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The Event of the Qur’an – Islam in its Scripture
Book Review
Samiya Illias


Book Title: The Event of the Qur’ān – Islam in its Scripture

Book Author: Kenneth Cragg

Copyright: ©Kenneth Cragg

Publisher: One World Publication, Oxford, England

Published in India by: Gopsons Papers Ltd., Noida

Pages: 208


The Event of the Qur’ān offers an interesting perspective of a non-Muslim’s effort to understand Islam through its scripture. The author, Bishop Kenneth Cragg, in the preface, lists three broad concerns which led to this study:

1. Christian world’s grudging and imperceptive attention to Quran

2. The Qur’ān has much that Christians can greet and share

3. The Qur’ān presented formidable obstacles to comprehension by outsiders


Therefore, he states: “the definite text needed to be explored with hope and realism,” and “trans-religious openness of heart.” In his attempt to answer what happens in the Qur’ān, he takes his readers along a fascinating journey. In his words: “The Qur’ān is a fusion, unique in history, of personal charisma, literary fascination, corporate possession and imperative religion. In the continuity of its reception since the event we have perhaps the largest and most sustained expression of what might be called documentary faith. Throughout we have to do with revelation as literature and with literature as revelation.”

He explores the relation between words and meanings and the audience, i.e. the primary addressee of the Qur’ān, how they listened and what they understood.

In exploring this, the author feels that “to be firmly planted in the seventh century is not to exclude the Qur’ān from the twentieth; rather, it is to plant there more intelligently.” The living context is Arabian paganism where the prophetic mission must be carried out. He explores the events that are pivotal in the Qur’ān which relate to the struggle to terminate idolatry and establish the sole worship of God.

Considerable thought is given to the landscape, the economy, the emigration, and then, in that context, the actual shaping of Muslim character and conduct – how the pagan mind and heart transforms, embracing and realizing Islam in thought and action!

As an expert in Arabic language, the author comments that “the language of the Book illuminates the meaning: the clue is in the Arabic.” He reasons that had it been in Arabic only because it was the native language, the adjective mubīn used to describe the language in the Qur’ān (26:195) would have been superfluous. Considering various meanings of the word mubīn, he settles with luminous, i.e. a luminous Arabic language. 

The Event of the Qur’ān is rich with words and meanings, and many a passage needs a re-read to understand what the author is trying to communicate. Some references to chapter and verse numbers are incorrect, but the text and translation seems okay. In all fairness, the book is an interesting read, combining the scholarly approach with a reverence and admiration for the text and the event!


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