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Summary of "A Concise Guide to the Quran" by Ayman Ibrahim

Purchase this book here: A Concise Guide to the Quran

Part 1: The History of the Text of the Quran

1. What Is the Quran? The Quran is Islam’s scripture containing 114 chapters—called suras—which are organized in decreasing length (shorter chapters at the end). The Quran is about two-thirds the size of the New Testament.

2. What Does “Quran” Mean? “Most Muslims believe that the word Quran means “recitation” and is either a proper noun initially emerging with the revelation of their sacred text or, alternatively, a derivative noun from the Arabic verb qara’, meaning ‘to read’” (6). Because the classic Arabic of the Quran is not the same as modern Arabic, the Quran is often difficult to understand.

3. Are there other scriptures in Islam? Muslims believe that the Quran is the only scripture in Islam. The hadith collections are second in importance to the Quran. The hadith collection contains sayings, deeds, and teachings that are attributed to Muhammad. Other important texts include Muhammad’s expeditions, biography, histories of Muhammad, Muslim conquests, and Muslim history, and commentaries on the Quran which include contexts of revelation (9). Because both the hadith collections as well as these other collections were compiled centuries after Muhammad’s death, doubt exists as to the validity of these documents for non-Muslim scholars.

4. What Do Muslims Believe about the Quran? Muslims believe that (1) the Quran records the exact words of Allah, (2) is infallible and inerrant, (3) surpasses and replaces all previous divine revelation, and (4) is the primary source of doctrine and practice (10). Muslims believe that the Quran has existed in heaven forever and was sent down as a verbal and literal revelation from Allah directly to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel over the course of twenty-three years. Muslim’s revere the physical Quran and thus often practice cleansing rituals before they read or touch the book itself. They consider the words of the Quran inimitable—that the language, beauty, truth, and reliability of the Quran is unmatched.

5. Who Is Muhammad, the Recipient and Proclaimer of the Quran? Muslims believe that Moses, David, and Jesus were messengers. Muhammad, however, was the final and most perfect messenger/prophet. Muslims believe that Muhammad is the final prophet and the “best example of humankind” (16). Muslims typically believe that Muhammad’s illiteracy both denies the possibility of outside influence and proves the purity of the Quran. However, many classic Muslim narratives depict Muhammad encountering Christians and Jews (16).

6. Did Muhammad Really Exist? While non-Muslim historians establish a case for Muhammad’s existence, the historicity of Muhammad is confusing and often debated. 19

Muslim sources are generally late (some were written centuries after Muhammad’s death) and full of contradictory information about Muhammad’s life. 18

7. When and Where Did Muhammad Receive the Quran? The Quran does not answer this question. Muslims believe that the Quran has existed forever, and that Allah dictated the Quran to Muhammad in 610 (when Muhammad was 40 years old), that the revelation ended 23 years later, and took place in the western Arabian cities of Mecca and Medina. Muhammad shared this revelation with scribes who recorded it. Muhammad never saw a Quran. Sura 96 speaks to the occasion of Gabriel giving the revelation to Muhammad.

8. What Is the Most Important Feature of the Language of the Quran? The Quran itself claims that Allah’s revelation came through the perfect, fine, clear, and understandable Arabic language—a language that was superior, more beautiful, and unrivaled.

9. Why and How Was the Quran Compiled? It was collected and compiled after Muhammad’s death in (570-632 A.D.) in two stages. First, it was recorded by the first caliph, Abu Baku (573-634 A.D.), who collected the scattered revelation to compose the Quran. Second, it was recorded by the third caliph, Uthman (576- 656 A.D.). When Uthman was made aware that the Quran was being recited differently by warriors from Iraq and Syrian, he asked four men to re-compose the Quran. The dialect of the tribe of Muhammad, the Quraysh, was to be used anytime there was a disagreement. Upon completion of this second compilation, all other copies of the Quran were subsequently burned.

10. Did Uthman Burn False and Forged Qurans? Yes, in 650 A.D., Uthman burned all inauthentic copies of the Quran. There are two significant problems that arise here. Muhammad emphasized the learning of the Quran from four men: Ibn Masud (594-653 A.D., who was a supposed eyewitness of many of Muhammad’s revelations and a receiver and authenticator of the Quran from the mouth of Muhammad himself), Salim, Ubayy, and Muadh. Ibn Masud and Ubayy, who were trusted by Muhammad, had Quran’s that differed from Uthman’s version in both the ordering and in the content. Their copies were not consulted during the compilation of Uthman’s Quran. Ibn Masud’s Quran had three suras that Uthman’s did not, was ordered differently, and differed in some of its verses. Uthman sought to burn their copies.

If Ibn Masud’s Quran was compiled based on Muhammad’s own verbal recitation, why was Uthman unwilling to use Ibn Masud’s copy? Why did the caliph want to gather a committee and create another Quran when they already possessed a Quran praised by Islam’s prophet (39)?

11. What Do Shiite Muslims Believe about the Collection of the Quran? Shiite Muslims believe that Muhammad dictated the revelation given to him from Gabriel to his scribes meticulously, that each verse was recorded chronologically, and that only Ali had been entrusted by Muhammad to compile the Quran. Shiite’s regret that Ali’s version was rejected because it included “the scandals of the Muslims” (43).

The risky question that must be asked here is this: Do Shiites believe that the Quran composed during Abu Bakr’s or Uthman’s rule—which is allegedly the same Quran we have today—was identical to Ali’s Quran? The answer to this question is elusive. If Shiites say it is the same, then why did Abu Bakr and Uthman need to compile their collections? If Shiites say it is a different copy, then today’s Quran is a corrupted and distorted book, as the right copy was presumably with Ali (43).

12. Do Sunnis and Shiites Have the Same Quran Today? Shiite scholars believe that Uthman’s Quran lacks two major chapters and is thus incomplete. Muhammad’s trusted companion Ubayy reported that sura 33 had lost as much as seventy percent of its original text. After ten centuries of debate, Sunni and Shiite Muslims have both adopted the Quran that was standardized in the royal Cairo edition of 1924.

Sunni (85%); Shiite (13%).

13. What Do We Know about the 1924 Royal Cairo Edition of the Quran? There are ample differences, scribal errors, and obvious variants when various manuscripts of the Quran prior to 1924 are compared with one another. Although the 1924 Cairo edition is viewed as the inerrant copy of the Quran, this copy was obtained from the selection and study of one particular variant rather than through a critical assessment of the many variable Qurans (48). In other words, the 1924 version was deduced from the study of secondary—rather than primary—sources.

14. Are There Any Other Qurans? There have been many additions of the Quran. Uthman, Ali, Ibn Masud, and Ubayy each had their own version of the Quran (or mushaf—the actual compilation of the Quran). It is important to note that Uthman burned Ubayy’s mushaf in an effort to enforce his own version. The Persian emporer Hajjaj gathered many of Uthman’s mushafs and replaced them with his own around 710 A.D.

15. Are All Arabic Versions of the Quran the Same? No. There are canonical variants and different official readings of the Arabic Quran that are accepted by Muslim scholars (55). Muslims believe that the Quran contains the exact words of Allah that were dictated from Allah himself to Muhammad (55). The Islamic belief of Allah’s verbal dictation (dictated inspiration) of the Quran becomes problematic when there are multiple variants of the Quran. Keith Small concludes, “The history of the transmission of the text of the Qur’ān is at least as much a testament to the destruction of Qur’ān material as it is to its preservation. It is also testimony to the fact that there never was one original text of the Qur’ān” (58).

Part 2: Content, Features, and Themes of the Quran

16. How Should I Begin Reading the Quran? Ibrahim gives two recommendations for beginning to study a copy of the Quran in English: The Qur’an: A New Translation, by Muhammad Abdel Haleem and The Qurʼān: A New Annotated Translation by Arthur J. Droge. He also recommends several online copies of the Quran as well. Most versions of Q 3:49—a text depicting Jesus—translate the verb “to create” (أَخْلُقُ) into a different verb, “make,” so as to avoid the appearance of assigning deity to Jesus. In Q 3:47, translators translate the same word(أَخْلُقُ) as “create” when speaking of Allah—“Allah creates” (71).

Q 3:49 ‘I have come to you with a sign from your Lord: I will make for you a bird from clay, breathe into it, and it will become a ˹real˺ bird—by Allah’s Will. I will heal the blind and the leper and raise the dead to life—by Allah’s Will.

17. What Are the Recurring Features at the Beginning of All Suras? Each sura (chapter) has three recurring features: (1) a title; (2) a phrase (or bismillah)—“In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful;” and (3) a city name that locates where the sura was revealed (86 suras from Mecca and 28 from Medina; 72).

18. What Is Abrogation in the Quran? The concept of abrogation is the means by which Muslims deal with verses in the Quran that conflict with each other. Revelation that was revealed to Muhammad at Mecca (earlier) tends to be quite a bit more peaceful than that revealed in Medina (later). In Medina, Muhammad is more combative and prone to war (e.g. compare Q 8:61 “But if the enemies incline towards peace, so shall you, and put your trust in Allah” and Q 9:5, “Slay the idolaters wherever you find them” (80). When there is a conflict, the verse revealed later abrogates—or cancels out—the earlier verse. There are no solid rules for abrogation.

Abrogation: where conflicting verses occur, the verse that was recorded later erases, suppresses, or cancels verses that were recorded earlier.

19. What Are the Satanic Verses in the Quran? The satanic verses refer to sura 53, whereby Muhammad states that intercession through three pagan goddesses would be heard by Allah. Allah removed this section after the archangel Gabriel came and rebuked Muhammad for proclaiming these verses. The text now reads, “Have you thought upon [the goddesses] al-Lat and al-Uzza and Manat?” (86). While this story has been ever-increasingly dismissed by Muslims over time, Muslim accounts from the first three centuries of Islam speak about this story as fact (87).

20. What Is the Most Important Concept for Muslims in the Quran? The concept of tawhid, the absolute oneness of Allah, is the most important and essential doctrine for Muslims. Shirk, or associating other gods with Allah, is the worst wrong and most hated transgression that a person can commit (93). This is referenced in Q 5:73, where the Quran warns, “They are surely unbelievers who say, ‘Allah is the third of three’” (91). The Quran provides an errant interpretation of the Triune God in stating that Christians believe that Allah, Mary, and Jesus make up the Trinity. Thus, Muslims accuse Christians of shirk.

But Christians do actually believe in one—and only one—God (Deut. 6:4–9; Mark 12:29). This God is one being. He exists by his Spirit and speaks through his Word. Christians call God’s Spirit the Holy Spirit, and his Word his Son (93).

21. Are Jews and Christians Infidels? Yes. All those who do not believe in Allah and Muhammad—even if the Quran refers to them peaceably as “people of the book”—are infidels (96).

22. Does the Quran Really Say the Bible Is Corrupt? No. Q 2:59 is often referenced by Muslims to claim that the Bible is corrupt, but this verse refers to the corruption of those who changed the meanings of the Bible when they taught the Bible, not the Bible itself. When Muslims claim that the Jewish Torah or the Christian Bible is corrupted, they bring into question the validity of the Quran. The Quran actually states that the Bible has been preserved: “We have, without doubt, sent down the Reminder (Zikr), and We assuredly preserve it” (Q15:9; p 103). Allah instructs Muhammad and his followers in Q 29:46, “Dispute not with the People of the Book except with what is best as an argument, except for those of them that do wrong; and say to them, ‘We believe in that which has been revealed to us [the Quran] and revealed to you [the Bible]; our God and your God is One, and to Him we have surrendered.’” Additionally, Q 5:46 states the following: “We sent Jesus son of Mary, confirming the Torah before him and We gave to him the Gospel containing guidance and light.”

While most Muslims accuse Jews and Christians of falsifying the text of the Bible, no verse in the Quran denigrates or undermines the scriptures of the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) (107).

Would Allah instruct Muhammad to consult people who use a corrupt Bible? And if Allah promised in the Quran to protect and preserve the pre-Quranic Zikr, how can it be corrupted (103-104)?

23. Who Is Jesus in the Quran? Jesus is named “Isa” in the Quran. Most Muslims claim to love Isa. His name appears twenty-nine times in twenty-eight verses. He is referred to by his title, the Messiah or the Christ—which Muslims dilute to a title or a nickname—eleven times. Isa is the central figure in over ninety verses (109). The stories that do appear about Isa are often linked to the apocryphal gospels that were written after the New Testament (Jesus speaking as an infant and creating a bird from clay; pg 111). Most Muslims believe that Allah replaced Isa’s—or Jesus’s—body with someone else’s before He was crucified. Thus, Isa was rescued by Allah and never died on the cross. Three verses from the Quran substantiate that claim, while a fourth would appear to contradict it: “Jesus said, “Peace be upon me, the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I get resurrected alive” (Q 19:33; pg 114). The Quran states that Jesus is only human, especially because he prays to Allah and glorifies him (Q 5:117; pg 113).



+ Muslims and Christians believe in Jesus/Isa’s virgin birth. + Muslims and Christians believe that Jesus/Isa performed miracles of healing. + Muslim’s and Christians believe in Jesus’s control over nature.

+ Muslims believe that Jesus prophesied that Muhammad was coming after Him (108). + Muslims believe that Jesus was only a man—not God—and was like Adam, created from the dust. + Muslims do not believe that Jesus was God. + Muslims do not believe that Jesus died or that His death atoned for the sins of others (Q 3:55; 4:156-59; 5:117). Allah took Jesus up and exchanged His body for the body of another to make it look like Jesus died on the cross (Q 3:55).

24. Who Are the Prophets in the Quran? The stories of the prophets are significantly different between the Quran and the Bible. A prophet in the Quran is one who proclaims Allah’s message, the oneness of Allah. There are 124,000 prophets that Allah sent—Adam the first and Muhammad the last (117).

25. Did Muhammad Perform Miracles? While most Muslims along with Muslim traditions claim that Muhammad performed miracles, the Quran states that Muhammad did not perform miracles. Muhammad’s only connection to a miracle in the Quran is in the reception of the Quran itself (Q 29:50-51). However, tradition along with many Muslims claim that Muhammad’s night flight from Mecca to Jerusalem on a winged horse-like creature is considered to be his most important miracle (119). The reliability of traditions written centuries after Muhammad’s death regarding his miracles are questionable and clearly contradict the Quranic witness.

The problem is that these added miracles are starkly similar to biblical accounts, specifically the miracles of Jesus. It seems that centuries after Muhammad’s death, Muslims were not satisfied with what the Quran said about their prophet. Because they lived among Christians and Jews, Muslims had to establish Islam as a comparable religion. In a sense, Muslims needed a new Muhammad who would appeal to a multireligious era (121).

26. What Does the Quran Say about Jihad and Fighting? Muslims understand the term jihad in many different ways. Jihad refers either to a holy striving and piety or to struggling in battle for the sake of Allah against non-Muslims. While the term jihad is often difficult to define, the term qital, is quite clear. The word qital appears over one-hundred-and-fifty times and is always used to describe Muslims fighting for Allah’s cause for those who stand against him. Qital is Allah’s call for holy war in the Quran against infidels, polytheists, and People of the Book. 126

Muslims are commanded to fight various groups: the infidels (Q 8:38–39; 9:12, 123; 48:22), the polytheists (Q 9:17, 36), and Christians and Jews as People of the Book (Q 9:29; pg 125).

27. How Do Muslims Treat the Quran’s Verses on Violence Today? There are three ways to categorize Muslims today:

1 - Nominal/Cultural

2 - Devout/Religious

​3 - Extreme/Radical

+ Born into a Muslim family. + Cultural identity more than a religion. + Don’t follow the tenets of Islam and rarely go to the mosque. + Regarding violence, cultural norms and society take priority over the teachings of the Quran.

+ Practice Islam and the teachings of the Quran in one way or another. + There are two subcategories within this group: Progressives (reject traditional Islam generally and believe that the Quran’s texts on violence reference the past but no longer apply today) and conservatives (read the Quran within cultural and socially acceptable norms and believe that the Quran’s texts on violence refer only to self-defense).

+ Take the Quran literally. + Represent the smallest number of Muslims. + Regarding violence, these Muslims believe that Muslims must be strong and rule.

Q 4:34 - “As for those [wives] whose misconduct you fear, [first] advise them, and [if ineffective] keep away from them in the bed, and [as the last resort] beat them.”

28. Who Are “the People of the Quran”? The People of the Quran, or “Quranists,” are those who see the Quran—and only the Quran—as sufficient for faith and practice amongst Muslims. They oppose those who elevate the hadiths—which they believe to be mostly forged—to the same level as the Quran. Bukhari (810-870 A.D.), the author of what is considered the most authentic collection of hadiths, wrote about Muhammad being suicidal, lusting after a six-year-old girl while she was on a swing, his capacity to satisfy his eleven wives each night, depicts an instance where Moses slaps an angel on the face which caused the angel to go blind, and men having intercourse with cows. Thus, Quranists stand against most mainstream Muslims who believe that the Quran cannot be interpreted without reliance upon the hadiths and traditions of Muhammad. Quranists generally emphasize religious freedom and mutual respect among other faiths (137).

29. What Do Today’s Non-Muslim Scholars Say about the Quran? Non-Muslim scholars and researchers have doubted portions of the Quran for centuries. They argue that the text of the Quran was not fixed until later medieval times, that it took two centuries to reach its canonized form, and that words were inserted into the text itself. While Muslims insist that Allah did not borrow from Christians or Jews but wrote the Quran in a Pagan setting, scholars argue that the Quran was composed in a context full of Christians and Jews rather than a Pagan one (140). Muslims try to deny this because it would mean that Muhammad could have very well been influenced by Christians and Jews.

30. Concluding Question: How Does This All Fit Together? While Muslims claim that the Quran was dictated by Allah to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel, these claims stand in opposition to available evidence, cannot stand up to critical questioning, and are sustained only by metaphysical beliefs (142).

  • Sunnis and Shiites disagree on major claims regarding the authenticity of the Quran (142).

  • Islamic tradition itself speaks of competing Qurans (142).

  • Islamic traditions mention the addition, omission, and disappearance of Quranic verses (142).

  • Islamic testimony speaks of Muhammad allowing his followers to seek intercessory prayer from pagan goddesses for a period of time—thus bringing into question the idea that Muhammad was always a monotheist.

  • The number of verses are different in variant Qurans.


Sura: a chapter in the Quran.

Sunna: a group of classical writings of thousands of traditions written centuries after Muhammad’s death about Muhammad’s life, teaching, and deeds. Hadiths are part of the Sunna.

Mushaf: the compiled Quran that contains the revelations of Allah to Muhammad. “a written book that contains the revelations proclaimed by Muhammad” that “implies the highest level of truthfulness in speech and is a way for Muslims to ensure that hearers believe them.” 51


Tawhid: the most important and essential doctrine for Muslims—the absolute oneness of Allah.

Shirk: Associating other gods with Allah—the worst wrong and most hated transgression that a person can commit. 93

Mu’min: a Muslim.

Kafir: the exclusion of an individual from the believing community of Islam. 95

Shahada: “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger.”

Hijab: head covering.

Zikr: the way that Muslims refer to the Christian Bible. This term is translated as “the reminder.”103

Jihad: can either refer to piety and a holy striving or it can refer to struggling in battle for the sake of Allah against his enemies.

Qital: Allah’s call for holy war in the Quran against infidels, polytheists, and People of the Book.

Ramadan: the ninth month (typically in March or April) of the Islamic lunar calendar which lasts for twenty-nine or thirty days depending on the visibility of the crescent, which indicates the beginning of a new month.

The five pillars of Islam:

1-Shahada, or the profession of faith

2-Ritual prayer that occurs five times a day.


4-Fasting during Ramadan

5-Pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime.

Ka’ba: the black cube in Mecca which is considered Allah’s house. Thus, it is the most sacred place in Islam. Muslisms claim that it was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael (or in other traditions, by Adam). There is a black stone which Muslims believe came from heaven that has miraculous powers.

Salafi: a Muslim who follows the letter of the Quran.

Wahhabi: encourages militant application of Islam.

Caliph: the successors of Muhammad who led the Muslim community.

Hadith: a saying, deed, or teaching that is often attributed to Muahmmad (like a proverb).

Hijra: the day that Muhammad and about thirty of his followers move from Mecca to Medina.


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