History of Al-Qur'an
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, May Allah blessings and peace be upon His Messenger.
Al-Qur'an is the foundation of the religion of Islam. On this Sacred Book of Allah lie the Islamic call, state, society and the civilisation of the Muslim ummah. It is the last Divine revelation, which was sent down to Prophet Muhammad (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) , the last and final of all Prophets, Peace and bless upon him. His task was to convey the message of worshipping the One God, Allah, without ascribing any partners to Him. Al-Qur'an, which is the source of guidance and mercy to mankind, is divided into one hundred and fourteen Surahs or chapters of varying lengths. Ninety-three surah (chapters) were revealed in Makkah, while the remaining twenty-one were revealed in Madinah.
The first revelation that the Prophet (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) received was Surah Al-'Alaq, which was in Makkah where Surat An-Najm was to later become the first to be recited openly to the people. In Madinah, Surat Al-Mutaffifin was the first one revealed after the Hijrah [migration]. The Prophet (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) had to migrate to Madinah to save his own life and the lives of his followers, upon the command of Allah.
The Last Verse
The last verse revealed to the Prophet (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) was the saying of Allah which means:
“…This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed my favour upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion...”
[Surah Al-Maidah, 5:3]
Some chapters in the Qur'an focus on the call to Islam as guidance for humanity. They focus upon monotheism and the fight against polytheism and idolatry. Thus, stress is laid on all that is related to faith. In other chapters, attention is given to legislation, acts of worship, relationships among people and the laws that regulate matters within the Muslim community, government, and family.
A number of chapters inform about Resurrection, the Hereafter and the unseen; others relate the stories of various prophets and their calls to their people to return to Allah. We see how the previous nations were severely punished when they disobeyed Allah and denied the messages of previous prophets, may Allah exalt their mention.
In addition, several chapters focus on the story of creation and the development of human life. In fact, Makkan revelations made the Muslims' faith in Allah firmly established. On the other hand, Madinahan revelations were meant to translate the faith into action and give details of the Divine Law.
Allah will forever preserve the Qur'an against all attempts to destroy or corrupt it. Being guarded by Allah, it will always remain pure. There does not exist a single copy with any variation from the recognised text.
Upon the command of the Prophet (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) his Companions would write down what was revealed of the Noble Qur'an. They used, for this purpose, palm branches stripped of leaves, parchments, shoulder bones, stone tablets, etc. About forty people were involved in this task. Among them was Zaid Ibn Thabit r.a who showed his work to the Prophet (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) . Thus, the Qur'an was correctly arranged during the Prophet’s life, but it was not yet compiled into one book. In the meantime, most of the Prophet’s Companions memorised the Qur'an.
When Abu Bakar As-Siddiq r.a became Caliph after the Prophet (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) died, a large number of the Companions were killed during the War of Apostasy. 'Umar Ibn Al-Khattab r.a went to the Caliph and discussed the idea of compiling the Qur'an into one volume. He was disturbed, as most of those who memorised it had died. Then, Abu Bakar As-Siddiq r.a called for Zaid bin Thabit r.a and commissioned him to collect the Qur'an into one book, which became known as the 'Mushaf.'
After Zaid Ibn Thabit accomplished this great task and organized the Qur'an into one book, he submitted the precious collection to Abu Bakar who kept it in his possession until the end of his life. During the caliphate of 'Umar r.a it was kept with his daughter Hafsah binti "Umar r.a who was also a wife of the Prophet (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) .
During the period of the Caliphate of ‘Uthman ibn Affan r.a Islam had reached many new frontiers and countries, and readers began to recite the Qur'an in different ways of Arabic dialects. Saidina 'Uthman r.a then had various copies made and sent them out to the different Muslim lands, lest these dialects would cause alterations to the Qur'an, and kept the original copy with Hafsah. Thus, the Qur'an remained preserved and the Caliph was very much pleased with his achievement.
Today, every copy of the Qur'an conforms to the standard copy of 'Uthmaan r.a. In fact, Muslims over the ages excelled in producing the best manuscripts of the Noble Qur'an in the most wonderful handwriting. With the introduction of printing, more and more editions of the Noble Qur'an became available all over the world.
[Excerpted with modifications from Islam Web published on 18 May 2005]