Compilation of the Qur’an
By Syed Abul 'Aala Maududi
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.
The Qur’an is the pure Kalam Allah (Word of God) – consisting of divine words. Not a single word has been deleted from its text. The Qur’an has been handed down to our age in its complete and original form since the time of Prophet Muhammad (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam). In Al-Qur’an, the Holy Prophet's life, the history of the Arabs and the events which occurred during the period of the revelation of the Qur’an has not been mingled with the Divine Verses.
The Noble Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) over a period of twenty-three years from the time when he began to preach the Message of Islam in Makkah in 610 CE until his death at Madinah in 632 CE. The Qur’an itself in Surah Al-Furqan declares that Allah addressed Prophet Muhammad (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) with what means:
"…And We have spaced it distinctly."
From the time the Qur’an began to be revealed, the Holy Prophet (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) had dictated its text to the scribes. Whenever some Divine Message was revealed, the Holy Prophet (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) would call a scribe and dictate its words to him. The written text was then read out to the Holy Prophet (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam), who, having satisfied himself that the scribe has committed no error of recording, would put the manuscript in safe custody.
It appears that the memorisation of the text was the foremost method of recording its contents as the very word Qur’an means 'recitation'. From the very first word delivered to Prophet Muhammad (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) by the angel Jibreel (Gabriel) on Mount Hira', namely Iqra' (‘Recite!') [Chapter 96:1], we can see that the verbal recitation of its passages was very highly esteemed and consistently practiced. Nevertheless, it is to actual written records of its text that the Qur’an itself bears witness in the following verse:
"[It is recorded] in honoured sheets. Exalted and purified. [Carried] by the hands of messenger-angels. Noble and dutiful."
There were evidence that during the early days of Prophet Muhammad (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) in Makkah; portions of the Qur’an as then delivered were being written down. When ‘Umar ibn Khattab r.a was still a pagan, he one day struck his sister when he heard her reading a portion of the Qur’an. Upon seeing blood on her cheek, however, he relented and said: "Give me this sheet which I heard you reading just now so that I may see what Muhammad has brought." [Ibn Ishaq, Seerat Rasulullah, p.156]. On reading the portion of the twentieth surah chapter of the Qur’an which she had been reading, he became a Muslim.
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) used to instruct the scribe about the sequence in which a revealed message was to be placed in a particular Surah (chapter). In this manner, the Holy Prophet (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) continued to arrange the text of the Qur’an in systematic order till the end of the chain of revelations. Again, it was ordained from the beginning of Islam that a recitation of the Holy Qur’an must be an integral part of worship. Hence the illustrious Companions would commit the Divine verses to memory as soon as they were revealed. Many of them learned the whole text and a far larger number had memorized different portions of it.
The evidence that these chapters already had their recognised titles during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) is the following two hadiths (Prophetic narrations) :
"Anyone who recites the last two verses of Surah Al-Baqarah (The Cow, Chapter 2) at night, they will suffice him."
"If anyone learns by heart the first ten verses of the Surah Al-Kahf (the Cave, Chapter 18), he will be protected from the Dajjal (Antichrist)."
A hadith was recorded that the angel Jibreel is said to have checked the recitation of the Qur’an every Ramadaan with Prophet Muhammad (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) , and, in the Prophet (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) final year, Jibreel checked it with him twice. Fatimah Az-Zahrah r.a, the daughter of the Prophet (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) said:
"The Prophet Sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam told me, 'Jibreel used to recite the Qur’an to me and I to him once a year, but this year he recited the whole Qur’an with me twice. I think that my death is approaching.'"
Some of the closest Companions of the Prophet (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) devoted themselves to learning the text of the Qur’an by heart. These included Ubaiy Ibn Ka'ab, Mu’adh Ibn Jabal, Zaid Ibn Thabit, Abu Zayd and Abu Ad-Darda’. Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud collected and compiled more than ninety of the one hundred and fourteen surahs by himself, learning the remaining surahs (chapters) from other Companions.
The Preservations of the Qur’an during the Time of Prophet (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam)
Besides, those of the Companions r.a who were literate used to keep a written record of several portions of the Holy Qur’an. In this manner, the text of the Holy Qur’an had been preserved in four different ways during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam):
a) The Holy Prophet (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) had the whole text of the Divine Messages from the beginning to the end committed to writing by the scribes of revelations.
b) Many of the Companions learned the whole text of the Qur’an, every syllable of it, by heart.
c) All the illustrious Companions, without an exception, had memorized at least some portions of the Holy Qur’an, for the simple reason that it was obligatory for them to recite it during worship. An estimate of the number of the illustrious Companions may be obtained from the fact that one hundred and forty thousand Companions had participated in the Last Pilgrimage performed by the Holy Prophet (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam).
d) A considerable number of the literate Companions kept a private record of the text of the Qur’an and satisfied themselves as to the purity of their record by reading it out to the Holy Prophet (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) .
Method of Preservations of the Qur’an after the Demise of the Prophet (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam)
It is an incontrovertible historical truth that the text of the Holy Qur’an extant today is, syllable for syllable, exactly the same as the Holy Prophet (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) had offered to the world as the Word of God. After the demise of the Holy Prophet, the first Caliph Abu Bakar As-Siddiq r.a assembled all the Huffaz and the written records of the Holy Qur’an and with their help had the whole text written in Book form. In the time of ‘Uthman Affan r.a copies of this original version were made and officially dispatched to the Capitals of the Islamic World. Two of these copies exist in the world today, one in Istanbul and the other in Tashkent. Whosoever is so inclined may compare any printed text of the Holy Qur’an with those two copies, he shall find no variation.
And how can one expect any discrepancy, when there have existed several million Huffaz in every generation since the time of the Holy Prophet s.a.w and in our own time? Should anyone alter a syllable of the original text of the Qur’an, these Haffiz would at once expose the mistake.
In the last century, an Institute of Munich University in Germany collected forty-two thousand copies of the Holy Qur’an including manuscripts and printed texts produced in each period in the various parts of the Islamic World. Research work was carried out on these texts for half a century, at the end of which the researchers concluded that apart from copying mistakes, there was no discrepancy in the text of these forty-two thousand copies, even though they belonged to the period between the 1st Century Hijrah to 14th Century Hijrah and had been procured from all parts of the world. This Institute, alas! Perished in the bombing attacks on Germany during World War II, but the findings of its research project survived.
Another point that must be kept in view is that the word in which the Qur’an was revealed is a living language in our own time. It is still current as the mother tongue of about a hundred million people from Iraq to Morocco. In the non-Arab world too, hundreds of thousands of people study and teach this language.
The grammar of the Arabic language, its lexicon, its phonetic system and its phraseology, have remained intact for fourteen hundred years.
A modern Arabic-speaking person can comprehend the Holy Qur’an with as much proficiency as did the Arabs of fourteen centuries ago. This, then, is an important attribute of Muhammad (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam), which is shared by no other Prophet or Leader of Religion. The Book which God revealed to Him for the guidance of mankind is today's in its original language without the slightest alteration in its vocabulary.
Excerpted with modification from a speech "Message of Prophet's (sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) and Serah", by Syed Abul 'Aala Maududi.