The Qur’an and Its Place in Human Life
As the language of revelation, Arabic holds an important place in Muslim devotional traditions. Accordingly, while trans-lations of the Qur’an may convey the meaning or message of God’s revelation, they do not typically function as the Qur’an in devotional settings. At the same time, the artist’s work points to an important tradition in Muslim communities. One often finds passages from the Qur’an adorning walls in homes and work spaces, reminding denizens and guests alike of God’s presence in human life. The particular passages on display in this exhibit, for example, remind the viewer that living a life that is pleasing to God includes caring for one another and for creation more generally.
According to Muslim traditions of commentary, God revealed Sūra 36, or “O Human Being!” to Muhammad prior to the community’s emigration (Hijra) from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE. Estimates place the date of revelation at about 615 CE, some five years after Muhammad’s encounter with the angel Gabriel, who delivered the first of God’s many messages to the Prophet. Scholarship on the Qur’an identifies three themes prevalent in revelations prior to the Hijra: God’s unity, the legitimacy of Muhammad’s prophecy, and the accountability of all before God.
Like Sūra 36, commentators date the revelation of Sūra 37, or “The Ranks,” to the middle Meccan period (roughly 615). “The Ranks” emphasizes Muhammad’s place in the lineage of Abrahamic prophets and further develops the theme of humanity’s responsibility before God.
Assistant Professor, Departments of History and Religious Studies