Key words: Qur'an, revelation, recitation of the Qur'an, recording and codification of the Qur'an, tawhid, theocentric, divine-human relationship, shari‘a, legal principles, authority, nass, Ahl-al Bayt, 'ulama, the role of the Imam, interpreting the Qur'an, guidance.
Abstract: In order to understand the Qur'an, this scripture has to be looked at in the context in which it was revealed, as well as the purpose it serves and how it is interpreted by different sects of Muslims. This is what this article does; the author starts by looking briefly at the life of Prophet Muhammad to whom this religious text was revealed details including his temperament and his standing in Meccan society.
Jiwa then covers issues such as the importance of recitation of the Qur'an, the method used for codification, what the Qur'an says about the divine-human relationship, the role of man and man's stature in relation to Allah. The contentious issue of who has the legitimacy or authority within the Muslim community to give guidance is also explored.
The Shi'i idea is that guidance can only come from someone who has been bestowed with 'ilm, whereas, the Sunni interpretation is that the 'ulama (religious leaders) come to occupy this position of authority to interpret the Qur'an and give guidance in today's society to Muslims all around the world.
Dr Shainool Jiwa is the Head of Constituency Studies and a Senior Research Fellow at The Institute of Ismaili Studies. Prior to this, she was the Head of the Department of Community Relations from 2005 to 2012. She was also the founding coordinator of the Qur’anic Studies Project at the IIS (2002-2005).