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What Is the Qur'an?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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The Qur'an is the sacred book of the Muslim religion, believed in the Islamic faith to be the word of God, or Allah, as revealed by the Angel Gabriel to Muhammad, the last prophet of the Judeo-Christian God. Thus the book is considered divine. The Qur'an is to Islam as Torah is to Judaism, or the New Testament is to Christianity.

Most of the Qur'an (also sometimes spelled as Koran) was written during Muhammad’s lifetime. The rest is thought to have been written directly after his death from the notes of scribes. It is estimated Muhammad had over 50 scribes taking down his speeches during the 7th century CE. However in most sects of Islam it is believed that the Qur'an exists whole and unchanged in present day and is not an interpretation of Muhammad’s speeches, but a transcript.

Therefore, the Qur'an is the word of God and sets forth the way in which Muslims must live in the world. Because the Arabic originally used was soon lost to other derivative languages, most Muslims see translation of the Qur’an as interpretations of the original. Muslim scholars go back to the original language to settle disputes regarding interpretation.


Some Muslim sects interpret the Qur'an, while others take each word as the word of God and thus indisputable. In all Muslim sects it is forbidden to destroy a Qur'an or to deface one. Each copy, whether in the original language or not has an inherent sanctity.

However, there are disputes about the interpretation of the Qur'an, and these disputes tend to divide various Muslim sects. Certain things are agreed upon. Muhammad is the last prophet of God, who was divinely inspired through the Angel Gabriel. His words are God’s words.

Just as all world religions must figure out how to make their sacred texts work in the modern world, sects of Muslims either decide to take on this task on by interpreting Muhammad’s words for today, or by simply sticking as closely as possible to the teachings of Muhammad in what could be compared to fundamentalist Christianity or Judaism.


Like many religious works, the Qur'an has some inherent contradictions, which may define theological differences in Muslim sects. For example, one passage of the Qur'an advocates beating women who misbehave, while various other texts advocate for the kind treatment women should receive from their husbands.

A person can use such passages to either point to God’s word suggesting women who are disobedient should be treated poorly. Conversely one can argue that throughout the Qur’an, Muhammad's overwhelming argument is for the kind and loving treatment of women.


Some of the Qur’an retells religious texts quite familiar to those who read the Old and New Testament. The Virgin Mary is particularly reverenced in the Qur’an. As well, Abraham, Moses, and Noah all have stories retold. Jesus Christ is seen as a prophet rather than the son of God, which differs from the beliefs of many Christian sects. However, the key figures of the New and Old Testament are relevant and accorded honor as the predecessors of the Last Prophet, Muhammad, whose words teachings have created the now fastest growing world religion.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By christensen — On Apr 24, 2010

Ross, are you not able to see the rest of the article? There's about 500 or more words there. Does it cut off for you?


By anon79107 — On Apr 21, 2010

Tricia, can you tell me what it is? So far i have the qur'an is the holy book of the muslims and they believe it contains the words if God. the angel gabriel spoke these words between the years 610 and 632 to muhammad, but then i don't know what to carry it on with. hope you write back. yours sincerely, ross w.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
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