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January 13, 2022

When was the Qur’aan compiled in writing?

Muslims believe, and the unbiased non-Muslim researchers agree, that what Muslims know as the Qur’aan today is exactly the Qur’aan, the Word of Allaah, that was revealed to Prophet Muhammad Ŝall-Allaahu ‘Alayhi Wa Sallam. It was preserved through two mechanisms: firstly, by mass memorization by Muslims from the days of the Prophet onwards; and secondly by full, complete and orderly documentation of every revelation in the divinely determined order right at the time of revelation, so that there were multiple written copies of the complete Qur’aan, in the same order of contents as we see today, right in the life of the Prophet. However, there are reports, and many Muslims believe in those reports, which claim that the written, orderly documentation did not happen in the life of the Prophet ŜA‘WS. Recently, a speaker was listing a number of tough challenges that the Muslims have been facing, and the first of them was, “The Prophet died and we did not even have a Mus-haf (a codex written in its final orderly form).” A lie repeated often enough becomes a truth in the minds of public; therefore, it needs to be pointed out and corrected.

This article has been written to explore all the facts about this topic that are available in the Qur’aan, Seerah and Hadeeth literature and then analyze some of the main contradicting reports so that the correct information and evidence are available for Muslims to form a right opinion.

This article could have been much briefer, but considering the sensitivity of the topic, many details have been provided to avoid misunderstandings, and to answer the questions or concerns that may arise in a reader’s mind. The details provided will, Inshaa Allaah, establish the reality that there were multiple fully compiled and ordered copies of the Qur’aan available that were prepared under the supervision of the Prophet Muhammad Ŝall-Allaahu ‘Alayhi Wa Sallam. They demonstrate the utter invalidity of any contrary opinion such as the notion that the Qur’aan was not ordered in the form of a Mus-haf in the life of the Prophet ŜA‘WS. It will also give a glimpse of the failproof mechanisms that Allaah SWT put in place to preserve the Qur’aan in its original form according to His declaration that He has revealed this Reminder and He is also its protector. Allaah SWT has protected the Qur’aan through the unbroken and ongoing Tawaatur (continuity of transmission) from the Prophet to a multitude that keeps on going from multitudes to multitudes, both in memorization and in writing.

Facts from the Qur’aan, Seerah and Hadeeth

1. The First Revelation – Al-‘Alaq 96:4-5

In the very first revelation, the mention of the pen hinted that, although the revelation will be recited to the public, it will also be documented by the use of the pen which Allaah has so kindly enabled people to use for documenting and conveying knowledge:

1 Recite to people in the name of your Lord Who created – 2 created people from a clinging clot. 3 Recite (to them) – and your Lord is Most Generous, 4 Who taught by the pen, 5taught people what they knew not.  (Al-‘Alaq 96:1-5)

The following excerpts are from my Tafseer of these verses 

The third verse reiterates the command for the Prophet ŜA‘WS to proclaim Allaah’s message and links it to Allaah’s generosity and favour towards mankind. It is indeed a great mercy and favour of Allaah SWT that He appoints His messengers to guide human beings towards the right path. Then, verses 4-5 suggest two points:

Firstly, this revealed knowledge is in addition to the knowledge that Allaah SWT has so kindly enabled human beings to acquire on their own and pass it along generations through the function of writing. It is also His great favour and mercy that human beings have been taught the art of using the pen and writing to preserve whatever they learn for future reference and teaching. This knowledge accumulated through writing is the main foundation for human progress and advancement. Even the discoveries that add to the previously accumulated knowledge happen because Allaah makes it possible for people to explore and discover those matters. Without openly and explicitly teaching people, He is the One Who bestows knowledge. But He also reveals the guidance that human beings are unable to acquire on their own. In this way, He has taken care of all of the knowledge and guidance needs of human beings.

Secondly, it is this ability to write with the pen that will document Allaah’s Word recited to people by the Prophet and make the Arabs the bestowers of knowledge to the world. Although the Arabs had lost the teachings of Ibraheem and Isma‘eel because they were not written, this time Allaah’s revealed guidance will be preserved in written form, in addition to other means of its preservation.

From the very beginning of the mission, as soon as the angel Jibreel delivered the revelation to the Prophet, it was indelibly etched in his memory. In addition, the Prophet used to get one of the literate ones from among his people to write it down. His close friend, Aboo-Bakr Siddeeq (RA), the first adult male Muslim, was also one of his scribes. So was ‘Aamir ibn Fuhayrah (RA), their common friend. Some of the other earliest Muslims were also his scribes (1); such as Uthman ibn ‘Affaan, Talhah ibn ‘Ubaydullah, Zubayr ibn Al-‘Awwaam, Sa‘d ibn Abee-Waqqas, Khaalid (2) ibn Sa‘eed ibn Al-‘Aas, Shurahbeel ibn Hasanah, and Arqam ibn Abee-Arqam Makhzumi (may Allaah be pleased with all of them). Just before the Prophet ŜA‘WS established Darul Arqam as the place of congregation, Haatib ibn ‘Amr (RA) had also joined their ranks. Later on, when ‘Ali (RA) grew up, he also became his scribe.

The Prophet was very particular about the availability of the documenting resources. It is interesting to note that when he had to emigrate at night when his house was surrounded by the Makkans’ assassination team and he had to hide in a cave for three days and nights, he did not forget to have the writing material and the scribe available to him during the journey. Thus, when Suraaqah wanted some pledge of future security, the Prophet asked ‘Aamir ibn Fuhayrah to write it for him, which he wrote on a piece of leather (parchment) and gave to him. (3)

1  The complete list of the Prophet’s scribes is given in Appendix 2.
2  His daughter reports that her father was the first one to write bismillah. (Jamal ad-Deen Ibn Hadidah al-Ansari, “Misbah al–Mudi fi Kuttab an-Nabi al–Ummi”, (Beirut: ‘Alam al-Kutab, n.d.) Vol.1, 90). Most probably, it may have happened when Soorah Faatihah was revealed along with the command to establish Salaah, soon after the first seven verses of Al-Mudaththir.
3  Bukhari, chapter Hijrah, cited by Shibli, Seerah, v 1, p 164.

2. Al-Qalam Verses 68:1-2

When the Prophet ŜA‘WS told the Makkans about the Hereafter and invited them to believe in it, they rejected the idea as an impossibility. When he persisted, they ridiculed him for promoting such an unbelievable idea. When he passionately persevered in promoting this belief, they thought he had become insane or an evil-spirit had possessed him. Soorah Al-Qalam (68) was revealed in that early period of his mission when the Makkan chiefs had started calling him insane or a possessed-man. The first few verses of the soorah falsify this characterization, using “pen” and “what was being written” as evidence against it. The following is the translation and excerpts from my Tafseer for those verses:

1 Noon (N); the pen and what they write are witnesses that 2 by the bountiful favour of your Lord, you are not insane or possessed.  (Al-Qalam 68:1-2)

Exegetes have interpreted “pen” and “what they write” in different ways, but the interpretation that is most sensible and most fitting with the context of the soorah and the verses that follow the oath is the one given by a famous exegete, Mujahid, who says that the “pen” refers to any pen that was used by the scribes to write the revelations of the Qur’aan, and “what they write” refers to the text of the Qur’aan. Tabari has quoted him as follows:

حدثني محمد بن عمرو، قال: ثنا أبو عاصم، قال: ثنا عيسى، عن ابن أبي نجيح، عن مجاهد، في قوله: { ن وَالقَلَمِ } قال: الذي كُتِبَ به الذكر.
حدثني الحارث، قال: ثنا الحسن، قال: ثنا ورقاء، عن ابن أبي نجيح، أخبره عن إبراهيم بن أبي بكر، عن مجاهد، في قوله: { ن والقَلَمِ } قال: الذي كتب به الذكر.
وقوله: { ومَا يَسْطُرُون } يقول:۔۔۔ وهو أن يكون معناه: وسطرهم ما يسطرون، فتكون «ما» بمعنى المصدر. وإذا وُجه التأويل إلى هذا الوجه، كان القسم بالكتاب، كأنه قيل: ن والقلم والكتاب

For his statement about “Noon; by the pen”, Mujahid said: By which the Reminder (the Qur’aan) is written. And about “wa maa yasturoon” … its meaning will be “by their writing of what they write”… So, when we interpret it in this manner, then it is the “oath by the Book” as if saying, “Noon; by the pen and the Book”.

Syed Abul A‘la Maududi and Syed Amin Ahsan Islahi have also adopted the same Tafseer.

Accordingly, the “pen” in the oath refers to a pen, in general, as an instrument of writing that was being used by the Prophet’s scribes to write the revelations of the Qur’aan; “they” refers to the scribes who were commissioned to write; and “what they write” refers to the text of the Qur’aan that was being dictated to them by the Prophet. These oaths, thus, present the exquisitely eloquent, rational, wise, concise and superb text of the Qur’aan as witness and evidence to the statements that follow in verses 2-4 that “by the bountiful favour of your Lord, you are not an insane or possessed man; there definitely is a never-ending reward for you; and you do maintain a tremendous character.” (4)

4  Someone challenged my Tafseer given above on basis of some other explanations given by other Mufassireen. Please see Appendix 1 for the other explanations.

In this way, Allaah SWT has presented the very Dzikr (the Qur’aan) for the recitation of which the opponents were calling him majnoon (insane, possessed) as the evidence of the falsity of their claim. Similarly, the last two verses of the soorah reinforce this connection and close with the same matter with which the first two verses started:

51 And those who disbelieve would almost smite you with their glares whenever they hear the Reminder (Adz-Dzikr, the Qur’aan) and they say, “He certainly is insane or possessed.” 52 Yet it is simply a reminder for all peoples.  (Al-Qalam 68:51-52)

To reflect upon other linkages between different parts of the soorah, pondering on the message of the following verses will also be helpful:

35 What! Shall We then treat those who are obedient like those who are guilty? 36 What is wrong with you? How do you pass such judgments? 37 Do you have a book wherein you read 38 that in the Hereafter, you will have whatever you choose?  (Al-Qalam 68:35-37)

The opponents of the Prophet ŜA‘WS are being questioned that the Qur’aanic revelations that are being written declare that only Muslims will be rewarded in the Hereafter, while those who commit evils will be punished. Do you have any book that says otherwise, or that says you will get what you choose?

Then, addressing the Prophet, it raises a similar question about his opponents: what is the basis of their refusal to believe in the Prophet ŜA‘WS; are they, like him, receiving any knowledge of the unseen and putting it in writing?

47 Or do they have access to what is imperceptible through sensory perception, so they are writing it down?  (Al-Qalam 68:47)

This interpretation of the pen and what they write is further supported by the way the Qur’aan has responded to the opponents’ calling him majnoon in Soorah At-Toor 52:29-41.

Therefore, there is a consistent theme throughout the soorah challenging the disbelievers on the basis of the text of the Qur’aan and it being put in writing.

3. Al-Qiyaamah Verses 75:16-19

Some time later, still in the early period of his mission, the Prophet was given the following instructions and assurances:

16 Do not move your tongue (O Prophet) along with the revelation to hasten with it. 17 Verily, We are responsible for its compilation and its recitation. 18 So, once We have recited it, then follow its recital. 19 Thereafter, We are also responsible for explaining it.  (Al-Qiyaamah 75:16-19)

These instructions taught him the following attitude and etiquettes of receiving the revelations:

  • He should patiently wait for the revelation to come and when it comes, he should not hurriedly repeat the words with his tongue in his eagerness to receive it, wonder how it will all come together or worry if he fully understands its meaning and implications;
  • Allaah Himself is going to ensure compilation and preservation of His words, which the Prophet should not be anxious about. It is Allaah’s responsibility to ensure that it is collected properly and compiled in the order that will give these bits and pieces of revelations a shape of the Divine Book and that it is recited by the Prophet and his followers accurately in proper order;
  • When it is being recited to the Prophet, he should listen calmly and attentively. Once revelation is completed, then he should follow the recital – dictate it to his scribes accordingly, recite it to his audience, and follow the directions given in the revelation.
  • Whenever and wherever any explanations are needed, they will also be provided to him after the revelation of those verses is complete.

Some of the implications of the above-mentioned instructions must be understood clearly. The first assurance is about the Qur’aan’s orderly compilation so that he not only remembers all revelations but he remembers them in the exact divinely-specified order and is subsequently able to accurately recite and dictate in that order to preserve it in writing. This was achieved in three ways:

  • Firstly, the words of the revelation were inscribed in his memory permanently, as he was told in soorah Al-A‘laa (87:6) and had already experienced it.
  • Secondly, with every revelation, he was told where the new revelation fits in the order of the revelations sent down so far. He was exactly told after which verse and before which verse and after which soorah and before which soorah the new revelation would be inserted. Thus, the current order of the Qur’aanic verses and soorahs is by the command of Allaah SWT. That is the order in which they were written by scribes, and in which he and his companions used to recite in their Salaah.
  • Thirdly, every year in the month of Ramadhaan, the Prophet and Jibreel used to repeat all the Qur’aan that had been revealed until that time in the divinely specified order. Once the whole Qur’aan had been revealed, it was twice recited in its entirety in the last year of the Prophet’s life.

Syed Amin Ahsan Islahi wrote the following in His Tafseer, Tadabburul-Qur’aan, for the explanation of 75:17-18:

“The word جمع (collection/compilation) is a comprehensive word; it connotes preservation in the Prophet’s memory as well as arranging the scattered pearls in a strand. Thus, the Prophet was guided how to compile the verses revealed at different occasions into various soorahs and in what order.”

Accordingly, as the new revelations were coming down, the Prophet was being informed of the order in which the accumulated revelations should be compiled and recited. So, with each revelation he was told exactly where in relation to the exiting revelations it would be placed. Then, the Prophet would recite the revealed verses and soorahs in Salaah or otherwise exactly in the specified order and he would also dictate every revelation in that specified place and order. After the dictation, he would ask the scribe to read it back aloud to him to ensure that it had been scribed correctly. Once it had been accurately written, he would recite it to people (5). This was exactly according to: “Upon Us is its compilation and its recitation” – first compilation, then recitation.

5   “…when I finished writing, he would say, ‘Read!’ and I would read it back to him. If there was an omission or error he used to correct it and then let it be brought before the people.” Zayd ibn Thaabit reported by at-Tabarani, Mu’jam al-Awst (Dar al-Haramain, Cairo, 1415 AH) Hadeeth 1913.
 Ubayy ibn Ka‘b stated: “Sometimes the beginning of a surah is revealed to the Prophet, so I write it down; then another revelation comes to him so he says, ‘Ubayy! Write this down in the surah where such and such is mentioned.’ At other times a revelation comes down to him and I await his instructions, till he informs me of its rightful place.” (Al-Baqilani, al-Intisar lil-Qur’an 1/291).

In his preface to Tafheemul-Qur’aan, Syed Maududi has written the following:

“The present arrangement of the Qur’aan is not the work of later generations, but was made by the Prophet under Allaah's directions. Whenever a soorah was revealed, the Prophet summoned his scribes, to whom he carefully dictated its contents, and instructed them where to place it in relation to the other Soorahs. If the revelation was not a whole soorah itself, its location was specified within the soorah it belonged to. The Prophet followed the same order of soorahs and verses when reciting during Salaah and on other occasions, and his Companions followed the same practice in memorizing the Qur’aan. It is, therefore, a historical fact that the compilation of the Qur’aan was completed on the very day that its revelation was completed. The One Who sent it down was also the One who determined the sequence of its text. The one whose heart was the receptacle of the Qur’aan was also the one who arranged its compilation in that sequence. None else was ever involved in this determination.”

4. Divine Arrangement

This Divine arrangement whereby every revelation came with specification of its placement and was placed accordingly both in recitation as well as in writing implies that:

  • The Qur’aan would not require any subsequent or additional compilation exercise because it was being compiled on an ongoing basis as directed by Allaah SWT; and its compilation was complete as soon as the final revelation came.
  • When the Prophet was getting the revelations scribed, he must have been keeping them all together with him, otherwise the purpose of getting them documented would have been lost.
  • If the Prophet was directing the scribes to write a revelation in a specific place in a soorah and to insert a soorah before and after specific soorahs, the prior revelations would have to be together and in order. Without that, it would not have been possible for a scribe to insert the new writing in its proper place.

5. Learning from a Written Scripture

It is well known that when ‘Umar ibn Khattab accepted Islam in the fifth year of the Prophethood, his sister and brother-in-law were learning from a written Soorah Taa Haa, which he also read after washing himself (6). After accepting Islam, he also became one of the scribes of the Prophet.

6  Sunan al-Darqutni, Hadith 441, Al-Resalah Publications, Beirut, 2004.

This incident underscores three points:

  • Muslims were memorizing from written text of the Qur’aan even in the early period of the Islamic mission. As the revelations were gradually coming down, Muslims were memorizing them all along.
  • Those who could not learn directly from the Prophet were helped by those who had already learned them.
  • They had their own manuscripts to learn or teach from.

In his preface to Tafheemul-Qur’aan, Syed Maududi further writes the following:

“Because Salaah was obligated on Muslims from the outset, and recitation of the Qur’aan was an essential part of the Salaah; therefore, it initiated among Muslims the practice of memorizing the Qur’aan from inception. As the revelations were being sent down, Muslims were memorizing them all along.”

6. Al-Furqaan Verses 25:5-6

The Qur’aan quotes the disbelievers as saying:

5 And they say, “They are merely legends of former peoples, which he has had written down and they are read out to him morning and evening.” 6 Say, “This has been sent down by the One who knows every secret in the heavens and the earth.”  (Al-Furqaan 25:5-6)

“Which he has had written down” indicates that the revelations were being routinely written. At that stage, it had become clear that the information contained in the Qur’aanic revelations was beyond the Prophet’s own knowledge and abilities, but his opponents did not want to accept that it was all from Allaah. Therefore, they fabricated the theory that some other person was authoring these passages and teaching them to the Prophet, who was having them written down and presenting them as Allaah’s revelation. But the Qur’aan clarified to them that these revelations are from Allaah who knows everything; therefore, the source of all that information is none other than Allaah.

7. Using the term 'Book'

A book by definition is an organized collection of written text. Anything conveyed verbally cannot be regarded as a book unless it is also in written form.

In terms of the order of revelation, the first time the Qur’aan used the term “book” for itself was in Soorah Luqman that started with “These are the verses of the book full of wisdom”.

This indicates that by that time the written Qur’aanic text was voluminous enough and properly ordered so that it had started taking the shape of a book (al-kitaab). Therefore, it was appropriate to say that these revelations belong to the Book that is being compiled on an ongoing basis. Had it not been so, such a statement would have attracted attacks from the opponents because the essence of a ‘kitaab’ is that it is written and collected. Afterwards, it was repeatedly referred to as a book. Then, a few years later, Soorah Ad-Dukhaan starts with, Wal-Kitaab-al-mubeen, “2 The Book that describes its teachings clearly is in itself a witness (to its own truth)”, indicating that by then, it was established as a book that could be presented as evidence to the detractors. Then, in Soorah Al-An‘aam, the Qur’aan was specifically referred to as, “ وَهٰذَا كِتٰبٌ اَنۡزَلۡنٰهُ مُبٰرَكٌ – And this Book, full of blessings, that We have sent down …”, twice (verses 6:92 and 155). It was presented as a parallel and the replacement for the “book” that the ahlul-Kitaab already had. The Qur’aan could not have made such statements unless it was really written and compiled like a book in comparison with the book that was already there. The same applies to the beginning of the Al-Baqarah.

8. Al-'Ankaboot 29:48

Allaah SWT said:

وَمَا كُنۡتَ تَـتۡلُوۡا مِنۡ قَبۡلِهٖ مِنۡ كِتٰبٍ وَّلَا تَخُطُّهٗ بِيَمِيۡنِكَ اِذًا لَّارۡتَابَ الۡمُبۡطِلُوۡنَ

O Prophet, you never used to recite any book before this Qur’aan, nor did you write any with your own hand; otherwise, the falsifiers could have some basis to doubt.  (Al-'Ankaboot 29:48)

There was no need to negate the writing of the Book, if the Qur’aan was not being written in the form of a book and presented as such.

9. Compilation of Soorahs

As the soorahs were being revealed and as the revelation of the long soorahs were completed, they were clearly identified as such. That is how they were known and that is how they were recited by Muslims and presented to the disbelievers. When Allaah SWT challenged the disbelievers in Makkah to bring a soorah like the soorah of the Qur’aan, everyone knew what a soorah is and what the soorahs of the Qur’aan are like.

The companions of the Prophet were memorizing the soorahs as they were revealed from their own written copies or with the help of those who had a written copy (as shown by the story of ‘Umar ibn Khattaab RA). Although the memory of the Arabs was excellent, every person cannot have the same level of capabilities. Most of them used the written copies to memorize the Qur’aan as well the words of the Prophet, as indicated by the following reports:

According to a report from Aboo Salamah ibn ‘Abdur-Rahman, Aboo Hurayrah reported, “When Makkah was conquered, the Prophet (peace be upon him) stood up (to address people).” Then, he (Aboo Hurayrah) mentioned the sermon of the Prophet (ﷺ), and said, “A man from the people of Yemen, who was called Aboo Shah, got up and requested, ‘O Messenger of Allaah! Write it for me.’ So, he (the Prophet) commanded, ‘Write it down for Aboo Shah.’” (Sunan Abee Dawood 3649).

In a Hadeeth with a broken chain and regarded as Saheeh by Albani, Al-Waleed reported that he asked Aboo ‘Amr, “What are they writing”. He responded, “The khutbah they heard from him this day.” (Sunan Abee Dawood 3650)

‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Amr reported, “I used to write everything which I heard from the Messenger of Allaah (ﷺ); as I intended to memorize it. The Quraysh prohibited me saying, ‘Do you write everything that you hear from him while the Messenger of Allaah (ﷺ) is a human being: he speaks in anger and pleasure?’ So I stopped writing, and mentioned it to the Messenger of Allaah (ﷺ). He pointed with his finger to his mouth and said, ‘Write, by Him in Whose hand is my life, only the right comes out from it.’” (Sunan Abee Dawood 3646).

10. A Collected Copy of Makkan Soorahs

At their pledge of allegiance at Al-‘Aqabah, the people of Madeenah who accepted Islam would not have been sent back without being provided some way of learning about their new Deen. They were provided with the written Qur’aan (all the soorahs that had been revealed by that time in proper order) for them to learn and follow. That is why when the prophet reached Madeenah, some of them told him about the soorahs they had already memorized. For that purpose, it could not have been a hodgepodge of all revelation written at various times, but a well-structured collection ordered in the Divine order of the soorahs revealed by that time.

Ibn-Hajar al-‘Asqalaani (d. 852 AH) records the following statement reported by ‘Umar ibn Hanzalah:

وأنّ رافع بن مالك لما لقي رسول اللَّه صلّى اللَّه عليه وآله وسلّم بالعقبة أعطاه ما أنزل عليه في العشر سنين التي خلت، فقدم به رافع المدينة، ثم جمع قومه فقرأ عليهم في موضعه

When Raafi’ ibn Maalik met the Messenger of Allaah (may the peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) at al-‘Aqabah (the first pledge of ‘Aqabah), he handed him whatever was revealed in the previous decade. Raafi’ took the same to Madeenah, gathered his people in their place and recited it to them (7)."

7  Ibn-Hajar al-‘Asqalaani, Al-Isaabah fi Tamayyiz as-Sahabah, Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, 1415 AH, Vol.2, 370.

Even if a soorah was not completed in Makkah, everything revealed in Makkah was written in Makkah. As Ibn ‘Abbaas reported:

إذا نزلت فاتحة سورة بمكة فكتبت بمكة

“When the beginning of a soorah was revealed in Makkah, it was written in Makkah (8)."

8  Ibn ad-Durays, Fadhaa’il al-Qur’an, (Damascus: Dar al-Fekr, 1987.

11. Teaching the Qur’aan to Ansaar

The Makkan Muslims had already been writing their own copies and memorizing the revelations as they were coming down. When the Prophet migrated to Madeenah, the Ansaar had to be brought up-to-date and taught what had already been revealed. That was not possible without providing them a master copy, from which they could make their own copies and memorize them. This act of making one’s copy and memorizing was called جمع “collecting”.

Tamanna ‘Imaadi (9) is of the view that the Prophet put the complete, compiled mus-haf (codex) of all the revelations that came down in Makkah, in a box and placed the box in his Masjid between his Minbar and Qibla (wall). The pillar next to it was called Ustawanah Mus-haf. Once people of Madeenah had made their own copies, the box was moved to Hafsah’s chamber for security reasons. From then on, both Ansaar and Muhajireen had the same contents in their masaahif (plural of Mus-haf), and whenever the fresh revelation came, they all updated their copies. The Prophet would prefer to perform his Nawaafil Salaah at the spot where the box of Mus-haf was placed for its association with the Mus-haf, otherwise there is no other explanation for this preference. His view is based on the following report:

حَدَّثَنَا الْمَكِّيُّ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا يَزِيدُ بْنُ أَبِي عُبَيْدٍ، قَالَ كُنْتُ آتِي مَعَ سَلَمَةَ بْنِ الأَكْوَعِ فَيُصَلِّي عِنْدَ الأُسْطُوَانَةِ الَّتِي عِنْدَ الْمُصْحَفِ‏.‏ فَقُلْتُ يَا أَبَا مُسْلِمٍ أَرَاكَ تَتَحَرَّى الصَّلاَةَ عِنْدَ هَذِهِ الأُسْطُوَانَةِ‏.‏ قَالَ فَإِنِّي رَأَيْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَتَحَرَّى الصَّلاَةَ عِنْدَهَا‏.‏

Narrated Yazeed ibn Al-‘Ubaid: I used to accompany Salamah ibn Al-Akwa‘ and he used to pray behind the pillar which was near the “Mus-haf”. I said, “O Aboo-Muslim! I see you always seeking to pray behind this pillar.” He replied, “I saw Allaah's Messenger (ﷺ) always seeking to pray near that pillar (10)." Ahmad uses the phrase “place of Mus-haf” and does not mention the pillar. In Muslim and Ahmad’s narration, it is also mentioned that “This place was between Minbar and Qiblah; and the area was enough for passing of a goat”.

9  Tamanna ‘imaadi, Jam‘ul-Quraan, A-Rahmaan Publishing Trust, Karachi.
10  Bukhari, Kitab-al-Salaah; also reported in Muslim, in Ibn-Maajah, in Wafa-ul-Wafa vol. 1 and Musnad Ahmad.

While explaining the Muslim Hadeeth, Imam Nawawi said, “In ‘between minbar and Qibla’, Qibla implies the ‘wall’”. While explaining the Hadeeth in Bukhari in Fat-hul-Bari, Ibn-Hajar says: “The pillar ‘near the Mus-haf’ indicates that there was a specific place for Mus-haf (in the Prophet’s Masjid). One Report in Muslim uses the words ‘in front of the box’ indicating that there was a box in which the Mus-haf was kept.” Badruddin Al-‘Ayni has also said the same thing in his ‘Umdat-ul-Qaari, “It appears that there was a specific place for the Mus-haf in the Masjid of the Prophet (11)."

11  Dr. Shehzad Saleem of Al-Mawrid disagrees with this view and thinks that Mus-haf was placed there by Hajjaaj ibn Yoosuf (a brutal, tyrannical governor of Iraq d. 95 HE)[1] He has not provided any explanation for the Prophet preferring that spot, nor has he described the mechanism used by the Prophet to bring Ansaar up-to-date in learning the 90 soorahs that had already been revealed

12. Scribes in Madeenah

In Madeenah, different reports indicate that initially the responsibility remained mainly with the immigrants (Muhajireen). At-Tabari (d. 310 AH) reports:

على بن ابى طالب و عثمان بن عفان، كانا يكتبان الوحي، فإن غابا كتبه أبي بن كعب وزيد بن ثابت

“‘Ali ibn Abee-Taalib and ‘Uthmaan ibn ‘Affaan used to write the revelations. And if they were both absent, Ubayy ibn Ka‘b and Zayd ibn Thaabit used to write it (12)."

“Among the Ansar (the Helpers) at Madeenah, Ubayy was the first scribe of the Prophet (13)."

12  Aboo-Ja‘far Ibn-Jareer At-Tabari, Tareekh al-Rusul wal Malook, (Beirut: Dar al-Turath, 1367 AH) Vol. 6, 179.
13  Ibn-Sayyid an-Nas, ‘Uyun al-Athar, (Beirut: Dar al-Qalam, 1993) Vol.2, 382.

Zayd ibn Thaabit was one of those who were taught reading and writing by the Makkan-prisoners from the battle of Badr who were released once they had educated ten students from Ansaar. After initial learning, obviously it would have taken him time to gain enough proficiency to qualify to volunteer as the scribe of the revelation.

The job of scribing the revelation was so important and so special that a person was supposed to replace any of the regular scribes in his absence. Al-Jahshari (d. 331 AH) writes;

و كان حنظلة بن الربيع خليفة كل كاتب من كتاب النبى إذا غاب عن عمله

“Hanzalah ibn Rabee’ was the successor of every scribe of the Prophet when he was not available to write (14)."  He was also called “The Scribe”.

14  Aboo-‘Abdullaah Muhammad al-Jahshari, al-Wuzaraa wal Kuttaab, (Baghdad: Maktaba al-‘Arabiyya, n.d.)

13. Al-Baqarah 2:282

This is the longest verse of the Qur’aan, in which Allaah SWT has emphatically commanded people to write down when they engage in lending/borrowing from each other. A part of this verse is:

“Whether the loan is small or large, do not be averse to writing it specifying its due date. In the sight of Allaah, these practices will ensure more fairness, greater accuracy in testimony, and the most likelihood of preventing misunderstandings among yourselves.”

If Allaah SWT emphasized writing of loans so strongly and even listed its benefits, would He not expect more care and caution from the Prophet and Muslims for His revealed word that it be completely and properly documented, for the same or similar benefits – to minimize chances of confusions and misunderstandings?

This verse also indicates that the population of Madeenah in particular, and Arabia in general, was educated enough that this command could be practically followed. Otherwise, He would not have commanded what was not practical.

14. Compiling and Copying under the Prophet’s Supervision

There used to be sessions to make copies and compilation:

عن زيد بن ثابت، قال: كنا عند رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم نؤلف القرآن من الرقاع

Zayd ibn Thaabit said: “In the presence of the Messenger of Allaah, we used to compile the Qur’aan from parchments (15)."

15  At-Tirmidzi, Maktaba Dar-us-Salam, 2007, Hadeeth 3954; classified as sahih (sound) by al-Albani); Mustadrak vol 2, and Fat-hul-Bari, with acknowledgement that this fulfils the conditions of reliability set by both Bukhari and Muslim).

This brief report has been explained in two ways:

“From parchments” indicates that the source was a master copy written on fine thin-leather parchments especially prepared for writing purposes, not bones, stones and stalks. So, they were compiling their own copies from what was written on parchments (16).

16  This is also the view of Tamanna ‘imaadi, Jam‘ul-Quraan, 188-189

Al-Bayhaqi explains it differently and writes: “What is meant is the compilation and collection of different revealed verses into soorahs according to the instruction of the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him (17)."

17  Al-Bayhaqi, Aboo-Bakr, Shu’b al-Iman, (Riyadh: Maktaba al-Rushd, 2003) Vol.1, 342.

Either way, it was not Zayd alone, but multiple companions who used to do this compiling on a regular basis and it was done under the supervision of the Prophet.

After writing this Hadeeth, Haakim wrote, “This is clear evidence that the Qur’aan was collected during the life of the Prophet.”

These sessions were held because Muslims were encouraged to have their own Mus-haf. In making their personal copies of mus-haf, volunteers used to help others make their copies.

عن ابن عباس قال:” كانت المصاحف لا تباع، كان الرجل يأتي بورقة عند النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فيقوم الرجل فيحتسب فيكتب، ثم يقوم آخر فيكتب حتى يفرغ من المصحف “

Ibn-‘Abbas stated: “The masaahif were not sold. A person would come to the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him, with a parchment and someone would stand and write it for him voluntarily. Then another person would stand up and write until the mus-haf was complete (18)."

18  Aboo-Bakr Al-Bayhaqi, Sunan al-Kubra, (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, 2003) Vol.6, 27 Hadeeth 11065.

Some needy companions used to copy the Mus-haf for other people and receive payment for their labour. Those who were uncomfortable with taking this remuneration asked the Prophet about it, he replied, “The most rightful remuneration that you can take is for the Book of Allaah SWT.”

Women were also compiling their own copies. Ibn-Sa‘d reported in At‑Tabaqaat that Ummu-waraqah bint Abdillaah ibn Haarith (shaheedah) had compiled her own copy.

15. Completion of Revelation and Compilation/Collection

The revelation of the Qur’aan was completed before the last Ramadhaan of the Prophet’s life, which is why he went over the whole Qur’aan twice with Jibreel in the 20-day I’tikaaf in that Ramadhaan (19). According to his routine, he must have dictated the last revelation to his scribes and recited it to people before his I’tikaaf, completing the Qur’aan in every way it was being preserved. In addition, he had about six months between that Ramadhaan and his death to ensure that the complete Qur’aan was written, ordered and memorized by all those of his companions who were Huffaaz and had full manuscripts of their own, as he used to supervise them doing so routinely. This was one of his responsibilities as the teacher of the Book as described in four verses, “یعلمھم الکتاب”.

19  Faatimah (RA), may Allaah be pleased with her, said: "The Prophet, sall-allaahu alayhi wa sallam, told me, 'Jibreel used to recite the Quran to me and I to him once a year, but this year he recited the whole Quran with me twice. I think that my death is approaching.'" [Al-Bukhari]. Similar narratives reported from Ibn ‘Abbas in both Bukhari and Muslim, and from Aboo-Hurayrah in Bukhari.

About the verses of the Soorah Qiyaamah quoted earlier, Imam Hameeduddin Farahi, wrote the following:

i.   “The Qur’aan was compiled in a specific order and recited to the Prophet in that order in his life. If this promise (of compilation) was to be fulfilled after his life, then he would not have been commanded to follow the recital when he was told, “So, once We have recited it, then follow its recital.”

ii.   He was commanded that after its compilation, he must recite in that order (after each revelation). Thus, it was incumbent on the Prophet to recite the Qur’aan to his Ummah in the order determined by the final recital (the whole Qur’aan after the final revelation), which order is the same as that in which it is recorded on the Preserved Slate (لوح محفوظ).

iii.   After compilation and arrangement, Allaah SWT also revealed explanations by way of generalizing a directive or specifying it or reducing the scope or supplementing the directive.”

Then, he further states:

“All these points are confirmed by the Qur’aan and corroborated by Hadeeth literature. Thus, the Prophet would recite the complete soorahs of the Qur’aan to people, which was not possible if they had not been recited to him in that sequence. The companions used to listen, preserve and abide by that arrangement. It is also known that the Prophet used to direct the scribes to write the revealed verses in specific places in specific soorahs and they followed those directions. When an explanatory verse was revealed, the Prophet would have it written at the place immediately following the verse being expounded or at the end of the soorah, if the explanation pertained to the theme of the soorah.”

16. Suhuf of the Prophet ŜA‘WS

It is totally inconceivable that the Prophet ŜA‘WS was not keeping the revelations that he was dictating to the scribes after they were scribed and that at this stage, he did not have a complete, compiled and ordered Qur’aan in writing with him. The way the Prophet ŜA‘WS was dictating the revelations and having them inserted at appropriate places, he naturally had a complete, fully ordered and compiled codex in writing. Obviously, this codex was not bound between two bindings but was in the form of duly arranged and ordered scriptures “Suhuf” written on parchments. This outcome is such an inevitable outcome of all the facts mentioned above from the Qur’aan, Seerah and Ahadeeth that any opinion against it is tantamount to negating all of those facts. This was indicated by Imam Haakim’s quote above. This is also supported by the reports about the copying project undertaken by ‘Uthmaan (RA). They mention “Suhuf” (scriptures) which were borrowed from Ummul-Mu’mineen and from which copies of Masaahif (codices) were prepared. Although people have identified some defects or weaknesses in these reports, a consistent recurrence of the theme of copying masaahif from suhuf indicates a commonly held perception:

  • ‘Uthmaan sent a message to Hafsah, "Send us the Suhuf (scriptures) of the Qur’aan so that we copy it in masaahif and then return it to you (20)."
  • Sawwaar ibn Shubayb quotes ‘Abdullaah ibn al-Zubayr: “ … He (‘Uthmaan) then collected all the masaahif and sent me (‘Abdullaah ibn al-Zubayr) to ‘Aaishah and I came back with the Suhuf on which the Prophet had the Qur’aan written. We then compared the collected masaahif with these Suhuf and rectified all mistakes after which he ordered that all other copies of the Qur’aan be destroyed (21)."
  • A similar report is mentioned from Hibbaan ibn Yahya who narrates from Abu-Muhammad al-Qurashi that ‘Uthmaan ibn ‘Affaan wrote: … So I sent a message to ‘Aaishah, mother of the believers to send me the Qur’aan on parchments which had been written from the mouth of the Prophet when the Almighty had inspired it to Gabriel and Gabriel had inspired it to Muhammad and had revealed it to him and when the Qur’aan was [still] fresh (22).
  • From a report in Bukhari (Book 66, Hadith 41), it appears that the Prophet ŜA‘WS had bound his official mus-haf between two covers like a book:
  • حَدَّثَنَا قُتَيْبَةُ بْنُ سَعِيدٍ، حَدَّثَنَا سُفْيَانُ، عَنْ عَبْدِ الْعَزِيزِ بْنِ رُفَيْعٍ، قَالَ دَخَلْتُ أَنَا وَشَدَّادُ بْنُ مَعْقِلٍ، عَلَى ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ رضى الله عنهما فَقَالَ لَهُ شَدَّادُ بْنُ مَعْقِلٍ أَتَرَكَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم مِنْ شَىْءٍ قَالَ مَا تَرَكَ إِلاَّ مَا بَيْنَ الدَّفَّتَيْنِ‏.‏ قَالَ وَدَخَلْنَا عَلَى مُحَمَّدِ ابْنِ الْحَنَفِيَّةِ فَسَأَلْنَاهُ فَقَالَ مَا تَرَكَ إِلاَّ مَا بَيْنَ الدَّفَّتَيْنِ‏.

Narrated ‘Abdul ‘Aziz ibn Rufay‘: Shaddaad ibn Ma‘qil and I entered upon Ibn ‘Abbas. Shaddaad ibn Ma‘qil asked him, "Did the Prophet leave anything (besides the Qur’aan)?" He replied. “He did not leave anything except what is between the two bindings (of the Qur’aan).” Then we visited Muhammad ibn Al-Hanafiyya and asked him (the same question). He replied, “The Prophet did not leave except what is between the bindings (of the Qur’aan).

20  Bukhari: Baab Jam‘ul-Qur’aan, kitaab fadhaa’ilul Qur’aan, Hadeeth 4987.
21  ‘Umar ibn Shabbah, Akhbaar al-Madeenah, vol. 2, 116, (no. 1711). According to al-Suyooti, Al-Itqaan, vol. 2, p 323, this narrative is also found in Ibn Ashtah’s Kitaab al-masaahif.
22  'Umar ibn Shabbah, Akhbaar al-Madeenah, vol. 2, 120, (no. 1722).

17. Dissemination of the Qur’aan and its Significance

The Qur’aan was the major means of teaching and learning Islam and the focus of a Muslim’s attention. In fact, it was the sole text book as well as the curriculum. It was not only the main tool to invite people to Islam, it was also the sole tool to teach Islam to new Muslims. Therefore, everyone was constantly learning, memorizing and reciting the Qur’aan. The Prophet had told them that the best of them are those who learn and teach the Qur’aan (23). The Prophet himself gave the highest priority to teaching people the Qur’aan:

‘Ali said, “The Prophet would teach them the Qur’aan at all times except when he was ceremonially unclean (24)."

23  Reported from ‘Uthmaan in Al-Bukhari, vol. 4, 1919, (no. 4739).
24  Al-Tirmidzi, Sunan, vol. 1, 273-274, (no. 146).

The new converts were entrusted to knowledgeable companions for the Qur’aan education:

‘Ubaadah ibn Saamit reported, “Whenever someone migrated to Madeenah, the Prophet would send him to us for teaching the Qur’aan. And loud voices of recitation of the Qur’aan could be usually heard from the masjid, till the Prophet asked them to lower the voices so as to avoid errors in confusion (25)."

25  Abdul Azeem Zarqaani, Manaahil-ul-Irfan, p.324; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad, vol. 5. 324, (no. 22818).

There are many other reports indicating that high priority was given to teach Qur’aan to new converts, and there are multiple Ahadeeth about the virtues of memorizing the Qur’aan. Knowledge of the Qur’aan was a major qualifier for Muslims and the sole barometer of their knowledge of Islam.  In assigning responsibilities, those who knew more of the Qur’aan were preferred over others. Therefore, Muslims were extremely motivated to learn it.

In Madeenah, the house of Makhramah ibn Nawfal was called the house of Qur’aan-memorizers (daar al-qurraa’) (26).

26 Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad, vol. 4, 205.

Memorization of the Qur’aan is not the topic of this article but some examples have been cited just to show how important the Qur’aan was in the life of Muslims and how it was spreading quickly throughout the Islamic territory. By the time of the death of the Prophet, hundreds of Muslims had memorized and learnt the whole Qur’aan. They also kept their own copies of the Mus-haf completing it as new revelations came.

Before the Prophet died, all of his closest companions were Huffaaz (called Qurraa, the reciters, at that time) (27). For example, all four caliphs (Aboo Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthmaan, ‘Ali), Talhah ibn ‘Ubaidullaah, Sa‘d ibn Abee-Waqqaas, ‘Abdullaah ibn Mas‘ood, Saalim Mawla Abee-Hudzayfah, Hudzayfah ibn Yamaan, Mu‘aadz ibn Jabal, Ubayy ibn Ka‘b, Zayd ibn Thaabit, Aboo Moosa Al-Ash‘ari, Anas ibn Maalik , ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Abbaas, ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Umar, ‘Amr ibn ‘Aas, Aboo Hurayrah, ‘Abdullaah ibn Zubair, Aboo-Thawr At-Tameemi, Mu‘aadz in Haarith, ‘Adullaah ibn Saa’ib Al-Makhzoomi, Tameem ibn Aws Ad-Daari, ‘Uqbah ibn ‘Aamir, ‘Ubaadah ibn Saamit, and many others (28) were Huffaaz (Qurraa). Shihaab al-Qurshi read out the whole of the Qur’aan to the Prophet (29).

‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Amr had memorized the Qur’aan and was reciting it every night but the Prophet told him not to recite in less than seven days.

27  Jalaaluddin Al-Suyooti, Al-Itiqaan fi ‘Uloom al-Qur’aan; Al-Jazri, An-Nashr fil Qira’at al-‘Ashr.
28  Shezad Saleem, Collection of the Qur’an, 63-65.
29  Ibn Hajar, Al-Isaabah, vol. 3, 366.

Because the Qur’aan was revealed in standard language (dialect and pronunciation) of the Quraysh, it was important for all to learn the Qur’aan in that manner. For Non-Quraysh people, the Prophet identified four non-Quraysh persons as the best models to follow:

Learn Qur’aan from ‘Abdullaah ibn Mas‘ood, Saalim, Mu‘aadz, and Ubayy ibn Ka‘b (30).

‘Umar reports that the Prophet said, “He who wants to read the Qur’aan in the way it was recited to him (by Jibreel) should read it the way Ibn Mas‘ood reads it (31)."

30  Bukhari, ch. Qurraa min Ashaab, Kitaab Fadhaailul-Qur’aan.
31  Al-Nasaa’i, Al-Sunan Al-Kubraa, vol. 5, 71, (no. 8256).

From the wives of the Prophet ŜA‘WS,  ‘Aaishah, Hafsah and Umm Salamah (RA) were Huffaaz. Hafsah (RA) was expert in writing as well.

18. Significance of Having a Mus-haf (Codex)

Along with memorization, the Prophet wanted people to remain connected to their Mus-haf as well. He encouraged people to have their own copy of the Qur’aan and use it:

The Prophet had told his companions, “Give your eyes their share of (the blessing of) the Qur’aan (By reading it from the Mus-haf despite knowing it by heart).”

The Messenger of Allaah said, “Give your eyes their share of the ‘Ibaadah – looking at the Mus-haf, reflecting on its contents, and learning lessons from its full-of-wisdom wonders.”

 “The recitation by a person without Mus-haf accrues 1,000 rewards, while the recitation from Mus-haf doubles it to 2,000 rewards (32)."

32  Mishkaah, Virtues of the Qur’aan, reported with reference to ibn Maajah and Baihaqi’s Shu‘bul Eeman, from Aboo-Sa’eed.

He identified the added benefit that a Mus-haf left behind will act as Sadaqah Jaariyah when used by the subsequent generations:

عن أبي هريرة، قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إن مما يلحق المؤمن من عمله وحسناته بعد موته علما علمه ونشره، وولدا صالحا تركه، ومصحفا ورثه، أو مسجدا بناه، أو بيتا لابن السبيل بناه، أو نهرا أجراه، أو صدقة أخرجها من ماله في صحته وحياته، يلحقه من بعد موته

It was narrated that Aboo-Hurayrah reported that the Messenger of Allaah said: “The rewards of the good deeds that will reach a believer after his death are: Knowledge which he taught and spread; a righteous son whom he leaves behind; a copy of the Qur’aan that he leaves as a legacy; a mosque that he built; a house that he built for wayfarers; a canal that he dug; or charity that he gave during his lifetime when he was in good health. These deeds will reach him after his death (33)."

33  Muhammad ibn Yazeed Ibn-Maajah, As-Sunan, Translated by Nasiruddin al-Khattab (Riyadh: Maktabat Dar-us-Salam, 2007) Hadeeth 242; classified as hasan (good) by al-Albani.

19. Existence of Complete Masaahif (codices) During the life of the Prophet

There were many companions who had collected the whole Qur’aan as their personal Mus-haf. Aboo-Bakr was the first one to collect his Mus-haf and bind it between two bindings. ‘Abd Khayr reported from ‘Ali: “May God have mercy on Aboo-Bakr; he was the first to collect (the Qur’aan) between two covers.” and ‘Aamir ibn Shurahbeel Ash-Sha‘bi said: “Aboo-Bakr was the first to collect the Mus-haf (34)." “The first person to collect the Qur’aan between two covers was Aboo-Bakr (35)." These reports may be misinterpreted as if it was done after the death of the Prophet, but if others had collected copies in the life of the Prophet as indicated by the reports cited below, to be the first, his collection has to be before others. Being the first one to have a complete personal copy is corroborated by his personality of being first in everything important in Islam, including in his accepting Islam. 

34  Shehzad Saleem, Collection of the Qur’aan, page 162.
35  'Uthmaan Ad-Daani, Al-Muqni’, P. 134

Anas ibn Maalik knew about five people just from Khazraj who had collected the complete Qur’aan: Ubayy ibn Ka‘b, Aboo-Ad-Dardaa,  Mu‘aadz ibn Jabal, Zayd ibn Thaabit and Aboo Zayd. After Aboo Zayd’s name, Anas added in Bukhari Hadeeth 5004, “ وَنَحْنُ وَرِثْنَاهُ‏ – and we inherited it (the Mus-haf collected by Aboo-Zayd) (36)." This further corroborates that “collected” always meant “in writing”, as we have explained earlier.

36  Saheeh al-Bukhari 5003 and 5004, Sunnah.com.

Ibn-Sa‘d in Tabaqaat, reports that six people from Ansaar had collected the whole Qur’aan – Mu‘aadz ibn Jabal, Ubayy ibn Ka‘b, Zayd ibn Thaabit, Aboo-Ad-Dardaa, Aboo-Zayd, and Sa‘d ibn ‘Ubaid; while Mujtami’ ibn Jaariyah was short a soorah or two when the Prophet died.

Nasaa’i reported based on authentic chain from ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Umar who said, “I collected the Qur’aan, and read it every night. The Prophet heard about it, so he said: "Read it in a month... (37)"

37  Al-Itqaan, v1, p.124

Ibn Hazm wrote; “Many people like Ubayy, ‘Uthmaan, ‘Umar, ‘Ali, Zayd and Ibn Mas‘ood besides a host of others had already collected the Qur’aan (38).

38  Al-Fasal fil-Milal wa al-Ahwa wa al-Nahal, 1st ed., vol. 1, [Maktabah al-Salam], pp. 66-7).

In fact, each of the Huffaaz (Qurraa’) mentioned above had their own mus-haf because collection and memorization used to go in parallel.

20. Confirmation of Existence of Masaahif (Codices)

The reports such as the following confirm that many people had their own copies of the Mus-haf and it was felt that some people may rely so much on masaahif that they may become lax in memorizing the Qur’aan and preserving it through practicing its teachings. Had the masaahif not been widespread, there was no need for the Prophet to issue such warning.

عن أبي أمامة رضي الله عنه يبلغ به النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال لا تغرنكم هذه المصاحف المعلقة إن الله تعالى لا يعذب قلبا وعى القرآن

Aboo-Umamah conveyed that the Prophet said: “Let these hanging masaahif not delude you. Verily Allaah SWT does not punish the mind that has preserved (memorized and paid heed to) the Qur’aan (39)."

39  at-Tirmidzi, Aboo-‘Abdullaah al-Hakeem, Nawadir al-Usool fi AHadeeth al-Rasool, (Cairo: Maktaba Imam al-Bukhari, 2008) Hadeeth 1339 The same report is given by ad-Daarimi but he traces its chain back only to Abu Umaamah. See, ad-Daarimi, Abu Muhammad ‘Abdullah, al-Musnad, (Riyadh: Dar al-Mughni, 2000) Hadith 3362; classified as sahih(sound) by Hussain Saleem Asad.

Similarly, at the eve of the last sermon when the Messenger of Allaah asked people to acquire knowledge “before it is taken away”, a Bedouin asked;

يا نبي الله، كيف يرفع العلم منا وبين أظهرنا المصاحف وقد تعلمنا ما فيها، وعلمنا نساءنا وذرارينا وخدمنا؟

“O Prophet of Allaah! How can knowledge be removed from us while masaahif are with us and we learn their contents and teach it to our women, children and servants (40)?"

40  Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, (Cairo: Dar al-Hadith, 1995) Vol.16 Hadeeth 22191; classified as hasan (good) by Hamza Ahmad al-Zain); In ad-Daarimi, the report has the words “while the Book of Allaah is with us.” See, Hadith 246; authenticated by Hussain Saleem Asad.

A Bedouin saying “masaahif are with us” shows that the practice of writing Qur’aan had spread well even outside Madeenah, so that people other than Muhajireen (immigrants) and Ansaar (Helpers) had also become used to it.

The material presented above tells us that

  1. Putting the revelation of the Qur’aan in writing, in addition to the memory, was in Allaah’s plan and the Prophet ŜA‘WS took it very seriously. Thus, the text of the Qur’aan was preserved from day one simultaneously both through memorization as well as in writing. From the very beginning, the Prophet used to dictate every revelation to scribes in its specified place, both within a soorah and among the soorahs.
  2. Although the Qur’aan was compiled in a different order than the revelation order, there was no subsequent effort needed to compile it. Every piece was instantly put into its place, at the time of its revelation at the command of Allaah, both in terms of verses and soorahs. Hence, like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle, the moment the last revelation came, the compilation of the Qur’aan was complete in the same order as it is recorded in the Ummul-kitaab اُمّ الۡكِتٰبِ on the Preserved Slate (لوح محفوظ) – both in the memory of the Prophet as well as in his written manuscript, which it appears was kept at Ummul-Mu’mineen Hafsah’s or ‘Aaishah’s chambers.
  3. The Prophet recited and taught his companions in the same order. His companions learnt and recited in that order and prepared their own manuscripts in the same way. After the final revelation, all Huffaaz who had memorized the whole Qur’aan directly from the Prophet had learned the full text and the complete order of the Qur’aan from him. Those who had their own Mus-haf (not the partial writings), they would have completed their manuscripts in the same way in the life of the Prophet; otherwise, they could not have called theirs’ a complete collection. All Huffaaz and scribes knew the delineation of soorahs and their order in the mus-haf.
  4. The companions of the Prophet were memorizing the soorahs as they were revealed from their personal written copies or with the help of those who had written copies.
  5. By the time of the death of the Prophet, there were a multitude of people who had collected in writing as well as memorized the whole Qur’aan directly from or under the supervision of the Prophet ŜA‘WS. Therefore, the official version of the Qur’aan was not dependent upon one copy or one person’s memory, but the properly-ordered and complete Qur’aan was memorized by a multitude of people and the written copies were well distributed and established among a multitude of people.

Therefore, there has always been a consensus among the Muslim Ummah that Qur’aan was transmitted through Tawaatur (continuity) of an unbroken chain from the Prophet to thousands of his companions who learnt the whole Qur’aan directly from the Prophet, and preserved it in their memory and in writing; from them, it was conveyed onwards to hundreds of thousands, then to millions, then to billions of people. The twenty points presented in the previous section give a glimpse of how that Tawaatur and the breadth of population coverage was achieved. The authenticity of the Qur’aan was never dependent on a person or two, or a few at any time of its history. Its full text was always known to a huge number of people during the life of the Prophet and onwards. Even the pronunciation of its words and letters was passed on through Tawaatur of unbroken chain from generation to generation by the same multitude of people. Muslims were always very sensitive about its text and the pronunciation, and would not tolerate any variance. This was a built-in, unbeatable and self-correcting mechanism of its text, words and pronunciation that have been a potent weapon against any efforts by any people to cause any change at any time throughout its history.  Any such attempt would be swept away by the torrent of the established words and pronunciation carried on by multitudes of people since the time of the Prophet.

However, there is one historical report that is at variance with this consensus of Ummah and the evidence presented above. One such report that has gained currency among Muslims claims that the written compilation was done during the time of Aboo-Bakr As-Siddeeq (RA) after the battle of Yamamah. That report is attributed to Zayd ibn Thaabit (RA). So, first, we will list the implications of this view and then in the next section, we will critically examine some versions of that report.

If one accepts the claim that the Qur’aan was not collected completely from Al-Faatihah to An-Naas in writing in multiple copies under the supervision of the Prophet in his life, including his “official” copy, it implies that:

i.  The Qur’aan did not come to subsequent generations with Tawaatur both verbally and in writing; instead it was a product of one person, who included verses in the Qur’aan on the basis of one or two witnesses. (Details given in the next section).

ii.  Allaah SWT did not fulfil His responsibility that He had declared by assuring, “Upon Us is it collection, and its recital”. Also, He commanded Muslims to write their loan transaction to avoid doubts and confusions, but He did not arrange transcription of the Qur’aan to avoid doubt and confusion of His own Word.

iii.  The Prophet was not serious in having the Qur’aan written, because if he had followed the stated methodology, he would have had a complete, compiled Qur’aan as soon as he dictated the last revelation.

iv.  The evidence such as the following presented in the previous section is contradicted:

  • The fact that the Prophet used to tell scribes where to insert the new revelation; if it was not ordered, then how were they placing new verses at the right spot? Or were they not doing what the Prophet had asked them to do?
  • The report that the Prophet gave a manuscript containing all soorahs revealed in Makkah to Raafi’ ibn Malik.
  • The report from Zayd ibn Thaabit that they used to compile the Qur’aan under the supervision of the Prophet.
  • The report that four or five persons of Khazraj had collected the whole Qur’aan.
  • The report from Ibn ‘Abbaas that volunteers used to compile the Qur’aan for others until the Mus-haf was complete.

Those who speculate that the dictated pieces were distributed among the scribes for security reasons due to the prevailing war-like conditions. This speculation contradicts the above-listed facts and is inconsistent with the following:

  • The most challenging time in the life of the Prophet was after his trip to Taaif when he entered the city in the protection of Mut‘im and the Makkan chief were planning to kill him, even in those days, he was able to give the properly compiled Qur’aan revealed till that time.
  • After the conquest of Makkah, the situation had completely changed and the there was no threat that will stop him from having a compiled copy.

Reports about the Posthumous Collection of the Qur’aan

As against all of the strong evidence from the Qur’aan, Seerah and Hadeeth given above, Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Musnad Ahmad, Tirmidzi and Nasaa’i have quoted a report which claims that the Qur’aan was compiled at the order of Aboo-Bakr at the behest of ‘Umar by Zayd ibn Thaabit about a year after the death of the Prophet.

1. The Report (41)

41  Please note that reports about this topic are historical reports and are not in “Hadeeth” category because they do not ensue from the Prophet ŜA‘WS.

The text of the main report from Bukhari is as follows:

حَدَّثَنَا مُوسَى بْنُ إِسْمَاعِيلَ، عَنْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ بْنِ سَعْدٍ، حَدَّثَنَا ابْنُ شِهَابٍ، عَنْ عُبَيْدِ بْنِ السَّبَّاقِ، أَنَّ زَيْدَ بْنَ ثَابِتٍ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ قَالَ أَرْسَلَ إِلَىَّ أَبُو بَكْرٍ مَقْتَلَ أَهْلِ الْيَمَامَةِ فَإِذَا عُمَرُ بْنُ الْخَطَّابِ عِنْدَهُ قَالَ أَبُو بَكْرٍ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ إِنَّ عُمَرَ أَتَانِي فَقَالَ إِنَّ الْقَتْلَ قَدِ اسْتَحَرَّ يَوْمَ الْيَمَامَةِ بِقُرَّاءِ الْقُرْآنِ وَإِنِّي أَخْشَى أَنْ يَسْتَحِرَّ الْقَتْلُ بِالْقُرَّاءِ بِالْمَوَاطِنِ، فَيَذْهَبَ كَثِيرٌ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ وَإِنِّي أَرَى أَنْ تَأْمُرَ بِجَمْعِ الْقُرْآنِ‏.‏ قُلْتُ لِعُمَرَ كَيْفَ تَفْعَلُ شَيْئًا لَمْ يَفْعَلْهُ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ عُمَرُ هَذَا وَاللَّهِ خَيْرٌ‏.‏ فَلَمْ يَزَلْ عُمَرُ يُرَاجِعُنِي حَتَّى شَرَحَ اللَّهُ صَدْرِي لِذَلِكَ، وَرَأَيْتُ فِي ذَلِكَ الَّذِي رَأَى عُمَرُ‏.‏ قَالَ زَيْدٌ قَالَ أَبُو بَكْرٍ إِنَّكَ رَجُلٌ شَابٌّ عَاقِلٌ لاَ نَتَّهِمُكَ، وَقَدْ كُنْتَ تَكْتُبُ الْوَحْىَ لِرَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَتَتَبَّعِ الْقُرْآنَ فَاجْمَعْهُ فَوَاللَّهِ لَوْ كَلَّفُونِي نَقْلَ جَبَلٍ مِنَ الْجِبَالِ مَا كَانَ أَثْقَلَ عَلَىَّ مِمَّا أَمَرَنِي مِنْ جَمْعِ الْقُرْآنِ قُلْتُ كَيْفَ تَفْعَلُونَ شَيْئًا لَمْ يَفْعَلْهُ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ هُوَ وَاللَّهِ خَيْرٌ فَلَمْ يَزَلْ أَبُو بَكْرٍ يُرَاجِعُنِي حَتَّى شَرَحَ اللَّهُ صَدْرِي لِلَّذِي شَرَحَ لَهُ صَدْرَ أَبِي بَكْرٍ وَعُمَرَ ـ رضى الله عنهما ـ فَتَتَبَّعْتُ الْقُرْآنَ أَجْمَعُهُ مِنَ الْعُسُبِ وَاللِّخَافِ وَصُدُورِ الرِّجَالِ حَتَّى وَجَدْتُ آخِرَ سُورَةِ التَّوْبَةِ مَعَ أَبِي خُزَيْمَةَ الأَنْصَارِيِّ لَمْ أَجِدْهَا مَعَ أَحَدٍ غَيْرَهُ ‏{‏لَقَدْ جَاءَكُمْ رَسُولٌ مِنْ أَنْفُسِكُمْ عَزِيزٌ عَلَيْهِ مَا عَنِتُّمْ‏}‏ حَتَّى خَاتِمَةِ بَرَاءَةَ، فَكَانَتِ الصُّحُفُ عِنْدَ أَبِي بَكْرٍ حَتَّى تَوَفَّاهُ اللَّهُ ثُمَّ عِنْدَ عُمَرَ حَيَاتَهُ ثُمَّ عِنْدَ حَفْصَةَ بِنْتِ عُمَرَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ‏.‏

Moosa ibn Isma‘eel narrates from Ibrahim ibn Sa‘d who narrates from Ibn-Shihaab (Az-Zuhri) who narrates from 'Ubayd ibn Sabbaaq who narrates from Zayd ibn Thaabit Al-Ansari that:

Moosa ibn Isma‘eel narrates from Ibrahim ibn Sa‘d who narrates from Ibn-Shihaab (Az-Zuhri) who narrates from 'Ubayd ibn Sabbaaq who narrates from Zayd ibn Thaabit Al-Ansari that:

Aboo-Bakr sent for me after the Yamamah-bloodshed. ‘Umar was present with Aboo-Bakr who said: “‘Umar has come to me and said, ‘The Qurraa (those who had memorized the Qur’aan) have suffered heavy casualties on the day of Yamamah, and I am afraid that there will be more casualties among the Qurraa at other places, whereby many portions of the Qur’aan may be lost; therefore, I am of the opinion that you order the collection of the Qur’aan.” Aboo-Bakr added: “I said to ‘Umar: ‘How can I do something which Allaah's Messenger has not done?’ But ‘Umar responded, ‘By Allaah, it is a good thing.’ So ‘Umar kept on urging me to accept his proposal until Allaah opened my mind for it and I had the same opinion as ‘Umar’s.” Then, Aboo-Bakr said to me: “You are a sensible young man and we do not have any suspicion about you; and you used to write the Divine Revelation for Allaah’s Messenger. Therefore, search for the Qur’aan and collect it.”

By Allaah, if he had ordered me to shift one of the mountains, it would not have been harder for me than what he had ordered me concerning the collection of the Qur’aan. So, I said to both of them: “How dare you do something which the Prophet has not done?” Aboo-Bakr said, “By Allaah, it is a good thing.” However, I kept on arguing with him about it till Allaah opened my heart for that for which He had opened the hearts of Aboo-Bakr and ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with them). Then, I started locating the Qur’aanic material and collecting it from palm stalks, thin white stone tablets and from the memories of men, till I found the end of Soorah Al-Tawbah with Aboo-Khuzaymah Ansari, which I had not found with anybody else: لَقَدْ جَاءَكُمْ رَسُولٌ مِنْ أَنْفُسِكُمْ عَزِيزٌ عَلَيْهِ مَا عَنِتُّمْ‏ (“Verily there has come to you a messenger from among yourselves …) till the end of the soorah.

Those scriptures (الصُّحُفُ) remained with Aboo-Bakr until Allaah took him, then with ‘Umar until he lived, then with Hafsah, the daughter of ‘Umar (42).

42  Bukhari: Baab Jam‘ul-Qur’aan, kitaab fadhaa’ilul Qur’aan, Hadeeth 4986.

If we follow the same report narrated by the same Ibn-Sabbaaq and Zuhri reported in other places in Bukhari, we find variances among them, some of which are the following:

The version in Kitaabut-Tafseer has variances such as: the person with the two missing verses is Khuzaymah Ansaari (not Aboo-Khuzaymah); it has additional wording such as, “‘Umar was sitting with him and was not speaking”; and ‘Umar (RA) says, “…Unless you collect it. And I am of the opinion that you should collect the Qur’aan” instead of “I am of the opinion that you order the collection of the Qur’aan”.

In Kitaabul Ahkaam, the same report states that “I found the end of At-Tawbah ‏{‏لَقَدْ جَاءَكُمْ رَسُولٌ مِنْ أَنْفُسِكُمْ‏} to its end with “Khuzaymah or Aboo-Khuzaymah”; فَأَلْحَقْتُهَا فِي سُورَتِهَا and so I added it to its soorah”.  It is clearly talking about only one verse (not two) and that Zayd attached it where it belonged; but the reporter is not sure whether it was “Khuzaymah or Aboo-Khuzaymah”.

All three narrations in Bukhari mention a different list of materials from where the Qur’aan was collected:

  • palm stalks, thin stone tablets and minds of people (in Kitaab Jam‘ul-Qur’aan)
  • parchments, scapula bones, palm stalks and minds of people (in Kitaabut-Tafseer)
  • palm stalks, parchments, stone tablets, and minds of people (in Kitaabul-Ahkaam)

Then, there are some variants of this report reported by Musnad Ahmad and other non-Sihaah books. We will give the examples of variances in the next section where we analyze and assess this report.

But before going to the assessment part, let us also mention an incident that happened at the time of ‘Uthmaan, who undertook a project to make official copies of the Mus-haf to send them to main urban centres. We will not delve into this matter in this article, but we are providing two reports from Bukhari just for reference:

حَدَّثَنَا مُوسَى، حَدَّثَنَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ، حَدَّثَنَا ابْنُ شِهَابٍ، أَنَّ أَنَسَ بْنَ مَالِكٍ، حَدَّثَهُ أَنَّ حُذَيْفَةَ بْنَ الْيَمَانِ قَدِمَ عَلَى عُثْمَانَ وَكَانَ يُغَازِي أَهْلَ الشَّأْمِ فِي فَتْحِ إِرْمِينِيَةَ وَأَذْرَبِيجَانَ مَعَ أَهْلِ الْعِرَاقِ فَأَفْزَعَ حُذَيْفَةَ اخْتِلاَفُهُمْ فِي الْقِرَاءَةِ فَقَالَ حُذَيْفَةُ لِعُثْمَانَ يَا أَمِيرَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَدْرِكْ هَذِهِ الأُمَّةَ قَبْلَ أَنْ يَخْتَلِفُوا فِي الْكِتَابِ اخْتِلاَفَ الْيَهُودِ وَالنَّصَارَى فَأَرْسَلَ عُثْمَانُ إِلَى حَفْصَةَ أَنْ أَرْسِلِي إِلَيْنَا بِالصُّحُفِ نَنْسَخُهَا فِي الْمَصَاحِفِ ثُمَّ نَرُدُّهَا إِلَيْكِ فَأَرْسَلَتْ بِهَا حَفْصَةُ إِلَى عُثْمَانَ فَأَمَرَ زَيْدَ بْنَ ثَابِتٍ وَعَبْدَ اللَّهِ بْنَ الزُّبَيْرِ وَسَعِيدَ بْنَ الْعَاصِ وَعَبْدَ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنَ الْحَارِثِ بْنِ هِشَامٍ فَنَسَخُوهَا فِي الْمَصَاحِفِ وَقَالَ عُثْمَانُ لِلرَّهْطِ الْقُرَشِيِّينَ الثَّلاَثَةِ إِذَا اخْتَلَفْتُمْ أَنْتُمْ وَزَيْدُ بْنُ ثَابِتٍ فِي شَىْءٍ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ فَاكْتُبُوهُ بِلِسَانِ قُرَيْشٍ فَإِنَّمَا نَزَلَ بِلِسَانِهِمْ فَفَعَلُوا حَتَّى إِذَا نَسَخُوا الصُّحُفَ فِي الْمَصَاحِفِ رَدَّ عُثْمَانُ الصُّحُفَ إِلَى حَفْصَةَ وَأَرْسَلَ إِلَى كُلِّ أُفُقٍ بِمُصْحَفٍ مِمَّا نَسَخُوا وَأَمَرَ بِمَا سِوَاهُ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ فِي كُلِّ صَحِيفَةٍ أَوْ مُصْحَفٍ أَنْ يُحْرَقَ‏.‏

Anas bin Malik Narrated to Ibn-Shihaab (Az-Zuhri):

Hudzaifah ibn Al-Yamaan came to `Uthmaan at the time when the people of Shaam and the people of Iraq were waging war to conquer Armenia and Azerbaijan. Hudzaifah was afraid of their (the people of Sham and Iraq) differences in the recitation of the Qur’aan, so he said to ‘Uthmaan, “O chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book (Qur’aan) as Jews and the Christians did before.” So ‘Uthmaan sent a message to Hafsah, "Send us the scriptures (Suhuf) of the Qur’aan so that we copy it in masaahif and then return it to you.” Hafsah sent it to ‘Uthmaan. ‘Uthmaan then ordered Zayd ibn Thaabit, ‘Abdullaah ibn Az-Zubair, Sa‘eed ibn Al-‘Aas and ‘Abdur-Rahman ibn Haarith ibn Hishaam, so they copied it in masaahif. ‘Uthmaan said to the three Qurayshi men, “In case you disagree with Zayd ibn Thaabit on any point in the Qur’aan, then write it in the dialect of Quraish, the Qur’aan was revealed in their dialect.” They did so, and when they had copied Suhuf in masaahif, ‘Uthmaan returned the Suhuf to Hafsah. ‘Uthmaan sent to every territory one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Suhuf and masaahif be burnt.

قَالَ ابْنُ شِهَابٍ وَأَخْبَرَنِي خَارِجَةُ بْنُ زَيْدِ بْنِ ثَابِتٍ، سَمِعَ زَيْدَ بْنَ ثَابِتٍ، قَالَ فَقَدْتُ آيَةً مِنَ الأَحْزَابِ حِينَ نَسَخْنَا الْمُصْحَفَ قَدْ كُنْتُ أَسْمَعُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقْرَأُ بِهَا فَالْتَمَسْنَاهَا فَوَجَدْنَاهَا مَعَ خُزَيْمَةَ بْنِ ثَابِتٍ الأَنْصَارِيِّ ‏{‏مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ رِجَالٌ صَدَقُوا مَا عَاهَدُوا اللَّهَ عَلَيْهِ‏}‏ فَأَلْحَقْنَاهَا فِي سُورَتِهَا فِي الْمُصْحَفِ‏.‏

Ibn-Shihaab said that Khaarijah ibn Zayd told me that Zayd ibn Thaabit added, “While making the copies of the Mus-haf, I could not find a verse from Al-Ahzaab that I used to hear Allaah’s Messenger (ﷺ) reciting it. So, we searched for it and found it with Khuzaymah ibn Thaabit Al-Ansari. (That Verse was), “Among the Believers are men who have been true to their pledges with Allaah”. We inserted it in its soorah in the Mus-haf (43).

43  ibid, Hadeeth 4987 and 4988.

However, the same report given in Muqni’ (44) mentions that the missing verse was At-Tawbah’s 9:128.

44  Uthmaan Ad-Daani, Al-Muqni‘, h. 3.

2. Assessment of the Chain of Narrators (45)

45  This section is a brief summary of the detailed discussion presented in a voluminous Urdu book “Jama‘-ul-Qur’aan” by Allaamah Tamanna ‘Imaadi Phalwarvi, Ar-Rahman Publishing Trust, Karachi; It also relies on the work of Dr. Shehzad Saleem which he published at Al-Mawrid website and in his Thesis on “Collection of the Qur’aan”.

Because our topic is the collection of the Qur’aan during the time of Aboo-Bakr Siddeeq (RA), we will limit our comments on the chain of narrators for only the first report listed above.

A report from a single narrator is considered a weak report. This Hadeeth has been narrated only by a single narrator Ibn-Shihab Az-Zuhri (Zuhri), from a single narrator ‘Ubayd ibn As-Sabbaq (Ibn-Sabbaaq), from a single companion Zayd ibn Thabit. The collection of the Qur’aan was a crucial task which supposedly involved many people, but it is surprising that none of them would report it. In fact, during the first century of the Islamic history after the Prophet, no one even had heard that there was an exercise of collecting the Qur’aan during Aboo-Bakr’s time. After a century of this secretive transmission, Zuhri shared it with only about eight of his students out of his hundreds of students; and none of those eight corroborated or confirmed this report with the dozens of other teachers they were learning from.

The first person who claimed to have it learnt from Zayd ibn Thaabit is Ibn-Sabbaaq who is an unknown kind of person from Banoo Thaqeef, who were settled in Taa’if. Nothing is known about his father or grandfather. He has reported only three Ahadeeth in total and only his own son, Sa‘eed, and Zuhri have reported from him. He died at 68 in 118 Hijri (as per Bukhari’s At-Taareekhul- Kabeer), accordingly, he was born in 50 Hijri Era (HE). Now, Ibn-Hajar writes that according to authentic reports, Zayd ibn Thabit died in 45 HE, but some scholars claim that he died in 48 HE, others have mentioned 51, 52 or 55; but Ibn Hajar declares any other reports of Zayd’s year of death beyond 48 such as 51, 52 or 55 to be invalid. However, regardless of what year of Zayd’s death is taken as valid, it is impossible for Ibn-Sabbaaq to have learnt anything from Zayd – either Ibn-Sabbaaq was not even born when Zayd died, or he was a small child at the time of Zayd’s death, rendering his report invalid (46). In addition, Imam Bukhari himself (in At-Taareekhul- Kabeer), Ibn Sa‘d, and Ibn Abee-Haatim (in his Rijaal) write about both Zayd ibn Thaabit and ‘Ubayd ibn Sabbaaq, but none of them mentions ‘Ubayd in the list of Zayd’s students nor Zayd in the list of ‘Ubayd’s teachers.

46  The other Hadeeth he has reported is from Suhayl ibn Hunayf, who died in 38 HE according to Ibn-Hajar, 12 years before Ibn-Sabbaaq was born. Similarly, he could not have reported from Ibn-‘Abbaas who died in 68 or 69 HE, but had stopped narrating Hadeeth some years before his death, as per Imam Muslim). So, being only in his early teens or younger when Ibn-‘Abbaas stopped teaching, he could not have reported from Ibn-‘Abbaas either. Musnad Ahmad, which basically includes everything ensuing from Ibn-‘Abbaas, has no Hadeeth whatsoever from Ibn-‘Abbaas through Ibn-Sabbaaq.

Although this is enough to discredit his narration about the collection of the Qur’aan, let us also look at Zuhri, the next person who reported it from Ibn-Sabbaaq.

Zuhri is a well-known narrator of Ahadeeth. Major books of Ahadeeth contain many reports from him. But at the same time, he had a bad reputation. The scholars of Hadeeth have blamed three serious dishonesties in reporting Ahadeeth (47) on him:

  • Idraj – inserting his own words in the words of a Hadeeth, without differentiating his words from the words of the Hadeeth.
  • Tadlees – pretending to have directly listened from a contemporary scholar of Hadeeth without actually having listened from him.
  • Irsaal – From the chain of reporters, missing the first person who directly reported from the speaker of the words reported in the text.
47  For detailed evidence, please refer to Tareekhul Qur’aan by Mufti Abdul Lateef Rahmani (urdu), and Taqdeem Ta’aruf by Mufti Tahir Makki in the book Jama-ul-Quraan (Urdu) by Allaamah Tamanna ‘Amaadi Phalwarvi. Also see http://www.al-mawrid.org/index.php/articles/view/collection-and-transmission-of-the-quran-part-2-3; and http://monthly-renaissance.com/issue/content.aspx?id=574#47.

Another question mark on his credibility was placed by one of the Zuhri’s students, Imam Layth ibn Sa‘d, who wrote a letter to Imam Malik ibn Anas and stated the following:

“Ibn-Shihab (az-Zuhri) would give many contradicting pronouncements when we would meet him. While if any one of us would ask him something in writing about some issue, he, in spite of being so learned, would give three contradictory answers to the same question; and he would not even be aware of what he had said about the issue in the past. This is what prompted me to leave him, which you did not like.” (48)

48  Ibn-Qayyim, I’laamul-Muwaqqi’eein, Darul-Jayl, Beirut, Volume 2, Page 85.

If we believe this report to be true, it implies that Zayd performs a wonderful act, does not mention (49) it to anyone in his whole life, not any of his forty students, except to a person who is not even listed anywhere as his student. This, while some of Zayd’s forty students who have reported from him were very famous Companions. Also, many of these students like Ibn ‘Umar, Marwaan ibn Hakam, ‘Urwah ibn Zubayr, Anas ibn Maalik, Aboo Sa‘eed Khudri and Abaan ibn ‘Uthmaan were in Madeenah and accessible to Zayd. However, he never informed them of this all-important event.It is indeed strange that he kept it secret from all of these people, but he confides such an important matter only to one person, ‘Ubayd ibn al-Sabbaaq, who could have not met him. Then, that person reports to only a single narrator who is accused of inserting his own words and reporting without actually listening personally from the earlier reporter. Thus, this report remains “ghareeb” in the first three steps of its narration, and has a dubious chain of narrators attributing it to Zayd (RA). Then, even all the eight chains emerging from the students of Zuhri have flaws (50). Therefore, such a report cannot be given any credence despite that it happens to be in Bukhari!

49  This should not be confused with other reports from Zayd about his role in making copies of the Mus-haf for ‘Uthmaan (RA). That is a separate topic.
50  Shehzad Saleem, Collection of the Qur’an: A Critical and Historical study of Al-Farahi’s view, p. 113-122.

Had anything like that happened, common sense demands that it should have been reported by many people. Many other companions would have mentioned it somehow, somewhere. For example, Anas ibn Malik who was only one year younger than Zayd, and had served the Prophet for 10 years, had no notion of this compilation by Zayd. He reports many Ahadeeth and he reports about the copying project of ‘Uthmaan, but not a word about this project. In his report about ‘Uthmaan’s copying project, he mentions of the Mus-haf that was with Hafsah, but does not say a single word about the origin of that Mus-haf – obviously because the Mus-haf with Hafsah was already known to everyone since the time of the Prophet, and because Anas was unaware of this compilation story, which had not been fabricated as yet.

Considering these serious weaknesses that violate Imam Bukhari’s conditions and standards he had set for the acceptance of a report, the question arises how could he have included such a report in his book? It is possible that Imam Bukhari may not have checked it with the same strict standards because this report was not attributed to the Prophet. Allaah knows best; but it appears that this was a subsequent fabrication but to benefit from Imam Bukhari’s reputation, the fabricators somehow interpolated such fake stories in his book after his death during its transmission, to give credibility to their fabrication.

3. Other Indications that this report is a Subsequent Fabrication

i.  The earliest book on Hadeeth, the Mu’atta of Imam Malik (d: 179 HE), who had learned Ahadeeth from Zuhri and reported from him is devoid of any mention of a matter of such a great significance. This absence is curious because Mu’atta has a section devoted to the Qur’aan (Kitaabul-Qur’aan) which includes reports on matters such as seven ahruf and division of the Qur’aan into parts (manaazil and hizbs). He also reports from Zuhri and Ibn-Sabbaaq a mursal report about doing ghusl and wearing perfume on Friday.

Similarly, the Saheeh of Imam Muslim (d: 261 HE), the celebrated scholar of Hadeeth, does not mention it either. This is despite the fact that Imam Muslim was a student of Imam Bukhari, and has reported other Ahadeeth from Zuhri and, like Bukhari, has a section in his Saheeh on “Fadhaailul-Qur’aan and what is related to it”. In that section, it reports a Hadeeth whereby the Prophet told Ubayy ibn Ka‘b, “Allaah SWT has ordered me to recite (Soorah Al-Bayyinah) to you.” In other words, had Imam Muslim known of the report about the collection in the time of Aboo-Bakr, he would have mentioned it in this section.

ii.  The earliest books on Muslim history such as the following contain no reference to the project reported in this report:

  • Tabaqaat of Ibn-Sa‘d (d: 230 HE),
  • Taareekh by Khaleeah ibn Khayyaat (d. 240 HE)
  • Taareekh al-Madeenah by ‘Umar ibn Shabbah (d. 262 HE)
  • Akhbaar Makkah by Muhammad ibn Ishaaq al-Faakihi (d. 275 HE)
  • Al-Ma‘aarif by Ibn Qutaybah (276 HE)
  • Taareekhur-Rusul wal-Mulook of Ibn-Jareer Tabari (d: 310 HE)

The absence of this report in Tabaqaat of Ibn-Sa‘d and Al-Ma‘aarif of Ibn Qutaybah is very significant because these works give an elaborate treatment to the life and times of Aboo-Bakr and ‘Umar, as well as details significant matters about Zayd and Hafsah. Tabari mentions the revolt of Musaylamah (the battle of Yamaamah) with considerable detail. However, nowhere do these historians mention any collection of the Qur’aan under Aboo-Bakr by Zayd at the behest of ‘Umar. This was by no means an insignificant event; and it deserved mention if it ever took place.

iii.  It should also be noted that there is another fake report whereby Zuhri reports from the same Ibn-Sabbaaq from Zayd ibn Thaabit,

قبض النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم ولم يكن القرآن جمع في شيء

“The Prophet passed away while the Qur’aan was not collected (written) in anything.” (53)

In the light of the evidence provided in the previous section, what can be more farther from truth than this claim? And how could Zayd have said this when he had collected his own Mus-haf before the Prophet passed away, as reported by Anas ibn Maalik and quoted earlier? It was also reported from Zayd himself that he used to write the revelation for the Prophet, and that he and others used to compile the Qur’aan under the supervision of the Prophet ŜA‘WS.

51  Ibn-Hajar, Fat-hul-Bari Vol. 8, p 628, Daar-ur-Rayyaan lit-Turaath, 1987

4. Paraphrased Contents of the Report

While the subsequent discussion will focus on the first (main) report from Bukhari about the collection of the Qur’aan in writing during the khilaafah of Aboo-Bakr, we will start by highlighting in paraphrase style what all of these reports from Bukhari tell us:

i.  ‘Umar (RA) had a concern: “Because all of the Qur’aan is neither written nor memorized, and because different persons have memorized different portions of the Qur’aan – some portions being known only to a person or two – the death of a person who had memorized a part not memorized by others will result in the loss of that part of the Qur’aan. The more such persons die, the more of the Qur’aan will be lost forever, unless it is collected from all sources and put in writing.”

If this paraphrasing does not sound right, one just needs to think of the implications of “whereby many portions of the Qur’aan may be lost” because there could not have been any risk of losing any part of the Qur’aan even if a few huffaaz of the full Qur’aan were alive. Had all of the Qur’aan been already documented even on bits and pieces, a haafiz would be able to arrange all pieces together in proper order, without losing any part of the Qur’aan. Even if the Qur’aan was not written, the death of a number of Huffaaz would not matter as long as even a few Qurraa (Huffaaz) of the complete Qur’aan were alive to put all of it in writing with each other’s help.

ii.  Many Qurraa (Huffaaz) were martyred in the battle of Yamaamah; so, the danger of losing the unwritten portions memorized only by those martyrs had become evident.

iii.  Considering this risk, ‘Umar either asked Aboo-Bakr to collect the Qur’aan in writing or he asked him to order the collection of the Qur’aan in writing.

iv.  Both Aboo-Bakr and Zayd were extremely apprehensive against doing something that the Prophet had not done, until at last, they were convinced that it was worth doing.

v.  Zayd was selected because he was young, sensible and free of suspicion.

vi.  He did all the work of compiling on his own. It was a solo job, not allowing any team idea to be assumed, because every verb about the action of compilation is singular: “I was summoned”, “you are a young man”, “I searched”, “I collected”, “I found”, etc., etc.

vii.  Zayd collected the Qur’aan from a variety of sources: the minds of people, and palm stalks, and/or stone tablets, and/or parchments, and/or scapula bones.

viii.  Either one or two verse(s) of At-Tawbah could not be found except with Aboo-Khuzaymah Ansaari or Khuzaymah Ansaari. It was/they were attached to the end of the soorah.

ix.  The Mus-haf was given in the custody of Aboo-Bakr. At his death, it went to ‘Umar; and at his martyrdom, it was inherited by Hafsah, the daughter of ‘Umar.

x.  About 13 years later, ‘Uthmaan (RA) asked Zayd to make copies of the Mus-haf, but attached three Quraysh persons with him so that they can ensure that the Qur’aan is written in the script of the Quraysh.

xi.  Then, Zayd found another verse missing, and once again located it with Khuzaymah ibn Thaabit Ansaari and attached it to where it belonged.

5. The Problems with the Content

This report is against the Qur’aan and other authentic Ahadeeth listed in the first part of this article proving clearly that the Qur’aan was written and compiled in writing before the death of the Prophet ŜA‘WS, whereby the Prophet kept a copy of the codex, and multiple persons had their own complete compiled copies. Every statement in the report is inconsistent with reality. Let us examine all of the eleven points of the content listed above in the same order, without repeating the wordings of those contents:

i.  We have demonstrated above through authentic evidence that multiple written copies of the completely collected and compiled Qur’aan existed, in addition to the Prophetic copy. Even those who think that it was not compiled and collected at one place in the life of the Prophet do agree that it was completely written in the Prophet’s life. There is a consensus of Ummah that the Qur’aan was preserved both in writing and in memory of people so that there were many who had memorized the whole Qur’aan and that every verse of the Qur’aan was written in one form or the other. This report contradicts that consensus as well as all the evidence provided above.
To demonstrate the gravity of the risk, another story was created, claiming that ‘Umar asked someone about a verse that did not exist in the extant Mus-haf, and he was told, “that verse was with so and so (it was memorized by so and so) who was martyred in the battle of Yamamah.” ‘Umar exclaimed, “We are for Allaah and to Him we will return”, implying that the verse is now lost forever. This prompted him to initiate the collection project (52). Ignoring the other problems with the legitimacy of this story, just consider how it negates Allaah’s protection of the Qur’aan.

52  Reported from Ibn-Abee-Dawood in Itqaan and in Kanzul-‘Ummal vol.1

ii.  This report is implausible based on the established history. The number of martyrs in the battle of Yamamah, could not have been a justifiable cause of concern strong enough to initiate the compilation effort because the researchers have identified only two of the famous reciters being martyrs in that battle: Saalim (the freed slave of Aboo-Huzaifah) and ‘Abdullaah ibn Hafs al-Ghaanim (53). All other famous Huffaaz were still alive and well, including all three subjects of this report. Keep in mind that when the Prophet died, he had hundreds of thousands of companions, considering 100,000 participated at the farewell pilgrimage. Given that one’s knowledge of Islam was simply his knowledge of the Qur’aan, thousands of them had memorized the whole Qur’aan, and they had their own copies of Mus-haf. This trend was further driven by the emphasis on learning and teaching the Qur’aan, and its recitation from Mus-haf despite memorization. Seeing a decline in the quality of actions among many new Huffaaz, Aboo Hudzuaifah has been reported to say, “O memorizers of the Qu-aan! Decorate your Qur’aan through deeds.” (54) That could have been possible only when multitude had become Haafiz but they were weak in actions because they did not have that much coaching in the company of the Prophet ŜA‘WS.

53  Dr. Shehzad Saleem, Collection of the Qur’an, 78.
54  Al-Tabari, Taareekh al-rusul wa al-mulook, vol. 2, 280; Ibn al-Atheer, Al-Kaamil fit-taareekh, vol. 2, 221.

iii.  The text of the main report implies that ‘Umar (RA) privately talked to Aboo-Bakr (RA), and then they both talked privately to Zayd (RA), who alone was commissioned to undertake the task. Does it make sense that there was no Shoora held for such a crucial and sensitive task, for which, as per the narrative, Aboo-Bakr was himself very much reluctant? From all signs, it appears that it was such a secret project that no one outside of these three persons knew anything about it. Relying on the six major books of Hadeeth, we can say that no other person from the Companions knew anything about this project or ever mentioned it. Even ‘Umar himself never mentioned anything about it for eleven years of his subsequent life. No such report is to be found from ‘Umar or other senior Companions. As demonstrated in points ix and x below, ‘Uthmaan (RA) had no idea of this accomplishment either.

iv.  Both Aboo-Bakr and Zayd’s apprehensions are beyond comprehension, considering that they had the first-hand knowledge of how the Prophet used to dictate to the scribes and direct them to place the fresh revelation in its proper place in the order of the Qur’aan; they and many of their colleagues had already their own collected copies of the Qur’aan; and it was Zayd who reported that they used to compile the Qur’aan under the supervision of the Prophet ŜA‘WS. How can the Qur’aan’s collection (writing and compilation) be called “something that the Prophet did not do”. How could they have harboured such a concern when the Prophet had allowed even writing of his own words, as indicated by the Ahadeeth quoted in the first section.
Also, if such a statement is accepted as true, and the Qur’aan really had not been collected in one place in the life of the Prophet as alleged, it would be expected that the very first task the Khaleefah and Companions should have set before themselves after the Prophet's death was to collect and collate their Divine book. But it is astonishing that the Companions seem to be oblivious, as this narrative implies, to the importance of the collection of the Qur’aan. Instead, they only embarked upon this job after the battle of Yamamah, which was fought almost a year after the Prophet's death. Moreover, it is evident from the narrative that had ‘Umar not insisted on this collection, it might never have taken place. In that way, this report suggests an irresponsible attitude on the part of the Companions towards the integrity of the Qur’aan, while their excellence in their dedication to the Qur’aan was beyond any doubt.
If someone speculates that perhaps the Prophet did not have an official copy, so their concerns was against having an official copy of the Qur’aan, then even this copy allegedly prepared by Zayd was never used as an official copy, as mentioned in point ix below.

v.  If there was no compiled Mus-haf of the Qur’aan and it had to be compiled and collated from the bits and pieces written on a variety of material that were in no particular order and were in possession of a variety of unknown people, then the appointment of Zayd, a young man in his early 20s, for this monumental task is quite puzzling. Let us say Aboo-Bakr was pre-occupied with the matters of the state, but what about ‘Umar, ‘Ali, ‘Uthmaan and other Muhaajireen who had been writing the revelation from the beginning and were well-versed in the language of the Qur’aan in which the Qur’aan was revealed? Why was being young important for this job instead of experience, maturity, the knowledge of Quraish dialect, etc.? Why not Ubayy ibn Ka‘b who was the first person to act as a scribe in Madeenah (55) and thus had done this work since the time of Hijrah?
Zayd was about 11 years old at the time of Hijrah. When the Prophet came to Madeenah, Zayd was brought to him to show that he had already memorized some soorahs, which the Prophet was pleased with. Then, in 2 Hijri, he was one of those children taught to read and write by a Makkan prisoner from the battle of Badr. Then, the Prophet asked him to learn the Jewish script; which he did, and he used to act as the scribe for correspondence with the Jews, as described in Naylul-Awtaar, reporting from Bukhari and Ahmad. However, for the collection of the Qur’aan, there seems to be little logic or rationale to select him over senior Muhaajireen and Ansaar for this momentous and historic task.
Had some exercise of this kind taken place, one of the more qualified Companions from Quraysh would have been asked to do the job; or, one of the four non-Quraysh whom the Prophet had recommended as the teachers of the Qur’aan; or, Abdullaah ibn Mas‘ood who is reported in Bukhari itself saying, “By Allaah other than Whom none has the right to be worshipped! There is no soorah revealed in Allaah's Book but I know at what place it was revealed; and there is no verse revealed in Allaah's Book but I know about whom it was revealed.” (56)
To deflect the criticism on this point, the fabricators of this story concocted another one. They claimed that in the last Ramadhaan of Prophet’s life, when he went over the whole Qur’aan twice with Jibreel, it was done in Zayd’s presence. It begs the question why would the Prophet include him instead of Aboo-Bakr who was considered to have the highest status among human beings other than the prophets; or ‘Umar about whom the Prophet himself said that were there any possibility of another prophet after him, it would have been ‘Umar; or ‘Uthmaan Zdun-noorayn, or ‘Ali from his Ahlul-bayt? But it also appears that Aboo-Bakr and ‘Umar were unaware of this very special matter because when giving him the task they did not mention this as the special reason. They did not know because this story was not concocted as yet.
Also, the comment “we do not have any suspicion about you” indirectly suggests some “suspicion” on other more experienced and mature scribes, who have been excluded from this exercise. It shows that the story is fabrication by someone who wanted to subtly cast aspersion on the Companions of the Prophet.

55  Ibn-Abdul-Barr in Al-Istee‘aab; also see footnote 12.
56  Bukhari, Kitaab Fadhaail-ul-Qur’aan, chapter: Qurraa (Huffaaz) from the Companions, 5002.

vi.  Disregarding the reports in the less-credible sources than the six books of Hadeeth, a reader can re-read all occurrences of this narration in Bukhari, and it will become clear that this collection and compilation was a solo job; and the text of the reports does not allow any team idea to be assumed, because every verb about the action of compilation is singular: “I was summoned”, “you are a young man”, “I searched”, “I collected”, “I found”, etc., etc.
The question is: was it humanly possible for him to do it? The battle of Yamamah happened in 12 Hijri, so most probably Aboo-Bakr would have commissioned Zayd for the project towards the end of 12 Hijri. Aboo-Bakr died in the fifth month of 13 Hijri. It means Zayd was able to: search and collect all the bones, stalks and stones, etc., and pick the brains of people; compile all of the collected material in the form of a Mus-haf (codex); and hand it over to Aboo-Bakr, still allowing some time for it to stay with him before his death.

vii.  Different versions of the report mention different objects bearing the verses of the Qur’aan but all versions in Bukhari mention “Chests of men” (memory of men) as one of the source of the components of the Qur’aan that he collected. However, they do not mention any methodology of compilation or criteria for accepting or rejecting what he gathered. How did he know that something that is being presented from memory or on a piece of writing material is really a part of the Qur’aan or not? Was Zayd the sole decision-maker of what to put together. So, how did he know if he got every verse or not; or if he did not include something that did not really belong in the Qur’aan? Was he going by his memorization of the Qur’aan and his own collected Mus-haf? If no, does that sound like a reassuring way of compiling the Book of Allaah SWT? If yes, then the end product was already in existence, why did he need to collect anything? All he had to do was compare and reconfirm his Mus-haf with some other Huffaaz or check someone else’s Mus-haf with his own memorization! Or he could have taken one of four collected copies from the people of Khazraj and check it for completeness with his own memorization. There were many opportunities to accomplish the task of having a verified mus-haf without any collection of bits, pieces and memories.
Ibn-Abdul-Barr writes: (57)
“And the Hadeeth of Anas ibn Malik that Zayd ibn Thabit is the one of those who collected (wrote) the whole Qur’aan during the life of the Prophet is authentic (Saheeh), but contradicts the Hadeeth of Ibn Shihaab … now, if Zayd had collected the Qur’aan during the life of the Prophet, he would have written on his own, and would not have needed what Ibn Shihaab has mentioned.”

57  Ibn-Abdul-Bar, Al-Istee‘aab, (vol 1, page 194)

viii.  The weirdest part of the report is the so-called missing one or two verse(s) of At-Tawbah that could not be found except with one of the two: Aboo-Khuzaymah Ansaari or Khuzaymah Ansaari (58).
First of all, what is meant by “with Khuzaymah (or Aboo- Khuzaymah)”? If we interpret it in the light of the wording of the report quoted under point i above, it means it was memorized only by this person. (59) Then, the question arises, why would he know a verse or two which are not known to all of the senior and expert Huffaaz like Aboo-Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Ali, ‘Uthmaan, Ubayy, and especially Zayd, who allegedly listened to the whole Qur’aan from the Prophet in the last Ramadhaan of the Prophet’s life? And how did Zayd ascertain that it is missing? However, the apologists for this story say, “The correct interpretation of Zayd's remark is that he had failed to find the verse with anyone in writing, not that he had failed to find those who bore it in their memories.” (60)
If this explanation is accepted that Zayd did know the verses but he did not have them in written form, then the question arises: is it possible that the verse(s) were revealed but the Prophet not dictate them to a scribe when they were revealed, as was his practice? If he did, what happened to them? The scribes Zayd, Ubayy, ‘Ali, ‘Uthmaan, etc. – one of them must have written it, and known what happened to it. If the Prophet did not dictate, did he take the dictation of the revelation so lightly that he would miss it? In that case, it means his documentation of the Qur’aan was incomplete. It is inconceivable to even think of any laxity (seeking Allaah’s refuge from any such notion) on the part of the Prophet or his scribes. Zayd himself was a scribe of the Prophet, especially in the last days of Prophet’s life when these verses were revealed, why did he not have them? Who was this person, Khuzaymah or Aboo-Khuzaymah? He was not even one of the scribes of the Prophet, so where did he write them from? When Zayd knew these verses, why did he not have them in the Qur’aan he had personally collected?
Regardless of how one looks at it, it is absolutely a poorly crafted, baseless falsehood that was created to raise doubts about the integrity of the Qur’aan! As quoted earlier in the first section of this article, the Prophet used to receive the revelation, dictate it to a scribe, ensure the accuracy of its transcription, and then recite the revelation to the public, who would immediately learn it, add to their manuscripts and convey to other people in their circle. In that kind of system, every revelation was quickly with multiple persons both in memory and in writing; and it was impossible for any verse to remain unwritten or to remain with only one person.

58  Keep in mind they are not father and son: one was from Aws and the other from Khazraj.
59  In fact, there are many other reports where “with someone” is used to say he has memorized it.
60  Fat-hul-Bari, 1st ed., vol. 9, p. 12

ix.  The Mus-haf was given in the custody of Aboo-Bakr. At his death, it went to ‘Umar; and at his martyrdom, it was inherited by Hafsah, the daughter of ‘Umar. If this collection by Aboo-Bakr was a personal endeavour, then of course it loses its real importance, and if it was done in an official capacity to preserve the Qur’aan, or as an “official” copy, then we are confronted with another nagging question: Why did not the first Khaleefah make arrangements to implement this as the official codex, standardized version or advertise it for the benefit of the public or making it available for people to copy? Apparently, he did not even order to make copies of it. Even ‘Umar who allegedly was so adamant about this project, did not do so either. Also, Aboo-Bakr enumerated the things that belonged to the state and instructed his family to hand over those to his successor, why there was no mention of this codex which was supposedly in his custody.
Another question which arises pertains to the custody of the compiled Mus-haf. If it is accepted that the collection of Aboo-Bakr was done as a project of the state, then the question arises: Why was the collected Qur’aan not transferred to ‘Uthmaan after the death of ‘Umar? Instead, we are told that it was given into the custody of Hafsah, ‘Umar’s daughter. Furthermore, when ‘Uthmaan needed it for copying, he did not even demand it from her; rather, he borrowed it on the promise of returning it. If this property of the state was given to Hafsah temporarily for some reason, why did ‘Uthmaan promise to return it? This is simply because it was the Prophet’s Mus-haf kept under her custody and he was unaware of it having been produced by the command of Khaleefah Aboo-Bakr; otherwise, Khaleefah ‘Uthmaan would have taken over its custody.
Another pertinent question is that by the time Ibn-Sabbaaq and Zuhri reported this project, Hafsah had already passed away (50 HE), so they should have also reported what happened to the Mus-haf after her, as they had reported it moving from Aboo-Bakr to ‘Umar to Hafsah! Where did it go after Hafsah (RA)?

x.  Then, ‘Uthmaan (RA) appointed Zayd to the copying project along with three Qurayshi scribes to ensure that it was written in the language or script of the Quraysh. Had he known that the source Mus-haf from which the copies are to be prepared was compiled by the same Zayd, why would he distrust him in the matter of language by giving the Qurayshis authority to overrule him in case of any variance, while Aboo-Bakr and ‘Umar trusted his expertise? And why did Zayd not say a single word in the light of his previous work for such a lack of confidence? Did ‘Uthmaan appoint extra persons because he was dissatisfied with the quality of that Mus-haf, then, why would he borrow it for copying or give the responsibility to the same person who did the unsatisfactory job in the first place? The real reason seems to be that Zayd had no involvement in the compilation of Hafsah Mus-haf.

xi.  Then, this time around, Zayd found another verse missing, and once again located it with Khuzaymah ibn Thaabit Ansaari and attached it to where it belonged. The report about the collection in Aboo-Bakr’s Khilaafah claims that Zayd found ALL verses except the last two verses of the At-Tawbah; but narratives which describe the ‘Uthmaanic project 13 years later, describe that Zayd found another verse – Ahzaab 33:23 – missing, which once again, was found only with a “Khuzaymah”. In other words, even if it is accepted that Zayd was given some assignment of collection by Aboo-Bakr, what comes to light is that the written text of Zayd was, quite unbelievably, not even checked for mistakes! He had not really found ALL verses! But more serious than that is the issue that the mistake remained hidden for 13 years. When the Mus-haf was with Aboo-Bakr who was Haafiz, he did not notice it. It remained with ‘Umar for ten years, who was also Haafiz, even he did not notice it. The most serious question that arises then is what other mistakes were made but not discovered? There are many issues about this report of the ‘Uthmaani project and this discovery of 33:23 as well, but that is not the topic of this article.

xii.  Scholars have tried to reconcile the puzzle about which Khuzaymah was the resourceful person to have the missing stuff when needed, but no explanations have been able to resolve the contradictions about the real person. Regardless of who the person was, the questions are: If he was the same Khuzaymah both times, why did he not offer all writings he had so that the other missing verse could also have been located the first time around; if it was a different Khuzaymah, why did he not come forward at the time of first collection? Why did he keep it hidden for all that time? If the said Khuzaymah did present what he had, but Zayd missed it, then it puts a big question mark on the quality of his work and his own memorization of the Qur’aan.

In addition to the above, the most serious problem with this report is that it reduces the extant Qur’aan to be one person’s report as against the truly established fact that the Qur’aan was reported from the Prophet by a multitude to the multitudes both in word and in writing.

Even if we accept some other claims, as reported in non-Sihaah books, that two witnesses were required for inclusions of any verses in the Mus-haf, even then we are reducing this Word of Allaah to be a report of two persons instead of being a report of a multitude, which is really the case. Also, in that case, the question arises why were the verse(s) of the end of At-Tawbah accepted from one person? In response, apologists for this narrative give two answers: Firstly, they claim that the second witness was Zaid himself or according to some non-Sihaah reports ‘Umar testified for it. But the question remains were there two writings found? If yes, then it is not true that it was found “ONLY” with Khuzaymah? If no, then the criterion of two witnesses was not correctly applied. Secondly, it is claimed that Khuzaymah ibn Thaabit was designated by the Prophet that his single witness was equal to two persons. But none of the reports in Bukhari or Tirmidzi mentions this point in relation to Zayd’s collection at the request of Aboo-Bakr; they mention it only in the case of ‘Uthmaani project. Regardless, the concept of his double witness is also a fabrication. For details, see section 7.

It is evident that this report of collection of the Qur’aan in the time of Aboo-Bakr is faulty in every respect, utterly unreliable and highly questionable. No part of this report makes any sense or is even plausible, especially in view of the more authentic reports cited in the previous section. However, because it is included in Bukhari (despite the fact that it violates his own standards and conditions), people close their eyes, disregard the facts, and invent reasons to accommodate the claims of this report.

Most apologists for this false report claim that although the whole Qur’aan was written during the life of the Prophet, it was written on bits and pieces of animal skins, date stalks, stone tablets, bones, etc. because no paper was available. This is, once again, based on ignorance. The Jews and Christians had scribed their books on parchment, and Allaah SWT swore in Soorah Taa Haa, “By the Mount, and the Book written on unrolled parchment.” It was the same material that poets of Arabs were writing their lengthy poems on and hanging them in the Ka‘bah. The Qur’aan was being written on the same parchment material, so were the agreements and treaties between the Prophet and other people. Zayd ibn Thabit himself reported that they used to compile the Qur’aan using parchments under the supervision of the Prophet ŜA‘WS himself.

In Fat-hul-Bari, Ibn Hajar said, “It was all written in the life of the Prophet, but it was not collected at one place, nor were the soorahs compiled.” In other words, the written Qur’aan was scattered among many people, and different persons had different parts of soorahs. If this claim is accepted as true, then the following established facts which everyone agrees with are effectively contradicted:

  • The fact that the Prophet used to tell scribes where to insert the new revelation, if it was not ordered how were they placing new verses at the right spot? Or were they not doing what the Prophet had asked them to do?
  • The report that the Prophet gave a manuscript containing all soorahs revealed in Makkah to Raafi’ ibn Malik.
  • The report from Zayd ibn Thaabit that they used to compile the Qur’aan under the supervision of the Prophet.
  • The report that four or five persons of Khazraj had collected the whole Qur’aan.
  • The report from Ibn ‘Abbaas that volunteers used to compile the Qur’aan for others until the Mus-haf was complete.

It was also claimed that compilation was impossible during the life of the Prophet because the revelations were still coming and being inserted all over. This is also an utterly baseless rationale. The Prophet was completely guided and kept informed of such matters in the directions given to him about the composition of the soorahs. The delineation of the soorahs was well-known and well-established. The Prophet had even educated them how to divide the whole Qur’aan to finish it in seven days and they used to tell each other divisions by numbers and letters (3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13 and mufassalaat or with letters فمی بشوق) (61). In addition, the revelation of the Qur’aan had ended months before his death. The Qur’aanic revelation was completed and confirmed before the Prophet went over the whole Qur’aan twice with Jibreel in the last Ramadhaan of his life. He had ample time to ensure that the last revelation was inserted properly in its place, and that the Qur’aan was completely compiled in writing in the same order in which he recited twice in Ramadhaan. Allaah SWT in whose hand was his soul would not have taken him away before he had completed his prophetic duties.

61  The numbers mean the first manzil contains Al-Faatihah and three soorahs, the 2nd 5 soorahs, the 3rd 7 soorahs, the 4th 9 soorahs, the 5th 11 soorah, the 6th 13 soorahs, the rest of the soorahs make up the 7th manzil. In the letters, every letter stands for the first letter of the first soorah of the manzil, eg., first one for Faatihah, then Maaidah, then Yoonus, … and last one for soorah Qaaf, the first soorah of the 7th manzil.

Had this collection taken place, its mention must have shown up in some reports somewhere being promulgated, used, referred to or copied. However, there is absolutely no other report throughout the hadeeth collections mentioning anytime, anywhere that this compiled copy was put to any use whatsoever for thirteen years until ‘Uthmaan sent for it for the copying project. Even then, according to many reports, Zayd had to re-collect the entire mus-haf from bits and pieces; another missing verse was found, and ‘Uthmaan had to assign extra people with Zayd to ensure the use of the language of the Quraysh.

6. Variations of the Report and Related Reports

Now that we have shown the baselessness of the main report, let us see what is reported by different variations of this report in non-Sihaah books.

Variations in the text of the main report

i.  This report in Musnad Ahmad, adds (لا یوعٰی) after ‘Umar’s statement, “a large part of the Qur’aan may be lost, which will not be protected in the memory (of a living person)”.
(This added phrase further emphasizes the notion that neither was all of the Qur’aan written, nor was the whole Qur’aan in the memory of any one person; but different persons had only learnt different parts of the Qur’aan.)

ii.  Another variant of this report mentions that the missing verse was from Soorah Ahzaab (v 23), not the last two verses of Soorah Tawbah (62). This report adds rib-bones to the list of sources from which the verses were collected.

62  Ibn-Abee-Dawood, Kitaab Al-Masaahif, 14; ‘Uthmaan Ad-Daani, Al-Muqni‘, h. 2, p 13; Al-Khateeb Al-Baghdaadi, Al-Fasl lil-wasl-al-mudraj, vol. 1, 394.

iii.  In a version of the report, the narrator has gone so far as claiming that “‘Umar (RA) said: ‘If the verses were three in number, I would have made them a separate soorah. Look for a soorah of the Qur’aan and append these verses to it.” So I (Zayd) placed them at the end of Soorah al-Baraa’ah.” (63) In another variant, it was Zayd who made this comment. (64)
(Is that how arbitrarily the Qur’aan was compiled?)

63  Ibn Abee Dawood, Kitaab al-Masaahif, 38. Ibn Katheer, Tafseer al-Qur’aan al-‘Azeem, vol. 2, 406.
64  Al-Tabari, Jaami‘ al-bayaan, vol. 1, 31-33.

iv.  In the report quoted above (iii), the name of the person who had the missing verses was Haarith ibn Khuzaymah, and in the version reported by Musnad Ahmad, the name of the person is Harth ibn Khazmah. (65) Then, there is another report that Ubayy was the only person who knew the last two verses of At-Tawbah. (66)

65  Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad, vol. 1, 199, (no. 1715);
66  Ibn Abee Dawood, Kitaab al-Masaahif, 15. Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad, vol. 5, 134, (no. 21264); Ibn Katheer, Tafseer al-Qur’aan al-‘Azeem, vol. 2, 406.

v.  According to ‘Itqaan (67), Ibn Abee Dawood reported, “Aboo-Bakr told ‘Umar and Zayd, “Sit at the door of the mosque. If anyone brings some portion of the Book of God along with two witnesses, then write it down.” And Ibn Ashtah reported, “The last part of Soorah al-Baraa’ah was found with Khuzaymah ibn Thaabit only. He said: “Write it down since the testimony of Khuzaymah has been regarded by the Prophet to be equivalent to that of two men.” It was thus written. On this occasion, ‘Umar also came over with the stoning verse but it was not written because he was the only witness.”

67  Al-Itqaan, vol. 1, p. 205-206

(If this was the case, then this matter should have been reported by many people given the gravity of the event. Instead it can be seen that the narrative is a ghareeb one in the first three steps of transmission.)

(In contrast, keep in mind that the reports which mention that the verse was found with Aboo-Khuzaymah, it was accepted on his single witness, although he did not have the double witness privilege mentioned about Khuzaymah. There is much more to talk about it but, once again, we are not delving into the issues and questions arising out of Khuzaymah’s privilege of being treated equal to two witnesses, because we have limited our examination of the wording to that of the reports in Bukhari.)

Some variants suggest that witnesses were needed only for the verses not known to Zayd. Many reports imply Zayd did not know some of the parts brought forward. (68)

68  Shehzad Saleem, Collection of the Qur’an, 129.

(All such narratives of collection suggest that “what was Qur’aan and what was not” was not known at the time of death of the Prophet; hence, the text of the Qur’aan was ascertained with the help of two witnesses.)

vi.  Ibn Shihaab said: “This report has reached us that a great portion of the Qur’aan revealed was known only to memorizers who had been killed on the day [of the battle of] Yamaamah and what they had of the Qur’aan in their memories was neither known after them nor written.” (69)
This version of Zuhri’s report also claims that both verses of At-Tawbah and the verse 23 of Al-Ahzaab were found missing at the time of ‘Uthmaan.
Then, the same report reported by the same initial four persons recorded in Muqaddimah kitaab al-mabaani says both sets of verses were found missing at the time of Aboo-Bakr.
(One can see how these reports are designed to instill “confidence” in the integrity and preservation of the Qur’aan!)

69  Ibn Abee Dawood, Kitaab al-Masaahif, 31.

vii.  Ibn Shihaab reported, “When Muslims suffered in Yamaamah, Aboo-Bakr panicked and feared that a portion of the Qur’aan may be lost. So, people brought what they had with them and in their possession, until it was all collected on paper during the time of Aboo-Bakr. Thus, Aboo-Bakr was the first one to collect the Qur’aan into Mus-haf.” (70)

70  Itqaan, vol 1, 84.

There are many other variants of this report that contain blatantly contradictory narratives. They do not even agree about when the very first compilation of the written Qur’aan happened after the death of the Prophet, during the time of Aboo-Bakr, ‘Umar or ‘Uthmaan? (71) One narrative reported that ‘Umar initiated the project, was assassinated and then the project was completed by ‘Uthmaan. (72)

Therefore, those who are under the impression that there is a consensus among the Ummah that the Qur’aan was collected during the Khilaafah of Aboo-Bakr can see that these narratives do not support this notion. Then, there are a large number of Khateebs in the Indian sub-continent who mention ‘Uthmaan ibn ‘Affaan as “Jaami‘i aayaatil-Qur’aan” in their Khutbahs every Friday.

The consensus can be built only on truth; and according to the evidence that we have already presented in section 1, the evidence shows that many copies of fully compiled Qur’aan existed in the life of the Prophet ŜA‘WS.

71  ibid
72  Aboo ‘Abdullaah Shams al-Deen Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn ‘Uthmaan ibn Qaayamaz ibn ‘Abdullaah al-Dhahabi, Al-Kaashif fee ma‘rifah man lahoo riwaayah fee al-kutub al-sittah, 1 st ed., vol. 2 (Jeddah: Daar al-qiblah al-thaqaafah al-islaamiyyah, 1992), 370.

Other Contradictory Reports

i.  It is reported from ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab: “In the battle of Yamaamah, some people who used to recite a great portion of the Qur’aan which others never knew were killed. So whatever Qur’aan was with them, was lost.” (73) (Na‘ooezu billaahi min dzaalik).

73  Al-Baaqilaani, Al-Intisaar li al-Qur’aan, vol. 1, 399.

ii.  Zayd reported: ‘When Muhammad’s (ŜA‘WS) Companions were killed in [the battle of] Yamaamah, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab came over to Aboo Bakr and said: “On the day of Yamaamah people succumbed in the battle the way moths succumb to fire and I fear that wherever there is going to be a battle they would do the same until they would be killed; and since they are the memorizers of the Qur’aan, the Qur’aan would get lost and forgotten; I wish you could have it collected and written down.” Aboo Bakr did not like this suggestion and said: “Should I do something which the Messenger of God never did.” … Zayd said: ‘Aboo Bakr ordered me to carry out this task and I wrote down the Qur’aan on pieces of leather, shoulder blades and bark of palm trees. …

(So, Zayd did not compile from a variety of pieces, but wrote on them. This suggests that the Qur’aan was not written at all. (74))

His report continued into the time of ‘Uthmaan, … “I will depute another person to you [for this task]; he is very intelligent and knows the classical language. Write down on whatever you two agree and if you differ on anything refer it to me.” ‘Uthmaan then deputed Abaan ibn Sa‘eed ibn al-‘Aas.’ (75)
(It should be noted that Abaan had already been killed in 13 HE in Syria.) (76)

74  See point 3. iii for report claiming this.
75  Al-Tabari, Jaami‘ al-bayaan, vol. 1, 31-33. See also: Al-Khateeb Al-Baghdaadi, AlFasool li al-wasl al-mudraj, vol. 1, 396-399; Aboo al-‘Abbaas Ja‘far ibn Muhammad alMustaghfiri, Fadaa’il al-Qur’aan, 1st ed., vol. 1 (Beirut: Daar Ibn Hazm, 2006), 351-352, (no. 409).
76  Ibn Hibbaan, Al-Thiqaat, vol. 3, 13.

iii.  “‘They collected the Qur’aan in a mus-haf in the caliphate of Aboo Bakr. The [procedure adopted was that] many people would write and Ubayy ibn Ka‘b would dictate to them. When they reached v 127 of At-Tawbah, people thought that the soorah is done. But Ubayy told them that the Prophet had taught him two more verses, and said that this is the last part of the Qur’aan that came down.” (77)

(So, it was not Zayd, and it was not collected from bits and pieces! Also, if Ka‘b dictated it, why was his Mus-haf different from the Siddeeqi-Mus-haf. For Ubayy, even Khuzaymah was not needed for the last two verses of At-Tawbah.)

77  Ibn Abee Dawood (230-316 HE), Kitaab al-Masaahif, 15. See also: Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad, vol. 5, 134, (no. 21264);

iv.  And Aboo Bakr gathered twenty five people from the Quraysh and fifty from the Ansaar and said: “Write down the Qur’aan and present it before Sa‘eed ibn al-‘Aas for he is a man of refined linguistic taste.” (78)

(Question to those who say, the Qur’aan was all written but not compiled, what were these 75 persons doing? Were they writing (authoring) the Qur’aan, so the editing was to be done by a man of refined linguistic taste? Why is linguistic taste important for collecting and arranging the already-written pieces in order?)

78  Al-Ya‘qoobi, Taareekh, vol. 2, 135.

v.  Mubaarak ibn Fudhaalah reports from al-Hasan that ‘Umar asked about a verse of the Book of God. He was told that it was with a certain person who had been killed on the day of the battle of Yamaamah. At this he said: “Indeed we are for God … .” and ordered for the collection of the Qur’aan. So, he was the first to have it collected in a Mus-haf. (79)
Then he contradicts himself: Al-Hasan said, “The Qur’aan had not been collected till the death of ‘Umar.” (80)

79  Ibn Abee Dawood, Kitaab al-Masaahif, 16.
80  Aboo ‘Ubayd, Fadaa’il al-Qur’aan, 105.

vi.  Muhammad ibn Sireen related: “The Qur’aan had not been collected till the assassination of ‘Umar.” (81)

(So, it neither happened in Aboo-Bakr’s time, nor in ‘Umar’s time).

vii. The first person to collect the Qur’aan between two bindings was Saalim. He swore that he would not wear a mantle until he had done collecting. (82)

81  Ibn Sa‘d, Al-Tabaqaat al-kubraa, vol. 3, 294. See also: Ibn ‘Asaakir, Taareekh Madeenah Dimashq, vol. 44, 376;
82  Itqaan, vol 1, 88

viii.  The narrative from Saalim and Khaarijah recorded by Ibn Abee Dawood shows that the collection was undertaken by Aboo Bakr alone. He wanted to have it checked by Zayd. He refused but later did so when upon Aboo Bakr’s request ‘Umar asked him to do so.

ix.  Ibn Shihaab Az-Zuhri’s narrative recorded by Aboo Shaammah and Al-Suyooti shows that it was at Aboo Bakr’s initiative that the Qur’aan was collected. ‘Umar and Zayd had no role in it. Ibn Shihaab Az-Zuhri’s narrative recorded by Ibn al-Anbaari and (referred to by al-Muttaqi) shows that it was Zayd who took the initiative in having the Qur’aan collected.

x.  The narrative of ‘Abbaad ibn ‘Abdullaah ibn al-Zubayr recorded by Ibn-Abee-Dawood shows that the missing verses were found with Haarith ibn Khuzaymah which contradicts the standard version that mentions the name of Khuzaymah or Aboo Khuzaymah. This narrative also shows that the missing verses were not part of any soorah because ‘Umar opined that if they were three, he would have made a separate soorah out of them.

xi.  ‘Uthmaan gave khutbah and told people how within 15 years of the Prophet’s death, people have started reciting the Qur’aan differently, so we must write a unified version – Imam. So he asked everyone to bring what they had from the Qur’aan, written or memorized, designated the most eloquent to dictate (Sa‘eed ibn Al-‘Aas) and most deft in writing (Zayd ibn Thaabit) to write. People would come take an oath that what they had was directly from the Prophet and it was included. When the complete Mus-haf was brought to ‘Uthmaan, he commented I can see some mistakes, but the Arabs will correct them with their tongues. When Abdullaah ibn ‘Abbaas objected to the placement of Al-Anfaal and At-Tawbah, ‘Uthmaan explained that the Prophet died without indicating if both soorah are one or apart so he put them at one place without separation by bismillaah. (83)

83  ‘Umar Ahmad Usmani appendix to Tamanna ‘imaadi, Jam‘ul-Quraan, 344-349, reported from Ibn Abee Daawood’s Kitaab-al-Masaahif.

7. The Story of the Double-Weight of Khuzaymah’s Witness

This story has not been reported in Bukhari, Muslim or Tirmidzi, but Aboo Dawood and Nasaa’i reported it in their Sunan. The text of this narrative from Aboo Dawood reads as follows:

Narrated by Az-Zuhri from ‘Umaarah ibn Khuzaymah that his uncle narrated to him, and he was a Companion of the Prophet ŜA‘WS, that the Prophet bought a horse from a Bedouin.The Prophet asked the Bedouin to follow him so that he could pay the horse’s price to him. The Prophet walked at a brisk speed but the Bedouin continued to walk slowly. On the way, some people started to pester the Bedouin and offered him a new price for the horse and they did not know that the Prophet had already bought it. The Bedouin called the Prophet and said: ‘Do you want to buy the horse or shall I sell it [to someone else]?’ When the Prophet heard these words of the Bedouin, he stopped and replied: ‘Have I not already bought it from you?’ The Bedouin said: ‘No, by Allaah, I have not sold it to you.’ The Prophet responded: ‘In fact, I have already bought it from you.’ At this, the Bedouin asked the Prophet to bring a witness. Khuzaymah ibn Thaabit said: ‘I bear witness that you had bought it.’ The Prophet came over to Khuzaymah and asked him: ‘On what basis do you bear witness?’ He replied: ‘On the basis of your testifying, O Messenger of God!’ At this, the Prophet regarded the testimony of Khuzaymah as equivalent to the witness of two men. (84)

84  Aboo Dawood, Sunan, vol. 3, 308, (no. 3607) and An-Nasaa’i, Sunan, vol. 7, 301, (no. 4647).

Can it be accepted that a person as impeccable as the Prophet would have executed a deal in that manner? Could he have accepted the witness of one of his followers who was not even present at the time of the deal and whose witness the Bedouin would never have accepted? Could he have granted Khuzaymah the title of dzushahaadatayn(a person having the weight of two witnesses) to validate such a deal? (85) All these questions cast doubts on the integrity of the person of the Prophet. It is interesting that Aboo-Bakr testified to the truth of the Prophet unconditionally for as unbelievable an incident as Israa, but his testimony remained single despite his title of being Siddeeq. ‘Umar ibn Khattab failed to earn that kind of recognition, but such status was granted to person for the sake of buying a horse at a lower price than offered by other people. I rather doubt the integrity of Zuhri, rather than that of the Prophet.

85  It may be noted that scholars like Ibn Kathir, on the basis of this narrative, are of the opinion that this deal took place on the basis of two witnesses being afforded in the personality of Khuzaymah ibn Thaabit. See: Ibn Kathir, Fada’il al-Qur’an, 35-36.

From the perspective of the chain of narrators, it is a ghareeb report, suffering from the following weaknesses:

i.  In all the textual variants of this narrative it is only Zuhri reporting from ‘Umaarah ibn Khuzaymah (30-105 HE), (86) Khuzaymah ibn Thabit’s son, who reports this incident from his paternal uncle – a single person reporting at each of the first three steps of the chain.

ii.  The name of this paternal uncle who is alleged to be a Companion is not specified; most probably because mention of the name could have immediately exposed the lie. It is only after three centuries that Ibn Mandah (d. 395 AH) (87) was able to unravel this secret; he determined the name to be: ‘Umaarah ibn Thaabit, which name is absent from the lists of Companions in works such as al-Istee‘ab fi ma‘rifatil al-ashaab of Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr. Other scholars have tried to identify the ‘uncle’ but have claimed different names to be the brothers of Khuzaymah: Wahwah and Abdullaah (Waaqidi); Abdullaah and Dahraj (Ibn Ishaq); or Ubaidullaah (Ibn Hajar). This ambiguity casts serious doubts on the ascription of the narrative.

86  Ibn Hajar, Taqreeb at-tahdzeeb, 409.
87  His full name is Aboo ‘Abdullaah Muhammad ibn Ishaq ibn Muhammad ibn Yahya ibn Mandah. See: Al-Dzahabi, Tadzkiratul-huffaaz_, vol. 3, 1031.

iii.  The key question is why would ‘Umaarah not report directly from his father? If the reason is that it did not look good for ‘Umaarah to report something about his father from him directly, then it still does not look good to report the same thing from an anonymous uncle. Or, was it not attributed to his father because he died when ‘Umaarah was only about seven years old. In any case, Khuzaymah’s privilege of double weight seems to have been passed on to his son on whose single witness, Khuzaymah’s double-weight report has been accepted.

Interestingly, there is another chain of this report where ‘Umaarah’s son reported from the grandfather (Khuzaymah) posthumously. That chain of the narrative does not contain the ‘uncle’ at its beginning; but rather, allegedly, Muhammad ibn ‘Umaarah ibn Khuzaymah ibn Thabit narrated directly from his grandfather, Khuzaymah ibn Thabit. (88) The problems with this chain are two:

Firstly, as pointed out by Ibn Hajar, Muhammad ibn ‘Umaarah ibn Khuzaymah ibn Thabit is not a known reporter (la yakadu yu‘raf). (89)

Secondly, since Khuzaymah ibn Thabit died in 37 HE in the battle of Siffeen (90) when ‘Umaarah ibn Khuzaymah was seven years old, Muhammad ibn ‘Umaarah did not even exist; therefore, there is no way in the world that he could have met or heard from his grandfather. (91)

88  ‘Abdur-Razzaaq, Musannaf, vol. 8, 366, (15566).
89  Aboo al-Fadl Ahmad ibn ‘Ali ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, Ta‘jeel al-manfa‘ah, 1st ed. (Beirut: Dar al-kitab al-‘arabi, n.d.), 373.
90  Ibn Hajar, Taqreeib at-tahdzeeb, 193.
91  ibid

iv.  According to the text of narration, the incident was witnessed by many people who were also interested in buying the horse at a higher price than that paid by the Prophet. Why no one else ever reported such an incident other than Khuzaymah’s own son or grandson.

It is perplexing how opinions about some extremely delicate and sensitive matters have been formed on the basis of ghareeb reports from unknown figures.

8. Conclusions about the Veracity of the Report

The report about the collection of the Qur’aan by Zayd ibn Thaabit during the time of Aboo-Bakr is utterly unreliable fabrication because:

  • It is ghareeb, not for one or two, but for the first three steps of narration.

  • None of the forty known students of Zayd have reported it from him.

  • The chain is broken between Zayd and Ibn Sabbaq for lack of evidence that he was ever his student; while according to the available dates of birth and death, he could not have met him.

  • All narrators from Ibn Sabbaq and downwards have dubious reputations.

  • Not a single part of the contents of the main report makes sense or seems plausible.

  • There are too many inconsistencies within different versions of the main (Bukhari) report, despite the first three steps of the chain being the same.

  • There are too many contradicting variances in other (non-Sihah) versions of the report.

  • This report is inconsistent even with the reports about the Qur’aan copying project undertaking by ‘Uthmaan.

  • There is absolutely no mention of this project anywhere, other than this extremely questionable report.

  • All responses put forth by apologetics in the defense of this narration make no sense whatsoever.

  • Even the story of Dzu-shahaadatayn concocted to prop up this report is clearly a falsehood.

  • The alleged verses of At-Tawbah could have never been missing the way the Prophet was getting every revelation written and ensuring its preservation both through memorization and collection by a vast number of his companions.

  • This report has opened doors for many fitnahs, latest being the denial by Rashad Khalifah of the last two verses of At-Tawbah being the part of the Qur’aan. His translation of the Qur’aan excludes those two verses.

  • By providing opportunity to the anti-Islamic forces to attack the integrity of the Qur’aan, this fabrication is achieving its goals; hence, such false reports must be disowned and rejected, and their falsehood must be demonstrated.

Conclusions of the whole Discussion

The conclusions reached at the end of the first sections stand. There were multiple fully compiled and ordered copies of the Qur’aan available that were prepared under the supervision of the Prophet. The report that the Qur’aan was not ordered in the form of a Mus-haf is a hoax invented and spread to raise doubts about the authenticity of the Qur’aan.

According to His declaration, Allaah SWT protected the Qur’aan through the unbroken and ongoing Tawaatur (continuity of transmission) from the Prophet to a multitude that keeps on going from multitudes to multitudes, both in memorization and in writing.

Even an honest non-Muslim researcher, John Burton, who researched this matter in depth came to the same conclusion, “What we have today in our hands is the Mus-haf of Muhammad.” (92) Here is an excerpt from his book’s intro:

“The most surprising feature of the Muslim traditions on the collection of the Qur'an is their denial of any role in the process to Muhammad (93) himself. The merit of assembling and preserving the record of the momentous divine revelations has been variously ascribed to some half-dozen of the Prophet's associates or Companions, and these ascriptions have usually been treated as hopelessly conflicting. Dr Burton argues that they are in perfect agreement. Their sole function was the deliberate exclusion of Muhammad.”

92  The Collection of The Quran, by John Burton of Cambridge University, (pp. 239-240).
93  Ŝall-Allaahu ‘Alayhi Wa Sallam

Appendix 1

For First few verses of the Soorah Al-Qalam, we have given the following Tafseer:

When the Prophet ŜA‘WS told the Makkans about the Hereafter and invited them to believe in it, they rejected the idea as an impossibility. When he persisted, they ridiculed him for promoting such an unbelievable idea. When he passionately persevered in promoting this belief, they thought he had become insane or an evil-spirit had possessed him. Soorah Al-Qalam (68) was revealed in that early period of his mission when the Makkan chiefs had started calling him insane or a possessed-man. The first few verses of the soorah falsify this characterization, using “pen” and “what was being written” as evidence against it. The following is the translation and excerpts from my Tafseer for those verses:

1 Noon (N); the pen and what they write are witnesses that 2 by the bountiful favour of your Lord, you are not insane or possessed.  (Al-Qalam 68:1-2)

The Soorah starts with the Arabic alphabet letter “Noon” or the English letter “N”. The subject of the use of such letters and their possible meanings have been discussed in detail at the beginning of Soorah 2, Al-Baqarah, and it was mentioned that it was a known style of the celebrated poets and orators at the time of the revelation of the Qur’aan to start their discourse or poem with some letters standing on their own. However, the use of N (Noon) in this soorah has an additional significance and relevance. “Noon” means “fish” in Arabic. Towards the end of the soorah, the Prophet has been told not to be like the “Companion of the Fish” referring to Prophet Yoonus (Jonah). Thus, the use of “Noon” at the start also implies “The soorah in which ‘Fish’ has been mentioned for the first time in relation to the Companion of the Fish (Yoonus)”. The evidence that “Noon” means fish is available in the Qur’aan itself when in Soorah Al-Anbiyaa 21:87, Prophet Yoonus has been called “Dzan-Noon” (ذاالنون) which means the “Companion of the Fish” exactly as he has been called “Ŝaaĥibul-Ĥoot” (صاحب الحوت) in this soorah, also meaning the “Companion of the Fish”.

As for the “pen” and “what they write”, exegetes have interpreted these words in different ways, but the interpretation that is most sensible and most fitting with the context of the soorah and the verses that follow the oath is the one given by a famous exegete, Mujahid, who says that the “pen” refers to any pen that was used by the scribes to write the revelations of the Qur’aan, and “what they write” refers to the text of the Qur’aan. Tabari has quoted him as follows:

For his statement about “Noon; by the pen”, Mujahid said: By which the Reminder (the Qur’aan) is written. And about “wa maa yasturoon” … its meaning will be “by their writing of what the write”… So, when we interpret it in this manner, then it is the “oath by the Book” as if saying, “Noon; by the pen and the Book”.

Syed Abul A‘la Maududi and Syed Amin Ahsan Islahi have also adopted the same Tafseer.

Accordingly, the “pen” in the oath refers to a pen, in general, as an instrument of writing that was being used by the Prophet’s scribes to write the revelations of the Qur’aan; “they” refers to the scribes who were commissioned to write; and “what they write” refers to the text of the Qur’aan that was being dictated to them by the Prophet. These oaths, thus, present the exquisitely eloquent, rational, wise, concise and superb text of the Qur’aan as witness and evidence to the statements that follow in verses 2-4 that “by the bountiful favour of your Lord, you are not an insane or possessed man; there definitely is a never-ending reward for you; and you do maintain a tremendous character.”

In other words, these verses present the Qur’aan itself as the witness that:

  • Such beautiful, meaningful and sublime prose that sets the highest moral and ethical standards cannot be the words of an insane or a possessed man;
  • The hardships he is enduring and the sacrifices he is making are going to be amply rewarded in the form of never-ending bliss in the Hereafter and it is his opponents that are headed for an ignoble end and total failure;
  • His superb character and unparalleled excellence in conduct, which they practically witness on a daily basis, is exactly as he preaches to be the message of the Qur’aan. It is because of his highest moral standard that he continues to care for everyone’s salvation to save them from punishment, despite such a nasty reaction from the same people he cares for. The Makkans should come to their senses and ask themselves if it is possible for a mad or possessed man to have that kind of a personality. They need to ask themselves if there is anywhere a match for: his unblemished truthfulness; his meticulous honouring of trusts; his proverbial credibility; his care and concern for the poor, elderly, orphans and other disadvantaged people of the society; his magnanimity and graciousness; his forgiving nature; his lack of response against attacks on his person, honour and property; his forbearance; his perseverance and steadfastness; his charming personality despite the hardship and criticism inflicted by his opponents; and so on and so forth. (94)
94  Someone challenged my Tafseer given above on basis of some other explanations given by other Mufassireen. Please see Appendix 1 for the other explanations.

In this way, Allaah SWT has presented the very Dzikr (the Qur’aan) for the recitation of which the opponents were calling him majnoon (insane, possessed) as the evidence of the falsity of their claim. Similarly, the last two verses of the soorah reinforce this connection and close with the same matter with which the first two verses started:

51 And those who disbelieve would almost smite you with their glares whenever they hear the Reminder (Adz-Dzikr, the Qur’aan) and they say, “He certainly is insane or possessed.” 52 Yet it is simply a reminder for all peoples.  (Al-Qalam 68:51-52)

To reflect upon other linkages between different parts of the soorah, pondering on the message of the following verses will also be helpful:

35 What! Shall We then treat those who are obedient like those who are guilty? 36 What is wrong with you? How do you pass such judgments? 37 Do you have a book wherein you read 38 that in the Hereafter, you will have whatever you choose?  (Al-Qalam 68:35-38)

The opponents of the Prophet ŜA‘WS are being questioned that the Qur’aanic revelations that are being written declare that only Muslims will be rewarded in the Hereafter, while those who commit evils will be punished. Do you have any book that says otherwise, or that says you will get what you choose?

Then, addressing the Prophet, it raises a similar question about his opponents: what is the basis of their refusal to believe in the Prophet ŜA‘WS; are they, like him, receiving any knowledge of the unseen and putting it in writing?

Or do they have access to what is imperceptible through sensory perception, so they are writing it down?  (Al-Qalam 68:47)

This interpretation of the pen and what they write is further supported by the way the Qur’aan has responded to the opponents’ calling him majnoon in Soorah At-Toor 52:29-41.

Therefore, there is a consistent theme throughout the soorah challenging the disbelievers on the basis of the text of the Qur’aan and it being put in writing.

Tafseer of these verses given by other Scholars

For those who want to see what other mufassireen have said about these verses, their interpretations the are summarized as follows:

Noon (ن)

  1. Noon is the huge fish that carries the earth or seven earths on its back, and is named al-bahmoot.

  2. Noon is the inkpot (Dawaat) that Allaah created along with Qalam.

  3. Noon (N) is a letter from Ar-Rahmaan (الر، حم ، ن ۔ الرحمن).

Pen (Qalam):

  1. It is the pen that Allaah created before the creation of the universe and commanded it to write and it wrote everything that was going to happen until the Day of Judgement.

  2. It is the pen in general, used by people for writing.

They (who write)

  1. Angels writing the actions of people.

  2. People who use the pen to write what they want to write.

One can see that they are pure speculations, and none of them has any relationship whatsoever to the subsequent verses. Even the three components of the verse are not interrelated. Although the pen and inkpot go together, they have no relationship with “what they write”.

The strange thing is that all three opinions about نare attributed to Ibn-‘Abbas. Knowing that the Prophet had prayed for and praised Ibn-‘Abbas RA for his understanding of the Qur’aan, many people attribute their speculations to him by reporting in his name. That is why one finds multiple, contradicting quotations from Ibn-‘Abbas RA on many topics. Obviously, Ibn-‘Abbas RA cannot be giving contradicting explanations. In this case, perhaps two or all three are wrongly attributed to him.

This is how one English writer summarized the explanations given above in his own Tafseer:

And from his narration on the authority of Ibn-'Abbas that he said regarding the interpretation of Allaah's saying (Nun): '(Nun) He says: Allaah swears by the Nun, which is the whale that carries the earth on its back while in Water, and beneath which is the Bull and under the Bull is the Rock and under the Rock is the Dust and none knows what is under the Dust save Allaah. … The whale is in a sea called 'Adwad, and it is like a small bull in a huge sea. The sea is in a hollowed rock whereby there is 4,000 cracks, and from each crack water springs out to the earth. It is also said that Nun is one of the names of the Lord; it stands for the letter Nun in Allaah's name al-Rahman (the Beneficent); and it is also said that a Nun is an inkwell. (By the pen) Allaah swore by the pen. This pen is made of light and its height is equal to the distance between Heaven and earth. It is with this pen that the Wise Remembrance, i.e. the Guarded Tablet, was written. It is also said that the pen is one of the angels by whom Allaah has sworn, (and that which they write (therewith)) and Allaah also swore by what the angels write down of the works of the children of Adam. Some of the commentators have said that Noon is a fish on the water below the seven layers of the earth. Because of the burden of the earth is so heavy, the fish became bent.

Now, it is up to you to adopt the Tafseer given by me, Maududi and Islahi, or this one.

Appendix 2

Scribes of the Qur'aan

The following companions (Sahaabah) were the Scribes of Revelation as mentioned by Shaykh Abdul Haq Muhaddith Dehlavi and other scholars: (95)

95  Futoohal-buldaan, (Beirut: Daar al-kutub al-‘ilmiyyah, 1978), 457-458; Madarij al Nubuwwah, (Munshi Nawal Kishore Edition,Lukhnow) 2:530-560; and Taareekh,Ahmad ibn Abee Ya‘qoob al-Ya‘qoobi, vol. 2 (Beirut: Daar saadir, n.p.), 80. Also see,http://www.islamweb.net/prophet/index.php?page=showarticle&id=174559
  1. Aboo-Bakr al-Siddeeq.*
  2. Uthman ibn ‘Affaan.*
  3. Talha ibn ‘Ubaydullah.*
  4. Zubayr ibn al-‘Awwaam.*
  5. Sa‘d ibn Abi-Waqqas.*
  6. Aamir ibn Fuhayrah.*
  7. Khaalid ibn Saeed ibn Al-‘Aas.*
  8. Shurahbeel ibn Hasanah.*
  9. Arqam ibn Abee-Arqam Makhzumi.*
  10. Aboo-Salama ibn Abd-al-Asad*
  11. Ali ibn Aboo-Talib al-Murtaza.*
  12. Haatib ibn ‘Amr. (An early Muslim, before Dar Arqam became the centre.)
  13. Umar ibn Khattab al Faruq. (Accepted Islam in the year 5 of Prophethood)
  14. Ubayy ibn Ka’b.
  15. Hanzhalah ibn al-Rabee’ al-Usaydi. (The Scribe)
  16. Aboo ‘Ubaydah ibn Jarraah
  17. Muaadz ibn Jabal
  18. Aboo-Ayyub Khaalid ibn Zayd Ansari.
  19. Hudzayfah ibn al-Yamaan.
  20. Zayd ibn Thaabit.
  21. Thaabit ibn Qays ibn Shammaas.
  22. Mugheerah ibn Shu’bah.
  23. Abbas ibn Saeed ibn Al-‘Aas.
  24. ’Ulaa’ Hadhrami.
  25. Muhammad ibn Maslan Ansari.
  26. Abdullaah ibn Rawaahah Ansari.
  27. ‘Amr ibn al-Aas ibn Wayif Qarashi.
  28. Jahm ibn Sa‘d Aslami.
  29. Juhaym ibn As-Salt ibn Makhramah
  30. ‘Abdullaah ibn Zayd Ansari Khazraji.
  31. ‘Alaa ibn ‘Uqbah.
  32. Buraydah ibn al-Haseeb.
  33. Husayn al-Numayri
  34. ‘Abdullaah ibn Abee Sarah.
  35. Huwaytib ibn Abdul-Uzza.
  36. ‘Abdullaah ibn al-Arqam Qarashi.
  37. Mu’ayqeeb ibn Abee-Fatimah.
  38. Aboo Hudayfah ibn ‘Utbah
  39. Abaan ibn Saeed ibn Al-‘Aas (Accepted Islam after Hudaybiyah)
  40. Khaalid ibn Waleed.
  41. Aboo-Sufyaan Sakhar ibn Harb.
  42. Yazeed ibn Abee-Sufyaan.
  43. Mu’aawiyah ibn Abee-Sufyaan.
  44. ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Abdullaah ibn Ubayy ibn Salool.

* One of the earliest Muslims.

Posted in Qur'aan on January 13, 2022 by Ayub Hamid

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