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Koran or Qu'ran


Pronunciation: [korahn]


The sacred book of Islam. It is held to be the direct word of God, inscribed in heaven, and revealed piecemeal to the Prophet Mohammed over a period of 20 years by the angel Gabriel as a message for all humanity. The text itself is regarded as sacred; a Muslim should be ritually pure before touching it, and it is a sacrilege to imitate its literary style. It is a book of poetry rather than prose, and is chanted for liturgical and devotional purposes.


It is generally written as in the voice of God, and is primarily instructive; its pronouncements are generally regarded as infallible; and it is the highest authority on all religious and legal matters. It is roughly the same extent as the New Testament, divided into 114 chapters (surahs) of unequal length. The early surahs deal with God as creator, his oneness, greatness, and authority, the role of Mohammed as his messenger, and of Islam in history. Later surahs deal with legal, social, and ethical issues.