The Story of the Qur'an - Its History and Place in Muslim Life
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This popular introduction by a well-known Islamic scholar has been updated and expanded, offering a balanced portrayal of the Qur’an and its place in historic and contemporary Muslim society.

  • Features new sections on the Qur’an and its relationship to democracy, science, human rights, and the role of women
  • Contains expanded sections on the Qur’an in the life cycle of Muslims, and in Islamic ethics and law
  • Incorporates additional images and student features, including a glossary.
  • Supported by an accompanying website (available on publication) hosting a range of additional material, including student resources, links to important websites, news stories, and more
  • This title is also available as an eTextbook on the CourseSmart platform, as a Wiley Desktop Edition, or via your preferred eTextbook vendor; eTextbooks offer convenience, enhanced electronic functionality, and flexible pricing options – learn more at


Ingrid Mattson is London and Windsor Chair of Islamic Studies at Huron University College at the University of Western Ontario. She is a recognized Islamic religious and interfaith leader. She has published numerous articles on Islam, she travels and lectures widely, and is past President of the Islamic Society of North America.


Preface and Acknowledgments to the Second Edition ix

Preface to the First Edition xi

1 God Speaks to Humanity 1

God Hears and Responds 1

Defining the Qurán 2

Ancient Origins of the Meccan Sanctuary 4

The Arabian Context 7

The Arabic Language 11

The Jahiliyya: A Time of Lawlessness and Immorality 13

The Early Life of Muhammad 16

Muhammad as the Messenger of God 18

2 The Prophet Conveys the Message 27

Historicizing the Qurán 27

The Medium and the Message 34

God Is One 37

Moral Conduct and Its Ultimate Consequences 46

Servants of God 50

Persecution of Believers Past and Present 55

Establishing a Viable State and a Just Political Order 61

Building Community 68

A Door to Heaven Is Closed 73

3 The Voice and the Pen 79

A Sacred Pedigree 79

Recited and Written 85

The Prophet and the First Collection of the Qurán 88

The Early Generations: Regional Schools of Recitation and the Elaboration of the Mushaf 100

Standardizing the Curriculum 105

Quránic Recitation and Ritual Life 109

Breaking the Tradition 119

The Value of Memorization 124

Transmission of the Qurán in the Modern Age 127

Conclusion 133

4 Blessed Words: The Qurán and Culture 141

The Qurán as the Word of God 141

The Qurán and Sacred Architecture 147

The Elevation of the Qurán 155

Language, Naming, and Common Expressions 157

Ritual Purity and Purifying Rituals 161

Death, Mourning, and the Afterlife 168

5 What God Really Means: Interpreting the Qurán 185

Exegesis before Hermeneutics 185

The Epistemological Challenge 193

Intertextuality: The Isra’iliyyat 197

Occasions of Revelation 201

Understanding the Language of the Qurán 204

Relating the Sunna to the Qurán 210

Deriving Legal Norms from the Qurán 215

Consensus and Diversity in Legal Reasoning 223

Modernity: Making the Words “Reasonable” 226

Some Contested Issues 235

Inheritance 235

Wife-beating 237

Conclusion 242

6 Conclusion: Listening for God 247

Glossary 267

Bibliography 271

Index of Quránic Citations and References 287

Index 289


“Ingrid Mattson offers fresh, thoughtful, and learned insights into the Qur’an that are rich in scholarly and historical detail, cultural depth and breadth, and personal meaning.  This book will enlighten and engage the novice reader as well as those already familiar with the Qur’an. I recommend it as an excellent companion to the study of Islam or the Qur’an itself.”—Marcia Hermansen, Loyola University Chicago

“Dr. Ingrid Mattson takes her readers, effortlessly, through the Qur'an with her eloquent 'zen' like writing style. The book takes its readers on a journey of discovery into Islam's Holy Scripture. It is an excellent introduction for students of Islam as well as non-academic circles as it touches upon the personnel effects of the Qur'an on the believer and its impact on society and culture at the same time maintaining a historical perspective of its formation.”—Khaled Keshk, DePaul University

“In The Story of the Qur’an, Second Edition, Professor Ingrid Mattson achieves a rare synthesis of cutting-edge scholarship and Islamic piety. With the Holy Qu’ran as her guide and lens, Dr. Mattson graciously introduces the reader to Islam in all its major facets, from its origins to the present. This valuable book – written by one of the great leaders of North American Islam – should be must-reading for Muslims, Christians, Jews, and all who would understand the Qu’ran and its followers. Recommended for university, Church, Synagogue, and Mosque classes and reading groups.”—Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky, Jewish Theological Seminary