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Kitab – Book

Posted on 4th May, 2021

Kitab – Book

 

Words in Arabic normally have three basic consonants as their “root”. The root k t b is used to convey the meaning of “writing”. So kitâb indicates any piece of writing: a letter, or a document, a written contract, or a book, etc. If it is given the article, al-kitâb, it often means “The Book”. i.e. the Qur’an, or the Bible as the case may be. Arab Christians refer to al-kitâb al-muqaddas, the Holy Book, the Scripture.

The following is a passage from the Qur’an in which al-kitâb obviously signifies the Qur’an itself, although it has been translated ‘Scripture’:

This is the Scripture in which there is no doubt, containing guidance for those who are mindful of God, who believe in the unseen, keep up the prayer, and give out of what We have provided for them; those who believe in the revelation sent down to you [Muhammad], and in what was sent before you, those who have firm faith in the Hereafter. Such people are following their Lord’s guidance and it is they who will prosper (Q 2:2-5).

This passage has been quoted at length because it refers to “what was sent before you”, in other words to pre-Islamic Scriptures (see AR 27). Those who have received these Scriptures, particularly Jews and Christians, are called “People of the Book” (ahl al-kitâb). So the injunction is given:

        [Believers], argue only in the best way with the People of the Book (Q 29:46).

This is surely a kind command, and yet we Christians could protest that we should not be called People of the Book, because we are really followers not of a book but of a person, Jesus Christ, and that is why we are called “Christians”.

 

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