Revelation

Revelation involves the 'revealing' of truth and, for many religions, is an important part of learning about God. For Muslims, the Qur’an is the most important source of revelation.

General revelation: Muslim perspectives

The Qur'an

For Muslims, the Qur'an is the most important revelation of all, a special revelation from Allah to the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims consider the Qur'an to be different to any other book as they believe it to be the direct word of Allah.

The Prophet Muhammad became the messenger of Allah after his first experience of revelation in the year 610, and Allah continued to reveal His word to the Prophet for the next 23 years. The revealed teachings were written down by the Prophet Muhammad's close friends and followers. The popular view amongst Muslims is that the final words of Allah to Muhammad were:

This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.Qur'an 5:4

Sunnah

The Sunnah refers to the sayings and practices of the Prophet Muhammad, and his approval of the actions of his companions. His example is considered to be perfect. They are found mainly in the Hadith.

Natural world

Muslims believe Allah reveals Himself through the natural world. Nature is perfect, so therefore Allah must be its creator. Similarly, the way in which the world works so perfectly, for example through the laws of science, shows that Allah must have designed the world.

Conscience

Muslims believe that their conscience can give them a sense of what Allah would like them to do. The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said:

When a thing disturbs your heart, give it up.Hadith

This quote shows that if Muslims feel their conscience is telling them something, it should be followed. Conscience can also be used to decide on things that are neither expressly forbidden nor explicitly allowed. However, conscience should not be used as a substitute for the Qur'an or Sunnah.

Reason

Some Muslims believe that the human ability to make sense of things is given by Allah and that Allah reveals himself to Muslims through their own sense of reason.

What is learned about God in these revelations?

For Muslims:

  • Allah teaches people directly through his word.
  • Allah reveals himself to humankind through messages given to them through his prophets.
  • The Prophet Muhammad teaches people how to live a good life, guided by Allah.
  • God communicates with humankind as individuals.

Problems believers may have about revelation

As with all believers, Muslims may not find it easy to use their God-given reason to interpret the revelations of Allah's will in the Qur'an. For non-Arabic speakers it may be difficult to understand or to explain the content of the Qur'an, as some believe that key words and concepts can only be fully understood in the original Arabic. And there are some teachings in the Qur'an which may appear at first sight to contradict Muslim morality, or fit uneasily with widely accepted modern values.

For example, this passage appears to suggest that it is allowed for men to take female slaves during war.

Prophet, We have made lawful to you the wives to whom you have granted dowries and the slave girls whom God has given you as booty.Qur'an 33:50

Muslim scholars have been engaged in Tafsir for centuries to try to explain such difficulties and help believers understand the true meaning of the Qur'an.

The concept of conscience and reason can also cause problems for Muslims as they may be unsure how to interpret the will of Allah, or whether the will of Allah is even being revealed through conscience and reason. Some Muslims may doubt the exact nature of Allah's will when there are different beliefs about the Sunnah and the importance of the Prophet's teachings.

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