Bitesize has changed! We're updating subjects as fast as we can. Visit our new site to find Bitesize guides and clips - and tell us what you think!

Religious Studies

Islam: revelation


Scripture is the most important type of revelation for Muslims. The Qur’an [Qur'an: That which is read or recited. The Divine Book revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Allah's final revelation to humankind. ] is regarded as a special revelation from Allah [Allah: The Islamic name for God in the Arabic language ] to Prophet Muhammad [Muhammad: The name of the final Prophet. ]. It was revealed to him in Arabic. The Qur’an is therefore different from any other book for Muslims because it contains the words of Allah.

In 611 CE the Prophet Muhammad was meditating in a cave when the Angel Jibril appeared to him. Muhammad could not read but three times Jibril ordered him to ‘recite’. The angel said:

Proclaim! In the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, who created – created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood. Proclaim! And thy Lord Is Most Bountiful! He who taught (the use of) the pen taught man that which he knew not.

Surah 96:1-5

The messenger of Allah

Jibril then told Muhammad that he was to be the messenger of Allah. These revelations continued for the next 23 years and the final verse was:

This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.

Surah 5:4

Muhammad remained unable to read and the Qur’an was written down by his friends and followers. The Qur’an has 114 Surahs (or chapters). These are arranged by length, not by chronological order.

An Arabic text

For Muslims the Qur’an contains only the literal unchanged words of Allah. It is direct revelation from Allah (God) to humanity. Because the Qur’an is the word of Allah it cannot be criticised. To do so would be seen as not only irrelevant but, most importantly, it would be disrespectful.

Also to preserve the true words of God, the Qur’an is always read and studied in Arabic. Versions of the Qur’an in other languages are not called translations because the true meaning of the words can only be found in the Arabic. The Qur’an is Iman (faith), unchanging and unchangeable. It is the last and most complete book of guidance from Allah and applies to all people forever.

In his sermon on Mount Arafat, Muhammad made it clear that this was the final revelation: "No prophet or messenger will come after me and no new faith will emerge."

Back to God index

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.