Quran: Definition and Relation to Previous Scriptures

We can define the Quran as follows: The speech of Allah which He sent down upon the last Prophet Muhammad , through the Angel Gabriel; in its precise meaning and precise wording, transmitted to us by numerous persons (tawatur), both verbally and in writing.

The word “Quran”

The Arabic word ‘Quran’ is derived from the root qara’a; which has various meanings, such as to read, [Al-Israa 17:93] to recite, [Al-Qiyamah 75:18] etc.

Quran is a verbal noun and hence means the ‘reading’ or ‘recitation’. As used in the Quran itself, the word refers to the revelation from Allah in the broad sense [Al-Israa 17: 82] and is not always restricted to the written form in the shape of a book, as we have it before us today.

However, it means revelation to Muhammad only, while revelation to other prophets has been referred to by different names (e.g. tawrah, Injil, kitab, etc.).

Other Names of the Quran

The revelation from Allah to the Prophet Muhammad is referred to in the Quran itself by the name Quran (recitation) as well as by other names, such as e.g.

  • Furqan (criterion, see 25: 1).
  • Tanzil (sent down, see 26: 192).
  • Dhikr (reminder, see 15: 9).
  • Kitab (scripture, see 21:10).

Other references to the Quran are by such words as Nur (light), Huda (guidance), Rahmah (mercy), Majid (glorious), Mubarak (blessed), Bashir (announcer), Nadhir (warner), etc. All these names reflect one of the various aspects of the revealed word of Allah.

The Contents of the Former Scriptures

All the teachings contained in the former Scriptures that were meant to be of lasting value and importance are included in the Quran. The Quran also gives some specific accounts, although selective, of what the pre-Quranic scriptures contained and it is worthwhile to look briefly at this material:

  • A reference to the ‘sheets’ (Suhuf) of Ibrahim and Musa: {But those will prosper who purify themselves, and glorify the name of their guardian Lord, and (lift their hearts) in prayer. Nay, behold, ye prefer the life of this world; but the Hereafter is better and more enduring.} (Al-A`la 87: 14-17)
  • A reference to the Torah (Tawrah) of Musa: {It was We who revealed the law (to Moses): therein was guidance and light … We ordained therein for them: life for life, eye for eye, nose for nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth and wounds equal for equal, but if anyone remits the retaliation by way of charity it is an act of atonement for himself and if any fail to judge by (the light of) what God has revealed they are (no better than) wrongdoers.} (Al-Ma’idah 5: 47-8)
  • A reference to the Psalms (Zabur) of Dawud: {And verily We have written in the Psalms, after the Reminder: My righteous slaves will inherit the earth.} (Al-Anbiya 21:105)
  • A reference to the Gospel (Injil) of `’Isa: {...Such is their likeness in the Torah and their likeness in the Gospel like as sown corn that sendeth forth its shoot and strengtheneth it and riseth firm upon its stalk, delighting the sowers that He may enrage the disbelievers with (the sight of) them. Allah has promised, unto such of them as believe and do good works, forgiveness and immense reward.} (Al-Fath 48:29)

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One Basic Message

The pre-Quranic scriptures, besides carrying the same basic message about Allah, the Master of the worlds, and man, His creation, also brought specific instructions addressed directly to particular communities of people at given points of time in history and in particular circumstances, such as the Jewish or Christian communities.

Revelation before the Quran, and hence scriptures before it, were in many of their details situation-oriented in nature; and therefore confined to their particular frameworks. This also explains the continuity of revelation. With changing circumstances and in different situations new guidance from Allah was required. As long as the revelation and scripture were not completely universal in nature, revelation would not reach its finality.

The Final Revelation

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was the last messenger from Allah to mankind, and he brought the final revelation from God to man. Therefore the scripture containing this revelation is the last of the Holy Scriptures.

The basic message of the Quran is the same as the basic message of the previous revelations and books, and the directives and instructions by which it provides guidance for man are of a universal nature. They apply for all times to come and in all situations. This revelation corresponds to man’s position on earth and in history. Man has reached, in his development, the stage when he should apply the universal principles to safeguard his purposeful existence.


Source: Taken with some modifications from ʻUlūm Al-Qurʼān: An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qurʼān by Ahmad von Denffer