The Koran Literary Elements

The Koran Literary Elements


Religious scripture

Setting and Context

Written in the 7th century near Mecca

Narrator and Point of View

According to the Islamic faith, the Koran is the text that Muhammad the prophet received from Allah through the angel Gabriel. It contains narrative elements that are written from an omniscient third-person perspective.

Tone and Mood

The tone can rightly be said to be sacred. It is clear that the Koran understands itself to be sacred religious texts, and it argues clearly for its own authority and status as the only authoritative religious text. It is Eastern or Arabic in nature, and it reads suchly. To a Western audience, the text would seem exotic, because it constitutes a radical break from the Western, Judeo-Christian culture.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Allah is the one true God. The antagonist is anyone who misleads the followers of Islam through false prophesy or false teachings, including those who deny the authority of the Koran as sacred text.

Major Conflict

From a literary perspective, the major conflict in the Koran can be seen in two ways. Because it is Abrahamic, the main conflict in a cosmic sense is that Allah or God has created man, but because of free will, man's relationship to Allah is not what it should be, and the literal reality of this world is partial in nature. This conflict is resolved in the Koran's teaching of the apocalyse and the afterlife when humans are judged and awarded or punished according to their life on earth. That is the first major conflict. The second major conflict is that the Koran defines itself to be separate and different from the Jewish or Christian account of God's work on earth. The second conflict is a religious conflict, represented in the Koran in corrective teachings about the Bible or the Torah, arguing against core theological doctrines of those texts.


Ironically, the climax in the narrative of the Koran is the reception of the Koran by Muhammad. This represents the most important focal point in the narrative of Allah and his relationship to humankind.


Several of the texts various verses concern what will happen after the end of the world, when Allah judges the humans and awards them based on their behavior on earth. This includes paradise for the devout followers of Islam, and recompense for the evil.


The employment of understandment is not a key feature of the text, because of the nature of the text as religious doctrine.


Much of the story alludes to Biblical stories. In many ways, the text of the Koran can be said to be revisionistic, alluding directly to stories from the Bible, and reinterpreting them in light of the importance of the Arabic people and the final prophesy of Muhammad that the Koran itself represents. Such allusions include stories about Adam, Noah, Moses, Abraham, Elijah, and even Jesus.


The most beautiful imagery in the text is its descriptions of paradise, which mean pleasure and satisfaction in a beautiful heaven for all eternity for all those who behave well according to the teachings of the Koran.


There is a paradoxical relationship within the Koran surrounding the issue of government. One paradox is that Allah is seen to have some supernatural, divine oversight over man, and yet, human government functions according to natural principles as well. Another interesting idea is that according to some people's interpretation of the Koran, Allah seems to will that Islam is the dominant force on the planet geopolitically, which statistically, it is not. But there is a paradoxical relationship between war and peace, because it seems that Islam ought to have more of a political force, but the Koran forbids violent aggression for political gain. A religious follower of the faith would probably point to the fact that because of the limitations of the human mind, the will of Allah can sometimes seem paradoxical and difficult to understand.


Parallelism is a common phenomena in the Koran, including direct parallelism, and also chiasms which is parallelism according to a palindromic order (A B B A instead of A B A B). The Sura Yusuf about Joseph is an instance of this type of parallelism. The employment of parallelism in this text is certainly evocative, often subtly adding a sense of authority and beauty to the text.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

One instance of synecdoche can be seen in the person of Abraham, whose relationship with Allah both establishes a relationship between Allah and a chosen people, but it also offers an illustration of what that relationship is like. That is, Abraham can be seen as a synecdoche for the people who follow in his patriarchy.

One common metonym occurs in the employment of the term 'nation' to reference the people of a certain region or from a certain blood line. This is certainly a flexible example, but it is also the most common.


Personification occurs most often in the poetic passages of the Koran, as opposed to the didactic or instructive portions. In sura 44, for instance, the Koran says, "The heavens and earth wept not..." And in sura 45, the writer says, "Our book cries out against you." These are both instances of inanimate, non-human entities shown performing human actions as a metaphor for their relationship to other ideas.

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