Islam

As the unadulterated Word of God, the Qur’an is sacred to Muslims everywhere. Learn more about Qur’an and its content, and Islam’s other important sacred texts, such as the Hadith and Sunna.

An image of The Ma’il Qur’an, Or 2165, one of the earliest extrant complete Qur'an manuscripts

The Qur’an

Article by:
Mustafa Shah

The Qur’an, the sacred text of Islam, is believed to be the Word of God as revealed to the Prophet. Here Dr Mustafa Shah describes the historical context of its revelation, its transmission and codification and its shared spiritual heritage with the other main Abrahamic faiths.

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19th-century Qur'an from the East Coast of the Malay Peninsula, red and yellow decoration. Or 15227, folio 4r

Prayer in Islam

Article by:
Amjad M Hussain

Prayer is one of the five pillars of Islam. This article by Dr Amjad Hussain explains common features of Islamic prayer, such as the call to prayer, daily timings and the direction of prayer. He also explores the linguistic, geographic and sectarian diversity of prayer in Islam.

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Painting of the Muharram Festival. This festival starts on the first day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, and lasts for ten days.

Islamic pilgrimages and sacred spaces

Article by:
Sophia Arjana

Hajj is the most well-known pilgrimage in Islam. Here Dr Sophia Arjana discusses its role in the religion, whilst also looking at Shi‘a and regional pilgrimages, sainthood and sacred space in Islam.

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Discovering Sacred Texts: Islam

Discovering Sacred Texts: Islam

Our film on Islam explores four of the five pillars of Islam – the Muslim profession of faith (shahada), prayer (salat), charity (zakat), and fasting during Ramadan (sawm) – and how Muslims in Britain follow them today.

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Detail from the top of a lavishishy decorated marriage certificate.

Women in Islamic sources

Article by:
Raana B Shah

Dr Raana B Shah explores the presentation of women in Islamic sources, including their role in the scripture and contribution to Islamic sources, both Sunni and Shi‘a. She finishes by reflecting on the role of women in modern Islamic societies and offers some modern interpretations of the role of women in Islam.

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An 18th- or 19th-century bilingual biography of the Prophet Muhammad from Eastern Europe

Prophecy and revelation in Islam

Article by:
Walid A. Saleh

Muhammad is the Prophet of Islam. Professor Walid Saleh explains the role of prophecy in Islam, discussing the primacy of the Prophet Muhammad and his life, as well as exploring other biblical and Arabian prophets present in the Qur’an, and the tradition of literature about them.

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Detail of the intricate pattern from or 13890 f002v

Sources of wisdom and authority in Islamic sacred texts

Article by:
Mustafa Shah

In this article Dr Mustafa Shah outlines some of the most important textual sources of wisdom and authority in Islam, in both Sunni and Shi‘a traditions. Among them are hadith, sunnah, shari‘ah, tafsīr and kalam.

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Calligraphy of the Qur’an

Article by:
Colin F Baker

Arabic calligraphy is a form of reverence for the Qur’an. Dr Colin Baker outlines the development of qur’anic calligraphy, from some of the earliest existing Qur’ans. He also explores geographic variations in scripts alongside developments in Arabic grammar, changing mediums and Qur’an formats.

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An image of dancing dervishes, found in Jalal al-Din Rumi's Masnavi.

Sufism

Article by:
Alessandro Cancian

Dr Alessandro Cancian explores Sufism, Islamic mysticism. He charts its development as a historical phenomenon, its terminology and literature, as well as delving into the aim of the Sufi spiritual path and the importance of spiritual masters and the Qur’an.

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An image of volume one of Sultan Baybars' Qur'an (add ms 22406) open to show folios 1v-2r

Illumination of the Qur’an

Article by:
Colin F Baker

Dr Colin Baker introduces Islamic illumination, looking at its function and common features, and illustrating its historic development with sumptuous examples from Qur’ans around the world.

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miniature of Abraham being thrown into the furnace by Nimrod - from the Golden Haggadah

The Abrahamic religions

Article by:
Anna Sapir Abulafia

Dr Anna Sapir Abulafia looks at three of the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and explores the role and narrative surrounding the figure of Abraham in their sacred texts and traditions.

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An image of an open Qur'an manuscript

Islam introduction

Article by:
The British Library

An overview of articles and British Library resources relating to Islam.

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Further themes

Buddhism

The Buddha lived over 2,500 years ago, yet his life and teachings continue to inform the lives of millions of Buddhists worldwide. Learn about the Buddha’s teachings, the different Buddhist traditions, and Buddhist meditation.

Christianity

From its origins on the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean to its expansion to every corner of the globe in modern times, discover how the production of biblical texts enabled Christianity to become the diverse faith it is today.

Devotional texts

From medieval Christian Books of Hours to the Sikh empress Rani Jindan’s prayer book, explore how devotional texts have helped believers make a personal connection with their faith.

Hinduism

From its origins as an oral tradition over 4,000 years ago, to contemporary retellings of its epic stories, Hinduism is characterised by seemingly limitless diversity. Discover more about Hinduism’s sacred texts and the colourful gods and goddesses that feature in them.

Illuminated texts

The British Library’s collection comprises some of the most beautiful, handwritten and illuminated sacred texts from many of the world’s religions.

Islam

As the unadulterated Word of God, the Qur’an is sacred to Muslims everywhere. Learn more about Qur’an and its content, and Islam’s other important sacred texts, such as the Hadith and Sunna.

Jainism

Characterised by principles of asceticism and non-violence, Jainism has its roots in India in the sixth century BCE. Discover more about Jainism’s sacred texts, its cosmology, and the religious views and practices of its adherents.

Judaism

Explore how the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud inform the lives of Jews today, and how prayer books such as the Haggadah, used in worship and religious festivals, have helped sustain Jewish identity over many centuries.

Living Texts

Whether retold from one generation to the next, or written down from one language into another, some sacred texts have evolved while others have remained the same throughout time, enriching and informing the lives of those that read them.

Pilgrimage, text and place

Explore the connections between sacred spaces and sacred texts.

Sacred texts

All faiths have their origins in texts, be they the word of God as revealed to prophets, oral stories retold by one generation to another over centuries, or written down in books. Explore the origins and developments of the world’s major faiths.

Sikhism

Discover more about the origins of the Sikh faith, the role of the Sikh Gurus in the compilation of its sacred texts, and the importance of prayer to Sikhs.

The Baha’i Faith

Emerging in the mid-19th century, the Baha’i Faith has grown rapidly from its Middle Eastern origins, and now has around 8 million adherents worldwide. Learn more about the founders of the Baha’i faith, and how they disseminated their beliefs.

Women, texts and faith

Explore the lives of women in the sacred texts of the world’s major faiths, and the changing ways in which women contribute to religious practice in contemporary society.

Zoroastrianism

With its roots in central Asia 3,500 years ago, Zoroastrianism has a rich history of interaction with the Abrahamic faiths, and of migration around the world. Learn more about this ancient religion, and the sacred texts that inform its beliefs.