Muslims believe the Quran to be the book of divine guidance revealed from God to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel over a period of 23 years and view the Quran as God's final revelation to humanity.
Revelation in Islamic and Quranic contexts means the act of God addressing an individual, conveying a message for a greater number of recipients. The process by which the divine message comes to the heart of a messenger of God is tanzil (to send down) or nuzūl (to come down). As the Quran says, "With the truth we (God) have sent it down and with the truth it has come down."
The Quran frequently asserts in its text that it is divinely ordained. Some verses in the Quran seem to imply that even those who do not speak Arabic would understand the Quran if it were recited to them. The Quran refers to a written pre-text, "the preserved tablet", that records God's speech even before it was sent down.
The issue of whether the Quran is eternal or created became a theological debate (Quran's createdness) in the ninth century. Mu'tazilas, an Islamic school of theology based on reason and rational thought, held that the Quran was created while the most widespread varieties of Muslim theologians considered the Quran to be co-eternal with God and therefore uncreated. Sufi philosophers view the question as artificial or wrongly framed.
Muslims believe that the present wording of the Quran corresponds to that revealed to Muhammad, and according to their interpretation of Quran 15:9, it is protected from corruption ("Indeed, it is We who sent down the Quran and indeed, We will be its guardian."). Muslims consider the Quran to be a guide, a sign of the prophethood of Muhammad and the truth of the religion. They argue it is not possible for a human to produce a book like the Quran, as the Quran itself maintains.
Muslims commemorate annually the beginning of Quran's revelation on the Night of Destiny (Laylat al-Qadr), during the last 10 days of Ramadan, the month during which they fast from sunrise until sunset.
The first sura of the Quran is repeated in daily prayers and in other occasions. This sura, which consists of seven verses, is the most often recited sura of the Quran:
All praise belongs to God, Lord of the Universe, the Beneficent, the Merciful and Master of the Day of Judgment, You alone We do worship and from You alone we do seek assistance, guide us to the right path, the path of those to whom You have granted blessings, those who are neither subject to Your anger nor have gone astray."
Respect for the written text of the Quran is an important element of religious faith by many Muslims, and the Quran is treated with reverence. Based on tradition and a literal interpretation of Quran 56:79 ("none shall touch but those who are clean"), some Muslims believe that they must perform a ritual cleansing with water before touching a copy of the Quran, although this view is not universal. Worn-out copies of the Quran are wrapped in a cloth and stored indefinitely in a safe place, buried in a mosque or a Muslim cemetery, or burned and the ashes buried or scattered over water.
In Islam, most intellectual disciplines, including Islamic theology, philosophy, mysticism and jurisprudence, have been concerned with the Quran or have their foundation in its teachings. Muslims believe that the preaching or reading of the Quran is rewarded with divine rewards variously called ajr, thawab or hasanat.
In Islamic art
The Quran also inspired Islamic arts and specifically the so-called Quranic arts of calligraphy and illumination. The Quran is never decorated with figurative images, but many Qurans have been highly decorated with decorative patterns in the margins of the page, or between the lines or at the start of suras. Islamic verses appear in many other media, on buildings and on objects of all sizes, such as mosque lamps, metal work, pottery and single pages of calligraphy for muraqqas or albums.
Calligraphy, 18th century. Brooklyn Museum.
Quranic inscriptions, Bara Gumbad mosque, Delhi, India
Typical glass and enamel mosque lamp with the Ayat an-Nur or "Verse of Light" (24:35)
Quranic verses, Shahizinda mausoleum, Samarkand, Uzebekistan
Quran page decoration art, Ottoman period
The leaves from this Quran written in gold and contoured with brown ink have a horizontal format. This is admirably suited to classical Kufic calligraphy, which became common under the early Abbasid caliphs.
Inimitability of the Quran (or "I'jaz") is the belief that no human speech can match the Quran in its content and form. The Quran is considered an inimitable miracle by Muslims, effective until the Day of Resurrection—and, thereby, the central proof granted to Muhammad in authentication of his prophetic status. The concept of inimitability originates in the Quran where in five different verses opponents are challenged to produce something like the Quran: "If men and sprites banded together to produce the like of this Quran they would never produce its like not though they backed one another." So the suggestion is that if there are doubts concerning the divine authorship of the Quran, come forward and create something like it. From the ninth century, numerous works appeared which studied the Quran and examined its style and content. Medieval Muslim scholars including al-Jurjani (d. 1078) and al-Baqillani (d. 1013) have written treatises on the subject, discussed its various aspects, and used linguistic approaches to study the Quran. Others argue that the Quran contains noble ideas, has inner meanings, maintained its freshness through the ages and has caused great transformations in individual level and in the history. Some scholars state that the Quran contains scientific information that agrees with modern science. The doctrine of miraculousness of the Quran is further emphasized by Muhammad's illiteracy since the unlettered prophet could not have been suspected of composing the Quran.