Considered in Islam to be the infallible word of God, The Qur'an was revealed to the prophet Muhammad by the archangel Gabriel in a series of divine revelations over many years after his first vision in the cave. In 114 chapters, or surahs, it provides the rules of conduct that remain fundamental to Muslims today - most importantly the key Islamic values of prayer, fasting, pilgrimage and absolute faith in God, with profound spiritual guidance on matters of kinship, marriage and family, crime and punishment, rituals, food, warfare and charity. Through its pages, a fascinating picture emerges of life in seventh-century Arabia, and from it we can learn much about how people felt about their relationship with God and their belief in the afterlife, as well as attitudes to loyalty, friendship, race, forgiveness and the natural world. It also tells of events and people familiar to Christian and Jewish readers, fellow 'People of the Book' whose stories are recorded in the Gospels and Torah. Here we find Adam, Moses, Abraham, Jesus and John the Baptist, among others, who are regarded, like Muhammad, to be prophets of the Muslim faith.
Tarif Khalidi was born in Jerusalem in 1938. He received degrees from University College, Oxford, and the University of Chicago, before teaching at the American University of Beirut as a professor in the Department of History from 1970 to 1996. In 1985 he accepted a one-year position as senior research associate at St Anthony's College, Oxford, and from 1991 to 1992 was a visiting overseas scholar at St John's College, Cambridge. In 1996, Tarif Khalidi left Beirut to become the Sir Thomas Adams' Professor of Arabic at Cambridge University, the oldest chair of Arabic in the English-speaking world. He was also Director of the Centre for Middle East and Islamic Studies and a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge. After six years, Professor Khalidi returned to the American University of Beirut, taking on the Sheikh Zayed Chair in Islamic and Arabic Studies, the first chair to be filled at the University since the civil war.