Revelation and Scriptures Before the Qur’an | The Qur’an Series

“All the teachings contained in the former Scriptures that were meant to be of lasting value and importance are included in the Qur’an. The Qur’an also gives some specific accounts, although selective, of what the pre-Qur’anic scriptures contained and it is worthwhile to look briefly at this material”

Previously: An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’an

Qur’an Series # 2: Revelation and Scriptures

before the Qur’an



God’s Communication with Man:

God communicated with man. This is the key concept of revelation upon which all religious belief if more than a mere philosophical attempt to explain man’s relationship with the great ‘unknown’, the ‘wholly other’ is founded. There is no religious belief, however remote it may be in time or concept from the clear teachings of Islam, which can do without or has attempted to do without God’s communication with man.

Man denies God:

God’s communication with man has always accompanied him, from the earliest period of his appearance on this planet, and throughout the ages until today. Men have often denied the communication from God or attributed it to something other than its true source and origin. More recently some have begun to deny God altogether, or to explain away man’s preoccupation with God and the communication from Him as a preoccupation with delusion and fantasy. Yet even such people do not doubt that the preoccupation of man with God’s communication is as old as man himself. Their reasoning is, they claim, based on material evidence. Following this line of thought they feel that they should deny God’s existence, but are at the same time compelled to concede the point for material evidence is abundant that man has ever been preoccupied with thinking about God and the concept of God’s communication with man.

Man’s Pride

I do not wish to discuss here in any detail why then, despite this, man denies God and disregards His communication with man. Suffice to say that the cause must be seen in man’s self-perception, his arrogance and false pride. Having discovered that he and his kind constitute the peak of ‘creation’, he thinks himself autonomous, self-dependent, absolutely free and fully equipped to be master of the universe. Somehow, this self-perception too has been with man from his early days. He has always thought himself better than anything else.

Guidance for Man

Muslims, referring to the Holy Qur’an, also conclude that from the beginning of his life on earth, man has received communication from God, to guide him and protect him from such self-perception and deceit:

‘We said, “Go down from here, all of you. Then, should some guidance come to you from Me, those who follow My guidance shall have no fear, nor shall they grieve.’ (Quran Explorer – [Sura : 2, Verse : 38])

This message and promise has been communicated by God to all mankind, all children of Adam, as the Qur’an explains:

‘O children of Adam, if messengers from among you come to you conveying My verses to you, then, those who fear Allah and correct themselves will have no fear, nor shall they grieve.’ (Quran Explorer – [Sura : 7, Verse : 35])

The Messengers:

The guidance from God comes through the prophets or messengers, and they bring with them the scripture from God:

“We have indeed sent Our messengers with clear proofs, and sent down with them the Book and the Balance, so that people may uphold equity…” (Quran Explorer – [Sura : 57, Verse : 25]).

The basic message of all prophets from God, and hence of all scriptures they brought, is one and the same message from God to man:

We did raise a messenger among every people, with the message: “Worship Allah and stay away from the Rebel (the Satan)…” (Quran Explorer – [Sura : 16, Verse : 36]).

The Names of the Prophets and their Number

The Qur’an mentions the following prophets by name:

Adam, Idris, Nuh, Hud, Salih, Lut, Ibrahim, Isma’il, Ishaq, Ya’qub, Yusuf, Shu’aib, Ayyub, Dhul Kifl, Musa, Harun, Dawud, Sulaiman, Ilyas, Al-Yasa’, Yunus, Zakariya, Yahya, ‘Isa, Luqman, Dhul Qarnain, ‘Uzair, Muhammad. [See the picture for English Transliteration ]

This does not mean, however, that only these have been God’s prophets. Indeed the Qur’an is very clear that the number of prophets is much larger and that to each community from among mankind God has sent His messenger:

“We had sent messengers before you. Among them there are those whose history We have narrated to you, and of them there are those whose history We did not narrate to you.” (Quran Explorer – [Sura : 40, Verse : 78 – 78]).

“For every people there is a messenger…” (Quran Explorer – [Sura : 10, Verse : 47 – 47]).


The Names of the Scriptures and their Number

Just as there have been numerous prophets so there were numerous written records of their messages.

The Qur’an mentions the following revelations in particular, which are sometimes called sheets or leaves (suhuf) and sometimes book or scripture (kitab):

• The sheets (suhuf) of Ibrahim (Abraham) and Musa (Moses),
• The Torah (tawrat) of Musa,
• The Psalms (zabur) of Dawud (David),
• The Gospel (injil) of ‘Isa (Jesus), and
• The Qur’an of Muhammad.

The Contents of the Former Scriptures

All the teachings contained in the former Scriptures that were meant to be of lasting value and importance are included in the Qur’an. The Qur’an also gives some specific accounts, although selective, of what the pre-Qur’anic scriptures contained and it is worthwhile to look briefly at this material:

A reference to the ‘sheets’ (suhuf) of Ibrahim (Abraham) and Musa (Moses):

“Success is surely achieved by him who purifies himself, And pronounces the name of his Lord, then offers prayer. But you prefer the worldly life, While the Hereafter is much better and much more durable.” (Quran Explorer – [Sura : 87, Verse : 14 – 17])

A reference to the Torah (tawrat) of Musa (Moses):

Surely We have sent down the Torah, in which there was guidance and light… We prescribed for them therein: A life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear and a tooth for a tooth; and for wounds, an equal retaliation. Then, if one forgives it, that will be expiation for him. Those who do not judge according to what Allah has sent down, they are the unjust. (Quran Explorer – [Sura : 5, Verse : 44 – 45]).

A reference to the Psalms (zabur) of Dawud (David):

And We have written in Zabur (Psalms) after the advice that the land will be inherited by My righteous slaves. (Quran Explorer – [Sura : 21, Verse : 105])

A reference to the Gospel (injil) of ‘Isa (Jesus):

Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and those who are with him are hard on the disbelievers, compassionate among themselves; you will see them bowing down in Ruku‘, prostrating themselves in Sajdah, seeking grace from Allah, and (His) good pleasure; their distinguishing feature is on their faces from the effect of Sajdah (prostration). This is their description in Torah; 13 and their description in Injil is: like a sown crop that brings forth its shoot, then makes it strong, then it grows thick and stands straight on its stem, looking good to the farmers, so that He may enrage the disbelievers through them. Allah has promised forgiveness and a huge reward to those of them who believe and do good deeds. (Quran Explorer – [Sura : 48, Verse : 29])

The pre-Qur’anic scriptures, besides carrying the same basic message about God, the Master of the worlds, and man, His creation, also brought specific instructions addressed directly to particular communities of people at given points of time in history and in particular circumstances, such as the Jewish or Christian communities. Revelation before the Qur’an, and hence scriptures before it, were in many of their details situation-oriented in nature and therefore confined to their particular frameworks. This also explains the continuity of revelation. With changing circumstances and in different situations new guidance from God was required. As long as the revelation and scripture were not completely universal in nature, revelation would not reach its finality.

The Final Revelation

Muhammad was the last messenger from God to mankind, and he brought the final revelation from God to man. Therefore the scripture containing this revelation is the last of the Holy Scriptures.

The basic message of the Holy Qur’an is the same as the basic message of the previous revelations and books, and the directives and instructions, by which it provides guidance for man are of a universal nature. They apply for all times to come and in all situations. This revelation corresponds to man’s position on earth and in history. Man has reached, in his development, the stage when universal principles need to be applied to safeguard his purposeful existence.

[End of the Post]

Next in the Qur’an Series: The meaning of Qur’an, Hadith and Hadith Qudsi and the difference between them.


Quran Series #1: An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’an

::Terms Learned Today::

• The names of the Prophets in the Qur’an with transliteration in English;
• Revelations are referred as suhufleaves; and
• Revelations are referred as Kitab = book or scripture;
• Abraham received (suhuf)
• The Torah (tawrat) was revealed on Musa;
• The zabur = Psalms was revealed on Dawud;
• The injil = Gospel was revealed on ‘Isa; and
• The Qur’an was revealed on Muhammad.
Surah = Chapter of the Qur’an
Ayah = Verse (sign) in the Qur’an

Source for series # 2:

[Denffer, Ahmad Von. ” ‘Ulum Al-Qur’an: An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’an.” The Islamic Foundation, 1994. Page 11-17. With some editing and omissions.]


Filed under Qur'an Series

2 responses to “Revelation and Scriptures Before the Qur’an | The Qur’an Series

  1. May Allah help you to spread authentic Islamic knowledge and revive the sunnah as well as hold on the rope of Allah as the companions of our Prophet Mumuhammad {saw} held it.

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  2. Pingback: The difference between Qur’an, Hadith and Hadith Qudsi | The Qur’an Series | The Sultan's Corner

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