The Qur’an constitutes the main symbol and source of Muslim faith and practice. It provides Muslims with a means to communicate with God and to worship him in the way he wants to be worshipped. By constantly reciting the Qur’an during their five canonical prayers, believers make it part and parcel of their daily existence. One can say that Qur’anic verses accompany every believer from cradle to grave. On the psychological plane, the all-important event of revelation is being relived by Muslims every time they recite the Qur’an or listen to its recitation. While reciting it, the faithful remind themselves of God’s absolute oneness and sovereignty over this world and the practical implications of this truth as manifested in their acts of worship. The Qur’an thus presents itself as the principal object of Muslim devotion and, more generally, intellectual life. 1 Given its critical centrality to the Muslim faith, any alternative means of accessing God can be (and often is) viewed by Muslim scholars as undesirable. According to this view, anything that may potentially be a distraction from the Qur’an (and thus a potential rival to it), such as figurative art, music, or painting, should be rejected by good Muslims, unless those means are harnessed to corroborate or broadcast the message of the Muslim sacred book (see Figure 10.1). 2
However, as has been demonstrated earlier in this study, the Qur’anic text is not devoid of ambiguity and allows for a wide variety of different interpretations. No wonder, therefore, that understanding the true implications of the Qur’anic message and of the status of the Qur’an itself, namely whether it was created or uncreated, soon became a hotly debated issue among Muslim intellectuals. As time went on, alongside the Qur’an there emerged another important source of Islamic religion, the Prophet’s exemplary “custom” ( sunna ). This source of Muslim faith also yielded itself to multiple understandings. The practical legal implications of the Qur’an and the Sunna of the Prophet for the life of their adherents have already been addressed in the previous chapter. Here we will discuss how these sources of Islamic religion have shaped the Muslim belief system, or dogma.