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Meaning of the word "Qur'an"

[Prophecy in the name itself]

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Bismillah wa alhamdulillah, wa-ssalatu wa-ssalamu ala Rasulillah.

Assalamu alaikum,
Let us explore the linguistic meaning of the word "Qur'an".
Allah has given this name "Al-Qur'an" to our holy book in the beginning years of revelation. This word appears over 60 times in the Qur'an.
As for the linguistic meaning of this word "Qur'an", there are some difference of opinion among the scholars of Islam. The most popular and the majority opinion is that this is derived from the root word "qaraa'a" - meaning "to recite", "to read".

Among the other opinions are:
- Qur'an is a proper noun and not derived from any word as per Imam Shafii (Rahimahu Allah). He recited the word "Qur'an" without a hamza in it.
- Qur'an is derived from "qraa'in" meaning 'similar or accompanying', that is because many verses are similar and aid one another in getting the full meaning.
- Qur'an is derived from "qarana" meaning "to associate, to join", that is because the verses and surahs are joined to form the book.

Here we will concentrate on the most popular opinion, because it has substantial proof from Qur'an itself.
Let us look at these verses:

{ وَقُرْءَانًا فَرَقْنَٰهُ لِتَقْرَأَهُۥ عَلَى ٱلنَّاسِ عَلَىٰ مُكْثٍ وَنَزَّلْنَٰهُ تَنزِيلًا }
["And [it is] a Qur'an which We have separated [by intervals] that you might recite it to the people over a prolonged period. And We have sent it down progressively."]

{ (18) إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا جَمْعَهُۥ وَقُرْءَانَهُۥ (17) فَإِذَا قَرَأْنَٰهُ فَٱتَّبِعْ قُرْءَانَهُ }
[" (75:17) Indeed, upon Us is its collection and its recitation. (75:18) So when We have recited it [through Gabriel], then follow its recitation."]

According to the most popular recitation (qira'aat) mode, the word "Qur'an" in 17:106 and "qur'anahu" (its recitation) in 75:17-18 have the same root words qaf, ra, hamza (ق ر أ). Thus the word "Qur'an" is derived from the root word "qaraa'a" - meaning "to recite", "to read" - and this is inline with the most popular opinion.

Note that, verb قَرَأَ - has two verbal nouns (masdar): قِرَاءَةٌ (qira'atun) and قُرْآنٌ (Qur'anun). This masdar "Qur'anun" has normal declension (i'rab) .e.g. Qur'anan, Qur'anin, Al-Qur'anu etc. - just like any normal noun. As we can see in the above verses, Allah has used "Qur'an" to mean recitation ["Qur'anahu" - its recitation]. Allah has not used the verbal noun qiraa'at to indicate recitation of the Qur'an. Although Allah used "verb" qa-ra-'a for Quran e.g. verse (16:98)
{ فَإِذَا قَرَأْتَ الْقُرْآنَ فَاسْتَعِذْ بِاللَّهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ }
So we can say, the verbal noun "Qur'an" which means "Recitation" is specifically used for Qur'an. Then alif-lam are added to form "Al-Qur'anu" = The Qur'an = The Recitation.

In view of classical Arabic,
the noun pattern for Qur'an with alif-nuun at the end makes it a hyperbole (ism mubalagha), and so it gives an exaggerated meaning. Thus Qur'an (with alif-nuun at the end) could means "Ultimate Recitation" or "Recitation in an intensified manner" or "Most Recitation" or "Continuous Recitation" etc. Just like "Al-Khusraanu" (definite form is Khusraanun) in (هُوَ ٱلْخُسْرَانُ ٱلْمُبِينُ ) in verse 22:11 and 4:119 - here Khusraanun means "ultimate loss", where 'khusr' in surah al-Asr means "loss". In the same manner Qur'anun mean 'Ultimate Recitation'. The definite form with 'alif-lam' (al) in the beginning also gives us a dimension of the "The most..." in view of classical Arabic, just like "Al-'Aleem", "Ar-Rahim" etc.

The meaning "The Ultimate Recitation" or "The Continuous Recitation" or "The Recitation in an intensified manner" comes with a reality that Al-Qur'an is indeed the book that is recited and has been recited more than any other book in history. The Qur'an is memorized by millions of Muslims and every practicing Muslim will have memorized some part of The Qur'an and recite in their daily prayer. There are many many Muslims all over the world who memorized Al-Qur'an even not knowing the Arabic language.

Compare this with any book -- be it the Bible, the Torah or be it any New York Times best-seller -- nothing comes close to the amount of recitation The Qur'an gets by our Muslim Ummah for about 1400 years since it was revealed -- thus befitting the name "Al-Qur'an".
The name Al-Qur'an was given in Makkah where the number of Muslims were not many. Did the few companions (radi Allahu unhum) of the Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu alaihi wa-sallam) in Makkah in the initial period of Islam ever knew that Qur'an will be recited, memorized, contemplated like that for generations - and thus fulfilling the meaning of "The Ultimate Recitation"?

We must not think that it is natural to get high recitation because the huge number of Muslims today. The number of Hindu and Christian are close in number, but their scripture don't get this much recitation. Also, we must be aware of the history of Islam. Muslims were very week in Makkah and could have been easily destroyed by the non-Muslims Quraish. Even in Medina, Muslims were constantly been threatened by the Makkans and the Jewish tribes who betrayed the treaty with Muslims and joined hands with Quraish. Muslims' establishment were threatened up until the battle of trenches. In Battle of Badr (after the migration), on estimating the huge number of the opponents (about 300 Muslims not prepared for battle against 1000 non-Muslims prepared for battle), our Prophet (sws) engaged in dua where he (sws) said "Oh Allah, if you don't give us victory...". But it is Allah who gives victory to whichever party He wants and thus is He who makes the Quran the most intensified recited book on Earth.

So here we are, 1400 years later, to realize that a prophecy of the meaning of The Qur'an has been fulfilled. Alhamdulillah!!
Let us all recite the Qur'an in our daily lives with sincerity to get reward from Allah for every letter we recite, and also increase its recitation even more.

All praises and thanks belong to Allah!

Compiled by:
Kazi Nasrat Ali,
Sr. Software Engineer,
B.A. in Islamic Studies from Mishkah University

Sammamish, WA
[Aug 26, 2016]

Further reading:
1. An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur'an by Yasir Qadhi
2. Ulum al-Qur'an by Ahmad von Denffer

See also: MyQuranStudy Community Page