The meaning of ‘al kitab’ in the Qur’an

The law and laws

This article is from The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation.

al kitāb – the law

kutub – laws

I refer the reader first to my comments on 3:48 in the introductory portion of this article.

The facts are:

  • the law is an accepted meaning for al kitāb (the Traditionalist occasionally uses it in this sense)
  • if by the law we mean God’s law then the issues the Traditionalist has at 3:48 evaporate (since the law forms a part of both the Torah and the Gospel but does not subsume them)
  • the law fits in all cases

If the Torah is complete and unblemished, then al kitāb comprises the totality of the mitzvot, or precepts, it contains. Within that which is known as the Gospel al kitāb comprises those parts which relate to the former al kitāb (which it both confirms and modifies). And in the Qur’an the law (al kitāb) is that small portion of the text which provides principles of law.

Thus al kitāb is not a book, the book, or some books. It is that subset present within all revealed books which treats of law. And the law as found within the Qur’an as concerns human affairs is that portion of the Qur’an which treats of marriage, wills, divorce, war, usury, etc.

As concerns Judgment, it is the moral law of consequence.

As concerns the created universe it is the totality of those laws which are popularly – and disingenuously – called the laws of nature.

The problem for the Traditionalist is that if he admits this, the requirement for a priestly class ceases since the law treating of human affairs in the Qur’an is simple and allows great latitude. One simply needs to apply common sense on the basis of immovable foundational principles.

I render kutub as laws on the basis of the context at 4:136.

Instances where the definite article is lost due to combination with a following genitive noun are treated as per al kitāb (for example al kitāb + allah = kitāb allah or the law of God).

All instances in the text are footnoted.

References

2:44, 2:53, 2:78, 2:78, 2:79, 2:85, 2:87, 2:101, 2:101, 2:113, 2:121, 2:129, 2:144, 2:145, 2:146, 2:151, 2:159, 2:174, 2:176, 2:177, 2:213, 2:231, 2:235, 2:285, 3:3, 3:7, 3:7, 3:19, 3:20, 3:23, 3:23, 3:48, 3:78, 3:78, 3:78, 3:79, 3:79, 3:100, 3:119, 3:164, 3:184, 3:186, 3:187, 4:24, 4:44, 4:47, 4:51, 4:54, 4:105, 4:113, 4:127, 4:131, 4:136, 4:136, 4:136, 4:140, 5:5, 5:5, 5:15, 5:44, 5:48, 5:48, 5:57, 5:110, 6:20, 6:38, 6:89, 6:91, 6:114, 6:114, 6:154, 6:156, 6:157, 7:37, 7:169, 7:169, 7:170, 7:196, 8:75, 9:29, 9:36. 10:1, 10:94, 11:17, 11:110, 12:1, 13:1, 13:36, 13:39, 13:43, 15:1, 16:64, 16:89, 17:2, 17:4, 17:58, 18:1, 18:27, 18:49, 18:49, 19:12, 19:16, 19:30, 19:41,19:51, 19:54, 19:56, 21:104, 23:49, 24:33, 25:35, 26:2, 27:40, 28:2, 28:43, 28:52, 28:86, 29:27, 29:45, 29:47, 29:47, 29:51, 30:56, 31:2, 32:23, 33:6, 34:44, 35:29, 35:25, 35:31, 35:32, 37:117, 39:1, 39:2, 39:41, 39:69, 40:2, 40:53, 40:70, 41:45, 42:14, 42:17, 42:52, 43:2, 43:4, 44:2, 45:2, 45:16, 46:2, 46:12, 57:16, 57:25, 57:26, 62:2, 66:12, 74:31, 74:31, 98:4.

About the Author Sam Gerrans

Sam Gerrans is an English writer and speaker with professional backgrounds in media, strategic communications, and technologies. He is driven by commitment to ultimate meaning, and focused on authentic approaches to revelation and Realpolitik. He is founder of Quranite.com and author of The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation where his consistent, Qur'an-centric hermeneutical methodology is applied to the text of the Qur’an in its entirety. Read more...

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