Muslims consider the Quran the uncreated, immutable word of God that was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad over the course of 23 years. The Quran was revealed in Arabic, and as such, is interpreted by scholars of Islam according to the classical Arabic of the Arabian Peninsula at the time of the Prophet Muhammad. The meanings of the Quran have been translated into virtually all of the world’s languages, but such translations remain an approximation to the meanings gleaned from the original Arabic. It is a book that has been memorized verbatim by millions of Muslims, many of whom for which Arabic is not the mother tongue.
The Quran consists of 114 chapters, or surats, though unlike other books, does not conform to a traditional beginning, body and end. Rather, each surat is a complete narrative in of itself. Muslims, as encouraged by the Prophet Muhammad, often read particular surats for particular occasions, such as surat alkahf on Fridays and surat ya-sin over the dead. The Quranic verses or ayats include stories of prophets, such as Abraham, Moses, Noah, Jesus and Muhammad, as well as general admonition to perform righteous deeds, help the poverty stricken and needy, and enjoin kindness to widows and orphans.
Muslims are encouraged to read the Quran regularly, as it is viewed as meritorious simply to recite it even if its meanings are not fully understood. The Muslim world regularly holds Quran competitions that reward the best and most melodious reciters of the Quran, as well as calligraphers who write the verses of the Quran most beautifully.