-4)
In the name of Allāh, the Beneficent, the Merciful. Say: “He, Allāh, is One. Allāh is He on Whom all depend. He begets not, nor is He begotten; and none is like Him.” (Maulana Muḥammad ‘Ali transl.)
In the name of Allāh, the Beneficent, the Merciful. Say: He is Allāh, the One! Allāh, the eternally Besought of all! He begetteth not nor was begotten. And there is none comparable unto Him. (M.M. Pickthall transl.)
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Say: “He is God, One, God, the Everlasting Refuge, who has not begotten, and has not been begotten, and equal to Him is not any one.” (A.J. Arberry transl.)
In the name of Allāh, most benevolent, ever-merciful. Say: "He is God, the One, the most unique, God the immanently indispensable. He has begotten no one, and is begotten of none. There is no one comparable to Him." (Ahmed ‘Ali transl.)
In the name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate. Say: "He, God, the Unique One of Absolute Unity. God, the Eternally-Besought-of-All (Himself in no need of anything). He begets not, nor is He begotten. And comparable to Him there is none." (Ali Unal transl.)
In the name of God, The Most Gracious, The Dispenser of Grace: Say: "He is the One God: God the Eternal, the Uncaused Cause of All Being. He begets not, and neither is He begotten; and there is nothing that could be compared with Him. (Muḥammad Asad transl.)
In the name of Allāh, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Say: “He is Allāh, the One and Unique; Allāh, Who is in need of none and of Whom all are in need; He neither begot any nor was He begotten, and none is comparable to Him.” (Maududi/Ansari transl.)
(The above four verses of sūra “al-Ikhlās,” each of which counters a kind of shirq, or idolatrous false association with God, is for most Muslims their second most frequently recited daily prayer. This was a very early Meccan revelation to Prophet Muḥammad. For Sūfī mystics it conveys a strong sense of nonduality—i.e., God as the only Reality.)
(The following are three translations of Sūra al-Baqarah 2: 255; this is the treasured “Divine Knowledge or Throne verse,” ‘āyat al Kursī—kursī means “knowledge” or “throne”—describing God as the unique Life of all lives, the Reality underlying and encompassing all manifestation.)
Allāh—there is no god but He, the Ever-living, the Self-subsisting by Whom all subsist. Slumber overtakes Him not, nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth. Who is he that can intercede with Him but by His permission? He knows what is before them [humanity] and what is behind them. And they encompass nothing of His knowledge except what He pleases. His knowledge extends over the heavens and the earth, and the preservation of them both tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Great. (M.M. ‘Ali transl.)
God—there is no deity save Him, the Ever-Living, the Self-Subsistent Fount of All Being. Neither slumber overtakes Him, nor sleep. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth. Who is there that could intercede with Him, unless it be by His leave? He knows all that lies open before men and all that is hidden from them, whereas they cannot attain to aught of His knowledge save that which He wills [them to attain]. His eternal power overspreads the heavens and the earth, and their upholding wearies Him not. And he alone is truly exalted, tremendous. (Muḥammad Asad transl.)
Allāh: the Everlasting, the Sustainer of the whole Universe; there is no god but He. He neither slumbers nor sleeps. Whatsoever is in the heavens and in the earth is His. Who is there that can intercede with Him except by His own permission? He knows what is before the people and also what is hidden from them. And they cannot comprehend anything of His knowledge save whatever He Himself pleases to reveal. His Kingdom [“Throne”] spreads over the heavens and the earth and the guarding of these does not weary Him. He alone is the Supreme and the Exalted. (Maududi/Ansari transl.)
[Addressed by God via Gabriel to Muḥammad:] Recite in the name of thy Lord who creates, creates man from a blood-clot. [The word ‘alaq, explains M.M. ‘Ali, means not only “blood-clot” but also “love”—so humans are created out of Divine Love.] Recite! And thy Lord is most Generous, who taught by the pen, taught man what he knew not. Nay, man is surely inordinate, because he looks upon himself as self-sufficient. Surely to thy Lord is the return. (al-‘Alaq 96: 1-8; recall from earlier prefatory remarks that the first five verses up to “knew not” were most likely the very first revelation to be given to Prophet Muḥammad on the Night of Power)
O thou [Muḥammad] who wrap thyself up [i.e., make himself hidden, obscure from other people], arise and warn, and thy Lord do magnify, and thy garments do purify, and uncleanness do shun, and do no favor seeking gain, and for the sake of thy Lord, be patient. For when the trumpet is sounded, that will be—that day—a difficult day [the Day of Judgment], for the disbelievers [in God], anything but easy. (al-Muddaththir 74: 1-10; recall that this is universally considered to be the second Quranic revelation to Prophet Muḥammad)
What follows are individual translations of various Qur’ān verses (āyas), chosen for their spiritual relevancy and/or flavor representative of the overall message of the Qur’ān. I have sometimes for effect chosen to insert “God” for the word “He” or “Him,” since the Qur’ān and Prophet Muḥammad and Muslim tradition are quite clear that God is beyond gender or any limitation.
Exalted be the Lord of the heavens and the earth, the Lord of the Throne…. He it is Who is God in the heavens and the earth. He is the Most Wise, the All-Knowing. Blessed is He Who has dominion over the heavens and the earth and all that is between them. With Him is the knowledge of the Hour; and to Him you shall all be sent back. Those [idols or lesser celestial beings] whom they [the idolatrous unbelievers] call upon, instead of Allāh, have no power of intercession, except such that testify to the truth based on knowledge. If you were to ask them: “Who created them?” they [the celestial beings themselves] will surely say: “Allāh.” Whence are they [the unbelievers], then, being led astray? […] Indulge them, (O Prophet Muḥammad), and say to them: “Peace to you.” For soon they shall come to know. (al-Zukhruf 43: 82, 84-7, 89; Maududi/Ansari transl.)
The Originator [is God] of the heavens and the earth.… There is nothing like unto God, and God alone is all-hearing, all-seeing. His are the keys of the heavens and the earth: God grants abundant sustenance, or gives it in scant measure, unto whomever God wills: for, behold, God has full knowledge of everything. (al-Shura 42: 11-12; Asad transl., with several substitutions of “God” for “He/Him”)
Such is God, your Sustainer: there is no deity save God, the Creator of everything: worship, then, God alone—for it is God who has everything in His care. No human vision can encompass God, whereas God encompasses all human vision: for God alone is unfathomable, all-aware. (al-An’am 6: 102-103; Asad transl., with several substitutions of “God” for “He/Him”)
[Alternate translation:] Such is Allāh, your Lord! La ilāha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), the Creator of all things. So worship Him (Alone), and He is the Wakil (Trustee, Disposer of affairs, Guardian) over all things. No vision can grasp Him, but His Grasp is over all vision. He is the Most Subtle and Courteous, Well-Acquainted with all things. (al-An’am 6: 102-103; Hilali-Khan transl.)
Call upon those whom you assert [to exist as gods] besides God; they control not the weight of an atom in the heavens or in the earth, nor have they any partnership [with God] in either, nor has He a helper among them. And intercession avails naught with Him, save of him whom He permits. (al-Saba’ 34: 22-3; M.M. ‘Ali transl.)
God is He Who created you, then sustains you, then will cause you to die, then (again) He will give you life (on Resurrection Day). Do any of your (so-called) associates (of God) do anything of that? Glory be to Him! And exalted be He above all that they [falsely] associate (with Him). (ar-Rum 30: 40; M.M. ‘Ali transl.)
Have you seen your associates which you [idolaters] call upon besides God? Show me what they have created of the earth! Or have they any share in the heavens?... Surely Allāh upholds the heavens and the earth lest they come to naught. And if they come to naught, none can uphold them after Him. (al-Fatir 35: 40-1; M.M. ‘Ali transl.)
[These last three verses are just three of many, many Qur’anic verses guiding the faithful not to wrongly focus their spiritual attention on any mere creatures or phenomena in the heavens or subtle realms, no matter how special or important they seem to be.]
We shall attach to him who goes blind to the remembrance of the Beneficent [God] a devil as companion. Surely the (devils) obstruct them from the path, though they think they are rightly guided. Until when he [the misguided soul] comes before Us he will say (to the devil): "Would to God there was a distance of the East and West between you and me, for you were an evil companion!" But nothing will avail you on that day, for you were unjust, and you will be partners in the punishment. (Zukhruf 43: 36-9)
These are verses of the Book of Wisdom, a guidance and a mercy for the doers of good, those who keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate and they are certain of the hereafter. These are on a guidance from their Lord, and these are the ones who are successful. […] Those who believe and do good, for them are Gardens of bliss, to abide therein. A promise of Allāh in truth. And He is the mighty, the wise. He created the heavens… mountains… and animals of every kind. And We send down rain from the clouds, then cause to grow every noble kind [of plant]. This is Allāh’s creation: now show Me that which those [alleged “associates”] besides Him have created. (Luqman 31: 1-5, 8-11; M.M. ‘Ali transl.)
O people, keep your duty to your Lord and dread [be careful for] the day when no father can avail his son in anything, nor the child will avail his father. Surely the promise of Allāh is true, so let not this world’s life deceive you, nor let the arch-deceiver [Gharūr, a.k.a. Iblīs/Satan] deceive you about Allāh. (Luqman 31: 33; the second sentence is repeated elsewhere, e.g., at 35: 5; on the story of Iblīs/Satan, see 38: 71-85)
The revelation of the Book, there is no doubt in it, is from the Lord of the worlds…. It is the Truth from thy Lord that thou [Muḥammad] may warn a people [the Arabs] to whom no warner has come before thee that they may walk aright. Allāh is He Who created the heavens and the earth and what is between them [the subtle realms of jinns, etc.]… and He is established on the Throne of Power. You have not besides Him a guardian or an intercessor. Will you not then mind? … Such is the Knower of the unseen and the seen, the Mighty, the Merciful, Who made beautiful everything that He created, and He began the creation of man from dust. Then He made his progeny of an extract, of common water. Then He made him complete and breathed into him of His spirit [rūḥ], and gave you ears and eyes and hearts; little is it that you give thanks. … The angel of death who is given charge of you shall cause you to die, then to your Lord you will be returned. (al-Sajdah 32: 2-11; M.M. ‘Ali transl.)
Surely the men who submit and the women who submit, and the believing men and the believing women, and the obeying men and the obeying women, and the truthful men and the truthful women, and the patient men and the patient women, and the humble men and the humble women, and the almsgiving men and the almsgiving women, and the fasting men and the fasting women, and the men who guard their chastity and the women who guard their chastity, and the men who remember Allāh much and the women who remember—Allāh has prepared for them forgiveness and a mighty reward. (al-Ahzab 33: 35; M.M. ‘Ali transl.; this verse, among many others, indicates the complete equality of women with men in capacity for spiritual attainment)
O you who believe! remember Allāh, with much remembrance, and glorify Him morning and evening. He it is Who sends His blessings on you, and (so do) His angels, that He may bring you forth out of darkness into light; and He is ever Merciful to the believers. (al-Ahzab 33: 41-3; M.M. ‘Ali transl.)
Certainly We [God] shall try you, until We know those among you who strive hard, and the steadfast…. The life of this world is but idle sport and play, and if you believe and keep your duty, He will give you your reward…. (Muhammad / Qital 47: 31,36)
On no soul doth Allāh Place a burden greater than it can bear. It gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it earns. Pray “Our Lord! Condemn us not if we forget or fall into error; our Lord! Lay not on us a burden Like that which Thou didst lay on those before us; Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Blot out our sins, and grant us forgiveness. Have mercy on us. Thou art our Protector; Help us against those who stand against faith.” (al-Baqarah 2: 286; this is the last set of lines in the very long al-Baqarah chapter, longest in the Quran; the chapter was begun during Prophet Muḥammad’s first year away from Mecca up at Medina with the Umma community, and the chapter was competed near the end of his mission; he gave great emphasis to this prayer: “If one recites these last two verses in a night, they will suffice.”)
Every soul is held in pledge for what it earns [morally], except the people of the right hand [the authentic believers]. In [Divine] gardens, they ask one another about the guilty: “What has brought you into hell?” They will say: “We were not of those who prayed; nor did we feed the poor; and we indulged in vain talk with vain talkers; and we call the day of Reckoning a lie, until the inevitable overtook us.” (al-Muddathir 74: 38-47; M.M. Ali transl.)
You love the present life, and neglect the Hereafter. (al-Qiyamah 75: 20-1)
Just think: Who apart from God can show the way to him who deifies his ego [or “desires”] into his god, whom God allows to go astray knowingly, and seals his ears and heart, and covers over his eyes with a veil? Why then do you not contemplate? Yet they say: "There is nothing but the life of this world. We die and we live, and only time annihilates us." Yet they have no knowledge of this: They only speculate. (al-Jathiya 45: 23-4; Ahmed ‘Ali transl.)
Who amasses wealth and counts it—he thinks that his wealth will make him abide [forever]. Nay, he will certainly be hurled into the crushing disaster… the Fire kindled by God which rises over the hearts. (al-Humazah 104: 2-3, 6-7; M.M. ‘Ali comments on the last line: “It is within the heart of man that the origin of hell-fire lies. A man’s hell is thus within his own heart in this life.”)
Whoever disbelieves, his disbelief is against himself. (35:39; 45:15; etc. M.M. ‘Ali transl.)
And to Allāh belong the east and the west, so wherever you turn there is the Face of Allāh (and He is High above, over His Throne). Surely! Allāh is All-Sufficient for His creatures' needs, All-Knowing. (al-Baqarah 2: 115; Hilali-Khan transl.)
Is not Allāh sufficient for His servant?... Say: “Allāh is sufficient for me. On Him do the reliant rely.” (al-Zumar 39: 36,38; M.M. ‘Ali transl.)
[And God said to Adam] “…there shall most certainly come to you guidance from Me, and those who follow My guidance need have no fear, and neither shall they grieve.” (al-Baqarah 2: 38)
Allāh guides not the unjust (evil) people. (al-Baqarah 2: 258; al-Imran 3: 85; and passim)
Allāh will blot out usury [the sin of charging interest on loans] and He causes charity to prosper…. Those who believe and do good deeds and keep up prayer and pay the alms to the poor—their reward is with their Lord; and they have no fear, nor shall they grieve…. And if (the debtor) is in straitness [hardship], let there be postponement until (he is in) ease. And that you remit (it back to him) as alms is better for you, if you only knew. And guard yourselves against a day in which you will be returned to Allāh. Then every soul will be paid in full what it has [morally] earned, and they will not be wronged [either in reward for good or punishment for evil]. (al-Baqarah 2: 276-7, 280-1; this is a famous set of Qur’ān verses forbidding the sin of usury, which is why most authentically Muslim banks and loan institutions do not charge interest, or, if they do, keep their borrowing rates at ultra-low levels.)
Blessed is God in whose hands is the Kingdom—who is powerful over everything—who has created death and life, so that God might test you as to which among you [proves that he or she] is good in conduct. (al-Mulk 67: 1-2)
Whosoever chooses to follow guidance, follows it for his own good; whosoever goes astray, goes astray to his own loss. (al-Isra’ 17: 15; see also 39: 41, etc.)
Let there be no coercion in matters of religion. The right way has become distinct from the way of error. So, whosoever rejects the powers of evil, and believes in God, has taken hold of a most firm, unfailing support. God is All-hearing, All-knowing. (al-Baqarah 2: 256)
To each of you God has prescribed a Law and a Way. If God would have willed, God would have made you a single people. But God's purpose is to test you in what God has given each of you, so strive in the pursuit of virtue, and know that you will all return to God [in the Hereafter], and God will resolve all the matters in which you disagree. (al-Ma’idah 5: 48)
The Jews say, ‘The Christians have no valid grounds’; the Christians say, ‘The Jews have no valid grounds’; and both quote the Book [Bible]. So did those who have no knowledge [of the Book] speak like them. But it is God who will decide between them on the Day of Resurrection about all on which they differ. (al-Baqarah 2: 113)
God—there is no deity save Him [la ilāha illa Huwa], the Ever-Living, the Self-Subsistent Fount of All Being! Step by step has He bestowed upon thee from on high this divine writ, setting forth the truth which confirms whatever there still remains [of earlier revelations]: for it is He who has bestowed from on high the Torah and the Gospel aforetime, as a guidance unto mankind, and it is He who has bestowed [upon man] the standard by which to discern the true from the false. Behold, as for those who are bent on denying God's messages—grievous suffering awaits them: for God is almighty, an avenger of evil. Verily, nothing on earth or in the heavens is hidden from God. He it is who shapes you in the wombs as He wills. There is no deity save Him, the Almighty, the Truly Wise. (al-Imran 3: 1-5)
There are some of them [Prophets and Messengers of God] that We have mentioned to thee [like Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus] and there are others whom We have not mentioned to thee (al-Mu’min 40: 78)
Whosoever holds fast to God, he has been guided onto the Straight Path. (al-Imran 3: 101)
It is God who accepts repentance from His servants, and pardons bad deeds, and knows all that you do. And God answers those who have faith and do righteous deeds, and gives them—out of His bounty—far more. (al-Shura 42: 25-6)
The true servants of the Most Merciful are those who behave gently and with humility on earth, and whenever the foolish quarrel with them, they reply with [words of] peace. (al-Furqan 25: 63)
Turn not your cheek away from people in scorn and pride, and walk not on earth haughtily; for God does not love anyone who acts proudly and boastfully. Be modest in your bearing and lower your voice; for the ugliest sound is the donkey’s braying. (Luqman 31: 18-19)
[Successful are the believers]…who are faithful to their trusts and to their promises.’ (al-Mu’minun 23: 8)
And be true to every promise—for, verily you will be called to account for every promise which you have made. (al-Isra 17: 34)
Never let your enmity for anyone lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Always be just: that is closest to being God-fearing. (al-Ma’idah 5: 8)
Worship and serve God alone and make no gods beside Him; and do good to your parents, the relatives, the orphans, the needy, the neighbor who is a relative, the neighbor who is a stranger, and the companion by your side, and the wayfarer, and to those you rightfully possess; for God loves not the proud and boastful, those who are niggardly [stingy] and urge others to be niggardly. And [God does not like] those who spend their wealth to be seen and praised by people, while they believe neither in God nor in the Last Day. (al-Nisa 4: 36-8)
Among you are those who are niggardly; and whoever is niggardly, is niggardly against his own soul. (Muhammad / Qital 47: 38)
[What is the high or “uphill,” i.e., difficult, road of righteous good?] The freeing of a slave, or giving food upon a day of hunger [i.e., fasting during one of the days of the holy month of Ramadan] to an orphan near of kin or to a needy man in misery. And being of those who have attained to faith, and who enjoin upon one another patience in adversity, and enjoin upon one another compassion. Such are they that have attained to righteousness. (al-Balad 90: 13-17; Arberry transl. of first three verses followed by Asad transl. of next two verses.)
It is not virtue that you turn your face [in prayer] to the East or the West, but virtue is if one believes in God, and the Last Day, and the angels, and the Book, and the Prophets [of different religions], and gives away his wealth—out of love for God—to relatives, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and the beggars, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage; and performs the Prayer, and pays the Alms [to the poor]; and keeps his promises whenever he makes promises; and endures with patience any misfortune, hardship and peril; it is they who are true in their faith, and it is they who are truly God-fearing. (al-Baqarah 2: 177)
The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto; but if a person forgives and makes peace, his reward rests with God, Who loves not those who do wrong…. Whoever is patient and forgives—that surely is an affair of great resolution. (al-Shura 42: 40,43)
Surely Allāh wrongs not men in any way, but men wrong themselves. (Yunus 10: 44)
Verily, that which is with God is the best for you, if you but knew it: all that which is with you is bound to end, whereas all that which is with God is everlasting. (al-Nahl 16: 95-6)
Good and evil can never be equal. Repel (evil) with that which is better, and then see how someone with whom there was enmity shall become a true friend. Yet none is given such goodness except those who are patient. (al-Fussilat 41: 34-5)
Your Lord has decreed that you shall serve none but Him, and do good to your parents. Should one or both of them reach old age with you, never say “Ugh” to them, nor scold either of them; but speak to them kindly and respectfully, spread over them the wings of humility and mercy, and say, “My Lord, have mercy upon them, as they raised me up when I was little.” (al-Isra 17: 23- 4)
The flesh of sacrificial animals does not reach God and neither their blood; but only godliness from you reaches Him. (al-Hajj 22: 37)
When you have finished the prayer, remember Allāh [while you are] standing and sitting and reclining. (al-Nisa’ 4: 103)
Has the story of Moses [Musa] come to you? When he saw a fire he said to his family: "You wait here. I have seen a fire. I may haply be able to bring an ember from it, or find direction by the fire." When he approached it, a voice called out: "O Moses, I am verily your Lord, so take off your shoes, for you are in the holy plain of Tuwa. I have chosen you, so listen to what is revealed to you. I am God, and there is no god but I, so serve Me, and observe acts of prayer to remember Me. (Ta Ha 20: 9-15; Ahmed Ali transl.)
And they say, “None shall enter Paradise unless he be a Jew or a Christian.” These are their wishful beliefs. Say, “Produce your evidence if what you say is true!” Nay, whosoever surrenders his whole being unto God, and is a doer of good, shall have his reward from his Lord; on them shall be no fear, neither shall they sorrow. (al-Baqarah 2: 111-12)
We have sent revelation to you as We sent revelation to Noah, and the prophets after him, as We sent revelation to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants, including Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron and Solomon, and We gave David Psalms—of some Messengers before you We have told you, of others We have not—and God spoke to Moses as well. Messengers who gave good tidings as well as warnings, so that mankind, after the coming of Messengers, would have no excuse before God [on the Judgment Day]; God is All- mighty, All-wise. (al-Nisa' 4: 163-5)
Surely We have sent you [O Muḥammad] with the Truth, as a herald of good tidings and a warner, for there were never a people without a warner having come among them. (al-Fatir 35: 24)
[God speaks to Muḥammad:] Say [to listeners]: “I am only a mortal like you. It is revealed to me that your God is one God, so keep in the straight path to Him, and ask His protections. And woe to the polytheists, who give not the alms to the poor, and who are disbelievers in the Hereafter. Those who believe and do good, for them is surely a reward never to be cut off…. Nothing is said to you [Muḥammad] but what was said to messengers before you. (Ha Mim, 41: 6-8, 43)
[God speaks to Muḥammad:] Say [to listeners]: “I am not the first of the messengers, and I know not what will be done with me or with you. I follow naught but that which is revealed to me, and I am but a plain warner [of the Day of Reckoning].” (al-Ahqaf 46: 9)
[God describes His Prophet as a blessing bestowed on humanity, saying:] Certainly there has come to you a Messenger from amongst yourselves, grievous to him is your suffering, ardently anxious is he over you, to the believers he is compassionate and merciful. (al-Bara’at 9: 129)
[God speaks further about Prophet Muḥammad:] Your companion errs not, nor does he deviate [from righteousness and truth]. Nor does he speak out of desire. It is naught but revelation that is revealed—One Mighty in Power has taught him, the Lord of Strength. So he attained to perfection [or spiritual maturity], and he is in the highest part of the horizon [meaning that his light of prophecy would illuminate all corners of the world—as indeed it did when Islām spread across the globe]. (al-Najm 53: 2-7)
We have sent you [Muḥammad] to the entire mankind to give them good tidings, and warn them; but most people do not understand this. (al-Saba’ 34: 28)
This is a warner of the warners of old…. And do you laugh and not weep while you sport? So bow down in prostration before God and serve (Him). (al-Najm 53: 56, 60-2; this is one of several places during a recitation of the Qur’ān wherein devout Muslims fully bow down.)
Certainly We have made the Qur’ān easy to remember, but is there any one who will mind? (al-Qamar 54: 17—this line is a repeating refrain that reoccurs at verse 22, 32, and 40)
O ye who believe! Let not your riches or your children divert you from the remembrance of Allāh. If any act thus, the loss is their own. And spend of that wherewith We have provided you before death cometh unto one of you and he saith: My Lord! If only thou wouldst reprieve me for a little while, then I would give alms and be among the righteous. But to no soul will Allāh grant respite when the time appointed (for it) has come; and Allāh is well acquainted with (all) that ye do. (al-Munafiqun, 63: 9-11)
It is Allāh Who takes away the souls of people at the hour of their death, and takes away at the time of sleep the souls of those that have not died. Then He retains the souls of those against whom He had decreed death and returns the souls of others until an appointed time. Surely there are Signs in this for a people who reflect. (al-Zumar 39: 42; Maududi/Ansari transl.)
To Allāh belongs the Mystery of the heavens and the earth. And the Decision of the Hour (of Judgment) is as the twinkling of an eye, or even quicker: for Allāh hath power over all things. It is God Who brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers when ye knew nothing; and God gave you hearing and sight and intelligence and affections: that you may give thanks (to Allāh). Look at the birds, held poised in the midst of the sky… Nothing holds them up but [the power of] God. Verily in this are signs for those who believe. (al-Nahl 16: 77-9)
It is He who created you, then why do you not affirm the truth? Just consider (the semen) that you emit, Do you create it, or We are its creator? We have incorporated death in your constitution, and We shall not be hindered from replacing you with others or raising you in a way you do not know. You have known the first creation [i.e., the world], then why do you not reflect [e.g., about the world to come]? Just ponder over what you sow [when farming]: Do you give it its increase, or are We the giver? We could turn it, if We pleased, into straw; then you would rue the day. […] Consider the water that you drink. Do you send it down from the clouds, or We send it down? We could make it brackish, if We pleased; so why do you not acknowledge thanks? Consider the fire that you strike [with logs and kindling]. Have you raised its tree, or We have raised it? We have made it as a reminder and convenience for the needy. So glorify your Lord, the most supreme. (al-Waqi’a 56: 59-65, Ahmed ‘Ali transl.)
Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth, in the alternation of the night and the day, in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind, in the rain which Allāh sends down from the skies and the life which God gives therewith to an earth that is dead, in the beasts of all kinds that God scatters through the earth, in the change of the winds and the clouds which they trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth—Here indeed are Signs for a people that are wise. [al-Baqarah 2: 164]
It is God who created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon, all (celestial bodies) swim along, each in its orbit with its own motion. (al-Anbiya 21: 33)
Allāh is the Light of the heavens and the earth. (al-Nur 24: 35)
Adore not the sun nor the moon, but adore Allāh Who created them, if He it is that you serve…. He Who gives the earth life [via the rains] is surely the Giver of life to the dead. Surely He is the Possessor of Power over all things. (Ha Mim 41: 37,39)
Allāh sends down rain from the skies, and gives therewith life to the earth after its death [from heat and drought]: verily in this is a Sign for those who listen. (al-Nahl 16: 65)
And no female bears nor brings forth [children], except with His knowledge. And no one living long is granted a long life, nor is anyone diminished of one’s life, but it is all in a [Divine] book. Surely this is easy to Allāh…. He causes night to enter into day, and causes day to enter in upon the night, and He has made subservient the sun and the moon, each one moves to an appointed time. This is Allāh, your Lord; His is the kingdom. And those [deities or spirits] whom you call upon besides Him own not a straw. If you call on them, they hear not your call; and if they heard, they could not answer you. And on the day of Resurrection they will deny your associating them (with God). And none can inform thee like the All-Aware One. O men, it is you that have need of Allāh, and Allāh is the Self-Sufficient, the Praised One. If He please, He will remove you and bring a new creation. And this is not hard for Allāh. (al-Fatir 35: 11, 13-17; M.M. ‘Ali transl.)
[In Paradise:] thou seest the angels going round about the Throne of Power, glorifying their Lord with praise…. “Praise be to Allāh, the Lord of the worlds!” Al ḥamdu lillāhi rabbil-‘ālamīn. (al-Zumar 39: 75)
Follow the inspiration sent unto thee, and be patient and constant, till Allāh do decide: for God is the best to decide. (Yunus 10: 109)
No soul can die but with Allāh’s permission—the term [for every life] is fixed. (al-Imran 3: 144)
Surely, in the remembrance of Allāh do hearts find rest. (al-Ra’d 13: 28)
If ye would count up the favours of Allāh, never would ye be able to number them: for Allāh is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (al-Nahl 16: 18)
My Mercy embraces all things. (al-Araf 7: 156)
[Muḥammad says:] O my people! I ask of you no reward for this [Qur’ān revelation]. My reward is from none but Him who created me: Will ye not then understand? (Hud 11: 51)
There are some who say, “Lord, give us abundance in this world.” These shall have no share in the world to come. But there are others who say, “Lord, give us what is good [wholesome] both in this world and in the next and keep us from the fire of Hell.” These shall have a share of the reward. (al-Baqarah 2: 200-202)
Who will loan to Allāh a beautiful loan [i.e., your life, your faculties] which Allāh will increase manifold? Allāh alone can decrease and increase wealth, and to Him you shall return (al-Baqarah 2: 245)
Those who patiently persevere, seeking the countenance of their Lord; establish regular prayers; spend, out of (the gifts) We have bestowed for their sustenance, secretly and openly; and turn off Evil with good: for such there is the final attainment of the (eternal) home. Gardens of perpetual bliss: they shall enter there, as well as the righteous among their fathers, their spouses, and their offspring: and angels shall enter unto them from every gate (with the salutation): "Peace unto you for that ye persevered in patience! Now how excellent is the final home!" (al-Ra’d 13: 22-24)
And whosoever does evil or wrongs himself but afterwards seeks Allāh's Forgiveness [and converts to doing good], he will find Allāh Oft-forgiving and Most Merciful. (al-Nisa 4:110)
Verily, those who believe and do deeds of righteousness, their Lord will guide them through their Faith. Under them will flow rivers in the Gardens of Delight (Paradise). Their way of request will be Subhānaka Allāhumma (Glory be to You, O Allāh!) and Salām (Peace!) will be their greetings therein (Paradise). And the close of their request will be: Al ḥamdu lillāhi rabbil-‘ālamīn (All praises and thanks are to Allāh, The Lord of ‘ālamīn—mankind, jinn and all that exist). (Yunus 10: 9-10)
O Thou Creator of the heavens and the earth! Thou art my Protector in this world and in the Hereafter. Take Thou my soul (at death) as one submitting to Thy will (as a Muslim), and unite me with the righteous. (Yusuf 12: 101)
You see the mountains and think them firmly fixed: but they pass like the passing of the clouds: (such is) the Artistry of God, who disposes of all things in perfect order: for God is well acquainted with all that you do. (al-Nami 27: 88)
Do not let your hatred of a people incite you to aggression…. And do not let ill-will towards any folk incite you so that you swerve from dealing justly. Be just; that is nearest to heedfulness" (al-Ma’idah 5: 2,8).
We [the Divine] indeed created man; and We know what his soul [or mind] whispers within him, and We are nearer to him than the jugular vein. (al-Qaf 50: 16)
[On the Christians’ deification of Jesus, especially based on the John Gospel:] No mortal to whom God has given the Scriptures and whom He has endowed with judgment and prophethood would say to men, “Worship me instead of God.” But rather: “Be devoted servants of God.” (al-Imran 3: 79)
Say: “To whom belongs all that the heavens and earth contain?” Say: “To God.”… Say: “… He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. He gives nourishment to all and is nourished by none.” (al-An’am 6: 12,14)
Some [of the unbelievers] say, "There is nothing beyond our life in this world, for We shall not be raised from the dead." If thou couldst but see [them] when they shall be made to stand before their Sustainer [and] He will say, "Is not this the truth?" They will answer: "Yea, indeed, by our Sustainer!" [Whereupon] He will say: "Taste, then, the suffering that comes from your having refused to acknowledge the truth!" Lost indeed are they who consider it a lie that they will have to meet God—until the Last Hour suddenly comes upon them, [and] they cry, "Alas for us, that we disregarded it!"—for they shall bear on their backs the burden of their sins: oh, how evil the load with which they shall be burdened! And nothing is the life of this world but a play and a passing delight; and the life in the hereafter is by far the better for all who are conscious of God. Will you not, then, use your reason? (al-An’am 6: 29-32)
We showed to Abraham the visible and invisible world of the heavens and the earth, that he could be among those who believe. When the night came with her covering of darkness he saw a star, and (Azar, his father) said: "This is my Lord." But when the star set, (Abraham) said: "I love not those that wane." When (Azar) saw the moon rise all aglow, he said: "This is my Lord." But even as the moon set, (Abraham) said: "If my Lord had not shown me the way I would surely have gone astray." When (Azar) saw the sun rise all resplendent, he said: "My Lord is surely this, and the greatest of them all." But the sun also set, and (Abraham) said: "O my people, I am through with those you associate (with God). I have truly turned my face towards Him who created the heavens and the earth: I have chosen one way and am not an idolater." (al-An’am 6: 75-9; Ahmed ‘Ali transl.)
Indeed it is God who splits up the seed and the kernel, and brings forth the living from the dead, the dead from the living. This is God: So whither do you stray? He ushers in the dawn, and made the night for rest, the sun and moon a computation. Such is the measure appointed by Him, the omnipotent and all-wise. It is He who made the stars by which you reckon your way through the darkness of the desert and the sea. Distinct have We made Our signs for those who recognise. It is He who produced you from a single cell, and appointed a place of sojourning, (the womb of the mother), and a place of depositing, (the grave). How clear have We made Our signs for those who understand. It is He who sends down water from the skies, and brings out of it everything that grows, the green foliage, the grain lying close, the date palm trees with clusters of dates, and the gardens of grapes, and of olives and pomegranates, so similar yet so unlike. Look at the fruits, how they appear on the trees, and they ripen. In all these are signs for those who believe. Yet they ascribe to jinns [lower spirits] a partnership with God, although He created them; and they ascribe to Him sons and daughters, without possessing any knowledge. All praise be to Him. He is much too exalted for things they associate (with Him). Creator of the heavens and the earth from nothingness, how could He have a son when He has no mate? He created all things, and has knowledge of all things. This is God, your Lord; there is no god but He, the creator of all things. So pay homage to Him, for He takes care of everything. No eyes can penetrate Him, but He penetrates all eyes, and He knows all the mysteries, for He is all-knowing. (al-An’am 6: 95-103; Ahmed ‘Ali transl.)
Persevere; the promise of God is true; and seek forgiveness for your sins, and chant the praises of your Lord evening and morning. Verily those who argue in the matter of God's revelations, without authority having reached them, have nothing but pride in their hearts, and they will not achieve their end. So take refuge in God: Surely He is all-hearing and all-seeing. The creation of the heavens and the earth is indeed of greater magnitude than the creation of mankind; but most men do not understand. The blind and the seeing are surely not alike, nor those who believe and act rightly and those who do evil. Little do you reflect! The Hour will certainly come; there is no mystery about it; but most men do not believe. Your Lord has said: "Call to Me that I may answer your call. Surely those who disdain worshipping Me will enter Hell, disgraced." It is God who made the night for you to rest, the day to make things visible. Indeed God is gracious to men, but most men are not grateful. He is God your Lord, creator of everything. There is no god but He. How then do you turn away (from Him)? Only they are turned away thus who deny the signs of God. It is God who made the earth a dwelling for you, and the sky a vaulted roof, who fashioned you and gave you excellent form and provided you with clean and wholesome things. He is God, your Lord. So blessed be God, the Lord of all the worlds. He is the living. There is no god [or anything] but He. Therefore pray to Him with obedience all-exclusive. Praise be to God, the Lord of all the worlds. (al-Mu’min 40: 55-65; Ahmed 'Ali transl.)
Say: “My prayer and my sacrifice [devotions, acts of worship], my life and my death are for God alone, the Lord of all the worlds. God has no associate [or peer]: Thus I have been commanded and I am the initial one who surrendered himself unto God.” Say: “Shall I seek a Lord other than God, when God is the Lord of all things?” (al-An’am 6: 162-4).
Whoever is saved from the greediness of his soul, these [persons] are the successful. (al-Taghabun 64: 16)
Whatsoever is in the heavens and the earth sings the praises of God. He is all-mighty and all-wise. His is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, He is the giver of life and death, and He has power over everything. He is the first and He the last, the transcendent and the immanent; and He has knowledge of everything. It is He who created the heavens and the earth in six stages, then assumed the throne. He knows whatsoever enters the earth, and whatsoever comes out of it, and what comes down from the sky and what goes up to it; and He is with you wheresoever you may be, and He perceives whatsoever you do. His is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, and all things will go back to Him. He turns night into day, and turns day into night; and He knows whatsoever is in your hearts…. It is He who sends down resplendent [clear] revelations to His votary that he may take you out of darkness into light; for surely God is gracious and kind to you. (al-Hadid 57: 1-6, 9; Ahmed Ali transl.)
Know that the present life is but a sport and a diversion, an adornment and a cause for boasting among you, and a rivalry in wealth and children. It is as a rain whose vegetation pleases the unbelievers; then it withers, and thou seest it turning yellow, then it becomes broken orts [dry chaff]. […] The present life is but the joy of delusion. Race to forgiveness from your Lord, and a Garden the breadth whereof is as the breadth of heaven and earth, made ready for those who believe in God and His Messengers. That is the bounty of God; He gives it unto whomsoever He will; and God is of bounty abounding. No affliction befalls in the earth or in yourselves, but it is in a Book, before We create it; that is easy for God; that you may not grieve for what escapes you, nor rejoice in what has come to you [see 64: 11: “No calamity befalls but by God’s permission”]; God loves not any man proud and boastful, such as are niggardly [stingy], and [those who] bid men to be niggardly…. We sent Our Messengers with the clear signs, and We sent down with them the Book and the Balance [weighing good and evil] so that men might uphold justice. (al-Hadid 57: 20-5 Arberry transl.)
Upon the day when God shall raise them [humanity] up all together, then He shall tell them what they did. God has numbered [recorded] it, and they have forgotten it. God is witness over everything. Hast thou not seen that God knows whatsoever is in the heavens, and whatsoever is in the earth? Three men conspire not secretly together, but He is the fourth of them […] He is with them, wherever they may be; then He shall tell them what they have done, on the Day of Resurrection. Surely God has knowledge of everything. (al-Mujadila 58: 6-7; Arberry’s transl.)
[Concerning the authentic believers in God:] He has written faith upon their hearts, and He has confirmed them with a Spirit from Himself; and He shall admit them into gardens underneath which rivers flow, therein to dwell forever, God being well-pleased with them, and they well-pleased with Him. Those are God's party; why, surely God's party—they are the prosperers. (al-Mujadila 58: 22; Arberry’s transl.)
Surely God is aware of what you do. Be not as those who forgot God, and so He caused them to forget their souls; they are the ungodly. (al-Hashr 59:19; Arberry’s transl.)
He is God; there is no god but He. He is the knower of the Unseen and the Visible; He is the All-merciful, the All-compassionate. He is God; there is no god but He. He is the King, the All-holy, the All-peaceable [Author of Peace], the All-faithful, the All-preserver, the All-mighty, the All-compeller, the All-sublime. Glory be to God, above [any god or angels] that they [the idolatrous] associate! He is God, the Creator, the Maker, the Shaper. To Him belong the [Divine] Names Most Beautiful. All that is in the heavens and the earth magnifies Him; He is the All-mighty, the All-wise. (al-Hashr 59: 22-4; Arberry’s transl.)
[The believers pray:] “Our Lord, in Thee we trust; to Thee we turn; to Thee is the homecoming.” (al-Mumtahina 60: 4; Arberry’s transl.)
God will bring ease after hardship. (al-Talaq 65: 7)
Say: "It is He who raised you and gave you ears and eyes and hearts. How little are the thanks you offer!" Say: "It is He who dispersed you all over the earth, and to Him you will be gathered." But they say: "When will this promise come to pass, if what you say is true?" Say: "God alone has knowledge. My duty is only to warn you clearly." […] Say: "He is the benevolent; in Him do we believe, and in Him do we place our trust.” (al-Mulk 67: 23-6, 29; Ahmed Ali transl.)
On that day [of Reckoning] you will be exposed to view—no secret of yours will remain hidden. (al-Haqqa 69: 18)
Surely prayer keeps (one) away from indecency and evil; and certainly the remembrance of God is the greatest (force). And God knows what you do. [...] Every soul must taste of death; then to Us you will be returned. [...] And the life of this world is but a sport and a play. And the home of the Hereafter, that surely is the Life, did they but know! [...] And those who strive hard for Us, We shall certainly guide them in Our ways. And Allāh is surely with the doers of good. (al-'Ankabut 29: 45,57,64,69; M.M. 'Ali transl.)
[The Qur’ān speaks to and about Prophet Muḥammad, countering the charges from Meccans that he was insane, or a mere poet or soothsayer or liar:] By the Grace of thy Lord, you are not mad… and surely you have sublime morals. So you will see, and they (too) will see, which of you is mad. (al-Qalam 68: 2-6) I [Gabriel] call to witness what you see, and what you do not see, that this is indeed the word of the noble Messenger, and not the word of a poet. How little is it that you believe! Nor is it the word of a soothsayer. Little is it that you reflect! It has been sent down by the Lord of all the worlds. Had he [Muḥammad] attributed falsely any words to Us, we would have seized him by his right hand, then cut off his aorta, and not one of you would have been able to stop (Us). It is really a reminder for those who fear God and follow the straight path. We certainly know that some among you do deny it. It is surely the nemesis of unbelievers. And He, He is indeed the ultimate Reality. So glorify your Lord, the most supreme. (al-Haqqa 69: 41-52; Ahmed Ali transl.)
Recite the name of your Lord withdrawing yourself from everything, devoting yourself exclusively to Him. He is the Lord of the East and the West. There is no god but He. So take Him alone as your protector. (al-Muzzammil 73: 8-9; Ahmed Ali transl.)
Glorify the name of thy Lord morning and evening, and during part of the night adore Him and glorify Him throughout a long night. (76: 25-6; M.M. ‘Ali transl. The Prophet and his companions and many later Sūfī mystics of Islām kept night vigils for all or part of the night. Sūra 73:20 says, “He [the Lord] knows that not all of you are able to do it” because of infirmity or heavy work, so one can endeavor to pray and read scripture as much as one is able.)
When hell is kindled and when the Garden (Paradise) is brought near, every soul will know what it has prepared…. Whither then are you going? It [this Revelation] is naught but a Reminder for the nations, for him among you who will go straight. And you will not, except Allāh please, the Lord of the worlds. (at-Takwir 81: 12-14, 26-29; M.M. ‘Ali transl.)
He indeed is successful who purifies himself, and remembers the name of his Lord, then prays. But you prefer the life of this world, while the Hereafter is better and everlasting. Surely this is in the earlier scriptures, the scriptures of Abraham and Moses. (al-A’la 87: 14-9; M.M. ‘Ali transl.)
In the name of Allāh, the Beneficent, the Merciful. By the sun and his brightness! And the moon when she borrows light from him! And the day when it exposes it to view! And the night when it draws a veil over it! And the heaven and its make! And the earth and its extension! And the soul and its perfection! So He [God] reveals to it [the soul] its way of evil and its way of good; he [the soul] is indeed successful who causes it to grow, and he indeed fails who buries it. (al-Shams 91: 1-10; M.M. ‘Ali transl.; ‘Ali comments, in the spirit of how the mystical Sūfīs interpreted the Qur’anic verses: “Man is here spoken of as possessing the highest of qualities which are met with in nature. The sun is a source of light, even so is the perfect man a source of spiritual light. The moon borrows the light of the sun, even so is the perfect man, whose light is really borrowed from the Divine source, which is the real source of all light. The day makes things manifest and thus enables man to carry on his struggle, while the night casts a veil over light and brings rest; the perfect man possesses both these qualities, as he carries on a very hard struggle for the attainment of great ends, and at the same time his mind is at rest and he possesses the quality of contentment. The heaven is raised high, and the earth is spread out for men to walk over, being thus a manifestation of humility; the perfect man possesses both these qualities, having the highest of aspirations and being at the same time humble and lowly. The perfect man thus possesses the opposite qualities of giving light and receiving light, severe exertion and complete rest, greatness and humility. These qualities were possessed by the Prophet, who invited others to make the same the goal of their lives.” p. 1180, note 2744]
[The faithful] are enjoined naught but to serve God/Allāh, being sincere to Him in obedience, upright [in virtue], and to keep up prayer and pay the alms-tithe [to the poor], and that is the right religion…. Those who believe and do good, they are the best of creatures. (al-Bayyinah 98: 5,7)
On that day [of Reckoning] men will come forth in sundry bodies that they may be shown their works. So he who does an atom’s weight of good will see it; and he who does an atom’s weight of evil will see it. (al-Zilzal 99: 6-7; this and so many dozens of similar passages in the Qur’ān about the Day of Reckoning or Judgment are reminiscent of what so many modern accounts of Near-Death Experiences reveal—the revelatory “Past Life Review” wherein everything one ever did in the particular lifetime to help or harm fellow beings is experienced empathetically and interdimensionally beyond the speed of normal thought, and one feels directly with great force either a great heavenly joy or a terrible hellish misery over having helped or harmed others.)
Abundance [of easy living and distracting experiences] diverts you, until you come to the graves. Nay, you will soon know, again, you will soon know. Nay, would that you knew with a certain knowledge [right now, while still alive and capable of changing course]! (al-Takathur 102: 1-5)
Have you seen him who denies Judgment? That is the one who repulses the orphan and urges not the feeding of the needy. Woe to those that pray and are unmindful of their Prayer, those who want to be seen, and who refuse small kindnesses. (al-Ma’un 107: 1-5)
[God speaks to the unrighteous:] You honor not the orphan, nor do you urge one another to feed the poor, and you devour heritage, devouring all, and you love wealth with exceeding love…. [To the righteous, on their Day of Reckoning:] O soul that art at rest, return to thy Lord, well-pleased, well-pleasing, so enter among my servants, and enter My Garden (Paradise). (al-Fajr 89: 17-20; M.M. ‘Ali transl.)
[Here is the entirety of chapter 55, Sūra ar-Raḥmān, an early Meccan revelation; note the use of a repeating refrain for cadence, sounding fully 31 times in this sūra/chapter:]
The Beneficent [Raḥmān / God] bestowed the Qur'ān, created man, and taught him to express clearly. The sun and moon revolve to a computation; and the grasses and the trees bow (to Him) in adoration. He raised the sky and set the Balance, so that none may err against the scales, and observe correct measure, weigh with justice, and not cheat the balance. He positioned the earth for all the creatures: there are fruits of all kinds on it, and date-palms with their clusters sheathed, grain with husk, and fragrant grasses. [Refrain:] How many favours of your Lord will then both of you deny? He created man of fermented clay dried tinkling hard like earthen ware, and created jinns [subtle-plane genies or lower spirits] from the white-hot flame of fire. How many favours of your Lord will you then deny? Lord of the two Easts, Lord of the two Wests [varying widely from Winter solstice to Summer solstice]. How many favours of your Lord will then both of you deny? He has set two seas [freshwater and saltwater] in motion that flow side by side together, with an interstice between them which they cannot cross. How many favours of your Lord will then both of you deny? Out of them come pearls and coral. How many favours of your Lord will you then deny? His are the high-sailed vessels in deep ocean [steady] like the mountains. How many favours of your Lord will then both of you deny? All that is on the earth is passing, but abiding is the glory of your Lord, full of majesty and beneficence. How many favours of your Lord will you then deny? All those there are in the heavens and the earth turn to Him with solicitation, intent on His purpose all the time. How many favours of your Lord will you then deny? We shall soon be free to turn to you, O weary caravans, How many favours of your Lord will you then deny? O society of jinn and men, cross the bounds of the heavens and the earth if you have the ability, then pass beyond them; but you cannot unless you acquire the law. How many favours of your Lord will you then deny? Let loose at you will be smokeless flames of fire so that you will not be able to defend yourselves. How many favours of your Lord will then both of you deny? When the sky will split asunder, and turn rosy like the dregs of annointing oil, which of the favours of your Lord will you then deny? Neither man nor jinn will be questioned on that day about his sin. How many favours of your Lord will you then deny? The sinners will be recognised by their marks, and seized by the forelock and their feet. Which of the favours of your Lord will you then deny? This is Hell the sinners called a lie. They will go round and around between it and boiling water. Which of the favours of your Lord will you then deny? But for him who lived in awe of the sublimity of his Lord, there will be two gardens—how many favours of your Lord will then both of you deny?—full of overhanging branches—Which of the favours of your Lord will you then deny?—With two springs of water flowing through them both. Which of the favours of your Lord will then both of you deny? In both of them there will be every kind of fruits in pairs. Which of the favours of your Lord will then both of you deny? Reclining there on carpets lined with brocade, fruits of the garden hanging low within reach. How many favours of your Lord will then both of you deny? In them maidens with averted glances, [untouched] by man or by jinn before them—Which of the favours of your Lord will then both of you deny?—As though rubies and pearls. Which of the favours of your Lord will then both of you deny? Should the reward of goodness be aught else but goodness? How many favours of your Lord will then both of you deny? And besides these two other gardens—which of the favours of your Lord will then both of you deny?—of darkest verdant green—how many favours of your Lord will then both of you deny?—With two fountains gushing constantly—How many favours of your Lord will then both of you deny?—With fruits in them, and dates and pomegranates—How many favours of your Lord will then both of you deny?—In them good and comely maidens—How many favours of your Lord will you then deny?—Hūrīs cloistered in pavilions—How many favours of your Lord will you then deny?—[untouched] by man or by jinn before them—How many favours of your Lord will then both of you deny?—Reclining on green cushions and rich carpets excellent. How many favours of your Lord will you then deny? Blessed be the name of your Lord, full of majesty and beneficence. (ar-Rahman 55: 1-78; Ahmed ‘Ali translation. Note that M.M. ‘Ali has translated “Hūrī” as “pure and beautiful ones” in his long note to 55:20, which explains that the Garden or Paradise/Heaven is for both females and males, and is a purely spiritual state, all such descriptions of gardens, fruit, wine, flowers, couches, silk clothes, rivers, pools, pavilions and lovely companions being allegorical or subservient to the purely spiritual pleasure of God’s Reality.)
That home of the Hereafter (i.e. Paradise), We shall assign to those who rebel not against the truth with pride and oppression in the land nor do mischief by committing crimes. And the good end is for the pious. Whosoever brings good, he shall have the better thereof, and whosoever brings evil (polytheism along with evil deeds) then, those who do evil deeds will only be requited for what they used to do. […] Invoke not any other god along with Allāh, La ilāha illa Huwa [There is no god but He]. Everything will perish save His Face. His is the Decision, and to Him you (all) shall be returned. (al-Qasas 28: 83-4,88; Hilali & Khan transl.)
Glory be to Him in Whose hand is the kingdom of all things! and to Him you will be returned. (Ya Sin 36: 83; M.M. ‘Ali transl.)