Friday, November 20, 2015

The Qur'an Surah 96: The Clinging Form

The following is from a work-in-progress called The Qur'an: a Book Report, in which I read each surah of the Qur'an and write about what I learn.

This surah is highly significant because its first five verses are traditionally believed to be the very first revelation Muhammad received, while alone on a spiritual retreat on Mt. Hira, just outside Mecca, in the year 610 C.E...

"Read!  In the name of your Lord who created: He created man from a clinging form [a fetus].  Read!  Your Lord is the Most Bountiful One who taught by the pen, who taught man what he did not know."

Another translation of the first word "Read!" is "Recite!"  This gets to the heart of an important debate in Islamic studies.  Some scholars have posited that Muhammad was illiterate, which makes the revelation of the Qur'an all the more miraculous.  On the other hand, if you translate the first word as "Read!" it suggests that the prophet was literate, and raises some interesting questions about the nature of divine revelation.  Was it primarily an oral, or written tradition?  Your answer to that question raises further questions about the accuracy of this religious text.   Tradition holds that Muhammad delivered his revelations orally to scribes, and that the first written collection did not happen until years after the prophet had died.

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