The Qur’an is a record of the exact words revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad. It was memorized by Muhammad (peace be upon him) and then dictated to his Companions, and written down by scribes, who cross-checked it during his lifetime.
Not one word of its 114 surahs (chapters) has been changed over the centuries, so that the Qur’an is in every detail the unique and miraculous text which was revealed Muhammad fourteen centuries ago.
This opening chapter of The Qur’an, the Fatihah, is central in Islamic prayer. It contains the essence of The Qur’an and is recited during every prayer.
Muslims believe the Qur’an to be God’s final revelation. They believe it is the literal word of God, revealed over many years, to His final prophet, Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him.
The Qur’an is full of wisdom. It is full of the wonder and glory of God, and a testament to His mercy and justice. It is not a history book, a storybook, or a scientific textbook, although it contains all of those genres.
The Qur’an is God’s greatest gift to humanity – it is a book like no other. In the second verse of the second chapter of the Qur’an, God describes the Qur’an by calling it :
…a book whereof there is no doubt, a guidance to those who are pious, righteous, and fear God. (Al-Baqarah 2:2)
Believing in it is a requirement to be Muslim
The Qur’an is core to Islam. Believing in it is a requirement. One who does not believe in the Qur’an, in its entirety, cannot claim to be a Muslim.
The Messenger (Muhammad) believes in what has been sent down to him from his Lord, and (so do) the believers. Each one believes in God, His Angels, His Books, and His Messengers. (They say,) ‘We make no distinction between one another of His Messengers’ — and they say, ‘We hear, and we obey. (We seek) Your forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the return (of all)’. (Al-Baqarah 2:285)
Islam has two primary sources, the Qur’an, and the authentic Traditions of Prophet Muhammad, that explain and sometimes expand on that of the Qur’an.
And We have not sent down the Book (the Qur’an) to you (O Muhammad, except that you may explain clearly unto them those things in which they differ, and (as) a guidance and a mercy for a folk who believe. ( An-Nahl 16:64)
The Qur’an was delivered to Prophet Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel and revealed in stages over a period of 23 years.
And (it is) a Quran which We have divided into parts, in order that you might recite it to men at intervals. And We have revealed it by stages. (Al-Israa’ 17:106)
Prophet Muhammad was commanded by God to convey the Qur’an to all of humankind and the responsibility weighed heavily upon him. Even in his farewell address he called on the people present to bear witness that he had delivered the message.
The Qur’an explains the concept of God, it explains in detail what is permissible and what is forbidden, it explains the basics of good manners and morals, and gives rulings about worship. It tells stories about the Prophets and our righteous predecessors, and describes Paradise and Hell. The Qur’an was revealed for all of humankind.
The book in which the Qur’an (the words of God) are contained in is called a mushaf . The Qur’an is considered so unique in content and style that it cannot be translated; therefore, any translation is considered an interpretation of the meanings of the Qur’an.
The world’s oldest Quran manuscript found lately at Birmingham University.
When God sent Prophets to the various nations He often allowed them to perform miracles that were relevant to their particular time and place. In the time of Moses magic and sorcery were prevalent therefore Moses’ miracles appealed to the people he was sent to guide. In the time of Muhammad, the Arabs, although predominantly illiterate, were masters of the spoken word. Their poetry and prose were considered outstanding and a model of literary excellence.
When Prophet Muhammad recited the Qur’an – the words of God – the Arabs were moved tremendously by its sublime tone and extraordinary beauty.
The Qur’an was Prophet Muhammad’s miracle from God. Muhammad was unable to read or write therefore the Arabs knew that he was unlikely to have produced such eloquent words, but even so some refused to believe that the Qur’an was the word of God. God therefore challenged them, in the Qur’an, to produce a rival text.
And if you (Arab pagans, Jews, and Christians) are in doubt concerning that which We have sent down (i.e. the Qur’an) to Our slave (Muhammad), then produce a chapter of the like thereof and call your witnesses (supporters and helpers) besides God, if you are truthful. (Al-Baqarah 2:23)
Of course they were unable to do so. In contrast to those who questioned the origin of the Qur’an, many Arabs converted to Islam after hearing the recitation. They knew immediately that such sublime beauty could originate only from God.
Even today it is possible to see Muslims moved to tears while listening to or reciting the Qur’an. In fact some people, unable to understand even one word of the Arabic language are moved by the intrinsic beauty of the Qur’an.
After establishing that Qur’an is the word of God and that it is a recitation, it is also important to understand that Qur’an has remained unchanged for more than 1400 years.
Today when a Muslim in Egypt holds his mushaf in his hands and begins to recite you can be sure that in far away Fiji another Muslim is looking at and reciting the exact same words. There are no differences. The child in France holding his first mushaf is tentatively reciting the same words that flowed from the lips of Prophet Muhammad.
The Qur’an is the literal word of God, revealed over many years, to His final prophet, Muhammad.
God assures us in Qur’an that He will surely protect His words. He says,
Verily, it is We Who have sent down the Qur’an and surely, We will guard it (from corruption). (Al-Hijr 15:9)
This means that God will guard against anything false being added or any part of it being taken away. It is protected from tampering and if anyone attempts to distort the meanings of Qur’an, God will guide someone to expose the deception.
Muslims believe that the previous revelations from God, including the Torah and the Gospels of Jesus were either lost in antiquity, or changed and distorted, so it is a source of comfort to them knowing that God’s words – the Quran – are now well guarded.
God sent down the Qur’an, from above the heavens, to the Angel Gabriel in the glorious month of Ramadan. The story of how this recitation was revealed and how Qur’an came to be available worldwide, with an interpretation of the meanings translated into over 100 languages.
 From the Tafseer of Ibn Jareer al-Tabari
 From the Tafseer of Al-Sa’di
 The Centre for African studies at the University of Pennsylvania claims that the Quran has been translated into 114 languages.
What does it mean to be Muslim? Put differently, what does make one worthy of being Muslim? What role does the Qur’an play in your life and identity as Muslim?
Two most important things every Muslim must know to do justice to the Book of God, the Qur’an: who is truly a Muslim and what the word ‘Muslim’ means, what defines our identity as Muslims.
Human beings who do not know what humanity is and what the difference is between man and animal will inevitably indulge in behavior unworthy of the human race and attach no value to being human.
Similarly, people who do not know the true meaning of being Muslims and how a Muslim is different from a non-Muslim will behave like non-Muslims and will not be worthy of being Muslims.
Identity of Muslim
Every Muslim, adult or child, should therefore know what it means to be a Muslim, what difference being a Muslim must make to his life, what responsibilities devolve on him, and what limits are set by Islam within which a man remains a Muslim and by transgressing which he ceases to be a Muslim.
Islam means submission and obedience to God. To entrust yourselves completely to God is Islam. To relinquish all claims to absolute freedom and independence and to follow God’s will is Islam.
To surrender yourselves before the sovereignty of God is Islam. If you bring all the affairs of your lives under God you are Muslims and if you keep any of the affairs in your own hands or entrust them to someone other than God you are not Muslims.
To bring your affairs under God means to accept unreservedly the guidance sent by God through His Book, and His Messengers.
It therefore becomes necessary to follow only the Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah. Muslims follow no authority other than that of God, whether it be their reason or customs.
In every matter they seek guidance from God’s Book, the Qur’an, and His Messenger (peace be upon him) to find what they should do and what they should not do. They accept without hesitation whatever guidance they get from there and reject whatever they find opposed to it.
Such total surrender to God is what makes one a Muslim.
Source of Guidance
By contrast, people are certainly not Muslims who, instead of following the Qur’an and the Sunnah, obey the dictates of their own reason and desires, follow the practices of their forefathers, accept what is happening in society, and never bother to ascertain from the Qur’an and Sunnah how to run their affairs, or refuse to accept the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah by saying: ‘They do not appeal to my reason’, or ‘They are against the ways of my forefathers’ or ‘The world is moving in an opposite direction’. Such people are liars if they call themselves Muslims.
The moment you recite the word: ‘La ilaha illa Allah and Muhammad rasulu Allah’ (There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger) ) you accept that the only law you recognize is the law of God, only God is your sovereign, only God is your ruler, only God you will obey, and only the things given in God’s Book and by His Messengers are true and right.
It means that as soon as you become Muslims you must renounce your authority in favour of God’s authority.
Consequently, you have no right to say, ‘My opinion is this, the prevalent custom is this, the family tradition is this, that scholar and that holy person say this.’
In the face of Allah’s word and His Messenger’s Sunnah, you cannot argue in this manner. You should judge everything in the light of the Qur’an and Sunnah; accept what is in conformity with them and reject what runs counter to them, irrespective of the people who may be behind them.
It is a contradiction in terms to call yourselves Muslims on the one hand, and, on the other, follow your own opinions or the customs of society or some person’s words or actions as against the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Just as a blind person cannot claim to have eyes, nor a deaf person to have ears, so a person who refuses to subordinate the affairs of his life to the dictates of the Qur’an and the Sunnah cannot call himself a Muslim.
Once Being Muslim…
No one who does not want to be a Muslim can be compelled to be one against his will. You are free to adopt any religion you like and call yourselves by any names you like.
But, once having called yourselves Muslims, you must fully understand that you can remain Muslims only as long as you stay within the bounds of Islam. These bounds are: to accept the word of God and His Messenger’s Sunnah as the ultimate criteria of truth and justice and to consider everything opposed to them as wrong.
If you remain within these bounds you are Muslims, but if you overstep them you cease to be part of Islam. To continue, in such circumstances, to consider yourselves and call yourselves Muslims is tantamount to both self-deception and deception of others.
Whoever so judges not according to what God has sent down, they are the unbelievers. (Al-Ma’idah 5:44)
The article is an excerpt from Abul A`la Al-Mawdudi’s Let Us Be Muslims.