View Full Version : An introduction to the Qur'an

20 Apr 2011, 18:29
Originally, I wanted to make these into blog posts, but I thought if I posted them here on the main forum, they'd get more traffic, and also it would be easier to communicate and interact with the members so we can discuss whatever I post here.

I thought I'd try something different. My intention is not to discuss with you the history behind the Qur'an, its background and its structure and so on. Rather, I thought I'd go with you through the pages of the Qur'an and discuss those directly with you. I'd just go through the first few pages in maybe 6 or 7 posts and that's it. Just to get you started, and get you used to what the Qur'an actually is, in case you wanted to keep on reading on your own, so you wouldn't feel lost or confused.

The way I imagined it, is that we'd open the Qur'an as if we knew nothing about it nor about Islam. So that the question we'd be discussing is 'What do the verses actually say to me?' At the same time I will try to share with you the limited knowledge I have about the text, to help you understand what the verses are actually talking about.

I will try not to go into that much detail, although if you have specific questions about anything, of course you are more than welcome to post them. The reason I say this is because there's so much detail that's in the text. Like we could go into the roots of the words used, their meaning, the choice of words, the order of the words in a sentence, why this letter was used here and not the other, why was a verb used in the present tense and not the past tense etc.

I will still try to provide you with links in case you want to go deeper into the meaning of the verses, but here, I will try to convey to you the message or the idea without going through all the details so we can get a general idea about the Qur'an. Though, I'll probably start slower and then pick up the pace.

Quick definitions, before I forget:
Ayah. Usually people (including me) translate this as verse. This is not correct. The literal meaning of this word is sign, proof, evidence, miracle etc. As if every 'verse' of the Qur'an is a miraculous sign of God.

Surah. Again this is usually translated as chapter, which is also not correct. But as is the case with Ayah, I will use the word chapter sometimes just for the sake of helping you understand.

Also, before we begin, I'd just like to explain something about the Qur'an, since it's not similar to other books out there. You see, usually books start with 'once upon a time' or 'in the beginning such and such happened'. Books are usually made of chapters, so that chapter two is based upon the info of chapter one and so on. The Qur'an is not like that. It doesn't go like, chapter one, how to pray. Chapter two, how to fast. Chapter three, how to kill all the infidels. It's different. If I wanted to sound smart I'd say the Qur'an is four dimensional.

I hate to make this comparison, but I will use it anyway to help you understand what the Qur'an is like. Have you ever listen to a concept album? Where all the songs tell a general story? Where each song in on itself has its own theme or structure but they are all still connected to each other, so that each song leads smoothly to the next?

The Qur'an is similar to that. Each Surah has its own theme or idea or a feeling it wants to get across. It's own rhyme scheme even. Sometimes you'd read the same story in different parts of the Qur'an, but each time it is told from a different angle, because it's focusing on a certain aspect it wants you to think about and so on.

Anyways, I don't want to make this longer than it already is, so I'll just stop now. I'll probably update this thread every week so that you get a chance to comment and discuss things with me, before we move on to the next part or passage. If you have any suggestions let me know. I hope you enjoy this and benefit from it, god willing.


20 Apr 2011, 18:36
Looking forward to it!

20 Apr 2011, 19:16
Let the learning begin ...

20 Apr 2011, 23:35
Thank you, Dumuzi, for supplying this thread. It really helps to bring an understanding for those of us not familiar enough with the Qur'an.

Let the learning begin ...


I'm mixed about being the person who'd bind all those pages together.

22 Apr 2011, 16:23
This was supposed to be one post where I talk about the whole surah, but since it became too long I decided to divide it into two posts. I will post the rest later on.

Al Fatiha (The Opener)
(Verses 1-3)


Al Fatiha (meaning the opener) is the very first surah of the Qur'an, and it contains only 7 ayat. It is one of the most important chapters of the Qur'an. Just to give you a reason for that, in our daily 5 prayers, we recite this surah 17 times per day, every day of our life. That's how important it is. It's the first thing you learn as a kid, and if you become Muslim it will probably be the first thing you learn, so you can do your daily prayers.

It is also very important because it gives you general and essential ideas about Islam. It sums everything up for you. It's also a prayer that is very universal. When you read it you'll find out it's not specific for Muslims per se. It reminds me of the Lord's Prayer in Christianity, and reminds me also of what I heard someone describe as 'the prayer of the agnostic' that goes something like, "God, if you are out there, please help me."

Because that's what Al Fatiha basically is. A prayer and a supplication for guidance. You ask God to give you guidance, essentially.

If I were to summarize these 7 verses I'd say that they talk about 3 things:
1. Who is God? (information and knowledge about God and attributes of him)
2. Our relationship with God.
3. Asking that God to give us guidance.

Before I begin, I want to point out that I'll probably go into relatively more detail in this post, and then I will pick up the pace later on, because this is the beginning and it's important to understand certain concepts. With that said, I'm going to ignore lots of details and try to keep it as simple as possible for now.

Now before I start, and as a small break before you start reading, you can listen to this surah by clicking on the link below.
Recitation of Al Fatihah (http://youtu.be/eiwmxkla2f0)

1. In the name of Allah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.

This is the very first verse of the very first chapter of the Qur'an, and how does Allah choose to introduce himself to the reader? What attributes or names of himself does he mention first and before all? He says that he is the most merciful. This is how he begins describing himself. That's the first thing we learn about God. Think about that for a second.

Now before I go on, I want to mention something about the word Allah really quick, because lots of people seem to be confused about this. Arabic speaking Jews and Christians use the word Allah when they are talking about God. And these Christians and Jews spoke Arabic hundreds of years before English was even spoken. In fact, if you read the very first verse of the Bible in Arabic, you will find the word Allah.

Genesis 1:1
فِي الْبَدْءِ خَلَقَ اللهُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضَ
(In the beginning Allah created the heavens and the earth)

I also must confess that I'm not the best history expert out there, but I'm going to assume that Jesus Christ, peace be upon him, for example, probably didn't speak English. So in his native language the word he used has more to do with the word Allah, than the word God.

Now I want to go back to Allah being merciful. I'm not going to go into that much detail about the two Arabic words used here, but I will just mention the following. Both words (Arrahman and Arraheem) come from the Arabic word for mercy, indicating someone who is being merciful. It's an adjective. The difference between them is that the first word, linguistically speaking, means someone who is extremely and excessively merciful right this very second. (As the Qur'an later mentions, he is the most merciful of all those that are merciful, his mercy encompasses everything and so on). Someone who is merciful beyond imagination, and he is showing that mercy right now. For example, you could describe a person as being merciful, but that doesn't necessarily mean he is being merciful right this second.

The second word, on the other hand, means someone who is merciful all the time. He's merciful in the past and also in the future. Using the same example, a person could be showing mercy right now, but that doesn't mean that they are merciful all the time. You only describe someone as merciful when they do it over and over again that it becomes an attribute of their personality.

So Allah is both Arrahman and Arraheem. Extremely merciful right now and also merciful in the future.

2. Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds

Allah is the lord of the worlds, not of the rings. Pay attention. Now there are two parts to this verse. I'll comment on the first part (Praise be to Allah) first. The Arabic expression Alhamdulillah actually indicates both praising Allah and also being thankful to Allah. In Arabic there are words for praising someone on one hand, and other words for saying thank you or showing gratitude. But the word used here, shows that all praise, and all thanks/gratitude belongs to Allah.

The interesting thing here is the wording of that expression. It doesn't say we praise Allah. Because that might indicate that he is only praiseworthy because of us, or that only us humans do that praise. Instead, this expression implies that he is praiseworthy regardless of anything else. So as Muslims we give thanks to and praise Allah regardless of whatever happens. Because he is worthy to be praised no matter what. So whether we are rich or poor, healthy or sick, strong or weak, we always say Alhamdulillah.

As for the second part of this verse, which says, "Lord of the Worlds", the Arabic word Rabb that is translated as "lord" here, can also be translated as "master". He is the master of the worlds/all creation. The word also means that he is the owner of the universe, the one who is in charge of, the one taking care of and the one who sustains and cherishes the universe. It implies power and authority over everything.

3. The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful

Now this is important. Since the previous verse talked about Allah being the master of the worlds, it is a statement that implies power and authority, so it's important to remember again that he is also the extremely merciful, the ever merciful. It creates a beautiful contrast.

Because if you are the master or owner of something, what does that imply? If you own a watch, for example, and it stops working or stop doing what it's supposed to do, will anyone question you if you break it or throw it away? It's yours, you are the owner of it, and you can pretty much smash it to the ground and you won't be held legally accountable for that.

Also, the word "master", what do you think of when you hear that word? If you have a master on one hand, what do you have on the other hand? You have a slave, right? Now when you think of slaves, do you get positive or negative images in your head? Have you ever heard of a slave praising or thanking their master? Have you ever seen a slave that wants to be a slave to his master?

This is why that verse is so important. Yes, he is the master and owner of the worlds, and that does imply power and authority. But he reminds us quickly again that he is very merciful to his creation. In that short surah of 7 verses, Allah being merciful is repeated again and again. It's emphasizing the fact that he is the most merciful of all, should we seek his mercy. And he doesn't want us to forget that, he doesn't want us to give up hope in his mercy, as the Qur'an will later mention "do not lose hope/despair in the mercy of Allah". As if Allah is saying, don't you dare give up hope or forget about my mercy.

I just want to give you an example here, and that will be the last thing I mention. Just to help you understand that contrast I want you to think of yourself in comparison to the whole universe. (Since this is Pagan Forum after all)

Just think of the billions of people that existed before you, and will exist after you. Think about the size of this planet, the size of this solar system, the size of the stars, galaxies and the whole universe. We are so insignificant, we can't even begin to describe how insignificant we are when compared to the vastness of this universe.

Yet at the same time, think of all the things this vast and huge universe has offered you. You live in a planet that's perfect for human life. When we came into existence, animals were already here for us to eat. Fruits already grew on trees. We didn't have to invent a machine to bring water down from the clouds. Of course, the mercy of Allah is way beyond just food and water, it even extends beyond this temporal life, but I still want you to think about that example to help you understand how Allah is the master of the worlds and yet still very much merciful to us whether we believe in him or not.

You are nobody when it comes to everything else. But you are somebody when it comes to a certain someone. That's basically it.

Tylluan Penry
24 Apr 2011, 11:28
Fascinating information Dumuzi, thank you so much for sharing this. I know I am going to enjoy this thread. (And you mentioned in an earlier post about the language spoken by Jesus - it's generally agreed to be Aramaic.)
Brightest blessings

Ananta Androscoggin
25 Apr 2011, 04:16
As the translation into English (as well as other languages) can sometimes be uncertain, here's a e-volume which has three translationss, shown side-by-side, for free download from Project Gutenberg.

Three Translations of The Koran (Al-Qur'an) side by side (http://www.archive.org/details/threetranslation16955gut)

25 Apr 2011, 16:13
Fascinating information Dumuzi, thank you so much for sharing this. I know I am going to enjoy this thread. (And you mentioned in an earlier post about the language spoken by Jesus - it's generally agreed to be Aramaic.)
Brightest blessings
You're welcome :)
Yeah, that's what most people believe, yet I still think there are people that are confused and think it's English!

As the translation into English (as well as other languages) can sometimes be uncertain, here's a e-volume which has three translationss, shown side-by-side, for free download from Project Gutenberg.

Three Translations of The Koran (Al-Qur'an) side by side (http://www.archive.org/details/threetranslation16955gut)
Thanks for the link. Here's another one that also really great that offers four English translations and other languages as well. It's also very user friendly so you can set up which translations you want, and which ones you don't!


09 May 2011, 09:48
4. Owner of the Day of Judgment

In the previous verse we were reminded of God's mercy, and in this verse we are told about his justice. When you read this verse you learn that there is a day of judgement coming.

This is a very important belief in Islam. Especially since lots of people always ask questions like, why is there suffering in this world? Why is there injustice? Why do bad people get away with their crimes? And why do bad things happen to good people? The Qur'an will discuss those topics later on but in this verse it reminds us that there is a day of deen coming. It could be translated as, day of judgment, reckoning, requital, recompense and so on.

Simply put, it's a day where debts become due. Either you will have to pay for what you've done, or you will be payed for what you own and you will be satisfied and content. This is important because if you think about it, there can never be real justice in this world. If someone kills someone else, the most you can do to them is to execute them, but what if someone killed two people? Or ten?

Also, when you read this in context, God is reminding us that the owner of that day is the one who owns, is taking care of and has all power and authority over the worlds. This is important because some people doubt how it is possible to return to them what was taken from them. They'd often say that something was broken inside of them, and it cannot be repaired. Here, Allah is saying, he is the one who created you out of nothing, then surely he is the only one who can repair anything and judge people in accordance to justice, and also mercy.

5. You alone do we worship, and from You alone do we seek help

This is very important now. It is a shift between two topics. All previous verses gave the first time reader knowledge about Allah. We learned about his name, that he is merciful, praiseworthy, the master/owner/one who takes care of everything, just and the owner/king of judgement day.

In this verse we learn about our relationship with that god.

I want to point out two things here. First, there is a shift in the speaking person. The verse mentions 'we' and 'you'. When the verse said "All praise belongs to Allah" it did not say 'we praise Allah'. So there is a shift in the language that goes hand in hand with the change of topic. This is something that is very unique to the Qur'an that will notice later on.

Secondly, the order of the words here is very interesting. Normally, it should say 'we worship you'. However the order in this verse is, "(it is) you we worship". What is the benefit of this? What this change of order does, is put an emphasis on the word YOU. As if it's saying, it is ONLY you that we worship and no one else. Especially you and exclusively you, so to speak.

Moving away from the linguistics here and focusing on the topic of our relationship with Allah, in this verse, we learn that we owe Allah worship and that we only ask for help and aid from him. Again there's a contrast here. The word worship here implies devotion, obedience and enslaving ourselves and submitting to God. While the other half reminds us that yes he is the only true master but he is also the only one who is truly able to help us and aid us. We are never alone because the most Merciful and the master of the worlds is always with us, should we seek his help.

6. Guide us to the straight path

This is what all these verses are really about. We learned about God and our relationship with him, and because of that relationship we finally ask him to give us guidance to the straight path.

This is what it's all about. Humans seek the truth, but we also realize we are not perfect and we will always make mistakes. So we ask the one who is perfect to guide us and/or give us guidance.

The words "straight path" are also very important. Humans have a tendency of deviating away from that path. Just to give you a few examples, on one extreme you have humans who think you should reject all desires of your body. They wear uncomfortable clothes, give up marriage and live a very hard and harsh life. They focus too much on the soul.

On the other hand you have humans who only think about their body and try to satisfy that till the day they die. They always want money, and when they have it they want more, and more. They can never be satisfied. But the straight path is the path in between those two extremes. Something very interesting, in the exact middle of the next surah, we are told that we are a middle nation. And since we lack the knowledge we always try to ask Allah to give us guidance to that straight path so that we don't deviate from it.

7. The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray.

Here we get more information about that straight path, and learn about three groups of people. We ask Allah to be amongst those whom he has given blessings and favor. As oppose to those who have evoked anger and those who are misguided.

To understand the difference we can compare those two groups to what we have learned so far in this surah. The first few verses were about knowledge, and then the rest was about actions. We got information about God and then we learned about how we should act towards God.

Unfortunately, some people have correct knowledge but do not act in accordance to their knowledge. Those people have evoked anger to be on them. And other people don't have any knowledge so when they do act, they are still misguided.

Think of it as trying to visit someone. If you have the right address but don't actually go to visit, they're gonna be mad at you. And if you go outside but you don't have their address, you will never reach your destination. You'll go astray.

So we ask Allah to give us guidance and help us become people who have proper knowledge and belief, and who do good actions and deeds.


The conclusion is already talked about in the last verse so I won't repeat it here. I will just say that the summary of all those 7 verses is asking Allah to give us guidance. That's the most important thing you need to remember.

I also suggest you compare The Fatiha with The Lord's Prayer. For example, it starts with, "Our Father who art in heaven, hollow be thy name". The Fatiha starts with "In the name of Allah the most Merciful the ever Merciful".

The reason I mention this is because the supplication/prayer made here is very personal and universal. Even people who don't follow a religion often use the words like "God, if you are out there, please help me". And that's what The Fatiha really is. You are asking the master of the everything to help you and to give you guidance.

In my next post, in case you want to read ahead I will cover the first 5 verses of the next surah. If you have any questions, let me know!

Tylluan Penry
11 May 2011, 22:15
Dumuzi, something I wanted to ask about the concept of a day of Judgement. Is this a single day when all people are to be judged (which is what some Christians believe) or is it an individual day of judgement for each person?

13 May 2011, 10:43
Dumuzi, something I wanted to ask about the concept of a day of Judgement. Is this a single day when all people are to be judged (which is what some Christians believe) or is it an individual day of judgement for each person?

Yes, it's one day where everyone will be judged. But everyone is judged individually as far as I know :)