Muslims believe that the Quran is God’s word, brought down to the Prophet Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel. Its revelation began in 610 CE in the month of Ramadan., The Angel called out to Muhammad, “Read!”. The revelation continued for 23 years and the Prophet died soon after its completion.

The word Quran means ‘recitation’ and the language of the Quran is classical Arabic. It came to the Prophet Muhammad in the language that the people of his time understood. Today Muslims from all backgrounds learn Arabic so that they can understand the original language of the Quran.

The Quran is organised into chapters (surahs). There are 114 surahs of different lengths, each containing a number of verses. The longest surah contains 286 verses and the shortest has only 3 verses. Each chapter, with the exception of one, begins with the words Bismillah ir rahman ir rahim (In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful).

Because the Quran was revealed to Muhammad over 23 years, some of the verses came when he was living in the city of Makkah and other verses when he lived in Madinah (these are two different cities in Arabia). The earlier chapters of the Quran generally look at issues of faith and the afterlife, while the later verses mostly talk about practical life, how people should live with each other, look after the earth etc.

The revelation did not occur in the same order as the surahs are arranged in the present text. Muhammad received revelation at different times, often in answer to a particular problem the people faced. The Prophet would memorize the revealed verses and, under the guidance of Gabriel, he organized these verses into the existing surahs.
Many of Muhammad’s followers also learnt the Quran by heart and applied the message of these verses in their everyday lives. For a time the Qur’an was not a book, it was just remembered by people and recited from memory. Some people wrote down the verses but these were not bound together.

After the death of Muhammad and as more people who had memorised the Quran began to die, the written text was compiled because the Muslims feared that it may become forgotten. This happened in the time of Uthman, the third leader (Caliph) after the Prophet.

The Quran tells stories of the past, stories of nations and events of great significance, but it also acts as a guidebook on how to establish an honest and good life on earth. It addresses questions like:  Who is God? Why are we here? How are people supposed to behave towards one another? How should humans look after the earth? What happens when we die?

Muslims treat the Quran with great respect and some people even wrap it in beautiful covers and place it above all other books on their shelf, although this isn’t essential. Muslims try to read the Quran on a regular basis to gain spiritual guidance and all five daily prayers are performed by reciting the ‘Opening’ chapter, ‘the Fatiha’, followed by some other short passages of the Quran.

Many people try to read or listen to the entire Quran in Ramadan, as it was during this month that the Quran’s revelation began, and because Ramadan is a special time to think, reflect and try to become a better person.