Preservation of the Quran

Preservation of the Qur’aan

In the Name of Allâh, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

Abu Muntasir

Here are some lecture notes I made for one of my talks on the noble Quran. They are skimpy, unpolished and do not use the normal spelling convention for certain non-English words and names. Moreover, since the notes were for personal use, I did not write down recommended formulae such as “sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam” at places where the reader needs to be reminded of them. I’m making them available as is due to demand and their general usefulness.

Preservation of the Quran

1. The Quran was committed to writing during the lifetime of the Messenger. [See al-Itqaan of as-Suyooti]

2. The Quran had not been put into a book form until after the Messenger was taken away by Allah because:

a) It was revealed piecemeal over a period of 23 years and the possibility of fresh revelation existed so long as the Messenger was alive.

b) Certain verses were abrogated by subsequent revelation.

c) So long as the Messenger lived, the community had an infallible guide as to the correct recitation.

3. The decision to compile the Quran was a response to a definite crisis.

4. The project at first was thought to be audacious since it was not something done by the Messenger. This shows the companions’ care.

5. Many of the companions had committed the entire Quran to memory.

6. Only material which met the following conditions was accepted for inclusion:

a) It must have been originally written down in the presence of the Messenger. [Ibn Hajr in Fath]

b) It must be confirmed by two witnesses. [Ibn Hajr in Fath]

c) It must clearly not represent portions of the Quran subsequently abrogated by the Messenger. [See Ibn Taimiyyah in Qawl, Zarkashi & Qastallani]

7. The expansion of Islam beyond the Arabian Peninsula brought about a new crisis which first became evident during the reign of Uthman. Hudhaifah ibn al-Yaman complained that factions in the army were disputing over various Quranic passages and urged him to put an end to it. Unity was being undermined. “The Syrians contended with the Iraaqis, the former following the reading of Ubayy ibn Kab, the latter that of Ibn Masud, each party accusing the other of disbelief.” [Ibn Hajr in Fath]

8. The people of Hims, for example, boasted that their way of reciting adopted from al-Miqdad was superior to that of the Basrites, who had learnt from Abu Musa, whose written compilation they acclaimed as “the heart of hearts.” [Ibn ul-Athir]

9. Uthman consulted the companions with him who all approved the idea of uniting the community by means of a single text as an excellent idea. [Ibn Hajr in Fath]

10. Why were there different dialectal versions? Because of the inability of certain Arab tribes to master the Quraish dialect.

11. Why reduce to one? Because by the time of Uthman, the Arabs in general had become accustomed to the Quraish dialect. [at-Tahawi]

Ibn-ul-Qayyim suggested the parable: A house may have a number of roads leading to it. If it is in the ruler’s judgement that allowing people to use all the roads causes conflict and confusion, then he may decide to permit the use of one road only, forbidding the others. He does not thereby abolish the other roads as such, as they could still lead to the house; he merely forbids their use.

12. Uthman appointed a councl of prominent men for the job. The first members were Zaid, Ibn Zubair, Saeed ibnul-As, Abdur-Rahman al-Harith ibn Hisham. Uthman asked, “Who is the best copyist?” He was told, “The scribe of the Messenger of Allah, namely Zaid ibn Thabit.” He then asked, “Who is linguistically more proficient?” The answer was, “Said ibn-ul-As.” “Then let Saeed dictate and Zaid write,” said Uthman. He further instructed the three Quraish members of the council, “If you differ with Zaid over something, folow the dialect of the Quraish, for the Qura was (first) revealed in their tongue.” [Ibn Hajr in Fath]

13. The council followed the following general principles:

a) The original copy was to serve as the principal basis of the new one. [Ibn Hajr in Fath]

b) Additional written material not previously submitted was solicited, so that a wider range of them could be considered. [Ibn Abi Dawud]

c) Variants conforming to the dialect of the Quraish were to be chosen over all others.

d) The entire community was to be apprised of what was submitted, so that the work of final recension would be in effect a collective enterprise, and no one who possessed a portion of the Quran would be passed over. Thus this avoids possible claim that it was an individual effort [Zarkashi].

e) Any doubt that might be raised as to the phrasing of a particular passage in the written text was to be dispelled by summoning persons known to have learned the passage in question from the Messenger. [Suyuti in Itqan]

f) Uthman himself was to supervise the work of the council. [Suyuti in Itqan]

g) Copies were sent to each main division of the Muslim army.

h) All other copies or fragments were ordered to be burnt and a message was conveyed to the major garrison towns to order to emulate the Amir-ul-Mumineen. “I have done away with what is in my vicinity. See that you do away with what is in your vicinity.” [Ibn Hajr in Fath]

i) This action was unanimously approved by the companions. Ibn-ul-Qayyim points out it was done for the welfare of the community.

j) Zaid is reported to have said, “I saw the companions of Muhammad (going about) saying, “By Allah, Uthman has done well! By Allah, Uthman has done well!” [Nisaburi]

Ibn Abi Dawud records Musab ibn Sad ibn Abi Waqqas to have testified: “I saw the people assemble in large number at Uthman’s burning of the proscribed copies; not a one spoke out against him.” Ali commented, “If I were in command in place of Uthman, I would have done the same.” [Zarkashi]

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