Quran - Etymology and Meaning

Etymology and Meaning

The word qurʾān appears about 70 times in the Quran itself, assuming various meanings. It is a verbal noun (maṣdar) of the Arabic verb qaraʾa (قرأ), meaning “he read” or “he recited.” The Syriac equivalent is qeryānā, which refers to “scripture reading” or “lesson”. While most Western scholars consider the word to be derived from the Syriac, the majority of Muslim authorities hold the origin of the word is qaraʾa itself. In any case, it had become an Arabic term by Muhammad's lifetime. An important meaning of the word is the “act of reciting”, as reflected in an early Quranic passage: “It is for Us to collect it and to recite it (qurʾānahu)”.

In other verses, the word refers to “an individual passage recited ”. Its liturgical context is seen in a number of passages, for example: "So when al-qurʾān is recited, listen to it and keep silent". The word may also assume the meaning of a codified scripture when mentioned with other scriptures such as the Torah and Gospel.

The term also has closely related synonyms that are employed throughout the Quran. Each synonym possesses its own distinct meaning, but its use may converge with that of qurʾān in certain contexts. Such terms include kitāb (“book”); āyah (“sign”); and sūrah (“scripture”). The latter two terms also denote units of revelation. In the large majority of contexts, usually with a definite article (al-), the word is referred to as the “revelation” (wahy), that which has been “sent down” (tanzīl) at intervals. Other related words are: dhikr, meaning "remembrance," used to refer to the Quran in the sense of a reminder and warning; and ḥikma, meaning “wisdom”, sometimes referring to the revelation or part of it.

The Quran has many other names. Among those found in the text itself are al-furqān (“discernment” or “criterion”), al-hudah (“the guide”), ḏikrallāh (“the remembrance of God”), al-ḥikmah (“the wisdom”), and kalāmallāh (“the word of God”). Another term is al-kitāb (“the book”), though it is also used in the Arabic language for other scriptures, such as the Torah and the Gospels. The term muṣḥaf ("written work") is often used to refer to particular Quranic manuscripts but is also used in the Quran to identify earlier revealed books.

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