hello there! welcome to my dreamwidth.
you're probably here because someone (likely me) linked you to this post. there's so much misinformation, confusion, and inaccuracy concerning islam online and in the media that i feel obligated to write a series on it. i have no idea how long this will be or if i'll even live to finish it, but inshaAllah (if God wills) i will do my best!
[please note that this dreamwidth acts as a livejournal-style blog for me, so the rest of the posts you find on this subdomain may have nothing to do with religion lol. feel free to look around after reading this if you want.]
this post is mainly aimed at non muslims as well as muslims who feel disconnected from or ignorant of their religion. lots of us come from cultures or families that identify as muslims but hardly put it into practice. sometimes relatives confuse tradition with islam, leading to misconceptions and flat out ignoring islamic principles (such as seeking knowledge, treating women with respect, and so much more).
please read carefully! since i already mentioned some everyday islamic terminology and phrases
, i'd like to start with one of the most important aspects of the islam: scripture.what is the qur'an?
the qur'an is the last revelation from Allah, aka God. it's word-for-word His own speech. in it He teaches us how to go about our lives. though recitation of the qur'an is melodious and beautiful, it's important to note that it's neither music nor poetry.what does the word "qur'an" mean?
it means "that which is recited." i notice people sometimes pronounce it like "curr-anne" but it's more like "qoor-an."didn't islam just copy and paste past religious scripture with a few changes?
remember how i said Allah is the one who made the qur'an? He also sent down the torah and the bible to earlier people. the people who recieved and practiced the lessons in those books were actually muslims, which Allah Himself tells us in the qur'an. (confused? keep reading.)
muslims today believe in the torah, bible, and the qur'an... though we don't regard the first two in their current
states as something to follow. why? because humans have manipulated and altered those earlier texts. that's why you won't see a muslim cracking open a copy of the king james bible for guidance. some of those past people who received scripture decided to change the words, rulings, and guidance from God to suit their own desires. once they did that, those folks were no longer practicing islam.
the whole "religious text altering" shouldn't surprise us. it's well-known that the church would often adopt pagan practices and ideas. this is why lots of christian holidays coincide with pagan ones.
Allah didn't create multiple religions. the religion taught in those holy books was always, always, always
islam. human beings--with the free will that God gave them--were the ones who disregarded His teachings and continued to break up into schism after schism or invented their own religions.
to put an end to this, Allah sent down the final revelation to all of mankind and promised to preserve it. today that promise has still been kept, as we've preserved many early copies of the qur'an. put them side by side and they're exactly the same words in the same order, the same ayahs, the same surahs. the only differences you'll see are decorations and the script (or "font" if you will) used.ayahs? surahs? what?
ayah (or ayat) is the arabic word that has many meanings. most translate this as "verse" when speaking about the qur'an. this translation is pretty lacking imo. ayah means "sign" or "miracle." ayahs in the qur'an can be a single word, a sentence fragment, or span multiple sentences. there is wisdom to be gleamed from every single ayah, no matter how small.
to be quite honest i've forgotten what the word surah means in a detailed arabic perspective. i don't wanna talk about stuff i don't know and mislead people. often the 114 surahs of the qur'an are referred to as "chapters" but that word misrepresents what a surah is. surahs don't necessarily focus on one topic or like a chapter in a novel--there are often multiple themes and concepts within each, and it may not be a linear progression.i thought muhammad wrote the qur'an.
a lot of people do. in reality prophet muhammad was illiterate. he couldn't read or write, and someone who can't consume literature certainly wouldn't be able to suddenly begin spouting expertly crafted recitations accurately detailing phenomena and scientific facts he never could have experienced for himself.wait. if muhammad couldn't write then how come we have the qur'an written on paper?
a fair question. i'm glad you asked. it's not surprising that muhammad couldn't write. most people in the desert over 1400 years ago couldn't. we still have countries and areas with abysmal literacy rates. however there were still scribes who lived among and around him that would write these revelations to aid their own memorization.i'm interested in reading the qur'an. where should i start?
i'm glad you asked! there are tons of free apps and websites out there. my personal favorite is quran.com
. it features all 114 surahs. hover over (or click on if you're mobile) an arabic word to highlight it and get a basic translation. at the top you can choose to listen to various reciters and your preferred translation (including non-english ones).
i recommend selecting the "sahih international" english translation along with the reciter "mishary rashid al-afasy." you can choose multiple at once for comparison but know that some translations use more old english than others (yusuf ali, pickthall) which will probably confuse you. not saying those translations are bad, just letting you know ahead of time to avoid confusion.
the qur'an differs from other books in that you can begin reading it from wherever you want as long as you read the surah from the beginning. longer surahs tend to come earlier while the shorter ones often inhabit the end. in fact, the second surah is the longest in the qur'an at 286 ayahs, and a lot of them are beefy. (i just noticed that i mentioned beef. baqarah means cow. funny coincidence. anyway!) those beefier this can discourage you, so i'll link a few surahs on the shorter side to help you grasp some basic concepts of islam. i recommend reading them in this order.
if you do compare these translations you'll notice some differences. you know how we'll sometimes say meaning gets lost in translation? english and arabic are no different. some words can be translated easily. others may have different images and feelings associated with them, so the connotations differ. that's part of why you can't look at the qur'an superficially. you have to dig. fortunately many have already done the hard part for us--we just have to study their work to come to true understanding.
a gentle reminder: if you come to the qur'an with preconceived notions or assuming you already know everything about a surah then you won't benefit from reading it. if you can admit to yourself that you know nothing then you will learn. if you can admit to yourself that you may not know as much as you thought then you will learn.okay, i read the surahs you linked. now what?
ultimately that's up to you! this was merely a quick, non-comprehensive intro post. i'm not sure if i'll even get to write more--although i'd love to!
this information is merely a starting point. i'm just one person so i may not be able to answer all (or any) of your questions because i myself am learning. check out some islamic sources that i'll link below to help you understand what you come across!
you will encounter many unfamiliar terms.
there are tons of lectures, short videos, web series, writings, etc spread across these resources that i hope will prove useful in trying to understand the true meaning of islam. not what the media tells you to justify killing civillians and denying refugees... not what your "religious" family members tell others to feel superior... not what people who don't give a flying flapjack about religion have to say about topics they know little to nothing about... but knowledge from genuine islamic sources.
by the way, the aim of this page isn't to convert anyone (although that would be cool)! it's to help people understand the way of life God's been teaching us all along. islam is a pretty practical approach to life. the more you study, the more you'll understand it.
may Allah guide, protect, and have mercy on us all! ameen.
links to the parts of the "what is this islam thing?" series below!part 0
| part 1
| part 2
| part 3