Islam and the Quran

What Does “Qur’an” Mean?

The word “quran” derives from the verbal noun (masdar) of the word “qaraa = قرأ” whose root meaning is “collection”. It is used as a noun having the meaning “maqru = مقروء”, which can be translated as “unity” or “set”. Since “reading” is an act of “bringing the words together to understand the meaning”, the word “quran = قُرْآن” is also attributed the meaning “reading”. There is not a plural form of the word. The same word is used to refer to both singular and plural meanings. Therefore the word “quran” may also be attributed the meaning “more than one quran = qurans”. So, “quran” is “a set or sets of verses”.

There are four different types of sets that bring the verses together. They are as follows:

1- The first meaning that comes to mind by the mention of the word “quran” is “the Main Book in Lawh al-Mahfooz (the Protected Tablet)”. The related verse is:

إِنَّهُ لَقُرْآنٌ كَرِيمٌ . فِي كِتَابٍ مَّكْنُونٍ . لَّا يَمَسُّهُ إِلَّا الْمُطَهَّرُونَ . تَنزِيلٌ مِّن رَّبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ .

It (that which is in the location of the stars) is a grand Quran. It (that Quran) is in a Book protected in its covering. No one touches It (that Quran) except the purified. It has been sent down by the Master of all beings (Al-Waqiah 56:77-80).

That grand Quran is the greatest set which is the source of all the verses God has sent down to the prophets (the nabi) from Noah (pbuh) onwards. The related verse is:

شَرَعَ لَكُمْ مِنَ الدِّينِ ما وَصَّى بِهِ نُوحاً وَالَّذِي أَوْحَيْنا إِلَيْكَ وَما وَصَّيْنا بِهِ إِبْراهِيمَ وَمُوسى وَعِيسى أَنْ أَقِيمُوا الدِّينَ وَلا تَتَفَرَّقُوا فِيهِ كَبُرَ عَلَى الْمُشْرِكِينَ ما تَدْعُوهُمْ إِلَيْهِ اللَّهُ يَجْتَبِي إِلَيْهِ مَنْ يَشاءُ وَيَهْدِي إِلَيْهِ مَنْ يُنِيبُ . وَما تَفَرَّقُوا إِلاَّ مِنْ بَعْدِ ما جاءَهُمُ الْعِلْمُ بَغْياً بَيْنَهُمْ وَلَوْلا كَلِمَةٌ سَبَقَتْ مِنْ رَبِّكَ إِلى أَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى لَقُضِيَ بَيْنَهُمْ وَإِنَّ الَّذِينَ أُورِثُوا الْكِتابَ مِنْ بَعْدِهِمْ لَفِي شَكٍّ مِنْهُ مُرِيبٍ

God has legislated for you the religion which He enjoined upon Noah. (Oh, Muhammad!) That which God has sent down to you, and that which He enjoined upon Abraham, Moses and Jesus is: “Keep up this religion, and therein do not separate or divide”. (Oh, Muhammad!) What you are inviting the mushrik (to do) is deemed difficult by them. God draws unto Himself the ones who make the right choice and guides to Himself the ones who keep heading for the right path.

They (the mushrik) separated after this science (of explaining the Quran) came to them, just because they desired to dominate one another. If it were not for your Master’s word to let people be free until a determined term, they would be judged expeditiously. (Due to the behavior of the mushrik,) those who have been made to inherit the Book after them, fall into a dilemma doubting It (the Book) (Ash-Shura 42:13-14).


2- The second type of set of verses is “surah”. Each of the surahs (chapters) are also called “quran”. A relevant verse is:

وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَاكَ سَبْعًا مِنَ الْمَثَانِي وَالْقُرْآنَ الْعَظِيمَ

We have granted you seven of those pairs (mathani), (which are) the great quran (chapter Fatiha) (Al-Hijr 15:87).


3- The sets of verses within the chapters (surahs) are also called “quran”. Indeed, the verses which have been sent down at the very beginning of Muhammad’s (pbuh) prophethood have been called “quran” by God because they constitute a set of verses within the chapter they reside in. The relevant verse is as follows:

شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِيَ أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ

Ramadan is the month when that quran (that set of verses) had been sent down (Al-Baqarah 2:185).


4- There are also sets of verses which are not bound together. These sets are collections of verses in different chapters, and they are formed by using the method of mutashabih – mathani (similar – pairs). A relevant verse is:

وَقُرْآنًا فَرَقْنَاهُ لِتَقْرَأَهُ عَلَى النَّاسِ عَلَى مُكْثٍ وَنَزَّلْنَاهُ تَنْزِيلًا

We have separated It into qurans (subsets), so that you may read It to the people while they are in expectation; (because) we have sent It down part by part (Al-Isra 17:106).

“Mukth = مُكث” means “expectation”. When some new verses were sent down to the Messenger of God and those verses needed more detail to be able to make a decision using them on a related matter, it created expectations for further verses to be sent down. Those expected verses would be giving details about and explaining the previous verses sent down. This proves that verses belonging to the same semantic set could also be sent down part by part at different times. The following verse clarifies what is told above:

وَلَا تَعْجَلْ بِالْقُرْآنِ مِن قَبْلِ أَن يُقْضَى إِلَيْكَ وَحْيُهُ وَقُل رَّبِّ زِدْنِي عِلْمًا .

Do not hasten (to judge) with the sets of verses (qurans) before their revelations are completed. Say: “My Master, increase my knowledge!” (Ta-Ha 20:114).

The above verse illustrates that a semantic set of verses which provides us with the complete information on a matter, and lets us make a judgment on that matter, is also called “quran” by God. This type of quran is the basis of “The Science of Explaining the Quran”. According to this science, every decisive verse has been explained in detail by other verses which are similar to the explained verse in some aspects, thus forming a semantic set together with the explained one. The whole Grand Quran has been made “clear” and “complete” in this way by God.

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