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The Core Texts of Islam


The Core Islamic Texts

The most important books for Sunni’s (roughly 90% of Muslims) are pictured left to right: the Koran, the oldest biography of Muhammad or Sira, and the 2 most “reliable” hadith collections - 4 volume Sahih Muslim, and 9 volume Sahih Bukhari. A few other ‘reliable’ collections are named below. Sharia law amounts to the interpretations of qualified jurists over the centuries primarily about what is in these books and they quote from them to back up their opionions. Shia use the same Koran and other hadith, but the difference regarding Islamic supremacism is not important here.

The Qur’an:

  1. Muslims say Allah is the only one who speaks in the Koran, Muhammad does not. It’s Allah’s instructions to his messenger Muhammad and to Muslims. 

  1. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) says:

  1. “The Quran is the record of the exact words revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad. It was memorized by Muhammad and then dictated to his companions. The text of the Quran was cross-checked during the life of the prophet. The 114 chapters of the Quran have remained unchanged through the centuries.”

  1. Abu Hanifa, founder of the Hanafi orthodox school said,

  1. “The Qur’an is the Word of God Almighty,... our recitation ... is created, but the Qur’an itself is uncreated.”

  1. Al-Bukhari (d. 933), author of the most important hadith collection said,

  1. "The Qur'an is the speech of God uncreated, the acts of men are created, and inquiry into the matter is heresy."

  1. Ibn Warraq is a Pakistani Koranic historian:

  1. “…the Koran remains the infallible word of God... sent down, through the intermediary of a... “holy spirit” or Gabriel, to Muhammad in perfect, pure Arabic; and every thing contained therein is eternal and uncreated. The original text is in heaven…The angel dictated the revelation to the Prophet, who repeated it after him, and then revealed it to the world. Modern Muslims also claim that these revelations have been preserved exactly as revealed to Muhammad, without any change, addition, or loss whatsoever…the Koran remains for all Muslims, and not just “fundamentalists” the uncreated word of God Himself. It is valid for all times and places; its ideals are, according to all Muslims, absolutely true and beyond any criticism.” (Why I Am Not a Muslim, pp. 105, 216)

  1. Muslims say because there are no variations of it in Arabic, unlike the bible, and the fact that Mohammad was illiterate (K-7:158) and so incapable of making it up, proves the book is a perfect copy of the uncreated “Mother of the Book” (K-13:39, 43:4) that has lived forever with Allah, and it “is not such as can be produced by other than Allah.” (K-10:37). Revealed “in slow well arranged stages, gradually” (K-25:32) from 610 AD until he died in 632. 

  1. It is reasoned that an illiterate man could not create the Koran because as Ahmed ‘Ali says in the preface of his translation used on the Muslim Student Association website:

  1. “The Qur’anic Arabic is distinguished by sublimity and excellence of sound and eloquence, rhetoric and metaphor, assonance and alliteration, onomatopoeia and rhyme, ellipse and parallelism. Its cadences and rhythm, pauses and stops, imply eloquent speech and duration.”

  1. According to orthodox Islam, Muslims shouldn’t touch it unless they are in a state of ritual purity, and non muslims should not touch it at all (Reliance of the Traveller e8.1, e8.3) except under extreme exception like MP’s in Guantanamo with “clean gloves” and handled “as if it were a fragile piece of delicate art.” DOD document, items 3b, 4a, and 4b

  1. Some Muslims do not believe the Koran is eternal and uncreated, which has great implications for how flexibly it can be interpreted. The Mu’tazilite teaching that was made state doctrine of the Abbasid Caliphate by Caliph al-Ma’mun (813-833) said it was created and promoted reason rather than blind faith in the Koran. This difference was a big problem, and 3 caliphs later Caliph al-Mutawalkil (847-861) crushed the movement, declared its heresy, and claiming the Koran was created became a capital offense. Scholarly consensus has accepted the ‘uncreated’ version ever since, though the punishment has varied in different Muslim cultures and times. An example of how serious some still take this is when Suliman Bashear, a West Bank professor at U. of Nablus, was thrown out a second story window by his students because he suggested the Koran was created over time. His German colleague uses the pseudonym Christoph Luxenberg, and is a leading scholar of ancient semitic languages investigating the historical origins of the Koran. In 1972 a huge cache of the oldest known manuscripts of the Koran were found in Yemen that differ from the current version which puts in doubt the ‘perfect copy of the uncreated Mother of the book’ idea. Here is more on this discovery and its implications, and here is a summary of the historical record about the origins of Islam from Did Muhammad Exist?.

  1. Myth: Ibn Warraq from Do you know Aramaic or Hebrew?

  1. “Muslims in general have a tendency to disarm any criticisms of Islam and in particular the Koran by asking if the critic has read the Koran in the original Arabic, as though all the difficulties of their Sacred Text will somehow disappear once the reader has mastered the holy language and has direct experience, aural and visual, of the very words of God, to which no translation can do justice. 

  2. [...]

  3. So let me summarize: You do not need to know Arabic to criticize Islam or the Koran.  You only need a critical sense, critical thought and skepticism. Second, there are translations of the Koran, by Muslims themselves, so Muslims cannot claim that there has been deliberate tampering of the text by infidel translators. Third, the majority of Muslims [around 90%] are not Arabs, nor Arabic speakers. So a majority of Muslims also have to rely on translations. Finally, the language of the Koran is some form of Classical Arabic which is totally different from the spoken Arabic of today, so even Muslim Arabs have to rely on translations to understand their holy text. Arabic is a Semitic language related to Hebrew and Aramaic, and is no easier but also no more difficult to translate than any other language. Of course, there are all sorts of difficulties with the language of the Koran, but these difficulties have been recognized by Muslim scholars themselves. The Koran is indeed a rather opaque text but it is opaque to everyone. Even Muslim scholars do not understand a fifth of it.”

  4. To be sure there’s no “deliberate tampering”, this site uses the same Koran translations the Muslim Student’s Association (MSA) uses on their various websites. One is pictured above, by Pickthal.

  1. If you read the Koran on your own, there are at least 3 things you would need to know to understand it the way orthodox Islam does.

  1. 1) Except the first very short chapter (or sura), it is arranged more or less from longest to shortest chapter, not chronologically or by topic. Chronological listings of the Koran’s chapters can be seen here.

  1. 2) Islamic scholars say, and the Koran says (K- 2:106, 13:39, 16:101) that contradictions in the Koran exist, and some verses were abrogated by some of the later more intolerant Medinan verses. There is disagreement on exactly which verses have been abrogated by which verses, leading to a science in itself. But all the orthodox schools agree abrogation exists, for example as explained by al-Zanjani in The History of the Quran. Note that according to the Islamic calendar, Islam was not born on Muhammad’s birthday, or the day he died, or the day of his first revelation in 610, but in 622 when Muhammad and other Muslims migrated to Medina, when the verses became more intolerant and he became a political and military leader.

  1. 3) The 5 orthodox schools agree the Koran cannot be fully understood without the hadith, which are the words and deeds of Muhammad, even though Shiite and Sunni disagree on which hadith to use. There are Efforts to Reform Islam that want to only refer to the Koran and not use the hadith, which might be an interesting idea, but it has virtually no acceptance anywhere.

The Hadith, AKA Traditions of Muhammad:

  1. The Muslim Student’s Association (MSA) has the same 2 hadith collections and translations pictured above at their USC CMJE website, and are used for this site so there is no “deliberate tampering”.

  1. Sahih Bukhari - by Ibn Ismail al-Bukhari (810-870), 9 volume set, translator Khan. Often called Bukhari.

  2. Sahih Muslim - by Muslim al-Qushayri (821-875), 4 volume set, translator Siddiqi. Often called Muslim

  1. In Bukhari or Muslim, in the beginning of each ahadith it says who “narrated” the story, and whether he personally witnessed something Muhammad said or did, or who told him, which determines its reliability.


  1. Muqtedar Khan of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy explains:

  1. “The Sunnah which has an important bearing on Islamic Law is only the Sunnah confirmed by scientific channels, and authentic chains of narrations known to the learned in regard to hadeeths and the background of the narrators.” 

  1. Muslim Student Association West explains:

  1. The explosion of Islam in the 7th and 8th centuries confronted Islamic scholars with a daunting task: to preserve the knowledge of the Sunnah of the Prophet (saas). Hence the science of hadith evaluation was born. We recommend that you read the "Introduction to the Science of Hadith" ... to understand the tremendous efforts that were required to sift the true reports from the false reports.”

  1. Khan, the english translator of Bukhari, says this in his introduction: 

  1. ”It has been unanimously agreed that Imam’s Bukhari’s work is the most authentic of all the other works in Hadith literature put together. The authenticity of Al-Bukhari’s work is such that the religious learned scholars of Islam said concerning him: “The most authentic book after the book of Allah (ie, Al-Qur’an) is Sahih Al-Bukhari.” ... He travelled to many different places gathering the precious gems that fell from the lips of the noble Prophet Muhammad. It is said Imam Bukhari collected over 300,000 ahadith... He was born at a time when hadith was being forged either to please rulers or kings or to corrupt the religion of Islam... He chose approximately ... 2,230 without repetition of which there is no doubt about their authenticity.”

2,230 without repetition of which there is no doubt about their authenticity.”

  1. Siddiqi, the english translator of Sahih Muslim, says this in his introduction:

  1. “...Thus, next to the Holy Qur’an the hadith is the second source of the Islamic Law of social and personal behavior, because the commandments of the Holy Prophet are as binding on the believers as the Commands of Allah.... These ahadith have been compiled in different books, amongst which Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Sunan of Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, al-Nasa’i... are the most important... known as Sihah Sittah, the six Sahihs, i.e. the six genuine and reliable collections. The collections by Bukhari and Muslim are particularly held in high esteem. They are known as the two Sahihs. The ahadith which are recognized as absolutely authentic are included in these two excellent compilations.  Even of these two, Bukhari’s occupies a higher position in comparison to Muslim’s.... I fully subscribe to the view of the Muhaddithin that, after the Holy Qur’an, Bukhari’s Sahih is the most reliable Book of the Islamic Sharia. Muslim’s Sahih comes next to it.”

  1. Sheik Muhammad Nasir-ud-deen Al-Albaani explains in The Status of Sunnah in Islam there are Koranic “verses that cannot be completely understood except thru Sunnah.” He names 6 (5:38, 6:82, 4:101, 5:3, 6:145, 7:32), then he cites Bukhari and Muslim to explain them, and concludes:

  1. “In short, what is obligatory on all Muslims is that they do not separate between Qur'an and Sunnah; whereas, it is obligatory to take both of them and to formulate the law on both of them... From what has been stated above, it is clear that there is no scope for anyone with all his Arabic Scholarship to understand the glorious Qur'an, without the help of the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW), his sayings and actions.” 

  1. MSA West says:

  1. “In Islam, the Arabic word sunnah has come to denote the way Prophet Muhammad (saas) ... lived his life. The Sunnah is the second source of Islamic jurisprudence, the first being the Qur'an. Both sources are indispensable; one cannot practice Islam without consulting both of them.”

  1. Robert Spencer describes the Koran like this:

  1. “... makes no attempt at linear history...  the focus of the Koran’s suras often moves from subject to subject, with various incidents recounted only in fragments” (Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran p. 16). The Qur’an contains a good deal of detail about particular incidents in the Prophet’s life, but no continuous narrative - and the incidents it does relate are often told obliquely or incompletely, as if the audience knows the outline of the story already... Most often he addresses Muhammad directly, giving him instructions on what laws to lay down: (K-2:222)... But often the matter at hand is not so straightforward: reading the Qur’an is in many places like walking in on a conversation between two people with whom one is only slightly acquainted... Frequently it makes reference to people and events without bothering to explain what’s going on. For example (K-66:1-5)... The entire passage - and there are many like it - is completely opaque to anyone who was not directly involved in the proceedings. But Islamic tradition [hadith] fills in the story.” (The Truth About Muhammad p 20-22.)

  1. Muqtedar Khan explains why it is so important for Muslims to know about Muhammad:

  1. “No religious leader has as much influence on his followers as does Muhammad (pbuh) the last prophet of Islam.... So much so that the words, deeds and silences (that which he saw but did not forbid) of Muhammad became an independent source of Islamic law. Muslims, as a part of religious observance, not only obey, but also seek to emulate and imitate their Prophet in every aspect of life. Thus Muhammad is the medium as well as a source of the divine law.”

  1. The Koran says Allah’s messenger is “an excellent model of conduct” (K-33:21) to follow. That he demonstrates “an exalted standard of character” (K-68:4), and “he who obeys the Messenger, obeys Allah” (K-4:80).  Here are 20 more: 3:32, 3:132, 4:13, 4:59, 4:69, 5:92, 8:1, 8:20, 8:46, 9:71, 24:47, 24:51, 24:52, 24:54, 24:56, 33:33, 47:33, 49:14, 58:13, 64:12).

So what did Muhammad say and do? It’s in the hadith. A great example of how much Newspeak™ terms are being used to distort perceptions is in the discussions about how Lone Wolfs™ got Radicalized™. As you are about to see, when devout Muslims copy Muhammad’s words and deeds as described in the Core Texts they become what is called Radicalized™. But how Radical™ is that if that is what devout Muslims are supposed to do?

  1. Some of the other hadith collections Khan mentioned above are available free online in english:

  1. Sunan Abu Dawud - by Abu Dawud a-Sijistani (d. 888), 5 volume set, from MSA.

  1. Sunan Al-Tirmidhi - by Muhammad Al-Tirmidhi (d. 893) 6 volume set.

  1. Muwatta Malik by Imam Malik (715-801) from MSA.

The Sira:

  1. The Life of Muhammad (Sira) by Ibn Ishak (around 704-773) translator Guillaume - oldest biography of Muhammad, AKA the Sira, that first appeared over 125 years after Mohammad died in 632. Original copy of the book was lost, it exists today in a revised version by Ibn Hisham who died in 834, with other parts quoted by early Muslims like Tabari (839-923). The reliability of legal issues covered in it have been questioned by some Muslim authorities, but as a historical guide about Muhammad’s life it is considered sound, and Bukhari and Muslim both used some of his hadith in their collections.

  1. Scholar Johannes J. G. (Hans) Jansen, an Arabist and a Professor of Modern Islamic Thought at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands until his retirement in 2008 states,

  1. “An Iraqi scholar, Ibn Ishaq (c. 760), wrote a book that is the basis of all biographies of Muhammad. No biographical sketches of Muhammad exist that do not depend on Ibn Ishaq. If an analysis of Ibn Ishaq’s book establishes that for whatever reason it cannot be seen as an historical source, all knowledge we possess about Muhammad evaporates.”

  1. For reference, there is another way Muslims understand the Koran:

Tafsir - A commentary on the Koran by theologians, for example Tafsir Ibn Kathir (free online here and found in American mosques), Qutb’s 18 volume In The Shade Of The Qur’an, and one by Maududi that the MSA likes. Georgetown Professor John Esposito described both Qutb and Maududi were 2 of 3 key ideologues who:

  1. “have been so influential in creating the vision of modern Islamic reform... It is almost impossible to exaggerate the direct and indirect impact and influence of these three men”.¹

Forward to 4 Examples of IS&J Described in Koran & Hadith