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The Holy Koran in the Library of Congress

(The following is a post by Fawzi M. Tadros, Area Specialist, Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division.)

The Holy Koran (or Qur’an, according to the Library of Congress transliteration system), is the divine book of Islam. Muslims believe that it was revealed by God through the archangel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad. The revelations first began in the month of Ramadan, the ninth month in the Muslim lunar calendar, and continued throughout the last 23 years of Muhammad’s life.

Detail of a page from a 19th-century Qur’an manuscript. Surat al- ‘Alaq 96:1-5.

Detail of a page from a 19th-century Qur’an manuscript. Surat al- ‘Alaq 96:1-5 is shown here. The archangel Gabriel is said to have appeared to Muhammad, the illiterate prophet, and asked him to:
1.Proclaim! (or Read) / In the name /Of thy Lord and Cherisher, / Who created-
2.Created man, out of / A (mere) clot / Of congealed blood:
3.Proclaim! And thy Lord / Is Most Bountiful,-
4.He Who taught / (The use of) the pen, –
5.Taught man that / Which he knew not.
(Surat al-‘Alaq 96:1-5. The Holy Qur’an. Text Translation and Commentary by A. Yusuf Ali, Publications of Presidency of Islamic Courts and Affairs, State of Qatar, 1946.)

The Qur’an is composed of 114 Surah (chapters) of different lengths. The name of the first surah in the Koran is (al-Fatihah) the Opening.

Qur’an. Surat al-Fatihah. A folio belonging to a dispersed 14th-century Qur’an manuscript. It contains the first chapter of the Qur’an, al-Fatihah (The Opening). The script in the main text frame is in naskh, a cursive style preferred in Qur’ans made in Cairo during the 14th-15th centuries.

Qur’an. Surat al-Fatihah. A folio belonging to a dispersed 14th-century Qur’an manuscript. It contains the first chapter of the Qur’an, al-Fatihah (The Opening). The script in the main text frame is in naskh, a cursive style preferred in Qur’ans made in Cairo during the 14th-15th centuries.

The word Qur’an in Arabic means recitation. Thus, it was revealed as a book to be read or recited. The language of the revelation was Arabic, because the prophet was an Arab — “We have sent it down/ As an Arabic Qur’an/ In order that ye may/ Learn wisdom” (Sura Yusuf 12:2. Ali, The Holy Qur’an Translation). Koranic verses were memorized by scribes and parts were transcribed onto materials, such as palm-leaves, pieces of wood, animal bones, stones, and parchment. After the death of the Prophet in 632 AD, Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (573-634 AD), the first caliph and political successor to the Prophet, collected all those scattered fragments and compiled them into one book. `Uthman ibn `Affan (died in 656 AD), the third caliph after the Prophet, was presented with different editions of the Qur’an; he selected one version, which later became the standard text of the Qur’an we know today, also known as Mushaf `Uthman (Codex of `Uthman).

Bihari Qur’an. https://www.wdl.org/en/item/6783/#q=koran&qla=en. The folio contains verses 2-8 of Surat al-Kahf (The Cave) and verses 67-70 of the Surat Bani Isra’il (The Children of Israel). The text is in Arabic with interlinear Persian translation in red ink. The Bihari script — a variant of naskh typical of northern India after the conquest by Timur (Tamerlane) (1336-1405) and prior to the establishment of the Mughal Dynasty — indicates that this item was probably created in India between 1400 and 1525.

Bihari Qur’an. The folio contains verses 2-8 of Surat al-Kahf (The Cave) and verses 67-70 of the Surat Bani Isra’il (The Children of Israel). The text is in Arabic with interlinear Persian translation in red ink. The Bihari script — a variant of naskh typical of northern India after the conquest by Timur (Tamerlane) (1336-1405) and prior to the establishment of the Mughal Dynasty — indicates that this item was probably created in India between 1400 and 1525.

Spine view of The Koran, commonly called the Alcoran of Mohammed. Created/published London: Printed for L. Hawes, W. Clarke, and R. Collins… and T. Wilcox…, 1764. Thomas Jefferson, former owner.

Spine view of The Koran, commonly called the Alcoran of Mohammed. Created/published London: Printed for L. Hawes, W. Clarke, and R. Collins… and T. Wilcox…, 1764. Thomas Jefferson, former owner.

The Prophet sent letters and messengers to the rulers of neighboring countries, inviting them to embrace Islam. Thus, from early on the translation of the Qur’an became a matter of important consideration. Today the Qur’an is translated into most of the languages of Europe, Asia, Africa as well as in Esperanto.

The history of the Library of Congress’ Koranic collection may be traced back to US President Thomas Jefferson’s library (1743-1826), the basis upon which the Library built its collections. Among Jefferson’s collection is a copy of the Qur’anThe Koran, commonly called the Alcoran of Mohammed, published in London, 1764. In the next 200 some years, the Library amassed a vast collection of Qur’ans, in many formats and languages.

Recognizing the ever growing scholarly interest in the Qur’an, in 1993 the Library published an illustrated bibliography, “The Holy Koran in the Library of Congress: A Bibliography.” The purpose is to guide scholars and the general public in the use of significant books and journals pertaining to the Qur’an and Koranic studies.

The guide, which was done by this author, Fawzi M. Tadros, introduces the Library’s Koranic collections in five major areas: 1. manuscripts, facsimile and tafsir (i.e. commentaries on the Qur’an); 2. printed texts in Arabic; 3. interpretations (translations) in 40 languages; 4. citations from the Qur’an in special formats, particularly microfilm and sound recordings; and 5. studies about the Qur’an, both books and articles, in a number of languages.

The Holy Koran in the Library of Congress: A Bibliography.” Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1993.

The Holy Koran in the Library of Congress: A Bibliography.” Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1993.

Since the holdings of the Library are so numerous in this area, the works selected have been limited to titles that are considered of basic significance to the understanding of the different aspects and concerns of Koranic studies. Citations to articles in Arabic are taken from Majallat al-Azhar, 1930-1988, an authoritative source of Sunni Islam, while “Index Islamicus,” 1906-1988 is a primary source for references to non-Arabic articles. This bibliography also includes doctoral dissertations in English, French, and German, based on citations gathered from “Dissertation Abstracts International,” “Arabic and Islamic Studies” by Maurice Saliba; “American Doctoral Dissertations on the Arab World,” compiled and edited by George Selim, and the Library of Congress catalogs. The tafsir and Koranic studies, whether manuscripts or printed materials, are arranged alphabetically; the other parts are arranged in chronological order.

The Library of Congress transliteration systems have been used throughout. Whenever a variation to these systems occurs, added entries and cross-references are given. Place names in imprints have been converted into Western usage regardless of the form in which the name is given in the publications. In a few cases, however, the transliterated form has been applied. This publication includes indexes by personal name, title, subject and series.

As the most comprehensive bibliography ever compiled on the Library’s Koranic collection, this title was rated by ALA as one of the best sixty government publications of the year 1993. Since its publication to date, this book has been and continues to be one of the most consulted reference works. To view this bibliography, click here.

2 Comments

  1. wassila
    August 4, 2018 at 2:43 pm

    Hello. Where can I find it in the library?

  2. Anchi Hoh
    August 8, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    Thanks for your interest in this blogpost. The post includes a number of useful links, by clicking on them you will be able to access the bibliography (https://archive.org/details/holykoraninlibra00libr) and other relevant sources in the Library. For further queries, please feel free to use the “Ask-A-Librarian” digital reference services (//loc.gov/rr/askalib/ask-amed.html).

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