God: One in His Lordship and His Right to be Worshiped; One in His Names and His Attributes; He who sent to us prophets to teach us about Him and how to worship Him appropriately, to remind us of Him, to serve as examples for how to move through the world. Out of His infinite wisdom and mercy, He also gave revelation to some of these prophets. He passed His Revelations through the angel Gabriel,* to Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, and Muhammad (likely among many others, though their texts and records of them disappeared or were changed beyond recognition long ago), and this gift of Revelation forms the third pillar of Iman, the belief in His Books: the (lost) books given to Abraham and Moses, the Torah, the Psalms, the Gospel, and the Quran.These books all tell the same story about God: He is One in His Lordship and One in His Right to be worshiped. They also give regulations around worship, diet, business relations, political dealings, and pretty much every part of life here on Earth, to help us earn His pleasure and avoid His punishment. These basic rules remained pretty much static throughout all the revelations that have come down to us since the creation of Adam and Eve: that we worship God, alone, without any partners or intermediaries is the big one, for sure. Others include the usual suspects: they’re pretty much the same in all world religions for a good reason… Honoring your parents and elders, and staying away from killing, adultery, theft, lying, and jealousy.
Other rules and regulations, especially those around dealing with cultural and economic practices may have changed some over time: they certainly appear to, if we believe that the current translations of the Bible are accurate to the original Torah, Psalms, and Gospel. Of course, we can’t be sure about any of what he have these days, really: the time of their revelation was long, long ago, and I don’t think anyone claims to have original texts anywhere. Even if they did, the originals of what we read now were always already mashups of older things. The website companion to the Frontline episode From Jesus to Christ has a brief, but rather thorough (and suitably pbs-y) article about the Old Testament and how it came to be, and while I was taught that it and the New Testament came directly from God, it seems that that is not quite so.
I’m not sure how deeply I can really go into on this. The pbs article above does a better job than I could do, so go read it. I’ll just say that I believe the Bible contains some snippets of inspired text and some bits of God’s Words, as He passed them to His prophets, but I also believe the Bible to be thoroughly changed by various councils in the 200s and 300s CE. The Quran, on the other hand, has come to us pretty much as it was delivered to the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. I believe the Quran to be the Word of God, and it’s obvious to me.
Loads of people want proof, though, or have arguments against the Quran and its veracity. If you’re interested, Hamza Tzortzis has a bunch of good stuff on his website. “God’s Testimony” is a good one to start out with. Fair warning: some of Brother Hamza’s writing gets a bit dense and philosophical, and it’s worth it. For myself, just reading the Quran in translation was proof enough: my heart and mind was open (or opened) to it, I guess, and if yours isn’t, I pray that you find peace and openness enough to experience God’s Word, to reflect upon it, and to come to your own realizations about it, and may God guide you to belief in Him and grant you the willingness to submit to His Will.
As Muslims, we follow the Quran and we believe it to be unchanged since its revelation. This revelation started in about 610 in a cave outside of Mecca and continued coming to the Prophet, in fits and starts, bits and pieces, in response to specific situations and events, for 23 years, until just a few days before Muhammad, peace be upon him, died. ‘Quran,’ in Arabic, means ‘the Recitation,’ and God sent the work to be spoken aloud: God revealed it to Gabriel, Gabriel recited and taught it to the Prophet, the Prophet recited and taught it to his companions, the companions recited it and taught it to others, and 1400-odd years later, it’s with us today, unchanged. The books that we have and read from and that have “Quran” or “Koran” written on the front are more properly called “mus’haf,” a codex, or collection of sheets, or, in common parlance, a ‘book.’ It’s a strange sort of book, though: unlike pretty much any other book, if you wiped out all physical and digital copies of it today, my neighbors and I could reproduce a copy of the Quran in a couple of days, as could communities in most other metropolitan centers throughout the world, because so many people have it memorized. That’s the level of importance we give to God’s book.
This is the third pillar of belief in Islam. We believe in God’s books. We believe in the Quran 100%, and we believe it is largely sufficient for teaching us about God, about the belief in Him and the rules and regulations He gave to us, and the language in which it was revealed has plenty of room for interpretation and layers upon layers of meaning embedded in every word to encompass the lessons God wants us to learn. We believe that some parts of the Bible are true: we accept what parts of it match what’s found in the Quran or what doesn’t contradict the Quran; we reject any parts that contradict the Quran or the spirit of the Quran; we neither accept nor reject the rest of it and view it with interest, but not quite so much as we give to the Word of God.
So, Iman… We believe that God exists, He is One in His Lordship, One in His Right to be Worshiped, and One in His Names and His Attributes. We believe He sent prophets to us, to teach us about Him and guide us: Adam, Noah, Moses, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, Jesus, and Muhammad, to name a few. We believe He gave some of those prophets Revelations to share with us, including (but not limited to) the Torah, Psalms, Gospel, and the Quran. How did He get His Revelations to the messengers? Revelations came to the prophets, peace be upon them all, via the Angel Gabriel, and belief in him and the other angels, as well as the rest of the unseen, forms the fourth pillar of Iman. God willing, I’ll get to that in a couple of days.
*Yes, that Gabriel.