In what sense is the concept “book” used in the Quran? Is it used in the sense of mushaf (the Quran in the form of a book) in any verses?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The concept “book” in the Quran:

The word book (kitab) is derived from the root "Ka-Ta-Ba" (to write). The noun form of this verb is "al-katb", which means to tie a piece of leather on another piece of leather or a layer on another layer. In that sense, the following is stated: "Katabtus-saqaa: I tied the bag." As a term, it means "to connect letters by writing". In that sense, it indicates "letters being connected with words". Thus, if the words that come out of the mouth are in an order, those words can also be called "kitab"; they do not have to be in written form. Therefore, the word of Allah is called "kitab" even if it is not written because the word 'kitab' used in the Quran frequently does not always indicate the written form of the Quran; Allah's words being in unity in an order means "writing".

The universe is, as a whole, a set of words that occurred as a result of Allah's arranging shape, time, duty, etc. for the beings in His knowledge and saying "be" with the manifestation of His power. Thus, the universe became a book consisting of these words. In short, nothing was left missing in the Main Book, which Allah created in His pre-eternal knowledge. (In fact, it is stated by some Islamic philosophers and saints that the universe is created again or constantly by Allah and that a continuity is present since there is a relationship among these creations. We can also use the present tense instead of the past tense to express that it takes place all the time.)  

"There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book…" (al-An'am, 6/38)

"…There is not a grain in the darkness (or depths) of the earth, nor anything fresh or dry (green or withered), but is (inscribed) in a record clear (to those who can read)." (al-An'am, 6/59)

Everything recorded and decreed with the creation takes place when its time is due; whatever happens in the universe definitely happens based on that recording/writing.

"No misfortune can happen on earth or in your souls but is recorded in a decree before We bring it into existence..." (al-Hadid, 57/22)

That is, the origin/mother of the Book is the existence of every being and happening of every incident in the pre-eternal knowledge of Allah. The Quran gives it various names like "Kitab (Book), Ummul-Kitab (mother of the Book), Lawh al-Mahfuz (the preserved Tablet), Imam Mubin (Clear Book)"; almost all of them have similar meanings. The universe is the opened form of this book; a word comes out of this book any moment. Allah sent this Book from time to time to people as a whole in the form of chapters consisting of verses consisting of words consisting of words consisting of letters through His messengers He chose among people. In that sense, it can be said that the Divine Books like the Torah, the Gospel and the Quran are a combined explanation of the universe contained in pages. Everything that happened and will happen in the universe exists in this book.

Let us have a short look at the other secondary meanings of the Book related to this real and original meaning under the light of this basic information:

1. Kitab means written pages as we have mentioned above:

"If We had sent unto thee a written (message) on parchment, so that they could touch it with their hands...'' (al-An'am: 6/7)

2. Kitab means first wishing then realizing:

"Allah has decreed: ‘It is I and My messengers who must prevail.’" (al-Mujadala, 58/21)

3. Kitab means "to decree, to render fard":

"…But kindred by blood have prior rights against each other in the Book of Allah. Verily Allah is well-acquainted with all things." (al-Anfal, 8/75)

"…Fasting is prescribed to you…" (al-Baqara, 2/183)

"…For such prayers are enjoined on believers at stated times." (an-Nisa, 4/103) 

4. Kitab means "to do, to include":

"…Then write us down among those who bear witness." (Aal-i Imran, 3/53)

5. Kitab means "an evidence sent by Allah":

"Yet there is among men such a one as disputes about Allah, without Knowledge, without Guidance, and without a Book of Enlightenment." (al-Hajj, 22/8)

6. "There is among them a section who distort the Book with their tongues: (As they read) you would think it is a part of the Book…" (Aal-i Imran, 3/78)

In the verse above, the first Book generally means Allah's Book; that is, Lawh al-Mahfuz, Ummul-Kitab or the book of the universe or the Divine Book like the Torah, the Gospel and the Quran.

The second book means the Torah since it is related to Jews; that is, it means "though it is not in the Torah".

The third book is what the Jews wrote with their own hands instead of Al­lah's book, that is, the Torah.  

"Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands..." (al-Baqara, 2/79)

It is the Book mentioned in the verse above and in similar verses.

7. Kitab also means "writing, correspondence, letters":

"…And if any of your slaves ask for a deed in writing (to enable them to earn their freedom for a certain sum), give them such a deed if ye know any good in them..." (an-Nur, 24/33)

"Go thou, with this letter of mine, and deliver it to them..." (an-Naml, 27/28)

8. Kitab means "Shari’ah", which means all of the decrees (ahkam) of Allah.  

9. Kitab has another important meaning: recording of the deeds of people in the worldly life. The following is stated in the Quran:

"Nay! We shall record what he says..." (Maryam, 19/79)

"On the Day of Judgment We shall bring out for him a scroll, which he will see spread: (It will be said to him:) "Read thine (own) record)..." (al-Isra, 17/13-14)

The people will receive their books on “the Day of Judgment” based on their deeds in the world from their front and right or from their back and left; they will be divided into three as the leaders, the people of the right and the people of the left. 

"Nay! Surely the record of the wicked is (preserved) in Sijjin. And what will explain to thee what Sijjin is? (There is) a Register (fully) inscribed....Nay, verily the record of the Righteous is (preserved) in ´Illiyin. And what will explain to thee what ´Illiyun is? (There is) a Register (fully) inscribed," (al-Mutaffifin, 83/7-9, 18-20)

The verses above are really remarkable. What people gain in the world will prepare their places and ranks in the hereafter in the form of a book; they will form depths or heights for their owners. Every word and deed of man writes/builds his place in the hereafter letter by letter and word by word.

The last book that contains the universe and all of the incidents in the universe as letters and books and that is preserved in the form as it was sent by Allah is the Quran. As a matter of fact, there are several verses in the Quran in which the Main Book is used as a synonym for the Quran:

"…These are the symbols (or Verses) of the perspicuous Book. We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur´an..." (Yusuf, 12/1-2)

"These are verses of the Qur´an,-a book that makes (things) clear." (an-Naml, 27/1)

The book that is mentioned as 'clear book' in the Quran is the Book in general. Those who have the knowledge that Allah wills from that Book can bring any object from hundreds of kilometers away within the twinkling of an eye.

"Said one who had knowledge of the Book: ‘I will bring it to thee within the twinkling of an eye.’..." (an-Naml, 27/40)

Divine books are guides for people; they are leaders and mercy; they are a source of guidance for believers. They were sent down so that decrees would be given about all issues that people disagree. They were sent down to arrange the life of human beings with "Mizan" and "iron"(authority). They were sent down to lead people from darkness to light and from oppression to justice. (al-Baqara, 2/3; al-Hadid, 57/25; Ibrahim, 14/1; an-Nahl, 16/64; al-Ahqaf, 46/12)

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