The Koran

Literary style

The Quran's message is conveyed with various literary structures and devices. In the original Arabic, the suras and verses employ phonetic and thematic structures that assist the audience's efforts to recall the message of the text. Muslims assert (according to the Quran itself) that the Quranic content and style is inimitable.[76]

The language of the Quran has been described as "rhymed prose" as it partakes of both poetry and prose, however, this description runs the risk of compromising the rhythmic quality of Quranic language, which is certainly more poetic in some parts and more prose-like in others. Rhyme, while found throughout the Quran, is conspicuous in many of the earlier Meccan suras, in which relatively short verses throw the rhyming words into prominence. The effectiveness of such a form is evident for instance in Sura 81, and there can be no doubt that these passages impressed the conscience of the hearers. Frequently a change of rhyme from one set of verses to another signals a change in the subject of discussion. Later sections also preserve this form but the style is more expository.[39][77]

The Quranic text seems to have no beginning, middle, or end, its nonlinear structure being akin to a web or net.[1] The textual arrangement is sometimes considered to have lack of continuity, absence of any chronological or thematic order and presence of repetition.[78][79] Michael Sells, citing the work of the critic Norman O. Brown, acknowledges Brown's observation that the seeming disorganization of Quranic literary expression – its scattered or fragmented mode of composition in Sells's phrase – is in fact a literary device capable of delivering profound effects as if the intensity of the prophetic message were shattering the vehicle of human language in which it was being communicated.[80][81] Sells also addresses the much-discussed repetitiveness of the Quran, seeing this, too, as a literary device.

A text is self-referential when it speaks about itself and makes reference to itself. According to Stefan Wild, the Quran demonstrates this metatextuality by explaining, classifying, interpreting and justifying the words to be transmitted. Self-referentiality is evident in those passages where the Quran refers to itself as revelation (tanzil), remembrance (dhikr), news (naba'), criterion (furqan) in a self-designating manner (explicitly asserting its Divinity, "And this is a blessed Remembrance that We have sent down; so are you now denying it?"),[82] or in the frequent appearance of the "Say" tags, when Muhammad is commanded to speak (e.g., "Say: 'God's guidance is the true guidance' ", "Say: 'Would you then dispute with us concerning God?' "). According to Wild the Quran is highly self-referential. The feature is more evident in early Meccan suras.[83]


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