July 14, 2008

The Linguistic Meaning of the Word Qur’ān

Filed under: Islamic Terms — abuaisha @ 2:14 pm

The following is taken from the book ‘An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’aan‘ by Sh. Yasir Qadhi. It is published by Al-Hidaayah Publishing.

From Chapter 2 – The Qur’ān

The Linguistic Meaning of the Word Qur’ān

There are a number of different opinions concerning the linguistic meaning of the word Qur’ān.

The most popular opinion, and the opinion held by atTabarī (d. 310 AH), is that the word qur’ān is derived from qara’a, which means, ‘to read, to recite.’ Qur’ān then would be the verbal noun (masdar) of qara’a, and thus translates as ‘The Recitation’ or ‘The Reading.’ Allah says in reference to the Qur’ān

وَقُرْآناً فَرَقْنَاهُ
And it is a Qur’ān which We have divided into parts… [17:106]

and He says,

إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا جَمْعَهُ وَقُرْآنَهُ فَإِذَاقَرَأْنَاهُ فَاتَّبِعْ قُرْآنَهُ
It is for Us to collect it and to Recite it. When we have recited it, then follow its Recitation. [75:17-18]

On the other hand, Imam ash-Shafi’ī (d. 204 AH) held the view that the word Qur’ān was a proper noun that was not derived from any word, just like ‘Torah’ or ‘Injīl’. He recited the word without a hamza, such that ‘Qur’ān’ would rhyme with the English word ‘lawn’. One of the qira’at also pronounced it this way.

Another opinion states that the word Qur’ān is from the root qarana, which means ‘to join, to associate’. For example, the pilgrimage in which ‘Umrah and Hajj are combined is called Hajj Qiran from the same root word. Therefore the meaning of the word Qur’ān would be, ‘That which is joined together’, because its verses and sūrahs are combined to form this book. In this case, the word would be pronounced the same way as Imam Shafi’ī pronounced it, without the hamza.

A fourth opinion is that Qur’ān comes from the word qara’in, which means ‘to resemble, to be similar to’. Hence, the Qur’ān is composed of verses that aid one another in comprehension, and sūrahs that resemble each other in beauty and prose.

Yet another opinion is that Qur’ān is from qar’, which means ‘to combine’. It is called such since it combines stories, commands, promises and punishments.

However the opinion that is strongest, and the one that the majority of scholars hold, is the first one, namely that the word Qur’ān is the verbal noun of qara’a and therefore means ‘The Recitation’. The proof for that is that it is named such in the Qur’ān (and most of the qira’āt pronounce the word with a hamza), and the word conforms with Arabic grammar is the verbal noun of qara’a.

It may be asked: how does one explain the fact that some qira’āt pronounce the word Qur’ān without a hamza, as it is well known that all the qira’āt are equally authentic? The response to this question is that this particular pronunciation is due to the peculiar rules of recitation (tajwīd) of those qira’āt and affects many words. In other words, the qira’āt that pronounce the word Qur’ān without a hamza do not intend to change the pronunciation of the word Qur’ān itself, but rather this occurs due to a particular rule of recitation (tajwīd) that effects many words in the Qur’ān, including the pronunciation of the word Qur’ān. Therefore, even though the pronunciation of the word Qur’ān is different in the qira’āt, the actual word is still the same.


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