Aʻlām-i Qurʼān [ Proper Names in the Quran]

Author: Muḥammad Khazāʼilī
Reviewed by: Muhammad-Reza Fakhr-Rohani

Muḥammad Khazāʼilī

Muḥammad Khazāʼilī, Aʻlām-i Qurʼān [ Proper Names in the Quran], 1341 Sh/ 1962, Tehran: Amir Kabir, 1387 Sh/ 2009. 805 pp.

There are many proper names in the Holy Quran. A considerable number of them are connected with pre-Islamic religions, ancient and bygone peoples, and abrogated customs and ritual practices. This book provides basic and critical information on them.

The book under review has been a revised, updated, and extended version of the author’s doctoral dissertation. To develop it, the author, Dr. Muḥammad Khazāʼilī (1292-1353 Sh/ 1912-1974), drew on Persian, Arabic, English, and French sources. In doing so, it also discusses some weaknesses of certain sources used. All in all, its short articles approach the proper names discussed from religious, philosophical, historical, literary, and mythological perspectives.

The book has a short introduction. In it, it is argued that almost everybody can understand the Holy Quran, it has not been altered or rescinded, it is altogether understandable for everybody, it is concise, hence offers overall rules without getting into details, it is not a book of detailed scientific rules, it is not a history book (although it alludes to certain events), and its stories and parables have pedagogical values, hence never for entertainment. It also explicates that although the Prophet Muḥammad never attended any school, all the accounts of the pre-Islamic peoples mentioned in the Holy Quran are the truest versions of their accounts. This certifies that he received the Holy Quran as the purely Divine revelation, without any alteration or rescission.

In discussing the proper names mentioned in the Holy Quran, their Quranic references are given. This is followed by their etymological backgrounds, often drawing on French sources, as the author shows particular predilection to French sources. The book contains 105 short essays, all followed by references both for authentication of its points and for guiding the reader to other sources for further explorations.

Out of the 105 essays, 23 of them are devoted to the Divine prophets mentioned in the Holy Quran. As the Prophet Muḥammad is also mentioned by another name, i.e., Aḥmad, in the Holy Quran, both of them are recorded, hence both of these essays deserve serious attention. Here it deserves mention that the name al-Masīḥ is mentioned in the essay titled ʻĪsā (Jesus).

In the case of certain pre-Islamic idols worshiped by the Arab pagans, their names are collectively mentioned under Nasr, an idol of the Jahiliyyah period.

To help the reader, the main text of book is followed by several indexes. These indexes guide the reader to the Quranic verses cited, the personal and place names, and even the names that mentioned in the book although not asserted in the Holy Quran.

A worthwhile endeavor in its totality, the book needs serious revision, too. This is because there are several typos and inconsistencies the references listed. Some French and English titles listed contain spelling mistakes, most probably because at that time, it was not that easy to find qualified typesetters or proofreaders. It would be wiser for the famous Tehran-based publisher to check the whole book anew for elimination of the misprints totally unexpected to be found in such a great work.