The salat or ritual prayers to be prayed five specific times a day are mostly recitations of Qur'anic ayahs. The Qur'anic text has been divided into juz' or 30 divisions for recitation over a 1-month period. Many Muslims use the juz' divisions to aid in reciting the entire Qur'an during the sacred month of Ramadan. Muslims observe ritual washings and purifications before handling the Qur'an or reciting its contents. The Qur'an is often whispered in a Muslim baby's ear soon after birth. It is recited as a part of Muslim weddings. And it is ritually spoken at Muslim funerals. New ventures in public or private life are marked with the recitation of blessings from the Qur'an. Public meetings in some Muslim countries are even begun with a reading from the Qur'an. Muslims create one of the only forms of art they are allowed, because of the Qur'anic injunction against any form of representational art, by drawing elaborate and beautiful calligraphy of Qur'anic verse. And the principles and message of the Qur'an resonate like an eternal divine voice through the lives and actions of Muslims from birth to eternity.
Many Muslim children learn to recite the Qur'an at a very young age. Even in countries where Muslims do not read or understand Arabic, children are taught to recite the Qur'an in Arabic. But translations of the Qur'an are often provided in order to understand approximately what one is reciting. There are even contests in which very young Muslim children attempt to recite the entire Qur'an from memory in public. Children as young as 8 and 9 years of age have successfully memorized the entire Qur'an. When children and adolescents take part in the ritual of praying five times daily or attend the Friday communal prayer, ayas from the Qur'an are recited by heart during the prayers. Children and adolescents also participate in community prayers during the Eid festivals, and the entire Qur'an is recited in masjids throughout the world during the sacred month of Ramadan. The content of the Qur'an plays an essential role in the prayer, devotional, and communal life of millions of Muslim children and adolescents around the world today.
INTERPRETATION OF THE QUR'AN
It is essential to understand that a translation is already an interpretation of the translator, and therefore the Qur'an can only be directly and truly understood in the original language in which it was revealed. Some Muslims have even been concerned that some Western scholars have colored their translations of the Qur'an in a certain way. One particular ayah has been translated by a Western translator "Idolatry is worse than carnage," where the meaning of the Qur'an is closer to "oppression is worse than killing." And another ayah referring to Islamic paradise has been translated "men to be wedded to chaste virgins," where the Qur'anic meaning is closer to "there for them shall be spouses purified." Therefore, some Muslims for good reason are concerned that Western scholars at times produce translations of the Qur'an that are colored with violent and sexual nuances not intended in the original text. This is a major concern because the vast majority of Muslims are dependent on translations of the Qur'an or at least Arabic-speaking leaders. For although most Muslims learn to recite the Qur'an and even memorize it as a child, few who do not actually speak Arabic understand what they are reciting.
The first textual source Muslims consult to help them interpret the Qur'an is the Qur'an itself. What may not be clear in the Qur'anic passage in question may be clarified in passages elsewhere in the Qur'an that address the same event or concern. The second source now preserved and transmitted in texts is the history of the Prophet Muhammad's life, called sira, as well as the example and traditions of the prophet known as hadith. Together, the sira and the hadith form the sunnah, which means example, path, or method. Muslims look to the example of the Prophet's life and actions to help clarify the meaning of the Qur'an on many matters. The hadith, however, are not as authoritative as the Qur'an itself, because they are not wordfor- word divine revelation.
The science of collecting authentic and reliable hadith developed into a full-fledged and elaborate scholarly system for categorizing and measuring the reliability of a particular reported hadith, which included evaluating the personal reliability of the source person, the plausibility that the people in the chain of hadith transmitters could have actually met, the logical and rational consistency of the report itself, its agreement with the rest of the Qur'an, and many other careful indicators of reliability.