The Qur'an is considered by Muslims to be the literal, undistorted word of God, and is the central religious text of Islam. It has also been called, in English, the Koran and, archaically, the Alcoran. The word Qur'an means "recitation". Although the Qur'an is referred to as a "book" Muslims believe that the verses of the Qur'an were revealed to Muhammad by God through the Angel Gabriel on numerous occasions between the years 610 and his death on July 6, 632.
Modern Western academics generally hold that the Qur'an of today is not very different from the words Muslims believe to have been revealed to Muhammad, as the search for other variants has not yielded any differences of great significance. The Qur'an occupies a status of primacy in Islamic jurisprudence, and Muslims consider it a definitive source of guidance to live in accordance to the will of God.
Most Muslims regard paper copies of the Qur'an with veneration, washing as for prayers before reading the Qur'an. Worn out Qur'ans are not discarded as wastepaper, but are typically sunk in the sea. Many Muslims memorize at least some portion of the Qur'an in the original Arabic, usually at least the verses needed to perform the prayers. Those who have memorized the entire Qur'an are known as a hafiz. Muslims believe that the Qur'an is perfect only as revealed in the original Arabic.
Translations, they maintain, are the result of human effort, and are deficient because of differences in human languages, because of the human fallibility of translators, and (not least) because any translation lacks the inspired content found in the original. Translations are therefore regarded only as commentaries on the Qur'an, or "interpretations of its meaning", not as the Qur'an itself.