Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān

Get access Subject: Middle East and Islamic Studies
General Editor: Jane Dammen McAuliffe, Georgetown University, Washington DC

The Encyclopaedia of the Qur’ān Online is an encyclopaedic dictionary of qur’ānic terms, concepts, personalities, place names, cultural history and exegesis extended with essays on the most important themes and subjects within qur’ānic studies. The Encyclopaedia of the Qur’ān Online is the first comprehensive, multivolume reference work on the Qur’ān to appear in a Western language.
Encyclopaedia of the Qur’ān Online includes direct access to 62 Early Printed Western Qur’āns Online and the Electronic Qurʾān Concordance, a unique online finding aid for textual research.

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(4 words)

 see sheba Bibliography


(4 words)

 see sheba Bibliography


(615 words)

Author(s): Rippin, Andrew
Saturday, technically, Friday evening to Saturday evening. While related etymologically to the Aramaic and Hebrew words for the Sabbath (in which tradition it connotes the day of “rest”), the Arabic term ( sabt) was provided with an appropriate Islamic sense by the Qurʾān and later Muslim interpretation. The Qurʾān uses the word sabt six times (plus once as a verb, yasbitu, “to keep the Sabbath,” in q 7:163) and clearly draws a relationship between the Jews, the Sabbath and not working on that day of the week, in keeping with the Jewish tradition (see jews and judaism ). The day was imposed…


(1,103 words)

Author(s): de Blois, François
A religious community mentioned three times in the Qurʾān. The Sabians ( ṣābiʾūn) should not be confused with the Sabaeans, the inhabitants of Sabaʾ, the biblical Sheba, a famous ancient nation in south Arabia (see sheba; bilqīs; pre-islamic arabia and the qurʾān;south arabia, ¶ religion in pre-islamic). The identity of the Sabians has puzzled both medieval and modern scholarship. q 2:62 states: “As for those who have believed and those who have professed Judaism and the Naṣārā and the Sabians: those who believed in God and the last day and did good, they shall have …


(9 words)

 see profane and sacred; forbidden; sacred precincts Bibliography

Sacred Precincts

(2,397 words)

Author(s): Rubin, Uri
Areas considered holy, often associated with places of worship or religious rituals. Sacred precincts are treated in the Qurʾān on two levels: Israelite and Arabian (see children of israel; pre-islamic arabia and the qurʾān; south arabia, religion in pre-islamic). On the Israelite level, a sacred precinct is mentioned, to begin with, in the story of Moses' (q.v.) vocation. In q 20:12, Moses stands before the burning bush and God tells him that the wādī, “valley,” i.e. precinct, he is standing in is of “multiple sacredness” ( al-wādī l- muqaddas ṭuwan); therefore he must take off his…


(841 words)

Author(s): Firestone, Reuven
The act of making an offering to a deity or the offering itself. In Arabic, these are commonly rendered by the roots, ḍ-ḥ-y, q-r-b and dh-b-ḥ. The first root, which in ¶ the second form can mean to sacrifice an animal during the period of daylight called al- duḥā, is not attested in the Qurʾān, though ʿīd al-adḥā, “feast of the sacrifice,” has become the primary name for the one great sacrificial ritual in Islam, occurring during the daylight hours of the tenth of the month of dhū l- ḥijja (see months; day, times of; noon) as a part of the major pilgrimage (q.v.; ḥajj). In contemporary usage, some …


(6 words)

 see joy and misery Bibliography

(-ṣād- - ṣ-f-r)

(531 words)

-ṣād-   ṣ-b-b    aṣabb    Months   ṣ-b-gh    ṣibgh    Tree(s)    ṣibgha    Baptism    Covenant    Textual Criticism of the Qurʾān    ṣibghat allāh   ṣ-b-r    iṣṭabara    Trust and Patience    ṣabara    Ethics and the Qurʾān    Grammar and the Qurʾān    Hospitality and Courtesy    Moses    Muḥammad    Trust and Patience    Virtues and Vices, Commanding and Forbidding    ṣabbār    Moses    Trust and Patience    ṣabr    Courage    Ethics and the Qurʾān    Faith    Medicine and the Qurʾān    Moses    Myths and Legends in the Qurʾān    Suffering    Trust and Patience    Virtue    ṣā…

(-ṣād- - ṣ-f-w - ṣ-l-y)

(376 words)

ṣ-f-w    aṣfiyāʾ    Ṣūfism and the Qurʾān    ikhwān al-ṣafāʾ    iṣṭafā    Election    Muḥammad    Prophets and Prophethood    Samuel    muṣṭafā    Election    Language and Style of the Qurʾān    Names of the Prophet    Ṣafā and Marwa    ṣafwa    Election    ṣafwān    Earth    ṣafā    Ṣafā and Marwa    ṣāfin/ṣāfī    Taxation   ṣ-f-ḥ    ṣafaḥa    Muḥammad    ṣafḥ    Tolerance and Coercion   ṣ-gh-r    [wa-hum] ṣāghirūn    Poll Tax    aṣghar    Adam and Eve    ṣaghār    Poll Tax    ṣaghīr    Children    ṣaghīra, pl. ṣaghāʾir    Sin, Major and Minor   ṣ-gh-w    aṣghā    Hearing and Deaf…

(-ṣād- - ṣ-l-ḥ - ṣ-w-m-ʿ)

(565 words)

ṣ-l-ḥ    aṣlaḥ    Responsibility    Theology and the Qurʾān    aṣlaḥa    Ethics and the Qurʾān    Persian Literature and the Qurʾān    Taxation    istiṣlāḥ    Law and the Qurʾān    Modesty    iṣlāḥ    Creation    Politics and the Qurʾān    maṣlaḥa, pl. maṣāliḥ    Feminism and the Qurʾān    Justice and Injustice    Law and the Qurʾān    Politics and the Qurʾān    Wahhabism and the Qurʾān    ṣalaḥa    Ethics and the Qurʾān    Faith    ṣalāḥ    Responsibility    Ritual and the Qurʾān    ṣulḥ    Conquest    Persian Literature and the Qurʾān    Retaliation    Taxation    Vengean…

(-ṣād- - ṣ-w-r - ṣ-ḥ-ḥ)

(509 words)

ṣ-w-r    muṣawwir    God and his Attributes    Iconoclasm    taṣwīr    Ashes    Literary Structures of the Qurʾān    ṣawwara    Cosmology    God and his Attributes    Popular and Talismanic Uses of the Qurʾān    ṣāra    Textual Criticism of the Qurʾān    ṣūr    Apocalypse    Eschatology    Instruments    Last Judgment    Resurrection    ṣūra, pl. ṣuwar    Art and Architecture and the Qurʾān    God and his Attributes    Magic    Persian Literature and the Qurʾān    fī aḥsana ṣuwarakum    ʿalā ṣūratihi   ṣ-w-t    ṣawt, pl. aṣwāt    Anatomy    Speech   ṣ-w-ʿ    ṣuwāʿ    Cups an…

Ṣafā and Marwa

(1,222 words)

Author(s): Firestone, Reuven
Two low hills near the Kaʿba (q.v.) in Mecca (q.v.) between which the pilgrim engages in a brisk walk or trot called “the running” (al- saʿy) during the pilgrimage (q.v.; ḥajj and ʿumra). This running is an obligatory station ( mansik, pl. manāsik) among the various ritual activities during the ten days of the ḥajj pilgrimage ritual at Mecca (see ritual and the qurʾān ). The root meaning of ṣafā is to be clear or pure, from which comes the familiar name muṣṭafā, meaning “elected” or “chosen” (see names of the prophet; election), but may also designate smooth stones. Lexicographers define marwa


(6 words)

 see peace; sacred precincts Bibliography


(545 words)

Author(s): Radtke, B.
Person marked by divine favor, holiness. The idea of special, chosen people, “saints,” is alien to the Qurʾān (for the closest qurʾānic attestation of this concept, see election ). The word walī (pl. awliyāʾ) used later for these people, though occurring very frequently, does not designate special people distinguished by striking qualities but the faithful as such, who are devout ( ṣāliḥūn, muttaqūn; see good and evil; piety). This makes them friends of God and he is their friend (see friends and friendship; clients and clientage). Satan (see devil ), who is the enemy ( ʿaduww) of God and…


(5 words)

 see rhymed prose Bibliography


(4 words)

 see shekhinah Bibliography


(4 words)

 see prayer Bibliography


(981 words)

Author(s): Tottoli, Roberto
A messenger (q.v.) sent to the people of Thamūd (q.v.), named nine times in the Qurʾān. His story is dealt with in a number of passages ( q 7:73-9; 11:61-8; 26:141-59; 27:45-53; 54:23-31; 91:11-5), and in other verses mention is made of the people of Thamūd and their fate. The Qurʾān does not contain a complete narrative of the story of this messenger and the events that led his people to punishment and destruction, but it does mention (and occasionally repeats some details of) his mission among his people. Particular attention is given to the…


(6 words)

 see food and drink Bibliography


(844 words)

Author(s): Borrmans, Maurice
Preservation from destruction or failure; in eschatology, deliverance from sin and eternal damnation. Salvation has many meanings in the Qurʾān. Contrary to the final Christian salvation ( khalāṣ), which supposes deliverance from sin and death for reconciliation and communion with God, the qurʾānic “supreme success” ( [al-] fawz [al-]ʿaẓīm, q 4:13, 73; 5:119; 9:72, 89, 100, 111; 10:64; 23:71; 37:60; 40:9; 44:57; 48:5; 57:13; 61:12; 64:9), sometimes called “the great success” ( al-fawz al-kabīr, q 85:11) or “the manifest success” ( al-fawz al-mubīn, q 6:16; 45:30), is always the …


(7 words)

 see god and his attributes Bibliography


(880 words)

Author(s): Stenhouse, Paul
A tiny sect claiming to be Israelite, found today principally in Nablus, biblical Shechem, in the Palestinian territories; and in Holon in Israel. The Samaritans call themselves Shomerim, “observant ones,” from Hebrew shamar, “to observe.” 2 Kings 17:24-9, the earliest reference to them, calls them Shomronim or “Samarians,” alleging that they were pagan peoples settled in Samaria by the Assyrians after the deportations of 722 b.c.e. Enmity between Judaeans and Samaritans flared up with the return of Judaean deportees from Babylon in 539 b.c.e. and continued up to and beyond th…


(733 words)

Author(s): Takim, Liyakat
Biblical figure present in Islamic tradition and qurʾānic commentary, but not the Qurʾān. Called Shamsūn in Arabic, this name is not mentioned in the Qurʾān but is briefly mentioned in exegetical and historical works. His story is embellished with miraculous anecdotes. Many reports on him are cited by al-Ṭabarī (d. 310/923), who narrates them mainly from Wahb b. Munabbih (on whose authority Samson is portrayed as an extreme and austere ascetic: for example, he is said to have put out his eyes so as not to be diverted from the worship of God, and to h…


(2,278 words)

Author(s): Kennedy, Philip F.
While not mentioned by name in the Qurʾān, there is little doubt that the prophet ( nabī; see prophets and prophethood ) referred to anonymously in q 2:246-8 is the biblical Samuel, the last of the “Judges” who administered the transition of Israel to a kingdom (see kings and rulers ). This important historical detail is ¶ significantly preserved in the short qurʾānic passage treating Samuel, “Have you not looked to the chiefs of the Children of Israel (q.v.) after Moses (q.v.) when they said to a prophet among them, ‘Appoint for us a king that we may fight in the way of God’” ( q 2:246; see …

Sanctity and the Sacred

(13 words)

 see sacred precincts; profane and sacred; forbidden; saint Bibliography


(5 words)

 see sacred precincts Bibliography


(610 words)

Author(s): Saritoprak, Zeki
Loose granular material resulting from the disintegration of rocks. The most common Arabic word for sand is raml, which is not found in the Qurʾān. There are, however, some other terms for sand in the Arabic language, such as kathīb and hāṣib. These two words are used in the Qurʾān, in a variety of verses. The former is mentioned explicitly only a single time in the Qurʾān ( q 73:14). Referring to the final hour ( qiyāma), the verse says, “On the day when the earth and the hills rock, and the mountains become kathīb.” The word kathīb can be interpreted as meaning “a huge amount of sand” ( qiṭʿa ʿaẓīma …

Satanic Verses

(2,687 words)

Author(s): Ahmed, Shahab
Name given by western scholarship to an incident known in the Muslim tradition as “the story of the cranes” ( qiṣṣat al-gharānīq) or “the story of the maidens.” According to various versions, this is the assertion that the prophet Muḥammad once mistook words suggested to him by Satan as divine revelation (see revelation and inspiration; devil); that is to say, as verses of the Qurʾān — the words reportedly interpolated by Satan are called the “satanic verses.” The historicity of the satanic verses incident is strenuously rejected by modern Islamic orthodoxy, often on pain of takfīr (being…


(4 words)

 see devil Bibliography


(802 words)

Author(s): Takim, Liyakat
Israelite king mentioned in both the Qurʾān and the Bible. Called Ṭālūt, the “tall one,” in the Qurʾān, Saul is mentioned briefly in q 2:246-51. After Moses (q.v.), the Israelites (see children of israel ) asked an unnamed prophet (see prophets and prophethood ) — identified in qurʾānic commentaries as Ashmawīl or Shamwīl, Samuel (q.v.) — that God appoint a king so that they could fight in his path (see kings and rulers; path or way). They were surprised to find that Saul was appointed, especially since he was a poor water-carrier. The Israelites considered themselves …


(7 words)

 see wives of the prophet Bibliography


(1,725 words)

Author(s): Marlow, Louise
A learned person who has engaged in advanced study and acquired knowledge, generally in a particular field. The term ¶ ʿālim, most commonly used to designate “scholar” in Islamic societies, appears in the Qurʾān only as a description of God, in the sense of “knowing.” The plural ʿālimūn is applied sometimes to God (cf. q 21:51, 81) and sometimes to human beings (cf. q 12:44; 29:43; 30:22), while the plural form ʿulamāʾ, which appears twice in the Qurʾān (cf. q 26:197; 35:28), refers only to human beings. The Qurʾān also denotes knowledgeable or learned human beings by a numb…

Scholar [Supplement 2017]

(1,773 words)

Author(s): Louise Marlow
A scholar is a learned person who has engaged in advanced study and acquired knowledge, generally in a particular field. The term ʿālim, most commonly used to designate “scholar” in Muslim societies, appears in the Qurʾān only as a description of God, in the sense of “knowing.” Its plural form ʿālimūn is applied sometimes to God (cf. Q 21:51, 81) and sometimes to human beings (cf. Q 12:44; 29:43; 30:22), while the plural form ʿulamāʾ, which appears twice in the Qurʾān (cf. Q 26:197; 35:28), refers only to human beings. The Qurʾān also denotes knowledgeable or learned …
Date: 2017-08-31

Science and the Qurʾān

(11,543 words)

Author(s): Dallal, Ahmad
In his anthropological history of India, Abū Rayḥān al-Bīrūnī (d. ca. 442/1050), one of the most celebrated Muslim scientists of the classical period, starts a chapter “On the configuration of the heavens and the earth according to [Indian] astrologers,” with a long comparison between the cultural imperatives of Muslim and Indian sciences. The views of Indian astrologers, al-Bīrūnī maintains, have developed in a way which is different from those of our [Muslim] fellows; this is because, unlike the scriptures revealed before it, the Qurʾān does not artic…

Sciences of the Qurʾān

(22 words)

 see traditional disciplines of qurʾānic study; grammar and the qurʾān; exegesis of the qurʾān: classical and medieval Bibliography


(4 words)

 see flogging Bibliography


(8 words)

 see orality and writing in arabia Bibliography

Scripture and the Qurʾān

(6,720 words)

Author(s): Graham, William A.
Addressing the issue of “scripture” in relation to the Qurʾān is at once a straight-¶ forward and a complicated venture. It is straightforward because in many respects the Qurʾān itself puts forward a generic concept of scripture that is consistent with that widely used today in the general study of religion. It is complicated because it raises numerous questions of historical, sociological and theological import for any understanding of either Islamic scripturalism or the relation of Islamic scripturalism to that of other religious traditions (see theology and the qurʾān ). In shor…

Scripture and the Qurʾān [Supplement 2016]

(6,759 words)

Author(s): William A. Graham
Addressing the issue of “scripture” in relation to the Qurʾān is both a straightforward and a complicated venture. It is straightforward because in many respects the Qurʾān itself offers a generic concept of scripture that is consistent with that widely used today in the general study of religion. It is complicated because it raises numerous questions of historical, sociological, and theological import for any understanding of either Islamic scripturalism or the relation of Islamic scripturalism to that of other religious traditions (see theology and the Qurʾān). To sum up, both…
Date: 2016-11-17


(1,036 words)

Author(s): Heck, Paul L.
A roll of paper or parchment for writing a document. The Qurʾān refers to scrolls ( ṣuḥuf and zubur — see also psalms ; for the different terminology for writing as vehicle of divine command, see Ghedira, Ṣaḥīfa, and Madigan, Qurʾān's self-image, 131-2) as written documents (and thus conflated to kutub, e.g. q 98:1-2; see book ) that contain God's edicts (cf. Schoeler, Writing), especially his judgments against former nations (see Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, ad q 20:133; see judgment; generations; history and the qurʾān). The idea of scrolls is thus meant to be a clear sign ( bayyina) to Muḥammad's au…


(7 words)

 see water; nature as signs Bibliography

Seal [of the Prophets]

(11 words)

 see muḥammad; names of the prophet Bibliography


(580 words)

Author(s): Kaptein, Nico J.G.
Each of the four divisions of the year (spring, summer, autumn, and winter), marked by particular weather patterns and daylight hours. Arabia, the cradle of Islam, has different seasons, notably a suffocatingly hot summer, while in the higher places it can be bitterly cold during the winter. In spring and autumn many days ¶ are mild. There is no word for season in the Qurʾān. The word mawsim (pl. mawāsim) occurs in ḥadīth (see ḥadīth and the qurʾān ) in the sense of market or fair, mostly combined with a pilgrimage (q.v.; ḥajj) to a sanctuary, like those held in various places in pre-I…

Seat [of God]

(12 words)

 see throne of god; god and his attributes Bibliography


(4 words)

 see shekhinah Bibliography

Secretaries of Muḥammad

(18 words)

 see companions of the prophet; textual criticism of the qurʾān; collection of the qurʾān Bibliography


(751 words)

Author(s): Kamada, Shigeru
Hidden matters. Broadly conceived, secrets as a concept relevant to the Qurʾān may include the “unconnected letters” ( ḥurūfmuqaṭṭaʿa; cf. Rāzī, Tafsīr, ii, 3; see mysterious letters ) and the hidden or inward meanings ( bāṭin) of the qurʾānic passages, which are different from their literal or outward meanings ( ẓāhir; see polysemy ). Some of the mystics and Shīʿī thinkers (see ṣūfism and the qurʾān; shīʿism and the qurʾān) claim this way of thinking, which is often supported by a ḥadīth report (see ḥadīth and the qurʾān ) regarding the fourfold sense of the qurʾānic text (cf. Böwering, Mys…


(7 words)

 see shīʿa; parties and factions Bibliography

Sedition and Public Disorder

(12 words)

 see corruption; dissension; politics and the qurʾān Bibliography

Seeing and Hearing

(1,457 words)

Author(s): Rippin, Andrew
The action of the eyes (q.v.), and of the ears (q.v.), respectively. Seeing and hearing are understood to be attributes of God and the terms are used literally as human bodily senses as well as metaphorically in the senses of “to know,” “to understand,” and “to learn” (see knowledge and learning; god and his attributes; hearing and deafness; vision and blindness; metaphor). Baṣīr, “the one who sees, the all-seeing,” is an attribute of God mentioned forty-two times in the Qurʾān, ten times immediately following “hearing” or “all-hearing,” samīʿ. The sequencing of these two attribut…


(5 words)

 see soul; spirit Bibliography

Selling and Buying

(14 words)

 see trade and commerce; economics and the qurʾān; caravan; markets Bibliography

Semantics of the Qurʾān

(26 words)

 see language and style of the qurʾān; grammar and the qurʾān; rhetoric and the qurʾān; post-enlightenment academic study of the qurʾān Bibliography

Semiotics and Nature in the Qurʾān

(17 words)

 see nature as signs; post-enlightenment academic study of the qurʾān Bibliography


(16 words)

 see seeing and hearing; vision and blindness; hearing and deafness; smell; ears; hands; face Bibliography


(508 words)

Author(s): Nerina Rustomji
In the Qurʾān the serpent is an animal associated with magic, sorcery, and the power of the spiritual realm. While Qurʾānic verses explicitly refer to the serpent three times, these also reflect a belief that serpents and snakes have a strong connection with jinn and their movement in the unseen world.The three appearances of the serpent in the Qurʾān are in relation to the story of Moses. The masculine singular thuʿbān appears when Pharoah asks for a sign from Moses. In response Moses throws his rod, and it transforms into a white serpent. In Q 7:106-8, a detailed description o…
Date: 2017-01-04


(5 words)

 see animal life Bibliography


(2,461 words)

Author(s): Brockopp, Jonathan E.
Creatures bound in service to God. In over 100 places, the Qurʾān describes prophets (see prophets and prophethood ), believers (see belief and unbelief ), jinn (q.v.; cf. q 51:56) and angels (see angel ) as servants ( ʿabd, pl. ʿibād, ʿabīd; also ʿābid, pl. ʿābidūn) of God. Human beings in general are also described as God's servants, though they may be currently worshipping Satan (see devil ) or another false god (e.g. the ʿabada l-ṭāghūt in q 5:60, the only ¶ occurrence of this plural form; see idols and images; polytheism and atheism). The relationship of master and servant is one o…

Seven Sleepers

(8 words)

 see men of the cave Bibliography

Sex and Sexuality

(3,503 words)

Author(s): Stewart, Devin J.
The act by which humans procreate, and the sum total of those attributes that cause an individual to be physically attractive to another. While the Qurʾān does criticize lust for women as an example of man's infatuation with worldly pleasures (cf. q 3:14), it does not categorically condemn sex as a cause of evil and attachment to the world. The Qurʾān does recognize sex as ¶ an important feature of the natural world and subjects it to legislation in a number of passages (see law and the qurʾān ). It accepts sex as a natural and regular part of human existence, specifically authoriz…
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