Unlike Judaism and Christianity, Islam sets the belief in all books revealed by Allah (God) through his prophets as an important article of faith. Muslims believe that Allah revealed books to His messengers as proof for mankind and as guidance for them. Allah’s prophets purified and taught mankind wisdom from these books. The Qur’an is the final book, which Allah revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Allah has guaranteed the Qur’an’s protection from any corruption or distortion.
Among the books that were revealed are the Torah, which was revealed to Musa (Moses); the Gospel, which was revealed to Isa (Jesus); the Psalms, which Allah gave to Dawood (David); the Tablets of Ibrahim (Abraham) and Musa; and, finally, the Qur’an.
The Qur’an is not simply a book that equals the Bible, though there are many common points between the two. One major difference is that the original books of the Bible are not available in the form and language in which they were first written and only translations are extant – whereas no translation of the Qur’an can be called the Qur’an.
Anyone who has done translation knows that some kind of interpretation creeps into every translation, and only a person who knows the original language can be a legitimate interpreter of the source book. So, to interpret the Qur’an truthfully, one should have a good knowledge of the Arabic language.
Another point about the Qur’an is that it is not a book of history, a book of science or a book of law – though it has all these in it. It is first and foremost a book of divine guidance. Also, you need to know that the Qur’an does not contain detailed explanations of the situations that prompted the revelations of its verses.
Mostly the verses are guidelines and general principles. Besides, they offer good news for the good people and warnings for the misguided. They contain a number of narrations that serve to give admonitions, exhortations and warnings to mankind in general. In certain cases, the Qur’an also gives specific instructions.
The Qur’an was revealed in the course of the 23 years of the prophetic career of Muhammad (peace be upon him), in accordance with the requirements of the particular contexts that called for divine guidance in certain issues. For this reason, in order to arrive at the correct understanding of many of its verses, we need to know the circumstances in which these verses were revealed. That is why the foundation of the religion of Islam is not just the Qur’an; but it includes the sayings and the example of the Messenger, as well. This also means that the best interpreter of the Qur’an is Prophet Muhammad, to whom the verses were actually revealed.