The Holy Koran

The Holy Koran is one of the great literary works of the world, containing a wealth of monotheistic moral teachings - and this despite the fact that in recent decades its purpose - and its written word - has been distorted beyond measure by forces with their own political agendas.

Written by Mohammed - according to Islamic tradition on the Divine inspiration of Allah - it contains 114 Suras (or chapters), of varying length, starting with the longest and ending with the shortest, of only eight lines. The revelation is said to have begun when Mohammed was 40 years old and continued for 23 years being written down on any and every available article - stone, clay, skins, palm-leaves -even the shoulder-blade of a camel, etc. Like both the Old and New Testaments, it is full of myth and folk-legend which does nothing to reduce the powerful hold that the three works with their strong psychological imagery, have had on the minds of Man - notwithstanding the especially esoteric language in the Koran. It was only after the death of the Prophet that the mass of separate writings was collected, edited and placed in its present form.
The facsimile reproduced above shows the "Shahadda" - the affirmation of faith recited by Moslems as an opening to each of the five daily prayer sessions. In itself it constitutes for Moslems an irreversible act and declaration which is binding for life on whoever utters the lines - be he originally a Moslem or not; the word "Islam" itself is derived from an Arabic word meaning "submission". The eight (sometimes considered seven) lines above, starting on the right-hand page, may be translated as follows:-

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.
Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds;
Most Gracious, most Merciful;
Master of the Day of Judgement.
Thee do we worship, And Thine aid we seek.
Show us the straight way.
The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace.
Those whose (portion)
Is not wrath,
And who go not astray.
(From the revised edition and commentary of Abdullah Yusuf 'Ali {1934})

If you would like to try to vocalize a transliteration from the Arabic:-

Bisme 'Allah al-Rachman el-Racheem
Al-Khamdu leel'ah rav al-ahlmeen
Al-Rakhman el-Rakhmeen
Mal'eekh ya-oum al-din
ee'akh na'aboudo wa-ee'akh na'asta'een
'Ahdeena al-tziraht al-mustakhin
Tzirat al-adjina anamtah alayheem
Dja'ir al-magduv alayheem wahla al-dahilin

Up until the end of the 6th Century and on into the begining of the 7th., Arabia was very much a place like Old Testament Cana'an - idol worship and a proliferation of weird gods. In Mecca was a sacred place, the Ka'aba, containing the so-called Black Rock, an object of worship and veneration for generations.There is a strong belief that Abraham the father of both the Jewish and Arabian peoples was connected with the site - hence its great veneration.

In 622 CE Mohammed - beset on all sides by the Quraish tribe, who rejected his teachings and determined to kill him - journeyed to Medina, an event known in Arabic as the Hijera - the migration - and it is from this day (year) that the Moslems count the years.

Until this time nearly all the rituals used by the Moslems and introduced by Mohammed, were closely based on Jewish practise, probably in an attempt to woo them to his side. However the strong determination of the Jews to resist Mohammed's attempts to convert them resulted in Mohammed changing completely all of those elements associated with the Jews: prayers five times a day instead of three; day of rest changed from Saturday to Friday; fasting for one whole month (Ramadan) instead of just the one day (The Day of Atonement); praying facing Mecca (south) instead of Jerusalem (east) - and so on.

In 629 Mohammed entered the Holy Sanctuary in Mecca and performed a religious rite, so sanctifying to Islam the Ka'aba and the Black Rock. It is to this place that a Moslem is required to make at least one pilgimage during his lifetime - the Haj. The Haj itself is a highly ceremonial rite involving many facets. You can read more about them here.

Back to My Gallery Vol. II  Home