Quranic Exploration: Defining the Quran

Updated: Apr 26

Each of the heavenly inspired books bears a name that distinguishes it from the others in some elevated way. The Quran is no different in this regard, but have we ever stopped to ask ourselves the question what does this word Quran mean. Let us explore.

There are those who would posit the term Quran is its own independent word without having root in any other word preceding it. Others would posit the term Quran to have a pre-existing root, quite often a trilatetal root.

The most frequented view is that the term Quran is linguistically extracted from the word recital, Qiraa'ah. This is illustrated in His statement, the Exalted,

"Certainly, upon Us is its collection and its recital (id est Quran). So when we have recited it follow its recitation (id est Quran)."

Chapter al-Qiyaamah (75): 17-18

This is further illustrated within Prophetic tradition as collected by al-Bukhaaree on the authority of Aboo Hurayrah, "The Quran was made light for Dawud. He would order for his transport to be saddled and would recite the Quran until his transport was saddled. He would also not eat except from the work of his hands."

The meaning of Quran here is clarified by an alternative wordage of this Prophetic tradition, "Recitation was made light for Dawud. He would order for his transport to be saddled and would recite until his transport was saddled."

From the root meanings offered for the term Quran is a collection, Qur'. Ibn Manthoor has mentioned, "The meaning of the term Quran is collection since it is a collection of chapters. Just as in His statement, the Exalted,

'Certainly, upon Us is its collection and its recital (id est Quran).'"

Chapter al-Qiyaamah (75): 17

There are still yet others who would posit the root meaning of Quran is to connect one thing to another since its chapters and verses are interconnected.

ash-Shaafi'ee has reported that he recited the Quran to Ismaa'eel b. Qastanteen and that he would say, "The term Quran is not extracted from the trilatetal root that means to recite. Rather, it is its own independent word as a name for the Book of Allah just as is with the Torah and the Gospels."

All of the above explores linguistic meanings for the term Quran. As for the technical meaning of the term Quran, it is the miraculous speech of Allah as has been revealed to Muhammad ﷺ, worship is performed by reciting it having been transmitted through multiple source transmission as has been recorded in the Mushaf.

By way of miraculous, we exclude Divine Prophetic Tradition (Hadeeth al-Qudsee). By way of the speech of Allah, we exclude the speech of humanity, the angels, and the jinn. By way of what has been revealed to Muhammad ﷺ , we exclude what has been revealed to other than Muhammad ﷺ from the Prophets and Messengers such as the Scriptures, the Torah, the Psalms, and the Gospels. By way of worship that is performed through reciting it, we exclude both Divine Prophetic Tradition (Hadeeth al-Qudsee) and Prophetic Tradition (Hadeeth). By way of multiple source transmission, we exclude abrogated recitations as well as recitations that do not reach the level of multiple source transmission. By way of being recorded in the Mushaf, this again excludes abrogated recitations.

The Quran is composed of one hundred and fourteen (114) chapters, six thousand two hundred and thirty six (6,236) verses, and seventy seven thousand four hundred and thirty nine (77,439) words. The number of verses are as has been reported by Abu 'Amr ad-Daanee, and the number of words are as has been reported by al-Fadl b. Shaadhaan. Both are mentioned by Ibn Katheer in his Tafseer.

Ibn al-'Arabee mentions that knowledge contained within the Quran is four times the number of words in the Quran (77,439). He seats this upon the statement of the Salaf, "Every word carries an external and internal meaning, along with an upper limit and a lower limit." Of course this excludes combinations of words and connections between those words, for if we factor that in, then the number reaches a height that only Allah knows.

Further, az-Zurkashee mentions the primary areas in which the Quran focuses are three: monotheism, admonition, and law.

Monotheism includes being conscious of the creation and the Creator, by way of His names, qualities, and actions. Admonition includes promise and threat of punishment, Paradise and Hell, and internal purification as well as external purification. Law includes all responsibility in front of Allah, clarifying benefit and harm, and commandments and prohibitions.

at-Tabaree offers a slightly different perspective on this whilst still concluding on three: monotheism, reports, and spirituality.

Due to the prominence and gravitas the Quran holds with our Lord, it bears more than one name; though scholarship differs concerning the exact number of these names. There are those who enumerate those names to be fifty, such as az-Zurkashee, there are those who enumerate those names to be one hundred, such as al-Fayroozaabaadee, and there are those who enumerate those names to be four, such as at-Tabaree, as he has mentioned in his Tafseer, "Certainly, Allah, exalted be His mention, has entitled His revelation, the revelation he revealed to His servant Muhammad ﷺ, as four names:

  1. The Quran, as has come in His statement, the Exalted, 'Indeed, it is a Noble Quran.' al-Waaqi'ah (56):77

  2. The Book (al-Kitaab), as has come in His statement, the Exalted, 'Alif Laam Meem. This is the Book in which there is no doubt.' al-Baqarah (2):1

  3. The Remembrance (adh-Dhikr), as has come in His statement, the Exalted, 'Certainly, We have revealed the Remembrance, and certainly We will preserve it.' al-Hijr (15):9

  4. The Criterion (al-Furqaan), as has come in His statement, the Exalted, 'Hallowed be the One who revealed the Criterion upon His servant.' al-Furqaan (25): 1"

Perhaps those who have enumerated names greater in number than four have included descriptions of the Quran mentioned within the Quran as names of the Quran.

And Allah knows best.

Kenneth "Aqil" Ingram II

Ramadan 1, 1442 Anno Hegirae

April 13, 2021 Anno Domini

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