History and Story Behind the Muslim Holy Book the Koran Part 1

About the religious book the Koran, history of the famous holy book of the Muslim religion.

STORIES BEHIND THE HOLY BOOKS OF THE WORLD

THE KORAN

Religion: Islam.

Publication Date: The date of the Koran's first appearance in book form is not known. A preliminary compilation was started in 633 A.D. The authorized version appeared about 650.

How Written: The word Koran is generally translated as "recitation." The book contains, so Muslims believe, a recital of the literal word of God as revealed to Mohammed, his final prophet. Revelations began in about 610 and continued intermittently until Mohammed's death some 20 years later. As the messages were received, they were recited to the community. The slowly accumulating body of revelation became the charter of the new religion.

The uniquely sacred position of the Koran in Islam derives from the indestructible dogma that the Koran is God's word, not Mohammed's. Muslims believe that Mohammed could easily distinguish the words of revelation from his own ideas; he apparently received the words of the Koran in an ecstatic trance. In the early days the revelations were not recorded, a fact alluded to in the Koran itself. Gradually, however, as the importance of the words became apparent, listeners began taking them down, writing on anything handy, such as bones, stones, or leaves. By Mohammed's death in 632, scattered collections of quotations existed but had not been compiled into a complete set.

With the revelation cut off, it became urgent to produce an accurate copy of God's words. According to legend, Caliph abu-Bakr asked Zaid ibn Thabit, Mohammed's main secretary, to gather the scattered verses. Others also made compilations about this time, and four variants gained currency, each in a different region.

The standard version arose because, according to tradition, a general asked Caliph Othman to issue an authorized text and end dissension among the troops. Othman appointed a committee chaired by Zaid, and this group produced a text. Copies were made and dispatched to the important towns, with instructions that they were to serve as the approved Koran. Tradition holds that all copies of the variants were destroyed. Later writers, however, report seeing copies of variants centuries after the supposedly total destruction. Othman's text met resistance for a while, especially from professional Koran reciters who had memorized other versions and therefore had a vested interest in them. Nonetheless, it eventually drove the variants out of use. This version, as modified by technical improvements in spelling made about three decades later, is the Koran in use today.

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