Qur’aan: Definition of the Term

The word “Qur’aan,” a verbal noun, is equivalent in meaning to “qiraa’ah,” as both come from the verb “qara’a” which means “to read.”

That is, Qur’aan literally means “a reading or reciting.”[1] However, the term “Qur’aan” has been historically used specifically to refer to the book which was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam). The term “Qur’aan” is mentioned in a number of places throughout the book in reference to itself. For example:

“Verily, this Qur’aan guides (humanity) to that which is most just.”[2]
The name Qur’aan is used to refer to both the Qur’aan as a whole, as in the previously quoted verse; as well as to each verse or group of verses, as in the following verse:

“And if the Qur’aan is recited, you should listen to it and be silent, that you may receive mercy.”[3]
The Book has also been referred to by other names; for example, the Furqaan (The Distinction):
“Blessed is He who revealed the Furqaan  to His slave in order that he may be a warner to all the worlds.”[4]

 and the Thikr, (The Reminder):

“Verily, I revealed the Thikr and verily I will preserve it.”[5]

The Qur’aan could be defined as Allaah’s words which were revealed in Arabic in a rhythmical form to Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam). Its recitation is used in acts of worship and its smallest chapter (soorah) is of a miraculous nature.

 The Prophet’s divinely inspired statements which were recorded by his followers are generally referred to as hadeeths. For example, the Prophet’s companion (sahaabee), ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab, reported that he once said,  “Verily, deeds are (judged) by their intentions.”[6]

However, in some of his statements, the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) attributed what he said to Allaah; for example, another sahaabee, Aboo Hurayrah, reported that the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) said,   “Allaah, Most High, says, ‘I am as My slave thinks of Me and I am with him when he remembers me. So if he remembers Me to himself, I will remember him to Myself and if he remembers Me in a group, I will remember him in a better group.’ ”[7]

In order to distinguish this type of hadeeth from the previous type, it is referred to as hadeeth qudsee  (sacred hadeeth) and the former referred to as hadeeth nabawee  (prophetic  hadeeth).

The Qur’aan, however, is not the same as hadeeth qudsee for a number of reasons. First, the Qur’aan is from Allaah both in its wording and in its meaning, while in the case of hadeeth qudsee, its meaning is from Allaah but its wording was the Prophet’s (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam). Second, Allaah challenged the Arabs and mankind in general to produce even a chapter equivalent to one of the Qur’aan’s chapters, and their inability to do so proves its miraculous nature. This is not so in the case of hadeeth qudsee. Third, the recitation of the Qur’aan is used in salaah and is itself considered a form of worship. The Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) said,  “Whoever reads a letter from the book of Allaah, the Most High, will get a good deed (recorded for him), and each good deed is worth ten times its value. I am not only saying that Alif Laam Meem  is a letter, but I am also saying that Alif is a letter, Laam  is a letter, and Meem  is a letter.”[8]
However, the recitation of hadeeth qudsee carries none of these properties.[9]

[1] Arabic-English Lexicon, vol. 2, p. 2502.
[2] Soorah al-Israa’ (17):9.
[3] Soorah al-A‘raaf (7):204.
[4] Soorah al-Furqaan (25):1
[5] Soorah al-Hijr (15):9.
[6] Collected by al-Bukhaaree (Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 1, p. 1, no. 1) and Muslim (Sahih Muslim, vol. 3, p. 1056, no. 4692).
[7] Collected by al-Bukhaaree (Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 9, pp. 369-70, no. 502) and Muslim (Sahih Muslim, vol. 4, p. 1408, no. 6471).
[8] Reported by Ibn Mas‘ood and collected by at-Tirmithee and Ahmad. See footnote 154, p.75.
[9] See Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence, p. 15, and Qawaa’id at-Tahdeeth min Funoon Mustalih al-Hadeeth, p. 56.
Last Updated ( Sunday, 24 September 2006 )