The Holy Book of Islam is called the Koran, the Word of God (kalam), and it is believed that only when written in Arabic, does it express God’s word without fault. For this reason, the Koran may be interpreted or paraphrased, but not translated into any other language. Some of its passages are hard to understand and therefore need interpretation. This is known as ‘Tafsir’ and ‘Ta’wil’. Only Arabic is used in prayer, even though the majority of Muslims do not understand this language since only 20% of them belong to the Arab world. The Koran is the foundation, the non-negotiable authority of Islam. The divine revelation of the Koran to Mohammed, which began in 610, continued until his death. After His death these revelations and His sayings were written down by witnesses, the complete text being compiled during the first Caliphates. The Koran is considered to be the most widely-known book, which has remained unaltered throughout the ages. While the Biblical text consists of the words of divinely inspired human authors, the Koran is the Word of Allah. The prophetic practices, known as Hadith or Sunna, and all Islamic acts of worship are based on the Koran, which is divided into chapters (surah) and verses (ayat). The surah’s are not compiled in chronological order, but each bears a name and each begins with the Besmele, the Arabic phrase: “Bism illah al-rahman al-rahim”, meaning, “In the name of God the merciful, Giver of mercy”. Since the Koran prescribes how a human should live on earth, no intermediary is necessary.
The Shari‘a (the Path), is the body of holy Islamic law, composed after the death of the Prophet to regulate the activities of both the individual and the community. The Shari’a covers all areas of life and in its preparation four sources were accepted by scholars. These are: the Koran, sunna (conduct and practices of the Prophet), ijma (consensus) and qiyas (analogy). From these evolved various schools and methods of interpretation, four of which have had a lasting influence on Sunni Muslims. The legal knowledge of Shi’ism is based on the tradition of imams. The guardian of the Shari’a was the Caliph who succeeded the Prophet as his deputy as both religious and political leader. In 1924, the Caliphate was abolished by Kemal Ataturk, since then independent nation-states have been created out if what was the Ottoman Empire. In every Muslim country observance of the Shari’a depends on the degree of secularity of the State.