Segments in this Video

Ummi Prophet (03:04)


The Qur'an is testimony to Muhammad's teachings, but Islamic literature says he was illiterate. Hichem Djait explains that "ummi" means ignorant in the law of God, and corresponds with the word "gentile." Muhammad was portrayed as uneducated to receive divine revelation.

Muhammad's Literacy (01:23)

Yousef Kouriyhe explains how claiming that Muhammad was illiterate showed the Qur'an was unique. Abdelmajid Charfi argues that he could read and write, and was part of the Meccan merchant aristocracy.

Oral vs. Written Transmission (03:10)

Muhammad's revelation of the Qur'an is the heart of Islamic faith, and was recited for a long time. Jacqueline Chabbi discusses why it was forbidden to write the text. Djait says the Arabic culture had little writing, but he believes the Qur'an was written.

Recording the Qur'an (04:33)

Francois Deroche discusses materials used to write the Qur'an. During Muhammad's life, scribes wrote down fragments of the surahs. After his death, the Caliph Uthman compiled oral versions into one text.

Qur'an Textual Politics (03:08)

The transmission of oral to written surahs gave rise to different versions. Mehdi Azaiez explains that many original elements have been omitted from the present day Qur'an. Deroche discusses diverging codices among Muhammad's companions Ibn Masud and Ubayy.

Sana'a Palimpsest (02:38)

A variant of the Qur'an was erased and copied over to match Utham's vulgate, the dominant version. The modern version was likely established during Uthman or Abd Al-Malik's reign, from 650 AD.

Conflict after Muhammad's Death (03:21)

Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi outlines three centuries of civil wars and repression that coincided with the development of the Qur'an and Hadith. The Umayyad Caliphate repressed Ali's partisans, who later became Shiites.

Qur'an as a Political Text (02:26)

Amir-Moezzi says Islam isn't the only religion borne of violence, but its civil wars are unique. Dye discusses the Umayyad family's control over arranging the holy book and clashes within the Muslim community.

Qur'an Authorship Debate (04:09)

The Qur'an emphasizes that Muhammad delivered the divine revelation to the Arabs in their own language. Holger Zellentin says the important thing is that Muhammad believed God dictated to him. Abdelmajid Charfi argues that Muhammad did not translate God's word verbatim, but interpreted it within his cultural context.

Historic vs. Prophetic Text (05:43)

Charfi discusses the Qur'an's uniqueness in a historical and cultural context. Angelika Neuwirth explains that Western scholars view the Qur'an as the transcription of a historical process, not a hypostasis. She argues that God, Muhammad, and Muhammad's community were the authors.

Qur'an Production Process (02:53)

Asma Hilali argues that questioning Qur'an authorship is irrelevant; scholars must view the text as part of history. She believes it has multiple authors. Copyists, early witnesses, and internal interpretation passages indicate a gradual transmission process.

Bridging Religious and Secular Study (04:10)

As a Muslim, Azaiez believes the Qur'an is written by God. As a historian, he views it as coming from multiple sources. Discussing the Qur'an's composition is sacrilegious in many Arabic countries. Amir-Moezzi hopes asking good questions will close the gap between religious Muslims and philologists.

Single vs. Multiple Authors (03:22)

Suleiman Ali Mourad argues that the Qur'an is a product of the Muhammad Movement. Charfi argues that Muhammad authored the entire text because there is no mention of multiple authors; his discourse and style evolved; and it is constructed as an oral text.

Qur'an Composition Debate (05:31)

Dye argues that repeated texts in some surahs resemble the work of scribes, rather than oral transmissions. It is most likely a composite corpus from diverse origins and eras. Djait reminds us that pious Muslims aren't interested in its history, but rather in its spiritual power.

Credits: The Book of Islam: Episode 7—Jesus and Islam (01:12)

Credits: The Book of Islam: Episode 7—Jesus and Islam

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The Book of Islam: Episode 7—Jesus and Islam

Part of the Series : Jesus and Islam
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In the Qur'an, Muhammad is depicted as being illiterate, as a pure messenger of the divine word revealed by the angel Gabriel. How then did the text take form? How was it transmitted orally, then fixed in writing? How can Muhammad be considered the author of the Qur'an, this first monumental work of Arab literature? 

Length: 52 minutes

Item#: BVL114919

ISBN: 978-1-68272-929-8

Copyright date: ©2015

Closed Captioned

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