Koran al-Qur'an (Arabic) [from qara to read] Book, reading; the holy scripture of Islam, regarded by Moslems as the word of God (Allah) as delivered to his prophet Mohammed. The Koran explains that in heaven there is the mother of the book, well concealed. Piece by piece it was sent down to the prophet by means of an angel, spirit, or the angel Gabriel. Mohammed issued these revelations serially, each one being called a reading (qur'an) or a writing (kitab), and each particular one was also called a sura (a series) -- a word now used for each section or chapter, of which there are 114.
Mohammed dictated these suras to his immediate followers, who memorized them. But when some of these original reciters had lost their lives in the conflicts which occurred after the death of Mohammed, Omar suggested to Caliph 'Abu-Bekr (the successor of Mohammed) that they be reduced to writing. The commission to collect as many as possible of the narrations or parts of the revelations was given to Zaid, a native of Medina who had often acted as an amanuensis to Mohammed. This collection became the first Koran, which Azid wrote down in Arabic. Some years later a second redaction was made and all previous parts or manuscripts were burned: Zaid dictated the work to four scribes, and these four copies have come down to our own day.
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