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Qur’an—The Sacred Book of Islam

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The Qur’an, according to Muslim belief, is a revealed book: it is not authored by a human being, but is the true word of God in human language. A medium-sized book so far as its volume is concerned, it comprises 114 chapters or surahs (77,439 words). Its revelation to the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace, through the angel Gabriel, began in A.D. 610, while the Prophet was sitting in seclusion in the cave of Hera at the top of the Mountain of Light, two miles from Mecca. The scriptures were not revealed at one point of time. Their various parts were revealed as and when the occasion demanded. The entire process was completed over a period of 23 years, the last passage being revealed to the Prophet while he was addressing a gathering at Mount Arafat on the occasion of his last Hajj in A.D. 622. The entire volume was later compiled in Medina during the last days of the Prophet.

 

Since the Qur’an came into existence long before the days of the printing press, there were only two ways of preserving it: either by committing the entire text to memory, or writing it down on paper or other materials. That is why there have always been a great number of Hafiz (those who committed the entire Qur’an to memory) in every age, right from the Qur’an’s first revelation. The earliest written copies are still available in different museums, one of these being in Tashkent.

 

The Qur’an, addressed directly to mankind, tells us of God’s scheme for human existence: that man is placed on this earth for the purpose of being tested. The freedom he has here has not been given him as a matter of right, but as a means to allow him to prove his moral fibber. It is the outcome of this test which will ultimately decide man’s eternal fate. It is asserted in the holy book that human beings are eternal creatures, yet only an infinitesimal part of their lifespan has been assigned to the present world, while the remainder has been ordained for the Hereafter.

 

As we learn from the scriptures, all the previously revealed books had been sent by God so that man might be informed of the nature of his life. The Qur’an, the last of the revealed books, endorses all the revealed books which preceded it. But this endorsement applies to them only in their original, pristine versions. The religious scriptures preceding the Qur’an were—as is claimed by their followers—divine in origin. But from the point of view of academic authenticity, they have lost their original credibility. This is due to alteration, deletion and interpolation. According to the Qur’an, the only authentic version of God’s message to mankind is that revealed by Him to His final Prophet.

 

The study of the Qur’an tells us that it is individual-based rather than system-oriented. That is, the actual target of the holy book is to change the thinking of the individual. Changing the system is not the Qur’an’s direct objective. For the system is subservient to the individual and not the individual to the system. That is why the utmost emphasis is placed on inculcating right thinking in man. Yet, it is not the method of the Qur’an to set out everything in advance, in detail. It rather encourages individuals to think for themselves along the proper lines, so that they may discover for themselves the great truths of life. In educational terminology this is called the discovery method.

 

Islamic teachings can be summed up under two basic headings: (1) believing in One God and worshipping Him alone; (2) regarding all human beings as equal and according equal rights to all. In brief, monotheism and justice for all. The Qur’an enshrines these basic teachings, dealing with them in their abstract and practical forms, but for a detailed application of their wisdom, one must go to the hadith (the sayings and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad).

 

As far as social life is concerned, the essence of Islamic teaching is that God has granted freedom to everyone. This freedom in itself demands that people should lead their lives with proper restraint. For if freedom is exercised without restraint, it will inevitably result in friction, outright clashes and the descent of society into chaos. Social equilibrium can be maintained only if conscience (nafs lawwama) prevails over ego (nafs ammara). In social life, our actions elicit good or evil depending upon whether we have activated the ego or the conscience of the person or persons concerned.

 

Whenever one initiates any undertaking, the Qur’an states expressly that one should begin by uttering the name of God. One thus always reminds oneself at the outset of God’s attributes of benevolence and compassion. It is also a way of determining that all projects will be launched not with personal but with divine intentions, and that all actions stemming therefrom will be merciful rather than exploitative in nature. The most frequently repeated invocation in the Qur’an is: "In the name of God, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful." The recurrence of this phrase no less than 114 times is in itself a clear indication of how important it is.






Maulana Wahiduddin Khan


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