Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sura 1 - Fatiha - How to Read the Qur'an

This is a prayer to Allah for guidance. Since the Qur'an offers itself as a source of guidance then this prayer is very appropriate to have at the start of the book. It is a good prayer. From what I know of Muslims, this prayer is the equivalent to the Lord's Prayer of Jesus in importance.

It is interesting that Ibn Masud (one of Muhammad's close companions) and others did not have this sura in their collection of the Qur'an. Maybe it was an early prayer that over time just became part of the Qur'an?

Here are a few tips for reading the Qur'an.

1. The Qur'an revolves around Muhammad's life and so knowing the context is very important, but the Qur'an does not provide this context. You have to learn this from the Islamic histories. I will do this for you. This is the reason why I have put a date at the start of each post. This lets you know when Muhammad said it and roughly what was happening in his life at the time.

The context of Muhammad's life can be simplified into two periods: his time in Mecca and his time in Medina (Yathrib). In Mecca had no army and he and his followers were rejected by the Meccans. After about 10 years he left Mecca. This leaving of Mecca is called "the Hijrah" and it is here that the Islamic calender begins. Thus 3 A.H. means three years after Muhammad left Mecca. In Medina Muhammad started an army and began to raid, fight and negotiate with those around him. This is the context of the second part of his life.

For a good brief introduction to the context and theme of each sura go to, Chapter Introductions to the Qur'an.

2. The Qur'an not only revolves around Muhammad's life but it also evolves around his life. When Muhammad faced different situations he changed what he said. In Islamic theology this is called the doctrine of abrogation. What it means is that you need to think about all of what Muhammad recited on a topic throughout his life in order to understand the Qur'an's teaching of this subject.

3. The characters of the Qur'an. The main characters of the Qur'an are Muhammad, Allah, the prophets, Christians, Jews, unbelieving Arabs, Muslims and hypocritical Muslims. Most of the Qur'an is a discussion between these groups. The way that the Qur'an applies to you depends upon which group you are.

4. Bible Stories - There is an assumed knowledge of Bible stories in the Qur'an. The Qur'an rarely retells the whole story, instead it refers to it by way of illustration. Therefore knowing the Bible provides a part of the context for understanding the Qur'an.

5. I think that it is best to read all of a sura in one go. This way you get a feel for the main point and can see how the parts contribute.

6. Read the Qur'an here.