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The Qur'an

Muslims believe that the Qur'an, the holy book of Islam, was revealed to Muhammad over a period of twenty-three years, starting with the initial revelation at Mount Hira. After the Prophet's death, his successors compiled these divine revelations in a manuscript.

The Qur'an contains prayers, moral guidance, historical narrative, and promises of Paradise. It opens with a short prayer called the Fatiha, the most widely recited passage, and is divided into 114 chapters (suras) organized in descending length. For binding and reading purposes, manuscripts of the Qur'an are often divided into thirty equal parts, called juz'.

Every chapter of the Qur'an (except one) begins with the bismillah, the collective name for the invocation "In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful." Muslims often repeat this phrase at the start of an event or task—before giving a speech, beginning a meal, or even boarding a bus. The calligraphic bismillah is frequently written on both religious and secular objects. (See also Arabic Script and the Art of Calligraphy.)

The Qur'an places Muhammad at the end of a long line of prophets that began with Abraham. Although narrative is not central to the Qur'an, it includes the stories of Noah, Moses, and Jesus. It recognizes Jews and Christians as "People of the Book"; as a result, Muslims accept many of the teachings of the Jewish Torah and Christian Bible. Many of the great Islamic empires (like those in Spain, Iran, India, and Turkey) were tolerant of religious minorities.

Muhammad's Call to Prophecy and the First Revelation: Folio from a manuscript of the Majma' al-Tavarikh

The lesson plan related to Islam and Religious Art features a fifteenth-century manuscript folio.