The Quran, literally "the recitation", also transliterated as Qur'an, Koran, or Al-Qur'an, is the central religious text or scripture of Islam. It stands as a moral compass and primary source of belief and practice for Muslims. It informs Muslim conduct, law, faith and practice across the whole spectrum of religious and temporal life. "This is the book, about it there can be no doubt; it is a path for those who are aware of God", the Quran declares.
The word quran is derived from the verb qara?a - "to read", "to recite". The Quran was revealed by the angel Gabriel to Prophet Muhammad in the west Arabian towns Mecca and Medina beginning in 610 and ending with Muhammad's death in 632 CE. It is shorter than the Christian New Testament, and is divided into 114 chapters (sura, plural suwar) and 6,616 verses (aya, plural ayat). The word aya literally means "sign".
As a literal transcript of God's speech, the Quran is regarded as sacred, pure, uncorrupted and infallible. It is the earthly reproduction of an uncreated and eternal heavenly original, according to the general view referred to in the Quran itself as "the well-preserved tablet" (al-law? al-mahfu?; Quran 85:22). The Quran was sent down in Arabic: "Indeed, We have sent it down as an Arabic Quran that you might understand" (.Q 12:2)
The suras range in length from three to 286 verses. They also vary in style and content. Each surah is named after some conspicuous word in the text, such as "The Elephant", "Light", "Dawn", "Thunder", "The Cave", "The Moon" or "Smoke". The Quran is not arranged either chronologically or thematically - for the most part the suras are arranged from beginning to end in descending order of length. The first surah, al-Fatiha, is the most recited chapter of the Quran as it is said multiple times in every ritual prayer.
The largest number of verses deal with God's majesty and power and with the various aspects of His creation. Most of the Quran's legal or quasi-legal pronouncements are concentrated in a few of the longest surahs. The subjects covered by Quranic law include dietary regulations (eg. the prohibition of consuming pork or wine), matters of family law (eg. inheritance rules), ritual law (eg. the performance of ablution before prayer or the duty to fast during the month of Ramadan), commercial law (the prohibition of usury) and criminal law (eg. the punishment for theft or for manslaughter).
There are didactic parables about former biblical and Arabian personages and communities. Adam, the first man, is expelled from Paradise for eating from the forbidden tree. Noah builds an ark to save a select few from a flood brought on by the wrath of God. Abraham prepares himself to sacrifice his son at God's bidding. Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt and receives a revelation on Mount Sinai. Jesus - born of the Virgin Mary and referred to as the Messiah - works miracles, has disciples, and rises to heaven.
In the same way that the universe has its fundamental laws and its finely regulated order, the Quran lays down laws, a moral code and a body of practice that Muslims must respect, whatever their epoch and their environment. The Quran speaks to the nature of reality and the cosmos, and pronounces moral and spiritual principles for the individual and society. In its core message, it exhorts its adherents to stand by fairness and justice and replace vices like hatred, arrogance, greed, lust and anger with the virtues of love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness.