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This may seem like a strange question at first, since well, we can literally see that the Qur'an is a book:

Image source: Wikimedia commons

And we often refer to it as a book. And the Qur'an refers to itself as a book (Qur'an 5:15: "...There has come to you from Allah a light and a clear Book."). However, it doesn't seem that straightforward:

  • القرآن‎‎ al-Qurʾān means "the recitation" (Wikipedia), which suggests the sequence of words in the Qur'an is what makes it the Qur'an, not the medium on which it's written,

  • the Qur'an was transmitted through "oral memorization and recitation" (see: Prophet Muhammad SAW was illiterate, who wrote the Quran then?), i.e., the Qur'an existed before it was in book format, and

  • I have the Qur'an on my computer in pdf format; we don't likewise call the Qur'an e.g. the "holy pdf" of Islam.

Question: Is it technically correct to refer to the Qur'an as a book?

This is a bit of a philosophical question: identifying the essence of the Qur'an, that which if we took it away, we would no longer have a Qur'an.


Update (or: what I've learned since I first posted this question):

  • I've posted a longer answer on the literal meaning if Qur'an. See also my answer on can we complete quran by reading from book and then from device where I try to address the topic moshaf vs. Qur'an. – Medi1Saif Apr 7 '17 at 19:21
  • @RebeccaJ.Stones One of the many definitions of book is "something that yields knowledge or understanding", which exactly describes the Quran. What do you think? – Casanova Apr 8 '17 at 7:26
  • @Casanova: It sounds like the Qur'an is a book under that definition. (I'm not familiar with it, I'm used to a physical definition.) – Rebecca J. Stones Apr 8 '17 at 7:30
  • @Casanova A talk about a topic you don't know is a book by that definition; so is an experiment. Yielding knowledge or understanding is neither necessary nor sufficient for something to be a book. – G. Bach Apr 8 '17 at 9:44
  • There are Muslims who believe Quran is not a book but a living creature. ar.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Billal Begueradj Apr 29 '17 at 16:55
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The Quran is both, as it can be seen in several ayaat:

Do they not then consider the Quran carefully? Had it been from other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much contradictions. (4:82)

and

And they say: "Why is not this Quran sent down to some great man of the two towns (Makkah and Ta'if)?" (43:31)

and

Do they not then think deeply about the Quran, or are their hearts locked up (from understanding it)? (47:24)

and for book:

And this book, there is no doubt in it, and it is a guidance for the believers.

and

...His Messenger and in the Book He has revealed to His Messenger and in the Books He has revealed earlier... (4:136)

and

And before it was the Book of Musa, (Moses) a leader (Or: a record, a register) and a mercy; and this is a Book sincerely (verifying), in the Arabic tongue, to warn the ones who do injustice, and good tidings to the fair-doers. (46:2)

As it can be see, Allah refers to the Quran as 'Quran' at some times and as 'Kitaab' (book) at some times. To understand what this means:

But this is an honoured Quraan. In protected tablets. (85:21-22)

This is a tafsir of the ayah:

That is, "The writ of the Qur'an is unchangeable and imperishable. It is inscribed in the Preserved Tablet of God. which cannot he corrupted in any way Whatever is written in it, has to be fulfilled: even the whole world together cannot avert its fulfillment. (Tafhim ul-Quraan)

Basically what it means is that the Quran as a book is preserved with Allah in unchangeable tablets, but on earth, it is a recitation because that is the form it was revealed to the Prophet (SAW) in.

In conclusion, it is both at the same time. And when Allah says 'book' he does not necessarily mean the Mus-haf that it is written on. He means the preserved tablets that all Mus-hafs are a copy of. So, yes, you can refer to the Quran as a book, since it is a book with Allah.

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