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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

What is the Most Widely Read Book in the World?

Time to Educate America!
Time to Educate America!

Despite distortions attacking Islam in the media, surprisingly the most widely read book in the world is the Holy Qur’an. Both Muslims and non-Muslims read the Qur’an for a variety of reasons. All Muslims memorize some parts of it to recite in their daily prayers. While some are still ignorant of Islam, more and more people want to understand what Islam is truly about. A key to understanding comes by turning to our primary sources. These are the Qur’an and the Sunnah, the traditional teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

The Qur’an is the Book of Allah (God) that was revealed in Arabic to the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) over a period of twenty-three years. He dictated it to his followers as he received it from the Angel Jibril (Gabriel), and they wrote it down by whatever materials were available. The Prophet and many of his followers memorized it as it was revealed. The Qur’an consists of 114 surahs (chapters) of various lengths, from 3 to 286 verses. The verses were revealed a few at a time and not in their present order. The Prophet organized them in accordance to instructions from the Angel Jibril.

For over 1428 years the Qur’an has guided Muslim lives, from the individual, to the family, to international communities. Muslims believe we can learn from and reflect on the always-relevant Qur’an. During the first 13 years of the Prophet’s mission in Makkah (Saudi Arabia), the revealed verses revealed generally dealt with articles of faith: the Oneness and Uniqueness of Allah, the Day of Judgment, the Angels, Prophets, previous Books, and the Divine Decree. The verses from Madinah (Saudi Arabia), where the Muslims had established a blossoming Islamic society, touch upon social relationships between individuals and groups.

Often, just a few verses came down at a time to deal with a question or situation that had arisen in the Muslim community. Therefore, the study of the “reasons for revelation”, or the background of when, where, and why a particular verse was revealed, is integral to a scholar’s understanding of the Qur’an. In the early days of Islam the culture was orally based, and everything was passed down and honored by word; only after the work of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the Qur’an put into written book form.

Shortly after the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him), the first caliph, Abu Bakr As-Siddiq, ordered the scribe Zayd ibn Thabit to amassed the manuscripts into one copy of the Qur’an. He did so with the assistance of hundreds of Companions of the Prophet who had memorized the Qur’an, thus assuring that nothing was added or omitted, and that the verses were compiled according to the Prophet’s instructions. Later, the third caliph, ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, again asked Zayd to oversee the copying of the Qur’an. Several standard copies were made and sent to the Muslim provinces, with orders that all other manuscripts be burned to ensure that there would not be various readings of the Qur’an.

The Qur’an’s lucid style makes it comprehensible to all people so that they can benefit from its unique wisdom. Despite this, however, those who are insincere or hostile toward Allah and Islam approach the Qur’an with prejudice and misinterpret its verses. Many times verses are unjustifiably taken out of context or even twisted. Some people, hoping to present religion as something difficult, fabricate many false beliefs, heresies, and myths. People of faith, well acquainted with the Qur’an, do not acknowledge such fabrications.

Today’s Qur’an remains exactly as it was revealed centuries ago and contains the precise words of Allah. Many thousands of Muslims memorized it each generation so that it was never forgotten. Furthermore, the Arabic language in which the Qur’an was revealed remains a living language. There are copies of the Qur’an from the first century after the revelation in libraries in the Muslim world. A comparison to modern printed copies shows that the Qur’an has not changed over the centuries. The Qur’an remains the most widely read book in the world.