Compilation of Qur'an

Q108 :May I ask how was the Qur'an compiled? It is said that at first it was written on leaves, pieces of skin, stones and also memorized by many people, some of whom died before all verses of the Qur'an were compiled and brought from different areas in Makkah and Madinah. Who started the work of its collection and publication? Since it was not checked finally by the Prophet, who was the final authority then? Some people claim that the Qur'an is not published in its real sequence. There are also claims that some leaves were accidentally eaten by goats and some were not included due to political reasons. Please comment.


A108 : The Qur'an is the final message Allah has sent to mankind. It was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through the Archangel Gabriel, who brought the Prophet complete verses or parts of verses, or passages or complete surahs, as he was commanded by Allah. When the angel brought down to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) a passage of the Qur'an, he did not bring it written on a piece of paper [or other material]. He recited it to him and the Prophet immediately memorized it. In his keenness to learn it by heart straight-away, the Prophet used to vocalize the words as he heard them from the angel. He was then asked by Allah not to do so. Allah promised him that He Himself will see to it that the Qur'an is kept complete and intact and properly read. This order is contained in verses 16-19 of Surah 75. As you are well aware, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not read or write. When he received a portion of the Qur'an, he called in one or more of his scribes to write it down. He employed for this task a number of his companions whose number totaled 29. Many of these were of the highest caliber in their faith and integrity. They included all the first five caliphs, Abu Bakr, Umar, Usman, Ali and Muawiah. However, the task of writing the revelations was most particularly associated with two of them, Muawiah and Zaid ibn Thabit, despite the fact that Muawiah was a latecomer to Islam. Paper, as we know, was not yet invented. Those scribes wrote the Qur'an on various forms of writing material which was available to them. These included sheets cut out of the branches of the beet tree or other writing sheets made of wood, animal hide, stone or bones. This started even in the period when the Prophet and his companions were a small persecuted community in Makkah. Many of the companions of the Prophet had some parts of the Qur'an written down and treasured in their homes. The Qur'an is divided into 114 surahs, some of which are short, while others are very long. The revelation did not proceed with only one surah at a time, but the Prophet might have continued to receive parts of several surahs at the same time. When a passage was sent down to him, it was followed by an order from Allah, through the Angel Gabriel, indicating its position in the surah to which it belonged. These manuscripts did not form a single or coherent set. The Prophet did not keep anything written down in his own home. But most of his companions who were with him in Makkah and Madinah memorized much of the Qur'an, and some of them were able to learn it all by heart. The Prophet used to teach his companions either individually or in groups. We note that Abdullah ibn Masood, a learned companion of the Prophet, was pleased to assert that he memorized more than 70 surahs as he learned them directly from the Prophet. In Ramadan every year, the Prophet used to revise the Qur'an with the Angel Gabriel to ensure that he did not overlook any verse or part of it. In the last year of the Prophet's blessed life, Gabriel recited the Qur'an to him twice. To the Prophet, this was an indication that his life on earth was approaching its end. It was in the first year after the Prophet had passed away that the need to compile the Qur'anic documents in a single, easy to use, set became apparent. Umar ibn Al-Khattab made the proposal to the first caliph, Abu Bakr, shortly after the battle of Yamamah in which several hundred Muslims were killed; seventy amongst those killed were the ones who had learned all or most of the Qur'an by heart. Umar feared that the number of those people would rapidly decrease as a result of battles the Muslim state might have to fight. Abu Bakr approved the proposition and entrusted the task to Zaid ibn Thabit, who was not merely a scribe entrusted by the Prophet to write down the Qur'anic revelations but he was also a young man who had learned all [of Qur'an] by heart and witnessed the Prophet's final recitation of the Qur'an. Certain rules were laid down including one which stipulated that no written text would be acceptable unless two people of integrity would testify that it was indicated by the Prophet himself as a part of the Qur'an. When Zaid completed the task, he handed it over to Abu Bakr who handed it over to Umar whom he nominated his successor when he died a year later. During the reign of Usman, the third caliph, the need to have reference copies of the Qur'an became apparent. Usman instructed Zaid ibn Thabit and four others to write down five more copies and he sent one copy to each of the main centers in the Muslim State to serve as reference to scholars and students of the Qur'an. Usman also ordered that all documents which were at variance with these copies be burned down. This was to make sure that those pieces of writing materials on which parts of the Qur'an were written and to which the writer might have added a word of explanation, as was the habit of some of them, were burned, so that they would not be confused later as having a fuller text. We should realize that Usman's action was a highly commendable one and enjoyed the support of all the surviving companions of the Prophet, many of whom had learned the Qur'an by heart. People were thus able to have their own copies of the Qur'an and check these against the master copies that Usman sent to the various cities. Needless to say, the memorization of the Qur'an was not only encouraged but widespread among Muslims in those early generations, and indeed in subsequent generations up to our present time. The fact that we do not have any differences in the Qur'an we read and recite today and the copies that have been preserved from various generations up to the time of Usman is a testimony to the fact that Allah has preserved the Qur'an intact as He indeed promised to do. It is not true that some Iranians make any claim about the correct order of the Qur'an which is at variance with what the Sunnis have. If you pick up any copy of the Qur'an published in Iran today, you will find it identical to copies that are available in all Muslim countries. According to some Iranians, however, the number of surahs in the Qur'an are 111, because they consider the surahs 8 and 9 to be one surah; and surahs 93 and 94 also as one surah and also surahs 105 and 106 to be one surah. In other words, they have identical text, in the same order, but three different parts of surahs are classified by them as three single surahs. Even this insignificant shifting is not common to all copies of the Qur'an printed in Iran. Some of these have the same number or surahs as we find in our copies of the Qur'an. As for the absurd claim that some leaves were eaten by goats and some were hidden away or disregarded for political reasons, these remain without proof. Moreover, if there was only one copy of each document, that might have been a disaster, but the Qur'an was committed to memory by so many of the Prophet's companions that not a word of it could have disappeared without it being pointed out by those companions of the Prophet. The compilation of the Qur'an in its reference sets was undertaken in the first year after the Prophet had passed away. At that time, those who learned the Qur'an by heart in Madinah were in hundreds, if not in thousands. No distortion could have crept in without its being immediately discovered. [How can it be when we have Allah's own statement that He Himself will see to it that the Qur'an is kept complete and intact.]


Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )