The Quran is the scripture at the heart of the Muslim faith – its name literally means ‘the Recitation’. Although the authentic Quran is in the Arabic language, translations are widely available.
Muslims also regard earlier scriptures such as the Torah and Gospels as inspired by God, but believe the Quran is God’s final testament and guidance. The Quran centres on the subject of humanity and its condition: its relationship with God, its virtues, its weaknesses, its fate and its responsibilities. It is not, as many assume, simply composed of pages of rigid rules.
The life of Muhammad is an inseparable part of the Quran’s story. He would receive ‘speech’ from God brought to him by the Angel Gabriel, and would recite it aloud. These recitations arrived piecemeal over a period of 23 years, and make up the contents of the Quran, which was committed to memory by a large number of Muhammad’s followers.
Muslims thus view the Quran as ‘the Word’ of God and ascribe tremendous importance and respect to it. Its recitation has a deeply spiritual impact and even those who do not understand its linguistic meaning and beauty cherish its rhythm and flow. Furthermore, it is seen as the most important basis of how people should live, though in order to be fully understood the text of the Quran needs to be read alongside the context of its time.
Although a book, it is unconventional in its format. There is no beginning, middle and concluding end and the contents are not sequenced in the time order of their delivery. The Quran gives its reader the freedom to choose or decline its messages, and by doing so, teaches a worldview of religious freedom and tolerance.